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JOHN 5 Discusses Touring in Canada, MINISTRY, Antifreeze Guitars, KISS Collection, and New Album ‘Invasion’ [w/ Audio]

Guitarist John 5 has had a superb career, both as a solo artist and as the long-time axeman for Rob Zombie. We spoke with John about his new album Invasion, his love for touring in Canada, his KISS collection, Ministry, Nikki Sixx, and much more!



John 5 is a guitarist who should need no introductions. From David Lee Roth to Marilyn Manson and Rob Zombie, his unique guitar stylings have wowed fans for over two decades now. Over the years, John 5 (given name: John William Lowery) has built up a fanbase of followers as a killer guitarist, adaptable session man, and a great solo artist. Over the past fifteen years, John 5 has recorded nine solo guitar albums, with his latest, Invasion, due for release on July 31st. (Pre-order the new album from the official website here.)

John 5 and The Creatures is a band comprised of John 5, bassist Ian Ross and drummer Logan Miles Nix. Invasion proves to be a diverse progression of the sound that John 5 fans have grown to expect from the eclectic virtuoso. Just like 2017’s Season of the Witch, Invasion (produced and mixed by Barry Pointer) is being released via a series of music videos, some of which are embedded below for easy viewing. Invasion is easily one of the best albums John has ever put out. It contains an assortment of ten killer songs that touch on a myriad of interesting techniques and styles.

The “Zoinks!” and “I Am John 5” videos were animated, written and directed by Disney animator Brett Boggs (Frozen, Wreck-It Ralph) with scoring by Fred Coury and recording/mixing by Barry Pointer. “Zoinks!,” created in the tradition of Scooby Doo and Groovie Goolies, features an innovative blend of classic 2D hand drawn animation, 3D computer generated imagery and a live action performance shot by Matt Zane. “Zoinks!” also features a cameo from Nikki Sixx voice acting as himself, as well as additional voice acting from Susan Olsen (known for her role as Cindy Brady on The Brady Bunch), and Fred Coury. The mad scientist in the “I Am John 5” video is voice acted by none other than Butch Patrick, a.k.a. the iconic Eddie Munster, himself.

John 5 chatted with PureGrainAudio a few weeks ago by phone. The audio from this interview is embedded here via SoundCloud, and many of John’s answers come to life as you listen to his answers.

“”ZOINKS!” Check out the music video for the first single released from John 5 and The Creatures’ new record Invasion:

Could we maybe start a little bit with your recent tour? A few months ago you put together a very ambitious North American tour that included what I believe was your first Canadian solo dates.
John 5: So let me tell you I’m being honest, and you can check my past interviews. I love Canada so much. And I’ve been asking my agent “I want to go to Canada. I want to go to Canada.” And they are like “Well yeah. You know, we’re getting the best offers. You can go here and go there, but nobody really goes here, and nobody really goes there,” like in the really deep parts of the country. And I said, “Just book me starting on the east and book me all the way through the west.” And they’re like “Are you sure?” And I said, “I want to hit every town I can.” And that’s what we did. If you look at those Canadian tour dates, we played everywhere. And it was such a success.

We like meeting the fans too and talking with the fans. Because it really is all about the fans. I always say that. I love making music, but without the fans you’re nothing, you know? I like to talk to them and listen to what they have to say, and what their thoughts are and stuff. And they’re like “Not even Canadian bands have traveled like this through Canada,” because we hit so many places. And I love it. I love Canada. And so I brought my wife and my son and just educated them on all these different places. And it was so much fun. But I got pneumonia. I didn’t really talk about it that much, but I only canceled one show in Redding, California. I had pneumonia through the whole Canadian tour, but I never canceled a show.

Man, I couldn’t tell that in Toronto. You know, it was just an amazing show. I loved every minute of it.
John 5: How great was Toronto? Well, Toronto I wasn’t sick yet. I’m sorry. Dude, that was my favorite show of the whole tour. Of the whole tour, including the U.S. Well maybe second to The Whiskey. The Whiskey was pretty epic. Yeah. But dude, Toronto! I want to play there again, but my agent is like “Dude, you just played there. You can’t come back so early.” I loved it. It was the best.

