Interview with Jon
Bon Jovi & Richie Sambora
in the context of the
release of the album Bounce
Article added on September
Why did you choose to call
the album "Bounce"?
The title of the record's "Bounce." If I were witty, I'd say,
"You tell me what it means. And I think the idea behind it was
initially more of a title in the first person. It was going to be about my
story. Or then, the band's story. And then became that of the country.
And the resiliency that I've found personally in the band, and now, because of
the events of 9/11, that of the resiliency of the country. And I still thought
that it was a title that could be fun enough that you could make it your own,
too, because it could be a simple as bouncing up and down or bouncing a ball,
and yet it can mean so much more, so, in a strange way, I like to leave it up
to the individual to decipher what they want it to be.
What did you set out as your goals for this record?
I think that an album, for me, has to be an encapsulized version of a time in
my life, a period. And, in this case, it's a year since the last tour ended.
Not even quite a year. A year this week. So, from the end of July in 2001, to
the year 2002, what happened? Well, other things, but 9/11 happened. You
have cute romantic songs, you have fun rock songs, and you're gonna have the
storytelling, more classic songs that are the makings of what is
"Bounce." Because you want a beginning, a middle and a end. I want
it to be like a book or a movie, where we're taking somebody on a journey of
what's gone on in my life in the last year. And though 9/11 played a
part in it, a big part in it, a sobering part in it, that was just one aspect.
And I didn't want it to be overly sentimental, overly patriotic, but certainly
acknowledging what myself, the band and the country have been through.
Was the song "Undivided" the most passionate song you've ever
Well perhaps, you know I like to think we put passion into anything we do.
Um, it's directly relatable to a specific subject that you're familiar with as
well as I am. So perhaps if I wrote something that was just as
passionate about something only I knew about and you know, I was then relaying
the story to you and you had to guesstimate how much or not I put into it.
In our story telling, what we try to do is blur the lines between first,
second, and third person so that it's me, you, and we. And in doing so,
you find a lyric that makes it make sense. And so the chorus for
"Undivided" perhaps can be considered universal, and not just U.S.
and not just patriotic, but thematically having to do with we as one planet.
Wise up already, step back and take a look because people in the Gaza Strip
are having more consistent suffering than we had in New York and yet to a
great degree people watch TV and consider it something that's not their
problem because it's far away or fighting anywhere in the world or our
problems are not just ours as American's but the world's problems and we were
able to look at that head on and write about it.
How did you approach production for "Bounce"?
Production on this record was somewhat simple in the approach that if it's not
broke, don't fix it. We had a great relationship last time with Luke Ebbin,
who is a young up and coming producer. He did a fine job on "Crush,"
and then we'd incorporate the talents of anybody and everybody that would come
in the studio. Our managers always say, "There's no 'I' in team."
It's a great collaborative effort in every aspect of this record. My ego's not
big enough that I have to worry about that. I'm not vain enough to think that
my or even my and Richie's ideas are the be all and end all. It's not a
"you can't look until it's finished process," it's "What do you
think?" and then you step back from the canvas, and then when you move up
to it again, you have a better perspective of what you're painting.
What is the most enjoyable part of all this, for you?
In terms of my life in the band, my favorite part of it is writing the songs.
Even more so than recording them and definitely more than playing them live.
It's the actual creation of writing a song that for me personally is my
favorite part. `Cause I can already envision what it's gonna sound like.
I just know the tedious process we're gonna have to go through to write
the other 12 that go on the record, and then record them, and then overdub
them, and mix `em, and master `em. Even today, you get so
possessive that here we are in the mastering lab. I should be on some
beach letting you interview me with a pina colada right now truthfully. But
every aspect I was involved in, as was Richie on this record, was more than
anything we've ever done, and I hope that the end result is something that I
know will make us proud, but I hope the people enjoy.
What was the time frame it took to write the songs and to record
It was just about a year. It's a year ago this week, we're at the end of
July right now. It's a year ago this week that we were finishing the
last week of the tour, of the "Crush" tour. We took only maybe
3 weeks off you know right after that to decompress, wash the clothes, and get
back to it. And the writing process began I believe in L.A. and then
shortly thereafter we were in New Jersey. So that by September 11, we were
well into it, and in Jersey writing. And so it went so theoretically
from the end of August, and we were still writing in May.
Did you approach "Bounce" like an old album, having an
"a" and "b" side?
