Hello Wherever! What happens when you've
toured everywhere a gazillion times and still the world can't get enough of you?
If you're Bon
Jovi, you tour it again, only this time you're fretting about what's for dinner and pestering Siberian models. "It's great to be contemporary again" they tell
"Osaka, Japan! Let me introduce Mister Richie Sambora!" Midway through the anthemic bombast of Livin' On A Prayer, Jon Bon Jovi relinquishes centre stage of the Osaka Dome - a 50,000 seater baseball stadium serving Japan's second city - to his avuncular lieutenant. Dive-bombing into the guitar solo, Sambora's face is a mask of joyous disbelief, as if previously unaware of his ability to play the instrument at all. Reaching the last fistful of notes, he does a fair impression of a man who is actually ejaculating into his jet black flares. All the while, the 38-year-old Jon Bon Jovi executes a set of twitchy star jumps. Tico Torres lambasts his drum kit while David Bryan hunches over his bank of keyboards in a calf-length leather duster coat. To the left of this textbook posturing, session musician Hugh McDonald - a long-time associate brought in to replace turbulent bassist Alec John Such - gently bobs, gazing at the politely excited crowd like he can't believe how lucky he is.
Question. What do Bon Jovi think about when they're on stage?
Hugh McDonald: "I think about how lucky I am." David Bryan: "Which hands are going where...the set list...a myriad of things." Tico Torres: "The audience. If there's one guy who's not having a good time because his girlfriend dragged him to the gig, I try to get him going." Richie Sambora: "I really get into the songs. Does my mind wander? No. There's only a handful of bands who can play stadiums anymore,
and to walk out there in front of all the people there to see you play...not to respect the privilege of that situation, you'd have to be a real
dick." Jon Bon Jovi: "When I get 15 shows into a tour, I'll be thinking about where I'm going for dinner, what bar we're heading to and what's on TV."
So, by the exacting standards of his faithful Sancho Panza, is Jon Bon Jovi "a real dick"? If a certain level of fame confers that entitlement on anyone, he would certainly be travelling Cock Class. Since 1983 his band have sold over 80 million albums. Their latest, Crush, stands at 4 million and counting, their fifth consecutive British number 1. A total audience of 30 million have seen them play live as they continue to defy conventional wisdom concerning the imminent demise of stadium rock. Of their contemporaries, only Aerosmith have stayed the pace, though while Steven Tyler stuck much of his earnings in his arm Jon Bon Jovi preferred the band. He now has a personal fortune of, he reckons, "well over 100 million." Clearly Jon Bon Jovi is not your common or garden hard rock oaf. In response to the roguish transgressions of Tommy Lee, Bon Jovi could only muster a charge for trespassing in 1989 when police found him and his wife-to-be skating after hours on a New York ice-rink. His silly former obsession with the Wild West led to his five-year-old son being stuck with
the name Jesse James but Jon Bon Jovi seems to have outgrown this awkward phase. Indeed, since The Sopranos TV series conferred a sinister cool on his home state of New Jersey, he and the band have embraced the tight-lipped "our thing" ethos of the Mafia instead. Tellingly, part of their stage set is a mock-up of the Bada Bing Club, the wise-guy titty bar hangout from the show. Talking to Jon Bon Jovi as he sips from a plastic cup of sake aboard the Osaka-Fukuoka bullet train, you find that if he is any sort of penis then he hides it well. Even the famous flowing hair-hated by men for its salon-fresh shine and appeal to girls - was cut eight years ago, making the headlines on CNN. The Jon Bon Jovi of 2000 prefers a loose below-the-collar style favoured by "down" English teachers.
