Jon's interview from 10.01.2000
Q: What's the vibe of this record?
A: Well the vibe of this record is one that's very upbeat, very happy. Over the last couple albums, I thought that they were rather happy, and it takes me a couple years to walk away from a record, hear it fresh again, and realize what the lyrical content was. And on These Days, which I thought was such a positive record, there really was a lot of negativity. And it sounded like I was writing lyrics of a guy who was going through a lot of turmoil personally. It sounded like I was down on my family life or down on the band or and down on my career. And I was surprised by that. With this record, it's been a much more conscious approach to have fun and it's evident in the songs that we've chosen. There were 60 songs in total, and if anything, I wanted the bio of this album to read the band had fun period. There's no socially conscious song like Keep the Faith. It's a lot more Livin' on a Prayer and You Give Love a Bad Name.
Q: What do you anticipate, how much response to the album?
A: Well the response to the record, who knows? Everytime you make a record you know that it's the best work that you could do in the time period that you had to record it and to write it. All I can tell you is we've never taken so long to write a record. I think at the outset of this album I set out, to write at least, another solo album. And the reason was that Richie's record was pushed back and his promotion of that record was pushed back and it left me a lot of time. In that time I wrote and demoed 30 of the existing 60 songs. So when the band finally did get together in September, I believe it was, of last year, '98, I presented to them 30 songs. I said listen guys I think I've already written the album, of course Richie, you and I will write some more, and we'll be ready to go. Well, I kept writing, we kept writing, and it started to take on the sound of a Bon Jovi album. And I hope that the audience is going to like it. I hope that anyone who liked Slippery, New Jersey, Blaze of Glory, and even the Crossroads collection will look at this in the same way they look at the greatest hits album. There's a lot of songs on here that I think are gonna make a lot of people happy.
Q: Bon Jovi's never been a critics' darling, you've always been a band by the people, for the people. At this point in your careers, is critical praise something that ??? Or does it really matter?
A: It only matters when your ego gets involved, when your vanity gets involved. You know, when you look at an awards show, The Grammy's and MTV and whatever, and you had a record out, and it's not doing well with those critics, sure, you know, that's one thing, but on the other hand, I guess the most important thing, in all honesty, is A) you wrote and recorded songs that you like, and then B), fortunately for us, 80 million people like them. Those numbers are actually pretty astronomical compared to our peers. Certainly more than any of the bands that are here and gone that were of our ilk. But if you look at someone like U2, REM, Aerosmith, none of those bands have sold more records than we have, and they've all been around longer. So it's quite a testament to our fan base, that the people that really matter agree with what we love, which is those songs.
Q: Where are you drawing inspiration from these days?
A: It's hard to say where inspiration comes from. When I look at the songboard, some of the themes go back to the early days being in a cover band. Things that the Animals were singing about. I took a title from an old Animals song called It's My Life and we wrote a song like Livin' on a prayer around that lyrical theme which was, ya know, it's my life, I'm gonna do it my way. And I guess that's probably the greatest gift anybody could get out of life. As opposed to going to work at a job that you don't like because you HAVE to, going to school and you didn't care for school, but you have to go. Being in a relationship that you're not really comfortable in, but it's expected of you. The themes on this record lent inspiration that was really very positive. And the fictional stories, you know, where we would make fun of this week's rock star, or the guys that have come and gone, with their big mouths. We fictionalized, in songs like "Captain Crash and the Beauty Queen from Mars," it's just you can picture who this guy is. There's a lot more personal lyrics in a song called Older that just really states that I like the guys, I like me, and I like what we've done. Those are the... That's the inspiration, what's going on in your life. For me, fortunately I'm in a good place right now so I'm able to write those kinds of songs.
Q: Most of the bands that came along in the wake of Bon Jovi's massive success in the late eighties... ??? How do you explain that?
