BAMS caught up with John 5 during the Mayhem Tour: bayareamusicscene.wordpress.com/2010/07/24/an-interview-with-john-5-of-rob-zombie-july-11-2010/
An Interview with John 5 of Rob Zombie, @ the Mayhem Festival July 11, 2010
John was our last interview for the day and time was precious. So we were told that when we saw him to make ourselves known and call out his name so he would know who he was meeting with next. When we saw him we ran over waving our arms like a crazy peeps and got his attention. We all laughed then he joined us at the table. What a gracious, classy guy. It was our pleasure to interview him. Here’s what he had to say!
Anne: How did your relationship with Rob Zombie Start? How did you come into the band?
John 5: I was about to do a festival for the tsunami people and survivors. So Dave Navarro said we are having a benefit would you like to play? I asked who was playing and he named a bunch of people. I heard him say Rob Zombie and I had been a Rob Zombie fan for a long time. So I was thinking, and I said to them hey if I can play with Zombie then I’ll do it, now that would be cool. You know there are so many people to play with. So they said ok. I knew all his songs, we got together and played. I saw him at rehearsal and told him “Hey Rob if you need a guitar player let me know.” He said well I might do Ozzfest I’ll let you know. So we did Ozzfest and he said well its only six weeks don’t get comfortable. Then six weeks turned into five years. So it’s been great!
Anne: I saw you back on Ozzfest 2005 with Rob for the first time then and more recently back in November 2009. Since your time with Rob your spirit really shines, you seem to be ecstatic like happier than ever before. Can you tell us a little about what your experience has been like up to this point?
John 5: Yeah, well it’s been like a dream come true. I’ve played with so many people. You know playing with Rob is…it couldn’t be better! It’s so much fun writing and performing with him. I couldn’t do anything more fun than this! I’ve turned down tons and tons of gigs. You know I’m just going to stay with Rob until he says I’m done.
Anne: As long as he keeps doing music you’re going to stay on board
John 5: Yeah as long as he keeps going, I’m there with him!
Anne: Seriously, since I’ve watched you just those few times, you’re so much fun to watch. You can clearly see you love your work and how happy you are with what you do
John 5: Well, look at what I do! I don’t see how people can complain about it when they get to do a job like this.
Anne: When you work on new material with Rob how do you attack things? Do you work together in the same room or come up with things on your own? How has it worked from “Educated Horses” in 2006 to Hellbilly Deluxe 2?
John 5: Well, we work together in the same room on things. If he likes something then we’ll start building on it. We’ve been really lucky because we get along so well in the studio and that’s tough to come by. We’re out on the road then back in the studio. We work so well on stage. I think the reason for that is that he’s just smart. That’s the only thing I can say he’s smart. Because that matters a lot, it makes it easy to work.
Anne: From the show in November 2009 in San Jose when we last saw you, can you fill us in on where the band has been up until now?
John 5: I think the band has escalated a lot. I was just talking to Rob about this. Because we’ve got this really crazy look right now. We’ve got makeup and all the blood on us and the show is…really I don’t think it can get any bigger than what it is now. There’s no way this can get any bigger. The stage show is huge! We’ve never done anything like this before. I think we’ve escalated to a new level since just last year.
Anne: What did you like most about your time working with Marilyn Manson? What were some of the high points? What did the experience bring to you as a musician?
John 5: I learned a lot with recording and playing live because Manson has great production. Recording with him was really fun. You know I learned a lot and I had a really good time playing with him. I learned a lot and I’m really happy that I did it the five years that I was there.
Anne: You’ve worked very hard in your solo career as well. How have you found time for your own expression in between all the band work? What inspired you for each solo record?
John 5: Well, there are a lot of hours in the day and I don’t really do much of anything else. Not that it’s work but I really enjoy having a guitar in my hand. It’s a lot of fun for me to have a guitar in my hand, it’s therapeutic. It’s relaxing for me. In my mind things can get very complicated sometimes so the solo and the instrumental stuff can be very relaxing for me. So I like to keep my mind active instead of sitting in front of the TV and playing video games or something like that. I really like to keep my mind active.
Anne: You’re a very open minded musician. You’ve worked in different genre’s including bluegrass and country outside of your rock and metal background. What have you found interesting about working in the different areas you have?
