John 5 Explains Why He Plays Mötley Crüe Guitar Solos Note-for-Note: ’They’re so Important to the Audience’

Reflecting on his time being a new guitar player for Mötley Crüe, John 5 explained why he prefers to do guitar solos as they were originally recorded. John, who’s now officially replaced original guitar player Mick Mars, recently spoke to Guitar World in an interview where he discussed the band’s live shows and how he approaches his lead parts.

Revealing that he spent “every day for months” going through solos and all the other parts and learning them all note-for-note, John 5 added:

“I wanted to play those solos exactly as they were written. Those solos are so important to me as a fan, and they’re so important to the audience.”

MÖTLEY CRÜE “Dr. Feelgood” With JOHN 5

Going into more details, he recalled two particular songs and some of their specific parts that he believes are really important:

“The squeals in ‘Looks That Kill’ or the harmonics in ‘Dr. Feelgood’ – these are very important to me and the world.”

What’s more, to further prove his point, John 5 gave classical musical pieces, those written by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, as a parallel, saying that you can’t just do what you like over this kind of music but respect them and perform them as originally intended. He continued:

“It’s like you’re looking at some sheet music; you’re looking at Mozart, and you’re like, ‘Well, I’m gonna improvise over this part.’”

Motley Crue 1st Show with John 5 - Kickstart My Heart

“No. That’s how those songs were written, how they were recorded, and how they should be performed. I wanted to give those songs respect.”

However, as he also added during the interview, the band members weren’t all that strict about it. So to give him some space, they decided to add a guitar solo slot in the setlist as well. This is the only part of the concert where he can do his own thing:

“I checked with the guys and said, ‘I’m going to play them as they are on the records.’ They said, ‘Okay, well, you can have a solo.’ And that’s when I go completely berserk. It’s kind of a perfect situation.”

Mick Mars vs. John 5 - Home Sweet Home

Reflecting on Mötley Crüe songs, John 5 also added that he was more than familiar with the band’s catalog and that he only really needed to sort out the medley in the setlist. He offered:

“Honestly, I really did know all the Crüe songs. I’ve known all the songs for as long as I can remember.”

Over the past months, there have been plenty of accusations of alleged backing track use at Mötley Crüe shows, to the point of certain band members apparently miming everything, or almost everything. This started with drummer Carmine Appice revealing what Mick Mars told him after leaving the band. The accusations, of course, were denied by bassist Nikki Sixx and the rest of Mötley Crüe.

"John 5 Guitar Solo & Smokin/Helter Skelter/Bop Medley" Motley Crue@Atlantic City 2/11/23

The thing got so much attention that even John 5, now the new guy in the band, was asked about it a few months ago. Asked about the matter, he replied:

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

He also added:

“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.”

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“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.”

“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.”

He also explained that they “rely on technology” and that they do use some backing tracks but it’s nothing out of the ordinary. It’s the usual intros, outros, and some backing vocals and other sounds. John added:

“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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Interestingly enough, during that same interview, John 5 added that he’s in contact with Mick Mars. Sure, Mars did leave due to his health problems but he has been in a legal dispute with the band, even at the time of the said interview. He explained:

“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.”

Mötley Crüe - World Tour - Fargo 08.11.23

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 and brands like Sam Ash.