RICHIE SAMBORA (BON JOVI) / ORIANTHI Interview

RICHIE SAMBORA & ORIANTHI (Live at The Metro Radio Arena, Newcastle, U.K., October 27, 2016)
Photo: Mick Burgess

As lead guitarist in Bon Jovi, Richie Sambora has sold a shed load of records toured the world playing to millions of people. Having recently departed Bon Jovi after over three decades together, Sambora is now creating new music with his partner Orianthi. Mick Burgess called them ahead of their UK tour with Bad Company and spoke about their new musical project together, Sambora’s days in Bon Jovi, working with Paul Rodgers as well as his audition to replace Ace Frehley in KISS and Orianthi spoke of working with Alice Cooper and Michael Jackson.

You’re over in the UK for a run of shows with the legendary Bad Company. Even as a seasoned veteran yourself, that must be a pretty exciting prospect for you?

It’s such a big thrill for me to play on this tour with Bad Company. We were actually label mates for a while as I was signed to the Swan Song label. I happen to be a huge Bad Company fan. I covered all their songs around the clubs when I was a kid and absolutely loved Paul Rodgers and Mick Ralphs, even before Bad Company when Paul was in Free and Mick was in Mott The Hoople. I go back a long way with these guys. It’s going to be a really good bill for people. I can’t wait to get started.

Have you worked with Paul Rodgers or Mick Ralphs before?

Back in ’93 I think it was, I played on Paul Rodgers Muddy Water Blues album which was his tribute to the great Muddy Waters. There were some great players on there like Jeff Beck, Slash, David Gilmour, Brian May and Buddy Guy. What a lineup of guitarists he had on that album. I was honoured to be part of it. That was a gas and we had a real good time. It’ll be great to catch up with him again.

Are you planning on jamming on a song or two at some point on the tour?

Man I’d love to. Are you kidding me? For sure, I really want to do that if I get the chance.

It’s not just you on the tour. You are also joined by Orianthi on guitar. You two are an item now. How long have you been together?

We’ve been together almost three years now. We’re together 24/7 and are having a great time at the moment. We’ve just got back from Australia where we did five gigs and we played the National Rugby League Final which is like their Superbowl. We did the halftime show which was awesome.

How did you first meet?

It was kind of a fluke. It was Christmas time three years ago and I was taking my daughter and a couple of her friends to Hawaii and the usual hotel that I go to wasn’t available. Alice Cooper, who’s an old friend of mine, was doing a show for a children’s charity. Steven Tyler was there, Sammy Hagar and Bob Rock, our producer and Orianthi was there with Alice’s band and we got introduced then.

At what point did you decide to put a musical project together? Did the music come first or did the music follow the romance?

It kind of happened organically. The first night we ever played together we had an extraordinary communication and it just clicked right away not just as people but as musicians too. We talked to each other through the music. About a month later I was slated to do the Soundwave Festival in Australia when my other guitar player’s Mom fell ill and he had to go to be by her side so I was going to do it by myself but I thought, wait a minute, Ori gave me her number and she lives in Australia and she wasn’t working with Alice at that time so I called her and asked if she wanted to do it and she was really up for it.

On this tour what do you have lined up for the shows each night? Will you be doing a mix of your own songs and a few new songs you have written together?

We’ve done a lot of playing recently. We recently played in South America where we did some big shows out there and we’ve actually just got back from Australia so it’s been a crazy time so we’ve been playing plenty of songs. We’re going to do something different every night but we’ve only got an hour so we’ll try to fit in as much as we can. We’ll do people’s favourites from my solo records and some of Ori’s stuff from her solo records and obviously we’ll do our take on a couple of Bon Jovi songs and we’ll throw a couple of new ones in as well from our new album that’s coming out next year.

Dry County is one of your finest moments as a guitar player. Will you be performing that one on the tour?

It’s a little bit long for an hour set and takes up too much time so we won’t be doing that on this tour but might on our own headlining shows when we have much more time. We have an hour so we’ll get in as much as we can and make sure it’s a great show for everyone.

There’s not that many boyfriend/girlfriend guitar acts kicking around at the moment. You’re pretty unique in that sense?

Yeah, there’s not many of us around so we’re just a little bit different to everyone else.

Will you both be handling the lead vocals?

