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BURRN! Magazine - Japan- April 2004
(Translated from Japanese)

An Interview With Bruce Stephen Foster and Richie Sambora

To my surprise, only little of Richie Sambora's history before Bon Jovi seems to have been told. His mini album LESSONS which was originally released in 1982 by MESSAGE was released on the CD in 1995, but what had he done before? ...Well? To answer this question, some old demo tapes were recently dug up and have been released on March 3, 2004 in Japan. It was recorded when he was only 18 and you can even listen to his early singing. I was surprised to know such a sound source existed, but it surprised me more that the studio once got damaged by a flood and the master tape was ruined, and the songs were restored from cassette tape copies of those masters.

Bruce Foster used to play keyboard in MESSAGE, and he collaborated with Richie on One Light Burning and The Answer on Richie's successful 1st solo album Stranger In This Town. Their friendship has been continuing. This interview was done in mid-February 2004.

BURRN: It's a great honor to interview the two of you for the occasion of this commemorative release.
RICHIE: At any rate, Bruce is a father of the career for me. Right after I graduated from high school, I was attracted by his session band that was playing at a local club and I always wanted to be a member. One day the bass player had food poisoning. I was never good at playing the bass, but thanks to this incident Bruce asked if I could joy them playing on stage.
BRUCE: Let ME finish this story! He said "I've never played the bass and I'm an amateur, but I do play the guitar. Could you let me join in the session next week?" I liked his cheerful personality at first sight, so I didn't have to think twice. The next week Richie brought his 1962 Les Paul and Marshall amplifier with him. Our first song was "Kansas City" because every musician knows that. He had a good rhythmical sense, so I tested him and let him play solo. He played a note which sounded like smooth violin. It wasn't like he tried to show off all his ability in playing the guitar, but played only a single sound that was beautiful. I was stunned and I said "You passed!" even before he played the next sound.

BURRN: How old was Richie then?
RICHIE: I was 18. It was the lowest age you could go to the bar legally in New Jersey.
BURRN: Such fate. Things wouldn't have worked this way if the bass player hadn't had food poisoning.
BRUCE: Right. By the way, the bassist Tom Marolda worked as an engineer to finish the most parts of this Shark Frenzy Vol.1.
RICHIE: Tom also collaborated with me on One Light Burning and Ballad of Youth on Stranger In This Town. Good things could happen when you got ill (LOL).
BRUCE: Richie himself was already wonderfully talented at that time in the first place, and that’s proven with his present achievements.

BURRN: Was SHARK FRENZY the first time for Richie to record?
RICHIE: It wasn’t the first time but it sure was the early period. In those days Bruce invited me to some sessions in New York, so I participated in making demo tapes for various song writers. I was beginning to seek my own style then. It was the first group for me to make a record with.
BRUCE: "Southern Belle" might be quite old among the songs Richie recorded as a vocal.
BURRN: The source says it was in 1976.
RICHIE: No. The song was written in 1976 but recorded in 1978.
BURRN: I see. I hear this song was on Bruce's solo album released in 1977. Why did you let Richie sing?
RICHIE: Sort of humoring me, "hey, let this kid sing" LOL
BRUCE: I had been singing that song but didn't like it, then, I happened to hear Richie sing and thought I really wanted him to sing. Richie seemed to memorize the whole lyrics by then. When I asked him, he sang right away. After listening to him I can never sing "Southern Belle" again. Richie really does everything so well. I had known of his natural talent at gigs, but he showed me far brighter side once he was in the studio. He is a genuine artist. You can't always be a good recording artist even if you are a good musician or singer or guitarist. From that point Richie was already a great guy who had all the ability.

