When ‘Hee-Haw’ Meets Metal: John 5 Goes Solo

John 5 and the Creatures play Scout Bar on March 31.
John 5 and the Creatures play Scout Bar on March 31. Photo courtesy of Adrenaline PR
John 5 is most noted for his work alongside major hard rock acts like Rob Zombie and Marilyn Manson. He has been lauded by Slash as a “mind-blowing” metal guitarist. Dude wears face paint and is covered in tattoos.

In short, I’m about to interview John 5, and I’m expecting such a revered metal artist to have a little bit of edge. Instead, when answering the phone, I’m greeted by one of the nicer folks I’ve ever interviewed. So much for life imitating art.

“I was always obsessed with playing guitar and that really came from TV,” John 5 said on a recent call. “I loved TV growing up – The Monkees, Happy Days, Hee-Haw – you name it.”

Yep, a guy who spends much of this time on stage with once-controversial acts like Rob Zombie and Marilyn Manson – he’s going on tour with the former this summer, including a stop in The Woodlands – grew up on Hee-Haw.

Of course, that kinda makes sense considering that John 5’s instrumental live show with his band, The Creatures – which makes its way to Scout Bar on Saturday – includes a smattering of musical genres. Dubbed by John 5 as an “instrumental Alice Cooper show,” the live show features a ton of heavy instrumental music, but will also include western swing and bluegrass music.

Yes, bluegrass music.

“This show is so crazy, and most people that come see the show are like, ‘Oh my God; this is totally insane,’” John 5 said. “There’s so much music and it’s such a cool thing. If ‘Hee-Haw’ and metal mixed into a show, that’s my style.”

This makes sense, upon further review. John 5 has spent much of his career successfully supporting some of the most noteworthy figures in rock. From the aforementioned Manson and Zombie to Lynyrd Skynyrd to Paul Stanley, John 5’s imprint on rock’s landscape is unquestioned.

Turns out, however, that his musical imprint stretches far beyond one particular genre. Not only has John 5 played for hard rock types, he’s also written for and performed alongside more pop-themed acts like Avril Lavigne, Ricky Martin and Garbage.

“I’ve always been such a fan of all kinds of music, doesn’t really matter if its rock, metal or anything else,” he said. “I love to make music, no matter what kind it is.”

Plus, as John 5 is acutely aware, music is a business and bills must be paid. Fortunately, his experiences as a studio and live backing musician have served him well, both personally and professionally.

“As long as you do the job you’re hired for, everything is great,” John 5 said of collaborations with the likes of Zombie and Manson. “That’s how it’s been. You show up on time, you play your part, and all goes well.”

Plus, orchestrating his own show allows John 5 a bit more creative freedom than when working for someone else, particularly such name-brand figures like those mentioned above. And not being the most talkative guy, an instrumental show serves him all the better.

“I don’t really like talking that much, and I’ve always been most comfortable with a guitar in my hand,” he said. “Growing up, I played all the time; I was obsessed with it. I still am today.”

That probably explains why the Creatures’ live show feature such an eclectic mix of fans. Real musical types appreciate that the artist they paid to see truly appreciates their craft, as John 5 most certainly does. From metal shredders to country pickers, Zombie fans and Manson fans, old and young alike, John 5 seems truly appreciative that his live instrumental show attracts such a diverse crowd.

In fact, contrary to what my initial expectations might have been, he seems like a truly mild-mannered, polite, genuine guy.

“I always say, I treat people like I want to be treated,” John 5 said. “Doesn’t matter who you are – Prince or the drum tech – I treat all people the same, just as I would want. But I’m having the best time ever, and I never dreamt this, that anyone would want to interview me or take my pictures. I don’t take it for granted. Every night, I’m thankful.”
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Clint Hale enjoys music and writing, so that kinda works out. He likes small dogs and the Dallas Cowboys, as you can probably tell. Clint has been writing for the Houston Press since April 2016.
Contact: Clint Hale