Joe Perry Reflects on Iconic ‘Walk This Way’ Video Bladerunner Guitar
Joe Perry is one of rock's iconic guitarists, and in his day he's also played some iconic instruments. One of those instruments, his Guild X-100 Bladerunner, was played in the groundbreaking "Walk This Way" video alongside his Aerosmith bandmate Steven Tyler and rap pioneers Run-DMC. Now, that instruments is part of the new Play It Loud: Instruments of Rock & Roll exhibit at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.
We recently had a chance to speak with Perry about the instrument and exhibit, got some history on the guitar and the hugely successful collaboration with Run-DMC and also spoke with Joe about Aerosmith's current Las Vegas residency and their plans to bring the show to the East Coast later this year. Check out the chat below.
Aerosmith are one of rock’s most iconic bands, but one of your instruments has also received quite a bit of recognition. What did it mean to you to have the Metropolitan Museum of Art come calling, asking to display your Guild X-100 Bladerunner alongside other iconic instruments for this exhibition?
It was certainly an honor to be asked to contribute a guitar to the exhibit. I figured there would be a lot of Stratocasters and Les Pauls included, which are all great and have a story. One guitar that stands out for me and my career is the Bladerunner because I used it in one of the most important videos that we ever did. I think it helped change music a little bit, too. It’s shaped differently and really eye-catching, which is part of the reason why I used it in the video.
You could have used any number of instruments for the “Walk This Way” shoot. What made this guitar the right one and how often was it put to use aside from the video shoot?
I play the Bladerunner every once in a while in the studio. Occasionally I’ll take it out and play it live when I want to play something flashy. It was given to me by a friend of mine from Boston who was working for the guild in the '80s, and it was really well made.
I have other instruments that are more custom-made to my style of playing. This one certainly has a sound and a feel to it that’s interesting though. There are some guitars from the '50s and '60s that look amazing, but don’t play that well. That’s probably the case about a lot of guitars over the years. When people try and make something that looks different they don’t really back it up with the guts.
That video for “Walk This Way” was groundbreaking for its time and really helped legitimize rap to the mainstream. What was your initial thought when you and Steven were approached to play with Run-DMC and appear in the video?
We were on the road at the time and cut the track a couple months before. We were told that they might not even put it on the record. It was Rick Rubin who produced the record and pushed the guys to give it a try. They sampled the drums off some of our records and a lot of other rock records. They knew they were doing something different. When Rick wanted us to try it he came in and by the end of the session we laid it down not knowing if it was going to go on the record or not. We just waved goodbye and that was it.
I first heard about rap from my son. At the time it was up and coming and we were all fascinated by it. It was a great chance to get right to the heart of it and that alone was enough for us. We got the phone call that said it’s going on the record and that they would like a video for it. Steven and I said, 'Why not?' They sent us plane tickets and we were off to Queens!
I’m imagining you’ve collected your fair share of guitars over the years, but do you have a favorite among your collection, something you’d never part with.
I have a top 15 list, yeah! Obviously I have some that are really valuable that also sound great that I just wouldn’t let go of. My favorite guitar though would probably be my Mongrel made from Fender parts, one-off makes, spare parts and various pickups.
We also call it the Burnt Strat or the Burner. It’s one I play pretty often onstage now. We made it out of spare parts in 2001, and it’s turned out to be one of my favorites. It’s been tweaked and tuned and repainted. It’s just one of those guitars that you love to pick up and play.
You’ve been busy of late with a number of things, but I’ll start with Aerosmith. You’ve done these residency shows a couple of times now. What makes these shows so enjoyable for the band to do? Can you also talk about what Steve Dixon and the crew have done to help you realize all the things you wanted to create for your vision for these performances?
We were looking for something different to do. We really weren’t ready for another record. The band is out touring, going on and off the road. We had been talking about doing this Las Vegas residency for a while and it just never gelled. Finally, last year we decided we would give it a try.
We went out and figured if we’re going to do it we might as well do it in a way that no one else has. We didn’t know how it was going to turn out. We didn’t want to go into Las Vegas and book over 50 shows just taking our regular show on the road and making it smaller for a smaller venue. We were looking at it more in a way some of the big acts in Vegas do their shows. We’ve been to Cirque du Soleil and seen David Copperfield and we figured we knew we had to do something special, raise it to another level if it was going to be something we wanted to do. That was pretty much the vibe.
We went out and found people that were at the top of their game and started working with them. A year ago, we started working on production and pulling all of the elements together. We really wanted to create something that would be a legitimate Las Vegas show while giving people a good rock 'n' roll show at the same time. If you’re an Aerosmith fan, this is definitely something you’ve never seen before.
I know later this year, you’re taking the “Deuces Are Wild” show to the East Coast, playing several MGM venues. Will this be the same show that those in Vegas have seen or are you changing a few things up to accommodate the venue or to keep it fresh?
We built the production and the show to fit the Vegas venue because it is a unique building. It’s physically large so we made the most of that. All of the East Coast dates are smaller than the Park MGM though, so there are certain things that we cannot bring. The actual physical size of the place won’t allow us to bring some mechanical pieces, but so much of the show is done with projection and other elements so those will translate. There’s also a lot of content and atmosphere aspects of the show that we can bring to any size building.
The Las Vegas show has the energy of the shows we’ve been cultivating all of these years. We want to bring all of that to the East Coast dates. It’s like putting a diamond in a setting.
With these shows, it affords you the opportunity to dig a little deeper into the catalog. Is there anything you’ve been playing lately that’s really striking a chord with you at the moment? I’m sure that may change from day-to-day?
One thing that surprised me was how the different audiences each night makes every show feel so different. We’ve had some really good shows so far, but there is always another one we have to do. Another audience we have to win over.
It’s also interesting to see how we can sustain our show along with the production. It’s turned working some of the songs we’ve played into a whole different thing. Not just for us but for the audience, too. It’s fascinating to me to watch how the audience reacts to certain songs that we’ve played hundreds of times, but with this kind of production around it. Once the song starts going it just keeps going. It’s turned it into a different animal.
I look forward to playing some of these songs I’ve played hundreds of times. We’ve gotten a really good response from some of the old ones. We're planning on changing the set list up on a pretty regular basis, though. Putting new ones in and taking old ones out.
Anything else on the horizon we should be looking for?
The new Hollywood Vampires record is coming out in June and hopefully we will be doing some more gigs to support that. With Aerosmith, we have the East Coast dates. We’re really excited about that. To bring this kind of feel of a show to some of these small venues. I think it’s going to be tough to contain the energy of some of these shows, and also playing for some of our fans that can’t make it to Vegas. From there, I hope my wife and I can get some time to lay on the beach.
Thanks to Joe Perry for the interview. The 'Play It Loud: Instruments of Rock and Roll' exhibit continues at New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art through Oct. 1. Get more details here. Meanwhile, Aerosmith's residency at the Park Theatre at Park MGM in Las Vegas starts tomorrow (June 19) and continues through July 9, with more dates scheduled for the fall. Get ticketing information for those shows, as well as the band's East Coast shows at this location. And for more on Perry's work with Hollywood Vampires, check out our recent chat here.
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