Aerosmith’s Joey Kramer Talks About His Book, His iPhone App, and Steven Tyler
After nearly four decades of drumming for one of hard rock’s most iconic and notoriously debauched bands, Aerosmith’s Joey Kramer has lived through the stuff of fiction. His recent book, Hit Hard: A Story of Hitting Rock Bottom at the Top (HarperOne), though, is all too real. (Incidentally, Kramer has also launched a rhythm-game iPhone app of the same name.) In the book, he details the personal demons that have troubled him, as well as the rock-and-roll excesses that famously led to the band’s temporary demise in the ’80s. Kramer recently spoke to Revolver about the issues contained in his memoir and about Aerosmith’s enduring status in the music landscape.
REVOLVER How did the book come about?
JOEY KRAMER It took me about four years to do it. I was journaling and writing some stuff down and a couple of people suggested to me that I write a book and, you know, I was of the opinion well, you know, Who’s going to be interested in reading a book that I have to write? Then I realized that, you know, my story was a little but more interesting than just a plain old rock-and-roll memoir; the same old stuff in it, the same old war stories and how much drugs this guy took or I took on any given night, you know, the women and all the stuff that goes along with a rock-and-roll memoir. I started thinking about all the other things that I had been through during the course of my life, at the same time as having Aerosmith as a backdrop for my life and the drug addictions and the alcoholism and the depression and the anxiety and all the other stuff that I had been through. I thought that that might make for a more interesting read if I combined it all together. And that’s what I did. And I find that people are really identifying with it and very much relating to it and I’m getting a lot of positive feedback on it.
What were some of the events that you remembered when working on the book?
Well there was a lot of things about my father and things that I had forgotten about and things that I remembered. I remembered a lot of the abuse, but I didn’t remember specific instances. Where when I was writing the book, you know, stuff started to come back to me and specific instances came back that I had stored away in my memory that I wasn’t really in touch with, but they came back when I started to write.
How have your bandmates reacted to the book?
I’ve gotten comments about how I have a lot of balls to write it to begin with and I’ve gotten other comments about how, you know, they’re really proud of me for writing the story the way that it is and they know that it’s true because they were there.
In closing the book, you say that “I’m a feel player and right now I feel pretty good.” Given that your mindset is so much different and improved from how it’s been in the past, is the music you produce also different because of that?
I don’t know that the music is different. I think that I’m different and so by virtue of me being different and feeling different, then that makes the music different, even though it’s the same.
Does that go with the music produced by the band as a whole as well?
I think so. I think that everybody’s matured and kind of grown up hopefully a little bit more. I think that everybody’s in a pretty good place right now and I know that everybody’s really looking forward to playing and getting out there because I think as you get older you learn to appreciate what it is, you know, the gift that you’ve been given. And as you get older and the closer to the end of it you get, the more you appreciate it, you know.
What’s the secret to how Aerosmith is still going strong after all that’s happened to you guys personally and as a band?
I don’t think there is a secret. I think it’s pretty simple that is the one common denominator that we all still have is we love to play music and we have the vehicle that we have in order to do it. And, you know, it’s the greatest thing because no matter what happens we all get out there onstage and we do what we do and it still feels good and as long as it feels good, we’ll do it.
What have you made to the reaction to Steven Tyler’s decision to take some time out away from the band?
I think it was probably a little bit out of proportion. He has a desire like everybody else to go out and do his own thing. There’s nothing wrong with that, but you don’t have to not do one thing in order to do another. If you do it correctly and in a positive fashion, you can do everything that you want.
In the book, you say that when you’re touring you always come out to watch the support act, to keep in touch of the current music scene. What do you make of the rock scene currently?
Well, I don’t think there’s really a lot of rock music out there at the moment, compared to say what we do, what AC/DC does or what Van Halen does or some of my favorite bands. There’s not a lot of rock out there. It’s all techno and hip-hop and the state-of-the-art of whatever is out there, which a lot of times I have, sometimes I have difficulty being able to appreciate that, although I try. But, you know, I like good old rock music; that’s what I do and that’s what I love.
You recently just launched you own iPhone App, where people can try to emulate your drumming. How does that feel?
It feels great man, you know, come on, I’m doing some fun stuff, trying to step out a little bit.
How did you do on it?
Uhh… I don’t even want to say. [Laughs] But it’s a good one and I’ve been getting a lot of really good feedback on that too.
Interview by Jason Le Miere // Photo by Ross Halfin