Bon Jovi alumnus Richie Sambora and his partner Orianthi – aka RSO – are opening up for Bad Company across the UK this month. RUSHONROCK editor Simon Rushworth caught up with the pair for an exclusive chat.
RUSHONROCK: You’ve got an RSO album coming out in 2017 – what can we expect?
RICHIE SAMBORA: It’s like Sonny and Cher on steroids. It’s a great cross section of stuff that we know how to do – and do well. We’ve been working on the album with the producer Bob Rock and he’s the perfect guy to bring out the best in both of us. Bob has worked with everyone from Metallica to Michael Buble and he’s a dear friend. I worked with him on the 1992 Bon Jovi record Keep The Faith and I love what he does. We’re very, very happy with how the music has turned out and Bob’s had a big role to play.
RUSHONROCK: Describe the partnership at the heart of RSO…
RS: Our partnership and our relationship is quite an anomaly. People have a perception of me as the ‘other one’ in Bon Jovi and they think of Orianthi as the guitarist who played with Michael Jackson and Alice Cooper. We’re seen as two sidekicks I suppose. But what people don’t seem to realise is that we can actually write and perform our own songs! Can you believe it! I think we’ve created a sound that’s really, really fresh. We’ve been playing a few festivals and we enjoy performing our acoustic songs. But we’re ready for the next chapter.
RUSHONROCK: What’s the secret to your success?
RS: We just seem to bounce off each other both professionally and personally. It was an instant connection when we first met and it’s the same now as it was then. You see it on stage every night. It’s a bit of fun but we take it very seriously as musicians. We just want to get out there and have some fun with an audience. That’s what it’s all about.
RUSHONROCK: When did you make that first connection?
RS: I was aware of Ori when she performed with Michael Jackson shortly before he passed away. After that I watched her playing with Alice Cooper who’s another good friend. He told me to come to the side of the stage and watch this wonderful guitarist in action. I was hooked. Alice said seeing is believing where Ori is concerned and he was right. There are some great female guitarists on the planet right now and Ori is one of them. In fact she’s a real pain in the ass because every single night I have to go out and raise my game! She’s that good. We challenge each other on stage but we both relish the challenge.
RUSHONROCK: Can you believe you’re out on the road with Bad Company across the UK?
ORIANTHI: I’m very excited to be part of the Bad Company tour. I’m thrilled. It’s every musician’s dream to open up for a band of that calibre and we can’t wait to get out there and play every night.
RS: A long, long time ago I used to be on the same label as Paul [Rodgers]. It was my very first deal but the record never actually came out. Just being on the same label as him was a thrill. I have loved Bad Company since day one. I’m a huge fan of Paul and Mick Ralphs – I’ve loved Mick since he was in Mott The Hoople. Paul asked me to play on a Muddy Waters tribute record that he released a while back and that was a very special moment for me. To get the chance to open up for Bad Company in the UK is just as special.
RUSHONROCK: Where does Mick Ralphs rank in the pantheon of rock guitarists?
RS: Stylistically there are so many great guitar players out there. But it’s no exaggeration to say Mick Ralphs belongs on the same list as Hendrix, Beck, Clapton and Page. The list could go on and on. I always felt Mick played the same way as he always had done when he moved from Mott to Bad Company. They were very different bands but Mick has his own individual style and tone. I honestly don’t think that his work on All The Young Dudes differs significantly to those songs on the first Bad Company record. It’s still Mick.
RUSHONROCK: On the subject of great rock guitarists your solo on Bon Jovi’s Wanted Dead Or Alive features in the list of Classic Rock Magazine’s ‘100 Greatest Guitar Solos’ – is it stll a favourite after all of these years?
RS: Wanted Dead Or Alive is still one of those songs that people love to hear and it’s fantastic to see it in such great company. I call songs like that ‘lifers’. They’ll always be with me wherever I go and fans will always want to hear them. I’ve played longer and more complicated solos in my life but maybe none quite so memorable.
RUSHONROCK: Bon Jovi’s Slippery When Wet is 30-years-old – does it still stand the test of time?
RS: Slippery When Wet has really stood the test of time. In my opinion that was really Bon Jovi’s first proper album. We didn’t have much of an idea as songwriters before then. As far as I’m concerned that’s when the band really came together creatively. We played those songs all the way through from start to finish and realised we had something special. I’ll always love that album and those songs.
RUSHONROCK: Do you miss being in Bon Jovi?
RS: I’ve been lucky enough to bump into my partner and it’s happened at a time when I’m ready for something new. In this business you’re only as good as your last record and I’ve never rested on my laurels. But it helps when you’ve been in a band like Bon Jovi. People cut you some slack and have some faith in what you can do. I left Bon Jovi because I felt that we just weren’t growing together as a band any longer. Artistically we were going in a different direction and it was time for a change. I knew I was getting a little stale. I’d been in the band for 31 years and during that time we weren’t a band that took many breaks. You look at a band like the Stones and they had regular lay-offs. We never did that. I think the last Bon Jovi tour was 18 months solid and I needed a breather!
RUSHONROCK: Would you still tell the young Richie Sambora to follow his rock and roll dream?
RS: If a young Richie Sambora came to me asking for advice I’d say follow your dream but be very careful. Of course, he probably wouldn’t listen to me! Musicians have to play music. –almost at any cost. They just can’t help it. It’s instinct.
O: Richie is right. Making this record has been an unbelievable experience but it’s what we were born to do. I’m so proud of it. Every song is so special.
Image courtesy of Tim Tronckoe