For a couple of dark weeks in 1996, Aerosmith drummer Joey Kramer contemplated quitting the band.

"There were some personal turmoils that broke me down," the musician said during a phone call from the band's office in Boston, Mass. "God saw fit to have me go through some things that toughened me up for this crazy trip called life."One of those trials was the death of his father, Mickey.

"I had to leave for three weeks to get my thoughts and life straight," Kramer said. "But when I returned I felt more validated than anytime in my life."

Aerosmith - Kramer, vocalist Steven Tyler, guitarists Brad Whitford and Joe Perry, and bassist Tom Hamilton - will play the Delta Center on Saturday, April 18.

Showtime is 7:30 p.m., at which time glam-rock rising star Spacehog will take the stage. (See story on Page W3.)

Kramer explained how the band's most recent album, "Nine Lives," was a three-part project that was scrapped at least twice.

"When I was going through my funk, the band was in the middle of recording," Kramer explained. "They hired a temporary drummer who was playing the parts so I could fill them in later. But everyone felt they needed me there to actually finish the project. So when I did return, I felt needed. And that was important to me."

As a youngster, Kramer was inspired to pick up the sticks after seeing the Beatles on "The Ed Sullivan Show."

"I guess I was about 12 or 13," Kramer remembered. "And through-out my teenage years, I was in a lot of bands. We were influenced by the sounds of the times - the Ventures and other surf stuff.

"By the time the '70s came along, I got into Led Zeppelin. But I've always been drawn to funky guys such as James Brown. Then there's Buddy Rich and Mitch Mitchell (from Jimi Hendrix). I play a hybrid of all these styles. If you want to get technical, I play everything from James Brown to Led Zeppelin."

Kramer has been with Aerosmith since the beginning. He remembered the early days, and how hard it was to get a gig. "That was tough. But we eventually became friends with a promoter named Frank Connelly, who did a lot of shows in Boston. And when he had helped us as far as he could, he introduced us to other promoters.

"We always had it in our minds to get a recording contract and to make it big. But our definition of `big' wasn't about making a lot of money. It was about gaining the respect of our peers and fans."

After a string of successful albums, Aerosmith hit a dip in creativity as the band-members succumbed to pressures and had to reassess their lives. "We all had to get sober," Kramer said. "We just weren't getting into the job. Once we all became human again, things began falling into place."

Since 1986, the band has been on its second leg of success. And things appeared to run smooth until the "Nine Lives" recording sessions.

Aerosmith sought producer Glen Ballard, who had just come off the successful Grammy Award-winning Alanis Morissette project, "Jagged Little Pill." Although the band insists Ballard was an inspiration, the tracks he worked on were eventually scrapped and rerecorded with new producer Kevin Shirley.

The band also parted ways with longtime manager Tom Collins, who quickly went to the media and dropped hints that the band was losing its sobriety, something Kramer denied.

Then Kramer's father died.

"Those things happen in life," Kramer said. "I'm lucky to be a part of all this. My job is very gratifying. Before I took the situations and even myself for granted. These days I'm focused and happy to be where I am."