Rob Zombie guitarist John 5 sat down with us at the Mansfield, MA stop of the Mayhem Festival to talk to us about the tour, the new Rob Zombie album, scoring films, his solo material, the difference between working with Zombie and Marilyn Mansion and more. He also revealed that Rob Zombie is working on his first-ever live DVD.
You've been on the Rockstar Energy Drink Mayhem Festival for a couple of weeks now. How has it been going?
It's been going great! The shows have been awesome. They have been really warm out, hot weather, but I love that stuff. It's been packed, totally slammed with people. We're just doing these big production shows, and it's a blast.
Do you have any good stories from the tour so far?
Everything's been going really smooth so far. My son, who's 17, never got a chance to see me play live, with [Marilyn] Manson or anybody. He came to the first show, and it was really awesome for me and great for him too.
What did he think?
He was blown away. It's just like if you were with your dad all the time, and then all of a sudden you see him get up on the stage. It was pretty amazing. It was really a great experience.
Are there any bands whose sets you try to catch every day?
I try to catch every band and break it up. It's a lot of bands to see, so I really enjoy checking them all out. I'm watching everybody.
How does this year's Mayhem Festival compare to when you played it a few years ago?
Well, the bands are different. [laughs] I guess that's a big difference.
How does a festival tour like this compare to a normal headliner? Do you have any preference?
I love this. I really love this. It's very organized. There's no surprises. It's like heavy metal summer camp. You get up, there's activities, there's bands playing, there's food, there's girls taking their tops off. It's great!
The new Rob Zombie album, Venomous Rat Regeneration Vendor, came out a few months ago. Tell us a little bit about that.
We started doing the record after we did the Megadeth tour. We went right to Rob's house in Connecticut, in the middle of nowhere. I'm used to LA. I'm used to being around everything. You know, there's a 7-Eleven right there, and there's a movie theater right there, and there's a restaurant right there, but it wasn't like that in Connecticut. There was nothing! And it freaked me out a little bit, but we were so focused to do this record. There was no distractions whatsoever. And it came out great, so I guess that's the way to do it. When you're making a record in LA, it's like, "Well, I have to do this. I have to pick this up. I have to run here," so there was none of that.
How did the cover of Grand Funk Railroad's "We're an American Band" come about?
Me and Rob were sitting and thinking, "What are some good covers? Let's do a cover." We love songs. We love music. We love all this stuff. Rob was sitting in the back of the bus and he goes, "How about 'American Band?'" And I was like, "Yes!" I mean, it's totally us. We changed one lyric, "Up all night with Kerry King." That was good. We love playing that song. It's such a rad tune. I'm really proud of how it came out.
It came out awesome. Were there any other songs you were considering of covering before that one came up?
There are, and I don't want to give away, because we might do it in the future. But really good ones!
How does working with Rob compare to working with Marilyn Manson?
Well, both are incredible. Love them. I wouldn't change anything about either one. But with Manson, it was very unpredictable. You didn't know how long we were going to be on stage; were we gonna be on three songs or twenty? But with Rob, we know what we're gonna do, what songs we're gonna do. So both are pretty different from each other, but I love them both. I wouldn't change it for anything.
You also composed the score for Rob's latest movie, The Lords of Salem. What was that like?
Rob was talking about this movie, Lords of Salem. I did music for a lot of TV shows, like Baywatch and all these other TV shows, in the past. He said, "Hey, why don't you do the score for this movie?" And I was like, "Yeah!" I had never done a full-length movie, but it was a lot of work. It was like doing five instrumental albums, because there's so much music in the movie. It's jam-packed with music. It took a lot out of me. Going to that theater, watching it, it was very rewarding.
What kind of input did Rob have?
He gave me these cue sheets every day of, like, "I want it to be this long. I want it to crescendo here, and I want to to die down here." He gave me a lot of answers to the test, which was great. He gave me so much direction, which a lot of directors don't do. It really helped a lot.
Would you be interested in scoring more films in the future?
Yes, but it's not a priority to me. Some people are just really into scoring. I'm not so into scoring that much. I was at the theater watching the movie with my wife, and I said, "Did you hear that?" And she was like, "What? What?" Because the music is made not to distract you. It's kind of music that people don't listen to.
That's a good way to put it. Have you ever considered writing or directing a film?
God, no. I just watch them. [laughs]
Your latest solo album, God Told Me To, came out last year. Have you started working on any new material?
I have! I'm like five songs into it. We're having a blast. I've got this drummer, his name is Rodger Carter. He's great. And the bass player for Elton John right now, Matt Bissonette. It's crazy! I'm doing some Jerry Reed stuff, some country, some western swing. I just try to push myself every record to see how far I can push it.
Are you doing any more acoustic stuff?
No, because I did that on the last one. Did you like the acoustic stuff?
Yeah, I thought it was cool.
You never know what you're going to get with these records. I have no rules whatsoever. I just try to put out a good product for these people. I don't do it for money; I just do it for the love of guitar and having fun with it.
How did that "Beat It" cover on the last album come about?
"Beat It" was a big part of my life. I always try to do covers that were were a big part of my life, like I did "Fractured Mirror" from Ace Frehley and "Welcome to the Jungle," which made me move to LA. Just cool stuff like that. "Beat It" was such a big hit, played at all of our dances. It was so massive, and Eddie Van Halen's solo was just epic. It was such a huge part of my life, and I really spent a lot of time on it and tried to do my best with it. I think Michael would have liked it.
Were you nervous because it was such an important song, not only to you but also to so many others?
No, I wasn't nervous. I just knew I was going to do it exactly how it was written and how it should have been done.
What was it like co-writing "It's Over" with Rod Stewart recently?
Kevin Savigar, who has played with Rod since '78, he actually helped me on two of my solo albums, Vertigo and Songs for Sanity. I loved Rod Stewart growing up. That's all I'd listen to. We were at some event - Rob was getting a BMI award or ASCAP award - and I met Rod. Kevin said, "Oh, we should write some songs." So we wrote a few songs, and luckily that song has been such a massive hit, a huge hit. It was number one in the UK, and it's been in the top 5 for like 5 or 6 weeks. It's unbelievable. I'm psyched.
You've worked with a lot of other high-profile musicians. Is there anyone else you'd like to work with that you haven't yet?
I'd say Prince. I love Prince. Or a Beatle.
What else is in store for you for the rest of the year?
Touring. This is big news. I haven't talked about this. 30 years, Rob Zombie, White Zombie - never done a live DVD. We're doing one this year. The show's so big. It can't get much bigger, so I'm like, "We better record this!"
How do you go about choosing a setlist for something like that?
This is a true story. We have changed the setlist every single show. We're just trying to see what works best. We changed it today.
I like that. It keeps it exciting for the band and the fans.
It does keep it fresh.
Is there anything else you'd like to add?
Come see the show! You're not going to believe your eyes. It's a big'un.