Gary James' Interview With
Jon Bon Jovi
From Sayreville, New Jersey comes one of the most exciting groups to emerge in the music world today - Bon Jovi. Bon Jovi in just one year's time have gone from a rehearsal hall to signing a recording contract with Polygram Records and opening for ZZ Top in Madison Square Garden. We spoke with group leader Jon Bon Jovi.
Q -. How did you take a group to the heights Bon Jovi has reached in just one year?
A - The band has been together in this way, shape and form for a year, but it's taken me the last four years to really perfect my craft. Then, I put the band together around the record and the concept. When we were very close to signing a major record deal is when I got the rest of the guys, with the exception of David, the keyboard player. After that, there was still a lot of work to be done after putting them together. It has been a relatively short time.
Q - Had you put your own record prior to signing with Polygram?
A - "Runaway", the first single on our album was on a compilation record in New York. It started to really skyrocket on the Double Day Radio Chain Network. And then radio stations across the country were picking it up as this little compilation record. And I still didn't have a manager, a deal, or anything. By the time we were involved in the finals of the Miller Rock To Riches Contest, we dropped out to sign a record deal.
Q - Right from the start, your group has been getting attention from music industry heavies. Why was that, and who are some of the people that took an interest?
A - I'm only 22, but I've been doing this forever. I was playing the bar circuit when I was 16. By the time I was an early 18, I was in my first original group. So, the first record producer who took me into his studios was Billy Squire. So I immediately was thrown into that group of people. After Billy, Southside Johnny took care of the group and produced. I in turn, met my cousin Tony Bon Jovi, who's a very big record producer who I didn't know and had never met before.
Q - Who had he produced?
A - Aldo Nova. He just did the last Ozzy Osborne thing, Michael Bolton, The Talking Heads and it goes on and on. He was a superstar back at Motown with Diana Ross and up through Hendrix and Vanilla Fudge He's a big guy. Lance Quinn, our producer, just finished an album for Orphan on Portrait Records. So these guys have really been around forever. So, I've always been around those kind of people, record industry people and different artists
Q - How'd you land the opening slot for ZZ Top at The Garden and weren't you a little nervous?
A - Just a stroke of luck I guess. There was a lot of people who were interested in the group and our record had just been finished and the buzz was huge within the industry that we had finally signed. And so the promoters, the agencies and the different managers were all there who were interested in the group. A fantastic promoter who is a dear friend of mine, name John Setter, who does a lot of stuff up here, booked us on the show. The night before the gig we went and played a local club in New Jersey and there was 10 people in the dub and I was shaking, and I lost my voice before I went out to see that crowd of 30 kids. And then I went out to 22,000 kids at the Garden and played it like I owned the place. I lived there, it's no problem.
Q - When you were putting the band together was there a certain personality trait you were looking for in each member?
A - The band now, we're family, the management and the record company. There's nobody in the whole operation who is just a guy, that just shows up somewhere, does his gig and goes home. Everybody that I let into this organization is very tight knit family. Its really hard to get into this tight knit family. Nobody gets in and nobody gets out. It's sort of run like the Mafia, I think (Laughs). What meant more to me than having an amazing musician in the band was to have a guy who was going to give me 120% every night. No matter if he was sick and dying with a cold in his bed next door, when we hit that stage at midnight, there s going to be a smile from ear to ear. We were in Boston the day before yesterday with 5 of our key personnel gone, crew wise. Well, Dave and Tico our keyboard player and drummer went down to the gig, carried the drums into the club and set 'em up themselves. We broke 'em down afterwards. You know we got a record that's like 50 on the charts with a bullet. We don't have to do that, we could have cancelled the show, but we said let's set up the equipment ourselves. There's nothing that any of the guys wouldn't do for anybody else and that means more to me and the band than anything.
Q - Malcolm McClaren, one time manager of The Sex Pistols. remarked "Rock and Roll is not just music. You're selling an attitude too. Take away the altitude and you're just like everybody else." What kind of an attitude is this group projecting?
A - Attitude is very important onstage and off. We live it 24 hours a day. My personal influences weren't The Beatles and The Stones, but they were Clint Eastwood and James Cagney. You'll read that in the lyrics and see that in the 'live' thing. The squint in the eye kind of attitude - you can stand in my way but if you stand there too long, I'm gonna kick your ass! You better move!
Q - The late Cass Elliot of The Manias and The Papas once commented. "Pop music is just long hours, hard work and lots of drugs." What could you add or subtract from that statement?
A - Let's change it to long hours, lots of work and lots of women.
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