Brad Whitford

While Steven Tyler was out fulfilling his Country and Western fantasies and Joe Perry vamped it up with the Hollywood Vampires, Aerosmith guitarist Brad Whitford reunited with his old mate Derek St. Holmes and finally recorded the follow up to 1981’s Whitford St.Holmes album. Mick Burgess sat down with Brad Whitford to talk about his new album Reunion, why he left Aerosmith in the early 1980s and what the future holds for Aerosmith.

Your latest album Reunion, has just been released. Are you pleased now that it’s out?

Oh yeah, I’m very pleased. We’ve been getting a really good response and people seem to be really enjoying the record so it makes me very happy and proud. We’re actually getting into the charts. I think last week we were in five different charts. When we were starting out there was one chart, now there’s a chart for everything, Classic Rock, College Rock. I don’t know what it’s going to be next but it’s good that it’s getting into the charts.

It has been available at your shows since November. Why has it taken so long to get a general release?

We actually made this album ourselves. We didn’t have a record company. We made the record and hoped we’d get the interest of a record company. We had all these songs and great ideas and we decided to go in and make the album and see what happened. It was great because we didn’t have anybody telling us what to do so we made all the decisions. We went out on the road last November and sold the CD at the shows and the reaction was great. As a result of that we were able to get a distribution deal with Mailboat Records so the record is now out and we’re really pleased it’s available to everyone.

It’s been 35 years since your one and only Whitford St. Holmes album. Why have you decided the time is right now to record the follow up?

There’s a few factors but seeing as Aerosmith are not doing anything at the moment it was as good a time as any. Derek and I have been friends forever and we ended up living in the same town in Tennessee so all of a sudden we were playing all of the time and we started writing all this music. It was now geographical. We’d always had a long distance relationship where I was in Boston and he was in Georgia or I was living in South Carolina and he was living in Chicago but now are practically neighbours so it makes it real easy to work together. Everything just seemed to work out good and the time was right for us to work together again and make a new record and play some shows.

How do you feel that you’ve both developed musically over those intervening years?

I guess we’ve probably gotten a little better at what we do. We’re better at songwriting and I started writing lyrics which I’ve never really done much of before. We’ve both grown as players and as songwriters. We’ve just got better with age, like wine.

What happened at those early meetings? Did you jam through some old songs together or did you feel the urge to write new material right away?

We started writing about three years ago and put a lot of ideas together. We went into the studio and started the process. When we started we had three ideas that we were playing around with. A couple of months later we got more serious and by this time we had our band figured out. When Troy Luccetta came into the mix it just really took off. He came in and really understood what we were doing. We rehearsed twice with Troy then we were in the studio cutting the tracks. He brought some magic to the band. We needed a great drummer, we knew that. We had tried out a couple of drummers but Troy was the guy.

Did you try and get in touch with Dave Hewitt and Steve Pace who played on the first record?

Because we were in Nashville we already knew that our bass player was going to be Chopper Anderson as we just loved his playing. It would have been a lot more difficult to have the original band members. I know Steve is around the Atlanta area but I don’t know where Dave is and the last I heard he was back in England. There were so many musicians here where we live it just made sense to work with people who were close by.

Were you able to use any ideas left over from the original album or has everything been written fresh for the album?

This was all brand new material, we didn’t carry anything over from the first record.

Did you record it together in the studio?

That is exactly what we did. We went into the studio and we recorded everything live with the whole band playing the whole of the songs together. We recorded all of the basic tracks in two days live. We never did more than two takes of any one song.

Do you feel that inspires you more as a musician as you can feed off the energy of the other guys in the studio and create more spontaneous music?

That’s a big part of our philosophy for recording. There’s a certain energy and spirit that happens when you record a band live. Some of my favourite records of all time, whether it’s the Rolling Stones or The Police, went in and made their albums playing live. I think that’s part of the reason they’re so good and part of the reason that they stand the test of time.

