ITGS: Exclusive Interview With John 5

Recently the Rockstar Mayhem Festival made it’s way to Clarkston, Michigan and we here at Grizzly bomb had the great pleasure of sitting down with one of it’s headlining performers, John 5. Legendary guitarist for Rob Zombie, (formerly with Marilyn Manson), John has made a career out of constantly pushing the envelope on guitar. He is a living rock icon and guitar virtuoso, who carries with him an impressive list of musicians that he has collaborated with, including  Rod Stewart, David Lee Roth, and Alice Cooper.

John recently took his talents back into the world of film, this time working with Griffin Boice to score Rob Zombie’s latest full-length horror film, The Lords of Salem. We caught up with John 5 to discuss all of the latest happenings in his career:

Grizzly Bomb: So first of all, welcome home.

John 5: Thank you very much, it’s a little rainy but I like it. It’s always fun to come to Detroit, the shows are great. In music industry, people love coming to Detroit. The shows are always wonderful, and we have a great time in Detroit. We actually recorded our live record here at DTE.

GB: So it still has that homecoming type of feeling for you being back in Michigan. I know that you’ve been gone for a while now.

J5: Yeah, I’ve lived in L.A. longer than I lived in Michigan, but of course I was born here, so it’s always home.

photo credit: Kaley Nelson
photo credit: Kaley Nelson

GB: Last time you were here was the Twins of Evil tour last October….

J5: (Laughing) God, it was freezing. Oh my God, it was so cold. We were the last show of the season, and it was like 30 degrees. I was like “I have to do a solo in this?!?!” (Laughing)

GB: (Laughing)I know, it was nuts! But since then, it’s obviously been a huge year for you. The Lords of Salem came out in April, and you worked with Griffin Boice on doing the music for that. How was that process different than writing solo music or music with the band?

J5: You know it is very difficult because you’re used to writing a song, and sitting and writing a tune, with a verse, chorus, and B-section, but with this there’s sometimes no musical structure or time signature or key signature, so it’s very unorthodox and you have to follow this cue sheet. So it is very difficult and challenging, but it was very rewarding to see it at the end and watch it on the big screen.

GB: Did you have the confidence when you were writing music for a scene, like “I know Rob’s really going to like this,” or was it more of a guess and check type of process?

J5: It was definitely a guess. You know I’ve done music score before in the past, but never a full-length feature. So you know, it was tough. It was stressful. One of the hardest things I’ve ever done, but in the end it was very VERY rewarding and I felt great about it!

Get it now from Amazon!
Get it now from Amazon!

GB: That’s awesome! And so about a week later, the new album came out (Venomous Rat Regeneration Vendor), and it seems like everywhere you read, someone is saying, “Oh, it sounds so much like White Zombie.” Is that the way that you felt when you were doing it?

J5: I did. And because I’m such a fan of White Zombie, I love that. It’s a great record, and people really enjoy it. We play some songs from it live and they go over really well. And we love playing it live, it’s REALLY fun!

GB: Another (unique) thing about this album is that you do the Grand Funk Railroad cover, how did that come about? Was it something where you guys said, “Ok, we really want to do a classic rock cover, which one should we do?” Or was it GFR from the start?

J5: No, we actually were throwing around a bunch of covers and wondering what we should do. We wanted to do a cover because we love covers. We jam all of the time. We wanted to do something that really says who we are, and Rob came up with “American Band.” And we thought, “that’s incredible!” It just fit perfectly. And we changed one of the lyrics. The, “up all night with Freddy King,” we changed it to “Kerry King,” so it was really cool.

GB: Very cool! So I want to talk a little bit about the tour now. You guys are headlining this one, it’s a big deal, you guys have done this one before. It is a little bit of a strange time though with you guys just coming out with the album. A lot of bands will tour a new album. Is this (Rockstar Mayhem Festival) the “Venomous Rat Regeneration Vendor,” tour?

J5: It is, it is. This is the Venomous Rat Regeneration tour. We’re supporting that record on this tour. It had just come out and we started the tour so it was perfect timing.

GB: So you guys are on the tail end of this tour. For fans that maybe haven’t seen the show yet, what can they expect?

J5: We’ve changed the show around altogether; it’s the biggest Zombie show that’s ever been put out. And we are FINALLY after how many years of Rob being in White Zombie and Rob Zombie, we’re finally doing a live DVD. I’m so excited! I’m just as excited as the fans are. I’m really excited to see it! I’m not sure when it comes out, I think maybe at the end of this year.

photo credit: Kaley Nelsen
photo credit: Kaley Nelsen

GB: So the last solo album you came out with was “God Told Me To,” and it had a lot of Horror themes in it…

J5: Did you get the DVD with it???

GB: I did get the dvd with it!

J5: What did you think??

GB: I was cracking up watching it (laughing). That was so cool!

J5: Very cool, very cool.

GB: From the name of the album, which is an old horror movie, to song titles such as “The Hill of Seven Jackals,” which is a reference to The Mummy

J5: (Smiling) That’s right! Very good!

photo credit: Derek Soto - Sinestra Studios
photo credit: Derek Soto – Sinestra Studios

GB: …Why did you decide to do a horror theme, with such a mellow sounding album?

J5: Well there’s a song on there called “Creepy Crawler.” And that was (about) back when Charles Manson – his girls would go up into the Hollywood Hills and they would turn over peoples’ lawn furniture, and they were called “creepy crawlers.” I just thought it was cool, you know. It’s what I like and I think people that are into hard rock and heavy metal really enjoy that kind of thing. It’s fun and it’s exciting.

GB: Absolutely. And I have one more question for you, and I’m going to make you dig a little deep into the brain for this one. You did the Lords of Salem and you’re a huge Horror fan, that’s well documented. If you could go back in time and score any classic horror film, which one would you do and why would you do it?

J5: I think “The Creature from the Black Lagoon.” Because there is so much music in it, because they’re under water so much. So there’s a lot of time to put in a cool score.  Or maybe “Nosferatu,” because it’s silent, so there’s a lot of music in that.

GB: For sure! Well, we appreciate the interview and can’t thank you enough for taking the time, and again, welcome back home!

J5: Thank you!

Be sure to check out more interviews from the Mayhem Festival here on GB!

John 5 with GB's Garrett Odzark
John 5 with GB’s Garrett Odzark

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