John 5 has one of the most impressive resumes in rock. He has worked with some of the biggest names in the music industry, across a variety of genres and is known as one of the best modern shredders today. He is even likened to the Page or Hendrix for THIS generation. However, you could be forgiven if you hadnt heard of him.
Up until he joined shock rock troupe Marilyn Manson in 1998, and gained the moniker of John 5, as John Lowery, he had devoted his time to making other peoples music sound good. And it was only in 2004, after Les Paul had persuaded John to make music for himself, that he set out to do that. Parting ways with Manson in April 2004, John began work on his first solo album, "Vertigo". And from that point onwards the world has come to know the name John 5.
With two critically acclaimed solo albums under his belt and a third released in April 2007 (The Devil Knows My Name - 60 Cycle Hum Records), plus a new permanent position with Rob Zombie, John has paved a bright future as a credible solo artist, known for his own style. Steve Vai called John "an underrated guitar giant" (1) back in 2004 as he lent a seal of approval for the first solo album Vertigo, but judging from the sheer volume of work John 5 has been involved in over the past three years, underrated he is not anymore.
John 5 was born John Lowery, in Grosse Point Michigan. He started playing guitar at the age of seven, an age he says was "a bit of a late-starter". John was inspired by saturday morning TV show Hee Haw: "I didnt know any...musical genres. I was just in awe of the players". (2) His parents were supportive of his learning and permitted him to play in bars and clubs on the condition that he kept his grades up. Aged 18, John moved to California to pursue a career as a professional session guitarist. Despite being robbed on his first night, he knuckled down, lived in an abandoned warehouse and didnt give up.
His first band in LA, Alligator Soup, saw him meeting Rudy Sarzo from Whitesnake also beginning a friendship and working relationship that lasts to this day, with producer Bob Marlette (Tracey Chapman/Rob Halford/Black Sabbath). John began working on a number of projects for Marlette, including TV shows, commercials and film soundtracks. This in turn saw a major break with Lita Ford, opening up with her in support of KISS. John then met Ozzy Osbourne drummer Randy Castillo and formed "Red Square Black". However, RSB was a short-lived project after John was
selected from 2000 guitarists to tour with KD Lang.
In 1996, John narrowly missed out on an audition with Marilyn Manson following the departure of original guitarist Daisy Berkowitz. With the role landing to Mike Linton (Zim Zum), John teamed up with Rob Halford (Judas Priest) and formed industrial/classic rock band "2wo" (Two). "Working with Rob Halford was an amazing experience." (3) The album, "Voyeurs" was produced by Nine Inch Nails front-man, Trent Reznor. Johns next project came in 1998 when he teamed up with ex-Van Halen front man Dave Lee Roth. John wrote six tracks and submitted them to Roths manager. Familiar to the style Roth played John used this to help write "The DLR Band" album in the space of two weeks.
In 1998 John was asked to lunch by Marilyn Manson: "...he asked me to join the band - right there". (4) The name John 5 bestowed on him that day, John joined Manson et al, for the Rock is Dead tour, promoting glam rock album, Mechanical Animals. Following the tragic events of April 1999, at Columbine High School, the group began work on "Holywood: In The Shadow of the Valley of Death". This was an angry response to the media witch-hunt the band suffered, and was the
first album John wrote on. He lent a heavy, dark guitar sound to the album: "Writing in Manson is like building a house. Manson is a phenomenal producer...His production knowledge is astounding".
(5) During this time, John also continued working a session guitarist contributing works to several
albums, including the Jimi Hendrix Tribute album "Hazy Days" and reuniting with Dave Lee Roth for the track "Thug Pop".
In 2003, after a long-standing partnership with Ibanez, John released his first custom guitar - The John Lowery Signature Fender Telecaster. Guitarist Magazine called it "the sexiest new signature guitar on the market". 2003 also saw the release of Marilyn Mansons The Golden Age of Grotesque. It was whilst touring for this album that John began developing a solo project based around his love for Bluegrass music.
In 2004, John 5 and Marilyn Manson parted company. "I had a great run with Marilyn Manson. It was a lot of fun [but now] Im busier...than I was on tour".(5) Work began in earnest on Vertigo, a deeply autobiographical album pulled from turbulent personal memories on the last Manson tour (John tragically lost three family members, and suffered recurrent panic attacks - Dead Mans Dream is quietly dedicated to his late Brother-in-Law Dennis Kirtley). With Vertigo John was finally able to show that there was more to him than the punchy guitar riff often linked to rock bands: "I wanted to educate these kids...pick up the guitar and really play again."(7).
John also began working on a new "radio rock project" Loser, comprising the vocal talents of Joe Grah, formerly of Texas band Jibe. The band contributed a track to the 2005 soundtrack for comic book movie Fantastic Four. Added to that, John began working with cult rock artist and movie director, Rob Zombie. John joined Rob for 2005s Ozzfest tour: "[I] never thought I would have the chance to share the stage with him playing the Zombie songs we all know and love".(8) 2005 also saw John releasing "Songs For Sanity", a second solo album, grittier than the first: "...The reason I play and practice so much is because Id go out of my mind if I didnt". (9) Guesting on the album were Steve Vai and Albert Lee. Following the release John appeared on nine magazine covers over the next two years, including the much coveted Guitar Player.
Work with Rob Zombie continued and John contributed to eight out of eleven tracks on 2006s Educated Horses. However due to conflicting commitments with Zonbie and Loser, John had to make a hard decision: "Being the founding member of Loser, my decision to leave was not an easy one." (10) Touring continued with Zombie and John also contributed works to Meatloaf, Paul Stanley and FeFe Dobson. After touring for almost a year, John took time out to begin work on his third solo album: In an exclusive official site interview John spoke of the concept of the new album: "I wanted to make an epic instrumental record, something that was so over the top and had all the elements of a guitar record, such as shredding, country, western swing, even violin playing. I wanted to do an epic album with all my friends playing." (11). The album sees contributions from Joe Satriani and Jim Root as well as band mates, Piggy D (also responsible for artwork) and Tommy Clufetos.
John 5 continues to build his own reputation and continues to write for other artists, including Lynard Skynard. And his hard work is paying off - John 5 is no longer just a name in a band, he is an artist in his own right, changing the way people listen to guitar music today.rare child indeed.