Interviewed by Adrian Hextall (Journalist/Writer/Contributor) Myglobalmind Webzine
Considered to be one of the most influential and famous hard rock guitarists, George Lynch is known for his unique playing style and sound. Ranked #47 in “100 greatest guitarists of all time” by Guitar World magazine and also ranked #10 in “Top 10 Metal Guitarists of All Time” by Gibson, any self respecting fan of rock or metal is aware of the man’s work.
Myglobalmind was extremely fortunate to get to talk with the great man as he promotes his latest project ‘Sweet & Lynch’, the Frontiers funded team up where George will work with Stryper vocalist Michael Sweet. Joining them are bassist James Lomenzo and drummer Brian Tichy. The band will release their debut album, Only to Rise, in North America January 27 via Frontiers Music SRL.
You’ve got a new release coming out with Michael [Sweet] on Frontiers records. One of the things I noted on the press release was this was something that Serafino [Perugino, Founder of Frontiers record label] was overseeing personally. Was it his idea or was it something you guys had come up with and then pitched to him?
George: Well, it was really, I think, the brainchild of Serafino. Serafino elected to get Michael and I think they then built the project on the back of that call. I guess I was the first follow up call or one of the first calls. And so, you know, I’m not a founding visionary in this at all. I was asked to be involved and creative and as such I’ve helped to create the music, obviously play the guitars, worked on a couple of videos, did some interviews, did a photo shoot, and now we’re just at the point where we have to decide if we’re going be able to go out on the road. That’s where we’re at right now.
What’s the current view? Is it something you’re keen to do?
George: Yeah. I mean there’s a lot of things to think about. Going out with Brian, Michael, myself and James, is tricky because everybody has got so many things going on.
You’ve got history, of course, working with Brian and James on the Lynch Mob side of things.
George: Yeah, James was in Lynch Mob for a while. He did a tour with us and Brian was as well. Brian also played on the T&N record. And actually, as of a couple of weeks ago, Brian just finished up recording the new Lynch Mob record that’s coming out next spring through Frontiers. And Jeff Pilson’s playing bass on that, so it’s like everybody knows everybody; we’re all in this incestuous little cesspool here [chuckles] in the Hollywood, LA area.
As for getting even to which project we’re working on; we’re playing with each other. We’ve all got history so you know, we know what to expect. We know it’ll work and sound fine; it’ll be great. It just is a matter of finding the time to put a new band together and rehearsing properly. That’s really important and that takes a good chunk of time.
Yeah, I can imagine.
George: Going on the road, so James was playing with John Fogerty. That’s a really great gig for him, and he needs to be available to John obviously, so this project is going to take a back seat to that. In other words, can we know when James is available? Is John Fogerty’s camp going to tell us when we can go on tour [chuckles]. I wouldn’t count on that. Because what if they change their mind after we’ve made all the plans? We could of course decide to put in a few days, but guess what…? James is on retainer; James has got to jump, and then we’re screwed. So it’s tricky. It’s tricky with a lot of projects that I have, or a couple other projects I have, KXM (featuring Doug Pinnick from King’s X and Ray Luzier from Korn) has the same problem with Ray, around availability. With T&N, Jeff Pilson and myself also have hit the same issues. Because Jeff was in Foreigner and due to touring requirements for them. Even though he’s the newest musician. he’s been in that band for 11 years now. And every couple of years, we work together it’s the same conversation.
It’s like, we love playing together, we love writing music together, we live virtually within a couple of miles of each other. And so we should be playing in a band together. And we’re both so passionate about that, and yet every year it’s like, “Jeff, when are you going to be slowing down with Foreigner?” [Jeff] “Oh, maybe next year, maybe the year after.”
And that’s, well it’s been that story for year after year, after year. And it’s like 11 years and counting, and he [Jeff] was locked up for the next year, possibly the year after that so, you know.
You talk about the T&N piece that you worked on. You had a lot of guest vocalists on that as well. Was that a difficult one to pull together or did your guest vocalists just suddenly come out of the woodwork saying, “Can we work with you?”
George: No. It would help if they did that [chuckles]. No, we had to track people down and go through channels. And a lot of our ‘A’ listers fell through due to logistical complications, that they’re busy or things like that. But we’ve got good singers on there. I wish we got Glenn Hughes; really hoping to get him, but I think he was busy with other stuff around Black Country Communion at the time.
Yeah, I don’t know; it was a little bit of a logistical challenge. But some people came down to the studio. Other people will just set it out. They did it on their own – did their tracks on their own – remotely like Ripper [Tim Owens]. Ripper recorded it in his studio. Lives back east and we never even saw him. But Sebastian Bach came down to Jeff’s studio, for about seven hours and recorded. Doug Pinnick did the same thing.
