Posted January 15, 2005 by Nick Lindauer in Makers

Joe Perry Talks Hot Sauce

Joe Perry likes to talk, but the 54-year-old guitarist for Aerosmith doesn’t like to smile.

Why the long face? After all, Aerosmith’s latest album of juiced-up blues tunes has the goofy title “Honkin’ on Bobo.” And the whole reason Perry was visiting Manhattan’s Hard Rock Cafe recently was to promote the latest flavor of his Rock Your World hot sauce, called Mango Peach Tango. But in conversation with Newsday’s Rafer Guzmán, the guitarist never once cracked a grin. And when asked about Aerosmith’s Metallica-style stint in group therapy years ago, he gave a short reply before ending the interview.

Was it something we said?

How did a guy from Boston get involved in hot sauce? Shouldn’t you be doing, like, baked beans?

I’m from Portuguese-Italian descent, and I come from first-generation. So exotic food is in my blood. And in the traveling I do, I’ve been exposed to all kinds of food. Not only do you get to try a lot of exotic food, you also get to try a lot of crappy, bland food. So the light goes off, and you start bringing hot sauce with you.

You actually bring it on tour?

And bringing a lot. Our dressing room – usually there’s 20 bottles in the middle of the table. And what I found myself doing was mixing a lot of them together to try to get something I really liked. And I had a relationship with David Ashley, who’s got Ashley Food Companies [which also produces sauces for Bob Weir of the Grateful Dead]. I asked him for advice, and we decided to go in partners.

So the new sauce is called Mango Peach Tango. Won’t people confuse you with Ted Nugent? [Pause] You know, “Wango Tango”?

Well, I don’t know what he’s got going on with “Wango Tango,” but Mango Peach Tango, the whole thing is the blend of the two fruits with the spice. The “Tango” being the spicy part.

You know, using rock and roll to sell products used to be uncool. What happened to that antiestablishment attitude?

The whole thing with our blues connection – I love barbecue, I love the South. The whole thing makes sense to me. But using music to sell products, it’s been done for years. If it’s a really cheesy product and it’s something that’s totally obscure and wrong, then you take issue with it. But for an Aerosmith song to be played during a cool car commercial – I mean, it’s another place where Aerosmith gets its music heard. Kids know “Dream On” because of the Buick ad. How many times have you heard that Led Zeppelin song when you see this cool car, this Cadillac, screaming down the road? I think kids today don’t see that as a downside, because they get their music in so many different places, in video games and commercials.

You have the “Honkin’ on Bobo” album, and you made an appearance in “Lightnin’ in a Bottle” [the blues concert film]. Why is the blues so important to you?

It’s in my subconscious, it gets under my skin. That’s the music that makes me want to pick up a guitar and play. Jazz doesn’t do it; no other kind of music does it. We’re not real blues players, and we never will be. But you can learn from it and assimilate it and at least know the form. We can have fun playing the music – as we hear it – and morphing into our band of suburban white guys having fun and playing rock and roll. We pay our respects and pay homage and try not to offend anyone by putting our own spin on it.

For a young kid who doesn’t know the blues, where would be a good place to start?

Mississippi Fred McDowell – you’ll hear a lot of Zeppelin and Stones in there. He was a big influence on those guys. And, of course, Muddy Waters. And Johnny Winter was another that really could capture the black blues and make it accessible, so it didn’t sound like old man’s music. And, of course, Robert Johnson and Son House, to get that classic, one-guy-playing kind of thing. But to get to the rocked-out stuff, you want Slim Harpo, Fats Domino, Muddy Waters and Mississippi Fred McDowell.

Have you seen Metallica’s movie [“Some Kind of Monster”]? It was the first time most people saw a band going through group therapy, but Aerosmith did that years ago. What was that process like?

It’s in the book [1999’s “Walk This Way,” by Stephen Davis and Aerosmith]. You have a choice: You can either break up your band, or you can deal with it. If more bands would do that, we’d have more great music on the planet. I haven’t seen that movie, because I’ve seen our movie. But I do admire their courage, because it’s really hard to do.

Nick Lindauer

The Original Hot Sauce Blog