Bad Medicine

Paying Tribute And Paying Dues

It can be tempting for a successful artist to rest on one's laurels. Get steady paying gigs, a group of familiar faces in front of the stage at every show, and the drive that got you there fades. Bad Medicine has managed to set themselves apart among a glut of cover bands, breaking out with a touring schedule and industry reorganization that most original bands would envy. They're not content being a big fish in a small pond, they're expanding into other ponds, even if it takes Darwinian leaps in order to do so.

Bad Medicine, billed as the Ultimate Bon Jovi Tribute, consists of Steve Sage on lead vocals and guitar as Jon Bon Jovi, Steve Frangadakis on lead guitar and second vocals as Richie Sambora, John Cappadonna on drums and vocals as Tico Torres, Josh Pincus on keyboards and vocals as David Bryan and Duane Lozada on bass guitar and vocals as Hugh McDonald.

With Bon Jovi back on tour, supporting their latest album, "Bounce," it's an exciting time for Bad Medicine as well, trying to keep up with the latest changes of their idols, as well as maintaining their own touring schedule. But the Bad Medicine story is more complex than just following the trends of international rock stars. The heart and soul of Bad Medicine, Sage and Frangadakis, are talented songwriters in their own right, looking to bring their wealth of performance experience and lessons learned, to develop their own musical careers. It's almost as if Bad Medicine is the day job, albeit one that they deeply love and enjoy, for two aspiring musicians looking for a big break, and using their last big break to help them achieve it.

Chorus and Verse asked about these ambitions after the band's very successful gig at Asbury Park's Stone Pony in January. They're looking forwarding to several return appearances at the club, including the Jersey Jams Fund "All You Need Is Love Fest" in March, as well bringing the Bon Jovi arena experience to fans around the world. Most of all, they're building their connection with their fans. This interaction is essential to all musicians, but especially to tribute band who don't usually have CD or merchandise sales to supplement selling tickets one live gig at a time.

Your last gig at The Stone Pony must have been a success, since you were scheduled for a quick repeat appearance at the venue. Talk about your impression of the last show, and how the band felt after the performance. Did you enjoy playing at the Pony, and how were you received by fans at the show?

Steve Sage (JBJ): Our last Stone Pony gig went over really well. It was by far one of our best performances to date. I first sang at the Pony with Bobby Bandiera in March of 2002 when he invited me to accompany him on guitar and lead vocals for a cover of "Wanted Dead or Alive." Ever since then I've been wanting to get back. When we got the call that we were booked I was thrilled. Upon taking the stage I felt an overwhelming sense of honor that our band had made it to the caliber to play such a noteworthy stage in an area that's so accredited with helping develop the professional reputation of Bon Jovi and other Jersey greats. Leaving the stage, I think we all felt a huge sense of pride that we rose to the occasion.

Steve Frangadakis (RS): We had a blast playing at the Pony in January, especially knowing the crowd consisted mostly of die-hard fans. They brought an energy to our show that is unexplainable and being the first tribute band to play the legendary club, we had a lot of pressure to make it the best show possible. We were treated with so much love and respect from the management and staff, it really made us feel at home. You can see why a club like the Stone Pony has withstood the test of time. We can't even put into words how excited we were after the show when our management told us they wanted to re-book us.

After the Pony event, you had an opportunity to meet members of Jon Bon Jovi's family. Who was in attendance, and what were their reactions to your performance? Did you know that they were in the crowd before the show began, and do you get nervous at all knowing that people who know a little bit about Bon Jovi are watching?

SF (RS): Both of Jon's brothers were in attendance watching us play. Nah, no pressure. (Laughs.) Steve (Sage) and I were introduced to Matt before the show began. We immediately looked forward to the opportunity to pay tribute to his brother live. What we didn't expect is, during our third song, him making his way from the back of the room to the front of the stage to give us a huge thumbs up. At that point we looked at each other and knew we were doing well.

SS (JBJ): At first Steve (Frangadakis) and I were surprised to see a family member come down and want to actually see us, especially a brother, but Matt said he wanted to see what the buzz was about. I don't usually get nervous before shows, being on stage is where I'm comfortable, it's what I was born to do. I was a bit nervous to hear Matt's reaction, but when he graded us an A, with bonus points towards the respect level we have toward Bon Jovi's craft, I realized what an honor it was to be approved of by someone so close to Jon and the Bon Jovi music environment.

Bon Jovi recently released their seventh album, "Bounce". Have any of the songs from that album made their way into your set yet? When "Bounce" was first released, how did you react in terms of determining how it would affect your performance? How long does it normally take for you to learn a new song, and capture the mannerisms and other nuances of the performance to the point where you're able to showcase it on stage?