John 5 and The Creatures’ latest record Invasion is due for release on July 31st via 60 Cycle Hum. Have a look at the cover art:

Now be honest here; how did you find touring in our country? It’s very different than touring in the States where you drive two hours, and you’re playing another gig. It’s ambitious to tour up here.
John 5: It was the greatest. We had a bus, so we did a show, we went to sleep, got up, and we were in the next place. It was awesome. It was so fun. We just had a blast, and I can guarantee you one thing just like the sun will set and the sun all rise that we are going to do the same thing as soon as they will let me.

And I felt like that show was a success though. You got to preview some new material; you were playing some old nuggets; that medley of cover songs was just phenomenal. I had such a big shit-eating grin on my face when I left that show it’s not even funny.
John 5: And so did we. Because we have so much fun doing it on. We recorded… so I haven’t really talked about this, but I can talk about it. Fuck it; I don’t care. We are recording a lot of the shows and what I’m doing because I had this new record called Invasion coming out July 31st. And what I’m doing is I’m recording all the shows. And then I’m going to have a live album, Live Invasion, that’s going to come out, and it’s going to be from places all over the world and Toronto is one of them. Isn’t that cool?

That is very cool. So you may not be able to answer this. How many guitars do you actually own?
John 5: I have no idea.

It felt like you played a different guitar for every song in Toronto.
John 5: Yeah, it’s fun. I love playing different guitars. It’s like your children. But my favorite one is Goldie.

Nice. Do you name all of your guitars?
John 5: No, but the ones I really love I do.

“Crank It – Living With Ghosts” will also be featured on Invasion. Watch the “spooky” new music video:

Can you talk a little bit about the guitar that is featured in the “Crank It” video? The one with all of the iridescent slime in it?
John 5: Oh yeah. That is a lava lamp guitar, and there’s antifreeze in it. Because when we travel with it, like in the winter, the liquid would freeze in there. And I said, “Well, you know because it’s green, how about if we put antifreeze in it?” Because antifreeze doesn’t freeze, obviously, and it’s green. So I thought that was like one of my smarter decisions in life.

That thing looks crazy on stage. It must just be a blast to play it.
John 5: Yes. It’s is so cool. You know it’s really a lot of fun.

And that video for “Crank It” also features a really unique John 5 blotter acid that I’m sure will not be for sale on your web store anytime soon.
John 5: (laughs) That video is so much fun. It’s all the videos have been a lot of fun. You know we did “Zoinks!” and we did “I Am John 5.” We did “Crank It.” And we did “Midnight Mass.” And now we’re doing this one called “I Want It All,” which comes out the release date of the album which is July 31st.

Are you doing videos for every song? You’ve already got four. And now if you’re going to do “I Want It All,” you’ve got five videos in the tank. That’s half the album.
John 5: Yeah I believe I’m going to. And do you know what I’m doing? People will send me messages like “Hey, I make videos and all that stuff.” I get so many messages, but I’ll look at people’s work because of the fact that people gave me a shot, you know? And I’m like, “Hey, you know what? I could be looking at the work of some brilliant videographer.” That’s so great, and that’s what I do. And if someone’s great, I’ll use you and put you to work. And everybody I’ve used and that I’ve put to work is now working consistently.

