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Interview:
Grosse Pointe's John5 is guitarist to the stars
 

By GARY GRAFF
Digital First Media, @GraffonMusic

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Coming home to the Detroit area is a little bittersweet these days for John Lowery -- aka guitarist to the stars John5.

The Grosse Pointe native -- who's currently part of Rob Zombie's band after tenures with Marilyn Manson and the David Lee Roth Band and tons of session work -- lost his father and mother, one of his sisters and a brother-in-law during the past eight years. "I tell the story of how everyone (died) and it sounds like I'm making it up," says Lowery, 44, who brings his own band to town Tuesday, March 10, at the Token Lounge in Westland. "If you watched a movie of my life you'd be like, 'This is completely impossible and this movie is so unbelievable.

"But that's the way it is. I can't make it up."

If music is a salve for wounds both physical and spiritual, Lowery -- who remains close to his surviving sister -- has plenty of that to fall back on. In addition to his band associations he's written and recorded with a diverse array of artists that includes fellow Detroiter Alice Cooper, Meat Loaf, Ozzy Osbourne, Kiss's Paul Stanley, Avril Lavigne, Rod Stewart, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Garbage, k.d. lang and others. Lowery has released eight instrumental solo albums, including last year's "Careful With that Axe," and his film score resume includes TV's "NCIS" and Zombie's films "The Lords of Salem," "Halloween II" and the upcoming "31."

"The guy's a mad genius -- just amazingly talented and incredibly versatile," says Zombie, who's been working with Lowery since 2005. "The thing is, there isn't anything he can't play. He's not just a metal guy or even just a rock guy. You can throw anything at him."

Lynyrd Skynyrd's Gary Rossington acknowledges his group "didn't know much" about Lowery when it hooked up with him to write songs for its 2012 album "Last of a Dyin' Breed." "We thought he'd be a little wild, so we weren't really sure what we were getting into," the guitarist says. "But he's a total pro and a great writer and arranger. He totally locked into what we were doing and made it that much better."

Lowery has been doing this long enough to take his accomplishments in stride, but he voices a "pinch me" kind of awe over the experiences he's had in music.

"I never dreamt of any of this," he says. "I just wanted to be a session musician -- go to work and come home. That's when I was a kid. I never imagined my life would turn out like this. It's just a dream come true."

Lowery grew up on Wellington Street in Grosse Pointe and, unlike many of his hard rock compatriots, had a childhood that was "like heaven, the greatest thing ever. I know it makes a better story if I had a really bad, troublesome childhood, but it was just so awesome." His life "revolved around monsters, guitar and TV," and he learned thoughtfulness from a mother who, during the winter, would have a warm blanket ready for him to slip into each morning "because I hated cold weather so much." He also had "a very smart guitar teacher" who knew how to get his charge invested in the instrument.

"If I wanted to learn a Kiss song, he would teach me a few notes of it to get me familiar with it, and I was blown away," Lower recalls. "I was like, 'Omigod, it makes the sound like Kiss' 'Love Gun.' I'm never putting this guitar down!' And that made me never put the guitar down. If he gave me a guitar and said, 'Here's 'Mary Had a Little Lamb,' I guarantee you I wouldn't be as inspired as I was when I learned to play Kiss."

Lowery has been prolific as a solo artist, but given his other work he has a reasonable perspective on that music. "To be completely and utterly honest, I put out instrumental records for myself, and my friends," he acknowledges. "I just do them to play guitar, 'cause they're so diverse and there's so much crazy stuff." He never toured extensively with is own band, the Creatures, because "I never thought anybody would care or that anybody would come out. But (the records) are so popular all over the world, which is astounding to me.

"Probably the most frequently asked question I get is, 'When are you gonna take this on tour?' So finally I was like, 'Alright, let's go out and play. If all these people are asking, I might as well do it.'"

Lowery and his trio -- bassist Ian Ross and drummer Rodger Carter -- have been on the road since late February and plan to do more when time allows. Zombie, of course, is keeping him busy; the shock rocker just released a new live album and has finished a studio record that Lowery calls "the best Rob Zombie album I've heard, 'cause I was a fan before I even got in the band." The "31" film score is also in motion, but Lowery says he'll always make time for the solo projects.

"I get to make a lot of music -- that's the best thing," he explains. "I love the writing, I love being in the studio and it's great being on stage. It's a dream come true, really -- beyond what I knew I could dream about."

John5 & the Creatures and Dead In 5

Tuesday, March 10. Doors open at 7 p.m.

The Token Lounge, 28949 Joy Road, Westland.

Tickets are $20 in advance, $25 at the door.

Call 734-513-5030 or visit www.thetokenlounge.com.

Web Site: www.tokenlounge.com

Send your thoughts and comments to Gary Graff

 



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