SF (RS): Having several connections in the music industry, I was fortunate enough to get an early release of "Bounce" a month or so before it hit the stores. Bad Medicine learned several new songs but we couldn't really play them live because we didn't want to disrespect Bon Jovi by playing material that was soon to be released. New material is always our top priority, and once "Everyday" hit the radio, we played it the same night at one of our shows.

SS (JBJ): We tend to play four-five songs from "Bounce," and being such huge Bon Jovi fans, we know what songs will go over well live before they even hit the radio. Our live performances evolve the longer new material is out. Before they release videos and perform live for the new album, we have to figure out what Bon Jovi would do with these songs live in regards to mannerisms and nuances of the performance. I can remember being in Times Square though and seeing the "Bounce" material being performed live for the very first time. I did make some mental notes on new choreography so I could incorporate them into our live show as soon as possible.

You've recently added a new section to your web site, announcing "An Acoustic Tribute to Jon Bon Jovi & Richie Sambora." Describe the format of the tribute, what it's all about, and what will you do differently during these shows as opposed to full Bad Medicine performances?

SS (JBJ): Bon Jovi is known for their acoustic roots and we want to take that to the stage just like they did for the 1989 MTV Video Awards performance. It will be a bare-bones performance with two acoustic guitars, two stools, two candelabras and two voices.

SF (RS): It's going to be an extremely intimate performance where Steve (Sage) and I won't be able to hide behind guitar amps and stage props. We want to show people how special these songs can be under an unplugged setting.

How do you feel Bad Medicine has been treated around the New Jersey music scene? There was a brief piece about the band published in the "Asbury Park Press" last October, and playing the Pony is always good for a band's credibility, but with the cover scene in New Jersey and the difficulty of original bands to get their due, have you been able to get support from local media and music-related outlets?

SS (JBJ): Having been covered by Kelly-Jane Cotter from the Asbury Park Press was an honor equivalent to taking the stage at the Pony. I've been reading her coverage of Bon Jovi for as long as I can remember at app.com and we were thrilled when she gave us a nod. Of course, the manner in which we've been treated by Jersey publications is probably directly affected by the fact that we're paying tribute to such a high-profile, locally-rooted act. The success of Bon Jovi and their local relevance has led to many good working relationships, or developing relationships, between Jersey media and Bad Medicine.

SF (RS): New Jersey has been great to us! It means a lot to me since I'm a guy from California playing guitar like my hero who is from New Jersey. Having a club like the Stone Pony appreciate what we do and support us is extremely special and it opens doors with the local media and other music-related outlets.

In a recent interview with "The Stone Pony Online Newsletter", Steve Frangadakis said: "All of us have our own lives and write our own music outside of Bad Medicine that is unrelated to Bon Jovi." Can you describe some of these projects, and the future plans for your own music?

SS (JBJ): I have been recording music for the past ten years and have volumes of written material waiting to make it off the page. Now, since compiling with Steve (Frangadakis) we hope to pull some of our solo material and pool it with our cumulative efforts and set out on a recording project in 2003-2004. Some of this material can be heard at my website www.stevesage.com.

SF (RS): Besides writing songs with Steve (Sage), I am also writing and recording songs with various musicians in Los Angeles. No one can deny a great song so songwriting has been my primary focus. Most people go out and play with substandard material when they should work on becoming a great songwriter.

Is it going to be more difficult developing a reputation for your original music in light of the success of Bad Medicine? Are you worried that some in the industry won't take your original music seriously, or at the very least that undertaking a second music project when one has worked out so well is trying to have lightning strike twice?

SS (JBJ): Well, lightning struck once the first time when some good musicians set out to pay tribute to extraordinary rock-n-roll legends. For it to strike twice we'll have to work very hard to prove ourselves. Certainly there will be many music industry executives that don't take my original efforts seriously since I've made my name as a tribute artist, but I hope those who give it the benefit of the doubt will see past that. Ultimately, I think the success of Bad Medicine will work for us having granted us more attention than we would have gotten otherwise.

SF (RS): We aren't really worried about not being taken seriously with our original projects. The reality is most tribute bands don't even show up on the radar of the music industry. If we play to the best of our ability then nothing can really hurt us. Luckily, in the past year, we have made several connections in the music industry that could help us with our original material projects.

Any recording plans for your original music at any point during the coming year? Do you feel that you'll be able to count on a portion of the Bad Medicine audience to carry over their interest to your own music, or do you consider that effort to be starting over from scratch?

SF (RS): We do plan on recording an album over the next year or so that will probably be recorded in my Los Angeles home studio. We hope, and have every reason to believe, that a portion of the Bad Medicine fan base will carry over to our own music. The great thing about the Bad Medicine fan base is we can introduce our music through our website and our shows.