A: Well it comes down to songs. It's all about songs. You know, without songs the pictures of the bands that you hung in your bedroom might as well have been models. There was no substance at the end of the day. Or internal frictions, whatever it is that ultimately cause a band to break up. If you have great songs it can keep going. That really is the thing that keeps everything together. So it's songs.
Q: How many changes does a song go through, n terms of lyrics, before you feel, "this is the song"?
A: Well sometimes there are dramatic changes in the lyrics, sometimes you just get it right the first time. I remember we wrote "Wanted Dead or Alive" in maybe two or three hours--never touched a word of it. Did the same thing with something like "Always" or "Blaze of Glory." Yet there's been songs that we've scrutinized lyrically so that the thread that went through it left very little to the imagination, it had to read more like a movie script or a book, where it has a beginning, a middle, and an end, there's no real opportunity to go off on some tangent that doesn't relate to the point which is the chorus. So each song varies, on each album.
Q: Do you find it easier to write alone, or to collaborate?
A: Both. Songs are a part of you, but if you have a partnership your collaborator knows who you are, knows what it is you're trying to say. They can elevate it. They can help you hone what it is you're trying to get across. Richie is the perfect foil for me, because we think alike, and I think a lot of it has to do with all the years of our being in the band. He knows, when I can't express myself, what I'm thinking. And it becomes a more powerful collaboration as time goes on. One of the things on this record that we thought was, "It's going too fast. It's going too easy. There must be something wrong." Or we've gotten very good at this. So, we're hoping that we've gotten very good at this.
Q: Are you constantly amazed at what a song becomes after you submit it to the band and the recording process?
A: It's interesting. What is probably the first single is a song called "Say It Isn't So" and I didn't write that with Richie, but when I brought it in, it had a very mid-tempo, maybe Tom Petty / Sheryl Crow kind of feel to it. And, when we started to work it up, a couple people that had heard it said, "That's your first single. This is a great chorus. Boy, you really nailed this." And we did it, and no one, including me, was particularly fond of it. Yeah it's okay. But I don't think it's gonna make it. Probably the same story that Livin' on a Prayer was, in that when we wrote that song I didn't think it was worthy of the record.Fortunately I was wrong. And, what happened was, Luke Ebbin [Eban?], who is our co-producer on this record, was adamant about going back at it, and came in the next day and said, "you know, we really shouldn't give up n this track, there's something there, something there." And he interjected youth. He interjected what's going on in these young bands today, a much more aggressive sound to that song. Then once we got on his wavelength, what he was thinking production-wise, this song rocks. It's a big old rock song. So I am amazed by that, yeah.
Q: So has Luke breathed new wind into your sails, as one might say?
A: Yeah, it was great. Because a lot of producers, very famous producers, who wanted to do the record, including Bob Rock, who was certainly a part of the team for three albums, or Max Martin, who's as hot as a pistol right now with the young boy bands and Britney Spears. There was something about Luke; he was an untested New Yorker who was excited and was excitable, and we wanted somebody who would come in and breathe that excitement into the record, because I guess in all honesty, it would be real easy for us at this point to get lazy. It'd be easy, or easier with Bob, to have gotten lazy, and we know each other so well that I don't know what he could have brought to the project. So what Luke brought, was that boundless energy.
Q: What's the day-to-day mood like in the studio? Serious work? A lot of fun? [???]
A: Well, there's it's fair share of goofiness. Obie keeps things light. And that's a very important character trait in a studio, is when you are really pressured to make an album, you know, this isn't easy work, it's very difficult to not settle for anything, to push yourself to someplace you've never been before. I would get caught up in that dark, self-loathing stages that I can go into, but it's very important to have humor in the studio. Believe it or not, real simple things like having daylight in here--for those of you who don't know about recording studios, typically they're like bomb shelters. You don't know if it's day or if it's night if it's warm or if it's cold outside. Having our own studio, with the view of the water, and light, believe it or not really changed the way we went about working. You really like coming in in the morning because you just have a great energy around here. Everybody likes being here. The band are very comfortable here. And for years, we were adamant that we would go to Vancouver--live together. We would go to Nashville--live together. We would go to Woodstock--live together. And it was Bruce Springsteen who told me, "You spend enough time on the road, why don't you record at home. Why don't you stay home for a while." And it took a lot of years for me to figure that out. But once we started to utilize the studio, the first studio we had and now this one, I don't see how I would be comfortable going anywhere else to record.
