The Rock Pit - Hard rock, Metal and Blues Interviews, news & reviews from Australia and around the world

The Rock Pit - Hard rock, Metal and Blues Interviews, news & reviews from Australia and around the world

 

JOHN 5 interviewed
By Todd (Jolicoeur) Rockpit

 

 

I grew up in a period when music was moving and changing… what is now classic rock was still being played on the "regular" radio stations. Classic rock wasn't quite what it is now. To rip a line from Bowling For Soup, "When did Motley Crue become classic rock?" One thing regarding my precious rock and roll always stood out and was up for debate. The question of who were the greatest guitarists. Sure, you had Page, Clapton, and Hendrix, but lurking around the corner wanting that title were Eddie Van Halen and Randy Rhoads.


Today, the same conversation is had every day somewhere in the world. I am not a guitarist… have never done more than hold one or strum what I though might be a chord. But I do have my own opinion as to who have been the greatest guitarists. I also listen to a lot of new music by new artists, and there is one guitarist out there who has not only played alongside some of my favorite artists, but he has now released his newest album, and sixth overall. How diverse do you have to be to play with David Lee Roth, K.D. Lang, and Rob Halford? How talented and charismatic do you have to be to share the stage with Marilyn Manson and Rob Zombie? How awesome do you have to be to play lead guitar for Lita Ford or write songs with Paul Stanley? One man has the answers to all of these questions. You only need to look as far as John Lowery. You may know him as John 5.


I was thrilled to find out I was going to have the opportunity to ask this modern day guitar god questions. How does one prepare for this??? Drop in any of his CDs and press play… let the music take you… feel the song… and ask away…


The phone on the other end picks up…


Hello. This is Todd from The Rockpit looking to speak with John 5.


This is John. How are you?


Awesome. First off, let me thank you for taking time out of your busy schedule for the Rockpit. I am talking to you from Detroit, but we are an Australian based rock website and very excited to get this opportunity.


Absolutely. Detroit, eh? You guys are in the middle of a heat wave, aren't you?


Yeah, it's been pretty hot this summer compared to the last couple. Although, it is raining like crazy today.


I heard you guys have been getting hot days followed by crazy rain and storms. [John is from Grosse Pointe, MI and still has family ties here - TMJ]


It's been interesting this year. Speaking of interesting, 'The Art of Malice,' your sixth album was released recently. The progression from album to album has been noticeable, but not in such a way that you are diverting totally from your previous work. How do you go about writing material that sounds the same without sounding repetitive?


I don't know really. I just try to make it interesting. I am a fan of all types of music, especially if it has great guitar work in it. A lot of the time I am listening to blues, Spanish, flamenco; anything to try and inspire myself to not only write something new and different, but to continue learning and being influenced myself.

 


Well, I really like all of your albums, but I have to say, 'Requiem' is my favorite. I love the dark side of the album, without it being overbearing or drowning. I know it's hard to favor any of your children, but do you have a favorite?


Thanks, that is a great album and was fun to make. You know, it is so hard to pick just one or even rank them. Each one of them is different and there is so much work that goes into each of them. That's a hard question. I would have to say that I really like bits of each of them. Right now, 'The Art Of Malice' is my temporary favorite because it is still so new and fresh.


I posed the question to friends of mine, "If you were to ask John 5 one question, what would it be?" I received a couple good questions, so I have a couple of them for you from your fans.


Great. Go ahead.


The first is regarding your setup. What pickups do you use to get such heavy tones? [Thanks to Jeff "Axe" Adee for this one - TMJ] Please remember I am not a guitar guy, so the layman's terms would be really appreciated.


Hahaha. No problem. I use DiMarzio Deactivators to get the sound. They won't give you a super heavy sound. Most of that comes from my fingers. I once had a similar conversation with Eddie Van Halen and he told me to play with my fingers more than gadgets. If you listen to either him or me on an acoustic guitar, you will get the same feel from the music, regardless of the equipment or type of guitar because the playing comes from the fingers.

