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The Devil Knows His Name. Rob Zombie Guitarist John 5 Pays Up With New Solo Album

By Debby Rao, Boston Contributor
Sunday, March 25, 2007 @ 9:37 AM


"...there will be a Rob Zombie

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When I think of multi-talented musicians that capture that unique flair of excitement and talent in their performance, John Lowery, better known as John 5 is at the top of the list.

John 5 is an accomplished guitarist, who moved from Michigan to Los Angeles to pursue a musical career, in which he started out as a studio musician, and has worked his way to the top of the industry with his innovative guitar style working with such artists as David Lee Roth, K.D.Lang, and Marilyn Manson. These days John 5 is setting the concert stage on fire as Rob Zombie’s axe man.

John 5’s 3rd solo album, The Devil Knows My Name is a carefully orchestrated guitar album in which John 5 takes center stage, displaying technical mastery in country, metal, industrial, and blues-rock.

I had the opportunity to discuss with John 5 exclusive details about the making of The Devil Knows My Name, the music industry today, working with David Lee Roth, and what inspired him to pursue a career in music.

KNAC.COM: Last time we spoke you were writing the music for your new album. It’ll be released April 3rd, and I find it interesting that you will be putting it out on your own.

JOHN 5: Yes, I am putting this out myself because here in Los Angeles we had Tower Records closed, which was really a big thing. My past two CD's are in stores, by they are not like in all of the huge major chains so, since Tower Records closed, I was like well I sold most of the CD's off of my website. So this time I am just going to do the Prince way and sell them completely off of my website. Because all of these stores are closing all over the place. I have to go really far into Hollywood, just to go buy a CD nowadays.

KNAC.COM: I read that you will be appearing at Looney Tunes in New York on April 3rd. Will they be selling your CD?

JOHN 5: No they will be doing pre-orders. People that go there, to the store, stand in line and then they order the CD, beforehand at my website, and I show up and sign it.

KNAC.COM: It really goes to show you, how much the music industry has changed these days with the Internet. It affords you the luxury to be able to put this out on your own. Do you agree?

JOHN 5: Yes, I do agree. I think it's a really good thing for a lot of people. But then a lot of people see it as, not as a great thing. But in this instance, I think it is really a good thing for me.

KNAC.COM: Let's talk about the concept for The Devil Knows My Name. Would you say it has kind of a mystical or occult vibe to it? By the way, I really like the song titles.

JOHN 5: All of the titles to the record except for “Welcome To The Jungle” and “Young Thing” are all references to serial killers including “The First Victim” and “Werewolf of Westeria". “27 Needles", is about Albert Fish, who is a serial killer and he put 27 needles in his groin, when he went to jail they did an x-ray of him and they found these needles in his groin. So that is what that song is from. Everything means something on the record. It is not just a bunch of titles thrown together. If you put in a title and type it in the Internet and Google it, you will find out all these stories about it.

KNAC.COM: Where did the serial killer come from on the “Werewolf of Westeria"? Did the murders take place in England?

JOHN 5: That was actually also Albert Fish, because he would eat his victims. (Laughter) It was pretty wild. So that is why, they called him the ”Werewolf of Westeria.”

KNAC.COM: Who did the artwork for the cover?

JOHN 5: Our best player in Rob Zombie, Piggy D. He did the art design. He just did such a phenomenal job. He is really smart. Everything means something too with the artwork. There is an ouija board, on the front cover, right under my face. Also inside there is a hand, and there is a five caved into the hand, that has to do with Richard Ramirez, when he carved that pentagram in his hand. Everything has got a meaning, which I am really proud of. It is not just thrown together.

KNAC.COM: The artwork is what made me think of the occult.

JOHN 5: The CD is actually supposed to be the oracle, when you have a ouija board, the CD itself is the oracle. If you read the directions it says place your mystical viewer disc on the board. So it is pretty interesting.

KNAC.COM: How did you want to make this CD different from your previous instrumental releases?

JOHN 5: I wanted to make it a little bit more extreme than the first two releases. I wanted to give, as much as I could. I kind of put everything in there but the kitchen sink. The first song,” First Victim” is done with a violin bow. I just wanted to make the songs pretty long and pretty intense and really have a lot of information in there. I also did a cover of “Welcome To The Jungle", which is really close to my heart. That is kind of what really made me want to move to California was that video. When I saw it, I said this is definitely what I am going to do. It has got a lot of meaning to it. On “Young Thing", I just wanted to do a little bit of (country) western on there to mix it up a bit.

KNAC.COM: I loved how you revamped ”Welcome To The Jungle”. Actually your guitar parts scream out Axl's lyrics in such a way that it is really unique.