How many songs did you record for the album?

We just did the nine songs that ended up on the album. We have been back in the studio since then and we have a lot of new material, I’m not sure when we’ll get it out but we hope to get it finished as soon as we can. We went with the nine we had at that time as we felt that it was right for the record.

Your album is punchy and doesn’t outstay its welcome. These days some bands seem to put too many songs on an album just because they can?

I agree with you. Most people go in and do 15 or 16 songs and I think that’s too much. I like to think of our record like an old piece of vinyl. You were limited to how much time you could put onto vinyl so I think keeping it to nine songs was the way to go.

Rock All Day has a great riff, killer groove and a strong melody. Which song to you represents you as a band the best?

I like that one too. I think all we were trying to do was to play the type of music that turned us on back then. Back in 1969, one of my favourite bands was Humble Pie, that was the perfect band to me. They had two great guitar players and a great singer and they were just Hard Rock. I thought, hey we can still do that. We’ve been getting that sort of reaction from people telling us how much they have missed music like this and asking why bands don’t play like this anymore. I think people seem to think there’s a vacuum at the moment and some feel you need to modernise Rock. You don’t need to modernise, you just need to make it good.

Hell Is On Fire and Shake It gives the album a real kick while Tender Is The Night shows a different side to the band. Was your intention on covering a wide range of styles when you first started making the record or is this how it developed over the recording process?

We’d just sit down and write a song with no preconceptions. We weren’t trying to do anything new or make a statement, the songs just kind of dictated to us which way they were going to go. Once we got the basis of the song we just went with it. Nothing on the album was preconceived. We just sat around with guitars writing and they just went the way that they went. We weren’t trying to make songs that’d get on the radio. There was none of that. We were just trying to make songs to please ourselves.

The final song Flood Of Lies really highlights Derek’s vocals. He has a voice like a more Rock influenced Don Henley. What is it about Derek that works so well for you?

I think we both share a passion of and a love of the same kinds of music. When I mentioned Humble Pie before, he’s just as crazy about them as I am. We both love Bad Company too. It’s just drums, guitars, bass, no tricks or gimmicks, just good songs. This is the stuff that’s really close to our hearts. We both love the same kind of approaches to music and the same kind of bands. I wrote a lot of lyrics on this album about stuff that was close to my heart and close to my head. It’s real, honest music. It’s like the Blues in that’s sense, singing about things that mean something to us. It hasn’t gone through any filters except me and Derek sitting in the studio going yay or nay. It was just so much fun and so easy to do because we share so many interests and like so much of the same music and we work so well together.

Does playing with Whitford St. Holmes give you more opportunities to play lead?

The leads are a mix of Derek and I. The thing about Derek is that people don’t realise what an accomplished guitar player he is. People think of him as a singer but he’s an excellent guitarist. We work really well together and there’s a lot of respect that we have for each other as musicians and guitar players. When it came to solos it was more of a case of which one would fit the song better. Actually we didn’t even make those decisions. We let our engineer mix it so we had a third party listening objectively picking out what he thought was best and he did a great job. There was none of that ego bullshit where we’d go I want this solo or that solo, there was none of that. He just picked out what he thought worked the best and he nailed it. I actually enjoyed it more just getting certain sounds rather than playing the solos.

It makes a real difference when you’re both at ease and happy with what you’re doing?

It makes a huge difference. We had a ball making that record. We spent as much time laughing as working, as we had so much fun making that record. You can tell that there’s a certain energy that only happens when you’re having fun and after all it’s supposed to be fun. It’s actually one of the first records that I’ve ever made, or been part of that I actually listen to a lot. A lot of records I’ve done in the past I never listen to them after we’ve finished them as I’d start being critical but with this record I’m completely happy with it. I listen to it and I love it. That’s really unusual for me and I know Derek feels the same.

You’ve been on tour with Whitesnake over the last few weeks. How have those shows been?

