Why did you choose to call the album “Bounce”?
Jon: 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?
Jon: 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 recorded?
Jon: 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?
Jon: 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 “Bounce”?
Jon: 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 11th, 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?
Jon: 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 story.
The first lyrics on “Undivided” cut right to the chase.
Jon: 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.
Richie: 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.
Jon: 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?
Jon: 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.
Jon: 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.
Jon: 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 it.
Richie: 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.
“The Distance’s” music serves a different role in the song with regards to the story, doesn’t it?
Jon: 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.
Richie: 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?
Jon: 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.
How did “Misunderstood” come about?
Jon: 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?
Jon: 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.
Jon: 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 completely drained.
Jon: 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 us now?
Jon: 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.
Jon: 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.