Aerosmith - Tom Hamilton

by Mike Huberty
June 2009

Aerosmith caught live in Chicago - photo by Adam Bielawski

Aerosmith caught live in Chicago
photo by Adam Bielawski

As the bassist for the best-selling hard rock band of all time, Tom Hamilton has been laying down the foundation in AEROSMITH for almost four full decades. In the process of working on their new album and fresh off the release of Guitar Hero: AEROSMITH which brings the songs of the band to gaming consoles everywhere, the band is embarking on a summer tour and Tom took some time to talk about it.

It’s been an extraordinary run for the band since forming in Boston in the early 70’s and Tom brings up his original influences that made him pick up an instrument in the first place.“ I was 12 when the Beatles came out and the British pop explosion,”, he says. “Then the Hippie era started and we were all extremely interested in what was freaky and weird. From England, there was Zeppelin and The Who, and we were little blank slates who just ate it all up.“ And with plenty of money and success behind him, he explains why they’re still going. ”We just want to be part of it and don’t want to let things go by. In the 80’s, the band broke in half. With MTV, I remember thinking we were going to miss that. We don’t want to miss anything! We hear the voices of all the people that still want to hear us play.“

Asked about the new record and if he can divulge anything, ”A lot of songs are under work titles, good assortment of rockers, some rock-funk. We’re one of the few rock bands that tried to do James Brown songs“ he laughs. ”We did a bunch of work on the record and have preproduction on 10 or 12 songs. Just because you’re not in a recording studio, doesn’t mean that you’re not working. All you need is a laptop.“ As to whether the audience is going to hear any of these live, it looks like not yet. ”Nope, there’s no new songs in the set list at this point. We’re just getting the tour up and running.“

And there’s more people than ever that want to hear them play than ever. Aerosmith has outlasted almost all of their classic rock contemporaries and has transcended the cycle of pop music the way few others have. When asked to explain, Tom replies, ”The cycle is a combination of things. Hip-hop was no longer shocking, all that evil energy went mainstream. A lot of teenage boys looking for aggressive music are looking for something else. And then they can listen to us, because kids can download all the old songs as well. Yeah, it is like stealing your music but they wouldn’t have heard it otherwise. And then once they become aware of it, they pick up on it. And Guitar Hero is part of that.“

And how does he feel to be part of a gaming revolution that’s seen as reigniting America’s interest in guitar rock? ”Well, people don’t know about it, but in the 80s, there was a game called Virtual Guitar which had the idea of Guitar Hero but the technology wasn’t slick enough at the time. Now, it looks great. “ And when players jam out to the game, they’ll be able to relive the best parts of an Aerosmith show or music video. ”They came into Boston with special equipment for motion capture and they have cameras on your face and your hand,” he says, ”they had us do our signature moves for our characters!”

And when asked about the changes that he’s seen from the early days of the band until today, he says, “Places like Alpine Valley in the 70s, there was only two or three types of these theaters in the country.“ And the biggest differences? ”First of all, they’re clean bathrooms at the live shows“ he says. ”The sound systems are incredible, especially for us with in-ear monitors. I used to have to lurk around the drum riser to play tight with Joey, but now I can hear everything. Things are crystal clear so you can really dig into the dynamics. The first 15 years with no earplugs, our ears were getting shredded. You want to hear the music clear, but earplugs prevent that, so the in-ear monitors are much better for us. And there’s screens for people in the back row. It’s really just a pleasure to still be around for the changes that are happening. In the early days, the audience was drunken shirtless males and now there’s a lot of girls in short skirts and that’s something any band would be proud of!“

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Aerosmith - Tom Hamilton
CD: Guitar Hero: Aerosmith Record Label: Activision
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