Introduction: Guitars, T!ts, And Monsters
When it's comes to résumés, Rob Zombie’s right-hand man is a bit of a dark horse. Over the years, John 5 has managed to snap up session work with k.d. lang, Lita Ford, David Lee Roth, Marilyn Manson and plenty more besides. So it would be fair to say he knows a thing or two about getting paid to play other people’s music...
“If you’re going to audition for a Rod Stewart or Elton John, you’re there to make them sound and look as great as possible,” admits the guitarist.
“You’re not there to show how awesome you are. And I think that’s the most important thing. When they tell you to solo, which they will, be ready for that as well.
“Because when I started doing my instrumental stuff, one recurring comment was, ‘I never knew he could play like that!’ And that’s because I wasn’t out there for myself; I was out there supporting other artists like Marilyn Manson. That’s what will get you the gigs!”
Right now, the Tele-totin’ maverick has been working on his solo material, with recent single Behind The Nut Love reminding us of his country-rock roots, as well as living up to its name in how the riff is actually performed.
“The album is called Guitars, T!ts, And Monsters – a fine title made from all the things I enjoy in life,” he chuckles.
“I'll be putting out a new video at the beginning of every month, because people just seem to watch music nowadays… If they want to hear a new song, they just go to YouTube.
“It's great to be working as a band with The Creatures, instead of having one Alice Cooper, it’s like having four in the same band. Kinda like Kiss, in that regard! I get a lot of drummers and bassists coming to my shows, so it’s all very important to me. It’s about the bigger picture.”
Here, John 5 picks 10 albums that changed his life…
1. The Monkees - The Monkees (1966)
“Let’s go right back to the beginning. These records are like epiphanies to me… all of them are like life-changing experiences. The first one for me was hearing The Monkees’ debut album. I saw the television show first and then got the record, which inspired me to air guitar and then play the real guitar.
“I was a little kid that watched TV just like any other kid, and when I saw their guitarist Michael Nesmith, I just got really, really into it. And it’s what introduced me to the instrument, along with the TV show Hee Haw.”
2. Jimi Hendrix - Are You Experienced (1967)
“I remember cable TV came out when I was quite young. Everything was so visual for me at first, so naturally I got into Hendrix in a big way. I wanted to look at things I couldn’t believe, which is how I felt about Hendrix. I felt so inspired by it, and this album made me appreciate what the guitar was really capable of.
“The title track is so underrated… I just love that song. And I remember learning The Wind Cries Mary straight away, because I thought it was such a cool piece of music. Every single song on that record is incredible. It’s a classic which you don’t have to explain to anyone!”
3. KISS - Love Gun (1977)
“I remember getting this from Sears when it came out. I loved monsters and scary stuff like that and so I saw this album cover and was just so drawn to it! This is a bit like a therapy session - it’s weird - but again I’m realising it really appealed to me because it was so visual. I took it home, put it on and just hoped for something really cool.
“Hearing the song I Stole Your Love changed my life, and I’ve been a total KISS freak ever since then. I’m proud to say that I’m very close to all those guys today… I just played on Ace Frehley’s new album which is coming out in April.”
4. Van Halen - Van Halen (1978)
“This is a true story: I got the record purely because it said Gene Simmons on the back. I thought KISS had something to do with Van Halen; I was only eight years old… I must have thought it was KISS without their makeup, ha ha!
“As a guitarist, I was just completely blown away. And thank god for inspiration; it’s one of the most important things in our lives! I have a lot of Van Halen demos, even audio clips of Eddie and Alex jamming early on… you can hear these riffs came straight from the heart and through a lot of improvisation!”
5. Yngwie Malmsteen - Rising Force (1984)
“I remember I was at a friend’s house, getting ready to go to a concert and heard Yngwie on the radio on some metal hour, because you usually wouldn’t hear that normally. So I went to the concert and still all I could think about was Yngwie’s playing. It totally changed my life. Hearing something like that, you remember exactly where you were when you first heard it.
“Each of these guitarists had something new to offer me and Yngwie felt like 10 compared to everything else. It ramped up guitar playing for all of us!”
6. Metallica - Master Of Puppets (1986)
“Here’s how I was introduced to Metallica… I went to see Ozzy Osbourne and Metallica were opening up. As you can imagine, they were unbelievably good.
“Somehow that night I scored a backstage pass and met their [now deceased] bassist Cliff Burton! He was brushing and blowdrying his hair, and let me just sit there and talk to him!
“I’m good friends with Kirk Hammett; I actually don’t know if I’ve told him that story yet. Hopefully, he’ll be reading this and see it!”
7. Racer X - Street Lethal (1986)
“Here’s another epiphany for me. Though they were never that big, Racer X ramped everything to the next level and really pushed technical music to the limit. I love Paul Gilbert’s playing; he’s so inventive and such a great all-round player.
“And I’ve been lucky enough to play with him – I was doing an instrumental show at The Whiskey and he got up with me, which was an amazing experience!”
8. Steve Vai - Passion And Warfare (1990)
“This is such a well-written, constructed and recorded masterpiece. You can tell every note, drum hit, everything was just so looked at and analysed. You can really hear that, and that’s what makes it such a brilliant piece of work.
“I used to put the record on from beginning to end, never missing out any of the tracks; it was just so good sonically. Steve really understands the art of recording… you can hear it from the opening track. He’s such a wonderful musician.”
9. Joe Maphis - Fire On The Strings (1957)
“I want everyone that reads this to go on YouTube and type in Joe Maphis to check out a few of his videos. He was from the 50s so there’s not many floating around, but you’ll be able to see how much of an inspiration he’s been to me, especially my first single this year, Black Grass Plague. Please do this… because inspiration is hard to find and this is something you all need to see!
“He was like the Yngwie Malmsteen of country music back in the 50s and 60s. It was just effortless, and all the videos were completely live back then - nothing was pre-recorded. He was a multi-instrumentalist that would also play fiddle, just an incredible musician that more people need to know about!”
10. Nine Inch Nails - Broken (1992)
“This early Nine Inch Nails EP was – and still is – super-awesome. I really dig what Trent Reznor creates as an artist.
“I feel like songs like Wish and Last really signalled a change in direction musically and set up the huge success of second album The Downward Spiral, which came out two years later.”