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An interview with John 5


Interview by Mónica Castedo-López

In Fireworks Magazine issue 34 I introduced you to John 5, an amazing guitar player that has worked with many different artists including David Lee Roth, Scorpions, Meat Loaf, but mainly Marilyn Manson and now Rob Zombie. In face of his newest release, ‘The Art Of Malice’, which is another amazing album amalgamating many different styles and featuring Billy Sheehan on one of the tracks, a quick catch up with the peaceful sounding guitarist was due. I called him up in Los Angeles before his imminent US tour with Rob Zombie.

I never asked you before this, but why is your artist name John 5?

It has a biblical meaning, John 5 is a story from the Bible, and when I joined Marilyn Manson gig he gave me the name as I was the 5th member of the band, so it as two meanings. When I left the band I decided to keep the name, just like Ace Frehley and Peter Chris did when they left Kiss. I believe I helped make that name into a person, so I kept it.

John 5 and album number 5. Is this an especially significant album for you because it’s your 5th?

It is. It is very important to me. A lot of this is from the beginning, when I started playing guitar. There’s a song called ‘Fractured Mirror’ from Ace Frehley. He was a big inspiration for me and that’s where I got that. It’s a great album. ‘J.W.’ is because my dad used to call me that and he loved country music. ‘The S Lot’ is a place in my high school I used to play my guitar. It is a very important record to me. I put a lot of time and effort into it.

It sounds really good and it keeps in the same line as its predecessors, being a wonderful and eclectic mix of styles, which was your intention when you started your solo career.

I think that is the only thing I really kept. I wasn’t a clone of an Yngwie or a Paul Gilbert. It really kept me different from those guys. If people don’t like country guitar, they can appreciate the guitar playing and I think that is the only reason why people really like it, because it is so different from everyone else.

Absolutely. What is the art of malice for you?

I believe the art of malice is killing someone with kindness.

Haha! You like strike me because judging by the pictures you seem very maleficent person, but talking to you, you seem very nice, calm and sweet. Do you get this from many people?

I think it’s easy for me to be nice and I like being nice. It helps your career too. People are nice and they want to deal with nice people, and it helps. I’ve always been that way.

That is great and I guess it is why you’ve played with so many people in your life and compared to other guitarists you’re very young too, only 39. Adding to your existing tenure in Rob Zombie’s band and the long list of players you’ve worked with, including Meat Loaf, Scorpions, Rob Halford and Paul Stanley and Marilyn Manson, you have recently played with Slash. How was this show?

Yes, we did a big festival in Norway with Slash, Fergie, Ozzy, Ron Wood and Jason Bonham, and it was so much fun. I love Ron Wood and The Stones so much that it was a blast to do that. We were in the air longer than we were on the ground but it was a lot of fun. I love Slash and he’s a big influence too.

Going back to your album, Tommy Clufetos, who played for Ted Nugent and Alice Cooper, is currently with Ozzy Osbourne and is also your band mate in Rob Zombie, recorded drums on the album. What can you tell us about this participation?

His participation is great because he is a great, great drummer so I just give him the tracks and he does his thing. It’s very easy. It’s perfect.

Billy Sheehan played bass on ‘Ya Dig’ and did an impressive job. How did you meet him and how was the experience of working with him if you were ever in the studio at the same time?

I’ve always been a fan of Billy Sheehan because there’s no other bass player like him, so I really wanted him. He’s just phenomenal, so good at what he does. I never jammed with him but it was a real dream to have him on my record because I always wanted to play with him and he did such a great job. Another thing is that he is a great guy. If you deal with nice people, you like nice people, you know?

Do you have a favourite track of the new album?

I like ‘The Nightmare Unravels’, ‘Steel Guitar Rag’ and ‘Can I Live Again’ but I love the whole album.

As you said some of the songs are inspired by personal experience, but are there any books or films in particular that inspire you?

Everything. I love movies and I love documentaries, so everything inspires me. I look at things all the time and I see signs.

Can you give us a little summary of what you have been up to since we last spoke in September 2008 on the occasion of the release of your previous album, ‘Requiem’?

I’ve been touring a lot with Rob Zombie, ‘The Art Of Malice’ came out, the [Rob Zombie’s album] ‘Hellbilly Deluxe 2’ came out, I just did a record with Ricky Martin, and on Saturday I’m going on an US tour with Rob Zombie with Korn, Shadows Fall and Lamb of God. So there’s a lot going on.

Last time you also said that you were working on coming to perform in the UK. Have there been any developments on this?

Believe it or not, there is! I’m not saying anything but there are developments. I can’t really say, but it’s being worked out.

If things haven’t changed, you are most happy playing in Rob Zombie’s band, but if you had to choose, who would be your second favourite person you have ever worked with and wish for a continuous musical relationship?

I don’t know. I love playing with everybody I’ve played with. I had a blast with everybody I played with.

Anyone you haven’t played with yet that you would like to play with in the future?

In the future I’d love to work with a Beatle or someone from the Stones.

I think this covers everything, so congratulations again on the new album and I can’t wait to see you play when you come to the UK.

Thank you very much. That’s been great.

Mónica Castedo-López



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