For almost 30 years, John 5 has been one of the most in-demand guitar players on the planet. As well as a guitarist for hire, 5 has shared the stage as axe-man for Rob Zombie, Marilyn Manson and Rob Halford. He has also worked with an impressive array of names, from all walks of music, including KD Lang, Rod Stewart, Dave Lee Roth, Alice Cooper, Tina Guo and Steven Adler.
To call John 5 a shredder does not do him justice. There’s little he can’t puthis hand to.
John 5 was born John William Lowery, on July 31st 1971, in Gross Pointe Michigan. His love of guitar began at age seven, when he began watching the Hee Haw series with his father. “I watched the guitar playing and knew that was what I wanted to do. My friends wanted to be astronauts and such but all I wanted to do was play and play and play”. Other notable influences included KISS and Jimi Hendrix.
John’s parents brought his first guitar for Christmas, and supported their son as he began playing in bars and clubs, on the pre-condition that he kept his grades up. This in turn led John to form his first band ‘Dirty Trixx’ who won a major battle of the bands contest when he was in sixth or seventh grade. In a subsequent high-school band ‘Vampirella’, John began to experiment with what is now the trademark make-up that he still wears today; “we looked crazy on stage. I’d already started wearing eyeliner anyway but the stuff we wore on stage was crazy“.
At the age of 18, John made the decision to move to Los Angeles to pursue a session guitarist career. Despite being the victim of a robbery on his first night, John hunkered down in abandoned warehouses and went door to door to sell his skills. A lucky break saw John get his first band experience in LA with ‘Alligator Soup’. Stepping in when the singer was pulled from stage following a bizarre accident, John caught the eye of Rudy Sarzo who was so impressed with John’s quick step-up, that he took him to dinner and asked to work with him. This in turn saw John meet producer Bob Marlette, who became a gateway for John’s burgeoning career as a session guitarist. This partnership, and friendship continues to this day.
Big breaks saw John working with the legendary Lita Ford opening up for KISS, which for the man who is a huge KISS fan was like “all my Christmas’ coming at once”. Further work included with former Ozzy Osbourne drummer Randy Castillo and his first big project – ‘Red Square Black’. Together they released one EP – ‘Square’ Shortly after John was selected from over 2000 other guitarists to play with K.D.Lang.
John’s career flourished when he teamed up with Rob Halford and formed industrial/classic rock band ‘2wo’ (Two).Their album, ‘Voyeurs’ was produced by Nine Inch Nail’s frontman Trent Reznor. Following this, John worked with another chldhood hero - Dave Lee Roth - writing and playing on ‘The DLR Band’ album. “We did it in two weeks, and I remember Dave saying before we started recording, if you can’t do it in two takes, then you can’t do it.”
In 1998, shock-rocker Marilyn Manson had just recording ‘Mechanical Animals’ and was in need of a new live guitarist following the departure of Zim Zum. John had just returned home following a European tour with 2wo, and almost immediately was contacted by Manson’s management team, who invited John to lunch; ‘I get there and it’s Manson himself sitting at the table. As a result of that first meeting I had a new name and I was in the band.” Signed on initially to play on the Rock Is Dead tour, John, now anointed John 5 by Manson, also contributed to the Grammy nominated “Astonishing Panorama of the Endtimes”.
In April 1999, the US was rocked by a horrifying mass shooting at Columbine High School, and a media backlash saw the band the recipients of several death threats. Regrouping at the Houdini House in Laurel Canyon work began on ‘Holywood: In The Shadow of the Valley of Death’ the first full studio album that John 5 worked on. “Manson is a phenomenal producer and visionary. His production knowledge is astounding.” During this period John 5 continued to do session work, contributing to the Jimi Hendrix Tribute album ‘Hazy Days’ and reuniting with Dave Lee Roth for the track ‘Thug Pop’.
After the phenomenal success of Holywood, the band returned to the studio to record a different kind of album – the Burlesque, Weimar Republic stylized ‘The Golden Age of Grotesque’. However, the subsequent tour proved deeply conflicting as John 5’s personal life clashed with his work life and as a result some tensions arose in the band. So in 2004, after 5 years in the band, John 5 and Manson decided to part company; “I’ll never regret working with Manson, it was such a blast, but we both knew it was time to move on“. Retaining his nickname and after a chance encounter with the legendary Les Paul, began working on his first solo album ‘Vertigo’. The mix of John 5’s trademark Drop D tuning intermixed with the Bluegrass music sounds he has listened to as a child, proved a hit with old fans, as well as introducing him to new followers.
John 5’s solo career turned out not to be a flash in the pan, and he has now released 9 studio albums, a live album and a remix album . He has worked with several special guests on those albums, including Albert Lee who called John 5 “one of the nicest guys I’ve worked with“, Steve Vai who called John “underrated”, Joe Satriani, Jim Root, Eric Johnson and many more. As well as his solo albums John 5 teamed up with the vocal talents of Joe Grah (formerly of Texas band Jibe) to form “radio rock project” Loser. Their first single, ‘Disposable Sunshine’ featured on the Fantastic Four soundtrack.
In 2006, John 5 was invited to join Rob Zombie for a short Ozzfest tour. Despite being told “not to get too comfortable”, the pairing brought a resurgence in Zombie, who at the point was turning his hand to directing movies and taking a break from music, they began work on 2006’s ‘Educated Horses’. As a consequence John 5 had to make the decision to leave his fledgling band Loser. “Being the founding member of Loser, my decision to leave was not an easy one.”
John 5 continues to work with Zombie, co-writing on all studio albums since Educated Horses, and composing the score for Zombie’s 2013 movie ‘The Lords Of Salem’.
In 2015, following a series of web shows to celebrate the release of his solo album ‘Careful With That Axe”, John 5 decided to take his solo set on tour, and formed The Creatures band to support his live shows. Initially joined by longterm friend Rodger Carter on drums, the band continues touring to this day, and now work as a unit on 5’s solo albums, including ‘Season Of The Witch’, the live album ‘It’s Alive’ and 2019’s ‘Invasion’.
The current line-up includes John 5, Ian Ross on bass and drummer, Logan Miles Nix. Although John 5 does less “hired gun” work, he has contributed to work with Lynryd Skynrd, Meatloaf, Ricky Martin, Rod Stewart, Motley Crue and Rod Stewart. “I’m busy, constantly busy with work but I look at who I am in the studio with or sending music to and I think I don’t ever want it to stop.”