From the darkest corners of the twisted mind and imagination of guitarist John 5, comes his new masterpiece ‘Careful With That Axe,’ the follow-up to 2012’s critically acclaimed God Told Me To. Released digitally on August 12, 2014, through 60 Cycle Hum, ‘Careful With That Axe’ is John 5’s eighth solo album and features Rodger Carter on drums and Matt Bissonette on bass.
As main axe wielder for Rob Zombie, John 5 obsessively keeps himself busy both on and off the road, incessantly writing, recording, filming and creating. Recorded at The Doghouse Studios in Los Angeles in between tour legs, ‘Careful With That Axe’ was produced by John 5, along with Rodger Carter, and illustrates his musical growth and talents as a guitar player and composer. Carter and Bissonette are in perfect sync, masterfully laying down the musical dreamscape with technical precision. Packed with rapid-fire, machine-gun riffs and musical crescendos, all intertwined with blistering fast six string assaults and an eerie sense of melody, John 5 leads you on a macabre journey through the twisted minds of a different brand of ax wielders. With compositions such as “Portrait of Sidney Sloan,” “The Dream Slayer” and “Flight Of The Vulcan Kelly,” John’s draws you in with lightning fast leads, completely redefining the term “shredding.”
Not to be pigeonholed into any one particular style, ‘Careful With That Axe’ also showcases John 5’s talents and versatility as a guitar virtuoso and musician. From his flawless finger picking technique on the Latin flavored “El Cucuy” and his fast, intricate guitar-work on the classic Jerry Reed covers “Jerry’s Breakdown” and “Jiffy Jam,” banjo included, to anthemic “Six Hundred and Sixty Six Pickers In Hell,” John 5 gracefully weaves in and out of many different styles ranging from metal and rock, to bluegrass, country & western and flamenco, all harmoniously coming together for his magnum opus ‘Careful With That Axe.’
To kick off the Halloween season and celebrate the release of the album, John 5 and The Creatures lead you by the hand down the dark corridors of John 5’s mind and into the nightmarish world of the creatures. This is John 5’s first-ever live solo concert, bringing his twisted musical visions to life as he performs songs spanning his entire solo career including live performances of tracks from his latest studio album. This once in a life-time LIVE online video concert is hosted by metal-shredder, Chris Broderick of Megadeth – LiveCast Entertainment, in association with Fender Guitar, Boss Electronics and Dean Markley Strings, are the proud sponsors – John 5 and The Creatures feature John 5 (guitar), Rodger Carter (drums) and Larry “Bones” Dennison (Dio, Tony MacAlpine, Lita Ford) on bass.
This live online experience allows the audience personal time with John 5 in an in-depth Q&A in real-time, which Chris Broderick will moderate. The audience will also have a chance to win unique giveaways throughout the show for the Top 13 supporters, including a signed John 5 Squire Telecaster, several signed BOSS pedals and other cool signed giftsThis event will be broadcast online only, on October 18, 2014, across three time zones; The Americas at 7:00pm (PST); Europe at 7:00pm (BST); and the Pacific Rim at 7:00pm (HKT). This pay-per-view event goes on sale September 18, 2014. The tickets are not to a brick & mortar venue, but to a crazy online experience you will only get here, this night only – This will not be archived for later viewing so get your tickets before it sells out – Details can be found at www.john-5.com.
Jason Price of Icon Vs. Icon recently caught up with John 5 to discuss his career, the creation of ‘Careful With That Axe,’ his upcoming projects and much more.
Many people love your work. What are some your first memories of music and, ultimately, what led you to a career in music?
Television was a very big influence on me because it was always on. I loved “The Monkees,” “Hee-Haw” and all of that stuff. I was really glued to and driven to music with those shows. That is what made me want to play guitar. I was really, really into it and started taking lessons when I was 7 years old. It went from there and I was so inspired. I had musical epiphanies all through my life. Originally, I just wanted to be a session musician, that is why I play all of these different styles. I never dreamt of being a rock star or anything like that because it was too far away from my dreams. I didn’t think it was something that was even possible. I was just a session guy and I wanted to learn, learn, learn. That was it!
Who helped to shape the artist we see today?
I loved the country guys like Jerry Reed, Chet Atkins and all of that stuff but I also love KISS, Van Halen and Yngwie [Malmsteen] and those people who also influenced everyone else. Having those epiphanies all through your life is wonderful. I am still looking for inspiration now. For example, there is a guy named Joe Maphis, who is incredible. I just discovered him on YouTube and he is from the 1950s and is a badass country player. He is so cool! So, I am always looking for new inspirations!
You have been very successful. To what do you attribute your longevity?
I don’t know. That is a good question. I just love the guitar and I love playing. It is so important to my life. I do these instrumental records for the love of the guitar, not for money or anything like that. I funded them all myself and I really love doing it!
Your latest record is “Careful With That Axe.” Did you have goals or expectations for this release?