There were some really interesting re-workings of some of the classic tracks that you put out many moons ago. You must have been pleased with the end result?
George: Yeah. I think we’ve got another half a record of the Dokken stuff that we recorded with Nick. It’s just sitting there and is actually a little more adventurous. We took a lot more liberties with the arrangements and the tempos and things like that, the sounds. We have a version of ‘Just Got Lucky’ that sounds nothing like the original song at all [chuckles]. We just kind of turned it into a whole different song. It’s really, really cool. And Jeff and I are planning on getting that out there, but we feel we probably want to finish recording the other half of the record. Take stock and redo that record that when we have time to do that.
Is that still waiting for vocal work as well, or have you actually got the vocalists on the six or so tracks that you’ve put down so far?
George: No. There are no vocals on those, in fact. I think maybe I did the guitars. We did the drums. I don’t remember where we’re at on that. It’s been a while. We did that with the last T&N record; it was just extra stuff that we recorded, that we never put out. We could be finished up rather quickly; it just requires I think a few weeks of work, which we really don’t have right now.
Yeah. Along with all of your other projects that you’re trying to squeeze in at the same time, I suppose [chuckles].
George: Yeah. It’s not my time, really; it’s really just not pulling other people together too. Especially with the vocals which are very time consuming. It needs a lot of attention, and rightfully so. You really can’t rush that stuff. The guitars; I know what I’m doing. Got to get in there and get out pretty quickly. Bass and drums are all kind of like that. They don’t require a whole lot of time. But vocals, vocals can take quite a bit of time, so that’s what we’re dealing with on other projects and actually with the Lynch Mob record that we’re working on right now. Everything is done with separate vocals. And that’s something I don’t have a lot of control over.
I actually did, for one of the first times in my life, work really hard with the singer on the Shadowtrain record. He and I worked together and I helped him with a lot of melodies and lyrics, and so forth. But the whole band did add to it as well, to really accelerate the product and make sure it was good as it could be.
And that worked but some of the other singers I worked with, for example Oni [Logan, Lynch Mob vocalist], they like to work very independently. And they do things on their own, and I respect that, and I don’t want to force anything on them and they work at their own pace. That’s just what it is [chuckles]. Doug Pinnick is like that, as well. Doug kind of does his own thing, and we just leave him alone and he’ll get it done.
Got you. That makes sense. With Oni, you’ve just mentioned him, is he going to be your vocalist on the next Lynch Mob album again or have you got somebody else on that one now?
George: No, no. It’s Oni. He’s on the record that’s coming out next week. We’ve got the ‘Sun Red Sun’ record coming out next week, I believe. I don’t know if it’s coming out in the UK next week but we are also finishing up the vocals on the new Lynch Mob record I mentioned that’s coming out next spring on Frontiers records.
The last time I saw you over here with Lynch Mob was watching you headline at Firefest back in 2010. And that must have been quite something for you get the band back together as it was, to go and perform material from Wicked Sensation. What did that feel like, because the sense I got was the audience was really into that, quite something to get you guys up on stage at Rock City.
George: Well, we weren’t having to convince anybody that they should listen to us because it’s essentially an ’80s festival, right? That’s what we were about. We were headlining so we got to spend some time up there on stage. Some of the problems with some of the gigs that we’ve found is that, especially on larger festivals, we don’t get a lot of time to really show people what we do. They rush you up there, and you do a few songs; it’s like it’s over before it’s began.
We need to stretch it out and kind of give people time to get in this what it is that what we do, and a lot of what we do is improvising, and we’re just kind of going off, and jamming, and stuff like that. And you can’t do that in just six songs.
It was running late that day but you certainly got (I recall) around 10 songs as the festival had a curfew.
George: That was a great show. That was a lot of fun. I’ve heard since that they have now discontinued that festival.
Yeah. The last one was October this year. So that was number 11. And I think the guys that run the show and work on the festival, they’ve just been drained and they’ve never had any major corporate support either. So it’s been a real effort for them to be able to keep it going. I think they’ve done well with 11 Firefests.
Back to the recent T&N material, a couple of things you mentioned already about the different ways you’ve reworked the songs. You mentioned ‘Just Got Lucky’ earlier. It’s one of the things I’ve seen you do with your material over the years. You’ve always tried to push what you do, so you don’t get pigeon holed, as you say, in say that old 80’s vibe, which Dokken of course would be better known for back in the day.
You seem to continually try to evolve your style and your sound, and work with different artists to match that, and that sounds like that’s the same with the next T&N release potentially as well, is it the same on the new Lynch Mob material? Are you looking to a more modern sound, and just pushing it making it sound slightly different again?