Q: When you get stressed in the studio, what's a good tension breaker?
A: [no hesitation] Alcohol. We drink. You know what, what we do is we pull the plug. That's another great thing about having your own studio and not considering yourself in the music _business_ is: the meter's not running. There's nobody waiting to get in after you. There's nobody gonna tell you you have to get out, you know, you've run out of days or time. The record company's not complaining about the money you're spending in there. So, if it's time to go, and it's four in the afternoon, pull the plug. Go out. Go in the boat. Go to the movies. Go to the bar. And that's linked itself to having fun.
Q: Does recording the entire album in New Jersey for the first time have a comparable affect on the music or on you?
A: Other than, like I said, just being _home_ -- being home is a great comfort. I think to all of us. Because at night you can go to your own bed. And that's a real good thing. Everybody's able to go home. We're not stuck in a hotel. And when you're spending three and four months in a studio, and then you're gonna go on the road for six months or a year, it adds up. So it might not hit you while you're going through the recording process, but it can hit you then when you're in Idaho in six or ten months from now. Because, you're going, "I haven't seen, my closet,... I wanna go home!" And that happens. That happens.
Q: So would you consider it a blessing, then, to have the studio on your property?
A: Oh yeah, there's no doubt about it.
Q: Do you consciously carve out more time for your family, knowing that, during the recording process, knowing that you're ultimately going on tour?
A: No. In all honesty, once we're over here, I might as well be in Vancouver or Woodstock because we don't go back to the house and... other than getting up in the morning and maybe seeing the kids, I really don't see them the rest of the day. 'Cause they're doing school and play dates, and all that stuff and I'm working. So when we're done they've gone to bed. But again, it does really relax you to know that you're gonna go sleep in your own bed at night.
Q: What are you looking forward to most, in terms of concert tour?
A: Well, it's a great live band. It's as good as any. And that's evident whenever we play. When I went out with the big dogs on the solo tour, phenomenal band, really great band, great singers, played every night--on the few shows that I did--exactly like the record. There was an element missing, and that was the magic that a band has, not a group of musicians. And we haven't played very much in the last four years, three years at least, but we did a charity show recently, and we rehearsed for about an hour, and we went over to this venue that we had to play, and you would think that we'd been on the road throughout the last three years. There's just a certain magic that happens when Richie and I sing together, play together, and Tico's back there pounding away on those drums, that makes the sound of the band. And nobody is going to be able to play those songs the way the band plays them. So I'll look forward to the performing aspect of it, you know... I think it will be fun, I do. It'll be fun.
Q: Will it be exciting, being on tour?
A: I've gotta be honest, I'm not real keen on the whole idea of going on the road. I've said it privately, I've said it publicly. I'm not gonna lie to anybody. Yeah, I've been on the road for fifteen years. I know how to do it. And it doesn't really excite me like it did when I was 21, 22, 23 years old. The business of music is taxing, the actual performing is fun. But the rest of it can be a pain in the ass. And strip bars aren't as much fun as they used to be, and, you know, there's just, it doesn't really, ... the rest of it's a drag, going to radio stations and dealing with guys that are in their own little world and record company people. It's tough. It's just the performing--that's when you're safe. That's when nobody can touch you. That's what makes it worth doing.
Q: You guys have pretty much performed all over the globe, are there any cities or countries that you haven't been to?