John 5: Well, it’s fun working in different areas. I just finished a Ricky Martin album a couple of weeks ago. It was an all Spanish record so doing stuff like that is really fun. I love it! It’s like being in a different band every day. There’s so much out there. You can learn from everything you do. It doesn’t have to be just rock. There’s a whole world of music out there. I love being a good player and I love to learn. The knowledge of everything I’ve learned so far is priceless and that’s a good thing.
Anne: You picked up the guitar at a very young age and your parents were very supportive. How old were you when you played your first show and how did you juggle school with playing shows early on so you could have both?
John 5: I think my first time on stage I was in the sixth grade and I tripped on stage it was terrible. I grew up in an upper class neighborhood so it was different for everybody to see me. I never drank or smoked. So my parents always said if you can get up and go to school you can play shows at night. As soon as I said oh I’m too tired I don’t want to do this, I knew it would stop so I always had that in the back of my head. So I knew I had to get up for school. So I think that was a pretty good deal. I never did drugs or drank or anything like that. They were glad so they trusted me. It exposed me to the night clubs and women so that was exciting. (Smiles)
Anne: Besides the guitar you took on the bass and the banjo, at what point along the road of your career did you take those up? How has it advanced your overall performance?
John 5: Well I play a lot of instruments mandolin, banjo, and bass. I love it. Sometimes Rob will say give me a mandolin piece kind of a gypsy style that sounds around 1800’s. Luckily I’m educated enough to even know how to come up with something like that. I love music. I think I’m a very big fan of music in general and the history of it because it is so different and how you play it. I think it really helps out my career a lot because of the variety that I do know and it’s entertaining.
Anne: You’ve worked with some very influential artists. Can you tell us your approach to working with Rob Halford on 2wo and your time with David Lee Roth since they are so widely different? How did you like working with each?
John 5: Rob Halford was so much fun. I was never a big Judas Priest fan. Judas Priest was such an influential band I think everyone was a fan of them. I think I’m the only one who wasn’t much of a big fan. Rob Halford is such a pro. He’s such a gentleman with such an incredible voice. It was such an important time in my life. I loved it! I cherish that time that I played with Halford. When I was a kid I had dreamt all the time, you know how when you’re a kid you always wish for things? I wanted to be Eddie Van Halen. I wanted to play with David Lee Roth. I wanted to be married to Valerie Bertinelli. You know all these things and I’m still very good friends with David Lee Roth to this day. I talk to him all the time and I’ve known him now for ten years. We have a very close friendship.
Anne: You are a guitarist of many hats. You’ve also a staff writer for Chrysalis Records. How do you like that work and what is most rewarding about it?
John 5: I write for Chrysalis. It’s a publishing company and I just finished writing six tracks with Lynrd Skynrd for their new record. I love it. I like to write music as well. Its funny talking about it right now there’s a lot of stuff going on, isn’t there? LOL I appreciate everything I’ve had the opportunity to do. When I was a kid I never dreamed of anything like this. My dream was to make a living playing music. It’s weird I never imagined it would be anything like what I have now. It’s weird that all these great things have come to be.
Anne: You’re also working on music for Rob’s next movie. How’s that coming along? Do you ever struggle coming up with ideas or is everything a breeze for you?
John 5: Nothing’s a breeze lol. Hopefully Rob likes it. Then it’s good. Hopefully later down the line we’ll get the music in it. I think we have a new song in the Salt movie with Angelina Jolie. So that’s good, it’s great! I love seeing a movie then hearing the music it’s great! I love movies!
Jim: What kind of movies? What are some of your favorites?
John 5: Any movies, I’ll go see anything I love all kinds of movies. There isn’t anything I won’t go see.
Anne: You just verified something for me that you’ve always been a sober musician. How did you keep yourself straight and have the desire to work that way and know that you are at your best?
John 5: Because my parents drank, my teachers drank. Everybody in the business drank. I knew that I didn’t want to do that. I knew that I wanted to keep my mind alert and fresh.
Anne: Good for you!! After the Mayhem festival where are you guys off to for the rest of the year?
John 5: I think we’re going to do an Alice Cooper tour like later on in the year. Maybe go to Europe and maybe go to Australia. We have lots and lots to do coming up.
Anne: John, thank you so much! It was so nice to meet you!!
Anne Sciara – BAMS Lead Journalist