Check out our photo gallery of John 5 at a March performance at Lee’s Palace in Toronto earlier this year on his recent solo tour:

John 5 (w/ Jared James Nichols, Dead Girls Academy) @ Lee’s Palace (Toronto, ON) on March 23, 2019

That’s awesome. One of my favorite tunes on the new album is “Howdy,” which you played in Toronto. It’s kind of a hootenanny song, but it’s bad-ass, man. I love it.
John 5: Yeah. Dude my favorite song I think on the record is “Howdy.” I love all the songs but that one I love so much. And we played that live. The whole reason I did this is because it’s so real. I love playing that kind of music, and I love heavy music, and I love watching TV, so I said, “I’m just going to be who I am and it’s gonna be from the heart and it’s going to be real and hopefully people will like it.” Because, let’s be honest, a lot of fans aren’t really into this. You know, people that are into Slayer and Slipknot like I am aren’t really into Chet Atkins. But that’s what I love. And people are accepting these songs, and I’m so thrilled because it’s real. It’s just who I am and with all the video and stuff like that.

The TV amps and stuff like that, I literally play guitar and watch TV all day, and that’s it. Actually my tech yesterday (because I’m on tour with Zombie right now) my tech was like “hey, dude, why don’t you take it easy? Put Goldy down for a little while.” Because I was playing for so long, like for eight hours before the show or something. Because I can’t do much taking it easy, you know? That’s pretty bad when your tech is like, “Why don’t you take a little rest.” That’s funny. But yeah, I love “Howdy,” it’s my favourite.

I’ve been buying your stuff for a while, and I feel like every album that I pick up like; God Told Me To… this is the best John 5 album!
John 5: I love that album.

And then Careful With That Axe, right? And then Season Of The Witch.
John 5: With all of that acoustic stuff?

“Welcome to Violence” is one of the heaviest songs you’ve ever written. I love it. It’s got a great intro too.
John 5: Dude, I love that. You know, people will talk to me, “Oh, that song sounds like Ministry.” Fuck yeah, it sounds like Ministry because I love Ministry. Ministry is one of my favorite bands, you know? Or it sounds like Buckethead. Fuck yeah! Because I love Buckethead. Because everybody is influenced. As long as I don’t steal anything, it’s ok. I’m proud to say that I’m influenced by these people, and why not? You know, if they say that it sounds too much like this or that, well that’s just what I love. And I’m not ripping them off. I’m just saying how much I love these guys.

Get excited with the album trailer for John 5 and The Creatures’ new record, Invasion:

Well, you just mentioned that your guitar tech was reprimanding you for noodling for eight hours. Is that how you write? You piddle around with stuff and record it to your phone, and you have it for later?
John 5: Exactly. Exactly that. It’s bad. My wife is like “what’s wrong with you?” It’ll be like light early in the morning, and then it’ll be starting to get dark, and I’m like, “Uh oh. I better go to the bathroom or something.”

Do you have an inclination while you’re doing that. What’s going to be solo? What’s maybe going to be a (Rob) Zombie lick is that. Does that play in at all?
John 5: Absolutely. And I love writing, and if I’m writing with Nikki Sixx and stuff like that, I love it. Because I have a guitar in my hand. So that’s what makes it so fun.

Can you describe the recording process for Invasion? Was that done one song at a time or did you go into a studio and hit it all out of the park at once?
John 5: It was all done one song at a time, and it’s like I’m training for a big boxing match because it’s so difficult you know on my end. It’s so complicated, but I don’t want to have the engineer sitting there all day. So I’ll rehearse what I’m going to record for about two weeks straight. Just rehearse it-rehearse it-rehearse it because I want to get in there and knock it out. So I knock out my part in about one hour to two hours with harmonies and all that stuff.

Now you’re currently teasing details for pre-orders for Invasion that are coming this Friday. This interview is going to come out well after that. So would you mind sharing a little bit about maybe the deluxe packaging and vinyl that you’re going to put out?
John 5: It’s gonna be so cool. It’s like a box set, and you get something really cool. It looks great, and there’s a shirt and all sorts of really cool stuff that you can get in it, and I’m going to sign them all and write a little note in there for each one. So it’s going to be very personable. I’ll write different little sayings or quotes in there for each one. Maybe throw in little trinkets like maybe my valet parking ticket or weird things like that. Like batteries for my amp or old strings. So you’ll get like a little present in there for each one, and it could be like, “Oh wait, why did I get this old remote?” Just weird stuff, my old broken sunglasses or something like that. You know just to make it fun and cool and different.