Apparently you don't like people touching your hair. "Naah." (Bon Jovi leans forward in his seat and vigorously rubs his head. His hairline is slightly receding at the temples, and there is a hint of show-through at the crown.) "F**k, at least I still have it." Are you losing it a bit? "Yeah, so does every guy my age. It's not fun, but what am I going to do? I'm 38 years old." Rumour has it that you have a full body wax before each tour. "What?" (Pulls up his green combat trousers to reveal a surprisingly pale but hairy leg.) "A body wax? No." Are you
ever unfaithful to your wife when you're away from home? "I'm not a saint. It's happened." Is your wife alright about that? "It's the kind of thing that's sort of unspoken. If I were to do it, would I flaunt it? No. Would I be proud of it? No. Has it happened? Sure. Can I tell you when the last time was? No, certainly not on this trip." Is it fair to say that people prefer you with the band to your solo material? "Yeah. It's like everybody knew Jagger toured for half a second down in Australia on one of his solo albums. After three songs, you're going Where's Keith? Solo records are made for art, and they're a lot of fun." Was it a vanity thing? "Sure. It was absolutely a self-indulgent, artistic vanity opportunity." On the new album sleeve you're all wearing suits and ties. Do you mastermind the band's image changes? "No, it's your wife or your girlfriend or the girls at the record company. Believe me, man, I'd still be wearing point-toed boots with Cuban heels on 'em, but all the girls say Don't embarrass yourself, take the f**king pointy shoes off. Oh, OK." Did Alec John Such leave voluntarily or did you give him the heave-ho? "He was fired." Was that because he was looking too rough? "Not true." During the Keep The Faith period he certainly appeared the worse for wear. "Well, he was indulging. When you're striving to be a very good live band that can turn on a dime and you've got substance abuse on stage, then it's a let-down. It's like we worked so hard mentally and physically, I have to write the songs and sing the shit, and then the bass player decides he doesn't feel like being on the same plane as the rest of the world." Are you still friends? "Absolutely. I don't think anybody's seen him for three years though. He'd sold all his worldly possessions and said he was going to get
a caravan." Could the band carry on if you left? "No." Would you let them keep the name? "No."
It's just after midnight in Osaka, and Richie Sambora relaxes with a martini in the band's hotel bar. With his free hand he casually makes
some rearrangements below the belt. Feel free to scratch your balls, Richie. "OH, I was just adjusting my trousers." Though the room is filled with teenage Siberian models, in town for a catalogue shoot, Sambora and Jon Bon Jovi are not keen to make new friends. "I don't fancy baby-sitting." says the singer. Requests for autographs or to "make picture" are politely accepted, but anything more pertsonal is clearly not on the menu. Tico Torres, the only unmarried member of the band since his divorce from Eva Herzigova, the "face" of Wonderbra, sits in the corner talking with the band's voice coach, a middle-aged woman who looks capable of bench-pressing half a dozen of the assembled waifs. David Bryan, meanwhile, approaches a pair of girls who are clearly drinking from bottles of mineral water. "You guys doing some shots? Mind if I come over and do some shots?" English not being their first language, they smile and shrug at the funny curly-haired man. Hugh McDonald, dressed for comfort in moccasin-style slippers, lasciviously points out a "young Uma Thurman". A very young Uman Thurman. Perhaps, for the sake of his consience, some discreet manual relief would be the best course of action. "That's what I did last night!" gurgles McDonald "Christ! I nearly took my head off!" Three hours later, as the bar empties, Sambora declares that he's "dust" As the last of the young ladies leave, he raises an approving eyebrow. "It doesn't matter where you get your appetite from," he quips
"as long as you eat at home. You've seen my f**king wife, right?" Richie Sambora has two tattoos on his right bicep. The tattoos, like
Sambora, are uncomplicated. One is a winged guitar - the first signature model he designed in 1986 - bearing the inscription Who Dares Wins. Above that are the words Heather Dearest, a declaration of love for actress Heather Locklear, his wife of five years with whom he has a two-year-old daughter. Though in both professional and personal life Sambora is cast as the other half, he feels secure with who he is. "I don't give a sh*t." he maintains. Do groupies still play a part in your enjoyment of touring? "Please! Even if they did, I wouldn't tell you, but they don't. Before I got married I had a phenomenal time with the ladies. I've had enough fun for a hundred guys." Is playing the guitar like making love to a beautiful woman? "Yeah, a lot of times it is. I always look at it as that kind of emotional release. Playing the solos especially." Apparently you, Jon, Tico and David went to a bath-house the other night. How was that? "It was f**king great. The massage is phenomenal. There's all these steams and cold plunges that you can't find anywhere else." Did you order any "extras"? "No. In Japan, if you're a "round-eye" you've got to know somebody to set that stuff up for you - they won't just let you in. So no, there was no extra-curricular....wanking. I like to have fun but the fun has been redefined as I get older. It's the same with the band. It's great to be contemporary again and, as long as it's fun and we're creating good music, there's no reason not to do it." According to New York comedian
