Tech Explains John 5’s Super-Simple Pedalboard, Says He ’Doesn’t Need a Lot of Gain’

David Vela, who’s working as a tech for John 5, shared some details behind the Mötley Crüe guitarist’s rig and the surprisingly simple pedalboard.

Although probably best known for his industrial metal work with Marylin Manson and Rob Zombie, John 5 is way more than just your average drop tuning chugger. Years ago, he honed his craft doing session work and is now known as the new 6-string virtuoso in Mötley Crüe, replacing Mick Mars after his departure from the lineup and fallout with the three band members.

But despite being a virtuoso, John 5’s setup is pretty straightforward, as his guitar tech David Vela revealed. In a recent interview with American Music Supply, Vela went into more detail, explaining what John’s guitars, amps, and pedals are like.

John 5 Interview and Rig Rundown | AMS Interviews

When asked about the Ghost 2 Telecaster, the tech offered (transcribed by Killer Guitar Rigs):

“What’s cool about it is that we got the locking nut, and then we’ve got this Floyd Rose action here, which for the Mötley Crüe stuff, it’s very crucial — ‘Kickstart My Heart.'”

In many ways, he feels like the Ghost is more of a Super Strat rather than a conventional Tele.

“And I love this guitar because it’s a Tele and a Super Strat,” David continued. “It’s got the kill switch, and the action is just so beautiful on it. The color is amazing.”

Of course, John also released the model with Fender. However, this commercial version by Fender has a fixed Fender-style 6-saddle bridge. Nonetheless, there are some oddities on it that make the instrument unique.

Motley Crue - Kickstart My Heart - (01-07-2023) - Wembley Stadium, London

Going more into John 5’s rig, David also touched upon the amps. This came up when the interviewer said that they’re “shocked” at how surprisingly clean John’s tone was, even for some of the heavy songs. The secret ingredient here is the EVH 5150 EL34 amp. The tech offered:

“Actually, that comes from — besides his fingers — the new EVH head that we’re using, the EL34, which we love. Very clean.”

“We do not need a lot of gain, but it sounds like there’s a lot of gain in there,” he added. And it’s an interesting approach, especially knowing how heavy some of John’s parts sound. Instead of pushing the gain knob up high, they focus on other aspects of heaviness.

Looking at the amps, David continued:

“But yes, we love these. They sound amazing. He’s only using the first two channels — he uses a clean channel and the dirty channel. The three and the four are on lock. We don’t even touch them.”

One of the most important aspects of John’s rig is his pedalboard. There’s nothing complex about it, just some simple pedals in a chain that you could get in most of your average guitar stores or online retailers.

John 5 - Motley Crue medley - 01/28/2024 - Las Vegas - Count’s Vamp’d

Looking into it, John’s tech said:

“Essentially, he has four pedals on that thing. You’re looking at six, actually. One of the pedals is doubled up, the Super Overdrive [Boss SD-1]. He doubles up on the Super Overdrive because when he wants really high-gain pinch squeals and harmonics. He uses that.”

And other than that, things are incredibly simple. He adds:

“Essentially, he’s got that, a delay, a reverb, and a chorus. And the noise suppression, but you don’t really hear anything from the noise suppression.”

Motley Crue Live Sydney 2023 - Full Show

David also points out that there aren’t any special modifications on these pedals. Again — he has an average Boss SD-1 that you could buy for just over $60 online. He offered:

“All the pedals, none of them are modded or anything. It’s just — they’re right out of the box. Total John 5. Fans ask all the time. And I’m like, ‘No, those are just stock pedals.'”

John has been a member of Mötley Crüe for a while now. Initially joining in as a touring guitarist, since Mick Mars wasn’t able to continue being on the road due to his health condition, he was accepted as a full-time guitar player in April of 2023.

The Secret Behind John 5's Guitar Virtuosity | The Kenny Aronoff Sessions Bonus Episode

The band also confirmed that they’ll be doing new material. Last year, John 5 commented on this new music in an interview:

“I don’t know when it’s gonna come out, but everything is a plan. Everything is mapped out and structured, and everything is, ‘We’re gonna do it here and there,’ and blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. So the songs are recorded, mixed, mastered.”

There have been no updates so far. But we’ll update you as soon as we find out.

John 5 and The Creatures FULL SET, Lubbock, TX 3/1/19

Photo: 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 Ultimate-Guitar.com, as well as a freelance contributor to online magazines such as GuitaristNextdoor and brands like Sam Ash.