They went really well. We’ve been getting some great reviews and we love to play live. We hope to do a lot more touring as soon as we can.

Have you been playing solely material from your two albums or have you thrown the odd piece of vintage Aerosmith in there too?

When we play live we do mostly our new record and some from the first record. Then we do a little medley of songs from Aerosmith and Ted Nugent and people really seem to enjoy it. We do a little tiny bit of Last Child and Train Kept A Rollin’, which is a great guitar song and from Ted Nugent we do Stranglehold and Hey Baby. It’s just a little nod to Aerosmith and Ted Nugent.

You’re used to playing large arenas and stadiums with Aerosmith. Do you feel that these shows have been quite liberating and getting back to your Rock ‘n’ Roll roots playing in smaller venues?

It’s actually a lot more fun as you’re a lot closer to the fans. We also spend a lot more time with the fans and we typically hang around outside in the parking lot or whatever so people get the chance to come up and say hi and get a signed picture. It’s really quite different and probably a lot more enjoyable to what I’m used to. As it’s not a big arena show there’s not all of the security or separation of the band from fans so you get to stand and talk to the fans. I love doing that. I remember that I was so fanatical about Humble Pie. I ended up meeting those guys and hanging out with them. It was a similar thing in that they knew that I loved what they were doing so I ended up being friends with Steve Marriott and that was really cool.

Any thoughts of playing in the UK and Europe?

Yes we do. We’re like a new band coming out of the garage starting out so we’d love to come over to Europe. It’d be incredible for that to happen.

Your Aerosmith band mate Tom Hamilton has just played a few dates with Thin Lizzy. Did you catch any of those shows?

He’s absolutely loving that. Damon Johnson is a good friend of mine. He’s a great guy. I just saw Damon recently and he said Tom was so funny. He came into rehearsals so well prepared and he turned to him and said “Holy shit, I’ve only played in one band all my life” and he had to learn all these Thin Lizzy songs but he was loving it.

Would you fancy doing something like that sometime?

There’s a couple of bands that I would jump at the chance. If Tom Petty called me up I’d be there right away and the Foo Fighters too. I love that band.

Joe Perry hasn’t been well recently. How is he doing at the moment?

Joe got out of hospital recently and has been resting. He’s doing good now. We’re not getting any younger and these schedules are pretty hard so you need to make sure you get enough sleep and enough of the right food.

There’s been talk of a final Aerosmith tour next year. Is this true or is it just paper talk?

We really are calling it the Farewell Tour but it’s going to probably take us between the next 3 to 5 years as we plan on touring The States, South America, Europe and Japan and wherever else, so it’s going to take a while..

It’s been quite a while since you toured the UK and played outside of London. Do you hope to play more extensively in Europe again soon?

I certainly do but whether that happens or not remains to be seen. It would be great to play around other cities instead of just one festival in London.

Your last album Music From Another Dimension came out in 2012 and that was your first all new studio album in 11 years. Will this be your last album or do you have another one inside you?

We’re at the talking stage of doing some more music. It’s quite hard right now as Steven is out on the road with his band. We had a talk a few weeks back about going into the studio. When that’ll happen though I’m not sure. We certainly have plenty of ideas.

Street Jesus from that album was a great hard hitting Rock song in the classic Aerosmith mode. Do you hope to have more songs like that on the next album and less ballads?

Yes, for me I’d rather do more straight up Rock. That’s really where we started out, where we came from and I think we need to go back there, do it straight up and record it live.

You worked again with Jack Douglas who produced your classic albums Rocks and Toys in the Attic. How did it feel working with Jack again?

I love working with Jack. He’s a very close friend and we have a great relationship with Jack. He’s like the sixth member of Aerosmith. He’s fun to work with and is a great guy.

What did he bring to Aerosmith in the studio

He’s really a producer’s producer. He’s very good at helping out when you’re working on an idea and are kind of stuck. You can always sit down with Jack and iron it out. He’s just so good with arranging music.

