John 5 Explains How He Got David Lee Roth Gig
This may be common knowledge to Van Halen / David Lee Roth die-hards, but it’s a new story to me: John 5, who played with DLR on his 1998 album DLR Band (and later went on to become sideman for Marilyn Manson and Rob Zombie) essentially got the gig the way we all dream about… by dropping a demo in the mail with a wing and a prayer.
Speaking on Machine Head frontman Robb Flynn’s No F’n Regrets podcast, Mr. 5 explained that he started by calling the phone number on the back of Diamond Dave’s 1998 autobiography, Crazy From the Heat. Ed Anderson, who he describes as “Van Halen’s security,” answered the phone and gave John a mailing address… and the rest is history. Given, 5 already had some cache as Rob Halford’s guitarist, but the way he tells it that wasn’t even part of the pitch.
“I remember sitting on the couch, and I loved Van Halen, loved David Lee Roth, and I’m going, ‘I wonder what Dave’s doing…’
“And I called this number on the back of ‘Crazy From the Heat,’ I had like a promo book, and it was like to his office, I didn’t know if it worked or not.
“I called the back of this book, and it was Ed Anderson, who was Van Halen’s security, and I said, ‘Hey, my name’s John, I’d like to send some songs for you guys if you are looking for any songs.’
“He was like, ‘Yeah, you can just send it to this address.’ So I sent it to the address, and I can’t believe it, I just did my best Van Halen song impression, and that was the song ‘Slam Dunk!’
“And they called back, Ed Anderson called back, and he goes, ‘Dave really likes these songs.’ I sent them three songs, they were like, ‘Can you give us three more?’
“And I had no money, but I was like, ‘Well, I guess, I’ll do my best…’ Getting studio time back then was impossible, and so I did three more, and he’s like, ‘Yeah, Dave really likes these songs, will you give us three more?’
“And I’m like, ‘I can’t, I’ve used up every favor in the book…’ He goes, ‘Dave wants to meet you. Why don’t you come to his house? Here’s his address.’
“And so I drive up – boom, there’s the gate, the gate opens, there’s the Panama car, and there’s a motorcycle with horns on it, there’s Dave in overalls. ‘John, nice to meet you, great work!’
“And I couldn’t believe it. It was my first time meeting David Lee Roth, I was freaking out.
“And he goes, ‘We’re going to make a record, just like the old Van Halen days, we’re going to do everything live, great songs, we’re going to have this, that, and the other thing…’
“I was freaking out, just looking around, going, ‘Oh my god, what is happening?’
“And I was playing with Rob Halford at the same time, and I said, ‘Well, Mr. Roth, I’m going to be doing this tour with Rob Halford, we rehearse at noon…’
“He goes, ‘OK, well, I don’t want you tired after rehearsal,’ which was very smart. He goes, ‘I don’t want you tired, so we’re going to have a downbeat at 6 AM, we’re going to start the record. I want you fresh.’
“I’m thinking, ‘I’m going to be really tired at 6 AM but alight.’ And that’s how it happened.
“A year later, I was like, ‘Hey Dave, why don’t you sign the book where I got your number from?’ And you can see it here [shows signature], it’s really cool.
“I’ve been in the studio with him so many times, so many great stories, like, the Van Halen stories you hear.
“He would have palm trees in the studio, he would have sand in a studio, he’d have drinks set up, and it was just the greatest, and he’s so great in the studio.
“He knows everything, he knows every beat, he knows every chord. He’s very, very tuned in.
“One really quick other Van Halen thing, you’ll love this. When we were in the studio, I haven’t shown anybody this, let’s see if I can find this as well.
“When we were in the studio, I’m doing guitar tracks, and he likes to doodle, and there was this book in there, and he was looking over the book. He was like, ‘OK, cool.’
“And the page looks like this [red]. When I was doing my guitar tracks in the studio, he did this [drawings and signatures], and if you can see here where my finger is, that’s Eddie Van Halen, obviously the big one.
“Dave took up all the room. Michael Anthony’s here too, just great, great people, great guys, really proud to be a part of that, just to be friends with those guys
“He had the palm trees and the sand, and the photographer, and he had the little people assistants and stuff, it was so fun, it was really great.”
John 5 worked with Roth again in recent years on five songs that were released as an interactive 17-chapter online comic last fall dubbed The Roth Project. Three of those have since been given the proper single release treatment: “Somewhere Over the Rainbow Bar & Grill,” “Giddy Up” and “Lo-Rez Sunset.”
Mr. 5 pulled out of his planned fall tour with Yngwie Malmsteen over Covid-19 safety concerns, but did just release a new album, Sinner.
[via Ultimate Guitar]