JOHN 5 has enjoyed a twenty-year career playing with some of music's most prolific rock bands, including lead guitar for Marilyn Manson between 1998-2004. He is currently the lead guitarist for Rob Zombie, and continues to add to his impressive back catalogue as a solo artist.
John recently took the time to conduct an interview with Provider Module in between tour schedules with Zombie, with some unexpected and fascinating results...
You've embraced playing styles and genres from Bluegrass, Swing, Metal, Thrash, Garage Rock and Country, both in solo work and with others. How much freedom to exert them were you allowed in Marilyn Manson?
I'd say probably close to none. Which isn't a bad thing, because it was not my band. The band is called Marilyn Manson for a reason. But I always understand that when I play for artists. That's why I did my instrumental records to have a creative outlook.
In the studio with Manson, would he often start sessions with thematic ideas already cemented, or were any lyrical arrangements inspired by music?
I think he had an idea lyrically of where he wanted to go on each record. What I simply did was supply music that inspired him to put his lyrics to music I would create with the band.
Upon joining Marilyn Manson you played some custom "glam" Ibanez models, then during the Holy Wood tour there were Gibsons.
Were guitar choices based more on cosmetics, or sonic requirements/benefits?
They were... the Ibanez were more cosmetic. The Gibson sounds amazing of course, as you and the world know.
Also, during this time around 2002, I was lucky enough to get an endorsement deal with the greatest guitar company in the world, Fender.
Manson has said you recorded some guitar dubs during Mechanical Animals' final stages, whereas many believe you began afterwards as live guitarist. How did it actually work out?
I came into Mechanical Animals right when they were mixing the album. I was told to learn the whole album, which was a pleasure to me because I'm a huge Manson fan.
I guess I learned it really well, because Manson wanted me to redo guitars on Mechanical Animals but, with release date coming there was no way it was possible within the time frame.
How did the creative process for Holy Wood compare with The Golden Age Of Grotesque, and if applicable, which record are you the most proud of?
I'm proud of everything I've done during Marilyn Manson. I worked very hard on both the albums and they are very close to me.
The only difference between the two is that we did a lot of acoustic work on Holy Wood, and hopefully people will hear it one day.
Next we did a whole other record, it's all instrumental, but not guitar instrumental. Very orchestral, string and different instruments, called The Factory, not a lot of people know this.
The Golden Age Of Grotesque saw you introduce probably one of those most unique Telecasters ever, and since that time you've been a dedicated Telecaster enthusiast. Have you always favoured them, or were they a deliberate change at that stage in your career?
Ever since, even before I played guitar, I had a fondness and a love for telecasters.
I think it was because my sister was a huge Rolling Stones fan and she loved Keith Richards. Every day I saw a picture of a telecaster. That has always been my favorite guitar, my whole life.
When I got the chance to sign with Fender and have my own signature model it was one of the greatest days of my life.
Was your signature model used to record all of The Golden Age, and is it what you've composed with chiefly since? Also, have you encountered either praise or criticsm for using a guitar otherwise uncommon in rock and metal?
Ninety-percent of the recording for Golden Age I used the telecaster.
I didn't get any criticism, I got praise for using that guitar. With both Marilyn Manson and Rob Zombie.
Do you have any particularly fond memories of your time in Marilyn Manson, whether musical or anecdotal?
I guess touring was always a lot of fun in the beginning. Then it started to diminish later on tours.
I don't understand why, but the recording process was always a lot of fun too. There was more laughter than arguing. But who knows... it's still out for debate why it all went sour at the end.
How do you see Manson's portrait of you - John The Beaten - and do you own a copy of it?
Yes, I have the original, which I'm very proud of. I think it's about how I took so much abuse but never gave in or up. The most important thing to me during that time was to play all the songs as well as possible, to make them sound as good as possible. I tried to play perfectly every show.I have hundreds and hundreds of copies of the shows. I'd record each one and listen to performances and the shows were incredible.
The song Compass And The Ruler, featured in the film From Hell is credited as being written by Trevor Jones, Manson and yourself. Is the orchestral version the only recording, or is there a 5/Manson version that differs?
That's pretty much the song. That is a good example of what I was talking about with The Factory unreleased album. It's kind of music in that vein. It's some of the greatest work Manson and I have done together. Hopefully it will see the light of day sometime.
You're known for an almost flawless ability to recreate album guitar tracks on stage with a variety of artists. How important is it for you to maintain that attention to detail?
It's my passion and it's my love. That's especially true if I'm playing with someone else, it's my job to make that artist sound as good as possible.
With Marilyn Manson, every day for weeks on end I would try to get the parts and the sounds as perfect as possible, both out of respect for Manson and fans. I've seen established bands that would sound nothing like the record and not understand why.
The idea of you re-joining Marilyn Manson is widely known to be out of the question, but legions of fans still discuss it regularly. Would you ever consider calling Manson to do one or two studio tracks for nostalgic or artistic reasons?
I don't think it's up to me, it's up to Manson. The question should be put in his direction.
Of the two Rob Zombie albums you've made, which was the most natural, and although Hellbilly Deluxe 2 is more fresh, which features songs you most enjoy?
Everything I've done with Rob Zombie has been beyond a pleasure for me. We've never had a disagreement, never had a problem with each other. It's been 5 years since I've been in this band. Hard to believe but it is true, even after 5 years. Everything we've done musically, has been fun.
Thanks also to Emma, Karen and Annette for all the amazing years working with me. I appreciate it from the bottom of my heart. I couldn't do it without them.
During 2010 John has recently released his fifth solo album The Art Of Malice, and is currently touring the United States with Rob Zombie in support of Hellbilly Deluxe 2 (also released earlier this year).
For more information, tour dates and media, please visit the following locations:-
Our extended thank you goes out to John for taking the time to speak with us, and John's web manager and friend Emma for making this interview happen.
All John 5 images are used with permission by John-5.com and respective photographers. The Art of Malice photography by Ray Guiterrez [strangebeautifulart.com]
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