The band that many consider America's finest rock & roll band, Aerosmith is never far from the headlines, both good and bad. Of late, the Boston veterans are making some noise about their new live DVD, Rock for the Rising Sun, which is a documentary about 2011's shows in Japan. The tour was marked by some caution since the band was the first major artist to tour the country since the earthquake earlier that year and radiation continued to leak from a nuclear reactor. I spoke with bassist Tom Hamilton recently about the tour and how concerned the band was for their personal safety.

antiMusic: First off, how is your health these days?

Tom: It's good. It's good. I got zapped when we were in Australia, I came down with pneumonia somehow but you know a couple of week's worth of antibiotics and it was gone. So it wasn't like the kind of pneumonia that you hear about where people are gasping and choking. I felt like crap and I was definitely sick but it was under control and gone within a pretty reasonable amount of time.

antiMusic: That's great to hear.

Tom: Thanks.

antiMusic: I guess to begin with because obviously we're talking about the new DVD, after the disaster in Japan, very few acts were thinking of performing there. What kinds of discussions took place before you were deciding to go?

Tom: Well you know sometimes we investigate where we can go tour and sometimes they call us. And we get a message from say a foreign promoter saying, I think I can put together a string of dates if you guys are interested. I think this one was something where, you know, we were due to do a Japanese tour and part of the whole discussion about planning it was, what about this atomic power plant that's leaking radiation and, you know, we got pretty concerned about it and really looked into it. And to me, I decided, well, the places we're going to play are a decent distance away. I think it's going to be safe, so I'm voting yes. And everybody pretty much came to that conclusion but you know, there was some trepidation.

antiMusic: I'm sure you had whatever particular vaccinations required but with the spectre of radiation hanging in your minds, how much did that weigh on your thoughts while you were over there?

Tom: You know everyday, there's a newspaper called the Japan Times, which is an English language Japanese paper that I read, and every day there was a map with rings, concentric rings showing how strong the radiation was, you know, 10 miles, 50 miles, 200 miles away. And you know, all the cities that we played we're fairly well away from there. So it's always in your mind. You know, who needs radiation, right? In my gut I felt it was safe to go. And on balance it was worth me getting on a plane and go over there.

antiMusic: Casey, The director of this film, is somebody that I'm led to believe, accompanies you pretty much on a regular basis. Did you know at the time that you would be putting out a video to mark this event and also it would be a little more than a standard live set with the inclusion of all the behind the scenes material?

Tom: You know, I think that was kind of in the back of our minds. It's always in the back of our minds, the idea of taking a year's worth of touring and boiling it down and taking the best bits out and seeing if the fans are interested. But going to Japan and touring over there for Americans is very unusual. It's very different. So you have the benefit of that in there. It makes it more interesting because you get a look at a band like Aerosmith in a country like Japan. The fans are really intense. There's always lots of interesting stuff to look at when you're playing in there. It's really amazing. I don't know if we really planned on doing a DVD before we went there. But it's always in your mind, wow, these last string of dates are really great. We can include this, this and this in the film. Let's put it out. So this time we actually talked about that and pulled the trigger on it. And Casey very much encouraged us. You know when you have a direct relationship with someone that you trust and that you know is good, and that you know, and understands what the band wants it makes the kind of thing like that much more natural and much more likely to come out and be cool. So you know, it just makes it more likely that these things will continue to show up.

antiMusic: Casey has also stated that these shows, along with South America were some of the best he's seen of the band. Considering the emotional component involved, how would you rate the intensity of these shows within the range of shows in the band's career?

Tom: Well the Japanese don't scream a lot. They don't really go nuts. It's a little bit more subdued maybe. But you know after touring there for this many we can understand how to understand when they're really excited and having a great time. As the years have gone by the shows there have become more and more like a western show. But what you realize is the Japanese fans don't want to miss one second of what's going on. It's not like, lets grab a beer and get wasted and go nuts and be at a show. It's really a concert.

antiMusic: Japan is a great market for you guys anyway but I can only imagine there must have been a real heartfelt appreciation towards the band for showing up. Can you tell us about the reaction of the Japanese people to these shows?

