Beat- 03.2001

It's about your place in the sun. For Jon Bon Jovi it's always been his home in New Jersey. Not the ritziest or glitziest of towns and a long way from the kind of gilded splendour he could enjoy in Hollywood or any of America's alternative artificial meccas for the ridiculously rich. New Jersey has its problems; street crime, a struggling bottom end of the community. Money isn't always so easy to come by. 

Face it, rock 'n' roll gunslingers like Bon Jovi are rich - beyond anybody's wildest dreams. He's paid some in human sweat and a life full of roadmarks on the global map but it's his life. And what a life. If you woke up one morning and were told 'Okay, the deal is this. You're going to be a phenomenally successful rock star. You're going to sell 92 million records worldwide, your third album Slippery When Wet [that delivered the twin US No 1 anthems You Give Love A Bad Name and Livin' On A Prayer] will sell more than 13 million copies in the US alone and top the album charts for 15 weeks and the associated 130-date Tour Without End will gross $US28.4 million' would you say 'No'?. Probably not; not even if you knew that you'd have to wear really bad hair for at least five of the 18 years that mark Bon Jovi's dominance of stadium rock. 

Jon Bon Jovi is in Mexico wrapping up production of his latest film, John Carpenter's Vampires: Los Muertos, in which he stars as a vampire hunter: "It's sort of like a western in that instead of cowboys and indians it's vampires and vampire hunters. It's alright. God-willing it'll be a good movie," he says. "As an experience this one rates high on the list though because everybody - performers, directors, producers, the crew - made an energised concerted effort to make the best film that they could, particularly with the budget they had to make it.

"U-571 [his last feature film] was an $US80 million movie, this is a $US10 million movie so you have to work harder to get the results and you don't have a lot of the creature comforts you get on those big, big movies. That said, it's still a lot of money." 

And money is one of the reasons we're talking. Bon Jovi are playing just one Australian show in Melbourne on March 24 to raise funds to help flood, drought and bushfire victims in rural Australia. The 60,000 State Emergency Service (SES) volunteers who help the victims of such disasters will receive half the profits and the remainder will go to volunteer fire brigades. 

It is the latest in a long line of projects the band and Bon Jovi himself have done to help out communities of people in trouble. In New Jersey, he played at one of three benefits in 1990 for eight-year-old Tishna Rollo, daughter of producer/engineer, John Rollo, who was battling Wilms Tumor disease, and more recently with Sambora played a Jon Bon Bovi & Friends (including Southside Johnny and Bruce Springsteen) benefit for the family of slain Long Beach police department sergeant Patrick King. 

"You do what you can when you can," he says. "There's a number of things we've been involved in worldwide. When there was an earthquake in Japan I gave all the money from a stadium show to the earthquake fund. Now this universal appeal for the flood relief - I get that. Having had experience of the mudslides in California where they just devastate people's lives but still come on a yearly basis and there's nothing many of these people can do. Your insurance covers X, Y and Z but you need volunteers to help out in such situations. And they and their organisations need financing. 

"Back in New Jersey we have a similar situation. The volunteers are always the last ones to get that truck that will help them get there in time. God forbid that you would ever need them but you would wish if you did that they had the best material, equipment, vehicles, whatever. And people demand that and they have a right to know that those organisations are there, ready to help, should a situation arise." 

It's about your place in the sun - and having a sense of your community. "You know, I've never lost that," Bon Jovi says. "I still live there so I see what's going on. I was recently presented with a plaque by the Food Bank in New Jersey for 10 years of giving them money and buying stuff as people needed it. But I didn't look for the plaque - you don't do such things to get recognition. I was more amazed that they would care to do such a thing. I only accepted the plaque because we could sell a lot of tickets to this dinner and that would fund the Food Bank for the next six months. To think that there are hungry people in my town bothers me. As I've become older and, maybe, more politically motivated I've realised that the politics of politics is keeping me out of it so I look to the social aspects where I can do the most good and be more of a citizen." 

It's something that comes with age and a changing view of your individual world; the one you are wrapped in. When you see it for what it really is your values and responsibilities do change. 

"Most certainly, they do," he says. " As I've travelled the world I've been fortunate enough to receive the support of so many people. When I've come to Australia your people have given me a lot so to come there and do this show is no big deal. The world is one big stopover to me. It's not like people in New Jersey don't think about tragedies in other places in the world because they don't see them. I, fortunately, do, so the opportunity to give back to those people is easy for me. 

"We are a global community these days. Generations to come will embrace that more and more. When you or I grew up we maybe didn't think about places as far away as New Jersey is from Australia. But kids today have access to the Net or they've seen the Olympics in Australia - they understand where that place is and it isn't far away, really. Globalisation will become second nature as a concept in the very short-term future." 

Even the success of Crush doesn't seem so strange to Bon Jovi, simply because he never doubted it. He laughs when told some people thought the album would flop because the band were the last survivors of a species thought to be nearing extinction - the stadium rocker. 

"I was naive enough not to think that five years away from the marketplace should be measured in dog years not human years - and that's like being away 35 years. I just thought this is my 10th album, you know what it is; you can like it or you can dislike it but you know what it was. 

"It was a little scary writing a song such as Just Older because rock'n'roll is supposed to appeal to the young and be done by the young and be of the eternally young. I just said 'Look, I'm not old, just older. Wiser, better, whatever you want to call it and a lot of people have related to those lyrics. That's great. I don't want to behave like I'm an 18-year-old either but you gain responsibility as you go through life and you want to accept that responsibility. I don't try to compete with the Backstreet Boys or other such bands. There's no need to."