JOHN 5: I just wanted to just do his vocals, as close as possible. Even with the little phrases that he does. It came out really good, I am really proud of it.

KNAC.COM: When you first came to Los Angeles, you did a lot of session work. How did this help establish your career?

JOHN 5: It really got me comfortable in the studio, and being the studio with other musicians. It was a great learning experience. Because everything is experience. If you are a boxer, you have a lot of fights and you get in the ring a lot. If you are a baseball player, you play a lot of games. It is the same thing being a studio musician. You are just in the studio a lot. Exposing yourself to those kinds of things. It really educated me a lot to do those things. I am really happy and proud that I have done those things. It really has helped me in the long run.

KNAC.COM: Let's talk about the special guest stars on your new release. Tommy Clufetos, and Piggy D from Rob Zombie play on the album.

JOHN 5: Yes, they are playing on the record and they both did a great job. We also got Joe Satriani, Eric Johnson, and Jim Root (Slip Knot) on there. It is packed full with my friends, and we just made some crazy guitar music that I hope people really enjoy.

KNAC.COM: Joe Satriani plays on “The Werewolf of Westeria". That is one of my favorite tracks. It kind of has that 80's groove with a lot of guitar shredding. What was it like working with Joe?

JOHN 5: Joe is one of the reasons that I am doing this. I use to listen to Joe's albums. I went to go see him in concert a long time ago…in ‘87. I was blown away. I just really always enjoyed his work. Unfortunately, our schedules did not mix well, so I had to send him the tracks. I was so excited, when I got him. He just did such a phenomenal job, I was so proud.

KNAC.COM: Have you ever thought about being part of one of those G3 tours? How cool would that be?

JOHN 5: Yes, I have thought about that...maybe someday. I am going on the road with Zombie so much, I don't really have too much time for that. Someday in the future, I am going to pursue that.

KNAC.COM: You also work with Jim Root of Slipknot, and most recently Stone Sour.

JOHN 5: When, I was in Manson, we played so many shows with Slipknot. I used to watch them every single night. I was pretty blown away by what they were doing. I became tight with all of them. I always wanted to do some work with them. I thought this would be the perfect opportunity to get Jim in the mix. He did a great job. I am just so happy he is on the record.

KNAC.COM: Would you attribute your working with Manson, influenced the industrial sound on some of the songs on this album like “Harold Rollins Hymn"?

JOHN 5: Yes, what that song is about is Harold Rollins was a man that was being executed. He was a serial killer. The intro with the voice is the newscaster giving the report on what happened. When Harold Rollins was getting executed, he sang this hymn, which is what the newscaster is saying. We put a beat behind it. It is pretty interesting.

KNAC.COM: When you played with Marilyn Manson…is that how you got the name John 5, and how did you get into that band?

JOHN 5: Yes. I went out to lunch with him one day, and we were talking, and he mentioned how he wanted me to join the band. He gave me name my name right then and there. I never auditioned, so it was pretty cool. I was in Manson for six years.

KNAC.COM: Tell me about Eric Johnson’s guest appearance on your album.

JOHN 5: Eric Johnson is a Texas guitarist. He is like a solo instrumental guitarist like myself. He is a blues, country rock guitar player. I always respected him so much. I gave him a really heavy track, just to do something a little different and get him out of his comfort zone. He really just played phenomenally.

KNAC.COM: When I was listening to “Young Thing", I really thought it was Eric Johnson playing on that track because I thought it was more of his style. But Eric appeared on “The Washing Away Of Wrong”, so he did get away from his roots a bit, for a heavier solo.

JOHN 5: Right, it was just to mix it up a bit.

KNAC.COM: Now, what special meaning is behind the song,” July 31 (The Last Stand)"?

JOHN 5: “July 31st” (The Last Stand) , is the last murder that Son of Sam committed. That is also my birthday. So it is kind of a weird thing. The Son of Sam was a serial killer in New York City in the Seventies and that was his last murder on July 31st.

KNAC.COM: Oh no. How strange is that? You also bring out the banjo on “Bella Kiss". You are doing the banjo work.

JOHN 5: That song actually has a lot of tapping harmonics. It makes it sound just really out of the ordinary. That is another thing that I think guitar players will really enjoy. It is something different, something out of the normal.

KNAC.COM: How did you come up with the title of your new album,” The Devil Knows My Name"?