Denis Leary, the motto of a successful marriage should be "love, honour respect and stay the f**k away from each other as much as you can"
It is a principle that Bon Jovi have adhered to, the lengthy breaks between recording - its been five years since their last album These Days -allowing the group to develop their interests outside the band. Jon Bon Jovi has his acting, Richie Sambora his bluesy solo work and Tico
Torres his hilarious painting. And for classically-trained pianist David Bryan the most recent hiatus allowed precious recovery time after, in June 1996, he cut off the tip of his left index finger while using a circular saw in his garage. "They've got some weird-assed food in this town." says the hulking Bryan, selecting what looks like chicken from his room service picture menu. There is a plaster on the reconstructed finger but only to cover some minor chafing from a golf game with Sambora and Torres the previous day. "After the micro-surgery I couldn't play for a whole year." Bryan explains. Sadly, just not using that particular finger was not an option "There's an order of importance in fingers." he continues. "Every one on the right hand, you need. On the left hand the ring finger is a bit of a dog and the little finger is just along for the ride, but the other three guys really count." A painful rehabilitation was to follow. "man, it was three hours a day, five days a week. Just touching it gently felt like I'd smashed it with a huge hammer, so they had to desensitise it. To do that, a guy over-stimulates it with hot sand, buckets of rice or rocks. Then you work up to bits of Lego, and they're f**king poking it, electrocuting it in ice. It's torturous. You're like.."with one one good hand I'm going to f**king punch you right in the face." Bryan is currently working on two rock'n'roll musicals, material from which he plans to package with a re-release of his solo album, On A Full Moon, a collection of piano numbers previously available only in the Far East and Canada during the early '90s. His "weird-assed food" never arrives.
Question. If you had to share a flat with someone in the band, who would it be? Jon Bon Jovi: "Richie. He's the laziest." Richie Sambora: "Any of them. They're all cool." Hugh McDonald: "Tico." David Bryan: "I used to share a room with Tico but we got a divorce because he was insane. I'd like to be on my own." Tico Torres: "Huey. I used to room with David but he couldn't put up with my party antics."
If, of all the full-time band members, Jon Bon Jovi is the face, Richie Sambora the guts and David Bryan the bit that plays the keyboards,
then Tico Torres is the heart. A seasoned drummer before he joined Bon Jovi, during his 20s Torres would often jam at the Harlem house of his friend Miles Davis. Now 47, gone is the confused quiff/mullet hybrid hairstyle and the gold elephant's head codpiece he would wear as a 34-year-old. Today Torres sports a short back and sides with discreetly expensive dark trousers, tank-top and black Calvin Klein boots. A baleful stare and fixed expression of terminal disappointment give him the appearance of the kind of guy the Mob call when they want someone whacked. The message would seem to be clear: Don't f**k with Tico. Is that the message? Don't f**k with Tico? "it looks that way - I know I have that kind of face - but I'm really a sweet guy." What does Torres literally mean? "It's Spanish for tower." How tall are you? "Five feet nine. Why?" Though known as a relatively accomplished painter, Torres is also planning to launch Rock-a-Baby, a range of clothing for children aged 0-24 months, in October. "It's going to be cool clothes for kids at affordable prices for normal people. There'll be little animals playing instruments, that kind of thing." It seems a far cry from the "party antics" that drove David Bryan from your shared room. "I think you learn with age that you can only burn the candle so long. After you've been to every club and everything like that it gets a little monotonous." How do you feel about nearing 50? "Great. Anyone who's in the arts never really gets old - you don't age like an accountant will because you live a younger life. Sancho Page, he's a philosopher, said How old would you be if you didn't know how old
you were?" Has being in Bon Jovi changed Tico Torres? "No. You've got to retain where you came from and treat others as you would like to be treated yourself. Money or fame doesn't make you better than other people. If it changes you, you're doing something wrong, because then you're an asshole." Then the softly-spoken man delivers a firm handshake, picks up his jug of pink vitamin drink and leaves for a nearby stadium, to play drums with one of the biggest rock bands the world has ever seen."