We’ll both be singing. We have to change people’s perceptions. We have a great cross section of music. We have 22 songs, which is 2 albums worth of new material and Bob Rock is producing it and we’re really thrilled. The new songs have been going down really well, the crowds have been wonderful. We’re coming man, we can’t wait.

A while ago you recorded a version of Deep Purple’s When A Blind Man Cries with Stuart Smith’s Heaven and Earth. That was a great cover. Have you thought about doing that one on this tour? It’ll go down great with the Bad Company crowd?

We love to do covers but we don’t really have enough time in our set to fit in everything that we want to play from our records. I’ve done lots of Bad Company songs before but wouldn’t do one on this tour, unless of course Paul Rodgers came and sang with us. I love Deep Purple’s When A Blind Man Cries and love playing it but not on this tour as people would say we should play more of our own songs.

What about the rest of your band. Who else is on this tour with you?

We’ve got Mike Bradford on bass and he’s played with everybody from Kid Rock to Anita Baker in the past and we have John Webster on keyboards and I’ve known him for over 30 years. He did some of the work on Slippery When Wet and a bunch of Bon Jovi records so we go way back. He’s also worked with Aerosmith and Alice Cooper. He’s a great musician. We’ve got a great band and have just played a series of festivals so we’re ready to go.

On 27th October you’ll be playing at the Metro Arena in Newcastle. That’s Paul Rodger’s hometown show. It’ll make it an extra special night for everyone?

It’s going to be a great night and with Paul having lots of family and friends there everyone will be really up for it. The place is going to Rock, that’s for sure.

Way back to October 1984, you made your very first appearance in Newcastle opening for KISS on their Animalize tour at the City Hall. What do you recall about that tour?

Oh my, that was a long time ago, 32 years? That is so long ago. We did an extensive tour of the UK with KISS and played multiple nights in some venues. I remember we did two in Newcastle. They were amazing shows and the crowds were just incredible. That was our first time in Europe and we didn’t know what to expect so when we got such an amazing reaction we were totally blown away. We’re actually playing some of the same cities that we played on our first ever tour so it’ll be good to get back to them again. England has always been a big favourite for us and we love playing over there.

Did you think at that point when you had your first record out and a big overseas tour that you’d made it to the big time?

To have a record out and to tour outside of The States especially with a big name like KISS we thought that we had made it but to be honest I wasn’t too thrilled with the first two records that we did. I think they were the best we could do at the time but I consider our first real record to be Slippery When Wet as that’s when we became a real band.

Coming back up to date, you’re working on a new album with Orianthi at the moment. How is that coming on?

It’s coming along really well and we plan to have it out at some point next year. We’re really excited about it. It’s going to cover a lot of ground stylistically. It’ll have some great choruses and there’re songs that are more minimal. I think it’s a great cross section of a lot of different things. There’s some great stadium rockers in there, some hits, some Pop songs. It sounds really fresh and we’re singing together very well. I think people are going to really like it.

Can you reveal any song titles yet?

We have a song called We Are Magic that’s really good and another called Ride, which is a big stadium type of song. We also have one called Take Me. People will hear a couple of those when we play in the UK.

Orianthi is an incredible guitarist who toured with Alice Cooper and was chosen to be guitarist in Michael Jackson’s band for his This Is It tour. That’s a real testament to how highly she’s regarded in the business?

She’s an incredible player and I think that people have only just seen part of her talent. She’s very versatile and very melodic. She’s a great writer too so it’s no surprise that artists of the calibre of Michael Jackson and Alice Cooper wanted her in their band.

Orianthi, you have achieved so much so young. By your mid ’20’s you had not only toured the world with Alice Cooper you were also in Michael Jackson’s band for the planned This Is It tour. How did you end up in Michael’s band?

Michael chose me after seeing me on YouTube and also Carlos Santana and Steve Vai had recommended me so they weren’t bad recommendations to have. I worked with Carlos too which was cool and he’s a good friend of mine, so is Steve who I’ve known since I was 15. Getting to work with these people has been incredible and a real honour. Working with Michael was just insane, it was like a dream come true. I didn’t think I was going to get the gig but when they asked me to go and audition I learned the “Beat It” solo the night before and I made it my own, sort of Bluesier so I didn’t know if he was going to like it or not and he hired me that night so it was pretty crazy.

