Since joining Marilyn Manson in 1999, John 5 has been one of the pioneering spirits of modern metal guitar. He recently co-wrote and played on songs for Rob Zombie's new album, Educated Horses, and he's currently on the road with Zombie. But there's another, less caustic side to the tattooed, white-haired guitarist, and he's letting that side shine through with his new band, Loser.
If Marilyn Manson are a carnal congregation of all things dark and depraved, Loser are more a celebration of the young and unjaded. The band's debut album, Just Like You (June 6), interweaves John's pointed riffs with triumphant radio rock and infectious power pop. Some Manson and Zombie fans will surely be thrown by the psychedelic-tinged rock of "Disposable Sunshine," the Cheap Trick-style power pop of "Without You (Inside Out)" and the jangly balladry of the first single, "Nobody Knows." But John 5 — who has worked with k.d. lang, Avril Lavigne and Fefe Dobson — is happy to explore the poppier elements of his new band.
"I like to play metal, but sometimes it's like doing the same thing over and over," he explained. "It's good to have a little bit more variety, like eating different foods. And even if they're surprised, I hope people will like the band and recognize that hey, it's not metal, but these are really good songs."
John 5 started working on Loser in 2004, soon after he left Manson (see "Fired Marilyn Manson Guitarist Wonders What Went Wrong"). He hooked up with producer/songwriter Bob Marlette — with whom he worked on Two's Voyeurs, his collaboration with Rob Halford, in 1997 — and quickly penned a batch of new tunes. Then he began looking for bandmates. Marlette found ex-Jibe singer Joe Grah during a trip to Texas to check out a band that had been recommended to him. "As it turned out, they weren't that great and the singer wasn't that great, but Joe was in the band that played after them, and he was incredible," John said.
Grah was flown to Los Angeles to audition and was hired on the spot. To celebrate, the guitarist and his new singer went to see A Perfect Circle in concert. There, they ran into their future bassist, Charles Lee. "He knew of me and said, 'Hey, I play bass and I sing,' so we auditioned him and he was great," recalled John. "We were like, 'Man, this is way too easy.' "
Finding a drummer proved to be a little harder. After going through a handful of players, Grah recommended someone he knew back in Texas, Glendon Crane, who instantly clicked with the rest of the musicians.
They named themselves Loser as both an affirmation of John 5's past and as a gesture to anyone who's ever felt awkward or left out. "I was from Grosse Pointe, Michigan, which is kind of an upper-class area, and I was always that rock kid," John explained. "I started playing guitar at age 7. I always had a rock shirt on, and I had that tattoo early on. I looked like a loser because everyone around me was wearing Polo and Brooks Brothers. But now if you go into a club wearing Polo, you're called a loser. So I think everyone can relate to that name, and the album title, Just Like You, sums it up."
John 5 is far from feeling like a loser these days. He's been having a blast with Zombie (see "Rob Zombie Taking Educated Horses On The Road") and is stoked about taking Loser back on the road (they toured with Staind in February). He and his wife — nude model Aria Giovanni — recently celebrated their first anniversary. In addition, his new bandmates are getting a taste of the stardom they've always dreamed of.
"Those guys are crazy," John laughed. "When we were on tour with Staind, the first night, Glendon and Charles got these girls back to the hotel, spent their whole per diem and emptied out their minibar."
There are repercussions for such antics, and the guitarist has been amused watching his bandmates getting their fingers burned the way he once did. "For everything they do, you can pretty much predict what's gonna happen," he said. "Our drummer had a girlfriend, and he was getting all these girls [on the side]. And I was like, 'Watch, in about two days, his girlfriend is gonna bust him.' And that's exactly what happened. It's so funny to watch because I've seen it a trillion times."