We’ve been trying to get an interview with Rob Zombie for years now and when they come back with Rob’s not available would you like to talk to John 5 my response is always going to be fuck yeah! John 5 is a Guitar God. The guy is just insane. He is under appreciated because he’s best known for his work in Marilyn Manson and Rob Zombie (not exactly bands known for its virtuoso guitar playing), but the guy is second to none. I got a chance to chat with him about the new Zombie record “Venomous Rat Regeneration Vendor,” the Mayhem tour and Rob’s short-lived feud with Marilyn Manson.
If you’d like to listen to the interview you can do so here:
Bob Zerull (BZ): You’re in the middle of Mayhem run, how’s the tour going so far?
John 5 (J5): So far so good. Big crowds, really great shows so far. We’re having a really great time. My son is 17 years old and he’s never had a chance to see me live which is kind of odd through all the Marilyn Manson through all these Zombie shows so the first show of this Mayhem tour he got a chance to come and see me so it was great. It was a really great emotional thing, it was incredible.
BZ: That’s really cool. Do you get a chance to head over to the side stages and check out some of the smaller bands?
J5: Oh yeah. I always do that. I try to take in everything I can by watching these other bands and listening to what they’re doing. I want to keep up to date with everything and be familiar with as much as I can. If somebody references something I’ll know what they’re talking about. I really enjoy going to see these other bands.
BZ: You’ve done the festival thing before and the co headlining thing with Slayer, Megadeth, Manson, Alice Cooper. When you do those joint bills and these festivals is there a competition between the bands?
J5:I don’t really look at it that way. We look at trying to put on the best show possible for the audience, which is most important. We just do our show and we’re trying to put on the best show possible. We’re not worrying about the other bands in a competitive way we’re more concerned about if the crowd likes it.
BZ: Earlier this year you guys released “Venomous Rat Regeneration Vendor.” I’ve always wondered about the writing process for Rob Zombie, because he has a very distinct style and you’re a guitar god. Do you come up with the riffs and Rob turns them into Rob Zombie songs or what’s the process?
J5; That’s pretty much it. I’ll come in with the riff and then he’ll take the music and see what inspires him if anything. He’ll like things totally different. Like some of the songs I’m playing with a quarter or I’m tuned way down or using electric sitar. He likes things very out of the ordinary, which is fun for me because it’s very challenging. I never know what he’s going to want. I’ll just come in with a bunch of riffs and see what inspires him. That’s pretty much how it comes together. We recorded it at his place in Connecticut. There was nothing around; I mean there was nothing around there. We had no distractions what so ever. We got a lot done and we came out with a really great record that I’m very proud of.
BZ: Going into an album does he know what he wants in advance or do you just write and let whatever happens happen?
J5: I think he has a good idea of what he wants, its just trying to get it out of everyone. He has a good idea of what he wants, that’s for sure.
BZ: Rob has played with several musicians as have you, but based on several interviews that I’ve seen over the last few years you both seem to be at your happiest playing together am I far off on that?
J5: No that’s 100% correct. I wouldn’t change this for the world. The grass is not always greener. People are always looking for that. I’m aware of that. I’m at a place now where I want to hang my hat because I really enjoy being in Rob Zombie, it’s something I’m really happy with. I wouldn’t change it for the world.
BZ: He has said this feels more like a band, like White Zombie than it has through out his solo career. Does it feel that way from your end?
J5: Oh absolutely, it’s funny because we all really get a long. It’s a great experience. I’ve heard him talk about White Zombie a lot and it sounds like jeez this is more of a band than White Zombie ever was (laughs).
BZ: You guys were on “That Metal Show” recently and he had kind of casually mentioned that he kind of had a rock opera thing in mind for the album, do you know anything about that?
J5: I don’t, but if you ever interview him let me know (laughs).
BZ: You did the score for “Lords of Salem,” how was working with Rob on the movie different than on an album?
J5: It was like working with a different person really, because he gets in a different mode when he’s working on a movie, it’s really incredible. If you are friends with somebody for so many years but then you see them at some other job, it’s really strange. I don’t know it’s just different in a way because he’s so focused, not that he’s not focused on music, but I’m just used to writing music with him and touring with him. But yeah he’s like a different person. He’s just so in touch with everything that’s going on. He’s really focused on what’s going on every minute of the day with the movie. It was really incredible and really inspiring. It’s really hard to explain, but it’s cool to see your friend just so involved in these movies and really knowing everything about it, I was so impressed.
BZ: How was it for you, because you scored the whole thing, it wasn’t just guitar? Was that a different process for you?
J5: It was totally different. I’d done some score work in the past, but it’s tough. It’s really hard, because sometimes it doesn’t make musical sense because you’re doing it to a movie. All of the sudden out of the middle of nowhere we’re going to really hit it hard or we’re going to bring it down here because it’s going to a movie, it’s going to a scene. It’s really different from what I was used to. Doing it in the past I was familiar with it and I had a great time doing it. It was really rewarding to watch it at the end of the day in the movie theater. It was really cool.
BZ: Late last year you went out with Manson and early on in the tour there was some friction between Rob and Manson, but it seemed to go away. I was wondering how they resolved the whole thing?
J5: Rob is very on time, organized, this is what time we go on, this is what time we go off. There was some scheduling times where Manson was going on a little late and he just wanted to get it resolved because if we go over we’ll get fined because there’s a curfew. Everybody wants to play their show and there was just something in that aspect, but once it got cleared up it was fine and there was no problem.
BZ: My last question is when are we going to get some new John 5 solo material?
J5: I’m working on it now. I was actually working on it right before you called, so you’ll be hearing some soon.
BYLINE: Bob Zerull is the Managing Editor of Zoiks! Online. He writes pop culture commentary, does interviews with bands, and reviews music and stand-up concerts. He also administers Zoiks! Online's Facebook page. Follow Bob on twitter at bzerull. Email Bob at firstname.lastname@example.org.