In the run up to the Soundwave 2011 tour next year, John 5 sat down with Annie from the Soundwave website to chat: www.soundwavefestival.com/news/exclusive-interview-john-5-rob-zombie
Best known under his stage name John 5, most music fans would be familiar with John Lowery’s signature guitar work with shock rocker Marilyn Manson and more recently metal’s favourite hellbilly Rob Zombie. Picking up his first guitar at age seven, Lowery was always destined for a life revolving around Rock n Roll. With a career spanning more than twenty years Lowery’s released five solo albums and has worked with the who’s who of the music industry including rock royalty such as Paul Stanley, David Lee Roth, The Scorpions and Rob Halford. In 1996 John auditioned and outplayed more than 200 guitarists for a spot in country pop singer KD Lang’s touring band, a position that would see John tour Australia for the first time, three years later he would return to our shores with the outrageous and outspoken Marilyn Manson. Now Australian fans are gearing up for John’s return to Australia this coming February for the highly anticipated and explosive spectacle with Rob Zombie.
2010 has been a busy year for this shredding extraordinaire who has spent most of his time on the road with Rob Zombie touring on the chart topping ‘Hellbilly Deluxe II’, a return to roots album for Zombie which featured the singles ‘What’, ‘Sick Bubblegum’ and ‘Mars Needs Women’. In between touring cycles John found the time to release his fifth solo album ‘The Art of Malice’ an album which showcases some of the finest finger work and blistering techniques ever recorded. After listening to John’s latest offering it’s easy to see why Lowery’s classed as one of the worlds’s leading and most sought after guitar players.
I recently caught up with John 5 to discuss his latest solo album ‘The Art of Malice’ and the recording of ‘Hellbilly Deluxe II’, we also spoke about the upcoming Rob Zombie shows set to hit Australia in February as well as John’s work alongside some of the industry’s finest. Kick back as ‘The Nightmare Unravels’ with one of the world’s finest shredders… John 5
Soundwave: Hey John, thanks for putting some time aside to speak with us today mate, how’s everything going?
John 5: Everything’s going great… I broke my foot on tour but other than that everything’s going well!
Soundwave: Oh that sounds nasty, how did you do that?
John 5: I was onstage and we have these ego risers… I got up and the lights went out then I stepped down… rolled my foot and broke it. I finished the show and finished the tour on a broken foot!
Soundwave: Let’s firstly talk about the upcoming Australian tour… You will be returning to Australia in February to take part in the soundwave festivals, no doubt you’re happy to be heading back our way?
John 5: I can’t believe that we’re coming. I can’t wait! I’m so excited; I haven’t been there in so long… it’s one of my favourite places in the world. I love it down there so much!
Soundwave: These shows with Rob Zombie are Rob’s first ever solo shows in Australia and fans have been waiting a very long time for you guys to get down here, I guess the million dollar question is why has it taken so long for you guys to make it down under?
John 5: I don’t know; that’s a great question… Rob was there with White Zombie so long ago, I’ve always said “we’ve gotta go to Australia, it’s the greatest there, we’ve got to go!” Rob was like… “Yeah let’s do it!”
Soundwave: For those fans like myself that have been waiting years for this tour to happen… what can we expect when you guys hit the stage come February?
John 5: It will be the best live show that you’ve ever seen! We have Joey [Jordison] from Slipknot playing drums with us, there’s crazy production and so much stuff that happens, all I can say is it’s going to be a crazy wild ride.
Soundwave: John, having toured Australia a few times now, you must enjoy heading our way… what do you look forward to the most when you find out your booked to tour Australia?
John 5: I have such a blast there, I love it there so much and I’m not just saying this but when I get there its beautiful weather, really nice people and it’s very relaxing to me. The food’s great, there’s beautiful girls and so much fun. I’ve always said if I was going to live anywhere else but Los Angeles I’d live in Australia, I just dig and enjoy it so much!
Soundwave: Mate you’re certainly no stranger to doing the large festival tours… you have done the Big Day Out here in Australia, the Ozzfest tours also… are you a fan of doing the travelling festival shows or would you much rather play the headlining club/arena shows… both certainly have their advantages!
John 5: Yeah, I love doing both, I love doing the festivals cause you get to see all of these great bands, who else are we playing with Iron Maiden?
Soundwave: Yes, the line-up for Soundwave is amazing… Murderdolls, Stone Sour, Slayer, Iron Maiden as you mentioned, the line-up’s shaping up to be one of the finest festival line-ups to ever hit Australia.
John 5: How great is that? I get to sit on the side of the stage and listen to all of that great music; it’s a blast I can’t wait.
Soundwave: Whilst we’re on the subject of touring… you’ve been in the game for years now, how does touring today compare to 15 – 20 years ago?
John 5: Of course there’s good and bad you miss your family, but you have your family out on the road. I kind of feel like I have two homes, one is the world and one is here in California. I’m lucky and blessed enough to have great people that I really enjoy playing and touring with and it makes it so much better!
Soundwave: I wanted to speak with you also about your most recent solo album ‘The Art Of Malice’ what a killer album! Looking back over the recording process is there anything you would’ve changed or wish you’d done differently?
John 5: Nope [laughs] I love that album, it came out just perfect. People are really enjoying the album, I’m really lucky to be doing this, a lot of people don’t really dig instrumental music all that much but I just do it for the love of guitar and the love of music and that’s why I keep doing them!
Growing up as a massive Kiss / Ace Frehley fan, I was thrilled to see you cover Ace’s ‘Fractured Mirror’, which in my opinion is one of the coolest instrumentals of all-time. From all the songs you could have covered, why did this one stand out from the pack?
