The name John 5 has become synonymous with some of the greatest guitarists not only of our generation but arguably of all time. John Lowery, whose stage name later became John 5 thanks to a lunch meeting with Marilyn Manson came to Los Angeles at the age of 18 from Gross Pointe, MI with very little money, a dream and pure contentment knowing that he was beginning a new life. His love of playing guitar and his obsession with Universal monster movies soon began to co-exist, providing inspiration for his work and his band. It took a long time for J5 to get to where he is today from playing classic rock with Lynyrd Skynyrd to joining Marilyn Manson’s band. Having been a huge fan of Rob Zombie, one can only imagine how excited he was when the time came that Zombie recruited him for his band and J5 has never looked back. Through all of his experiences and successes, it has brought him notoriety giving him the means and the fanbase to bring his own visions to life both as a solo artist and with his band The Creatures, which includes Ian Ross (bass) and Logan Nix (drums). J5 mingles country, jazz, Spanish guitar and of course those beloved metal riffs and monster madness.
He sat down with Screamer Magazine to talk about all things J5, from The Creatures’ new album Invasion (to be released coincidentally on his birthday, July 31st ) and the accompanying promotional tour to the Twins of Evil Tour with Zombie and Manson.
It has been awhile since we’ve chatted with the man, so the recent renewal of his wedding vows with his wife Rita solicited a well-deserved and heartfelt congratulations on our part. “I am just so happy right now, and life couldn’t be any better,” he gushes. “The Twins of Evil Tour is back underway, and we are excited about all of the different things we will be doing from the last tour.” As former lead guitar for Manson and now with Team Zombie, one might think it could be uncomfortable for the coveted axe slinger, but he finds it advantageous to have worked with both. “We are all friends, and it just seems to work.” Despite past media reports of feuds between Manson and Zombie, which J5 dispels, the evil twins are back at it. “It’s a brotherhood, and I think because a lot of the Zombie fans have Manson records and a lot of the Manson fans have Zombie records, it goes together really well with the crowds. The energies just feed off each other, and the fans really take to that, which is really cool,” he concludes.
Intermittently weaving his own tour dates in with the Twins of Evil Tour is something he feels fortunate to be able to do, giving him the unique opportunity to go from lead guitarist to frontman. The writing and releasing of his own music has coincided with that of Zombie, so how might that effect his writing process? “I think because of how Rob and I write and communicate, and the timing of it all plays a big part. And in 2015 when Rob’s record came out, I also released my album with The Creatures, so doing it again is kind of becoming second nature. I only do a few Creature shows in between, and the recording schedules are usually pretty well thought out too. We just make it work, and I am grateful I can do both, and I always talk directly to Rob about what I want to do, and I believe communication is the key to everything. Things can’t work without it.”
On September 1st, John 5 and The Creatures will kick off a few tour dates beginning with a home show in Los Angeles. If you’ve not attended a John 5 and The Creatures show, it is quite the spectacle to say the least. J5 plays everything from banjo to Fender J5 Telecaster to an LED lit up guitar and he is known for bringing in surprise guests like Sebastian Bach and Rob Zombie to name a couple. “I try to plan it out, and it can be tough sometimes and last minute trying to find out who is going to be in town and available so you never really know what is going to happen. It is a surprise not just to the fans but to me as well depending on how quickly I can confirm these special appearances.” J5 assures us there will be some very special guests showing up to this show and not to miss it.
With only a week to go until the release of his album Invasion, he has been releasing one single at a time including a video for the track Zoinks and the inspiration behind it.
He had always wanted to incorporate a Scooby-Doo vibe in one of his music videos, and it was the perfect time to do it. Disney Animator Brett Boggs approached him at one of their shows, and it all came to together from there. “I was like ‘Oh my God, we have to do this.’ I didn’t know where to even begin on making it happen, and Brett did, which was really amazing. And all of the work that goes into it is just unbelievable” he explains. “It’s not like you’re just shooting a couple of scenes and knowing what it is going to look like right off the bat. It’s a process. I had the music, and he just created a storyboard and mapped it out, wrote the script and things just came together. It’s a movie in its own sense, and it is really mind-blowing how it all came out.” When pressed if this was one of the proudest moments of his career, he expressed how proud he is of everything he has done from day one, but he wholeheartedly confessed how much this new record means to him. The fact it is purely an instrumental album may or may not appeal to everyone, but he is extremely content with how it turned out. “It’s a hard sell because there are no vocals on the album, but I know people will enjoy it, and I am just true to myself and to the music. That feeling comes through, and I think that is what ultimately draws people in. The incorporation of different styles is just a reflection of my love of music, and so when I add in some country, jazz, rock or bluegrass, it’s just a way of showing my appreciation and loving what sounds good. I just love anyone that does something really well. I feel inspired, and I love to experiment, so hopefully everyone loves this record as much as I do.”