The cover artwork for the popular new “Zoinks!” single:

Could you maybe shed a little bit of light into what your home life is like, John? Your personas on stage are just so out there with makeup and iridescent stuff. What’s a day in the life when you’re not touring.
John 5: That’s a great question because I like to know that about people that I really like as well. So here’s what I do, and I’m completely honest. I wake up. I’ll drink water. That’s the first thing, I usually just drink a bunch of water when I wake up. I’ll take a whiz, and then I’ll have a little something to eat, and then I’ll start playing guitar. And if I have a set, if I have a Creatures show, I’ll go over that set. Because it’s very complicated and I’d just like to have perfection. Then I’ll play other stuff for a long time. I’ll eat lunch. I like to clean. So I’ll clean like around the house because I like everything in order.

I’ll go on eBay and look for old KISS stuff you know they love. That’s my other hobby, is just collecting old KISS stuff. I’ll go out to maybe a movie with my wife or something like that and then she’ll go to sleep pretty early and then I’ll play guitar at night. So it’s such a great life. And I’ll talk to my friends you know, and I talk to Nikki like fifty times a day. And just, you know, talk with friends and things like that. Dude, I’m so happy. I have such a great life. I’m so blessed if you will. Because I never thought I’d have a life where I could just play guitar and people would know my name. Never. Never in a million years.

Would you describe yourself as an artsy kid when you were younger? Were you a drawer, or were you into comic books? That kind of stuff?
John 5: No. Do you know what’s weird? I do the exact same thing that I do right now that I did when I was a kid. I would play guitar all the time, watch TV, and have my KISS stuff around. The exact same thing from when I was like ten years old, I would do the exact same thing. Except for having intercourse. (laughs)

John 5’s God Told Me To was released way back in 2012. Take yourself back to then for the music video for “Welcome To Violence:”

What’s the most exciting piece of gear that you have recently added to your collection? And why are you pumped about that piece of gear?
John 5: I am not a gear person that much, but I would say my white Telecaster, that Fender made for me. It’s really cool. I call it “The Ghost,” and I used it in Toronto. I use it on the song called “Season of the Witch” that opens the show. So, yeah, if you pull up “Season Of The Witch Toronto,” you’ll see it yet. It’s such a great guitar. It’s all white. It’s rad.

Now, if you had the opportunity to perform a song with Manson on any of these “Twins of Evil” tour dates or is that a closed book?
John 5: No, no we’re friends. We’re really good friends actually. And I love him. I’ll tell you, man, he sings incredibly right now. And he did on the last tour too. His voice is perfect. And he’s got a great band. So they’re doing great. I think he’s going to come on stage with us and do “Helter Skelter.” So yeah, we’re tight. He’s a friend, a lifelong friend and I love him.

Nice. And I’ll finish off with a question that is more about you and what you expect from people when you go to see them. Your fans will come and see your shows expecting guitaring greatness. So when you go to see a band, what are you looking for? Where do you find greatness?
John 5: You know that’s a great question. Let’s say, when I go to the movies, I just want to be entertained. I don’t critique. Rob and Piggy D in the Zombie band, they’re such movie buffs they’ll critique, and they’ll pick apart things. I just like to go to be entertained, because it is entertainment, you know? But Rob is such a brilliant filmmaker; he’ll look at things and be more critical. I’ll say that I really liked it. And the same thing with my other friends, they’ll be like “I wasn’t really into this for whatever reason,” and I’m like “I liked it.” The same thing when I go see a band. I don’t critique. I just go to be entertained. So my glass is always half full, and I just go for fun and to have a good time.

Listen I can’t even count how many times I’ve seen Zombie, and I will come and see you again anytime you come around the Toronto area. So please do keep coming around.
John 5: Wonderful. And we’re coming around with Creatures again so you can mark my words. I just love Canada so much, and I’m going to be there as much as I can. It’s just up to my agent as to how soon I can get there.