A lot of it is from my childhood. Growing up there were certain songs that definitely influenced me. For example, there is a song called “Flight of Vulcan Kelly.” I loved “Flight of the Bumble Bee,” so it originates from that. There are also the two Jerry Reed songs. There are a lot of hidden things in there like that. “Careful With That Axe,” the title, my dad said, “It’s hard to become a famous musician. It’s one in a million, so this guitar could bring you happiness or sorrow. Be careful.” It is also a reference to a lot of axe murders and stuff like that! Everything on the record was so carefully put together. “Villisca,” for example, comes from Villisca, Iowa. There was a crazy mass murder in the early 1900s. “Flight of Vulcan Kelly” comes from Vulcan Kelly, which is a brand of axe. Everything means something!
How does this album compare and contrast to what fans expect from you from past releases?
That is a great question. This album was done completely live. It is done with live musicians and everything was played all at the same time. It is my favorite record by far. There is no comparison! I am doing a streaming concert on October 18th. It is going to be very special. It is going to be completely live. You will be able to call in and ask questions. Chris Broderick from Megadeth is going to host it. It’s going to be great. The guys from “The Tonight Show” are putting it on. It is going to be a very special evening and I haven’t done anything like this before. Everyone wants me to play live or tour but it is difficult because I am so busy. I thought this would be the perfect way to do it. I will be playing three different time zones, a concert for each different time zone. It is going to be a unique experience!
Tell us about your songwriting process and the challenges involved with this record?
That is a tough question because I don’t even know! [laughs] Maybe I will come up with a riff or melody or something like that and then something will come to me on which I can start to build. It’s difficult with an instrumental song because there is no vocal but sometimes I will start a riff, melody or chord changes and see where that takes me. I love challenges, especially with “Jerry’s Breakdown” or a song like “El Cucay,” where I am exploring different styles. I really love doing those things. It is a lot of practice, ya know? You really have your stuff together, master it and play it with confidence. I love challenges and that is what it is all about for me!
They say you learn a little something with every new project. What did you take away from creating this album?
I learned that you have to do things yourself and that is what I did with this album. I did everything myself. I got the musicians, paid them, went in hourly to the studio and paid them, marketing promotion and mixing. I did everything myself and it is something I am really proud of. I put it out myself and it is doing really well.
When you look back at your career to date, what was your biggest evolution?
I love seeing myself get better, progress and change. I am seeing that! I think the popularity of these instrumental albums are a testament to that and it makes me so happy because, like I said, I am doing it for the love of guitar and the love of music. I am very proud of what I have done over the years. I have played all the great venues in the world, had a number one record, got a bunch of awards and I am very content. I am also playing with my favorite band in the world right now! I love seeing myself grow musically and in life, so it is great. Who knows what will come in the next few years!
When it comes to future solo work, do you gravitate towards any particular direction at the moment?
I don’t know. That is a tough question. I am not sure of where I will go next time because I have complete freedom. We will see what happens but it is definitely a question I can’t answer at the moment.
You have been hard at work on the next Rob Zombie album. What can you tell us about it?
I can tell you it is a very heavy record and I really think it is his best work, I really do. I can’t wait for it to come out! We are still working on it, of course, but I am definitely excited for it.
How has your relationship with Rob Zombie developed through the years?
Our relationship couldn’t be better. We have such a great working relationship in the studio and on the road. We are like best friends, so it is such a pleasure to work with him. I wouldn’t trade it for anything in the world.
You are also working with him on music for his forthcoming film, “31.” How does it compare to working on a Rob Zombie album?
It’s a lot of work because you never know what is going to happen. There are no time signatures or key signatures, there is nothing! It is definitely a challenge! Sometimes there is a huge orchestra involved but, like I said, I love challenges! It’s been a lot of fun.
Is scoring other films something you are interested in exploring in the future?
Not really. I think I am just going to concentrate on Rob’s stuff.
Gene Simmons recently made the remark that “Rock is dead.” How do you view the current state of the rock industry?
The industry has changed dramatically. It has changed so drastically, it is like day and night. It has completely changed. It is not dead but it changed. We just have to keep writing great songs and doing great shows to keep it alive. It is not just rock. It could be rap, country or anything like that. Music is a tough business because there is so much piracy out there. I know what it was like because back in the day I was around when people were standing in line to buy a record! It has definitely changed a lot.
What is the best piece of advice you would pass along to those looking to pursue a career in today’s music industry?
I would say, if you don’t do it, somebody else will. If you really want it, just do it! You will get there eventually. If you do something to move closer to your career every day, even if it is just making a couple phone calls, you will get there eventually.
Thanks for your time, John 5! We can’t want to see what you have in store for us fans on October 18th!
Thanks, Jason! It’s going to be amazing!
Jason Price founded the mighty Icon Vs. Icon more than a decade ago. Along the way, he’s assembled an amazing group of like-minded individuals to spread the word on some of the most unique people and projects on the pop culture landscape.