It’s been a little over a year since we last spoke to John 5. Yet somehow he hasn’t slowed down at all. He’s busy enough keeping up with Rob Zombie, releasing the album Venomous Rat Regeneration Vendor and co-headlining Mayhem Fest. Yet somehow he finds the time to collaborate with some of music’s biggest names AND to work on a new solo album. And to top it all off, he’s also helping Zombie do a first: release a live DVD.
John 5 took a moment to brief and talk with us before taking the stage at Mayhem Fest’s stop in Camden, NJ. During our chat, the guitarist extraordinaire gave more insight behind Zombie’s first ever live DVD, the status with the jukebox musical he’s been working on with David Lee Roth, and how in the hell he came to write a song with Rod Stewart.
When we last spoke, you emphasized how much you loved working with Rob Zombie.
Still do! [laughs]
Well that’s good to hear! How would you say your work on the new album, Venomous Rat Regeneration Vendor, stands out?
Well, we all went to Rob’s house, and we worked super, super hard on it. There were no distractions because he lives out in the middle of nowhere. We really worked hard on it, and tried to come up with the coolest stuff we could. It’s very unorthodox. I’m playing stuff with a violin bow and electric sitar and all sorts of stuff like that. I’m very proud of the record, and how it came out. We’re playing some of the songs live, and people are just eating it up, so we’re psyched about it. It’s great. We’re really happy about it.
Would you go as far as saying that this is the most experimental Rob Zombie album that you’ve been a part of?
No. I think the most experimental Rob Zombie album that I’ve been a part of was Educated Horses. It was so left field. It’s one of my favorite records, even if I wasn’t in Rob Zombie. There was so much cool stuff on that album, and I don’t think a lot of people got it, but there were a lot of really cool songs, acoustic stuff, and I think it was the most experimental record for sure.
It was also the first time Zombie had released music in years. When I first heard “Let It All Bleed Out,” I was like “Whoa! Zombie’s back!”
Yeah, that’s a great album. “American Witch” was on that, “Let It All Bleed Out,” “The Lords of Salem,” all that good stuff. The new album is ridiculous. “Teenage Nosferatu Pussy,” “Dead City Radio and the New Gods of Supertown,” and “Lucifer Rising,” all ridiculous.
Do you have a favorite song to play live from it?
I would say “Lucifer Rising.” We’re not doing that live tonight, but I love that song. “Teenage Nosferatu Pussy” is always really fun. “Dead City Radio” is really fun; “We’re An American Band” is really fun. It really is a cool record, and I’m so psyched about it.
I heard that you let slip out that a live DVD is in the works.
Yes! Can you believe that? White Zombie never did one. Rob Zombie never did one!
Which is hard to believe since it’s such a visual show too!
Yes! We’ve had people filming; we’ve hired people to film. So god willing… that’s why I want to do interviews about it because I want to make sure it comes out! We have the biggest show that we’ve ever done, it has to come out. We’re just getting so much footage and everything for it.
So is it going to be footage from multiple shows, or one particular show?
I think it’s going to be from a couple of shows. The band is so tight and we just have everything down, and FINALLY we’re going to have recorded history of this show. Everybody has a DVD, if not multiple DVDs. [UPDATE: Rob Zombie has since confirmed that the Houston and Dallas shows will be filmed for the DVD]
Not too long ago, David Lee Roth revealed that he was working on a musical jukebox project with you. What’s the status of that?
It’s called Somewhere Over the Rainbow Bar & Grill. What it was, he was warming up for the Van Halen record he said “Hey John, come on over, we’ll play some songs and write a little bit.” He likes to get his voice in shape and we were just hanging out at his house and he said “I love this, let’s go into the studio!” And we recorded it that day. Luckily I cleared my day, and we came out with twelve songs, and they’re incredible! I don’t know what he’ll do with it.
I remember hearing him say he had such grand ideas for it.
It’s so incredible. It is awesome. It sounds like “Could This Be Magic?” or “The Full Bug,” you know, that David Lee Roth deep voice. It’s really great. Hopefully it’ll see the light of day one day.
Was it nice working with David Lee Roth again?
Yeah. I’ve known him forever. For years and years and years and years and years. It’s great. It’s like hanging out with a friend, and just knocking stuff out.
When we last spoke, you also mentioned that you were working with Rod Stewart. I remember after the interview, I was like “wait, did he just say he was working with Rod Stewart?!” How did that come about?
Kevin Savigar, who did two of my instrumental records, was in Rod Stewart’s band since 1978. He wrote “Forever Young,” he wrote “Young Turks,” he wrote all of these big Rod Stewart hits, and he said “Hey, we should write some songs.” When we got together and did that, the song was HUGE overseas. He got a number one record, and he was in the top five for I don’t know how many weeks. It’s probably still in the top five. Huge record! The outcome was that it was just massive. It was a massive hit, and it’s so weird to think that I was a part of it.
Were you actually in the studio with Rod? How did that process work?
Well, Rod is so crazy busy and I’m busy, so I ran to Kevin’s house and we wrote for a few days, and stuff like that. And Rod would do that thing, because that guy is all over the place. It all just came together, and the song is called “It’s Over.” I’m very proud of that.
Do you plan on working with him again?
Yeah! If he says “let’s write a tune,” sure!
Are there any other fun collaborations that are in the works for you?
I’m doing another instrumental record right now, and it’s REALLY crazy. I have the bass player from Elton John on it. He’s insane! We’re having a great time doing that, too.
How would you say this new instrumental album will differ from the last one?
Every album is different. The last album, God Told Me To, was half acoustic. This one is going to be different, but I don’t want to give too much away. But it’ll be crazy. Anyone who has picked up a guitar will be able to enjoy it.
When do you hope to have that come out?
I don’t know. I’m still working [on it]. I want to make sure that it’s really done right, and that it’s really ready to go.