The Golden Age Of Grotesque Interviews

Guitar World
John talks with Guitar World about the songs that influenced his musical tastes.
John 5
2003 Jun

John 5 is perhaps the scariest member of Marilyn Manson's musical family. No, he isn't creepy, debauched. That's what makes him stand out amid Manson's cast of sickos. John is just a nice, enthusiastic, clean-cut guy who loves country music every bit as much as he loves metal and rock.

"When I was really little I used to watch Hee Haw on TV," the guitarist explains. "Remember that stupid show? It was kind of like Laugh-In, but country. Dumb jokes, but good music. And hee Haw is what made me start playing guitar. There was this kid on there who had to be only seven or eight. But he played banjo like I'd never seen anyone play the banjo. That's what made me say "Wow, I wanna do that","

An obsessive perfectionist and all-around guitar virtuoso, John has backed everyone from k.d. lang, Lita Ford and Salt 'n' Pepa to Rob Halford and David Lee Roth. He joined Marilyn Manson in 1998, just in time for the band's Mechanical Animals tour, and has since has become a full-fledged Mansonite. John recently completed recording sessions for Manson's latest album, The Golden Age Of Grotesque.

"When I was playing with k.d. lang, all I would listen to was Pantera, Slayer, Manson and stuff," John notes. "But now that I'm playing in Manson, all I listen to is great country music. It evens it all out."

John's 60 Minutes set list is a study in contrasts that somehow all balance perfectly. Frighteningly so, one might say.

"NIGHT MOVES" - BOB SEGER
"Night Moves' reminds me of when my dad used to drive me to school every day. I had to be eight or nine years old when that song came out. I'm from Detroit, and they'd play 'Night Moves' on the radio all the time" --- I guess because Bob Seger if from Detroit. I was too young even to understand what the song was talking about [back seat, adolescent sex" -- GW Ed.] I just liked the melody and the guitar. And when you hear an old song like that, it just takes you back instantly."

"ANTICHRIST SUPERSTAR" - MARILYN MANSON
"This is my all-time favorite Marilyn Manson song, although I had nothing to do with it. It was recorded before I joined the band" --- so it's okay for me to include it here. Before I was in Marilyn Manson, I was a big Manson fan. I would always envision myself playing that song with those guys, for some reason. It's so powerful" --- visually and otherwise."

"SOUTHBOUND" - DOC WATSON
"My dad was into bluegrass and country. And from an early age I absolutely loved Doc Watson and all those old-time guys. About six years ago I picked up the SOUTHBAND album. The song 'Southbound' has got great pickin' in it, plus a great vocal and lyrics. If you haven't heard it, it's definitely something to pick up and listen to."

"HONKY TONKIN'" - HANK WILLIAMS
"A classic. It's one of those country songs that I've loved and listened to all my life. I just picked up the Ultimate Collection box set, and of course 'Honkey Tonkin'' is on there. So I listen to it on tour with Manson and drive everybody crazy. Pogo, our keyboard player, sometimes shares my love of Hank Williams. But not the other lads.

"LADIES NIGHT IN BUFFALO" - DAVID LEE ROTH
"Great song, great Steve Vai solo. It's the kind of song you wouldn't expect David Lee Roth to play because it's kind of a cool, sexy song. I did an album with Dave, DLR Band [1998], and I would tell him all the time, 'When we go out and play live we gotta do "Ladies Night in Buffalo."' But right after I finished the record, I joined Marilyn Manson. So I never got to realize my dream of playing that song live."

"DESPERADO" - THE EAGLES
"I think that's everybody's favorite. Whenever I'm on tour, I'll always take the entire album, because it has a whole desperado, wandering cowboy theme to it. I've seen the Eagles do 'Desperado' live a number of times, and they always pull it off so beautifully."

"DEACON BLUES" - STEELY DAN
"That's another song I would always hear on the radio when I was little. I got the album, and I remember just wearing 'Deacon Blues' out. It's such a strange song for a kid to like. I loved Kiss and all that stuff, but I loved Steely Dan too. That's another one where the lyrics wnt right over my head as a kid. Come to think of it, I still don't know what it's about."

"I'M BROKEN" - PANTERA
'During Marilyn Manson's Mechanical Animals and Holy Wood tours, we'd always listen to 'I'm Broken' before we went on. And we'd always put on the Far Beyond Driven album at backstage parties and on the bus. 'I'm Broken' is just such a well-done song. Great vocals, guitar, riff, beat" --- everything. It reminds me of [bassist] Twiggy Ramirez a lot because he loves Pantera. We all do. And, oh boy, when we go to Texas, those guys come out and we have a good time. Pogo says all he does is throw up when he's around Pantera cause they get him so drunk."

"I HUNG MY HEAD" - JOHNNY CASH
"Johnny Cash is the alias I used when I checked into hotels. That's how much I love the guy. And 'I Hung My Head' is the greatest song I've heard in probably 10 years. I was surprised to learn that Sting wrote it; it seems like such a Johnny Cash song. What an amazing story: A guy shoots a lone rider for no apparent reason. Then in the final verse, the murderer is riding to heaven with the guy he shot, on the back of same horse. Truly, truly a genius song. But the way Johnny Cash does it is what sold me."

"ROCK BOTTOM" - KISS
"I'm such a ridiculous Kiss fan. I've loved them since I was probably six years old. 'Rock Bottom' has such a great intro. And when it kicks in and Paul Stanley starts singing, it sounds so good. He's got such a rock-star voice. When I was little I always thought he drank a bunch of whiskey to get that cool rasp in his voice. In Detroit, whenever they played Kiss on the radio, I was so littled I used to think the band had actually gone to the radio station, set up and were playing live!"

"THE RAIN SONG" - LED ZEPPELIN
"I really like the mellow, well done production on that. I learned to play it an early age, but I never knew it was in an open tuning. I figured it out in standard tuning, and the chords seemed so weird and crazy. I still play it in standard. In fact, if I'm testing sounds in the studio or something, I'll usually play stuff from 'The Rain Song'. And every single time, someone will say, 'Oh, how do you play that?' And I always have to show them because it really sounds just like the record."

"JUST ONE FIX" - MINISTRY
"'Just One Fix' pretty much changed my whole outlook on music. It was so different than anything else I was listening to at the time. It was different than anything else I was listening to at the time. So repetitive and driving. It totally changed my vision of what I wanted to do with music. Manson has done some festivals with Ministry, and it's always a great honor to hear that song live when you love it so much."