The world needs a guitar hero, but with an abundance of shredders and the wheel having been reinvented several times over it’s as tough a position to fill as ever. One guy is certainly up for the gig though, he goes by the name John 5. A session player by design who’s worked with all the greats, turned band guy handling the axe work for Rob Zombie for over a decade, he’s also been nurturing a healthy solo career for quite sometime. Now performing as a power trio, John 5 and The Creatures is an all instrumental project not only showcasing his speed and technical prowess, but also his song writing ability and diversity incorporating elements like bluegrass and country. Touring in support of his new live record, “It’s Alive”, I caught up with John after a performance at the Stanhope House in New Jersey to discuss the show, the new Rob Zombie album, playing with his childhood heroes, and more. Listen to the entire interview here and enjoy the photos from Wes Orshoski that were taken the following evening in New York City.
How are you man? That was an amazing show!
Well you know, it’s a true story my agent was like oh yeah why don’t you take a day off you know, and I was like there’s this small blues bar in New Jersey (The Stanhope House) and I really wanna play it. All these great cats played it.
How did you hear about it?
Through just word of mouth, really cool historic place and I love old venues. I guess it was built in like the late 1700’s, which is crazy to me and they took me all over down in the basement, did all this crazy stuff and it was just so cool man I just had such a blast here today.
That’s great. Do you believe in ghosts?
If they’re around, they don’t really scare me or anything so I hope there’s ghosts. I think that would be good.
That means there’s an afterlife.
Yeah. I mean that’d be rad. I hope you don’t just lay there and that’s it.
The medley at the end was insane. (Referring to the at least 10 minute medley at the end of the set which bounces through the most iconic and memorable riffs of metal and hard rock of the last 40 years)
(Laughs) A lot to remember.
Do you have a photographic memory?
No but that’s a lot of stuff down there huh? A lot of notes.
It is. And a lot kind of separated so there’s no like muscle memory where you just get into the song and kind of go.
People talk about that a lot because none of the show, and it’s probably like an hour and 20 minutes, None of the show is improvised. So they’re all parts and I play everything just like the records. And so yeah it’s a lot to remember. It is A LOT to remember. And you have people this far away from you, and I’m holding my hand about a foot in front of my face. And it’s distracting if someone’s going like this (starts clapping) keeping time to the track, but its OFF time. That will mess anybody up.
Yeah this place is very intimate. You didn’t hit your head on the ceiling down there? That’s a very low ceiling.
That’s a very low ceiling, and what’s very cool is you see a lot of these pictures you know Muddy Waters and Ray Charles and that same ceiling is right there. It’s the same ceiling, they never changed it.
I guess people were shorter in the 1700’s when they built this place. So It’s Alive, your first live album, is out now.
Yeah. It’s my first live record and it just came together by accident. We were just in Sellersville, PA and the guy was like “Hey do you wanna record your show?” and I was like ‘Sure!’ So we didn’t move around like we did tonight, I said ‘lets just concentrate, look at each other, stand still,’ and I even explained to the crowd, ‘Listen we’re recording tonight so that’s why we’re not jumping around so just bear with us,’ and they loved it. I kept that on the record too. So it was cool and it came out great and I’m very proud of it that’s why I wanted to put it out, tour it, and celebrate it.
And you just put out “Season of the Witch” not too long ago.
It’s a lot of stuff.
You keep busy don’t you?
Yeah and then the Zombie record coming up.
When’s that coming out?
I don’t know yet. They’re doing drums today actually. Rob just texted me and sent me a little video of them doing drums so I’m really excited.
So are all your parts all done?
My parts are all done.
Nice. You’re feeling good about this?
His best record yet. By far it’s an incredible record. And I never say this, and a lot of bands say, “this is our best record.” This is by far his best record White Zombie or solo. I’m psyched.
Awesome, I can’t wait to hear it. So you have a cool show coming up you’re playing in April at the Whiskey (LA) with Ace Frehley and you’re gonna be doing “Shout at the Devil” with Sebastian Bach and Nikki Sixx.
And Scott Ian and I think, Scott Ian’s wife Pearl is going to sing “Shout at the Devil” and Sebastian’s gonna sing “Parasite.” I wanna try and get him to sing “Enter Sandman,” we do a cover of it. So it’s gonna be like a party, like a weird crazy party with my friends.
Nice. which brings me to the question, how many of your childhood heroes have you NOT played with at this point?
Well, Let’s see. REAL childhood heroes, you know like, cause I have a crazy list of childhood heroes. But I’d say like of course, David Lee Roth, Eddie and all that stuff they’re my heroes. KISS are my heroes.
Diamond Dave was one of the first guys you got to jam with. What’s he up to nowadays? Is he making samurai swords in Japan or some shit?
Yeah, yeah. He went to Japan and got all tattooed, He knows how to speak Japanese. I mean the guy is always learning. And he writes music he always keeps busy. I love that guy, I talk to him.
When’s the last time you talked to him?
Probably right before the tour. He’s doing great though. He’s a blast, I love that guy.
Yeah, he seems like one of a kind. That goes without saying I guess. So you have a long list of heroes that you’ve never –
Yeah, never a Beatle, and that would have been great. And I love Roy Clark and Chet Atkins but never those guys, people like that I just love and I still love. Nothing’s changed from when I’m seven years old to now. I like the same stuff that I did like KISS and Van Halen and Happy Days and Laverne & Shirley and The Brady Bunch, Munsters. It’s still the same stuff.
Yeah right, It’s the foundation. You don’t fuck with what’s not broken. So you’re playing in New York tomorrow.
Yeah we’re playing in New York tomorrow and really excited about that. It’s tough to do the New York and L.A., ’cause there’s a lot of people and everybody’s backstage, so it’s tough. I remember I went to go see White Zombie and Pantera at the Forum. And they were in a backstage like this size (maybe a 30 X 20 ft room), and I was in cause I knew Dime and there were so many people in there, SO many people and I remember a guy coming in the door and he goes, “Five minutes!” and I’m thinking ‘oh my god there’s just like a party in here and these guys are gonna go on stage,’ I mean that’s how crazy it was. That’s how it is at the shows. And at the L.A. shows there’s so many guests you forget you’re playing.
When’s the last time you’ve been to a show that wasn’t work related?
I like to go see concerts. I do like to go see concerts. (Pauses) Probably Roger Waters or something like that. Oh, Guns N’ Roses. You know cause they’re my buddies and stuff I went to the Troubadour, the small show where Axl broke his foot, then I went to the Dodgers stadium one, they’ve been my friends for a hundred years.
Do you know Steven Adler?
Yeah, he’s one of my best friends.
I saw that he’s doing the Appetite thing, putting it back on the road which is good. He seems like a really sweet guy.
The best dude ever. He comes over for Christmas, all the time, all those guys.
Is there anybody you don’t know?
(Laughs) There’s a lot I don’t know.