John 5: That was the first guitar instrumental song that I ever heard and it changed my life, I loved it so much, and I loved ace. He’s a great friend of mine today and I just wanted to pay tribute to him and say thanks the best way I could have. I wanted to keep it true and have some kids listen to this great song and become inspired to listen to Ace!
Soundwave: Besides ‘Fractured Mirror’ other stand out tracks on the new album for me included ‘The Nightmare Unravels’, ‘Can I Live Again’ and ‘The Last Page Turned’, where did you find the inspiration for the killer tracks on this album?
John 5: Well, I was inspired by all these tracks and I just wanted to do something different. I wanted to expand myself and I’m always looking for inspiration that’s what I do.
Soundwave: John being such a great songwriter and player do you find it more rewarding writing and recording your own music rather than operating in a strict band environment?
John 5: I love doing both, I love recording, touring and writing my own stuff, and writing with a band. As long as I have a guitar in my hand I’m happy!
Soundwave: The latest Rob Zombie album ‘Hellbilly Deluxe II’ is a return to roots album for Rob, an album which you played a large part in! How did you guys push each other to get the best results possible for the album?
John 5: We did it old school… We wrote it on the road, jumped into the studio to record it, we used a lot of weird instruments, I even slashed my speakers to make it sound crazy and distorted. We worked really well together and gelled really well together, we always have a good time recording and touring together. We just did this re-release with three new songs on it, with Joey [Jordison] playing drums, thirty minutes of behind the scenes footage and all new art work, its great!
John we’ve hit the part of the interview where our readers get to find out more about the real you… As we all know you’ve toured Australia a few times in the past but many rock fans would be surprised to know that you actually toured here with KD Lang… How did you end up working with KD?
John 5: I don’t know, I went on an audition and no one knew me at all… I really dug in cause I was so hungry for a gig and I just learnt everything. I learnt all the songs, and I actually learnt all the keyboard and piano parts too, so every time she would ask me if I knew a song I’d say “yep, what part do you want me to play” cause I knew them all. The next thing I knew I was playing at the Sydney Opera House.
Soundwave: You started playing guitar at a very early age…did you come from a musical family?
John 5: I didn’t but the guitar chose me rather than me choosing the guitar, I started playing when I was seven and I was so into it, I went in head first and never put it down, I played all the time, it was my whole life even back then!
Soundwave: By the time you hit your mid – late teens you already had a great load of playing experience behind you… did you always know you were destined to do great things in the industry or growing up were your goals different?
John 5: I didn’t even dream of becoming a rock star, all I wanted to be was a session player and that’s why I learned so many different styles of music. I never dreamed of travelling the world or playing with all of these rock stars and getting number one albums or getting all these awards, all I wanted to do was be a session guy. I’m so happy and have been so lucky!
Soundwave: You’ve certainly been very fortunate to work with many amazing and legendary rock and metal artists such as Rob Halford, David Lee Roth and Paul Stanley, having grown up a fan of bands that these guys fronted, what was it like to have the opportunity to work with them, did they live up to your expectations?
John 5: Yes, I was like geez Louise here I am writing a song with Paul Stanley and here I am writing a song with Lynard Skynrd, here I am working with The Scorpions… If someone had told me that when I was a kid I never would have believed that. I talked to Peter Criss [Original Kiss drummer] on the phone the other day, I wouldn’t have ever have believed that, it’s so unbelievable; I don’t take any of it for granted I’m very lucky and thankful!
Soundwave: John, who have you been surprised to learn is a fan of you work?
John 5: What is strange is that a lot of people know my work, when I started doing instrumental records a lot of people knew about them like Joe satriani and Steve Vai. They really know about my stuff and have talked about certain tracks. It’s funny to have people know your name too, I mean real legends and that’s great, something I never would have expected!
Soundwave: How about rumours… what’s the craziest rumour you’ve ever heard about yourself?
John 5: Let’s see, there are always strange rumours… There was someone posing as me for a while and was trying to get into concerts or do certain things, that was a weird one. There are always strange stories like that which go around!
Soundwave: Having played with so many great artists, releasing five solo albums… what else would you like to achieve musically, can we see you jumping into other fields of music, playing in another genres?
John 5: I always want to keep everyone on their toes and I love to keep people guessing. I’d love to do an all-acoustic album or maybe do a record like Slash did with a bunch of different singers, who knows what’s going to come next but you can guarantee that something’s going to come!
Soundwave: Just before we wrap it up, you’re touring with Rob Zombie right now, you are doing a killer run of shows with Alice cooper, and you are hitting Australia in Feb what other immediate plans are in the works?
John 5: I think we’re going to go over to London, keep playing, keep promoting, do some more instrumental work and have a great time doing it!
Soundwave: John thanks again for your time today, it’s been a pleasure. Do you have any last words for our readers?
John 5: If you see me on the streets walking around in Australia, please come up and say hello! I just love to meet everybody and say hello!
Catch John 5 Live with Rob Zombie this coming February at Soundwave Festival.
Saturday 26 Feb: RNA Showgrounds, Brisbane
Sunday 27 Feb: Eastern Creek Raceway, Sydney
Friday 4 March: Showgrounds, Melbourne – SOLD OUT!
Saturday 5 March: Bonython Park, Adelaide
Monday 7 March: TBC, Perth
‘The Art of Malice’ and ‘Hellbilly Deluxe II Extended Edition’ are out now via Riot! Entertainment and Roadrunner Records respectively
Grab your copies where all killer albums are sold!