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Guitar Chat with Richie Sambora and Orianthi

Chloe Scannapieco
|
06.19.2014

Sambora and Orianthi by Graham Finney

Gibson.com grabbed a few minutes with two guitar icons, Richie Sambora and Orianthi and discovered that they first met at a meat factory!

Did you enjoy playing the main stage today? You looked like you were having a good time!

Richie: Oh yeah, look who I’m playing with.

What memories do you have of playing Donington, Richie?

Richie: The first time I played Donington was 1985, I was 3 ½ years old and a virtuoso! I was actually playing Chopin! No, we took it down, we had a great time here and it was a pivotal point in the bands career at that point in Europe.

Richie, can you tell me about this very talented and rather beautiful lady you have playing with you?

Richie: She’s frightening. She can’t stand me! Sometimes she kind of likes me but other times she’s like, “You’re horrible!”

Orianthi: All the time!

How did you meet and decide to start working together?

Richie: We met at a meat factory!

Orianthi: A meat factory, yes! It was really random actually. We met in Maui, Hawaii under a palm tree.

Sounds very romantic!

Richie: A coconut fell on my head!

Orianthi: I fell out of the palm tree and he was like, “What the hell?!” No, we actually played a charity show out there with Alice Cooper and we just started hanging out writing a ton of songs. He’s an amazing musician and we had a lot of fun. We’ve written a lot of tunes.

Richie: We have a lot of humour; we have a lot of fun. That’s a part of it, that’s what people see from the performances on stage – we have a good time.

Can we expect any recorded material from you both together?

Richie: Absolutely.

Orianthi: Totally. We’ve written so many songs and when it’s ready, when it feels right, we’ll put it out. Because ultimately you can never put a time limit on it.

Richie: We’re looking at calling it ‘The Radical Blind Monkeys from Hell’.

Orianthi: Radioactive!

Richie: ‘Radioactive Monkeys from Hell’.

Have you enjoyed touring together so far? You played London on Friday night, how was that?

Orianthi: Oh, it was a blast. A lot of love there for Richie, a lot of camping out there forever and so much fun. We just jam out and we go on these tangents of playing ‘Voodoo Child’ for 20 minutes.

Richie: Yeah! We did that! That’s part of what we do now. The foundation of a really good song and then improvisation, that’s actually missing in music nowadays – it turns into jazz. It turned it into jazz today.

Orianthi: When I can’t hear anything, it turns into jazz all the time!

Richie: Our drummer Victor, he turns it into jazz. It’s an important part of the growth of a musician to be able to improv. So what they think in their head and their heart – comes through their fingers.

Orianthi, what impression did you have of Richie before you met him and worked with him?

Richie: She thought I was horrible! Really she did, she thought I was horrible!

Orianthi: Yeah, just the worst! Awful, absolutely awful.

Richie: Unbelievable.

Orianthi: A really great guitar player, songwriter and singer as well. He’s created so many memorable guitar riffs and solos, that everyone wants to play. It’s sort of songs within songs and that’s what a great solo is. So getting to create songs with him has been awesome and a real inspiring experience. I can’t wait for people to hear them.

How would you each describe the dynamic between you two?

Richie: Fire.

Orianthi: There’s a lot of fire, for sure. I beat him up on stage!

Richie: She beats me up!

Orianthi: Push him into the speakers!

Richie: It’s a challenge and that’s what makes it interesting, because it’s different every night.

Orianthi: We’re all cut up and bloody by the end!

Richie: And then the rest of our musicians are the s***!

Orianthi: We beat them too, afterwards!

Richie: No, but they’re the s***. Everybody gets to be an artist, okay? If you’re going to play with me, you’re going to be an artist and you’re alright. That’s very important and also to have the flexibility to improv is very, very important – which waned in the last three albums of Bon Jovi – no improv.

Richie, how do you find making the transition to being the frontman when you go on a solo tour?

Richie: No sweat.

Orianthi: Richie’s such a great singer, guitar player, songwriter and everything – I just love hearing him sing. He’s just so blues-based and soul-based that when he sings he means it. That’s what captures people. People can sing s***, but when you mean it and you sing it like you do, you’re in that and you capture people.

Richie: Just like a guitar, when you play a solo you have to put your heart and soul into every note and when you’re a singer you have to interpret the lyric – very, very important and it all takes place at the same time, in real time and I think that’s what people want to see. That’s what Ori and I are going give everybody and that’s going to be an anomaly because there’s no better guitar player in the world. Everybody asks me how it feels to play with the best female guitar player in the world and that kind of offends me because it’s about equality. How about – she’s the best guitar player in the world? On any given night.

Orianthi: That’s very sweet.

Richie: When you’re inspired and you have that passion – that’s a great thing. A man of my age – I feel like I’m 15 again. I love music and I have a passion. It’s great.

Orianthi: There’s the thing, you’re 15 and playing – you just want to pick up the guitar. If there’s a guitar in the room, I want to pick it up and that’s the same for Richie too. He can’t let it go.

Richie: We leave them all over the place.

Orianthi: Actually they’re everywhere!

How many guitars do you own between you?

Orianthi: A healthy collection.

Richie: Not as much as you would think though. I know guys who have like, 2800 guitars. I got 135 and 50 of them are the good ones.

Orianthi: I have some in LA, some in Australia. But I play them all, that’s the thing. They all have different personalities, so it’s not like you just have guitars that are lying around that you never play, because you almost feel guilty; they’re pieces of art.

Richie: What are you going do? Let them hang on the wall?

Orianthi: Exactly. Or put them under a bed forever? There’s no point.

Richie: Some people do that.

Orianthi: I don’t. If someone wants to use a guitar and they’re friends – take the guitar, use it, whatever, as long as it’s being used because it’s like a piece of art ultimately.

Richie: You got to give it love.

Orianthi: Totally.

Richie: You got to give the love to the guitar; you got to give the love to any instrument.

Aerosmith are closing Download Festival later tonight, what relationships to you each have with them?

Richie: We’ve been friends for a long time.

Orianthi: I just played a show with Aerosmith in Norway and they’re great. I also just recorded with Joe Perry on Alice Cooper’s record. Steven Tyler – we did a song ages ago. They’re great, a great band.

Richie, you’re playing some shows in New York next month in tribute to Les Paul, what was your relationship with him like?

Les was a dear, dear, dear friend of mine. I miss him. I played Fat Tuesday’s with him. He and I had been together for a long time and it wasn’t even about music with him and me, it was more like we were friends. We just talked about family and friendship – it was a different kind of relationship than he had with other musicians. To separate the hero – Les Paul – and then you talk, as friends – it’s kind of a freaky thing! He busted my balls every time I went on stage! Every time.

What kinds of things did he used to say to you?

He would leave the stage to me and go, “Go ahead son!” For my birthday, he gave me this white Les Paul that is ridiculous! It helped me finish an album that was very, very important.

Photo credit: Graham Finney

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