Richie Sambora of Bon Jovi Talks "Aftermath of the Lowdown" and More
Mon, 24 Sep 2012 07:07:14
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"It's really attached to my life," Richie Sambora says of his new solo album, Aftermath of the Lowdown. "I'm thrilled with the record. I really am."
The legendary Bon Jovi guitarist has every reason to be too. Aftermath of the Lowdown is his deepest, most diverse, and dynamic solo offering to date. It encompasses a myriad of styles, and it sees Sambora evolve immensely as both a songwriter and guitarist. This is Sambora at his best, and it's one of the most infectious and invigorating albums of the year.
In this exclusive interview with ARTISTdirect.com editor in chief Rick Florino, Richie Sambora talks Aftermath of the Lowdown and so much more.
Was making Aftermath of the Lowdown a relatively fast process?
It wasn't a stressful process. I got off the road with Bon Jovi last August. You'd think after an eighteen-and-a-half month, 52 country stadium tour that I would be tired. I took about a week off, and the songs started to come. I was energized by the whole thing. I knew I had a break in the band's schedule. I haven't made a solo record in over ten years. I said, "Man, this is the time to do it". It was a look back over my life over the last decade—the ups and downs and trials and tribulations. It started to come out.
What's your take on the record as a whole piece? It flows from top to bottom smoothly.
I think the record flows really well also. It's strange because, as an artist, I adapted to a lot of different genres stylistically. It's stuff I've respected throughout my career. Even that song "Nowadays" has a very punk characteristic to it. It's a throwback to my days when I played in bands in New York and I was going to CBGB and Max's. I was really young. I was almost a teenager. There were things coming out in this record that have been influences throughout my life. It was a pleasure to go revisit those energies.
When did you write the riff for "Burn That Candle Down"?
It started out with me saying to myself, "I want to write a real barnburner I can jam on!" It's something that will really work on live basis. I conjured up the image of burning the candle down as if you were with a girl in a hotel room and you decided to go crazy all night physically and have good time until the candle was burnt down [Laughs]. Then, as I was writing it, that one took shape over a few weeks. At the time, Occupy Wall Street was happening. It became a little bit of a protest song for me. I started to feed off that energy. There was an influence of that. It became more like, "Our voice is going to get out, and we'll burn that candle down". Metaphorically speaking, there's a duality to it.
What's the story behind "World"?
I wrote that with Bruce Foster who's a dear friend of mine. He was the guy who ushered me into the music business when I was in my late teens. He had a deal on Casablanca Records. I was in college, and I'd play with him. He'd pull me into sessions as a guitar player. I played with his band. He was the real first pro I ever played with. I've written lots of songs with him on my other solo albums, and he's written for other artists also. We wrote this five or six years ago. I remembered the melody. It's like an adult lullaby. It's begging the world for forgiveness because humanity has fucked it up [Laughs].
Was the overall approach boundless for you?
There's a dexterity that comes with making a solo album as an artist. You get to explore your own individuality. I'm in this very big band. That has its own energy and definition. That's all about compromise really. That's why we're still together after 30 years. When you're making a solo record, it's your view. This record is about my stuff. I found by exploring what's happened to me, it's everybody's stuff. What I've gone through, whether it's divorce, losing your dad, or being a single dad, there's anxiety to all those things. I'm a guy who's fallen down and gotten back up. It's also about that triumph too. I got a chance to play on this record. There's a lot of jamming that came right off the floor. I wanted this to be an authentic record even from a musician's standpoint. You can hear that there was interaction and fierce interplay between musicians.
You keep challenging yourself instrumentally.
Over the past decade, I've been with the band, and it's been uber-succesful. It's astounding to me how many people we've gotten to. That being said, it sometimes shuts you down at an artistic level. This record gave me the opportunity to go wild with my own whims and explore my own ideas. I actually started taking guitar lessons again [Laughs]. They really didn't show up on the record because the lessons I was taking were in alternate tunings and finger-style methods I started to embrace. I just wanted to learn and I found myself landing in a place where I had some time on my hands and I wanted to continue to evolve as an artist. This record is a new beginning to me. I think you can hear that in the tracks. I don't think people have heard me like this before. I've heard me like this before [Laughs]. There's a real enlightenment that happened to me.
Has this opened the door for more music?
Absolutely! I really can't stop the flow now. Believe it or not, towards the end of recording Aftermath of the Lowdown, I started to write with Jon again for the band record. That's finished now. I actually did a couple of records this year. I was very fertile on a creative basis.
Where did the album title come from?
It's interesting. Whenever you give someone "the lowdown", that's the truth. You're telling somebody the truth. There's an aftermath to that. Laying down these songs was like the truth to me. Now, we're going to see what the aftermath is. The important thing for a musician or a songwriter is that the songs actually reach people and they relate to them. Songwriting and being an artist is all about communication. You make a record, and it's yours. As soon as it's finished, you give it to the world, and it becomes their record.
Did you get try anything you never did before?
Oh yeah! I'm the boss on this. I can do whatever I want. I can take as much time as I want. That's the beauty of this. I wanted to go with an independent label to have that dexterity. It gave me a lot of freedom, which I should have at this point in my career [Laughs]. When you're in a band that has a big stadium thing going on, there are certain songs you have to write to fulfill that energy. I was just following the songs and everything that would come out of my heart from a song level. I look at songs as emotional vignettes of my life. You sketch them out when you sit down with an acoustic guitar and a voice. You build the architecture of the song. When you bring into the studio, which is my laboratory, you get out the paint brushes, and you color the paintings sonically.
Who's on your playlist?
I'm listening to everything! My playlist has always been very diverse. My daughter turns me on to new stuff she's listening to. It could be anything from country to the most gangster rap there is [Laughs]. I try to buy at least two new records a week. I have to keep in shape so I get on the treadmill and listen to music to take me away. I listen to records all the time, whether it be a heritage artist who has a new record or a new band. I like a lot of Dangerbird releases like Fitz & the Tantrums. I listen to a lot of The Black Keys. It's band-driven. I like the authenticity of guys who actually get in a room and play. Then I have my steady dose of the blues like Muddy Waters, Buddy Guy, and guys like that. I think that's important for a musician. If you're a student of music, you have to relive your influences. You also have to keep fresh and current.
Have you heard Aftermath of the Lowdown?