INTERVIEW: John 5

John 5 & The Creatures are touring Australia for the very first time in April (with blues-rock phenom Jared James Nichols in tow)! It’ll be a night of pure guitar-driven ecstasy. I caught up with John 5 to talk about the tour and why he’s a devotee of his BOSS pedals.

So John five, welcome to I Heart Guitar!

Well, thanks for having me.

No problem. So big news. You’re you’re coming to Australia with Jared James Nichols.

Yes, I’m really, really super excited. We are coming there in April and you know, I haven’t been there in quite a little while now, so I’m coming there with Jared and then also coming with a band called From Love To Violence who’s from Australia. So we’re ready to do this.

I saw you play at NAMM a few years ago. For those who haven’t seen you, which I guess is most Australians apart from those who have been overseas, you put on such a dynamic show. There are so many different kind of musical feels. And I know at the time I saw you, you ended with this like massive riff medley. That was just one of the coolest things I’ve ever seen.

Yeah! We have a new new one I’ll play when we come over there.

Cool. Are you chucking in some classic Aussie riffs? I mean there’s gotta be some AC/DC in there at the very least.

Yeah. There’s all sorts of everything!

Yeah. I mean, speaking of a little bit of everything, your latest record is pretty diverse. There are some songs that I think you can kind of pop on in the background and groove to, and then it’ll switch to the next track and it’s like a really attention-grabbing thing. That’s a real wild ride.

It definitely is a wild ride. Maybe I should have called it A Little Bit Of Everything. It definitely has a lot of stuff in it and a lot of note, that’s for sure. And what we’ll do is we’re going to be recording a live record, so we’re going to be recording the the shows in Australia. But what we do is we play the songs just like how they are on the record, which is very difficult to remember all of that stuff. But it’s exactly how it is on the record and it’s a challenge, you know, and there’s no improv. It’s just how it’s written and that’s how we play it.

Well, there’s currently a bit of a debate in the guitar world where there’s a lot of bands are using too many backing tracks… I think it’s fine if a band uses tracks to fill in some things here and there. But there have been some examples lately where people have obviously been like basically miming to certain guitar solos that are too hard to play and stuff and it’s like, you know, it’s, it’s worth doing it right. Tbe whole point is ‘I can play this,’ not ‘I can put this together in the studio and then fake it,’ you know? And I think you’re a great example of someone who can play their ass off while being entertaining.

Yeah. I think that’s what it’s what it’s all about. It’s all about entertainment and that’s important because the audience, you know, I’m part of that audience too. I go to shows all the time and I look to see what to do and what not to do and I try to use that in my own show and just to keep it entertaining for not only the fan, but maybe the person that was dragged there by their husband or boyfriend or something like that. So, you know, they’re entertained as well, even if they’re not a fan.

Yeah. Well that’s the thing is like when you transition from being the guitarist in a band to being essentially the focal point when you’re doing something solo like this, it’s got to be a slightly different set of skills to what you use when you’re playing with a vocalist like Rob Zombie. You’ve got to be the guy.

that is true. You have to, you have to keep everyone entertained with that guitar and that is your microphone. And it’s, you know, it was very stressful to do that cause I didn’t think anybody would really care. But, um, you know, and that’s why that’s the truth is that’s why I didn’t tour for so long because I didn’t think anybody really cared.

Oh, we care, we care!

It’s the truth. Cause I was so, you know, worried that like people don’t want to hear that, you know, but I’m very happy that they do. So that’s why I’m touring and, and uh, you know, cause I enjoy it so much.

So let’s talk guitar because you know, it wouldn’t be I Heart Guitar guitar if I wasn’t nerding out about stuff. What are your, what are your current guitar guitar obsessions, whether it’s a piece of gear or something to play, like a song or a style. Where are you at right now?

Well, I don’t have much gear. I kind of don’t want gear because people are like, ‘Here, check this out, check that out.’ And I don’t really want it. I just want to play. I just wanna play, play, play. And so I guess what I’m doing right now a lot is just playing. I just love picking and I’ve been just writing, I’m always writing. I’m trying to think of different things, different styles, trying to just get better all the time. That’s what’s most important to me.

