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Q&A: Richie Sambora, Bon Jovi Guitarist

Richie Sambora, guitarist for Bon Jovi, talks about how the iPhone and home theater affect today's music.


Bon Jovi guitarist Richie Sambora says he prefers to use Marshall Amplification because the sound quality is good regardless of what guitar he uses.
Robert Archer · February 22, 2011

If someone were to put a soundtrack to Generation X, it would require at least a few selections from Bon Jovi. With a career that includes more than 120 million albums sold, countless worldwide arena tours and a recent nomination to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, Bon Jovi is, along with U2, arguably the most enduring rock band of the last quarter century.

Led by the songwriting duo of singer Jon Bon Jovi and guitar player Richie Sambora, the band’s hit list includes classics like “You Give Love a Bad Name,” “Wanted Dead or Alive,” and “It’s My Life” plus soon-to-be classics like “Have a Nice Day” and “Who Says You Can’t Go Home.”

It’s been a milestone past year for Bon Jovi, Sambora, keyboard player David Bryan and drummer Tico Torres, who along with their original bass player Alec John Such, received the Hall of Fame nomination (the band was passed over for induction this time around), journeyed through another world tour and released a Greatest Hits album.

We recently sat down with Sambora to talk about the music business and home theater.

How does a veteran musician like yourself adapt to the trends of the music industry and sustain a career that’s been as successful as yours for so long?
There are a lot of components to that question. Number one, it’s the songs … they are the foundation of the business, whether you are selling records or touring. Number two is the dedication to evolution, from continuing to learn - I still learn all the time - to the dedication to touring. The most simple analogy I can make is, if you have a dog and you don’t pet it, it’s not going to like you - it’s going to bite you. So, in essence, when I play South America, South Africa or Australia, I have to keep going back to those places.

Very interesting, on stage [recently] in Toronto Jon said, “Now finally after 27 years we’ve effectively played every venue in Toronto” - starting out at the El Mocambo club, where the Stones played and where they recorded that live album [side three of Love You Live], to two nights at the Rogers Center.

The dedication to touring is a very important component [to long-term success]. Making sure that you go back to the area, doing the press to other commitments, it’s a very meat-and-potatoes kind of way to look at things.

Is being a musician different now than it was when you were breaking into the industry?
Yes! It’s lifestyle basically. Obviously, you mature and as you get older you have to take care of yourself physically. So the approach is very different in that respect. In the 1980s, everyone was [just] living. Think about it - just imagine what one of the biggest bands in the world was doing, and multiply it by about 20 on a daily basis. So the approach now is a lot different.

Essentially, the playing part of it is just the same. The way the band plays, our dedication to putting on great shows, but now we couldn’t live that way [we did back then].

How has technology aided you and the band to create and record music, and do you prefer the older analog technologies to digital technologies?
Yes, basically Jon and I recorded a lot of our songwriting sessions on iPhones. Both of us backed them up on iPhones. But we’re also old-school guys. Pro Tools [popular recording software] has become a great help to be able to edit and move things around so quickly, it’s a definite help.

If you listen to our older records, which are analog, they sound great too.

People listen to everything from low-resolution MP3 files to high-res 24-bit/96kHz WAV files. Do you have preferences?
The WAV file is better than a low-resolution file. It’s harder to transport, because it’s a dense file when compared to low-resolution file. Look,compressed music is not going to sound as good as analog ever, it just can’t, but the ear does get use to it.

From a musician/songwriter’s perspective, do you think that compressed music takes away from the listening experience?
Honestly, what happens is the ear trains itself to listen to it. A lot of people don’t know what analog sound is - I would say the majority of people. You have to be, what, 40 to know what analog was even, and then to actually remember it?


  About the Author

Bob is an audio enthusiast who has written about consumer electronics for various publications within Massachusetts before joining the staff of CE Pro in 2000. Bob is THX Level I certified, and he's also taken classes from the Imaging Science Foundation (ISF) and Home Acoustics Alliance (HAA). Bob also serves as the technology editor for CE Pro's sister publication Commercial Integrator. In addition, he's studied guitar and music theory at Sarrin Music Studios in Wakefield, Mass., and he also studies Kyokushin karate at 5 Dragons in Haverhill, Mass. Have a suggestion or a topic you want to read more about? Email Robert at robert.archer@emeraldexpo.com

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