Being a Good Guitar Player Is Just ’Half of It’: John 5 Explains What Makes a Successful Musician

According to Mötley Crüe guitar virtuoso John 5, if you want to be a successful musician, being great at your instrument is just half of the work.

Even before joining Mötley Crüe as a touring and then a full-time member, John 5 had a pretty impressive résumé. Although most people know him for his work with Rob Zombie and Marylin Manson, there’s a lot more to John. There’s David Lee Roth, his solo career, and his extensive session work and a bunch of other projects.

But as he told American Music Supply in a recent interview, there’s no success in the music business in any form if you’re not a decent human being. While discussing his work with other artists, John was asked whether there are any other aspects that are important for one’s success apart from being a good guitar player. He replied (transcribed by Killer Guitar Rigs):

“Absolutely. I think that it’s so imperative because being good at your job — being a good guitar player, or a bass player, drummer, singer — that’s half of it.”

John 5 Interview and Rig Exploration | AMS Interviews

And, as he adds, the other 50% of the success equation is not directly related to musicianship but is equally important.

“But the other half — you got to live with these people, so you have to be a good person,” John 5 explained. “You have to understand who the boss is, you have to be on time — you know, just be a good person because you’re around these people all the time, and you’re only on stage an hour and a half a night.”

Being such a diverse musician with some foundation in country music and extensive experience as a session guy, it’s obvious that John 5 needs to keep all this diverse knowledge in his head.

When asked about how he “stores all information” and how he keeps himself sharp, John explained that this is another important part of his approach to work. For the bands that he’s known for working with, there was no room to wiggle or improvise. He replied:

“That’s a great question because When I joined Mötley Crüe, I was touring with Rob Zombie, so I was doing the Rob Zombie set and then I was doing this, too.”

“I like to exercise my mind. I test myself. There’s no improv here, so every song is all instrumental. Nothing is improv, it’s exactly how it’s written on the records, and that’s a zillion notes. But I like that because I’m keeping my mind sharp.”

JOHN 5 - Motley Crue Medley (Soundcheck) - Live @ White Oak Music Hall - Houston, TX 2/23/24 4K HDR

“So I had the Zombie set, my set, and I learned all of the Mötley Crüe set, so there were tons of music in my head. But I like that, and I think that it’s just like anything — you keep your mind sharp. It keeps it healthy.”

It may sound unusual for a Mötley Crüe member, but John 5 also adds that he’s not exactly a party animal. In fact, the stereotypical Rockstar lifestyle is something that would never be done on tour. Far from it — his approach is closer to that of a professional athlete.  

“I eat well, I try to get good sleep,” he continued. “I think that’s another thing that’s really important about being on the road — a lot of people party, or this, that, or the other thing, but I try to do the complete opposite and just get sleep, eat right, and just try to do the right thing.”

Mötley Crüe - Dögs Of War Show - The Underworld - Camden 6/30/23

A shocker, right? Well, there’s a good reason for it. If you paid a lot of money to see a rock ‘n’ roll spectacle, it would be a bit disrespectful of the band to come out on the stage with a hangover, wouldn’t it? John added:

“Because you don’t want to go up there sick, it’s the worst thing ever. So I do try to keep everything in tune for the people — they wait a long time for the shows, they pay a lot of money, and I just want to give them the best show possible.”

At the moment, we’re still waiting to hear new music from Mötley Crüe. Apart from being the first album not to feature Mick Mars, due to his fallout with the rest of the band, it will also mark the first one to feature John 5.

MOTLEY CRUE - FULL CONCERT (JOHN 5 DEBUT)@Hard Rock Casino Atlantic City 2/10/23

And as the band’s new guitarist also revealed in an interview from 2023, he was also involved in the creative process. But we’ll have to wait and hear the results.

Photos: Tyrel Snowden (John 5)

  • 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.