Reality Rocks

Steven Tyler On Why He Joined — And Quit — ‘American Idol’

Lyndsey Parker
Reality Rocks

Additional reporting by Chris Willman

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photo: Michael Becker/Fox

Steven Tyler kept the Fox censors working overtime during his profanity-laden "American Idol" tenure, but now that he is--quite happily, it would seem--off the show, he's really letting it rip. New "Idol" judge Nicki Minaj ain't got nothin' on Steven Tyler the Toxic Twin.

Speaking to Yahoo! Music during a press junket for Aerosmith's forthcoming comeback album, Music From Another Dimension, Steven minced NO  words when discussing his decision to leave "Idol" after two seasons and never look back--although he implied that if he hadn't quit, he probably would have been pink-slipped anyway.

"You could equate it maybe to a band, but a band has to get into a fight and argue to break up. Television, it's just the next moment. The producers are watching that and instead of going, 'This is great,' they're thinking about how to make it greater the next year...they just look at the numbers and go, 'We need to change something,'" Steven explained. "So in the sense of that, it came around the month that I used to get phone calls, and I went, 'Wait a minute.' I called Randy [Jackson] and I said, 'What's going on? Am I getting thrown off?' He goes, 'They haven't called me...' And then I called Jennifer [Lopez], and she goes, 'I don't know what I'm doing.' So there was a month of huh? So finally one day I just went, 'It just don't feel right. I'm quittin' now.' Then the next morning Jennifer quit, so what does that tell you? It just didn't feel right."

Steven also made it clear that Aerosmith was always his top priority, even though Fox paid him generously. "There wasn't enough money to pay me to sit around and not go out with Aerosmith," he said, recalling the time he bargained for an "Idol" raise. "It was good money, but trust me, when I went back to [Fox] and said, 'Here's what I'm getting,' I put it in a piece of paper and handed it to 'em. I said, 'What would you rather do? Do a show that's been out for 10 years, or go with a band that's been together FOR FORTY YEARS? What do you think I'm going to do? I'm going with those guys. Unleeeessssss, you give me THIS!' That was a very funny moment. And [Fox] gave me what I wanted. I'm not a look-at-the-money guy, unless I get numbers like that."

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Steven also admitted that his fallout with Aerosmith (after he tumbled offstage in 2009 at a South Dakota concert--injuring his head, neck, and shoulder--and the band's tour had to be cancelled) is what led him to consider the "American Idol" job in the first place.

"Those guys were angry because it was a great tour. I was angry. It was a great tour and I f***ed it up by falling off the stage. Come on. I know what I did. And they were angry at me, and so I didn't get back to them, so they decided to look for other lead singers, which pissed me off even more, which made me go to look at 'Idol,' because I wasn't sure what I was gonna do. And it was just perfect. It was really perfect, the way it went.

"It was not nice at the moment. I was totally incensed and hurt that a lot of those guys didn't call me back, but then, I had done something to them. It's the boys' club here. We can be rough with each other. And when you're high, you tend to take it personally. You know, half the things that they did, when I look back and I think, 'So let me see. They didn't come to the hospital when I got medivac-ed because I had a broken neck...Uh, why don't you call your lead singer, he's in the hospital and he's on his back right now, and they just put 40 stitches in the back of his head, so maybe you want to call him. His name is Steven. Bye!'

"I would have done stupid s*** like that and it would have been over. But when you're high on the drugs I was on at the time...which was Lumesta and stupid stuff just to be able to go on tour, because I had some feet operations and I couldn't walk...I was totally blown out of the water by the fact that I might not be able to be in Aerosmith again. You guys, if you suddenly couldn't use your you-know-what again, where would you go with that? That's how it was, literally. So I went on the drugs that I thought I could. They put me on these drugs, and I'm a drug addict/alcoholic--I can't be on any. But one of the real unknown secrets to this new album's success is that we're not all like that now: f***ed up and on drugs."

Wow, Steven's candor--something that was sometimes missing from his live "Idol" critiques--was no doubt refreshing here. But what about the new "Idol" judges--does Steven think they'll be raw and uncensored onscreen? To that question, Steven theorized: "It may turn out be something where one girl goes, 'You know what? F*** you!' That may be the paradigm this year, that both of those girls [Nicki Minaj and Mariah Carey] are fuming. Maybe they'll feud out loud. And they'll bleep it a lot. Maybe that's where it's going. Because it's gotta change. They loved me last year when I went, 'Hellfire, save matches, f*** a duck'...I mean, when I cussed, the whole place went whoooaaaa, and I went, 'You know what? Even though they just bleeped me, everyone at home said the word they just bleeped. And they couldn't bleep that!' And I was right."

Wow, if Steven had been this entertaining when he was on "American Idol's" live shows, I'd wish he was still on board for Season 12. But expect an equally entertaining free-for-all when Music From Another Dimension comes out November 6 and Aerosmith hit the road.

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Aerosmith, along with Usher, Linkin Park, Brad Paisley, Taylor Swift, Mary J. Blige, Green Day, Lil Wayne, Rihanna, Miranda Lambert, and other superstar artists, will perform at the iHeartRadio Music Festival in Las Vegas on September 21 and 22. The shows begin at 7 p.m. PST and will be streamed exclusively on Yahoo! Music.

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