By Jay Oakley
First off, You've got a solo tour coming up so talk about that and how you're looking forward to it.
I love getting out there and playing guitar and doing the instrumental thing because I love that music. I love that instrumental music but I wanted to do a different kind of instrumental show and albums and all that stuff. So, what goes on in the show is a very planned out show with things going on and production and different styles of music. I was looking at it like when I take my wife to go see an instrumental show. I'm looking at it that way, like taking people to a show like I do when I'm taking my wife to a show because they're not into this kind of music so they get bored so I wanted to make this like "something new will happen" so for the everyday person watching these shows it will be interesting. Sometimes we'll be playing a rock song and the next song we'll be doing like a bluegrass song and to anyone that would be interesting even though it's so different and then there's cool production that's happening so we really take our time to plan it all out and take our time and it's been going really well.
So, we start in Michigan on the 4th and we continue on through March. I think I'm working everyday, I have one day off and that's because we're traveling. It's a lot of fun and there's a really great meet and greet as well. You get to watch sound check which is really cool and you get to take a picture with one of my guitars and all that stuff and go back there and see the guitars which I always thought, "What would I want to do if I got a really cool meet and greet package." I kind of just put myself into the situation.
When it comes to these shows, John. Is it just going to be you or do you have any other band members?
No, it's called John 5 and The Creatures and there's a bass player and a drummer. It's been going great. I've been releasing a new song and a new video the first of every month and that started January 1st so you can see that on the website (www.john-5.com) or my YouTube channel (www.youtube.com/user/john5officialYT) or whatever, it's really interesting though.
You just released the "Behind The Nut Love" video for this month that people are going to be able to listen to and watch. When it comes to your music videos is there anything that you try to put across in your videos that would be different then a video you would do with Rob (Zombie?)
Well yeah. People watch music nowadays. Especially with what I'm doing, people want to see what I'm doing and how I'm doing it, playing it and stuff like that. But, the first video is called the "Black Grass Plague" and that one I play banjo and I play mandolin. The second one is "Behind The Nut Love" and it shows me doing all this behind the back stuff because people always want to see me doing stuff. The next one is called "Making Monsters" and that one's really cool, that one comes out March 1st. It's all stop-animation, it's me as an action figure and Frankenstein and Wolf Man and Dracula, The Mummy and their all moving and it's a really cool video.
When it comes to the persona that you've created and the characters you've put together with your look onstage, how did that come about?
When I was so little, just a little kid, I was really infatuated with Frankenstein and Creature From The Black Lagoon and that kind of stuff. I really, really liked it and was inspired by that because I was a little, little kid but it stuck with me this whole time and it's comforting in a way. But what Lon Chaney was doing with his makeup, I just thought that was so cool. I thought this as a kid and that if I ever do something then I'd want to do something like this because this is entertaining. People want to be entertained that's for sure. That's how I look at it, people want to be entertained and they want to see some stuff and that's why I did it.
Absolutely. As part of what you do with your makeup and your style, I'd love you to take a second to talk about your stage name, John 5. It's been addressed that it came across in your time with Marilyn Manson but is there any kind of story behind how the 5 was chosen for you?
Ya know, I wish there was some kind of a cool story, like a ritual or something that happened that was really cool but what really happened was I went to lunch with Manson, I'd never met him before, he asked me to be in the band and he actually just told me, "Look, we're going to call you, John 5." and it was pretty much that simple. It's kind of a biblical meaning because he wanted to do everything with numbers at the time. It's funny, I was just telling Flash this story last night. We were texting each other because he had a friend who wanted to know the story behind my name.
From my understanding, after you wrap up your solo tour, you'll be going back out on the road with Rob in April?
Yes, at the end of April. We'll head right into it and hit all these big festivals and it's going to be a blast. I love doing those shows, those big, open air shows. The weather's nice, your friends are there, there are other bands you like. It's a lot of fun, I really enjoy it a lot so I'm looking forward to it.
Is the current, upcoming part of the Zombie tour going to be mostly open air festivals or are there any smaller city stops mixed in between at the moment?
I think it's going to be a little bit of both which is really cool. This new Zombie record (The Electric Warlock Acid Witch Satanic Orgy Celebration Dispenser) is just killer! We're really looking forward to getting out there and playing some new songs.
For your new record do you guys have a release date set?
I think it's April 29th, with the first day of the tour.
Since you've been with Rob, for sure, you've started taking on a lot of score work with him, from not only Lords of Salem but also his upcoming movie 31. Do you enjoy things like doing musical scores? I figure you would because of how much you dig on instrumental shows but talk about how that fell on to you.
I've always been doing score music most of my life. I didn't really talk about it that much but I did work on Baywatch and all these other movies and things like that which a lot of people don't know about. I'm not a huge fan of doing score work but for Rob I'll do anything for the guy. I love to do his movies, I should say that. I love to do Zombie's movies, he knows exactly what he wants. He gives me all the answers to the tests. He's like, "Give me something this long. Give me something like this. Give me something like that." He makes it so enjoyable and so easy to do with his direction.