BURRN: I've heard that the Shark Frenzy recordings once got damaged by a flood and the songs were restored from cassette tapes?
BRUCE: Well...in short everyone was young when we recorded in Tom's studio in Trenton, NJ. I was in my early 20s, Richie was only 18. No one around had enough money. I had just lost the contract with "Casablanca Records" and had no stable contracts left. I didn't have money to organize a band. All I could do was to ask Tom to let me record songs on his master tape. He recorded his stuff over mine, I recorded my stuff over his...we were using the tape that way. I was dreaming someday some label would offer a million dollars and I could do the real recording. It unexpectedly caught our performance and spirit of youth, and also Richie's young genius. And friendship. Indeed all the members are still good friends. It was surely a moment that caught a phase of our lives, that's why it's worth working on and making the demo tape complete.
After all, what we had left was the mix of master tapes. It was open reel tape. We were recording on a cassette tape at the same time but the speed of the cassette tape somehow didn't match well. When we thought we completed everything we got the flood. The master tape was ruined and the only copy was drowned. We knew we couldn't use it any more, but we couldn't throw it away. After several years we had a worse flood again. We knew the contents were ruined no doubt, so we left it that way. Then, the newest technology of computer processing appeared one and a half years ago. So we gathered the leftovers of the stuff on the cassette, and we used it to cover the defects of the open reel tape. Moreover it's a computer mastering, so the quality of the sound got better. After this and that, it was well worth spending a good half year to restore it little by little. We could reproduce the joy of those days and the crazy live performance of BEATLES' "Birthday", so you can enjoy every bit of our enthusiasm that the name of the band SHARK FRENZY came from. In short, it took us 20 years to...
RICHIE:...dust and dry the water off the tape. LOL
BRUCE: Yes. Over 20 years have passed and nothing from these tapes has ever been out, so it makes it fresher. That's what is unique about this album and I'm full of expectation. I'm looking forward to releasing Vol.2 by this fall.
BURRN: I've noticed it's titled "vol.1". There is more recordings, right? Richie must be full of expectation, too.
RICHIE: Absolutely! This is a marvelous opportunity to show the fans how I had developed my ability in those days. I owe the band members a great deal by the way. Everyone had more experience, and that inspired me. And it is fun. It's just like "listening to the baby pictures with ears". Everyone can look at how you've grown up. Either on the recording or the looks. Looking back at my outfits in the early years of Bon Jovi I think "Why the hell did I want to wear such stuff!?" LOL. Well, once you got popular your baby pictures were open to public. But I don't care as it's the "pictures" I'm proud of.
BRUCE: This would be a good prelude to Richie's solo album he's going to work on soon. It shows both common points and how he's grown between past and present.
RICHIE: You know "Reality TV"? This is "Reality CD" not "Reality TV". This is a record of how I've grown in the "music world".

BURRN:"Reality CD"...I'd like to use that phrase sometime LOL. By the way I hear there were two lineups in SHARK FRENZY.
BRUCE: I'll explain. When the first band was formed, each one was also a member of another band. We were playing in different bands at the same time. First, Jody Giambelluca on the bass was playing in a band called VALENTINE with Sylvester Stallone’s brother Frank. They were in the movie “Rocky”. Steve Mosley on the drums was recording and touring with Phoebe Snow and The David Bromberg Band. So, those who were kind of free got together. On the drums was sometimes Bob Werblin, sometimes Steve. When Jody was on tour with VALENTINE, Harvey Lame was playing the bass. Jace Smith was playing the guitar all the time. It was a mess when all the members got together once in a while LOL. As there were two drummers, one of them played the bongos or congas and percussion.
RICHIE: There were between 3 and 8 members on any night.

BURRN: Is everyone from New Jersey?
RICHIE: We are.
BRUCE: Most of us were from near Trenton, NJ. Richie's from Woodbridge, NJ.
BURRN: From what year till when was SHARK FRENZY active?
BRUCE: Ummm...three years at least, maybe 1977 to 1980?
RICHIE: Once we got together, in short, SHARK FRENZY was a crazy session unit.
BRUCE: We put enthusiasm into the music as we jammed and got hotter and hotter until we were utterly exhausted. One day somebody said "You guys are like a bunch of gray sharks in a feeding frenzy." That's where the name of our band came from.

