Interviews : “We’re treating it as a big Zombie party” – an interview with John 5
Rob Zombie has been a cult favourite in music and film for over a decade. Romancing a mix of horror and metal is definitely a seductive trait that has created a ravenous yet loyal following. With the recent release of their fifth studio album Venomous Rat Regeneration Vendor and their second Soundwave Festival now under their belt, Rob Zombie embark on a US/UK tour and prepare to release their first tour DVD Zombie Horror Picture Show.
During the recent Melbourne Soundwave Festival, Metal Obsession had the pleasure of kicking off a day of interviews with Rob Zombie guitarist John 5; a legend in his own right who also has a very distinguished solo career.
Metal Obsession: How are you enjoying the Soundwave festival?
John 5: I love Soundwave. Look at all these people, there’s rides, there’s bands playing, there’s food, there’s everything you could ever want. You know I’ve said it before, but it’s like a heavy metal summer camp. All your friends are here, it’s a blast, the weather is amazing. There’s not one bad thing about it.
MO: Has anything of note happened so far?
J5: Last night was fun. We all went out to eat then we went to watch Devil’s Rejects. They had a big movie premiere thing.
MO: The Q&A?
J5: Yeah the Q&A, not the premiere. That was really fun.
MO: Rob Zombie released their fifth studio album Venomous Rat Regeneration Vendor in April of last year, how would you describe the record to people who might not know much about your music?
J5: I would say it’s a very live aggressive record but it’s got a lot of really good songs and I think that’s what’s most important. You have to have good songs, that’s what keeps us doing what we’re doing. It’s got a really cool cover of “American Band” on it. The album has been very well received by the public, we’re just having a good time. We’re not all mean and grouchy and yelling at the crowd, we have a lot of crowd interaction and they really like that. We’re treating it as a big party, you know, as a big Zombie party. People love it. The crowd is just going crazy for it and we’re loving it too.
MO: You recorded in 2012, any plans for a new album yet or are you taking a bit of a break from recording?
J5: What we’re doing, which is really cool, and for the first time in Rob Zombie history, we’re putting out a concert DVD. It comes out in May and I’m so excited about it. It looks amazing. It looks so good; Zombie Horror Picture Show. It is so cool, it captures all the craziness of a concert. And then a couple of months ago I went to Rob’s and we recorded a bunch of new ideas, so we’re always working. There’s always stuff going on.
MO: How much input did you have in the writing process?
J5: Well I was a writer on all the songs except for American Band. So what we’ll do is we’ll get together and I’ll play Rob some stuff and he’ll say, “yay or nay”, or “do this change that”. We really work really well together. It’s been nine years now, it’s crazy to say that.
MO: That’s great that you have such a good relationship.
J5: Yeah it is rare. I talk to him everyday, I’d talk to him everyday if I wasn’t in the band, we just get along so well together. I wouldn’t change it for the world. The grass is not always greener that’s for sure.
MO: You’ve scored some of Rob’s movies, such as Lords of Salem, is that a different experience to working on a record?
J5: To me it’s a lot harder to score because there’s so many instruments; clarinets and oboes and violins and violas and cellos. So doing all that is trying and also I think there was something like 65 cues in the movie, so it was a lot of work.
MO: Rob put on a haunted house in LA last year for Halloween, any ideas if he’ll be doing that again this year?
J5: Great American Nightmare that was called and boy… I love Halloween so much. Hopefully. I would love it though. It was so fun and such a huge success. I think it was the most popular haunted house thing ever or something [laughs], it was great.
MO: Where does your love of horror come from?
J5: It was when I was a really really little. It was the famous monster magazines and it was all the universal monsters; Frankenstein, Wolfman, Creature from the Black Lagoon, Dracula… when I was in elementary school there were these books that came out and my mom got them for me, I used to carry them around, they were like my Bible. Nowadays watching those [movies], it’s very comforting.
MO: Who comes up with the concepts behind the Rob Zombie film clips?
J5: He does all that. It’s a lot of work when you think about all the stuff he does. Even when we were at that Q&A, I know Rob as a singer and a songwriter and all that but then you look at him as a filmmaker and it’s so strange. I know him so well but it’s strange to think he has this whole other life doing this. You have to really be focused and driven. It’s unbelievable.
MO: I read that Rob used to do graphic design for porno mags; did you have any interesting jobs before you became a session guitarist?
J5: I was a Valet for big Hollywood parties. All the celebrities would come to these houses and I would park their cars. You would have to wait while these people were in these parties and they were sometimes set events, like Grammy’s or whatever, so they were sometimes in there for three to four hours. So I started to figure it out, I started taking the cars to pick up my friends. We started cruising around in these really nice cars.
MO: Did you ever get caught doing that?
J5: I never got caught. I remember I would take out Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Hummer, and Don Henley’s Porsche, I used to take those out a lot.
MO: I interviewed you a number of years ago & remember you quoting Rob as saying “It’s just Oz Fest, don’t get too comfortable” after 8 years are you finally feeling comfortable yet?
J5: Ah well, I guess I’m feeling comfortable, but you never want to get comfortable comfortable [laughs].
Rob Zombie: (Who has just sat down at the table) Especially on this tour.
MO: Rob Zombie toured with Marilyn Manson not too long ago, how was that for you having played with Marilyn for five years?
J5: It was stressful but it was great for me because he opened up for us every night. It was very like, “Yes!”, you know? We just killed every night. It was awesome, but it was stressful as well. It was a great tour because the shows were all sold out. I think it was such a great package to have Manson and Zombie. Anybody that has a Manson album has a Zombie album and vice versa. Once we got past the first couple of shows it was great.
MO: You have your seventh studio album Careful With That Axe coming out later this year, is there anything you can tell us about it?
J5: You know I’m working on it and just mixing it right now, it is crazy. If people liked my earlier work, you’re going to be really excited about it. It’s really intense, it’s like when you listen to it it’s like, “what just happened?”, which is one of the song titles. It’s really exciting I can’t wait for people to hear it.