JOHN 5: The title is a reflection of all the really great opportunities in life. My business career is going so phenomenal. I have been writing with The Scorpions, Lynard Skynard and Paul Stanley, Meatloaf, and working with Rob Zombie and doing these instrumental records. Everything is going so phenomenal that way but on the personal side things are really bad. I had a lot of deaths in my family. So I am always making a deal with the devil. It is like you have all of these great things, but on the other side you have really incredible bad things happen to you. It is like if you just want to listen to CD's, you make a deal with the Devil, and you say all I want to do is to listen to music, but he gives you no speakers.

KNAC.COM: It is kind of like you sell yourself to the devil to have all of these great things, but in return you pay the consequences. Nothing is for free in life. That is the downfall of it. Your gift is your music, so that is one good thing about it. Whenever anything bad happens, just try and focus on that.

JOHN 5: Exactly. That is how I feel sometimes, and that is why I named the record that.

KNAC.COM: Let's take a moment to discuss your Signature Fender guitar Telecaster. You have both an electric and acoustic John 5 Signature guitar. Did you play these guitars on your new release?

JOHN 5: Yes, I played my models on the album. I just mostly used those guitars. I recorded late at night, just to give it a little weirder vibe to it. I just basically used my guitars. I used a violin bow in the first song. It sounds really scary and big.

KNAC.COM: How hard was it to make an instrumental record in comparison to a rock album? What are the differences? Is more technically involved?

JOHN 5: They are two different animals. That is why I like working with other people because anything you do is a different game in what people want and the kind of sounds they want. What kind of style they want. Luckily, I do my research and understand what those people want. If you go into a Scorpions gig, (you’re) not going to play some crazy Nine Inch Nails type riffs. You know exactly whey they want, and what you want and know how to work it.

KNAC.COM: You said you are working with Paul Stanley. Did you write for his recent solo release?

JOHN 5: I wrote a song on his record that just came out. We wrote a song together, Paul Stanley, Desmond Child and myself. It was just a true honor, because I am a Kiss fanatic. KNAC.COM: Did being a big Kiss fan make you want to pick up a guitar and become a musician?

JOHN 5: Yes, that and Jimi Hendrix and Van Halen. I a am a huge fan of all those bands.

KNAC.COM: How is the Nashville music scene? That must have been really exciting to return there, because in the past you’re toured with K.D.Lang.

JOHN 5: I love going to Nashville, whenever I can. Nashville has good people, great music and just a lot of fun. I really love it a lot. It is a whole different world down there. I am so thankful to be a part of it. I just got back from Nashville, and worked a little bit with Lynard Skynard. I wrote a few songs with them.

KNAC.COM: You said you are writing with The Scorpions also. Tell me about that. Will your song be on their upcoming album?

JOHN 5: Yes, I wrote a song with them. I am excited for people to hear the new Scorpions record. It is a great record. It is really heavy, and just really neat. It is not out yet, they jsut finished mixing it. Klaus (Meine) just sings amazingly.

KNAC.COM: In the past, you also toured with David Lee Roth. What was it like working with Diamond Dave?

JOHN 5: Working with Dave was an actual dream come true, because I am such a Van Halen nut. All I wanted to do when I was a little kid, was just be Eddie Van Halen and play with David Lee Roth and be married to Valerie Bertinelli and just play those Van Halen songs. I got that opportunity. I am so lucky to have done that. Eddie is my friend. I would never have thought that Eddie Van Halen would be a friend of mine. He is great.

KNAC.COM: Are you disappointed that the Van Halen reunion isn't happening?

JOHN 5: Oh I think it will happen; it is just on hold for a minute.

KNAC.COM: I hope so. How about you? Any plans for a solo guitar tour?

JOHN 5: It is kind of hard because I am with Rob (Zombie) now. But later on I will be doing a solo tour. When I have the time. I am going to go out there and really do it.

KNAC.COM: Any plans for an upcoming Rob Zombie tour?

JOHN 5: I don't know about this summer, because he’s working on the Halloween movie right now.

KNAC.COM: What does the future hold for John 5?

JOHN 5: I am going to be promoting the new record. I am writing for a bunch of artists. I am writing with Rob.

KNAC.COM: Now John how did you get the gig with Rob?

JOHN 5: I got a call from Dave Navarro do the Tsunami Benefits in Los Angeles. We played at Arrowhead Pond. I don't like playing a lot of these jams, but when he said that Rob Zombie is playing. I am a big Rob Zombie fan so I said, I’ll do it, if I play with Rob Zombie.” That went very well. We kind of just stayed in touch. I said if you ever need someone for your tour, I would be there for you.

KNAC.COM: What a great story. Your guitar style is so perfect for Zombie. The chemistry of the band is amazing. Is there a new Rob Zombie album in the works?

JOHN 5: Absolutely. Yes, I have been writing for that. So definitely there will be a Rob Zombie album coming soon.


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