Aerosmith's Tom Hamilton on overcoming 'breakup 2.0' as band readies Tampa show: interview

wtatangelo@bradenton.comDecember 6, 2012 

As Aerosmith's founding bassist and the sonic genius behind monster riffs like the one that propels the band's signature song, "Sweet Emotion," you wouldn't think Tom Hamilton cares that much about compliments, especially from no-name strangers.

But the Rock and Roll Hall of Famer does. He's also quick to throw a flattering remark.

Talk to Hamilton about how you like "Tell Me," the potent power ballad he wrote for "Music From Another Dimension," Aerosmith's first album of original material in more than a decade, and he sounds genuinely appreciative.

"Feels great hearing ya say that," Hamilton said during a recent phone interview. "That's the first time I wrote the whole song, lyrics included."

He immediately proceeds to praise front man Steven Tyler.

"The experience of working with Steven and hearing him put his talent and his gift into it was a fantastic experience," Hamilton said.

"I was singing myself when demo-ing it to get the melody and vocal across, then Steven made it what it is."

Hamilton co-wrote three other songs on the album proper. The "deluxe version" that can be streamed on Spotify includes the bassist singing lead vocals on his song "Up On a Mountain."

Not bad for a guy who recently beat down throat and tongue cancer.

"Who would've thought I ever would be singing lead on an Aerosmith album?" he said.

When Aerosmith performs Tuesday at the Tampa Bay Times Forum, it will be the same lineup the band had when it came busting out of Boston more than 40 years ago:

Tyler (vocals), Joe Perry (guitar), Brad Whitford (guitar), Hamilton (bass) and Joey Kramer (drums).

Not too long ago, though, it looked like the fierce five-piece had gone on permanent vacation, again, following the band's first split in 1979, when the lead guitarist/songwriter left to form The Joe Perry Project.

"Breakup 2.0 in 2009," Hamilton said. "I never believed we had done the last Aerosmith song but it was a terrible feeling. The rest of us were grasping at an idea to keep working after hearing Steven wanted to go out on his own.

He added, referring to Tyler's stint in rehab, "Then Steven saw us go in that direction and spent time at Betty Ford and came back to kick (butt) with the band."

Cheap Trick, which features Tampa Bay resident Robin Zander on lead vocals, opens the show Tuesday. During the 1970s, both bands made landmark albums produced by Jack Douglas, who also worked with Aerosmith on "Music From Another Dimension." Thirty-five years ago, Cheap Trick's self-titled debut came out within months of Aerosmith's "Draw the Line."

"We've been watching their career and rooting for those guys since we met them through Jack in the early 1970s," Hamilton said of Cheap Trick.

"I love their style and sense of humor and you combine that with a really cool vibe and great playing; they're always first on our list to tour with us."

Details: 7:30 p.m. Dec. 11, Tampa Bay Times Forum, 401 Channelside Drive, Tampa. Tickets: $46.75-$146.75. Information: 813-287-8844 or

Wade Tatangelo, features writer/columnist, can be reached at 941-745-7057. Follow

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