Rob Zombie's right-hand man lends gargantuan riffs to the singer's nightmare metal

John 5 is the man who adds the bloody instrumental edge to such Rob Zombie epics as “Dead City Radio & the New Gods of Supertown” and “Werewolf Women of the SS.”
BY GENE TRIPLETT Modified: November 14, 2013 at 3:23 pm •  Published: November 15, 2013
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To hear the titanic industrial riffs he rings from his Telecaster, one would never guess John 5's earliest influences.

But believe it or not, Rob Zombie's guitarist grew up on “Hee Haw.”

That's right, the man who adds the bloody instrumental edge to such Zombie epics as “Dead City Radio & the New Gods of Supertown” and “Werewolf Women of the SS” was first inspired by Buck Owens and Tulsan Roy Clark.

“Hee Haw was a huge influence on me,” John 5 said of the country music variety show that aired in the '70s and '80s.

He picked up the guitar at age 7 and hasn't looked back, building a resume that includes stints with David Lee Roth, Marilyn Manson and now Rob Zombie, who's co-headlining with Korn on the “Night of the Living Dreads Tour,” coming to the Chesapeake Energy Arena on Friday night.

The Grosse Pointe, Mich., native, whose real name is John Lowery, has been with shock-rocker and horror filmmaker Zombie for nearly a decade, simply because they have so much in common.

“Yeah, it's a long time because, you know, when I first joined, he said, ‘Well, we're just gonna do odd stuff, and it's only gonna be six weeks. So, you know, don't get comfortable, because I'm makin' movies and things like that.' And I said, ‘Sure, it's great, I'd love to get these six weeks,' and the six weeks have turned into nine years,” said Lowery, 42.

“Oh my gosh, it's weird. You know when you meet somebody and you've got a lot in common with 'em and stuff like that? I obviously didn't know Rob before I joined the band, but it's wonderful because we have so much in common. It's just like havin' a brother that I never had, because we really get along great. With music and movies and work ethic and things like that, and eating habits. And so we really have a great time together.”

Lowery — or 5, if you prefer — co-wrote 11 of the 12 songs on Zombie's latest album, “Venomous Rat Regeneration Vendor.” He's been Zombie's chief collaborator since 2010's “Hellbilly Deluxe.”

“What'll happen is, I'll come in with a couple of guitar riffs and he'll say, ‘Oh I like that or I like this. We'll put that here or put that there,' so it's basically something like that,” the guitarist said. “So I'll come in with some music and then we'll all tweak it together. It's a very big collaboration. Which is great, because with a lot of people — it's hard to work with people musically — but live, you can work with them great. But musically, in writing music it's just a lot more difficult. But luckily we really write well together and enjoy it a lot.”