20 QUESTIONS WITH
The name "Jack Ponti" may not be instantly recognizable to you, but if you lived in New Jersey, you’d know it’s a name that conjures a blend of reverence and utter contempt when whispered in the backs of seedy clubs, basement recording studios, and all the dimly-lit bars from Clifton to Sayreville. And if it didn’t incite those emotions before, then it certainly will after you read his 20 Questions, because this one is sure to ruffle a few feathers!
For those not in the know, and you’re not alone, Jack Ponti first became known to the Garden State music scene in the late 70s and eary 80s when he played guitar in the band "The Rest," which also featured a then-unknown Jon Bon Jovi. Later in the 80s and early 90s, Mr. Ponti evolved to become a prominent songwriter and producer, working with all kinds of hard rock acts that you know and love including Skid Row, Alice Cooper, Babylon A.D., Bonfire, Every Mother’s Nightmare, Shark Island, Grim Reaper, Doro Pesch, the Nelson twins, and many more that we’re certainly overlooking. Plus he played guitar on one Baton Rouge album! He’s also been in several of his own bands, including Angry Tears, Surgin, and a few more that we’ll never hear about again. But that means nothing, because after this week’s 20 Questions, Jack Ponti will forever be a household name! It’s just that good.
We first heard from Jack Ponti last March when he responded to Joe Lynn Turner’s Rewind. He told us a great story about "The Rev" Turner getting all fucked up at a Bon Jovi afterparty and doing crazy shit at the Four Seasons hotel. It was a great, detailed story, so we thought to ourselves, "maybe Jack’s got some more great stories like that he’d be willing to share." And fuck, were we ever right. This is some great old-school Sludge, filled with lots of smack talking and some fantastic recollections. We don’t have that many pictures of Jack (supposedly there are only 3 in existence), but fuck that, there’s so much going on in this interview that you don’t even need pictures. We can’t say enough about this week’s 20 Questions, so we’ll stop, and let Mr. Ponti take over from here. Let’s go!
1. What are you currently up to? This is your one and only chance to plug your shit.
Let?s see, after many a year being the B rate Desmond Child and the K Mart Mutt Lange, I wisely took my earnings and pulled a giant Houdini in the early 1990s.
Then after properly enjoying doing nothing for 7 years ?they pulled me back in? and I began managing writers and producers.
Then we got into artist management, hit a few home runs and now I run a company that has many indie labels within its umbrella.
We took a long look at the indie world and felt we could make a difference.
Our model is very unique in this environment and we think fills a giant void.
We empower the indies rather than strip mine them.
We provide financing, distribution, infrastructure, staffing and the like. www.platformgroupmusic.com
After being in this shit for almost 30 years, you figure a few things out.
Retirement was fun, but what the fuck.
It?s also cool as shit helping people realize their dreams, as I am the luckiest man who ever lived.
Odd career I?ve had from Hair Bands to Urban to Indie Rock?Polka next!
2. How many people reading this actually have a clue as to who you are? Take your best guess.
The high teens and of course the few friends that I have left.
Maybe a slew of ex girlfriends who wish me bad.
Being an enigma has its rewards. Being a nobody is fun as well.
3. What?s the deal with the ?Jack Ponti Boozing Society?? Apparently there?s a drinking society based in Finland whose mission is to honor your career as a musician and a producer by ? go figure ? mindlessly drinking! What are your thoughts about that?
Better than the ?Jack Ponti Enema Society? no?
The only way to honor the shards of my career is to mindlessly drink.
I love those guys.
The only way I can listen to some of the work I?ve done back in the day is to drink heavily first.
In fact, I wonder why I even had a career.
Shows you how important luck and timing are.
4. Rate the following guitarists on a scale of 1 to 10. 1 being a hack, and 10 being a virtuoso:
Snake Sabo = 7? Little Snooky can play, ask him about his vagina though.
I of course was around a solid 1 as a guitarist, which is why I became a writer of solid 2 stature, producer of solid 3 stature then figured out that I sucked and became a manager of solid 10 ten stature and label chief of solid 10.
