The Devil Knows My Name
An interview with guitarist John 5
By Alicyn Leigh
Photo by Alicyn Leigh
Due to his dark, ghostly appearance, many people wouldn’t believe that guitarist John 5 hails from Grosse Point, Michigan, or that he was inspired to play the guitar by watching the country-themed TV show, Hee Haw. Despite his rustic upbringing, he was chosen as Marilyn Manson’s guitarist in 1998 and created music with the Goth shock-rocker for six years. John 5 also has many studio credits to his name, and is now playing with Rob Zombie, another darkster in the biz.
On April 3, John 5 stopped by Looney Tunes in West Babylon, NY, to promote his latest solo effort, The Devil Knows My Name, a heavy instrumental project that showcases John 5’s exceptional guitar skills and musical versatility. During his visit, John 5 graciously greeted a continuous line of fans and patiently took pictures with just about each and every one. Fans showed their adoration by bringing gifts of original artwork depicting their idol, and a few even brought their guitars to be signed.
The Devil Knows My Name is John 5’s third solo CD and combines elements of rock, metal, progressive, shred, and country. You can expect super-tight playing, tasty songwriting, and great musical interpretation as John 5’s guitar riffs almost speak to the listener. The use of eerie sounds and serial-killer references give the album a creepy feel. John 5 revealed that the title of the album refers to his private “deal with the devil” after enduring adversity such as “many deaths in my life and a failed marriage.” Grounded by his past misfortune and grateful for his present fate, the humble guitarist felt a sense of accomplishment upon completing the album. The album features guitar icons Joe Satriani and Eric Johnson, as well as former Slipknot guitarist Jim Root, who plays on John’s favorite track, “The Black Widow of La Porte.” Guitar enthusiasts will definitely appreciate John’s signature tapping and his country-fried chicken pickin’, which shows his affection for bluegrass.
John 5 took certainly steps to make his career happen, and offers advice to upcoming guitarists. While on the road, John 5 says that he “finds the best instructor in town to take lessons with and reads many instructional books.” He advises those taking lessons to “ask their teachers to teach them their favorite songs, like Ozzy’s ‘Crazy Train,’ so they won’t get tired or frustrated from lessoning.” If you are serious about being in the business, John 5 adds that you need to “move to New York or Los Angeles and get out there and play.” Great advice from someone who was told years ago by Les Paul to advance his career, and now is at the top of his game.
John 5 will be back in the studio with Rob Zombie this July, and then will be releasing a DVD shortly thereafter. He has been on an incredible musical journey, previously touring with KD Lang, Marilyn Manson, Meat Loaf, and has collaborated with David Lee Roth and many more. The macabre axe-master closes our interview by sharing a couple of road stories: Two that are too extreme for print, and one that is huge.
“While on the Marilyn Manson Holy Wood tour in 2001, a fan visited me backstage to bring me the ashes of a deceased friend to spread.”
Does this high praise mean that John 5’s status has been upgraded to guitar god?