Rob Zombie guitarist John 5 covers a lot of stylistic territory on his wildly entertaining eighth solo album, Careful With That Axe, including everything from Spanish-style acoustic ballads to raging heavy metal to not one, but two country-bluegrass tributes to his hero, the late Jerry Reed.
"I think if you were to ask me, 'What do I like to listen to? What kind of things are you into?' you'd get a pretty good idea by listening to this record," John 5 says. "I love heavy stuff, I love pretty acoustic music, and I've always been into Jerry Reed, who was just one of the best pickers the world has ever known."
John 5 recorded Careful With That Axe at The Doghouse Studios in Los Angeles during Zombie tour breaks, working with drummer and co-producer Rodger Carter, along with bassist Matt Bissonnette. “I’ve worked with Roger before and have known him for most of my adult life," John 5 notes. "Matt I’ve never worked with before, but I know him through David Lee Roth. Dave would always talk about Matt and would tell me what a monster he was. I used to do the bass myself, but I wanted to shake it up on this record. Matt ended up being the perfect choice for this."
In the past, John 5's instructions to studio drummers were pretty simple: "I'd tell them, 'Keep the beat and stay out of my way,'" he says with a laugh. This time, however, he was looking for a more immersive kind of musical interaction between the players. "It was really important to me to get more of a live band sound," he explains. "I wanted each instrument to be very vocal and very crazy, but at the same time, they had to really complement one another. You need two very mature and intuitive players to pull that off. Rodger and Matt nailed it all beautifully."
One thing that was simple was John 5's guitar-and-amp setup: one of his signature gold Telecasters, a Marshall combo amp and a Boss Super Overdrive pedal. “Because I wanted that live sound, I didn’t want to fuss around with all kinds of guitars and setups," he says. "Those three things were basically what I used – no trickery. My whole attitude is, 'If I have a pick, I’ll be able to play; and even if I don’t have a pick, I can play.'"
John 5's Careful With That Axe will be released on August 12 via 60 Cycle Hum. You can pre-order the album on Amazon. On the following pages, John 5 walks us through the record track-by-track.