A: You know, we've never been to Greece. We've never been to Israel. Those two places come to mind, that I would like to see, I'd like to go to, and perform in. I wouldn't mind doing a little more in Italy, where I spent three months this year shooting a movie. I'd like to spend a little more time in places like the middle of America, you know, that we don't get to very much anymore, be it Texas or the Dakotas, or Montana, you know, and those nice places would be fun to go back to.
Q: What determines the set list? How do you combine making sure concert-goers get their moneys' worth, keeping it interesting for the die-hard fans who go and see you night after night and still keeping it fun for you and the band?
A: Well, we realize that people want to hear the hits. When I go to a show I wanna hear the band play the hits. Yet it has to be fun, you're right. And this is definitely not a band who perform the same set, night after night, do the same raps night after night. And I just do it as I feel. I'll make a set list, I know I'll change it three, four, five, six songs from the night before. Yet the guys and the crew know that's just an idea because if I'm felling something, or in the middle of one song and I think of another, I'll call it out, and it's called an audible. And, you know, what that does is it keeps everybody on their toes. And it keeps everybody excited, even the crew, the light man. If you think about a lighting guy who's got all these lights programmed, and suddenly I turn around and look at Tico he knows that I'm coming up with something new and he goes, "Agh, here he goes again." You know, and the same thing with monitor guys and sound guys, if it was a show that just ran itself like a clock and you knew what time the band goes on and they get off two hours later, it could get really stale. This isn't that band, never was. And I relay that back to my inspirations in Southside and those guys. Set lists were just an outline.
Q: Are there any songs that you won't perform?
A: Oh yeah, there's songs that I look back. Most of the second album, in fact probably the whole second album, we don't perform, ever. The only thing on the first album that we ever do anymore is "Runaway" occasionally. There's songs on every album that you look back on, and you go, "ah, sounded good at the time." I mean, if I don't ever play Born to Be My Baby again, I'll be okay, and that was a huge hit. So, you know, there's several of those, sure.
Q: Are there any cover songs you might try?
A: Cover songs are something that we've always liked doing. It keeps everything fresh. You hear a record in the dressing room and you say, "we should do that tonight," learn it, everyone sits around the stereo and figures it out and goes for it. So I have no idea what covers I'll think of, but we'll think of them when we're out on the road.
Q: Can you put into words what it feels like to command a stage, in front of ten, twenty, one hundred thousand people?
A: [long pause] It's a place where no one really gets to go, and that's too bad because it's a magical place. I don't think of it as command, I just think of it as a way of, like, levitating myself, and then if I am, the band is, and if the band are, the audience is. So it's a high high, it's a drunk drunk, it's sexier sex. It's a magical time when you hit your stride in front of an audience, and that audience could be fifteen people, or fifteen thousand, we've done, you know, the eighty-five thousand. I gotta tell ya, there's really not much of a difference, between fifteen, a hundred, and eighty thousand. If you're in it, you're in it.
Q: On the stage, you're in complete control. In real life do you find yourself missing that control?
A: No. I think one of the great gifts about choosing a profession and being lucky enough to have been able to make a living doing what I love to do gave me the opportunity to have control. Compared to the movies, for example, I have no control. You are just a little piece of a puzzle. When you get a movie role,when you go through all the hell, when that movie's done you don't see it again until it's out. When an actor finishes a movie, for all intents and purposes they're unemployed. They're looking for a gig. The great gift of record making and song writing is you're your own boss. You're the director, the producer, and the star all wrapped up in one. If I wanna make a record now, and not tour, nobody's gonna question that. If I wanna make a tour without a
record, nobody's gonna question that. So we're able to do 'em as we feel the need. Which is nice.
Q: Are there differences among audiences in different parts of the country, in different parts of the world?
A: Oh yeah. The European audiences as opposed to the American audiences always knew the verses, the Americans new the choruses. The Asians, more reserved initially. South Africans and Australians are comparable in their spirit. You have to adjust your show to where you are in the world, yeah.