We did. When we sequenced the album, dating back to my old love for vinyl and
laying in bed with the old vinyl, we laid it out as side a and side b. And
"Hook Me up" would be the beginning of side b. And I like the
sequencing a lot. It's unorthodox to put a song like "Joey" fourth,
you're supposed to have the hit ballad there. We didn't want to lose that
song. We took the ballad that we know is a big hit song, or we think is a big
hit song, and put it down to number 6. Who cares? It's important to tell the
The first lyrics on "Undivided" cut right to the chase.
We had to be to the point with a lyric like that. If you're going to
step out on a limb and talk about what happened on 9/11, it better be
pin-pointed and yet not be so personal that other people can't relate to it.
It can't be just your view of what happened. It has to be
something that's universal. That was the idea.
We had many conversations about the lyric,
about that particular song. `Cause we were saying, are we hitting this too
spot-on-the head? Is this gonna be too sad for people to digest? And we
felt that it was just right to hit it on the head. It was the right
thing to do.
During the ending of "Undivided", the music comes down to just
an acoustic guitar and the voices, which mirrors the meaning of the lyrics.
Just as the lyric, in it's most basic form which is just an acoustic guitar
and a voice, which is the way that it was written, is as true and important as
is that powerful lick. You know, the lick was there to reinforce the
lyric, but the lyric is at the core of it, what's the most important thing.
And it is the message that the chorus gives.
Was writing "Undivided" a cathartic experience for you?
We ran the gamut. We were both at my house that morning during the
writing process, and earlier that morning, I happened to be up, and Richie was
yet to be up, and I woke him up thinking to myself...this is something very
important. There's something going on right now. And then you know, as
the first tower was hit, and then the second one was about to be hit and then
was hit, I woke him up and was put in a position really, where none of us knew
if this was Armageddon. We didn't know how many more lanes were in the
skies when you started thinking...Oh My God...there's thousands of planes in
the skies right now. What about Chicago? What about L.A.? I
started thinking ahead...time zones. Now I got my dear friend sitting at
my house 3,000 miles away from his own wife and children. My kid's in
school, wondering do I run them outta school, what do we do here and not alarm
him? Be aware of what's going on around us. Remember, trying to
reach for the phone, and he couldn't get a hold of his wife. We couldn't
call out. We couldn't get a plane. We couldn't do anything like that.
Acting, but not reacting. Thinking about you know, what's going on right
now, and all the emotions soon thereafter ran the gamut from sadness, anger,
to even disbelief, and the first songs we sat down to write with regard to
9/11 were very, very sad. Songs that weren't even ever demoed,
that'll probably never even get out of the notebook. But were
depressing. Then as we wrote a bunch and we kept going, we started to
think about this is gonna be a year from now before we're gonna publicly speak
about the subject. Is that gonna be the emotions that we're feeling in a
year from now? When we realized, NO. In a year from now,
people are gonna be dusting themselves off. We're gonna be moving on.
Grab yourselves by the bootstraps and gonna have to get on with life. As the
record progressed, and songs started to weed themselves out, it made more and
more sense. Our county in New Jersey was the hardest hit county in New
Jersey, and therefore the hardest hit county in the metropolitan area.
And so many of those folks worked on Wall Street that lived in my town.
There were kids in my kid's classrooms whose folks didn't come home. There was
a number of them.
The lyrics on
"Everyday" reinforce the message that Bon Jovi has always forwarded
as a band, perseverance in the face of adversity...making the best out of a
bad situation and coming back stronger.
We've always tried to find the optimism, and that's what been signature for us
throughout the years. Even through a darker record like "These
Days" we were feeling rather optimistic, even though at the end of the
day when people would bring it up and say, "God this is a dark record,
why are you guys so upset?" And I would say "Gee, we're in a great
mood" but what has worked for us throughout the 20 years we've been
making records is trying to find the optimism in any subject that you write
about. You know, if it's "Keep The Faith" after the riots in
L.A., or if it's "Everyday" after the World Trade Center" you
try to find the optimism. A reason for people to wanna go on.
Distance can mean many
things, like distance between two points, or to be aloof, or, it could be used
to convey perseverance under adversity.
That's the point of the lyric, yeah, of the chorus that I'll go the distance.