5. We heard that Sebastian Bach used to sing on your demos before he went and joined Skid Row. How did you first hook up with Baz, and was he a bitch to work with in the studio, or was he pretty tolerable back then before he was a ?rock star??
Sebastian was never really tolerable, just amusing and I knew from day one he would be a problem, if for no other reason but his youth.
He did some demos with me during Skid Row, before they were signed because he needed money.
Snake lived with me and I met Sebastian through the band.
It took them forever to find a singer and Skid Row paid some serious dues.
Actually he was ok when I knew him.
I think any kid made a rock star at such a young age under such circumstances is either going to become humble or lose control.
I distinctly remember driving in a car with Bas and him basically saying that it was ok that he had zero input on the record but he knew after it happened he could flex his muscles, which he did and sank that ship.
Lesson to be learned: Don?t fix it if it ain?t broken.
I remember the first day he came in from Canada with giant hair and make up and we were like; ?Uh bro, this is NJ.?
Oddly enough it was Halloween, swear to God.
He proved his salt though in a fight at White Castle that night.
There was a moment he was considering joining Steve Stevens band.
Lucky for him he didn?t.
Life with Snake was high comedy.
Most of Skid Row worked at a local music store and we used to hang out there. Snake would on occasion work with his pants down behind the counter talking calmly and with concern to parents about their kids guitar lessons, genitals a dangling.
Hanging out on the Bon Jovi Slippery When Wet tour, Snake couldn?t get laid in a womens prison with a fistful of pardons.
When they opened for Bon Jovi a year or two later, he was Hugh Hefner.
Amazing what fame does.
Snake is like a brother to me, I would die for him.
6. We?re also aware that you used to be in the band ?The Rest? with Jon Bon Jovi way, way back when. We heard a rumor that you actually kicked Jon out of the band at one point! What happened with that, and have you guys ever kissed and made up?
We never had to kiss and make up because we never had a beef between us.
I owe much to Jon and love and respect him as a person, musician, businessman and friend.
The length and depth of his career is astonishing and he deserves it.
We had a cool band together but fuck it was frustrating.
We couldn?t get a record deal and after much frustration and depression, the band broke up.
We were supposed to be the ?Next Big Thing? out of Asbury Park, but we never made it outside of Asbury Park and even that was sketchy.
Guys from the E Street Band tried to help us and were gracious as was Southside Johnny, but nothing doing.
Of course I owe a giant fuck you to Billy Squier for making us round up 3 thousand dollars for him to produce our demo and then after he made it big, told me and Jon to stop bothering him.
Literally told us to stop calling him.
Quote: ?Things have changed and you guys can?t call me like this.?
But we could call you when you needed money and we were broke, you fucking worthless piece of shit.
It thrills me to see Jon still selling records and Billy doing nothing but growing moss and climbing mountains or some shit.
Fuck you Billy.
And double fuck you Billy because Jon and I still have careers and you are meaningless.
Stroke this, you dick.
I also enjoy running into the ton of people who passed on Jon who remind me how they were so into it and wished he would have signed with them.
If I remember correctly, Atlantic was there first after I gave Tunc Erim the demo.
Everyone else was slow on the draw except Shulman.
Success has many parents and failure is an orphan.
7. Out of all the artists you?ve ever worked with in the studio, which ones were the coolest to deal with, and which ones were the biggest bunch of jackasses you?ve ever met?
I loved most of them.
Alice Cooper of course rates as number one because he was my boyhood idol.
Alice is a gentleman and simply amazing.
It?s very difficult working with your idol. One of my career highlights.
I was his biggest fan, he meant the world to me as a kid.
I had a fine dinner at my house with Alice and 2 priests and Alice was stunned to see the priests fighting with each other and cursing.
A very Dali moment.
Richard Black was incredible and I am still convinced he is a ghost or vampire or some such odd type creature.
Shame Shark Island never blew up.
