"The job of a drummer, once you understand it, is to be a chameleon," says Joey Kramer. "Songwriters will express specific ideas as to how they want a number to feel, and even if you're open enough to understand exactly what they're saying, conveying that into a song is not necessarily a natural thing to do. You really have to work on it."
Kramer should know. For more than 30 years he has combined emotional feel with technical virtuosity to convey the musical ideas of his bandmates in Aerosmith, learning to play from his heart as well as his head while evolving into one of rock's greatest drummers. Indeed, Joey Kramer's meticulous timing and solid grooves have contributed as much to the sound of Aerosmith albums such as 'Toys In The Attic', 'Rocks', 'Permanent Vacation', 'Pump', and ‘Just Push Play’ as Steven Tyler's voice and Joe Perry's guitar, yet Joey asserts that the technical aspects have never been his main focus.
"The simpler it can be, the more it says," he explains. "It's all about the way a song feels as opposed to the amount of playing involved. That's what I've worked on over the years, and I think that pertains directly to working on how one develops as a person. The better you feel about yourself, the better your work is going to be, no matter what you do."
Joseph Michael Kramer was born in The Bronx (New York) on June 21,1950, and by the age of 14 he was cutting his musical teeth as part of a Ventures-type instrumentals band named The Medallions. However, it wasn't until Joey started drumming with an 11-piece rhythm & blues outfit during his late teens that he discovered the music that would serve as his main source of inspiration.
"Initially my playing was more like Mitch Mitchell (Jimi Hendrix Experience)," Kramer reminisces, "but then I got turned onto rhythm & blues, went to see concerts by the likes of James Brown, and was heavily influenced by James Brown's drummer Clyde Stubblefield, as well as Dino Danelli of The Rascals, John Bonham of Led Zeppelin, and Clive Bunker of Jethro Tull... These days my playing lies somewhere between Clyde Stubblefield and John Bonham."
It was all of these influences that Joey brought into the studio when he first hooked up with Aerosmith, and his musical education was then further enhanced by the input of Steven Tyler, who had been a drummer before he turned to singing.
"Steven nursed me along the way when we first started the band, making me hipper to what drumming is really all about," Joey now recalls. "When I met Steven I had a lot more chops rather than knowledge about what I wanted to do, and he helped to steer me in a direction that enabled me to use what talent I had. As a drummer you need to be open-minded and able to listen. In fact, a lot of times it is the suggestions by people who don't know anything about drumming which can prove to be the most unique and interesting ideas, because they're coming from a different perspective. So, what I try to do is create a pocket for the band to lie in, and I think I've pretty much accomplished this over the years. When there's a good drum track for a song to be built upon, it pretty much creates the feel, and I give those guys a lot to hang their hats on."
Having reverted to the simpler means of a four-piece kit for the recording of Aerosmith's last studio album, 'Just Push Play', Joey went back into the studio with producer Marti Frederiksen to work on an altogether different type of solo project. This entailed laying down a comprehensive array of drum tracks for the first in a series of 'Celebrity Loops' CDs. Still, while Joey quickly warmed to this task, he initially had to come to terms with the idea of offering up his trademark sounds for sampling.
"At first I wasn't quite sure how I felt about it, but then I realized it was a pretty interesting idea," he says. "The thing I like most about it is that no one of my caliber has ever really put something out there for people to use at their own discretion. Now they have my playing at their fingertips, enabling them to enhance whatever they're doing. We recorded 75 to 80 different pieces of information -- beats and fills, the majority of which I've never used on record -- and they can be used by anyone from a hip-hop guy to somebody writing rock 'n' roll songs.
"Most of the things that you can make loops of are thin and average-sounding, whereas this CD features the same kind of sound that you'd hear on one of our records. They're really slamming rock 'n' roll drums, and at some point I'd like to get even more involved with something like this, actually doing the loops myself, and putting different percussion and effects on them. In that regard this CD will be the key to where things go from here..."
Kramer extends his rock n’ roll lifestyle off the stage to his appreciation for cars. To get him from place to place, Joey relies on the fastest, strongest and most powerful cars available. He owns some of the most beautiful automobiles in the world. His need for speed transfers back into his playing.
Most recently Joey opened a store on Newbury Street in Boston, Massachusetts called Technical.
WHAT IS YOUR BIRTHDAY?
The 21st of June
WHAT IS YOUR STAR SIGN
I am on the cusp of Gemini and Cancer.
DO YOU HAVE ANY SIBLINGS?
Three younger sisters
WHAT WAS YOUR FATHER'S OCCUPATION?
He was a salesman.
WHEN DID YOU FIRST PLAY THE DRUMS?
I first played the drums when I was fourteen.
WHAT WAS YOUR FIRST BAND?
My first band was The Medallions, I was 15.
DO YOU PLAY OTHER INSTRUMENTS?
WHAT WAS YOUR FIRST DRUM KIT?
My first kit was a "Kent" 3 piece set. I traded in my minibike to pay for it.
WHY DID YOU START TO PLAY THE DRUMS?
I guess it was a sign of rebellion. The drums made a lot of noise and did nothing for my relationship with my parents. Eventually I was not allowed to play at home, so I played wherever the band practiced.
HOW OLD WERE YOU WHEN YOU JOINED AEROSMITH?
18 years old
HOW MANY BANDS WERE YOU IN PRIOR TO AEROSMITH?
I was in ten bands before I joined Aerosmith.
HOW DID YOU COME TO JOIN AEROSMITH?
I was basically drafted!
WHEN WAS THE FIRST TIME YOU CUT SOMETHING IN THE STUDIO?
When we cut the first Aerosmith album
WHEN WAS THE FIRST TIME YOU WENT ON TOUR?
When Aerosmith went on tour with the Mahavishnu Orchestra. We went all over America.
WHAT WAS YOUR FIRST AEROSMITH GIG?
Nipmuc regional high school. We played three sets.
HOW DID THE NAME AEROSMITH COME ABOUT?
A girl I went to high school with and I used to write it all over our books because I knew that someday I was gong to be in a band and that it was going to be named that!
NAME FOUR THINGS THAT NOBODY KNOWS ABOUT YOU?
I am extremely sensitive, I eat in my sleep, I collect cobalt glass, masks, and gargoyles and I have a dog called 'Portia'
WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE PLACE IN THE WORLD?
My own bed
WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE FOOD?
WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE CAR?
Lamborghini Murcielago 640LP
WHAT IS YOU FAVORITE AEROSMITH SONG?
"Nobody's Fault" and "Lord of The Thighs"
WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE TV SHOW?
WHAT MUSIC DO YOU LISTEN TO AT HOME?
Rachmaninoff, John Coltrane, Tower of Power, Earth Wind and Fire, Garbage, No Doubt
WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE MOVIE?
The Great Escape
WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE BOOK?
"The Way of The Peaceful Warrior"
WHAT IS YOUR MOST PRIZED POSSESSION?
My twin turbo Porsche
IF THERE WERE ANYTHING ELSE YOU COULD BE IN THE WORLD WHAT WOULD THAT BE?
WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE SPORT?
IF THERE IS ANY OTHER TALENT YOU WOULD LIKE TO POSSESS WHAT WOULD THAT BE?
IF YOU HAD TO DESCRIBE YOURSELF AS AN ANIMAL WHAT ANIMAL WOULD THAT BE?