BURRN: Is there any particular song from the album that each of you has intensity?
BRUCE: Ummm...we were really getting along together very well at that time and we had pure intensity making the album, so it's very difficult to pick just one. On this occasion, after almost 20 years I was listening to each song carefully and remembered those times once again. I never thought "Law Of The Jungle" could be restored, so I am especially happy about it. In fact many people say they like this song the best. But I personally like the fourth song "Nobody" very much. This is the song I played with Richie for the first time in the studio. The beautiful melodic guitar solo is the highlight.
RICHIE: It is difficult to pick one, but as Bruce has said I think the live version of "Birthday" shows the band's spirit well. It was crazy! What’s more, there is quite an inside story. That was the song to celebrate a girl's birthday whose name was Laura that we'd never met. This Laura was insane because of drugs. What can I say...her brain was broken? LOL
BRUCE: You'll see when you listen to it. Before the music starts, a girl says "My friend Laura has her birthday today, but she's suffering from the bad trip. If you could play Birthday she might get better".
RICHIE: But the music sent her into the deeper hallucinatory world.
BRUCE: It does have a punch line. At the end I say "This was for you, Laura!" in high spirits and there is a moment of silence. And it ends with "Where is she?". After all I think she was squatting down in the corner of the venue having a delusion we were attacking her with the song LOL. In the end the friend who had requested the song wasn't there, either. I wonder, who was Laura? LOL
RICHIE: I hope someday Laura will listen to this song. That is, if she is still alive LOL.
BRUCE: I might mention that there was a reason why I put that song in the album. It was 10 years ago. I noticed there was a recording on the tape and I had Cher listen to it. Cher is a person who doesn't easily laugh. But the moment she listened to this she fell off the chair LOL. I made up my mind then. Even she reacts this much, I should let the world listen to it!

BURRN: That's right LOL. Did you often play cover songs of Beatles?
RICHIE & BRUCE: We aways did.
RICHIE: We even had an hour and twenty minute show with only Beatles numbers.
BURRN: That much?
RICHIE: Yeah. All the members were big fans of Beatles. And still are.
BURRN: How often did SHARK FRENZY have shows in the first place?
BRUCE: Quite often. We were indeed a live band. We were rolling on the floor laughing so much we had to put Band-Aids on the kneecaps LOL.
RICHIE: It was fun.
BRUCE: There were no other bands that laughed so much. Everyone had experience as studio musicians, though young, the creativity was outstanding. Besides we were best friends. We told internal gags one after another, we burst out laughing by a look... we found ourselves crying because we laughed too much LOL. Good old days. We put away the instruments and went outside at about 2:30 am, then we kept talking in the parking lot until 5 in the morning. At least until we were sent away by the police. After spending that long time together in the rehearsal and live, we still talked a lot in the diner eating breakfast. In the meaning of friendship, there was no period of time more pleasant than that.
BURRN: Isn't it rare in this business that the friendship is still continuing? Especially when each one has different things to do.
BRUCE: We didn't earn so much money as to squabble LOL. At any rate, it's Richie that keeps the bond between us. It's because of his strong luck and remarkable abilities. Still, no one ever, not once, has seen Richie being conceited. He must have consciously avoided it. He actually said "I'm becoming more and more popular. Bust me if I forget who I am". Fortunately I haven't had to bust him so far.

BURRN: When you were in SHARK FRENZY, I think Jon Bon Jovi was leading Atlantic City Expressway in New Jersey. Did you know him?
BRUCE:I didn't at all. I guess Richie had known him by the time we were playing I'll Play The Fool and The Power. Bon Jovi was being formed and Richie might be a part of it, thinking the guitar solo in those two songs are only for 20 seconds, still amazing 20 seconds.