George: I think Lynch Mob tends to have that core sound which is the desert, loose based, rock sound with a mystical component to it. I think that’s, …we inherently know that. So we always use that as our foundation, almost unconsciously, and the anything that flows from that, we can go off and play the different directions and try different things but within the context of the foundational components that make the band what it is, what it’s know for. And that flows from the chemistry between Oni, myself and our history. So it’s not something that we even decide to do; it just sort of happens right back from when we formed a band together.
We just have a style that, even if we’re in a room and I go, “Okay, I’m going play this weird riff that has nothing to with anything that you’d think we’d be about.” [chuckles] It ends up becoming exactly what we’re about. [laughter]
That’s what’s neat about it. It’s not like we’d have to really try to be who we are. We are who we are, and everything we play sort of conforms to that within the context of our mutual little musical struggle. We’re sitting in a room together, writing. There’s a chemistry there.
What about the current project that you’re also promoting, your imminent Sweet & Lynch project. How did that work in terms of writing style? Who’s putting the songs together, is it a team effort between the four of you?
George: Oh, yeah, I just run independently. The guys, I just, well, created a bit of music and then send it to them and then they arranged it the way they felt it needed to be arranged. Then they pull it together, put the drums down, put the bass down, scratch vocals. Then get it back to me. And I put the wrapper on it and finish the guitars. I kept a lot of the guitars that I had already on there; maybe doubled them or whatever. I can then add flourishes, add clean parts over the acoustic guitar. Added some weird effects and sounds, just little embellishments, ear candy, or whatever is needed, some little licks between vocal lines, or just some tag licks. Then there are my solos; I had to do my solos. And then that was it. Then it goes back to them so that Michael can finish doing his vocals.
And they would then mix it. That’s it. A relatively easy record in my perspective.
Got you. Was there any pressure from Frontiers in terms of a particular style or sound they were looking for? I know there have been, with other bands, where they said they’ve had a lot of pressure to conform to what Frontiers believe would be, say, commercial, and will sell well, things like that. Did you feel any of that during the recording process?
George: Not during the writing or recording. But afterwards there was some concern on Michael’s part, that Frontiers was not going to like the record. Because of the way the record had been described to them; they hadn’t actually heard anything but, there’s some parts in the record that are different vocally. Unusual harmonies and stuff. You know what I mean. It’s fun, but there’s lot’s of other things too.
But I guess Frontiers heard that and just lost their minds. I don’t know but the feedback to begin with was, “That’s not what we want. We want something else“. But at the end of the day, we just.. I wrote what I wrote, [chuckles] and it was easy to do, I didn’t really need to put a lot of thought into it. I kind of listened to everybody, and I went, “Okay.” And I then just went in and wrote what I wanted to write. Maybe some of that was there in the back of my mind. I knew the parameters of what I was writing with them. I wasn’t going to write an industrial song, or a blues song, or anything. It was pretty much just straight up rock [chuckles].
With some ballad stuff and all kinds of different influences; Little bit of Led Zeppelin. Little bit of Van Halen. Little of Iron Maiden. Judas Priest.
A little bit of everything to keep your fans happy, basically.
George: Yeah. Everything that I loved when I was growing up.
You’re releasing it via the pledgemusic.com route. Again, was that the choice of you guys or is it something that was recommended to you and you thought, “You know, why not, we’ll give it a go.”
That was something that was the brainchild of the label, I guess, and Michael. Michael’s really in charge of the decision making in the band as far as song selection and videos. And what’s going on forward here. So that’s something that I really didn’t quite understand when it was [chuckles] the idea was introduced to me. I went along with it, probably because I didn’t have an aversion to it; I didn’t. I think really a record company thing, basically.
But I know that’s the new model for a lot of bands. It services all kinds of other ideas rather than just put a record out there. That’s not enough any more. There’s merchandising and there’s funnelling packages together, fan packs and the physical packs, it works really well. Because the other thing I thought about is you can steal records. You can do peer-to-peer file sharing, and all that kind of stuff; bit torrent or whatever. But you can’t do that with merchandise, T-shirts, really.
The release date is coming up quite soon isn’t it?
George: Beginning of January, I think.
A final couple of questions then if I may. I read a really interesting article in Guitar Interactive Magazine. You did quite a long Q&A with them recently, just in terms of what happened to you guys back in the day when Dokken where at their peak and split up. Effectively, you were at the peak in your career and it all kind of went wrong. And it just didn’t appear as though it worked out for you guys. Can I get a little bit of insight into that? Because it seems like it was a really– it was a bit of a traumatic time for you guys.
George: I’m not really complaining about it; I really just think it’s interesting. I mean it’s a business I’ve been involved in to most of my professional life. All my professional life. And I’m also a student of human nature. It interests me how people interact, and how we sort of conduct ourselves and manage ourselves in groups, communities and families and nations and so forth. And a band is a group that is a good model for that. You see how people work with a natural versus imposed hierarchy.