That guy was killer live, he could destroy an audience.
Axl lifted so much from Richard, everyone knows that.
Babylon AD epitomized fun and rock attitude.
Two highlights recording them:
1) Derek hyperventilating while cutting a track, passing out and hitting his head on the floor.
Doro was a sweetheart, except a few problems:
A lot of her friends didn?t bathe and when I took her to see where the Hindenburg crashed, she had no fucking idea what the Hindenburg was!
She was confused.
She also has a hearing loss which I realized when she said her headphone mix was too low and I put them on to check and they ripped my head off.
One great moment was when a very drunk and very Australian Kevin Shirley (my engineer at the time) and a very pissed and very German Doro got into a screaming match over her wanting fuzz bass on more than one song.
Kevin screaming ?Fuck you, you German cunt? and Doro screaming ?No, fuck you Kevin, more fuzz bass.?
That was a good hour of humor.
Working with serious guitarists on that record like Elliot Easton, Earl Slick and Eric Gales, taught me to never pick up a guitar in the studio again.
Believe it or not, Nelson always had THE best women around, bar none, so that was always a religious experience.
Say what you will but I had me some fun with Weenie and Heiny Nelson.
For fun we used to bring them to crowded shopping malls at the height of their fame and watch the lunacy.
One time some girl ran up to Matty screaming:
?Burn in Hell, your face is made of wax, I hate you. I want to see your face melt?
We used to call Matt ?Star Search?, because he would go to the Star Search taping and pick up the spokesmodels.
Excellent times indeed.
Matty began dating Erin Everly around that time (right after she and Axl split) and she would call my fucking house like at 4 am.
I wanted to smack the shit out of them both, with this early morning ?Love you honey? shit.
She went ballistic on him if I remember as he called me from his car freaking, so that love affair went south.
Matt is Mr. Romance, Gunnar is Mr. Let?s Fuck Porn Stars.
Gunnar lost his mind once because we used to read fan mail and he got a gay fan letter and Matt didn?t.
We tried to find the guy and fly him in to meet Gunnar, but we couldn?t locate him.
Matt got an amazing letter once that said:
?I love you Matt. I am a mermaid and I want to cook you dinner at Michael Landon?s house.?
Now THAT?S a fan letter.
Matt and Gunnar had some serious trim, still do.
Gunnar is a funny guy.
Right after their big tour he went home and on the way to his fianc?es family?s house for Christmas dinner, she asked him if he ever cheated on her.
Without missing a beat, Gun said ?Yes?.
They got there and she went ballistic, her whole family went nuts and Gunnar retreated to a bedroom and called me for help.
Except he was in California and I was in NJ.
Let us not forget Matty and Bobbie Brown and her dumping him in Hawaii.
Nick Bowcott had a band called Barfly which was comedy beyond comedy.
We had the greatest time and you haven?t lived until you have seen Bowcott dance semi nude with fat strippers.
Another moment of love was watching a drunken Nick throw all the furniture from their rented house into a lagoon screaming ?Ahoy matey?.
These guys were a blast and knew how to use an ice cube on a stripper better than anyone could.
I loved almost all of them.
Can?t say any were assholes, except I did send Pretty Boy Floyd home after one day in the studio because I realized I was not Mutt and could not make anything near a decent record even if John Lennon came back from the dead to guest on it.
Really nice guys but what the fuck!!
Baton Rouge was trying and though Kelly is one of the greatest singers in the universe he would alternate between his Elvis, Jimmy Page and Linda Blair moods and it was difficult.
I was no walk in the park either and could and can be a huge dick, but that record was hard as shit to make emotionally.
Best part was getting to know and work with Ahmet Ertegun.
I worship him.
Ahmet gave me my greatest quote ever: ?You can?t imply anything to morons?.
Every Mothers Nightmare sessions created the quote of the century when Rick said: ?All I want in a woman is a warm mouth and a credit card.?
That alone was worth it.