Tom: No I really wasn't that aware that they were saying, "Oh my god, thanks for coming in spite of the radiation." Maybe I just wasn't looking out for that or watching for it. I think my attitude going there was to not go there with the attitude of an outsider coming in to help someone that I thought was sort of a victim. Because I don't look at the people that way and I can see how they recovered from something like this. It's incredible. So for me it was a pleasure to just go there and understand it as being as much a normal tour as possible.

antiMusic: These shows took place after all the American Idol business. How was the internal chemistry with the band at this point?

Tom: Ah, it was fine. You know I just remember it as being fine. I remember it as being a fun tour. Things were, uh, you know, under control. You know I don't worry so much about everything just flying apart like you used to because I don't think it's as likely to. There was a long period of our career where things could just come apart and crash. It happened many, many times over the course of our career. And you know, a lot of grief and regret but you know, but when everybody in the band nowadays agrees to do a string of dates, you know that it's going to happen. You know that everyone is going to show up and be the best Aerosmith band member they can be up there. And not be off somewhere getting wasted and blowing the tour.

antiMusic: Haven't got to see the DVD yet, so what can you tell us about things in terms of backstage stuff which I understand is interspersed with the live show.

Tom: Yeah. It's like a travelogue. (laughs) It's neat. It really shows the country, and it shows the connection between us and the fans. There's a lot of interaction that's portrayed, which is really interesting because that's the way it is now. There's a lot more communication between the band and our fans, what with twitter and all these different ways to communicate. You feel like the fans are not this sort of amorphous cloud out there. It's a little bit more of a closer relationship than it's ever been.

antiMusic: You've been at it long time, so I don't know if it really bothers you now but when you're shooting a live DVD, is it very distracting to have all the cameras on you from every angle when you're used to having free reign on stage?

Tom: We're used to it. It was weird in the beginning to have people running around on the stage that weren't part of the band and you know it was something I had to get used to. I wasn't crazy about it at first but then I started to really understand that if we could just get used to it and embrace it we can get really cool footage of the band playing. Almost everything we do is a situation where you have cameras now. It's just amazing. It's just the way it is now. Between cell phone cameras and really high quality videos cameras there's always something there. And you just get used to it and make the best of it.

antiMusic: Fans have the DVD to look forward to but what's next in line for the band?

Tom: Well, we've got the Japanese tour and right after that we're playing China for the first time. Yeah, we've got a show in Shanghai and then one in Taipei which is still a different country than mainline China. But then we take a month off and we go down to South America for about a month.

antiMusic: Last question, when are we going to get the next batch of Tom Hamilton fingers?

Tom: (laughs) You know what? The guys that made them, when I ran out went back to them and said, hey, I want to get some more. And they said, well, you have to order 10 thousand of them.

antiMusic: Yikes.

Tom: (laughs) I can't�I mean, the things already cost me $3 a piece when I got the first ones. And I thought I got like one thousand. That was an expensive little gag. But you know, to get 10 thousand of them, I don't know. I have some of these�during the beanie baby craze, I decided to come up with these things, I called them Obsenies. And they were like little stuffed animals but they were, you know, various parts of human anatomy. But for some reason I've never been able to figure out a way to sell them. But I have like a mountain of them in a warehouse somewhere so maybe I'll just start giving those out. I think that's going to be it. I'm going to start giving those out.

antiMusic: (laughs) That sounds good. Or find a corporate sponsor for your fingers.

Tom: Yeah. Maybe. You never know. Lets see, maybe there's a proctology organization�

antiMusic: (laughs)

Tom: As a matter of fact, that's one of the things about them. A lot of people misunderstood the joke. Sometimes I would throw them out and people would�like I remember once I through one to this woman who was really, really drunk and she started making all these horrible gross gestures. And I was like, no no no that's not what it means, that's not what it means. What the hell�you put these things out there and that's what could happen.

Morley and antiMusic thank Tom for taking the time to speak with us.

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