And I think that that is kind of the question for at this point is like, “What works best, and is there one way, or multiple ways that could work best, depending on the conditions and the components of this group?” So in Dokken’s case, which is one of the few experiences I’ve had as a model, there was the natural hierarchy, just sort of the way that things work actually.
And there was a more closed hierarchy, which people tend to skew the natural hierarchy to favour themselves against the will of nature so to speak here [chuckles]. So I wonder about that. I think if you take that example as a lesson and you extrapolate that example to a larger world, to other arenas, positions, man versus nature, man versus man, and all this sort of stuff; there’s something you can learn about it and hopefully find a better way to do things. So in my case, I’ve had.. I’d been thinking about this one for a long time. And I’ve always been of the opinion that level playing field is the fairest thing. We have to throw it all into a petri-dish and then allow people to grow according to their own potential and will, right? Without taking anything from anyone else.
There should be a mutual exchange of energy. And what we use as an exchange of energy to commodity, that is money. And so when you’re talking about money in a band, it’s not that you’re talking about money so much. You’re talking about energy. That needs to be equitable and fair, that exchange of energy. So that’s what it really comes down to. It’s just fairness, being just, equitable. And be honest.
If that cannot be done with people you’re working with and if you can’t have that then it’s just.. what’s the point, you know? End it. I don’t know. It’s very hard to find examples of systems that work for its people, politically or family, small groups of communities and sort of idealistic intentional communities which have sprung up over the last three to four decades, or have been around for even longer than that. The economy fails, they all fall apart. Utopias fall apart. Utopian societies fall apart. So it’s just part of the process, the thinking process, that we all go through. It’s hard to do just something from our experience and I think it’s fascinating. It’s just an exercise to sort all of the people out, I guess.
The interview about it [The Dokken break up] in Guitar Interactive magazine was me trying to explain at the most basic level what the fundamental problems were within a rock band that was on the verge of success. But so it’s just something we’re still wrestling with.
I can imagine.
George: And I apply these lessons to myself and projects that I have currently. And I can understand the other side of the coin that I had a relatively recent experience with a project, Lynch Mob, where I love the band so much. I loved the members and the chemistry, thought it was perfect. I think we all felt that way. I introduced the idea of making it equal. Just quarter splits, everybody got equal control and say, and you know, “I’m not the boss; I’m just the guitar player.” And there was a natural hierarchy. And because of that, you know, “everyone will hopefully respect me.”
But, with a level playing field, where we’re all part of the same thing and we all share in the fruits of our labour as equal it failed miserably. That actually broke the band up. To this day I cannot figure out. In that situation it would have been better if I had been a tyrant, and just hired service [chuckles].
Honestly, it’s true, and that became obvious during the process of the band breaking up. The incarnation of that version of Lynch Mob is represented in this new record that’s coming out That was what we were working on, when all of this was going down.
And the band ended up driving itself off of the rails in the middle of this record. And so me and Oni finished this record, as best as possible. We thought it was important to get it done, because it represented a pretty volatile and interesting period in my band days. You know?
Yeah. I know. It’s almost… It’s the dynamic you were trying to achieve with Dokken, which was that equal four way split that could have kept you together, as opposed to the one going off and trying to run everything. Which is always going to differ because it’s the people you work with.
George: Some people would argue, the managers they’ve had, for instance, would argue, “Let’s be smart. It’s your name up there. You’ve got the legacy. And you’ll hire guys and you’ll make more money and there’s nothing wrong with that, and they’ll be happy“. That’s okay and I get that but at the same time, the problem I have with that is it sounds like a very lonely proposition. Because you’re setting yourself apart from the group and I know for some people that comes natural for example if you’re James Brown or you’re Don Dokken. That’s how you work.
That’s how you think, and you’re okay with that. William Randolph Hearst, you know, being lonely in Hearst Castle. Being a prisoner in your own castle. But I don’t want that. I have no desire to go there. I couldn’t do that. I enjoy working with my friends and accomplishing something as a group and having satisfaction with that.
Yeah. That’s a nice place to be if you can achieve it, isn’t it?
George: Yeah. It is. We’ll hopefully figure something out in the next 20 or 30 years. Actually to cap it off, there was a philosopher that I read.. and I can’t remember. It was a French philosopher from the Renaissance period, who determined near the end of his life that a benevolent dictatorship was the optimal way to go; was the only system that actually worked at the end of the day. So a benevolent dictatorship and then the question arises: How does the benevolent dictator remain benevolent? Right? After all, ultimate power ultimately corrupts.
With our fascinating insight into the philosophy of George Lynch’s mind, we draw the interview to a close. The Lynch Mob release due out in December 2014 is called Sun Red Sun which will be released on Rat Pack Records. The follow up due next year will be released by Frontiers. Details to follow as we know them.