BON JOVI is back to "crush" the competition
|Good Times Magazine BJ Interview
BON JOVI is back to "crush" the competition
By Alan Sculley
If the latest Bon Jovi CD, "Crush" seems like a return to the feel-good anthem sound the typified the band's huge hit albums of the late '80's, "Slippery When Wet" and "New Jersey", this isn't an illusion.
Having found fame and fortune behind frothy arena-ready pop-metal songs like "You Give Love A Bad Name", "Runaway", and "Livin' on a Prayer", the group shifted somewhat away from that highly successful musical formula during the 1990's. The 1992 CD "Keep the Faith" showcased a rougher sound, while the 1995 release, "These Days" took the group in a darker, more introspective direction. (JON)Bon Jovi also released a 1997 solo CD "Destination Anywhere" that featured a more stripped down, grittier and personal tone that the band's music.
"What I went in to do with this record was to truly come full circle, was to have an upbeat sense of optimism because I saw it in the world around me and I saw it in the faces of the guys in the band," singer Jon Bon Jovi said of the "Crush" CD. "I saw that we had been through everything and had come back again to what is was that we loved in the first place, which was having fun being a rock and roll band."
"I had run away from that for a long time;" Bon Jovi said of his talent for writing lighter, radio-ready anthems. "Throughout the '90s I ran away from that, not because I didn't like it, but because I guess it was time for me as a person, as a man, to grow. If it was ten years ago, I was 28. Now I'm 38. So a lot of things that come to any man, I hope, between 28 and 38, came to me. And so I came back to this sense of feeling of accomplishment and optimism and figured out what I needed to figure out. And so that's what got me back. Yes, there's obviously a part of me that loves those big anthems. But it didn't feel the need to continue to write them over the last ten years. I wanted to come back to them."
Indeed the past decade has taken Bon Jovi's career and life into many different directions. It began with is decision to step away from the band to do the soundtrack for "Young Guns II". Fueled by the hit title track "Blaze of Glory", the CD became a chart-topping hit.
Being involved with a film on musical level also piqued Jon's interest in acting. He began taking acting lessons with Harold Guskin (whose previous students include Glenn Close, Kevin Kline, and the Fondas -- Jane, Peter, and Bridget) and in 1995 made his debut in the film "Moonlight and Valentino". Roles in other low-profile movines such as "The Leading Man", "Little City", and "Homegrown" helped establish a bigger splash over the past year with well received turns in a pair of big-budget films, the submarine thriller U-571" and "Pay It Forward", the newly released starring Kevin Spacey and Helen Hunt. Next up will be his first leading role. Bon Jovi plays a vampire hunter in an as-yet-untitled film being produced by John Carpenter (whose directing credits include the classic horror film "Halloween").
On a personal level, Bon Jovi's life took a significant turn as well. In 1989 he married his high school sweetheart, Dorthea Hurley, and the couple now have two children, Stephanie Rose and Jesse James Louis.
And yes, making music with his Bon Jovi bandmates -- guitarist Richie Sambora, keyboardist David Bryan, and drummer Tico Torres -- has remained a going concern, with the "Keep the Faith" and "These Days" CDs sandwiched between wildly successful 1994 greatest hits collection "Cross Road".
"In reality, I wasn't letting fear rule my decision making," Bon Jovi said, reflecting on the varied pursuits of the 90's. "So if I wanted to do a soundtrack to 'Young Guns' when everyone said 'What the hell is that?' I did it. And who knew it was going to be a number one record and win me all those awards. But it did. When I became an actor, it wasn't really a great idea with Sting and Bowie and Madonna and all these other people who haven't been very successful at it. Well I'm still doing it. It's going rather well. Same thing with the idea of doing little solo records... I think the idea that I diversified and was trying to be an artist gave me the opportunity to fail, but it also gave me the opportunity to to show that there was more that 'You Give Love a Bad Name'."
If anything, "Crush" suggests that Bon Jovi arena pop sound has never really gone out of style. Where many of the group's pop-metal peers have faded from the scene, Bon Jovi continues to make a major impact.
Released last Spring, the "Crush" has already raked up more that 2 million in sales outside the US. The CD has sold about half that number so far in America, but that is sure to change. A first single "It's My Life" has been a multi-format radio hit, and the group now turning its promotional efforts toward the States with the first leg of the American tour. (Ed. Comment -- UH, umm, yeah, it really says that. It's dated 12 December through 25 December 2000. I just find these things, I don't publish or write them!)
"That song, 'It's My Life' had a six month life on the radio. Six months, that's huge," Bon Jovi said. "It was way beyond anyone's expectation. It was what the band was founded on. It was a peoples' band. It was a peoples' song. So it shocked all of us, but we are certainly pleased by it."
In making "Crush", Bon Jovi came into the sessions with 30 songs already written for the CD. That was about the only thing that went as planned. For one thing, the group delayed work on the CD for a year because of the sale of their long-time record label, Mercury, to Island/Def Jam Records. Bon Jovi said he wanted to be sure he was comfortable with the label's new personnel before going ahead with the recording. During this period he and Sambora collaborated on another 30 songs that were considered for the album.
Another setback occurred with the untimely death of producer Bruce Fairbairn in May 1999. Fairbairn and the engineer Bob Rock who had worked on "Slippery When Wet" and "New Jersey" were to have co-produced "Crush" with Bon Jovi. After considering such high-profile replacements as Michael Beinhorn and Steve Whitelilly, the band chose newcomer Luke Ebbin to share production with Bon Jovi and Sambora.
For a CD that is defined by cheerful anthems like "It's My Life", "Say It Isn't So", and "Just Older" and warm ballads such as "Thank You For Loving Me", having Ebbin on board brought a much-needed dose of energy to the project.
"He gave us youth again, reckless abandon, a different perspective where I think it would have been a very good sounding had Bruce and Bob co-produced this record," Bon Jovi said of Ebbin. "But it would have been a dramatically different record. I think it would have been the record where we could have easily gotten comfortable. And I don't know that we would have been challenged in the same way because we were all in a different point in our lives. Both Fairbairn,Rock, us, this isn't '86, the cheeseburger tour. This was going to be a fine wine record. That's what it could have easily become. It would have been easier to be an old man on this record instead of going back to cheeseburgers and beer."
With the band regaining success and his acting career gaining momentum, Bon Jovi said he realizes he faces a tricky balancing act in satisfying his various career interests. But the excitement acting has brought to his life makes the effort worthwhile, Bon Jovi said.
"I have all the wisdom of somebody who's been very successful for 20 years and has done most everything you can do, and I have the exuberance of a 21-year-old kid again for the first time." he said, explaining the effect acting has had on his outlook. "So when I show up on a set, it's all new. Everything is still somewhat new to me ... I know this band is great and it's easy. We'll (rehearse) tonight for the first time in five weeks and the
first show is on Friday. This band doesn't have to practice. We can play. So it's what we do. It's in my blood. I know that. I don't know every aspect of the movie business so I feel like I'm 21 again."