Now playing as a full-on member of Mötley Crüe, John 5 admits that he still practices as much as it is humanely possible for him. Speaking to Kenny Aronoff in a new episode of “Kenny Aronoff Sessions,” he said that, even at the age of 53 now, he’s practicing even with tight touring schedule, as much as he did when he was just an ambitious kid excited about guitars.
“I still practice the same that I did back then,” John said, also explaining how — obviously — there’s a lot of travelling involved with a band like Mötley Crüe. He added that, because there’s often some time left over and “it’s a big chunk of time — I will get there, and I’ll play and play and play and play and play and play and play for hours and hours.”
“Because it’s easy with guitar,” he added. “You have a little amp.”
The most important thing is that he keeps doing it simply because he enjoys music (transcribed by Killer Guitar Rigs):
“But I still play the same amount that I do when I was little. It’s just comforting to me. It’s very, very comforting to me, and it stimulates my brain. I’m learning all these new techniques and stuff like that, but thank God for it because I’d probably be throwing feces at traffic if I didn’t have it.”
During the same interview, John also discussed his session work. Although later becoming known as the band guy, with the likes of Marylin Manson and Rob Zombie, and now Mötley Crüe, John was also has a prolific session career behind him. He started on this way back when he was only 17, moving from Michigan to LA. He worked for a variety of musicians over the years, including John Wetton, Alice Cooper, Rick Springfield, Robin Zander, and many others.
“I saw this on a show called ‘Session Man,'” John explained while recalling how he ended up coming up with the idea to be a session guy in the first place. “It was on HBO, when HBO was just becoming HBO — and it was this little episode about this session guy, he played guitar in all these records and…”
“I don’t even know,” John pondered, “I was like, ‘That’s what I want to do. How fun you get to be in all these different bands.’ And something clicked with me then too. I was like, ‘Oh, that’s really interesting, I think that would be such a fun thing to do.’ And I was so young, probably 10 or 11.”
Of course, being a session musician is far from simple. And trying to get by until you make your name in the business can be rough. So how did he start off as just a 17-year-old kid back then who just moved to LA?
“I would do anything,” he replied. “So when I started doing sessions or any kind of work, I thought to myself, ‘Well, there’s a lot of competition. So what I’m going to do is, I’m going to do it for half the price.'”
That turned out to be a great tactic at the time. He was offering a great service as a session player at a much lower price. And as he recalled, the “phone was ringing”:
“And so I did everything for half the price and twice as fast because I would study every kind of music there was — I listened, and I learned, and I studied and studied, so I would go in and play. And if it was $100, it was $50, so my phone was ringing all the time.”
During the same chat, John also reflected on how important Eddi Van Halen was to him and his peers. When touching upon Eddie and his innovative approach to the instrument, John said:
“We always throw the word ‘genius’ around a lot in conversation, but I really do think we have modern geniuses — we have Steve Jobs, Elon Musk — but we had Eddie Van Halen, and I really believe this.”
“Eddie was our musical Mozart. He was our genius. He invented a way of playing that changed everything. His design for things, his vision art-wise with the striped guitar, and tinkering with everything to make that sound exactly what he wanted. But on top of all that, he wrote songs that changed the world. I mean, it’s unbelievable.”
These days, John is doing a tremendous job of playing all the Mötley Crüe guitar parts and serving them justice. Most importantly, as he said in another recent interview, his goal is to make all the guitar solos sound as close as possible to what Mick Mars did.
“Well, I think doing them,” John said, “I want to do them justice. I want to play them how they’re written, and I want to give the fans because — me being a fan as well — I love those solos. I grew up with those solos.”
“So all of them, I want to play to perfection because that’s how we’ve heard it our whole life, that’s how Mick has played them, and that’s how they are on the record.”