 


How interesting! I remember all of the 80's hair metal guys using a bar to distort everything or to bend notes. The next question has to do with one song in particular. On your first album, 'Vertigo', you recorded "Sugar Foot Rag." So many people I know love that tune. Someone wanted to know how you were able to play that song. [Thanks to Nate Badish, a budding guitarist, for this question - TMJ]


That song is such a great classic that I have loved my whole life. I wasn't easy, but practice will always further your skills. To me, it is a lot like "Fractured Mirror." [John recorded the Ace Frehley instrumental for his newest album - TMJ]. I just love to pay tribute to all of my guitar heroes and music legends. To me, it is kinda like saying thank you to those artists who have inspired me to learn and grow as a player through the years.


Our final fan based question is about your make-up. You kinda took to it when you were with Manson and have continued to wear make-up and masks with Zombie and changing you appearance on each of your albums with the use of make-up. What gives?


When I think of what it is I do, I think of entertainment. I don't want to be categorized as a guy who plays guitar, but didn't entertain the crowd. Think about it, would you rather see just a regular looking guy play or someone that took it up a notch and cared not only about the music, but the presentation? I try to use my look, vibe, and music to express a vision I have. I try to put everything I have into entertaining my fans. KISS has made a lengthy career out of that same philosophy.


I know what you mean. You are talking to a guy that has a KISS tattoo that runs from his knee to his ankle. Speaking of KISS, it is my understanding that at one time, you had the largest collection of KISS posters.


Yeah, I did, but sold the collection off a few years ago. Once you have collected everything there is to collect, what do you do next? I sold off everything and now I collect vintage guitars. Not only is it a collection that will never end, but it is something that is very much a part of me.

 


You have always been a musician with a lot of pokers in the fire. Do you have any projects coming up that you can discuss?


Sure. First off, I just finished the new Ricky Martin album.


Hahaha. Really. That's interesting. I don't mean to laugh; it's just that when I think of John 5, the next thought in my head isn't Ricky Martin.


I know, but it goes back to being diverse. It has a different feel from what I have done in the past without changing who I am as a player. We also just finished up a couple tracks for Rob Zombie. He is releasing a special edition of 'Hellbilly Deluxe II' with a couple bonus tracks recorded by the current line-up, which includes Joey [Jordison]. We are also constantly making videos and preparing for the main stage on the Mayhem Festival this summer. There is another project coming up that can't be discussed, but will please Zombie's fans. [At release time of this interview, it has recently been leaked that Rob Zombie and Alice Cooper are extending their Gruesome Twosome tour this fall as the Halloween Hootenanny with special guests The Murderdolls - TMJ].


Well John, time for the last two questions. What is one song you wish you had a hand in writing or recording?


Oh boy. Uh. I don't know. Good question. Um. Great question. If I had to pick one, it would be "Blackbird" by the Beatles.


Great choice. On to the last question. According to John 5, what is the meaning of life?


Happiness. Doing what makes you happy. You have to be true to yourself and those around you.


Thanks John. I look forward to rocking out when Mayhem hits Detroit on August 6th. Before I let you go, where can your fans get up to the minute information on you and the band?


They can go to my website, http://www.john-5.com/ or Myspace (http://www.myspace.com/john5official) and Facebook (http://www.facebook.com/home.php?ref=home#!/JohnL5?ref=ts).


John thanks again from The Rockpit for your time.


No problem. Thank you.

 

Well, nothing to do now except dim the lights and feel the vibe of 'The Art Of Malice' to let my stress and worries of the day just drift off.


If you are looking for great guitar playing and songs that cover almost every genre known to man, pick up one of John's releases… any one of them… they are all available in his website store in three versions: 1) plain; 2) autographed; and 3) personally autographed. You won't be disappointed.

 

Todd Jolicoeur

July 2010