SS (JBJ): I've been fortunate enough to already have a group of fans visiting my own website and inquiring of my original music. The Bon Jovi camp often refers to their fan base as the CIA. They have correspondents out all over the world looking to define the latest in what's "hot." I'm lucky in that I have trust in the fans that have interest in my original career; with their support, the effort will not come close to starting from scratch. Thanks, guys.

With all of your focus on Bon Jovi, who are some of the other musicians who you enjoy listening to and who have influenced your own songwriting? Do you find that there is a Bon Jovi influence in your music, or do you specifically try to avoid such similarities in order to achieve a different sound from Bad Medicine?

SS (JBJ): I've been listening to Bon Jovi my whole life, but I also love the classic rockers: The Beatles, The Stones, Pink Floyd, Rush, The Who, Zeppelin. I'm a music fan, and these are the greats.

SF (RS): The Bon Jovi influence is definitely in our music. I love their melodies and Richie Sambora's guitar lines. I can't run from the Bon Jovi sound but having other influences, Fleetwood Mac, Billy Joel, The Police and Prince, will bring a different element to our music. Recently, I have been listening to the new Coldplay album. Both their albums are amazing! The Foo Fighters are another band I love.

At one of Steve's recent performances, some fans were given copies of a Bad Medicine home video. Is this something that fans can get their hands on and, if so, what does the video contain? Does the band ever plan to release concert video of any of their shows, or produce other merchandise for fans to purchase?

SF (RS): The Bad Medicine promo video is just a little taste of a Bad Medicine show. The video is a single camera shot with a few different song edits. We are currently working on a Bad Medicine DVD for a late 2003 release. It will include a few live videos, a photo section, audio section and a couple of surprises. Bad Medicine fans will have a lot to look forward to in the near future!

Your March 22nd event at The Stone Pony will be part of the Jersey Jams Fund "All You Need Is Love Fest" taking place across the state on that day, with a portion of each ticket sold going to the fund. Does the band have any plans to do anything special that evening as part of the fest?

SS (JBJ): Actually we do have special plans; we're looking to make a surprise announcement to the audience at the Stone Pony, but we'd be more than happy to give you the exclusive so you can share it with your readers.

Bad Medicine will be launching an online raffle to continue the efforts of Jersey Jams, Jersey Cares well beyond the close of the "All You Need Is Love Fest." The raffle will run for approximately one month and the winners will be announced at our next booked Stone Pony appearance. The grand prize is an autographed Jon Bon Jovi and Richie Sambora acoustic guitar! You don't have to be present to win so anyone from all over the world can enter. The details will soon be up at www.bonjovitribute.com.

One of Jon Bon Jovi's missions is to teach his fan base how to give back to the community. This is in effort to show him he's heard.

Do any of the band members plan to attend any of Bon Jovi's tour dates this year? When you do attend a show, are you able to just sit back and enjoy the performance along with the rest of the fans, or do you find yourself carefully watching one band member or another, or listening to set, and trying to remember things that you want to integrate into future Bad Medicine shows?

SS (JBJ): I was in-house for both Continental Airline Arena shows in February and lucky enough to be part of an elite group who got to stand on the stage for a portion of the show. I must say that I don't watch the show the same way anymore. I'm critiquing and evaluating and applying in my head, it's certainly a different kind of experience now, just as enjoyable, just in a different way. And I must admit, when Jon left the center stage to change, it took all I had to not pick up where he left off.

SF (RS): I plan on attending most of the California dates and the Vegas show. If I can work it out in my schedule, I will also attend the Giants Stadium show in August. Attending a show for me is always a different experience because when you are a musician you just can't sit back and watch a concert without noticing everything. I always find myself watching certain band members more than others, but I also watch the stage set-up, differences in the light show, the interaction between the band and their respective techs and the crowd response to various songs. For me, it makes me feel closer to the entire show. It's almost like I can see things that no one else notices or cares about. That makes the show unique and special.

Close out with some of the upcoming plans for Bad Medicine; where will fans be able to you see perform in the upcoming months, and will you be doing anything new and different that people should be watching out for?

SF (RS): Besides the new DVD that we will be working on, Bad Medicine plans on evolving our live show to the best we can be. We are also going to play more shows in various states including California. Here we come!

SS (JBJ): In addition to what will soon be an international touring schedule, the Bad Medicine DVD and our plans to head into the studio during the next calendar year to pursue original projects, Steve (Frangadakis) and I will, of course, be booking dates for our Jon and Richie acoustic show. The best way to catch the band is by checking out the tour schedule at www.bonjovitribute.com.

[ Website: www.bonjovitribute.com ]