Tom Hamilton: Bassist from Another Dimension
By Steve PatrickPosted Nov 19, 2012
Rock legends Aerosmith have recently stepped back into the spotlight with the release of their latest album “Music from Another Dimension.” The record marks the first collection of new material from the band since 2001’s “Just Push Play.” Aerosmith is also in the middle of the second leg of their Global Warming Tour with opening act Cheap Trick.
Just a few years ago, Aerosmith fans were subjected to the possibility of the band imploding due to Steven Tyler’s involvement with American Idol and other projects outside of Aerosmith, so this rebirth of the band has come as a welcome surprise.
In advance of the band’s performance in Columbus, Aerosmith bassist Tom Hamilton called into UWeekly to talk about the sound of the new record, his bandmates’ recent books, and his songwriting approach:
UW: Where did the whole 1950s sci-fi, Outer Limits vibe come from for the album?
Well I think it might have even been Jack (Douglas) our producer who said something to the affect of “We should call it ‘Music from Another Dimension’ because it was almost like we being visited by our young selves and, you know, these young punks were coming to sort of have their way and their influence on our record.” So it was kind of like us from another dimension. Then we have a guy named Casey Tebo who is a really creative, super-prolific illustrator and filmmaker and he came up with that illustration of the vintage sci-fi thing.
UW: Johnny Depp is a guest star on the album. How did that happen?
We did the basic tracks to the record, for most of the record, at our studio in Massachusetts. Then we took a break and went out on tour for a few months and then reconvened in Los Angeles. Being out in L.A. of course there’s all sorts of interesting people that are right there in the neighborhood.
I don’t know exactly how Johnny wound up down at the studio hanging out, but he was a friend one of the guys and he’s a really good musician. He originally went to L.A. when he was a young man to do his music thing. He’s a really good guitar player, but of course he got these acting jobs and everybody loved him so he went that way, but he’s never stopped playing guitar.
A lot of times when we’re in the studio working on a song and we need some background vocals we’ll sort of get everybody that’s hanging out at the moment to go in there and gather around the mic. So he was in there for that particular song, which is one that Joe (Perry) wrote called “Freedom Fighter.”
UW: The new album, to me, sounds like a perfect wedding of the older 70s sound with the MTV ballads-era. What’s your take on that?
Yeah, exactly. To me, the album is a summing up of all the various eras. You know, when we went into start making this record we knew we wanted to make a record that was closely related to how we started out in the 70s, but without any restrictions on anything.
It’s really about the songs. We’re very song oriented and that’s something that we’ve just learned from being around doing this for so long. It’s always about the songs, so if the song is good and has a quality to it then it’s worth pursuing.
So, yeah, you do get this feeling of the ballad era and the early rock era … the experimental stuff and the bluesy guitar riffs and all that. My hope is always been that people will give us credit for having a wide range as opposed to getting on our case for not being focused.
UW: You have more writing credits on this album than on any previous Aerosmith album. Were you just feeling inspired?
Well, in the early days, when I came up with “Sweet Emotion” and “Uncle Salty” and some of the other things, that all developed from sort of simple arrangement ideas that I came into the studio with and were very much encouraged by Jack our producer.
I’ve never been a real, sort of, assertive guy where I could corral everybody into the room and make them learn one of my ideas. So I always depended on Jack to be the one to say, “Hey, you guys, this might be cool. Let’s all learn it.” Then we went for years where Jack wasn’t part of the process and where we were trying to re-launch our career after breaking up for a few years.
But yeah, I was able to come up with a couple and we went back into the studio with Jack Douglas for this album and he heard a couple of them and said, “Yeah, these are good. Let’s get the band to work them up.” So that’s what we did.
UW: Joey (Kramer, drums) and Steven both recently wrote books. Are there any stories that you would have rather they not included or anything you remember differently?
(laughs) There are a lot of things that I was very grateful that they weren’t included. It used to be, back in the olden days, you had the “code of the road” and there was this team of outlaws out there and you didn’t have this thing like now where everybody writes a book and squeals on everybody else for their bad behavior. Yeah, I thought Joey’s book was actually really good. I thought Steven’s was pretty entertaining, although … you know … I don’t want to be negative, but some of the stuff he put in there I didn’t really see the way he saw it laughs… but that, you know, makes it more interesting.
Aerosmith will be performing at Nationwide Arena on Sunday, Nov. 25. 6:30 doors. Cheap Trick supports. Music from “Another Dimension” is available wherever albums are sold. For more information, please visit www.aerosmith.com.