You’ve remained with Aerosmith for all of their albums apart from Rock and A Hard Place. Why did you leave during the recording of that album?

It was a really rough time for the band at that moment. Joe had left and there was nothing musical happening. I was working with Derek and before I’d left I’d already completed the first Whitford St. Holmes album and we did that album in a couple of weeks all recorded and finished. I went back to Aerosmith and we couldn’t even get a song. I was there right at the start of that record and we tried working on it but we really had no success. It was very hard to get anything done and I was very frustrated. I had to walk away from it.

That album is a love/hate album for Aerosmith fans. How do you view it looking back on it now

It’s not one of those I really listen to. It’s not one of my favourite Aerosmith albums. There’s a couple of songs on there that are good but I just don’t listen to it.

You came back with Joe after 5 years away from the band for Done With Mirrors. What was the catalyst for you to return to the band?

Joe and Steven had a giant feud. They were fighting and they weren’t talking to each other and that went on for a couple of years and I thought that this was never going to happen again. The only way it could happen was if Joe and Steven could get over whatever it was. So that’s what finally happened. They started talking to each other and buried the hatchet and once I felt that they were ready to move on I went “yes, sure, let’s do it”.

You wrote some of Aerosmith’s great classics like Last Child, Nobody’s Fault and Kings and Queens. Do you think that you had a fair crack at getting your songs on the records or did you tend to write less than Steven and Joe?

It’s very difficult to get your ideas forward and get stuff done in the context of Aerosmith. It’s very political and I don’t like to work like that. It was always too difficult getting my ideas heard and used. I don’t want to do that, I don’t want to have to fight to get my music done. The whole thing just goes away from me and I’m not really interested. I tend to go along with it and say go on, just do what you want to do. I’m not going to fight for it. I’m very proud of those songs that have been used.

There have been a few times over recent years where Steven has become a little side-tracked from the band and there was talk of maybe Lenny Kravitz playing some live shows. Has working with another singer ever been seriously considered?

I think it would be a lot of fun and we have talked about it but it didn’t happen but we have talked about going out and inviting a bunch of our friends and I think that would have been a lot of fun and I think it still could be but whether that happens or not, I don’t know.

Now that your album is out and you’re playing live shows with Whitford St. Holmes again, do you still hope to be involved with the Experience Hendrix tours?

Yeah, I try to do Experience Hendrix shows every time Mato Nanji goes out. I wasn’t able to do the last one as my Mom was very sick so I had to be there with her. I’ve done four or five Experience Hendrix tours and they are amongst the best tours I’ve ever done. We have a great time and there’s a great group of people doing it. I’m not sure why it hasn’t made it over to Europe though. I’d love to play over there as it’s such a great show. There’re so many great artists on that bill it’d be a shame not to bring it over to Europe.

Whitford St. Holmes new album, Reunion is out now on Mailboat Records.


  • Mick Burgess

    Mick is a reviewer and photographer here at Metal Express Radio, based in the North-East of England. He first fell in love with music after hearing Jeff Wayne's spectacular The War of the Worlds in the cold winter of 1978. Then in the summer of '79 he discovered a copy of Kiss Alive II amongst his sister’s record collection, which literally blew him away! He then quickly found Van Halen I and Rainbow's Down To Earth, and he was well on the way to being rescued from Top 40 radio hell!   Over the ensuing years, he's enjoyed the Classic Rock music of Rush, Blue Oyster Cult, and Deep Purple; the AOR of Journey and Foreigner; the Pomp of Styx and Kansas; the Progressive Metal of Dream Theater, Queensrÿche, and Symphony X; the Goth Metal of Nightwish, Within Temptation, and Epica, and a whole host of other great bands that are too numerous to mention. When he's not listening to music, he watches Sunderland lose more football (soccer) matches than they win, and occasionally, if he has to, he goes to work as a property lawyer.

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