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December 2009. By Darren Middleton

Powderfinger’s Darren Middleton chats with Bon Jovi’s Richie Sambora about the New Jersey band’s new album ‘The Circle’ and asks how and why they’ve stuck together for so long.

Say what you like about Bon Jovi, the truth is irrefutable … a career spanning 26 years, sales of over 120 million albums, played more then 2600 concerts to over 34 million fans in 50 countries. The band that started out as a bunch of young mates playing bars in New Jersey and went on to conquer the world with hits like ‘Living On A Prayer’, ‘Wanted Dead or Alive’ and ‘Keep The Faith’ have nothing left to prove .. yet they are back with their eleventh album ‘The Circle’, and a new world tour which will see them back in Australia sometime in the next two years. Powderfinger guitarist Darren Middleton had the opportunity to chat with Bon Jovi guitarist Richie Sambora over the phone. Here’s what transpired.

BonJovi_TheCirc_Publ#748D26DM: We’ve been in a band for 20 years too and I know it can be tough to maintain relationships … people change as they grow older … so I guess my first question is how is Bon Jovi still a band? What keeps you together and still motivated?
RS: God, there’s a lot of things. Number one, there is a lot of respect we have for each other… a huge respect and we have kind of grown up together. We spend more time together than we do apart. I think we spend more time together than we do our own families. After all this time of being together, which is 26 years plus, it’s given us space to be who we are individually. Not just from a artistic stand point but a personal space stand point, so that self respect … plus we continue to evolve as  band. There’s a magnet into that evolution and a magnet that comes from the people. The fans still want to see us. They still want to hear the music we are making. It’s still relevant and it’s still contemporary.

D: I hear where you are coming from. It’s not so much that you have to be together. You guys have had a long road together and financially you don’t have to worry about doing it, so you must still enjoy each other’s company.
R: We do man. We hang out together. We are all doing interviews now and tonight we’ll all go and have dinner together. We get along. It’s actually an anomaly. We just put out a documentary that we made last year. We brought it to the New York Film Festival in Tribeca and it got rave reviews and next thing you know it’s showing on Showtime. It just premiered on Saturday. It’s called ‘When We Were Beautiful’, which is the second song on this new record. It’s kind of a look behind the curtain. What happens in a day in the life … it’s what we are, over the course of a whole tour. It’s very intimate I think. People are really loving it. It is a really unique documentary.

D: Would I be correct in assuming it’s not going to be like ‘Some Kind Of Monster’ (The Metallica film)?
R: No it’s very unique. It’s not whiny. It’s a day in the life. What happens to us personally. The reason I bring it up is because it definitely shows the inter-relationships that happen within the band. If you see the film, you see why we are still together, why we do this. It’s like you said, it’s certainly not financially motivated anymore. It is motivated by the fact that we get along. It’s motivated by the fans that still want to come and see us and hear the music and the fact that we are still learning. I mean if you stay stagnant, that ain’t no fun. I can honestly say that every time I walk into the studio with Jon, we are pushing each other to do something different and working with new people and learning new things, and that keeps you going.

D: The world of music is constantly changing, not just the technology but there’s still great new music being created, and every time you plug in your guitar or whatever instrument you play, it’s still fun to do, so I completely understand what you are saying. There are things to learn and new people, new producers to work with etc. Could I ask you outside of Bon Jovi, what occupies your time?
R: Well I’m a single dad so that takes a lot of my time. That’s one of the most enjoyable things in my life. I’d have more kids if I could find the right receptacle (laughs). I have actually been working on an interesting thing. I have a clothing line that I have been working on which is pretty crazy. It’s just for women and I came up with this title which is White Trash Beautiful. We tried to write the song Jon and I but it was a bit too misogynistic coming from a guy talking to a chick, so we shelved it and never really went back to it. I’m walking around my house one day and I thought, you know what? That sounds like a clothing line. So I started to put this thing together. The interesting thing about it is … what I am going to do is distribute music on the clothes on a G drive.

D: So how do you do that?
R: I partnered up with this women who already had a clothing company and she also happens to be an artist. She is amazing. Her name is Nikki Lund and she has a clothing company named Eccentric Symphony. I approached her and we got together and we wrote a couple of songs and took her into the studio with a  production team called The Matrix. The Matrix are famous for producing Korn, Avril Lavigne, Britney Spears, very modern very cool. So I just took her into the studio and that is what I have been doing as a side project. There’s not that much time, believe me. Bon Jovi is the mother ship and it is always a lot of work. So I have been doing that, taking care of my kid and some philanthropic work in my community. Helping the mission and the homeless people and a couple of kids in my hometown that needed some help in New Jersey. I don’t have a minute to my name.

D: That’s great. That’s one thing we don’t really consider when we think about a big artist, that often they do get involved in philanthropic type things but behind the scenes. It’s kind of nice to read about that sort of stuff sometimes.
R: You gotta give back man. Just like the song says. ‘We weren’t born to follow, I gotta live my own creed’. (We Weren’t Born to Follow is the first single off the new album)

D: My wife was recounting to me today that she saw you around 1988 when Slippery When Wet was huge. You guys were touring Australia and Jon came flying across the stage on a wire and landed on a platform singing ‘Never Say Goodbye’ and my wife swears he was singing straight to her. That’s one of the strengths of the band, bridging that gap between the fans. It’s a real skill to be bale to do that. So can I tell her to look forward to that feeling again on the next tour?
R:  Absolutely. One of our strong suits has always been our live performances. What it comes down to is that we cut our teeth in the bars and all the clubs, individually and collectively. We were saloon musicians, saloon entertainers basically. Nowadays there just aren’t that many places for bands to play much. Back in the early 80s when we were just coming up there were tons of clubs to play but also tons of bands, so there was a lot of competition. If you wanted gigs you had to be good. So we got really good! That’s where it came from. After that you had to go master the theatres, then you have to master the arenas and now we’re mastering the stadiums and we’ve been doing that now for 20 years.

D: We did the same thing here in Brisbane, but even though bars shut down, development takes over… there’s a whole new life starting out around here in Australia. There are heaps of new bands out there and they are all really good.
R: That’s good man.

D: One last question, do you have in interest in politics at all?
R: As an individual, yes. Do I want to get involved in politics? No! If I like a candidate will I go out and campaign for them? Yes, I have done it for Bill Clinton and Al Gore and a little bit for Obama. Jon did a bit more than me. We play for the candidate we like and that’s about as political as it gets. Everybody has their own political views individually as do I, but getting in the middle of that is not my deal. I’m passionate about the things I believe in but I’m not sure a rock star should be forcing his opinion upon somebody else.

D: You kind of have to know what you are talking about to want to wade in those waters I think.
R: Jonnie does a better job with that stuff than I do and he’s amazing at it, really into it. He’s really likes that little political deal there goin on. If I like a candidate, I’ll back him.

D: Richie if you’re in Australia and interested in jamming or maybe doing some songwriting, mate I’d be up for it.
R: OK bud, thanks.

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