When you’re at your level, how do you get better? Like it’s always possible, but there’s got to be a point where you’re like, you know, where do I go from here?

You can always get better. I’m always looking for inspiration. I’m looking on the internet for different guitar players and what they’re doing and seeing how I can use that sound, what inspires me. And that’s, that’s exactly what I do. I love just trying to, just being inspired and looking for new things that are going on.

Yeah. You know, the other night I was watching the movie Tangled on Disney+ and Mandy Moore plays one of the characters in it and the first song in the movie she sings, and I was listening to that and I was thinking, ‘Man, if I could cop that phrasing on guitar, that would be pretty cool.’ So it’s like, now I’m kind of stealing ideas from Mandy Moore.

That’s right. You’re just being influenced. That’s right. Yeah.

Wherever it comes from, as long as it comes out as cool guitar music, what the hell?

Yeah, exactly. That’s what inspiration is.

Yeah. So you’re a long-time Telecaster guy. Have you picked up any cool new ones recently or cool old ones?

Not really. I’ve been just concentrating on playing. I’ve been just playing so much and trying to make everything like simplified equipment wise, like gear wise, just trying to make it easy. I just tour with a couple of BOSS pedals and a regular amp and that’s it. So I just want to make it as simple as possible. So I’m curious because one time I was touring and my gear went down and I remember my tech freaking out cause it was only a few hours before we went on and I said, ‘It’s okay. Just go to a music store and get whatever there is.’ And I could do the show because everything I use is stock, just right off the shelf. It’s not modified or anything.

So what else can we talk about in the minute we have left?

Well, the shows are coming up and, you know, try to get to the shows because we’re making this live record so we’re going to record a lot of the shows in Australia. We’re super excited about that.

Tickets from: https://bit.ly/j5au19

Thu 16 April – Melbourne – The Prince
Fri 17 April – Brisbane – The Zoo
Sat 18 April – Sydney – Manning Bar

The Motley Crue reunion is a great example of how to read your online stats

So Motley Crue are back, four years after what was intended to be their final show, and after literally exploding the heck out of a contract that precluded them from ever playing together again. And why wouldn’t they? As their manager Allen Kovac says in a new interview with Forbes, demand for the band is through the roof after the success of their Netflix film The Dirt. “There’s a demand that we could see from data and streaming, where the audience changed and the streaming went up 600% when the film was out and has stayed up 300%, and will stay there because their followers tripled,” Kovac says in the interview. “And that’s what you’re aiming for. You’re aiming for followers. Not quick playlisting or radio airplay.”

Data showed Kovac and the band that their audience shifted from 64% aged 45-to-59, to 62% aged 18-to-45. And with the Motley Crue/Poison/Def Leppard tour selling over 700,000 tickets in the first weekend on sale, it shows that they’re on absolutely the right path. There’s demand there, and of course money to be made. And personally I’d love to see these three bands playing together just cos that sounds like a damn fun night out.

But there’s more to this story than just ‘band gets back together when it realises it can make a buttload of money.’ It’s also a great lesson for musicians in how you can use your social media and streaming statistics to figure out exactly where you’re wanted and by whom, and therefore how you might steer your career. What it doesn’t mean is that you should change who you are to chase an audience. But if you’re clever you can use that information to zero in on what you’re doing right and where it’s being best received. Maybe you’ll find you’re getting a lot of streams or social likes from a particular city. You could use this info to make a video just for that city and audience-target it on Facebook. Maybe it’ll get liked and shared a lot in that region and you’ll be able to build a real connection with that audience. Did someone share your video to a particular Facebook group and it got a great response? Well you’d better join that group! Do people respond better to your Instagram stories than to your posts? Well then, that tells you that you should consider doing things that monetise your stories (eg: swipe up to buy this song on Bandcamp!), but also that maybe you need to put more thought into posting the kind of things that connect with the Instagram users who don’t tend to look at the Stories section.

So next time you hit that stats tab, keep an open mind about what it’s telling you, what it could mean and how you could use it to bring your music to more people.