Funny dudes and they got the Governor of Tennessee to make me a Colonel.That?s the only plaque I keep in my office, besides the ?Jack Ponti Boozing Society? T Shirt, which sits well next to my partners multiple degrees from Cambridge.
I keep my gold and platinum records in my special ?I was almost somebody once? room at my house.
Working with Randy Jackson was fun, especially with a game we had called Mr. Milky. If someone fell asleep, everything would stop and we had video cameras rolling as we jammed a giant milk loaded and squirting dildo into the face of the sleeping innocent and spooged upon them.
There was one girl, whose name I can?t remember that Kalodner signed and she was the biggest jerk off that I have ever met.
When she first called me, she was like ?This is ?whoever?, Geffen artist.?
I was like ok, fuck you.
I wound up throwing her out of my house and making her take a bus home.
Bitch never had a career and didn?t deserve one either.
Stan Bush rubbed me the wrong way from the second I met him.
Dude walked into my house and within seconds went into my refrigerator and started making himself a sandwich, without asking.
I?m like ?Yo man this is not cool.?
We also had zero in common as people and I couldn?t wait until he went home.
He was as much fun as tying your shoes, about as rock and roll as Jed Clampett and a waste of my time.
Great talent though.
Bonfire, nice guys, but again with the never bathing shit.
Cultural differences aside, use soap motherfucker.
Trixter could have fucked me out of writing a song but didn?t, because I totally forgot writing it until they sent me a gold record and I saw my publishing statement.
Me and Stevie Brown watched a transformer explode like 10 feet from us and took it as a sign. A sign of what, I don?t know. Dig those guys.
We do not have enough space to go on about Joe Lynn Turner or the Reverend, but that man could sing the phonebook and make it sound amazing.
He is a great guy, a little off kilter when loaded but a great guy.
Joe loves to get recognized!
I co wrote Glen Burtnick?s only hit he had as an artist and we could have had many more but his wife hated me and Glen and I had as much in common as Geri Miller and Jennifer Lopez.
8. Of the following, which do you prefer and why?
Analog or digital = Analog! Saturation baby! Roy Thomas Baker and Michael Wagener were my mentors and they used to tape the VU meters and just rock it hard!
9. How much of your work with the band Baton Rouge was a labor of love, and how much of it was just ?business?? When you joined the band as their guitarist after having produced and wrote on their previous records, did you feel like maybe you were taking a step backwards? Why not just start your own band and give it a new name?
That last album was a jag off, done for fun and humor.
Nice to hear Kelly sing in the studio again though, that boy is amazing.
Figured, why not?
I had nothing to do and thought it would be fun.
The first record was a labor of love, the second one was just labor.
10. We also heard you?ve worked with a few non-rock artists such as BoyzIIMen and India Arie. Is that just for the paycheck, or are your production and musical talents really that diverse?
I was India?s manager.
Took her from the coffee houses to 4 million records and 7 Grammy nominations.
That was an incredible meteor to ride and we kicked serious ass.
I don?t do anything for the money, just for the challenge or fun.
Money comes when the intent is right.
My musical talents are rather limited, always have been, but I will fuck you up in business.
I was management consultant for BoyzIIMen.
It was always interesting when an Urban client would ask something like: ?Didn?t you work with that Bon Jovi guy??
Urban is a completely different world with a different level of fun.
I had one client ask me why he had to go to work for only 100k a song.
I was like: ?Dickhead, in my old world we never made 100k to produce an entire album, get the fuck to work.?
11. Yes or no, has Jack Ponti ever:
Worked a 9-to-5 job = That would be???..no.
12. What ?rock star? deserves a smack in the mouth and why?
He doesn?t qualify as a rock star but that tool Constantine from American Idol.
That kid reeks of attitude and dildo with marginal talent.
Scott Stapp gets a backhand in the ex rock star division just for being who he is.
Current rock star?
Fuck are there any left out there who qualify as star?
I?ve always thought Sting was a pompous dick who deserved a smack for acting like Lord of the Manor.
Dude, your name is Gordon, get over it.