J5 confessed he is always playing guitar and right before our interview he was doing just that. “I am always picking around and playing all the time; it’s what I do. For me, it’s as important as breathing, and I enjoy posting videos on social media because it sort of brings people into my world. It’s fun to put on different masks or grab different guitars because if people aren’t necessarily into someone just sitting there playing an instrument or they don’t play guitar it can seem redundant, but they can at least enjoy the humor and the fun in it. It’s odd and a little strange, but I like it that way, and I have been getting great feedback so I keep running with it and I enjoy the comments and reactions.” For all J5 Instagram followers, you can also catch him posting videos of jam sessions in hotel rooms and in hotel hallways, we asked if he ever gets any complaints, or if people come out of their rooms wondering what the hell is going on. “I just do it and see how long it takes until someone complains, but no one has yet,” he explains. “The digital age has certainly become a platform for artists to connect more directly with their fans and in many ways, this creates even a stronger bond between the artist and the music. It is also a way for the artist to portray themselves as they want to be, as opposed to completely being dependent on the media.” While it can be a time-consuming and daunting task at times to constantly be posting, for J5 it is not about keeping up with the Joneses, it is about connecting with people and having fun and bringing people into his world and into his music. He certainly has the right mindset about how it all works and his followers get a real glimpse into his life where he’s more than willing to let his lighthearted and odd side out.
In addition to all the recording and touring, J5 and his wife Rita recently did a podcast with internet personality Brittany Furlan, the wife of Motley Crue drummer Tommy Lee. If you haven’t seen it, brace yourselves because it is probably one of the most memorable and least filtered interviews to grace the internet. Be ready for a lot of toilet humor.
When asked what prompted them to do the interview and if he had any afterthoughts he said, “We know Tommy and Brittany really well, and they’re so much fun. But I think what’s funny about this is that Brittany’s story is the one that was the greatest out of all of those stories, about the incident in the backyard with Brittany and things like that. It was genius. It’s a great podcast, so if you are just driving stuck in traffic or something, listening to that, it’s so much fun,” he says with a laugh. Once you hear Brittany’s story, you will surely think twice next time you visit a friend and let their dog lick your face. Listening to them detail their human, bodily functions side, John and his wife illustrate celebrities are just people too. At the end of the day, we all have the same problems, and the same things happen when we eat the wrong things. He reflects on it by mentioning, “You have to be able to relate to everybody, and everybody has fun with it. And I think that’s what that is, what is important. You know, we’re all the same and and I think that is what people want–to relate to you. And that’s why it’s a lot of fun to do this stuff. Because there wasn’t this kind of thing when I first started, so having social media and having these podcasts and being able to put yourself out there in a different light has been a blessing because it’s drawn people to you that you maybe wouldn’t have known”.
Along with the digital age has come digital music. It is becoming more and more common for bands to use digital instruments for recording and even during stage shows, compromising the authenticity of live music. EDM has made its way into rock and metal which has been a hotly contested addition, but still, none of us want the art of playing an instrument to die out. There is nothing like seeing and hearing the music “played” in front of you, feeling that live guitar solo raise the hairs on your arms or the thump of a bass pound you in the chest. For lifelong guitarists like J5, we had to wonder what his thoughts were on this, “That’s a wonderful question, I think if there’s no electricity, how could that exist? If you’re outside and say you’re camping or something like that and there’s access to an instrument like a guitar or drums, there’s nothing better. It’s so important to learn how to play an instrument organically, and it takes a lot of love, time, and determination to learn and feel comfortable with it. It’s beneficial for your brain to do that too because you have to think as you do it. I think learning an instrument the organic way and sticking with it, playing it, mastering to the level you want is the most rewarding part about music. While I appreciate digital music like EDM, it does take away from music in so many ways. When you go to a concert where there is not one single instrument played, there’s nothing fun about that. It’s the live music and someone getting up there kicking ass on a guitar that makes a show. The instrumentalists that are doing what they love and doing more of the processed version of the music I do respect them and I can acknowledge their passion, but it’s different for me. If someone incorporates it into their live shows then that is something I totally support and I encourage, but if the whole show is just pre-recorded, it is not the same feeling.”
Aside from his own album, J5 has been recording Zombie’s new album, and he indulged us with the creative process and how it co-exists with his own music. “With Zombie, we will record an album together, and I will try different things and see what he likes. Of course he has the final word on everything, but we have worked together for so many years, we know each other’s style. And lucky for me, he generally likes what I come up with, and we have mastered the formula. I am really looking forward to that album coming out. No word on the album title or release date, but I have heard what we have done, and it sticks in your head. The hooks just stick,” he enthuses. “I listened to it again in Europe and when Rob and I were walking to lunch, and I was singing some of the songs under my breath, and Rob was like ‘wow’ because he knows it too. I think we are both eager to get that music out and see it all transpire.”
As our interview wraps up, John 5 wanted to mention once again how grateful he was to the fans who support his band The Creatures and those who support Zombie and how he cannot wait for everyone to hear the albums and come out to the shows. John 5 continues to be an anomaly in the music industry and with every passing year, he outdoes his previous work. He is a true testament to not only achieving excellence through perseverance, but an inspiration as a person both off and on stage.
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