John 5 Reveals Whether Mötley Crüe Uses Backing Tracks Live, Recalls One Thing Mick Mars Told Him After Joining the Band

As the whole legal battle mess between Mick Mars and Mötley Crüe is ongoing, the band’s new guitar player John 5 recently revealed that he’s actually in pretty good relations with the man who he replaced in the lineup. Although a founding member and often praised by fans for his incredible playing skills, Mars left the legendary glam metal group last year. In October, John 5 was announced as a replacement.

The problems rose after drummer and Mick’s friend Carmine Appice dropped a bombshell earlier this year, revealing that the guitarist not only wasn’t happy in the band but that other band members relied almost entirely on backing tracks. During his recent chat with Eddie Trunk, John 5 was asked about whether he keeps contact with Mars to which he replied (transcript via Loudwire):

“Me and Mick, we talk all the time. We exchange Christmas gifts and things like that. When I was announced as the guitar player, he was one of the very first texts that I got and he said, ‘You’re going to kill it.’ It’s good. It’s not like it’s some stranger coming in. We have a great respect for each other.”

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Now, it was only a matter of time until John would get that tricky question about Mötley Crüe, particularly bassist Nikki Sixx, using backing tracks for live shows. He addressed the issue by saying:

“Not 99 percent, not 98 percent, but 100 percent, Nikki is playing every single note on that stage.”

But then Eddie Trunk brought up some of the fan footage seen online where it seems like Nikki isn’t pressing down anywhere on the fretboard but the bass lines seem to keep going. John 5 had an explanation for that.

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The band really puts in a lot of time and effort to properly rehearse and make it sound perfect — and thus the perfection that sounds like it’s coming from prerecorded tracks. He said:

“It doesn’t mean you’re not playing bass. Nikki plays 100 percent. Here’s what makes me crazy… well, it doesn’t really make me crazy because when people say we’re playing to backing tracks, I take it as a compliment because we rehearse so hard.”

“We even have penalty flags if someone messes up at rehearsal — we throw a penalty flag at them. We rehearse so much and I take it as a compliment because it means we sound that good live. In my heart of hearts, I know that we’re playing live.”

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He further added:

“Do you really think that we would put a mistake on a track or something? No, it’s crazy. It’s so crazy, but 100 percent he plays every single note on there. Just listen to the shows before you make these statements, because you’ll hear mess-ups and that’s what rock ‘n’ roll is.”

And while John admits that there is some backing track use, it’s nothing out of the ordinary and it’s just about different intros or other additional sounds and effects. He concluded by saying.

“Yes, we do rely on technology for backup vocals, for intros, for outros, sirens, horn hits, things like that. Of course, they’ve been doing that since ‘Dr. Feelgood.‘ I’m not saying we don’t rely on technology for things like that. Backups, intros, outros, things that we can’t replicate ourselves. But me, Nikki, Tommy [Lee] and Vince [Neil], we’re all live up there.”

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After Mick Mars came out with the lawsuit earlier this year, claiming that he’s not allowed insight into Mötley Crüe’s earning, despite still being one of the owners of the company, all hell broke loose online. In an interview from last month, Nikki Sixx solidified his stance on the matter and said that Mick is being mislead by his legal team:

“If a member of a band tells you that they can’t tour because of health reasons, you have two choices. You can quit as a band after 42 years of work. Or we could look at each other and go ‘Are we done yet?!’ We’re really peaking and we understand [Mick’s] health issues.”

“We wish him the best and we know that he’s a little bit confused and being misled by representatives right now. But we still have to stay focused on why we’re here.”

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Looking back at how John 5 got hired, Nikki said:

“I’ve been friends with John forever and I would make jokes ‘as long as you’re a 5, I feel good being a Sixx.’ Y’know, stupid best buddy jokes.”

“Me and that guy have been either hanging out at each other’s houses, writing songs… he plays [guitar] all day long. So, he comes over here and he grabs one of my guitars or brings his own and we just sit around and play and talk about the ’70s and how great Lynyrd Skynyrd and Scooby Doo was.”

“My wife just said that when Mick (Mars) told us he was leaving the band and I told her I’d talked to Tommy and Vince, and everybody feels that John would be a great fit, and I hadn’t called John yet because you had to be sure we were doing everything correctly.“

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“My wife said ‘well, that’s great.’ I said ‘what do you mean by that?’ She goes ‘well, you’ll be going on stage and you’ll be on the phone to John.’ And they’re like ‘you gotta go on stage!’, and he’ll be like ‘ok, call me back in an hour and a half.’“

“So we’re always chatting and jamming and the friendship is so wonderful. Him and Tommy are really close, Vince loves him. He’s just a great guy and a great musician and he gives us a great opportunity as a three-piece so to speak to really lock in. He’s just such a great guitar player.”

Photos: Tyrel Snowden (John 5), Shadowgate (Motley Crue 19 (3689109499))


  • David Slavkovic

    David always planned for music to be nothing more than a hobby. However, after a short career as an agricultural engineer he ended up news editor at KillerGuitarRigs, senior editor at, as well as a freelance contributor to online magazines such as GuitaristNextdoor.