Even after a knee operation that laid him up this summer, Aerosmith guitar god Joe Perry is still defying time -- playing like a rocker in his prime rather than a hobbled 51-year-old.

"Yeah, I had my knee reconstructed," he told The Post as casually as if he were discussing getting his teeth cleaned. "I'm treating it like a sports injury." 

He sure didn't let it stop the Aerosmith tour. 

"I'm wearing a knee brace, but it's feeling real strong," he says. "When I'm playing, I can't really see myself sitting still." 

That makes sense. Perry, Steven Tyler and the rest of the band haven't stood still for the 30 years they've been making music together. In fact, this has been one of the band's busiest seasons in years. 

They were honored in an "mtvICON" tribute, toured before and after Perry's operation, wrote new tunes and culled the best of their songbook for the O, Yeah! Ultimate Aerosmith Hits

They're also the subject of VH1's Behind The Music, airing Sept. 1. 

Post: Did you ever think it would be your knee that was going to give out first? 

Perry: I hurt it 15 years ago when I fell off the stage and again last year. When I was starting, I never thought I'd make it this far. I stopped worrying about that a long time ago. The only thing I worry about is . . . I dunno. 

Post: What were you going to say? 

Perry: The only thing I worry about is my hands. I'm a guitar player -- I have to worry about my hands. You only have a finite amount of time to use these things. It doesn't keep me up at night. I think about it, and then I say "the hell with it, I'm going to live life. What happens, happens." 

Post: Have you been successful protecting your mitts? 

Perry: Pretty much. A couple of years ago, right before we had to do a few dates in Japan, I hit my left little finger in the gym with a 50-pound weight. It blew up to the size of a plum. 

Post: Ouch. 

Perry: I still played five or six dates with it that size. 

Post: I hear you like working in the kitchen. 

Perry: I used to do it a lot more. When you're on the road, you're subject to everyone else's cuisine. So when we'd get home, I'd want to cook. These days, when I get really ambitious, I go out back and smoke some ribs. 

Post: That way you stay away from knives? 

Perry: You have to be careful, but I don't stay away from knives. I actually collect them -- old ones, new ones, the unusual -- anything. But in the kitchen, I don't do a lot of chopping. 

Post: Eminem tapped you and Steven to do a remake of "Dream On." Your new guitar solo was used, but he skipped on Steven's vocals. Was Steven mad -- did you rib him a little? 

Perry: Not really. The new stuff I played wasn't available on the original track. If I played a bigger guitar solo in the first place, I'm sure that's what Eminem would have used. When Steven re-sang it, it was fine, but on the original he really had the [expletive.] 

Post: You got a second chance to make something you played better. Any other second chances? 

Perry: I'm really a big fan of doing it one time, and that's what it is. I read a story about Chuck Berry where someone was giving him grief about him not caring about his playing. He said, "It's cool because I did it." I thought, Yeah, that's pretty arrogant, but there's an artistic side to that, too. As an artist, that's the place where you want to come from. 

Post: No second chances? 

Perry: I'm a fan of letting it rip and it is what it is. But now that we're talking about it, maybe I'd want a second chance at the Led Zeppelin induction speech I made [at the Rock 'n' Roll Hall of Fame]. 

Post: What happened? 

Perry: I'm not a great public speaker, and I was really nervous. If it was an Aerosmith show, I could have said anything and I wouldn't have had a problem. But that situation terrified me. I'm just not a public speaker. It was such an honor because Jimmy [Page] asked us to do it. I look back at that, and I could have done a better job. Other than that I say let it fly. 

Post: Aerosmith isn't just Steven or you -- after years you're all still a band. 

Perry: Definitely . . . and every year it gets more precious. We've been on stage under great circumstances and adverse circumstances; you can't replace that with playing in the basement on your own. We have the vibe, we live and breathe as one. That's the experience. 

Post: The experience has been very lucrative. 

Perry: You can take away all the rest -- the videos, the endorsements -- and what you have left is five guys who make music together. And every year we get tighter and better. 

Post: Is that why we should still care about bands that have been around forever? 

Perry: For that reason alone. To see a band that has our seasoning is worth it. And it doesn't happen that much. There's no way to age wine except time. 

Post: Do you ever feel the time? 

Perry: Hey, we're all human -- we're fragile and stuff breaks down. We're not 22 anymore. We can't go out the night before and get on stage the next day totally hung over and still put out a great show. To be in our 50s and still be able to crank takes effort. We're all finite. 

Post: Is it true you're a hot sauce mogul? 

Perry: Not really a mogul. It's kind of a hobby. I love spicy foods -- I have all my life -- and I found myself always mixing hot sauce together to get the right blend. I ended up getting the mix, and I'm marketing the stuff. I thought it was going to be easy, but hot sauce took a lot out of me. 

Post: So how is Joe Perry's "Rock Your World" hot sauce? 

Perry: I use it myself. I don't just slap my name on the bottle. 

Post: When you play around the country, will fans get to buy it along with an Aerosmith T-shirt? 

Perry: I hadn't thought about it, but I'm going to run it by the band.

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