John 5 sat down with Guitar International to speak about the forthcoming new Rob Zombie album ‘Venomous Rat Regeneration Vendor’. In the interview he also talks about what it is like to work with Rob, scoring movies, and his own work. Enjoy
John 5 – Venomous Rat Regeneration Vendor – What does it all
By: Robert Cavuoto
To date the band, Rob Zombie, has sold over fifteen million albums worldwide and contributing to much of that success is long standing friend and writing partner – guitarist John 5.
John 5 joined Rob Zombie during the 2005 Ozzfest as a temporary gig for just the tour.
Six weeks turned into eight years and four CDs includingEducated Horses and Hellbilly Deluxe 2. Now the band is releasing their much anticipated CD, Venomous Rat Regeneration Vendor on April 23th.
John 5’s guitar abilities are unsurpassed to most guitarists with the perfect combination of brilliant technique and style. A visionary player with the uncanny ability of going from a beautiful sitar piece to a warp speed shredding lead.
Venomous Rat Regeneration Vendor will not let diehard Zombie fans down as each tracked is designed to kick ass while moving and grooving to hook driven riffs.
I was able to sit with John 5 to talk about the new CD and better understand what a Venomous Rat Regeneration Vendor really is!
Robert Cavuoto: Tell me about the origins of the title of the new Rob Zombie CD, Venomous Rat Regeneration Vendor and what it means?
John 5: I’m really not sure what it means. Venomous Rat, it kind of sounds like the record going to be a nasty, growling, dirty venomous thing.
I’m so proud of this record. It has such a vibe, a tone, and a life to it. Before I was in the band, I was a Rob Zombie and White Zombie fan. If I wasn’t in the band, I’d buy this record and be totally psyched.
Robert: Rob Zombie has definitely mastered a unique sound and musical style that gets perfected with each release. Every song is just kick-ass. It’s just a great groove-oriented CD.
John 5: And it’s got great hooks too. It’s very musical, as well.
Robert: I think my favorite song is “Lucifer Rising.” Can you tell me a little bit about it?
John 5: I love that song. That’s one of my favorites too. It’s just an ass-kicker. We had the song complete and were doing some overdubs when Rob said, “Why don’t you put a crazy guitar solo on here?”
And you know, I’m always up for crazy guitar solos [Laughing]. That’s the kind of thing I play all day, every day.
I said okay, we were in the studio with Bob Marlette and he pressed record and I did it in one take. Rob said, “It’s perfect. Don’t change a thing.” That was just like a one-take thing.
Robert: I like the whole vibe of the song too.
John 5: It’s total Rob Zombie, driving in your fast car.
Robert: Another song I thought was really cool was “Ging Gang Gong De Do Gong De Laga Raga.” Where did the inspiration come from when writing that one?
John 5: I have no idea, but that song was one of the first songs we wrote. I think it’s really hooky. And you look at it with a title like that and you’re like, how is this gonna be hooky? I love the guitar riff and how it breaks down to just the drum, and he’s singing the chorus to just that. It’s really a fun song. I can’t wait to play that live.
Robert: There’s a kind of David Lee Roth moment where it seems that Rob forgets the words and scream – “Just go to the chorus, go to the chorus!” Was that intentional?
John 5: Yeah, that was real. It was so rad that they kept it in. And you can see how he’s saying, “Turn me up. Turn me up louder.” And you can hear because he’s really doing that. There were probably more things like that, but they could only do so much.
Robert: We talked about “Lucifer Rising” being one of your favorite tracks. Do you have another favorite track on the CD?
John 5: Of course, I love “Dead City Radio” and “Teenage Nosferatu Pussy.” I think that’s a really fun song.
Robert: You also cover “We’re an American Band”.
John 5: It’s exactly what we are. We’re just an American band so it was just so perfect. We were talking about covers early on, and we were like, “My god, this is like the perfect cover for us.”
And if you listen to that, in the original song there’s a lyric that says “… up all night with Freddie King. But, if you listen to our version, it’s “… up all night with Kerry King. So, that’s a little tool to the whole thing.
Robert: You also scored Rob’s new film, The Lords of Salem. I was trying to figure out from the track listing, if you’re playing guitar on every song or just the ones with your name is next to?
John 5: You know, I haven’t heard the soundtrack yet, but in the movie, I’m playing everything. I mean everything. There’s something like 60 cues for this movie. There’s so much music to it, and it came out great. It was a lot of work with the orchestra pieces and sometimes some weird guitar things.
Strange stuff, like taking a violin bow across an acoustic guitar. That was the main theme of the movie. I played that in the really creepy scenes. People have been giving me rave reviews about the movie and score.