You are in illustrious company. You join the likes of Eddie Van Halen, Slash, Steve Stevens, Steve Lukather and Jennifer Batten as guitarists who have all played with Michael Jackson. That must make you feel pretty proud to have reached that level?

I felt so honoured to be in his band. The fact that he picked me when he really could have had anybody that he wanted was just incredible.

Getting to play with an artist of the stature of Michael Jackson must be the very pinnacle of your ambitions. How do you match that?

I’m always wanting to get better and I feel as an artist I’m never satisfied and always find things I could do better and improve. I also do session work but don’t think of myself as a session player, I’m an artist. When I am brought in to do anything I make the songs my own. I could learn it note for note but I think you have to put your own personality into the song. It’s like trying to find that perfect solo or perfect show. You’re never quite satisfied but you can be happy but you are always searching to get better all the time and that keeps you going.

Was he at your audition?

Yeah he was there sitting on a couch staring at me. It was pretty crazy but he was so sweet. There’s certain people in the world that have this spark about them and Michael was definitely one of those people where he was very magnetic and personable. He was the biggest superstar you could ever want to meet and he could just project his energy whether he was talking to you or performing on stage. It was like he was always performing to 30,000 people.

Can you remember what you played for him?

I played “Beat It”, “Dirty Diana” and “ Wanna’ Be Starting Something”

What were the rehearsals like with Michael?

The rehearsals were absolutely fantastic. The band sounded great and Michael was incredible. He sounded great and still had his moves. He was in such good spirits and it was coming together so well. It would have been an amazing show.

Richie, How would you say that your styles complement each other and also differ from each other?

I think Orianthi is more of a shredder, she can certainly play fast when she wants whereas I’m more of a Blues player.

Before joining Bon Jovi you auditioned for KISS to replace Ace Frehley. What do you recall about your audition?

I didn’t really know what I was doing back then and didn’t really want the gig. They wanted someone to replace Ace but I think they wanted someone who worshipped them. I liked their music but I wasn’t into them in a big way. I was more into Zeppelin, Eric Clapton, Bob Dylan, BB King, Albert King and Johnny Winter and stuff like that which was totally different to KISS so I wasn’t really that into the idea of joining the band. I just thought it’d be a good thing to go along and give it a go but I didn’t feel like wearing any of their makeup, that’s for sure.

It’s been a few years since your last solo album Aftermath of a Low Down, do you have plans for another one or is your focus on the work with Orianthi for now?

We have two albums already recorded and we intend on staying out on the road for a while so people can understand that we are a viable entity. We have to go and visit everybody and play for everybody so really there is no time for me to consider a new solo record. All I’m concentrating on at the moment is working, recording and touring with Orianthi.

Once the tour with Bad Company ends, where do you head next?

We actually go out to Japan to play some of our own headlining shows and I’m also getting inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame over there. Joe Walsh and Jimmy Page got inducted last year and I think he’s coming over to present me with my award which is a real honour for me.

Richie Sambora and Orianthi are on tour in the UK now as special guests of Bad Company.

Author

  • Mick Burgess

    Mick is a reviewer and photographer here at Metal Express Radio, based in the North-East of England. He first fell in love with music after hearing Jeff Wayne's spectacular The War of the Worlds in the cold winter of 1978. Then in the summer of '79 he discovered a copy of Kiss Alive II amongst his sister’s record collection, which literally blew him away! He then quickly found Van Halen I and Rainbow's Down To Earth, and he was well on the way to being rescued from Top 40 radio hell!   Over the ensuing years, he's enjoyed the Classic Rock music of Rush, Blue Oyster Cult, and Deep Purple; the AOR of Journey and Foreigner; the Pomp of Styx and Kansas; the Progressive Metal of Dream Theater, Queensrÿche, and Symphony X; the Goth Metal of Nightwish, Within Temptation, and Epica, and a whole host of other great bands that are too numerous to mention. When he's not listening to music, he watches Sunderland lose more football (soccer) matches than they win, and occasionally, if he has to, he goes to work as a property lawyer.

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3 Trackbacks / Pingbacks

  1. Richie Sambora Never Wanted to Be in Kiss Anyway
  2. Richie Sambora Explains His Failed KISS Audition, Says He Never Really Wanted To Be In Glam Band
  3. Richie Sambora Never Wanted to Be in Kiss Anyway

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