13. Do you think Skid Row will ever reunite with Sebastian Bach and cash in for one last hurrah? Rumor has it that the fans want it, the promoters want it, and even Baz and some of the Skids are agreeable to it. What do you think the hold-up is, and do you think it will ever really happen?
There is a better chance of Snake ripping his cock off of his body with his bare hands while Rachel licks Scotti?s testicles in the Macy Thanksgiving Day Parade.
The hold up?
Try this one on: Hatred for Bas.
Stranger things have happened though, like me having a 25 year career!
14. Rate the following chicks on a scale of 1 to 10. 1 being a disaster, and 10 being the ultimate hottie:
Britney Spears = 2 unless you like Tanya Harding.
How about Angelina Jolie, Eva Longoria, those kind of women, there California boys?
15. Fuck, Kill and Marry! Of the following people, which one would you fuck, which one would you kill, and with which one would you enter into holy matrimony?
Tony Bongiovi, Jodi Bongiovi, India.Arie
I like to see Tony and Jodi fuck and marry and have some interesting kids with various problems that come with incest.
India?. shit I had a whole new career because of her.
I have a warm spot in my heart for her.
Kill you knob polishers at Metal Sludge for having mediocre taste in women!
16. In your opinion, who?s the most overrated band today?
Los Lonely Boys, beyond a shadow of a doubt.
God Bless them and all but please.
You would think the second coming of Buddy Holly and Santana, but please.
Like they?re all nice and talented but to lavish them as the Beatles, get real.
Happy for my buddy Caplan though. Good guy at Or Records.
17. Name one good thing about:
Girls = Well?..no penises.
18. For a tax-free $250,000 in cold, hard cash, which of the following would you be willing to do (and you have to pick one):
a) Become Jon Bon Jovi?s indentured servant for a month, doing all kinds of shit for Jon that no one else wants to do: washing his cars, doing his laundry, taking out his trash, cleaning dog shit off his carpet, etc. You?ll also have to help tend to his guests at parties. All of your friends and peers will be over at various Bon Jovi gatherings and will see you working, but you won?t be allowed to fraternize with any of them as you?ll be busy filling their glasses and taking away their hors d?oeuvres plates;
Which will it be, Mr. Ponti?
Jon has a staff at his house, I mean his estate, so count that one out.
Tripp is a scumbag for fucking little kids and even goofier for pretending to be a fan of himself.
Might have to rap one on Trunk?but I don?t really need the dough.
Ah fuck it, it?s a NJ thing, wack Trunks hammer.
19. The Last of Jack Ponti:
Last DVD you watched = Team America, Fuck Yeah!
20. Time for Metal Sludge?s Word Association. We mention a name, and you give us your thoughts.
Gene Simmons = With all that money, the hair is, well, interesting.
Ok guys this was fun.
I?m blessed with having had 3 careers in a business that most never get one in.
Thanks for remembering where it started for me.
I think your site is brilliant and needed. I still think what we all did in the 80s was incredible and valid today. Thank you guys for never letting it die.
All things being the same, the cycle will continue and it will all come back.
Ponti- NJ- 2005
Now that’s how it’s fucking done, people!
Jack Ponti had no reason to hold back on anything, but it wasn’t out of desperation like most of our smack-talking interviews. Rather, he knew that there were some stories that needed to be told, and he did exactly that. You’ve got Sebitchian Bach getting in fights at White Castle, Snake Sabo taking off his pants, Nick Bowcott reenacting the Boston Tea Party, "Weenie" and "Heiny" Nelson arguing over gay fan mail, American Idol’s Randy Jackson playing with dildos, and the guys in Babylon A.D. going on a looting spree. Plus a major "FUCK YOU" to Billy Squier! We liked that a lot.
If you have any reason for checking out Jack Ponti’s indie label management company, feel free to do so at www.platformgroupmusic.com. And if you’ve never checked out Jack Ponti’s afforementioned recap of "The Night of the Rev," be sure to do so. It’s a fantastic story that needs to be heard.