Robert: How is doing the score different from doing a Rob Zombie studio CD? What type of mindset do you go in with one versus the other?
John 5: It was really hard thing to do. It took a lot of work. Sometimes there wouldn’t even be a time signature or key signature or something like that. It was pretty challenging.
Robert: Every interview I read with Rob Zombie where he mentions you, he puts you in the highest regard, not only as a guitar player, but as a songwriting partner and as a trusted friend. Tell me a little bit about your friendship and the writing partnership you have.
John 5: You know, it’s funny because when I joined, I did OzzFest with them. It was for like six weeks and he said, “It’s only six weeks, so don’t get comfortable.”
Six weeks can turn into a whole lot of years. I’ve played with a lot of people and there is no comparison. I’d do anything for the guy. We’ve just become really close friends. He’s like a brother I’ve never had. I’ll call him for just any advice at all. He’s been such a great, close friend. It’s lucky. It’s kind of like being in the band with your best friend, so it’s kind of worked out perfect.
Robert: How does that translate to writing songs?
John 5: It translates to writing because I know what he wants.
Here’s where I think a lot of people get confused. We are really good friends, but I understand that he’s the boss. A lot of people, when they get really close to their working colleagues or bosses, they seem to forget that. I understand that.
He’s the boss and if he wants it a certain way, that’s how it’s going to be. I’ll put in my two cents and then he’ll put in his, but at the end of the day, he’s the boss and he’ll always be the boss. It works out great because I understand that.
That’s why things have been going so well. We have a great writing relationship. We have never argued over a part.
Robert: I know the band itself has had a lot of lineup changes, including guitar players. What do you make of all those lineup changes and what do you attribute your longevity with the band?
John 5: I think it’s experience, like I was talking about before: Rob’s the boss, and that’s what you have to remember. Some people leave the band and they want to go on to bigger, brighter things. But, I have learned that it’s not always about money. It’s not totally about this or that. The grass is not always greener.
I’m so happy and I appreciate where I am. I’m not trying to get the bigger, better gig or anything like that. I love what I do and I’m so happy where I am. I get offered gigs all the time and the grass is not always greener. I wouldn’t change it for the world.
Robert: You also worked with David Lee Roth, one of my favorite singers; both he and Rob are talented singers, songwriters, and businessmen. Tell me about what you’ve learned from both of them, from a business perspective.
John 5: I’ve learned so much from Rob. If we’re meeting, I’ll stick around and just listen. Of course, I won’t say anything, but I’m listening, and taking it all in. I’ve learned so much for example with stage production. More than any other artist.
With Dave, I’ve learned so much too. He’s super smart and knows what he wants. I just did a new record with him.
Robert: I was reading a little bit about it. It’s all acoustic?
John 5: Yeah, but it’s not drummy acoustic. It’s like Doobie Brothers or Steely Dan. It’s very intricate. I don’t know if it will ever be released, but keep your eye out for that.
Robert: I hope that does see the light of day. Anything with David Lee Roth is great to hear.
John 5: Yeah, it’s called “Over the Rainbow Bar and Grill.”
Robert: You worked with another of my favorite artists, Paul Stanley, on his solo CD. I’m a huge KISS fan, and I know you are too. What was it like to work with him?
John 5: I’ve known Paul, Ace, and Gene. I know Peter really well. He’s one of my really close friends. So it’s really great, being close with those guys. I’m now a part of ‘KISStory’, if you will. It was one of the big honors of my life.
Robert: I love the video you did for “Noche Acosador” off your solo CD, God Told Me To, where you’re playing flamenco guitar. Is that one of your passions?
John 5: Yeah, I just love different styles of music. That was definitely something that I always wanted to do. I always try and broaden my horizons – just kind of push my limits and see how far I can go.
Robert: You must have an amazing guitar collection. Can you tell me a little bit about it and some of your key one?
John 5: I am a crazy Telecaster collector and I collect all the guitars, but mostly Telecasters. I’m trying to get one from every year: from the first year of 1950 to about the 1980s.
But, I have so many. I’m only mentioning a few here, but it’s really a fun thing for me to do. I have tons and tons and tons of Teles. Of course, Strats and Les Pauls and SGs, Martins, Taylors. Everything. Ibanez and BC Rich. I just have a huge guitar collection.
Robert: My last question is what would you have done if you’d never picked up the guitar?
John 5: I don’t even know. This is what I’ve done my whole life. I think I’d either deal in vintage guitars, because I have such a passion for them ,or maybe try to help people in some way.