Dear Guitar Hero: Richie Sambora
On the song “Superman Tonight,” you do a very cool melodic solo. How many passes does it usually take for you to nail a solo? Do you plot them out, or do you tend to go in and wing ’em? —Michael Tyburski
A little of both. When I plot them out, I just try to get a general framework of how they should go. Otherwise, they tend to sound stale and clinical. Usually I walk in with a basic idea in my head of what the song needs. On that particular cut, I was thinking of a slinky kind of George Harrison–type lead. It didn’t take long to lay down. I had a melody in mind, I did a few passes, and it was done. Sometimes I get lucky and I’ll be a one-take guy; other times, I have to build solos, particularly if they’re long or if I’m trying to find a specific kind of tone. All solos are different, though. They all lead you down new path.
I love both of your solo albums. Any plans for another one, and if so, what can we expect? —Rudra Patel
Right now, I’m a little booked up. [laughs] This Bon Jovi tour is going to last 18 months, so my dance card is filled for the time being. I have written a few new songs, though, and I’ve actually recorded a couple of them. I worked with the production group called the Matrix—they’ve produced everybody from Korn to Avril Lavigne. There’s kind of a new sound I’m starting to explore, but it’s going to take a while for me to see things through as a new album, since I’m on the road till August 2011.
I know you’re a big Jimi Hendrix fan. Any chance you would ever do an Experience Hendrix Tour? I’d love to see you tear it up with people like Joe Satriani and Eric Johnson. —Al Russo
A tour like that sounds great, but I think I’d be more inclined to do my own thing than hop on something where I only get to play a few numbers. But if you can find it, pick up a copy of the soundtrack to [the 1990 film] The Adventures of Ford Fairlane. I did a version of Hendrix’s “The Wind Cries Mary” with Tony Levin on bass and [Bon Jovi drummer] Tico [Torres]. It’s also on the special edition of Stranger in This Town, which is unavailable. You can probably catch it on YouTube, though.
You and Jon have been songwriting partners for a lot of years. What happens when the two of you disagree on a song? Does he automatically win the argument because he’s the leader of the band? —Rebecca Reilly
To be honest with you, we rarely have disagreements. I think we’ve known each other for so long that we kind of know what the other guy is going to like. Songwriting is a give-and-take process, and it can lead to some good, healthy debates. Sometimes it’s necessary to push each other out of the comfort zone a little bit. But I would never try to force Jon to record or perform a song he really didn’t like. He’s gotta sing it, but more than that, he’s gotta feel it. And you can bet your bottom dollar that if he isn’t feeling it, the 80,000 people in the stadium sure aren’t gonna feel it either. Jon and I have written something like 400 songs together. If I love a tune and he doesn’t, I’ll save it for one of my records. Simple as that.
I saw a picture of you from back in the day, and in it, you’re playing a triple-neck Ovation acoustic. Why in the world would you need a guitar like that, and where can I get one? —Johnny “Hands” McQueen
Well, there’s only two of them in existence. I used to have both of them, but I traded one for…for something. Wow, I can’t remember what I traded it for! As for why I had a guitar like that in the first place, I used to do a solo acoustic interlude onstage before “Wanted Dead or Alive,” and I asked the people at Ovation to build me a special model with a mandolin neck. So you’ve got the mandolin neck up top, the 12-string neck in the middle and the six-string neck on the bottom. Actually, [Led Zeppelin’s] John Paul Jones used to have a guitar with the same neck configuration. I copied him.