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Photos by Anne-Marie Schiefer

Hanging with John 5 & The Creatures

by A.J. Weiner

Schedules finally fell into place that allowed me the opportunity to see John 5 & The Creatures, as well as world-class drummer Rodger Carter, play in an exciting instrumental project. They played their fourth show of their current Careful WithAJWeiner-1 That Axe Tour at the Coach House in San Juan Capistrano. It was a long drive in heavy traffic but I was excited to see the show. The ride gave me the chance to listen to music the entire trip down south – with recent Leonard Cohen, Bob Dylan and Nicki Minaj records as my soundtrack and the beautiful California coast setting sun, the early evening began to take on a bit of magic.

Besides currently working in the music business together, Rodger and I are childhood friends. We grew up six houses away from each other on the same San Fernando Valley neighborhood block. There was anticipated nostalgia for us that night. We knew that the theatrical slant of the band’s performance, particularly the pre-show ritual of the band members painting their faces with black and white makeup, was returning us to our very roots.

When I arrived at the club, it was pure joy sharing stories with the band in the dressing room hours before they hit the stage. John 5 (aka John Lowery, also currently the lead guitarist for Rob Zombie), Rodger and I are all around the same age and all share a common bond: KISS, the hall of fame hard rock band, had, in one way or another, changed and influenced all of our lives.

AJWeiner-2When I was thirteen years old, I didn’t have a clue of what the word profession really meant, and I’m sure John and Rodger didn’t either. Discovering KISS set me on a course to pursue music as a career. The love of art rock or glam rock styled acts of the day separated us from the rest of pop culture and without us knowing, it would shape our future creative souls. If you were a fly on the wall back stage that night, you would have seen us transform from counter culture artists to being just like kids again.

When the show began, the band launched into a blazing musically complex journey, taking me through the history of heavy metal, glam and hard rock and roll. I was spellbound. Mixed in were a couple of surprising and wonderful detours into authentic bluegrass and Chet Atkins inspired country rock, courtesy of Roy Clark and Buck Owens from Hee Haw – which I’ve come to find out was John’s original motivation for picking up an electric guitar at a prodigious age of seven years old.

Together, John, Rodger and Ian Ross mesmerized the audience with their extraordinary musicianship and prowess. John 5 led the way with his incredible dexterous electric guitar playing. Truly a guitar wizard, he casts his signature Fender Telecaster arsenal with his demonic wardrobe and war paint and kicks it up a notch later in the set when he dawns a skull mask. He truly connected with the audience with his down to earth stage banter and took the evening to the next level, sincerely conveying how at the core of all the “crazy music” and showmanship and countless hours of non-stop practice it takes to pull off the eclectic set, the soul of what drives him is all about making people smile and giving them an escape from their ordinary routine. In a candid moment afterwards, after expressing my appreciation for the great show, John just smiled and said, “You know Adam, it’s just all about pickin’ and grinnin’.”

Growing up, Rodger and I had no idea what would lie ahead. While dressed as, and made up in full-tilt KISS makeup, lip singing to the Alive I & II records in the garage of his parents’ house, we were simply letting our young souls fly high and feeling freer than ever. We have followed our hearts and passion for almost four decades, and turned ourselves into musicians, songwriters and producers who continue to live the dream. Some thirty-seven years later, we came full circle that magical night. We couldn’t have picked a better way to celebrate our lasting friendship, with the rock and roll spirit of John 5 & The Creatures.

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A.J. Weiner

About A.J. Weiner

A Los Angeles native, A.J. Weiner has been in the graphic arts and print industries for over three decades, producing everything from blockbuster feature film campaigns to album and book art for the likes of Bob Dylan and Neil Young. He is also a music producer, engineer, manager and a published songwriter for Warner Chapel Music and BMI. He has been known to tout that he has sung backup on a Ringo Starr record. You can follow A.J. Weiner on twitter and Instagram.

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