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30 Greatest Shredders: John5

For flat-out, unapologetic soloing, who blows your mind?

Brent Mason, Paul Gilbert, Scotty Anderson, Eddie Van Halen, Steve Vai and Yngwie Malmsteen. That’s a small amount of people, but I appreciate so many guitar players and what they do. I love being inspired by their playing and incredible talent.

What album/song inspired you to play fast?

“Far Beyond the Sun,” from Yngwie Malmsteen’s Rising Force album. I first heard that on the radio in Michigan, and it blew my mind. It was an epiphany and changed my life. The speed and grace of his playing is what really blew me away. I remember how easy he made it look and sound when I saw him play it. I was always amazed by the fluidity of his playing.

What helped you progress dramatically as a guitarist?

I think having patience really helped me. I’ll start out slow with something and gradually increase my speed with a metronome. I keep doing that with certain scales or ideas, arpeggios and so on. Having the patience to keep improving with my speed and technique has always helped me make progress.

What was your biggest technical hurdle?

Incorporating my right hand into my soloing, such as finger picking along with shredding. Using banjo rolls and Spanish-style guitar playing along with a rock style was a very big hurdle for me, and a huge accomplishment.

Talk about a key performance in your own discography that you feel is a successful example of what you try to achieve.

The song “The Nightmare Unravels” from The Art of Malice was a big achievement for me, because I used a bunch of different techniques within that song. There’s behind-the-nut bends, sliding arpeggios, banjo rolls…everything but the kitchen sink. And I’m proud of it!

Is shredding a good thing?

That question is as almost as good a question as “What is the meaning of life?” I think shredding is a great thing, and I love it. It’s my favorite thing to do. I’m proud to be called a shredder. I know it’s always up for debate, but I’m on the Team Shred side. I think what really excites me about it is the speed and taking it to the extreme. I like taking everything to the extreme, and it helps me grow as a player.

What are you currently working on, and what is your goal as a player?

I’m working on new Spanish/flamenco instrumental songs that I’m trying to push the limits on. I love learning new styles of music, and flamenco is what I’m studying right now. My goal is to continue what I’m doing as long as I can do it. I’d like to play as long as Les Paul did. My goal is to keep playing well into my Nineties.