John 5’s guitar prowess I feel has largely gone unrecognised behind the theatrical frontmen with which he has played. From David Lee Roth and Marilyn Manson, through to Rob Zombie, his technical ability has largely been downplayed. However, through his solo musical career and his role as producer and song-writer with other artists outside the rock and metal genres, he has proven himself to be a talented individual. Considerably more than just a side man in a band, he is allowed to illustrate his abilities and talents and stand on his own merits. His new musical project, the Creatures, allows him to showcase his ability and virtuosity on his instrument in a different environment and musical structure. John 5 will be landing his Creatures on UK soil next week to play a series of dates and I was able to chat to him ahead of that tour cycle.
All I do is play guitar, I’m obsessed with it. I am a little bit of a recluse. Because I just play, play, play, play, play all the time… – John 5
You’re heading to UK next week with your Creatures band. I just wondered what that band offers you, musically, that playing with the likes of Rob Zombie doesn’t.
It’s all instrumental, first of all. I’ve been doing these instrumental albums for a very long time. I just really enjoy instrumental music; I always have my whole life. It’s completely different from Rob Zombie, it’s totally crazy, crazy guitar and all different styles of music. It’s a really cool show. People seem to really enjoy it.
Will you be revisiting your back catalog, with those UK dates?
Yes. I’ll be doing some stuff from the first album, Vertigo, and the second album, Songs for Sanity. All sorts of cool stuff is going to happen. Some back catalog stuff and some new stuff. It’s going to be a lot of fun. People are really excited for it, with me being most excited.
You’ve been playing as a professional musician for many years. What do you enjoy most about being a working musician?
I love to play guitar. I really think that is the meaning of life, is to be happy doing what you love. I think that is so important, to just do something that you love for your job. It doesn’t even seem like work. I think that’s so important in so many factors.
I wonder if I could take you back, can you remember, actually, your first musical memory? What was your first introduction to music?
I think, me being a child, everything in America was TV, you know television, television. I think seeing The Monkeys on TV, and there was a TV show here called Hee Haw, and I remember seeing a little boy playing banjo on TV. It just blew me away and I was just engulfed by that. I just wanted to play guitar so bad and I was just obsessed with it.
How do you view your own musical past? Is it something that fills you with pride, looking back on your back catalog, musically?
Oh, yeah. I’m very proud of everything I’ve done and very happy. I don’t actually look back on the past because I’m so busy with the future. I don’t reminisce that much but I am so proud of what I’ve done and I’m very happy with what I’m doing now.
Do you have any role models or personal heroes in your life at the moment? Not necessarily a musician. Anybody that inspires you, personally?
I think inspiration is one of the most important things for people. Inspiration is such a hard thing to find. Very, very difficult thing to find and to look for. I think that’s a great question, what I look for. This is very odd, but I love sports documentaries and I’m not really into sports. That’s what’s so odd about this. I don’t watch sports but I do love sports documentaries. These people, they get up at the crack of dawn and then they work, work, work, work and they train, train, train so hard. They push their bodies and I just find that so fascinating. I love sports documentaries, but guitar-wise there’s a guitar player I really enjoy called Johnny Anderson right now. If you look him up after this interview, it’s just incredible. He’s someone I’m inspired by right now.
You played with several both theatrical and flamboyant vocalists. David Lee Roth, Rob Zombie, Marilyn Manson. I just wonder, is the real John 5 off-stage as over-the-top and flamboyant? Or is he actually a quiet and bit of a reclusive sort of a guy?
All I do is play guitar, I’m obsessed with it. I am a little bit of a recluse. Because I just play, play, play, play, play all the time. I watch movies but when I’m watching movies, I’m practicing what I learned early in the day while watching the movie. If I learn something in the morning or midafternoon, I’ll watch a movie and I’ll practice what I’ve played. I’m a little bit of a recluse, but I don’t see that there’s anything wrong with that. As long as you’re happy doing what you’re doing, if you’re not hurting others or yourself, I think it’s okay.
Would you be a very driven, very ambitious and strongly motivated character?
I’m very driven. Yes, very, very driven. Just to give you an example, I just got off tour with Zombie. We did a tour with Korn and now I’m off to Europe on Sunday where I’m going to play a bunch of shows in a row. The last show I do is in Germany, I believe, and then I drive to go meet and play a show with Zombie the next day in Germany. I’m very driven, that’s just who I am.
That leads me on to my next question. Is music all-encompassing in your life, or do you have any time for other interests or hobbies?
I don’t have any other hobbies, really. My other time is with my wife and my children, but I don’t really have any other hobbies.
Why would you have succeeded in an industry where so many others have failed?
That’s a fine question. These are really good questions. I always listened and understood that if I was going to try out for an audition, I understood this was not about me. This was how well I was going to make that person’s song sound. This was how I’m going to have it sound live on stage. It wasn’t about me playing solo, this was about how good can I make this song sound and how good can I make that artist sound. I always understood that, being a side guy or guitar player. That’s really helped me in my career.
Would there be anything else that you’d like to try creatively? Maybe art, writing a book, maybe film scores. Something different?
I do film scores. I just did Rob Zombie’s new film 31. I did his last movie Lords of Salem. I do film scoring, but I really enjoy what I’m doing this instrumental thing and playing with Zombie. I write for artists. There’s only a certain number of hours in the day and they’re getting pretty filled up, so I’m pretty content with what I’m doing so far. I do want to push it and play a lot and keep making records.
Do you find it difficult and a challenge to write for other artists, who maybe aren’t even in the rock and metal musical genres?
Whoever I’m going to write with, I understand their music and I’m a fan of their music. If they refer to something, like if it’s the Scorpions or something, and they refer to a record I’ll know exactly what they’re talking about. If it’s Lynyrd Skynyrd it’s the same thing, I’ll understand what they’re talking about. I think that’s how I’ve had so much luck.
So you do your homework and musical research in advance?
You know, writing with people because I understand what they’re talking about. I know the sound they’re looking for so hopefully I can contribute to the history of that artist.
Do you have any long term plans for the Creatures? Or is it just really a kind of side project outside of your day job, so to speak?
Whenever I have time off from Rob, so… it’s so much fun. I really have a good time doing it and everybody does really have a good time. I think that’s what it’s all about. It’s all about going up there and just having a great time doing it. People really see it in the show, so I’m really looking forward to doing these upcoming concerts. Just having a good time, you know? There in places where everybody’s going to have a good seat. I enjoy that. It’s not strict or any like that so it’s a lot of fun.
Who’s going to be in the band for those UK shows?
The same Creatures as it’s always been. Rodger Carter on drums, and Ian Ross, who is the bass player.
Just a couple of questions to finish. You’ve done many interviews yourself, but I just wondered who would you, John 5, personally like to interview?
That’s a fine question. Let me think, I would probably say Eddie Van Halen. If I got, like a really good interview, I’d probably say Gene Simmons maybe or Paul Stanley would be a good interview because I know so much about their career.
Just a final one. Looking back at your life, is there anything you would have done differently? Or do you just learn from your experiences?
I think everything you do is a learning experience. Everything you do. If you’re a boxer, you can stand in front of that punching bag for 10 years but nothing is going to compare to when you get in the ring. I think that’s how I look at it is, you have to get out on stage, you have to travel, you have to know what it’s like. You have to know the feeling, so I don’t regret anything. I really look at it as all experience.
Okay, John, thank you very much. I’m looking forward to seeing you. I’m actually going to the Manchester show next week.
It will be a great, great show and thank you very, very much. These were great questions.
Cheers, John. Thank you very much and enjoy the rest of your day.