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Q&A: Jon Bon Jovi

The Bon Jovi singer on acting, rocking and the differences between the two

Bon Jovi

Bon Jovi performs in Verona, Italy, 2001

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SO FAR, BON JOVI’S SEVENTH LP, Crush, has sold more than 7 million records, returning the group to a level of popularity they last enjoyed in the late Eighties, when albums like New Jersey and Slippery When Wet made them one of the biggest bands on the planet. They are now once again touring the planet, finishing up in July with a show at Giants Stadium in New Jersey. “That’s the place I wanted it to end,” says Jon Bon Jovi, speaking from the set of an as-yet-untitled vampire western now filming in Mexico. (His side gig as an actor, which started with 1995’s Moonlight and Valentino, has included recent roles in Pay It Forward and U-571.) “Get back home and do the big one one more time,” he says. So he’s played that stadium before? “Yeah, I have, but it’s been quite a while. In all honesty, we couldn’t have sold it out in the last ten years. So we’re going back home. And what a way to go.”

I would like to say that, like you, I hail from the great state of New Jersey. And I feel everybody should announce this with pride. Why don’t they?

Oh, I think they do now. With The Sopranos and the reinvention of New Jersey, now it’s sort of hip. It used to be that anyone from Manhattan would think they had to take their passport and change money to go through the tunnels. Now it seems like everyone tells you they were from New Jersey at one point in their lives. It’s sort of like my life – you get beat up so long until finally people give in and go, “Oh, fuck it, he’s hip.”

I think there are regards in which people always acknowledged you were hip.

Oh, I doubt that. The success of the band was not because of critical acclaim; it was the blue-collar working guy who bought those 90 million records. It wasn’t because we were on anybody’s best-of list. But things are cyclical, and it happens to be in an up cycle right now. And this time a lot of people have come around and said you’ve withstood the beating and you’re still here, and congratulations.

Oh. Well, I really like Crush. And it sounds like kind of a stupid thing to say, but it’s a great-sounding record. I love the production.

Oh, that’s not a stupid thing to say; I thank you for that. It was a very conscious part of the effort. Especially early on, a lot of times people said, “You have to see Bon Jovi live; you’re missing out if it’s just the records. They’re too slick, they’re overproduced, they’re not capturing the energy they have onstage.” With this record, it’s a very big, open, live feel. And we had to come full circle to get to that point, and not try to push it away. Blaze of Glory – where I was supposed to be writing fiction that in retrospect was fifty percent me and fifty percent Billy the Kid – began that transition; then Keep the Faith was more of a socially conscious record; and then These Days, although I didn’t feel it at the time, was a very dark record. And Destination Anywhere was, of course, my art record.

What do you think are the virtues of age?

Experience. There are circumstances you may have thought you were in control of ten, twelve years ago that in retrospect you weren’t. Now I can see that trouble coming. Or those disappointments. Or that jubilation. Like, now, I wouldn’t think any record is the almighty just because I wrote a hit song, but I also don’t throw up at night if a record doesn’t work, or the ticket sales aren’t what they could or should be.

And did that literally used to he the case – you would throw up over ticket sales?

Sure.

Poor you. And you were just a kid, too. Do you remember your dreams?

With this movie, unfortunately, I dream about vampires every frigging night. But I’ve had dreams in my life that have been right on. I was very close to my grandparents, and when I had the opportunity to audition for Pay It Forward, it was while I was recording Crush. So to have to fly to L.A., do the audition and get on the next plane back – as much as I wanted the opportunity to work with Kevin Spacey and Helen Hunt, I was thinking about it like, “Oh, Christ, what a beating, it’s not a guarantee, what if, et cetera.” And I actually had a dream that night where my grandmother said, “It’s inevitable.” And all the way to L.A. that afternoon, I kept saying, “It’s inevitable, it’s inevitable.” And I walked out and got the job on the spot.

What are the different rewards of acting vs. being in Bon Jovi?

With acting, it’s the gift of humility, because I come in and contribute, much like the bass player on a record comes in, lays down the bottom, and then we say, “Thank you very much, goodbye.” After that, you don’t think anything you do is holier than thou. The bass player can say, “That sucks,” and you don’t go, “Oh, no, no, no. Listen. You are talking to the man who has written these classic songs.”

Really? When I see a band playing like a band, I always think something like, “There’s a kind of love I’ll never he part of.” It looks so close.

That’s true, too. It’s a sexless marriage. And with us, that came with time. Any animosities, any jealousies, have long since gone away. Everybody understands their role, including me. And you have experienced the good, bad and indifferent in your life, together – more than you have with your wife, or your brothers, or your mother and father. Every hill we climbed, we climbed together, and every war we fought, we fought together. As clichéd as that sounds, it’s true. You know, the truth is, when I walk away from this set, I’ll see these people again at the premiere and then won’t see them again maybe ever. This is a much more lonely existence.

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