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Interview with solo musician and guitarist John 5

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Who’s one of the best guitar players in rock and metal music today? If one of the first names that came to your mind wasn’t John 5 then what the hell have you been smoking? John 5 is none other than Rob Zombie’s current guitarist and Marilyn Manson’s former guitar head, an impressive resume to say the least. John’s most recent musical work is his latest solo album The Devil Knows My Name which came out last spring and was extremely well received, even winning an award from GuitarWorld.com. John is currently out on the road with the rest of the Rob Zombie band accompanying Ozzy Osbourne on an arena tour of North America which will wind down with a January 21st date in Toronto. Recently I caught up with John 5 to ask him a few questions about the tour, his solo album, his previous work with Marilyn Manson and what his musical future holds. It was a pleasure to talk to John as he is definitely one of the nicest rock musicians I’ve had the opportunity to speak to.

You’re currently on tour playing with Rob Zombie as support for Ozzy Osbourne. How’s the tour been going so far and what’s it like to share the stage with the metal legend Ozzy?
John 5: Oh god, the tour has been going amazing. How can I explain it, when I was touring with Ozzy, you know when I was with Manson we toured with Ozzy so many times, we did Ozzfest a thousand times and you know, it seems like I’m always playing with Ozzy in one way or another opening up. But this tour has been my favorite because I love playing with Zombie and we just have this huge show going on and it’s just a blast every night, I don’t think we’ve had one bad show, knock on wood. So we’ve just been having a really good time.

You’ve had quite the astonishing career in music, playing with the likes of Rob Halford, Marilyn Manson and now Rob Zombie and also playing in your own bands such as Loser. Out of all the musicians you’ve worked with, is there one in particular who stands out in your mind as being the most fun to play with?
John 5: Um I would definitely say Zombie has been the best time I’ve ever had. It is just so great and so fun because you know we all get along so well and you know, it’s just like everybody, we’re just all friends here and we’re just having a really, really, really great time. Writing songs, playing music, it’s just a blessing to be around these cool guys just doing this stuff. It’s been great, we’ve been writing songs and watching movies after and you know, playing great songs and the crowds have been going crazy so it’s been fun.

Aside from your work on other people’s projects, you recently released a third solo album this past April titled The Devil Knows My Name. Now that it’s been out a few months, how do you feel about that album and are you pleased with the reaction it’s received?
John 5: Um, actually I’m really pleased because it’s up for Best Shred Album Of The Year for www.guitarworld.com and I’m also up for Best Shred Guitarist too so yeah the albums do really well. And you know, I started doing these records just for my own pleasure you know, just for fun, just to like, you know get it out and now people that buy this stuff, they really count on it so I try to put one out every year. It’s a lot of fun, people really enjoy them and I have a great time making them you know so it’s great because it inspires a lot of young players and I love doing that so it’s fun. I’m working on another one right now and it should be out next year (2008) so it’s going to be cool.

Your response there sort of eliminates my next question, I was going to ask if you have put your solo career on the backburner since you’re back with Rob now, but I guess it’s still in full swing?
John 5: Yeah it’s in full swings but the thing is, I just put out these records so you know, there’s so much time in the day so I love to, you know I’m always working so I’m not out like going crazy or getting drunk or anything like that, I’m just always playing, I’m always working, I’m always doing this, that or the other thing. There are a lot of hours in the day and I take advantage of these hours you know so it’s fun, I love doing it.

Now you not only are out playing on tour with Rob, but you also co-wrote much of his last album Educated Horses. Are you and Rob currently writing any music together and if not, do you have plans to write with him in the future?
John 5: Yes we are writing. I usually come up with ideas and play them for him, see if he likes them, I usually do that pretty much every day at sound check. We’ve been writing like crazy, it’s been great; we’ve been working on stuff like madmen. Hopefully we’ll probably record something soon.

Just before you joined up with Rob to play with him full-time, you had your own band going called Loser. Because of conflicting commitments between Loser and playing with Rob, you decided to pull out of Loser last year. How difficult was this decision for you and are you happy with the way things have turned out?
John 5: Well here’s the honest opinion, here’s the honest answer to that: When I got out of Manson, you know I always like to work so hard, I really didn’t know what to do. So I was like “oh god, what am I going to do with myself?” So I said “well I better start a band and get a record deal" so that’s what I did. I got these guys together and started a band and then got a major record deal with Island Records and started you know, making the record. Then I started playing with Zombie and it was great, you know, I loved it and I was like “this is awesome.” And with Loser, we started playing some shows, we went on tour with Staind, but we were a brand new band so there wasn’t like any beautiful hotels or anything like that. And I’ve been touring like that since 1996 so I’m use to a certain way of touring and to tell you the truth, I didn’t want to start over. I loved being with Rob because he was so cool and I just felt like with Zombie, that was a place where I could really not jump from band to band but really stay in Rob Zombie, that was somewhere I would want to stay and not jump to another band because I really like his music and I like who he is and stuff. I picked to just to stick with Zombie because I really liked everything about it.

Speaking of Loser, any word on whether you think that band will ever get back together and make music again?
John 5: Ahh, I don’t think so, I mean who knows you know, look at Van Halen getting back together and stuff, we never really gave it a shot but I don’t have any plans for that right now.

Between working on your own solo work, playing guitar on tour and writing with Rob Zombie and others, and having children, you are a very busy man to say the least. How do you manage to balance all your work with having a personal life?
John 5: Um, sure, but you know, I was just talking about that because I am so busy with the kids and everything, what I’ll do is wait until everyone goes to bed then I’ll start working so I won’t go to bed until 2:30, 3 o’clock because I’m working so that’s like the time I have, the quiet time because I gotta work, I gotta play. So you know, that’s what I do, you’ll always find hours, there’s 24 hours in a day, there’s always time to find so it’s always just a lot of hard work.

Speaking of Manson, I don’t know if you’ve heard, there was a story recently about him wanting to buy a skeleton of a child or something like that. I just wanted to ask your opinion on it, often we hear these crazy stories about him and his lifestyle, is this a lot of media hype or is there substance behind this stuff we hear about?
John 5: Well that what we’re talking about, the skeleton was after my time, but a lot of people wonder “oh is it just hype,” no, it’s real, he’s really out of his mind and people don’t really want to believe it but it’s the truth you know, he’s really that wild. That’s what I loved about him, it was completely real you know, he doesn’t go home and take off the make up and watch Charles In Charge or something, he is really like that, twenty-four hours a day.

You obviously would be considered one of the top guitar players in alternative rock music right now, but in your opinion, who do you think is the best up and coming guitarist out there right now?
John 5: I love all guitar players, I think that you can learn something from any guitar player, they don’t have to be some crazy shredder or something like that, they can just be a regular guitar player. But you know, I love Buckethead, I think he’s really, really cool. Who else am I digging right now? There’s this great, great country guy, I’m going to go from rock to country, my rock is Buckethead and my country is Scotty Anderson, those are two guitar players that are just smoking right now.

Aside from being Rob Zombie’s full time guitarist, what other projects is John 5 currently working on or has plans to work on in the near future?
John 5: I have a DVD, a guitar instructional DVD coming out, but it’s the first R rated guitar instructional DVD, it’s got tits and guitar lessons; it’s going to be revolutionary. So that’ll come out and then I have a new CD coming out and then I have um, you know I have a signature pack of strings and we’re going to keep touring so there’s going to be a lot of stuff going on in 2008.  [ END ]
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