I'll go as long and as hard as necessary to get the job done and to stick with
That's definitely what the song was about. I think that in my mind when
we were writing it, I almost had a picture in my head of a soldier, in a
way, leaving his wife and going to do his duty in whatever armed forces were
there and him in his mind seeing her. Saying I'll go the distance, just wait
for me till I get back. I think that's the cinematic picture I had in my head.
music serves a different role in the song with regards to the story, doesn't
I think it was more about the lyric and that the music accompanied it opposed
to having been a riff-oriented song that we toiled so hard over getting' every
day an undivided right from a lick standpoint, the energy accentuating the
lyric, but the lyric being able to be as important enough to stand on it's
own. With this one, the chords are simply there to accompany the movie that
they're underlying. You know, they're as important as a score is to a
film, but on the other hand really, it's just a simple. basic, chord structure
on that song, and it was really just meant as an accompanying the track.
I really don't think it was as important as some of the others.
Yeah, that's true. Interesting enough, what I fond interesting about this song
is the juxtaposition of the heavy guitar parts involved with the orchestra,
which really adds an urgency and actually helps the lyric come through.
The song "Joey"
tells a story. Why did he get the name Joey Keys?
You know, because he could pick a lock. Joey Keys is just like Jimmy The
Jeweler...you know...in New Jersey they got Eddie The Hat. We know all
those guys. Tommy Thumbs. You know, Joey Keys. The cuteness of it is
that he's a little slow, and yet he was the bag man, or he was the guy who
could pick a lock, or he was the guy that you thought was a moron. But
it's a fictional character, and it was something that as we were writing one
day, I hit Richie up with the idea of this song, and we knocked it out
quick...in a day. We wrote it in a day. And then the bridge music came
while we were tracking it and I just knew a good lick to change keys there.
We wrote it fictionally. I was thinking of "The Pope Of Greenwich
Village", and we talked about the relationship between Mickey Rourke
& Eric Roberts, and "Charlie, they got my thumb" you know...and
guys like that are always in the romantic version. They're gonna win. They're
gonna get out. They're gonna make it. And in the song sense, I
don't hear people writing the classic old story teller five-six minute song
that takes you on a journey and makes you feel like you can ride into the
sunset. I just don't hear songs like that anymore. You know,
Elton would do it on "Yellow Brick Road" or Billy Joel did it on all
those records. There was a lot of great storyteller / songwriters that I
just don't hear those things anymore in the 3 minute 30 second pop ditties
that are on the radio now. So we reached out a couple of times on this
record with great focus to have a couple of those on the record.
"Misunderstood" come about?
The way that "misunderstood" came about was a series of errors, and
working too hard, combined with being away from home. I think that the
best songs that come out of honesty are the ones that you're quick enough to
write down. For instance, "Bed Of Roses", when I was writing
that song in `92, was in no mood to be writing a song due to the
circumstances, and instead of putting the pen down and walking away from the
piano, I sat down and wrote "sitting here wasted and wounded with this
old piano..." and the hurt that I was feeling physically that day.
Well this time I was in Los Angeles for a better part of 5 months doing a
television program, and came home, I think it was on a Thursday, and had
meetings at the house on Friday, and then on Monday morning began recording
the record. At which time my wife looked at me and said it's time to
straighten up. You know, you'd better realize that there's more to what
you do than what you do. And I was in the doghouse. Instead of
putting my tail between my legs or barking back, I just wrote
"right". I should apologize for everything I'm about to screw
up here. And you know, made light of it. And in a fun and funny
way, for every guy that's been in the doghouse before, I think they can relate
to that. And I like the vulnerability, and the honesty about it. So I
was on a roll, and Richie said, "Run boy run". And we did!
It seems that in "The
Right Side of Wrong" it was the characters misguided shot at glory?
Perhaps. Yeah. The way Butch and Sundance had to make that last minute
decision to run out of that house when they were surrounded and the frame
freezes, and you don't know they get blown into a million pieces, which is
pretty neat. Or Thelma and Louise going over the cliff, and, you know, all
that kind of stuff, "Look, Ma. I'm on top of the world" with Cagney
up there. That, to me, the Hollywood versions of bad things make it romantic.
Why do so many people love the Godfather? It's really bad people, but you
can't help but watch it every time it's on for the last 25 years.
You get the sense that the characters in "The Right Side of
Wrong"don't make it out alive.
No, it shouldn't be. You really shouldn't romanticize that kind of situation.
I remember when we were doing the guitar solo, we were singing an
orchestration that didn't exist. So, then we said, what would be neater
than just playing a solo would be doing a call and response. So that Richie in
my mind's eye, was playing his guitar in the middle of an orchestra, and he's
leading them by playing a lick and then they answered him. So, by the climax
of our journey leads him to our last verse...what's it say? "A friend of
a friend/needed a favor/life's just what happened while we were busy making
plans" Of course, a reference to the Lennon line. "We never
saw nothin'/There was a run in/9 mm steel was coming for the windshield of
that Oldsmobile." And you could just see that freeze frame of that bullet
stopping mid-frame, as it's too late. But, much like "Butch and
Sundance," I made a conscious effort to freeze the frame. Did they, when
he looks at him and says, "I got a half tank of gas, if we run all",
they're gonna make that decision right then. Do we get out of here alive, or
is that bullet, which is in mid-air gonna come through the windshield and clip
'em? And we don't really know the ending which makes it neat.
