Aerosmith Drummer Joey Kramer: Coffee Kingpin & Part-Time Texan
Aerosmith: Boston Strong for more than four decades: Brad Whitford (guitar), Tom Hamilton (bass), Steven Tyler (vocals), Joe Perry (guitar), and Joey Kramer (drums).
There is no more quintessential "Boston" rock band than Aerosmith. Since their formation some 45 years ago(!) they've proudly stood for everything Beantown, and even have an official city historical plaque in front of their old living/rehearsal space.
But goddamn -- it's cold up there right now! And as of this writing, the city is likely to break its record for most snowfall in a season due to blizzards happening with more frequency than Steven Tyler's stints in rehab. That's why drummer Joey Kramer is more than happy to spend the winter of 2014-15 in his current home (and warmer climate) of Texas.
"It's wonderful to live here in Austin," says Kramer, whose wife is originally from Cypress in North Houston. "I lived in New England for 40 years, and the winters were brutal. And they're getting slammed again. I'm glad to be out of the cold!
"We talked about moving to Texas, and I didn't want to go to Houston or Dallas," he adds. "I just love the people and vibe about Austin."
Houstonian or Dallasite Aerosmith fans shouldn't take that preference personally. And members of their dedicated "Blue Army" (so named for their preference for denim) will have the chance to see the premiere of the full-length concert film Aerosmith Rocks Donington 2014 at more than 300 movie theaters across the country for one day only, February 26 (aka today). The 19-song set list, filmed at the massive festival last year, covers the band's career timeline. But did Kramer, Tyler, and bandmates Joe Perry, Tom Hamilton, and Brad Whitford alter their stage norm for historical posterity?
"I don't think about we went about our show any differently, though it would have been easy to let it happen," Kramer offers. "You're in front of 100,000 people and have cameras pointed in your face.
"But the best thing for us to be doing onstage is to be relaxed," he adds. "As long as we are and the audience is with us, you're in for a hell of a ride. I just worried about [the cameras] when my arms started flailing!"
Aerosmith is also one of the few classic-rock bands still touring with an intact classic lineup (Whitford was an early, but not original member). And while there have been some periods in their history where that hasn't been the case, Kramer likens this quintet to...food.
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"It's just not the same without the five of us," he says. "You can't take an apple pie, slice it out, take out a piece, and replace it with a piece of blueberry. I mean, you can, but it's not the same. After all this time, Tom and I are so tight, we make fucking mistakes together!"
Aerosmith also has something of a literary legacy, having already published an official oral history. And while Steven Tyler's (Does the Noise in My Head Bother You?) and Joe Perry's (Rocks) autobiographies got more attention, Kramer's Hit Hard was the first to come out in 2009. As much (if not more) of a story about his substance abuse and addiction/recovery -- as well as detailing a fraught relationship with his father -- Kramer says he's surprised that people still talk to him about it today.
"It took me four years to write," Kramer says. "Most people don't spend that much time, but I wanted it to be a certain way. The original manuscript was 1,000 pages, and the finished book was 250."
Unfortunately from a marketing perspective, it was also released the day that Michael Jackson died.
"But at the same time, I felt it covered the important things, and it was a personally cathartic experience. Not just talking about gossip and what kind of drugs we took and girls we fucked. It was about me and my story."
And what of Perry's recent book, which at the time Rocks Off interviewed him, had just been published, but that the guitarist had not sent to his band mates prior?
"Yeah...I read it," Kramer says. "He was honest in what he chose to talk about. I mentioned some of the same things he did, but didn't spend a lot of time on it. My book isn't about anybody else in the band, it's about me."
Kramer has also expanded his business resume as the force and co-founder behind Rockin' and Roastin' Coffee, now the official coffee for the House of Blues chain. He puts a lot more into the venture, Kramer quickly points out, than just his famous name.
"I'm very hands on," he says. "I've cut the coffee, came up with the artwork, and my wife came up with the name."
For Aerosmith's upcoming summer tour, Kramer says he's excited about visiting a lot of "secondary markets" where the band has not performed in 15-20 years. And he'd love to include some deeper album cuts on the set list like "Monkey on My Back," "Girl Keeps Coming Apart," "Nobody's Fault" or "Voodoo Medicine Man."
Speaking of voodoo -- or bad juju -- we had to ask Kramer about his participation in the 1978 film Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band. Aerosmith appeared as the "Future Villain Band" and battled the Bees Gees and Peter Frampton in a climactic fight. Their cover of "Come Together" the only song from the trumpeted double LP ever played today, besides Earth, Wind & Fire's "Got to Get You Into My Life."
"Oh my lord!", Kramer laughs. "What do I remember other than the fact that it was probably the worst movie ever made? Hey, that was in the '70s, and my memories of the '70s are extremely vague, as it that film! But I'm sure I had fun doing it!"
For theater locations and showtimes on Aerosmith Rocks Donington 2014, click here.
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