Rob Zombie guitar wizard creates magic on his ninth solo studio album
When something catches John 5’s ear — whether it’s metal, classic rock, funk, EDM, blue-grass or country & western — you can bet he’s going to shred all over it. It’s no secret that the competent axe-slinger is just an all-around music fan.
John 5 (real name John William Lowery) has played with many diverse musicians such as k.d. Lang, David Lee Roth, Meat Loaf, Marilyn Manson and has been serving as Rob Zombie’s right-hand man for 14 years now.
Since picking up the axe at just seven years old, he became obsessed with it. Even to this day, his favorite Fender Telecaster rarely leaves his side. He learned to play by emulating various jingles on TV — especially by watching the country music show Hee Haw — and learned theme songs such as the Brady Bunch and the Beverly Hillbillies and TV commercials. His influences were only strengthened after discovering Van Halen, KISS and Jimi Hendrix.
On his ninth solo studio album, Invasion, John 5 and his band The Creatures — featuring bassist Ian Ross and drummer Logan Miles Nix — create 10 diverse instrumental tunes with dizzying magnitude.
Here’s what Mr. 5 had to say when the RNR Globe caught up with him recently.
Invasion sounds more streamlined compared to your previous releases. It seems like it’s more accessible to get hooked with every song.
What I did is… my son was listening to this EDM music and I thought there’s some great riffs in here. I just thought, why don’t I take the really cool hooks and then put crazy guitar music around them, too. And then I thought to myself, “Well, there’s no singing,” so I just used this talk box to do a lot of the talking parts. Like “I Am John 5” and “I Want it All,” that’s all done with the talk box that’s hooked up to my guitar. We still have all the rock stuff and all the bluegrass stuff and all that country stuff. It’s by far my favorite record I’ve done. I really love it.
I was going to mention the talk box on those two tracks and there’s also a female voice on “I Like the Funk”
I just wanted to still do everything with my guitar, and that’s what I did. There’s still no vocals on it. There’s a song called “Crank It,” where it just says, “crank it.” I did this on just a laptop. I wrote in the words “crank it” and I put translate and she says, “crank it.” And that’s how it comes out. It’s really cool. So then for “I Like the Funk,” we got this amazing, amazing singer. It’s just a really cool hook, a really cool rad hook.
There’s also EDM type stuff as well on “I Am John 5” and “I Want It All.” What got you interested in leaning toward this type of musical style?
I want to have all types of people come to the show, not just guitar players, but just people that love music. And what’s happening. These shows are getting bigger and bigger and I’m super happy. You don’t have to be a guitar lover to like this record. It’s just cool music.
That’s what I was getting at earlier in our conversation. The album seems more accessible to fans of other musical genres.
It really worked out well. And the kids too, there’s tons of kids that come to the show when it’s all ages. It’s been a dream come true because I never expected it. I never expected people really to come to the shows. That’s why I never toured. But it’s been a real blessing. I am so thankful to the fans for coming out and enjoying the night out and picking up the music, too. Because it’s from the heart. I don’t do this for anything but just for the love of music.
You were very influenced by the country TV show Hee Haw when you were a kid, as your love of bluegrass is evident on the track “Howdy.”
It’s just what I love sitting around playing at home. That’s some of the crowd’s favorite stuff, is when I’m playing that kind of different style. And it’s wonderful because I thought that would be the stuff they wouldn’t like. When we start playing that music, they go crazy. Maybe just because it’s so different and it really works out well.
You’re a big proponent of videos and I remember you mentioning when we previously spoke about that more people are watching their music now. Was it just as important with this album to release these series of videos each month?
Yes. I believe that people are watching music, just like I do. I mean, I’m on Youtube all the time or Instagram or things like that. So, I think videos are so imperative, because it’s just how it is nowadays. It’s just what is going on nowadays, which is great. And I love that. I would never want it to go backwards.
VIDEO: John 5 and the Creatures “I Want It All”
What was it like making the “I Want It All” video? I believe that’s your actual house?
Yeah, that was my home. And that video is from Instagram. People are so enthralled in Instagram, they’re just so into looking at what’s going on. They’re looking at what’s going on on their phones. They’re not looking at what’s going on in the world around them. I’m around these people playing and they’re just looking at their phones watching me on their phone. That’s the kind of funny thing about it. And we all do it. There’s nothing wrong with it, but sometimes we’ve got to put the phone down and enjoy life.
What about people at your shows who record you on their phones throughout the entire concert?
I actually support it. And the reason why I support it, is that if you’re going to record the show, record the whole show. I don’t mind it. Get a good spot and try to record the whole show, because there’s a lot of people around the world that can’t get to the show or maybe they have a hard time moving around or something like that and they want to see the show. If people are recording, I’m totally fine with it.
VIDEO: John 5 and the Creatures “Zoinks!”
The video for “Zoinks!” has a Scooby Doo/Batman/Speed Racer kind of vibe. How did this idea come about?
I love Scooby Doo and I just wanted to do a cartoon where I would solve mysteries and things like that with my guitar, and my guitar did all sorts of cool stuff. Susan Olsen from the Brady Bunch who played Cindy Brady was one of the voices and Fred Coury from Cinderella was one of the voices. And Nikki (Sixx) is one of the voices. It was really, really cool. It was super fun to do that video.
During your live shows, you always do a killer medley of awesome metal and rock songs. The fun part about it is when the audience recognizes the riffs.
That’s a blast because for everybody — it doesn’t matter who you are — you’ll know these songs, and that’s how I kind of put it together. I put together the most popular songs where everybody will know these tunes and it makes them happy. I try to keep everybody entertained, because that’s what you want to do. You want to go out and you want to have a good time and it’s such a great way to end the show.
What’s the latest Rob Zombie news?
Rob has a movie coming out in days, it’s coming up pretty soon. Then we’re going to do some more touring. We’re going to do a show in Kentucky. We’re going to do Louder Than Life (Festival, Kentucky, Sept. 29) and we’re going to do the Aftershock festival in Sacramento, California (Oct. 12). We’re always working; we’re always busy. We’re always keeping it going. The album will come out. I’m not sure when, but as soon as I know I’ll let you know and if you hear something, you let me know!