Lynyrd Skynyrd: Gimme Back My Bullets
GW John5 cowrote six of the songs and plays two solos. As Marilyn Manson’s guitarist, he seems like a wild choice for Skynyrd, but makes perfect sense to anyone who has heard his chicken-picking solo music. How did you guys hook up?
MEDLOCKE Through Bob Marlette. Johnny, Gary and myself were writing and John came by. He walked in wearing the whole stage getup—spiked hair, big boots, black fingernails, no eyebrows—and we kind of stared at him. The first thing we asked was, “What’s your background?” And he goes, “My parents raised me on Hee Haw.” Then he took out his Telecaster and started playing Roy Clark licks better than Roy Clark. And he was in! This guy is an unbelievable guitar player who can play everything, from country to jazz to the heaviest rock. We just enjoyed having John with us so much.
ROSSINGTON The first time we laid eyes on him was pretty wild, but then we realized how great he was, got to be friends and wrote a few songs. He’s coming from a different place, but we loved working together.
I relate to him through music, and that’s what it’s about. I don’t talk politics with people I meet or ask them the way they feel about things. The music and the band experiences are enough to talk about, instead of politics and all the stuff that people argue about. Everyone’s got their own opinions, and I don’t try to change their minds.
GW But the album really does make some direct political statements, starting with the title, which seems to refer to something President Obama said during the campaign.
MEDLOCKE We’re not talking directly about President Obama. I have never had a position in government, or a job that’s got that kind of pressure, so far be it from me to criticize anyone before they’ve had a chance to prove themselves. I don’t want to use my platform to speak out against anybody. I’m a rock and roller. I play music for a living.
I will say this much, however: we are all looked at like we don’t work, we just run up and down the road and party all the time, that it’s nothing but sex, drugs and rock and roll. But fuck that. We work our asses off for a living. You’re looking at a band that’s got granddads in it, a band that’s been through hell and high water. Now after all that work, all that time paying my taxes—and I’ve always adhered to the law and walked that line—I’m finding that I’m paying out so much of my hard-earned money to cover everything from A to Z. And I am very much upset about it.
ROSSINGTON We just believe in gods and guns. We’re just that way, being from the South. Most southern people are religious and also have the mindset of the right to bear arms. A lot of people down here live in the country and have to protect themselves.
GW But “Gods & Guns” is certainly coming from a different place than “Saturday Night Special” [from 1975’s Nuthin’ Fancy], which is probably the strongest gun control song ever written.
ROSSINGTON Well, we believe that, too. I think handguns were just made for killing, and I don’t think anyone needs one, but a shotgun to protect your family is different. And I’ve lived in places where you need a gun to protect yourself. We just believe in the right to bear arms and the constitutional thing.
MEDLOCKE I’m not sure what Ronnie was thinking when he wrote that [“Saturday Night Special”] or what he believed in. I for one heavily believe in taking guns out of the wrong hands. I am all for background checks before anybody’s able to own anything. I happen to have a concealed weapons permit, and I’ve had background checks on me. I don’t have a criminal record. As for assault weapons, get them off the street. There are certain steps we could take to make it right for everybody, and I’m all for them.
GW Other songs take on similar issues with similar political perspectives.
ROSSINGTON Especially “That Ain’t My America.” What that’s about is we didn’t really want a bunch of change and stuff. We liked America the way it was. I think we should go back to the way it used to be, but I don’t preach about it.
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