John 5 has worked with everyone from k.d. lang to Ricky Martin to Lynyrd Skynrd – and we all know him from his work with ROB ZOMBIE. His resume is both vast and varied so it’s always interesting to hear about what he’s up to. MusicRadar sat down with John 5 recently to talk about his new solo album, his thoughts on the current state of music, why he chose to cover Michael Jackson’s classic hit ‘Beat It’ and what new gear is rocking his world. Check out some extracts from the interview below:
How do you challenge yourself conceptually these days?
“I do try to challenge myself and try new things. It’s like that saying: ‘If you’re not busy living, you’re busy dying.’ Just recently, I got a chance to write a song for Rod Stewart’s new record. I know his music very well, of course, but the idea of writing something for him was a big challenge. But I did it, it turned out great, and it’s going on the record. That’s pretty thrilling.
“Next, I’m doing the score to Rob Zombie’s new movie, and that’s something I’ve never done before – a film score. So that’s something different for me. The idea is to never get stuck in a rut, but I don’t think I ever have, really – it’s not in me.”
Since you played with k.d. lang, you’ve performed with mostly hard rockers – Rob Halford, Rob Zombie… If Taylor Swift called you to be in her band, would you be tempted?
“That’s a great question. I would, because I love going into different styles of music. But here’s the thing, and it’s the God’s honest truth: I love being in Rob Zombie’s band. I guarantee you that I will be in Rob Zombie’s band until he doesn’t want to do music anymore. “But yes, if Rob said to me, ‘I’m going to hang it up,’ then I’d probably want to go in a different direction. I probably wouldn’t want to do a rock thing. I’d want to play for a Madonna or something like that.”
OK, let’s talk about your cover of Michael Jackson’s Beat It.
“I wanted to cover that song for a long time, even before Michael died. Of course, I love Eddie Van Halen, and I just thought, What a great solo. Dave – Roth – is a friend of mine, and he would always say, ‘Eddie’s been playing that solo forever.’
“That was interesting to me, and it got me thinking, Hey, I’m going to do my own cover of Beat It. It’s such a world-wide song. You can go into any town around the world and say, ‘Hey, you know that song Beat It?’ Forget it – everybody will know it. I was dedicating it to Michael Jackson and paying homage to Eddie, as well.”
Have you made any changes to your physical guitar effects?
“The only thing that’s blown my mind – and it’s been around for a long time, I guess – is the [Electro-Harmonix] Bass Micro Synthesizer. It’s the only piece of gear that makes people say, ‘Holy crap – what is that?!’ People lose their minds over the sounds it makes. I incorporated it into my recordings. Live, it’s very sensitive; you have to finesse it.
“Actually, live, I’m very bare bones, because when I used to go to concerts, I loved to see bands just play – like AC/DC or The Who… or Van Halen. I could hear everything they were playing, and it’s because their rigs were so bare bones, just Marshalls and maybe some distortion pedals. So that’s what I’ve done live. I keep things simple because I love a simple sound.”
Last question: There’s a video on YouTube called ‘J5 Shreds,’ but it’s the real you playing. Are you fearful of somebody doing one of those joke ‘shreds’ videos?
“Those things are amazing! [laughs] Oh my God, the KISS I Was Made For Loving You one? And there’s a Slipknot one? Those are incredible. I love them.”