It's dark out but warmly lit inside. There is a long, sturdy wooden table, at the center of which lies a human skull under glass surrounded by a spread of mouthwatering food. At the head of the table sits John 5 in a sharp black suit flanked by a half-dozen staggeringly beautiful women. The hall is lined with assorted gold and platinum records, Grammy certificates and other awards. Guitar cases peek out of every tucked-away corner, and a slightly opened closet reveals bits of sinister black fabrics. The neighbors must love him.
John 5, best known for his work with Rob Zombie and Marilyn Manson, has a mind-boggling résumé that includes Chrysalis staff writer and stints with Rick Springfield, Lynyrd Skynyrd, k.d. lang, Lita Ford and Salt-N-Pepa. Take a moment to let his Salt-N-Pepa work sink in. His unbelievable shred-tastic talents, with mechanical precision that would make BMW blush and the ability to maintain a hint of warmth in his playing, make even the best players drop jaw. His guitar collection is killer; they come from all over, but his favorite shopping stop is Norm's Rare Guitar Shop in Tarzana. “I love Norm's. I love just going in there!” When asked about his favorite purchase, there's not a hint of doubt: “I have one of the first solid-body Fender Broadcasters. Only 126 were made.” The worst gear decision he ever made? “It was a 1977 Fender Strat, signed by Stevie Ray Vaughan, and I sold it.” A smile, and then he adds, “I still regret that.”
His new solo album, The Art of Malice, is full of the shreddy-shred deliciousness the world has come to expect and love from John 5, with flawless bluegrass picking. He describes the sound: “Like wearing a cowboy hat to a Slayer show!”
John 5 doesn't have long to revel in the high-speed glory of his new release: He's heading out with Rob Zombie in early July.
Proud of all his work, he cites his partnership with Zombie. “This is, I am completely serious, the best band I've ever been in. I would never leave them.”
Leaving the comfort of a home in affluent Gross Pointe, Michigan, to live in a space never intended for human inhabitants is perhaps not wise. But, he warmly claims, “My real dream was that I just wanted to live in L.A.” Dinner at Swingers and a movie at the ArcLight are part of what made the early struggle worth it. “When I'm on the road and I feel depressed, I always think of La Brea and Sunset, the very first place I went when I got to L.A. I love Los Angeles. I would never leave. This is where I'm going to die.”