Despite being a commercial disappointment, the band’s first record after the return of Perry and fellow guitarist Brad Whitford represents an important moment in its career, Perry told Vinyl Writer Music in a recent interview.
“We had just gotten back together, and we had done a tour,” he said. “That whole tour was really about getting comfortable playing together again… that was part of the reason we went on the road without a record deal. Well, it was one of them, because we honestly couldn’t get a record deal. We had burned so many bridges, and nobody would sign us!”
He continued: “But you know, we wanted to see if we could still do it. We needed to know if the old spark was there. So we went out and toured on that idea alone… [and] the fans showed up for us. After we did that, we knew that was it. We knew that was what we were there for.”
The tour’s success led to a new recording contract, but Perry said the group first had to spend time “learning to write again.” He explained: “You would think that after doing records like Rocks, Draw the Line, and of course the first three records, you would think that we would be able to pick up from there and go on, but that wasn’t the case. The pressure was on, and people were looking at us like, ‘Okay, nice tour. Now what are you going to come out with?'”
He accepted that the resulting LP didn’t live up to everyone’s expectations, blaming it on the pressure the band faced. Perry said that’s also why Aerosmith didn’t make the most of their team-up with longtime Van Halen producer Ted Templeman. “I guess we were expecting more from him, and so we were kind of nervous to work with him, and I think he was nervous to work with us, which kind of surprised us,” the guitarist reflected. “It was a funny dynamic. I don’t know, I always felt like that record could have been better if we worked on it some more, or if everybody said, ‘You know, we kind of feel uptight about working with you.'”
Perry revisited Done With Mirrors a few years ago when it made a list of the most under-appreciated rock records. “I realized it was raw, and it was a lot like the first album,” he said. “We just went in and straight-up recorded in the studio. It was as simple as going in, plugging in, turning the machines on, and we went from there. So that happened, and I started listening to it, and I was really surprised now that I was looking at it differently.”
Noting the “raw and dirty” feel of the songs, he continued: “I still wish I could have maybe polished a few more things, or maybe put a couple more overdubs on it, but all in all, I think it did what it was supposed to do. I think it kind of showed me what we needed to do, what we were, and where we needed to be for the next one.”
After Done With Mirrors, Aerosmith collaborated with Canadian super-producer Bruce Fairbairn on their next three multi-platinum smashes, Permanent Vacation, Pump and Get a Grip, which solidified their comeback and returned them to the top of the rock heap. “I think we had to get through Done With Mirrors,” Perry said, “to get to that next step and push ourselves to that next level.”