BURRN: By the way, Bruce played piano on KISS's 1st album in 1974. How did that come about?
BRUCE: That started when I got to know the producer Richie Wise. When I was 17 I was in England to make an album that ended up not being released. I on the DOG OF TWO HEAD album by STATUS QUO while staying there. It was a great success and the songs I played were a hit, too. That reputation had an effect. Richie Wise was producing GLADYS KNIGHT & THE PIPS when I came back to the States. One day the piano player didn't show up, and two of the session members seemed to recommend me saying "we know a guy who learns songs fast". Then I played on five of their albums. That was also when Richie Wise was producing KISS. I recorded only one song, Nothin' To Lose but it became the first single by KISS played on the radio, so I thought of that as fortunate. LOL
BURRN: I saw your name as a sound effect on the credit line of "Coma" from USE YOUR ILLUSION II of GUNS N' ROSES.
BRUCE: To tell you the truth, that's not me. I realized this person with the same name at that time, so I decided to use my full name Bruce Steven Foster. But it looks to be the only noticeable job the other Bruce did.
BURRN: Is that so. Speaking of KISS, I hear that Richie happened to see Paul Stanley on the plane to Hawaii and got to listen to KISS SYMPHONY?
RICHIE: Yeah right. It was amazing. I think it's the best of all his work. I happened to know Paul was also going to Hawaii with his family around the same time as us, so we arranged our plans to get on the same plane. We could talk about various things and I even got to listen to the music. He said KISS SYMPHONY was recorded with an orchestra. He did a great job although it's really difficult to record an orchestra.
BURRN: Do you think someday BON JOVI want to play with a full orchestra?
RICHIE:I sure do. When I listen to that stuff, it reminds me of George Martin. The guitar parts he had them play always sounded like an orchestra. Being a fan of THE BEATLES, I learned the arrangement affected by that stuff. Really everything has its own meaning.

BURRN: I've heard Richie played the role as Eric Clapton in the TV drama AMERICAN DREAMS last fall. I believe he is the reason you started playing the guitar.
RICHIE: That's right. It was in 1988 when I met him for the first time. I was to present the award to him. There was a session after the award ceremony, so I kept telling him how I got affected by him and we hit it off well together. Mr. Bluesman for my first solo album is a story about me and him. A story about a boy who follows his guitar hero. I wrote to him and asked him if he would join in the album and he accepted, so I sent him a tape while he was extremely busy with the preparation for the show at Royal Albert Hall. Finally he came to the studio and we did the recording. And guess what? He let me sit on the seat for the honored guests at the show that night. It was really like a dream.
BURRN: How did you feel playing Clapton's role?
RICHIE: It was amazing. Well, I'm not good at acting though. Actually my head is full about another show right now. An artist named Chris Isaak has a TV show called SHOW TIME. I'll star in it at the beginning of March. For the details please visit my official site.
BURRN: I'll definitely check it later. What is your plan after that?
RICHIE: You know Jon and I bought a football team, Philadelphia Soul. Just last weekend BON JOVI got together and had a big party. I had started making songs with Jon two weeks before that, we see each other quite often. I am also writing songs by myself hoping to have an album out soon. And I've found pretty good stuff digging old demos.
BURRN: Pretty good stuff.
RICHIE: I'd like to make an album using them. Just for fans, I'll notify them at my official site. I have some other offers such as TV shows and sound tracks for movies...quite busy. I’ll likely to get into the studio with BON JOVI in fall.
BURRN: The box set will be released at the year end?
RICHIE: It's still not confirmed. Right now the record label is unsettled so we are lucky we are not releasing any albums now. But a live DVD, THIS LEFT FEELS RIGHT which we did in Atlantic City in November will be released in February in the US. I wonder if it's coming out about the same time in Japan too?
BURRN: Yes, and I'm looking forward to it. How about your plans Bruce?
BRUCE: I'm absorbed in organizing SHARK FRENZY VOL.2 right now. There are 10 more songs that would do and there are also great live versions. There are a couple of studio versions Richie is singing. And there are Christmas albums I've worked on with Tom Marolda, Tom gave me great ideas. This is also related to THE BEATLES. Richie is also taking a part and I'm going to release it on Christmas. There are other gorgeous members such as Davy Johnston who is a band member of Elton John, Phoebe Snow....

BURRN: So we can expect various things from now on. At the last, could I have messages from both of you for Japanese fans?
RICHIE: Thank you for your support all the time. It's been over 20 year since I started playing with Bruce, and I'm really thankful to all the fans staying with us for so long. I'd be happy if you could enjoy a bit of my youthful music career on this album. See you soon!
BRUCE: It was such a wonderful experience I could restore our youthful days that I thought I had lost forever. I'd be very happy if the fans found this album valuable.