"Love Me Back to Life" features a character that seems to be
You know we all run so hard in our jobs and our careers, and, regardless of
what your career is, you're always chasing after something in order to make
the rent. Whatever high rise you live in and pay scale you have, everyone's
struggling to make the rent at some point. You know, the intense pressures
that you put upon yourself, it's easy to lose sight of the simple things. Why
you got involved with a family to begin with. Why you're fighting hard to pay
the rent to begin with. And, you know, I know that we're both guilty of living
life out of a suitcase for 20 years, so something as simple as going home
exhausted and saying "Love me back to life" because right now
there's no life in these bones.
Richie: You know, when you run out of life to put into your life. Just
the normal humdrum of everyday life sometimes if you run into a traffic jam
and somebody aggravates you or the job's especially tedious that day or
something like that, and you go home and you look for your wife, or your
girlfriend, or your family, or whatever to enrich you and lead you back into
who you really are instead of this aggravated ball of confusion.
Jon: You're taking it out
on them, and "I'd trade my sight for feeling/cause there's days my
feeling's gone." You just go home, and you're numb.
These days, to let an
audience know you have a new record out, you have to do something really big.
Do you have any specific ideas for "Bounce" that you can share with
Yeah. For instance, we're about to confirm September 5th in Times
Square, the NFL are kicking their football season off on a Thursday night.
Where anybody that watches football knows that you watch your team on Sunday
and it's very regional and you watch according to the city you live in. The
NFL is launching the football season on a Thursday night in New York. And the
Giants are playing San Francisco. And we're going to perform pre-game for an
hour, broadcast from Times Square where we hope to have a type of an audience
that goes there on New Years Eve. At halftime at the Giants-49ers game the
same night, we'll be in the stadium performing the song for the masses. And
the night prior to the album's release, we'll be in Chicago for the
Chicago-Green Bay game playing again. So we have a kinship with the NFL right
now that's beyond words. And that's just one of the many things that we're
doing to launch this record. It's going to be a big launch that like, the size
of we've never seen. Football is us. And we're very excited about that. And
they've adopted "Everyday" as their theme for the NFL for the year.
Talk to me about your
global appeal. It seems that Bon Jovi is truly a global band.
Bon Jovi is really, truly a global band in the truest sense of the world. When
we were coming up, there were a lot of American bands who were our favorites
growing up. And they didn't travel the world, which I learned and was very
surprised that a lot of the 70's and 80's bands that were staple of American
radio as well as the arena and stadium circuits couldn't play abroad because
they didn't go there. And that was very narrow-minded, I think, in retrospect,
because we were always the first ones to jump on an opportunity to see foreign
lands. Our first gold record came out of Japan, not America. And we went to
Africa, and we went through Asia, and we went to Australia, and we went to
South America, and Central America, North America. We went anywhere where they
would allow us to come, and places where they wouldn't allow us to come. You
know, be it Columbia with a machine gun in your face or the Soviet Union when
the wall was up, we weren't afraid. We'd go. And Peru with the gorilla
attacks. We did 'em. We lived through 'em and they were exciting to say that
you did it in your crazy youth. I might think twice about going there now, but
it was all a part of it that if America turned its back on you, it was o.k.,
because you could still go abroad and sell just as many records. It's been a
wonderful journey, and there's still a few places left I want to go. -
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new in 2007: Bon Jovi: Lost Highway. Get the CD from
Amazon.co.uk. Released on June 8, 2007 Bon Jovi's the 10th studio album,
Lost Highway, has started at #1 in the German charts and reached gold status
within one week. In their entire career, Bon Jovi have sold worldwide some 120
million albums so far. -
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Bon Jovi: Have A Nice Day. Island/Universal, September, 2005.
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Bon Jovi: Bounce.
Universal, September 2002. Get the CD from Amazon.com,
Check also our Bounce
Bon Jovi live in Times Square, September 5, 2002. Photograph Copyright: Universal
Bon Jovi live in Times Square, September 5, 2002. Photograph Copyright:
Bon Jovi. Photograph copyright:
Universal Music. -
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