By James Wood | Photo: Ross Halfin
When Alice Cooper decided to pay tribute to his Seventies drinking buddies—a group of late-night partiers dubbed the "Hollywood Vampires"—he used the nickname for a new band featuring an impressive batch of artists and released an album of classic covers and a handful of original tunes.
Following the band’s TV debut on this year’s Grammy awards, not to mention a string of European shows, the Hollywood Vampires–whose core members include Cooper, Johnny Depp and Aerosmith guitarist Joe Perry—are about to begin one of summer’s most anticipated tours.
I recently spoke with Perry about the band's North American tour, new music, the future of Aerosmith and more.
What can fans expect from the Hollywood Vampires Tour?
The album is a pretty good indication. But once you make the record, the goal is to out-do it when you play it live—and that’s what we’re doing. Although there are a lot of guests on the album who won’t be with us on stage, the core band is the one I’d pick if I was going to go out and tour by myself. Everyone is a great player and we’re all friends as well as fans of the music we’re playing. We’ll probably change the set a little bit as the tour goes on, but only because there are so many great songs we want to play. The guys we’re paying tribute to were all pioneers at what they were doing. They all passed way too soon, but we’re showing that their music lives on. Those guys are alive when we play these songs, and that’s why this is going to be a really special tour.
How did the Hollywood Vampires come together?
Alice was thinking of doing a covers record and the idea came up a to do something that was more of a tribute to the guys he used to drink with at The Rainbow as well as a celebration of their music. We’ve all known each other for years and can certainly say we’ve all paid our dues entertaining people one way or another. So this is a tip of the hat to the great talent and songs these guys have left behind, but it’s also about the vibe of being friends and never thinking it was ever going to happen—and here we are.
How did you become involved in the band?
The original stuff on the record was pretty much done by the time I showed up. I came in while they were laying down tracks and was literally working right down from the studio they were in. I remember they kept calling me up and asking me to come over and sit in and play. One time they said, “Hey, tomorrow we’re going to be cutting a track with Paul McCartney. Do you want to come over?”—and I was like, “Um, yeah! OK!” [laughs].
Do you see the Hollywood Vampires as more of a long-term project?
I’m hoping we’ll be able to write some more stuff and continue the vibe. It’s a dream come true for all of us to play together. But right now, we’re focusing on getting out there and seeing how it goes down. It’s a great lineup and the reason we’re doing it is to put some energy into the crowd and pay tribute to some of these great guys who are no longer around.
What’s it like working with Johnny Depp?
Johnny’s a really great player who’s played for a long time and can play all different styles of guitar. We both listened to the same kind of music coming up and when I first heard him play I was just blown away. Whenever we get together and start bouncing riffs off of each other, there’s not much talking going on.
Steven [Tyler] recently spoke about a final Aerosmith tour in 2017. What are your thoughts on that?
It’s one of many things we’ve talked about as a band, but I don’t know it it’s the end. We take it from album to tour and day to day. It’s the same philosophy we’ve always had. But even if that final tour comes about, it could go on for two years. There are still a lot of places we haven’t played yet that we want to play. More to follow; let's just put it that way.
What are your thoughts on Steven’s new solo album, We’re All Somebody from Somewhere?
I’m really happy he did it because he’s been talking about it for years. It’s given us a chance to take a break and has worked out well for everyone that he’s finally getting to do it. I know he’s doing some gigs and going on the road after he releases the record, but the main thing is he’s having fun doing it. That’s why you do a solo record—to explore new music and work with different musicians. As long as he’s doing what he wants, that’s what counts.
Speaking of solo albums, can you give me an update on your next solo project?
I’ve been doing a lot of writing and recording. Originally, it was just going to be instrumental, but since I had so many tracks someone suggested I have a couple of vocalists come in that I never have a chance to work with. I’m not sure when it will come out, but I did release a single recently online with Terry Reid called “I’ll Do Happiness,” to give people a taste of what’s going on. People are really going to be surprised to hear some of this new stuff. It’s a whole different kind of energy than some of the other solo records I’ve done.
What are you most looking forward to about The Hollywood Vampires tour?
Playing with these guys and seeing how far we can push it. I always play every show like it’s my last, whether it’s with Aerosmith or the Hollywood Vampires. It’s all about taking everything we’ve learned over the years and bringing that energy to the stage and giving the audience something they’ve never seen before—and maybe never will again. This is a unique band and it shows as soon as we walk onstage—the energy, the songs, the whole thing. Plus, there’s that extra layer of paying tribute to some of the best artists rock and roll has ever seen. We all have the same idea as to why we’re here and what we’re doing it for.
The Hollywood Vampires' North American Tour Dates
Jul 1 - Bethlehem, PA: Sands Bethlehem Event Center
Jul 2 - Mashantucket, CT: The Grand Theater at Foxwoods Casino
Jul 3 - Atlantic City, NJ: Borgata Resort Spas and Casino Event Center
Jul 5 - Milwaukee, WI: Summerfest BMO Harris Pavilion
Jul 7 - Aurora, IL: River Edge Park,
Jul 8 - Orillia, ONT: Casino Rama Entertainment Center
Jul 9 - Niagara Falls, NY: Stage at Seneca Niagara Resort & Casino
Jul 10 - Brooklyn, NY: Coney Island Amphitheater
Jul 12 - Kettering, OH: Fraze Pavilion
Jul 13 - Mt. Pleasant, MI: Soaring Eagle Casino & Resort
Jul 14 - Cadott, WI: Rock Fest
Jul 16 - Clarkston, MI: DTE Energy Music Theatre
July 18 - Fargo, North Dakota: Scheels Arena
July 22 - Rohnert Park, CA: Weill Hall
July 23 - Jacksonville, OR: Britt Pavilion
July 24 - Saratoga, CA: The Mountain Winery
July 25 - Paso Robles, CA: Mid State Fair
Joe Perry's Hollywood Vampires Rig
Danelectro ’64 Guitars
Gibson Reverse Flying V
Gibson Joe Perry Prototype
Gibson Joe Perry 1959 Les Paul
Gibson Billie Guitar
Fender Burn Strat
Ernie Ball Strings - M-Steel
Dunlop Strap locks
Dunlop Joe Perry Slides
Dunlop Medium Custom Picks
Shure Axient Wireless
Amp setup / combination:
Marshall JCM 800 Head from Pump era
Marshall Super PA Heads
Marshall Super 100JH Jimi Hendrix 1982JH 4x12 Cabs
Supro Thunderbolt Plus Combo
Voodoo Amps V-Plex Amp
Planet Waves American Stage Cables
Lelhe P-Split II
JMI Professional MKII Tone Bender
Dunlop Jimi Hendrix Signature Wah
DigiTech Whammy pedal
Electro Harmonix Pog (Vintage)
Pigtronix Philosopher’s Tone
Catalinbread Bella Epoch Echo
Catalinbread Topanga Spring Reverb
Wampler Tape Echo
TC Electronic Flashback
Fulltone MDV 3 Mini Deja Vibe
Electro Harmonix Mel 9
MXR Dyna Comp
CAE/MXR MC403 Power System
T-REX Fuel Tank
James Wood is a writer, musician and self-proclaimed metalhead who maintains his own website, GoJimmyGo.net. His articles and interviews are written on a variety of topics with passion and humor. You can follow him on Twitter @JimEWood.