I've got to tell you, John. I'm very fortunate to get to talk with the people I get to talk with and I love to talk about history and you, to be honest, have a really exciting history from the people that you've been able to work with. From Rob Halford, to David Lee Roth, to Marilyn Manson and to Rob Zombie. I'd love for you to talk a little bit about that progression and what it was like being with, for example, Rob Halford, in a goth industrial band like 2wo to moving into working with David Lee Roth and everything he does which is a little more Van Halen-esque.
Well, if you go even wider range, when I was playing with Rob Halford I was also in K.D. Lang (Canadian pop and country singer and songwriter) and that's so different because we were just playing a really cool adult contemporary, country thing and then going and playing with Halford. I loved that. I'm just a fan of music. As long as it's good, I'm a huge fan of music. That's how I've always been, I just really, really enjoy listening to all different kinds of music and playing all different kinds of music. It's a blessing, I'm telling you.
When you look back at your history and what's been written in the book of John 5 right now. From everything going back to Red Square Black, to 2wo, to K.D. Lang, David Lee Roth, Marilyn, all your solo records and Rob, how do you feel about the progression you've done? Not only the work you've done but the experiences you've had?
Well, it's all experience, it's all life and it's all intravenous. It's funny because I love history as well and I keep a record of what I've done. A lot of people don't know this either but I love giving people real information. What I do is I collect every single laminate, not pass, but every laminate because when I play a show 10 out of 10 times you get a laminate. So you know you're part of the band, you know you're part of the event and what is going on. So I have every single laminate since I was maybe 18 playing professional gigs until now so we're talking hundreds of laminates. They're from Halford and Manson but not just Manson in general, we're talking probably a hundred Manson laminates from the Big Day Out to a special Halloween show, or the Universal Amphitheater show or the Jay Leno appearance. That's the same thing with Zombie, just hundreds so there's a book that I have of every single show I've done. Even when I went to go play with Ace Frehley so it's really a cool piece of history that I like to open up and show people that come over once in a while. Rob was over, Zombie was over at my house a while ago and I showed him because he was like, "Oh my God! I don't even remember this show or that show." and it's cool, ya know?
I also have every single pick that I had made, ya know because sometimes you have picks made for a tour and I have all of those too. I had my first pick made when I was 10 years old and I have them from 10 years old all the way til now. It's really neat and they're all in these books. So, I do love the history of things and it's a really fun thing to go back and look at and the future is definitely bright.
Is there any particular time frame or tour that really jumped out? Even if it was so much as a show, maybe a Halloween show or even a TV appearance but is there a time frame or a period that you really hold close? Or, does just your respect and love to be able to play keep everything close?
That is a great question and I enjoy touring but the greatest, most incredible, fun, comforting time is summer time and playing those festivals. I've been doing this my whole life just about and it is unbelievable. It feels like a warm blanket because you're playing these shows and you're with your friends, you're with these other bands that you know, everything was done for you, there's tons of people all happy, everyone's having a great time and every day's just a blast. It's that summer time, big festival season in America. I love it! Love it, love it, love it, love it! It's true, too.
I wanted to ask you because like some of the other interviews I've done to start this year I've felt obligated almost out of necessity but also out of respect to ask this question. I'd love you to give your take on what has gone down with some of the big names we've lost in music this year. If there's anything you'd like to talk about whether it was about Bowie or Lemmy or Jimmy Bain, I'd love you to take a second to talk about it.
It is a shame that we've lost so many icons and so many amazing musicians and songwriters. It's crazy, even Paul Kantner, Jefferson Starship, it's just a sad thing. Here's the reality. It's going to happen. One time or another it's going to happen, it's inevitable. But, for it to all happen in such a snowball effect is so sad. It was a very hard beginning of 2016, end of 2015 and very sad because we did lose some huge icons and one-of-a-kind people. There's not another Lemmy, there's not another Scott Weiland and things like that. There's not another David Bowie so it's a huge, huge loss. It's a huge loss when anybody passes and it's very sad but, I guess, it's going to happen to all of us but the snowball effect was a really, really hard thing to swallow.
When you look at yourself, from making your first picks at 10 all the way up to the show you have coming up to start this tour, how do you feel about yourself and your progression and how you've improved over your career?
Well, I feel that I have improved. I always try to improve myself with learning something different all the time. All the time, I'm trying to push myself and learn new things and that's the whole seeds of what I do. That is what makes me happy, that love and knowledge is power. If you listen to my records, my instrumental records, they're all different from each other. They're the same kind of style but they're all different licks and different ideas and different this, that and the other thing because I love to learn. At a business sense too, I'm so happy with how things are going because I'm happy. I'm happy with what I'm doing and I love playing these intimate venues that I'm playing. I'm being completely honest, I love being up close and personal with the crowd when I play these shows. I've done big instrumental shows but I really enjoy playing the smaller ones where the people are right up against you and I think that's really a lot of fun. Then, I have the privilege of playing these huge, massive shows as well so I really get the best of both worlds and I'm so happy and content with what's been going on. I just couldn't have wished a better life. It's a lot of fun. I really enjoy myself doing this and if I didn't I wouldn't be doing it, that's for sure.