When the “Toxic Twins” (Joe Perry and Steven Tyler) of Aerosmith come to mind, you probably don’t imagine them eating non-GMO turkey legs backstage after a show or swallowing Bulletproof coffee to wake up. But half of them do.
Joe Perry’s new book, Rocks, details a life of rock and roll excess, but as the axeman behind Aerosmith’s tastiest licks reveals, he was hip to a healthy diet long before anyone else was.
Why write this book now?
I felt like for a number of years I wanted to do one. Growing up, I thought of autobiographies as the kind of thing you do when you’re done with your career, when you retire. But a couple of years ago, the 40th anniversary of the band was coming around, and people were making a big deal about it. Then we were finishing our last record for Sony. I think I got sick and tired of correcting certain facts or so-called facts that had been part of a so-called Aerosmith “legend” that were just outright wrong. And seeing things in the press that just were either misinterpreted or just things that I wanted to get straight from my POV, it just felt like it all came together during that period.
How was your fitness and health changed over the years?
One thing that hasn’t changed and was the first thing that I became hip to was diet, and that’s the most important thing. You go to a doctor and they prescribe medications to take care of the symptoms, as opposed to asking what you eat. But nutrition is such an important part to the whole thing. Back in the hippie days when organic food—I mean what the fuck was organic food?—back in 1968, it was such an underground thing, like so many other things in the hippie paradigm, people were just discovering and thinking about it and that’s when I got hip to preservatives. I went out of my way to eat food that didn’t have preservatives as much as possible—which is really tough when you’re on the road.
I can’t say that I stuck to it as much as I could have in those days, but I started getting hip to it and getting hip to finding stuff in health food stores. Usually it took the form of a granola bar or those kinds of things. Then when I got sober in the early 80’s, Joey [Kramer, Aerosmith’s drummer] started jogging and I picked it up.
I remember after I left prep school I started jogging. I found out that my father was into jogging and my mother mentioned it to me—she was a gym teacher. Physical fitness was always part of the family, and she was a big one for getting us outside to play and do some kind of sports, so I was always very physical. I just didn’t like team sports.
So do you work out alone?
My wife and I got a trainer that would come over and start teaching us. We were starting with five-pound dumbbells, but the most important thing was we learned about nutrition: protein, carbs, and all that stuff. We started forming a routine about how we would eat and that kind of thing. I would go out and find these gyms in off the wall places, back before they had gyms in hotels. We’d find these places and I got to work out with a lot of different people, and I learned from them different techniques. I can remember working out in some gyms in Charlotte where a lot of the wrestlers lived near, and you could tell they were doing something to themselves that was way beyond.
How else has your family influenced your fitness?
Long story short, I’ve learned a lot from my kids. My kids saw us work out; we always had a gym in the house and they would occasionally use it. But they were finding out their own stuff online, and obviously at my age, I don’t need to work out with the same intensity that I did when I was 33. Two of my boys are into the CrossFit where they don’t do the same routine twice; they said since they started they haven’t done the same thing. They’re always changing it up, and they say they never use weights. It’s mostly bodyweight stuff and that’s been kind of going around for a while now.
I’m just really glad that my boys have picked up on it. Even if they stopped, because they have jobs—one’s 22, one’s 26, the other one’s 40, and then I have another one who’s 31 but he works so much. The two younger cats are way into it, and I learned a lot from them. They’re into CrossFit, and every time I go on the road I come back a month later and I can tell just by looking that they’re putting muscle on. They’re into it, and we’ve always got Men’s Fitness and all those magazines around because you can always learn something new.