Here’s an extract from my interview with John 5, which I did during the research for the Squier Electrics book.
TB: How did you decide what you wanted for your Squier signature guitar? You play with a range of artists and certainly a lot of styles – which seems to baffle some people. To me, it seems like the obvious thing to aim for – why play the same thing your whole life? I wondered what that means you need from your guitars. Versatility, I guess, is pretty high on the list.
J5: I always thought that the Telecaster, as our first solidbody electric guitar, was the greatest guitar in the world. They should just stop making any other kind of guitar and just make the Telecaster. That’s how strongly I felt about it.
TB: I think that’s what Leo thought, actually.
J5: It’s the best guitar, and it’s a workingman’s guitar. You can’t fake it on a Telecaster. Of course, a lot of people have said that.
TB: It’s true – that’s why a lot of people have said it.
J5: You cannot fake on it a Tele. I was like: nobody in heavy heavy rock ever plays a Telecaster. I was: what is the problem with these people? These are the greatest guitars ever. So me and Alex Perez and Chris Fleming and Mike Eldred [at Fender], we designed my Telecaster. I was like: I want this to be able to scream through the loudest amps, and be able to play like country with it and jazz with it, have it be an all-around guitar. The Les Pauls, they can do that, but they can’t really get that twang, they can’t get that thing, but they can have that heavy type of sound. I really think my Tele can do that and – it’s not because of me, and I’m not taking credit for this at all – but I see a lot more heavy artist playing Telecasters.
TB: Who are you thinking of?
J5: Well, after I started doing it, I saw Jim Root from Slipknot playing one, and I think I saw Tom Morello playing my signature model with his new band, Street Sweeper Social Club. There’s a lot of people playing Teles now. I’m so proud of it, and not just cos it’s such a great guitar – it’s like one of my kids, the Telecaster in general, this is the best, you know? I’m passionate about it.
TB: I like your three-pickup signature model, the Fender J5 Triple Tele Deluxe, too.
J5: It’s great, and that evolved by taking from the three-pickup Les Paul, the Custom. It looks amazing, too, there’s so much chrome on it, and it sounds amazing. In the studio, everything I’ve recorded is always with the Telecaster. You double a lot of tracks with different guitars – but I just double them with different Telecasters.
TB: Do you know how many you have?
J5: I’m close to having a Tele from every year, starting from the Broadcaster. I’m missing a Nocaster, but I have my eye on one. They go up to like 1980. But they’re all amazing condition. And I have multiples from each year, like the 78, 79, all the International Colors, the Antiguas, the Thinlines, in mahogany, all that stuff.
TB: Did you have to go through many prototypes for your signature model?
J5: It worked out pretty quickly because the people over in Corona [at the Fender factory] are just amazing. They’re monsters.
TB: Have you used the signature guitars on record? Do you need to?
J5: Oh, I always do, of course I do. I used it on my instrumental album that’s coming out soon, I used the Squier for doubling on it. I’m not sure of the title yet, no, but I think it’s going to be God Told Me To.
TB: I really liked ‘Bella Kiss’ on your Devil Knows My Name album. It sounded something like an electric John Fahey to me.
J5: And all Teles!
From Tony Bacon’s interview with John 5, May 24 2011