George Lynch The Interview

Guitarist George Lynch is best know as a member of Dokken, his own bands Lynch Mob and Souls Of We

By Oscar Jordan

There’s a whole lot of snobbism goin’ on.  In our midsts live vast populations of know-it-all, ironic T-shirt wearin’, fake retros, that believe 80’s metal was music for coked up mouth breathers, waiting for the big weedly-weedly guitar solo.  While other genres like sixties rock, punk, and bebop receive praise for being accurately reflective of it’s time and precious; 80’s metal is looked upon as a decade long epidemic of bad taste.  It was so lacking in substance, it has the unique distinction of being purged from popularity by cartoon characters.

This is how I defend 80’s metal: Music that distracts you from your daily grind is just as valid and reflective of it’s time as music that’s obviously on the nose.  Not everybody needs to be Bono.  Songs about Dream Warriors, Red Barchettas, Crazy Trains, and Holy Divers could only come out of a conscious decision to create something contrary to “captain obvious” sociopolitical and cultural news.  80’s metal was about fun and escapism during uncertain times, and there’s nothing wrong with fun.

Call me a coked up mouth breather, but I saw Dokken three times back in the 80‘s and I waited for the big weedly-weedly guitar solo.  The band was always on fire but George Lynch was the star attraction.  He was in the top tier of 80‘s metal guitarists and brought mucho style and charisma to the stage.  His dark and spidery solos coupled with his patented sinister flat fifth style riffage was inspirational to legions of guitarists.

Lynch has continued on post-Dokken and been involved with all kinds of creative collaborations.  His inimitable style shines through everywhere he turns up.  Whether it’s solo projects, Souls of We, or Lynch Mob, Furious George always leaves a unique thumb print.  His new Lynch Mob record called Smoke And Mirrors reunites him with singer Oni Logan after a seventeen year break.  It’s a rugged blues-rock meets metal record with wicked riffs, inspired songwriting, and soulful vocals.  I caught up with Mr. Scary between rehearsals with Lynch Mob.

Are you happy with the new record?

I am and I’m not.  I’m very happy with the sound of it, most of the material, and the performances; but in a perfect world I would have loved to have more time to write.  I don’t think it’s wall to wall, where every song is undeniable.  That’s a subjective opinion but I think most people would agree that Smoke And Mirrors falls short of Wicked Sensation.

We had about a year and a half when we worked on Wicked Sensation back in 1990.  We were able to really take our time with it.  If we didn’t like a mix, or we didn’t like a song, we’d go in and rewrite it, or hire a new mixer.  We’d work at five different studios.  All A studios.  We really just waited and waited until it was undeniably perfect in our opinion without over doing it.  This time we didn’t have the luxury (for practical reasons) with this record to afford that.  Considering what we had to deal with, we probably spent over five hundred thousand dollars on the Wicked Sensation record.  We spent thirty-five thousand dollars on Smoke And Mirrors.  (Laughing)

We did a lot with a little.  We’ve evolved.  We’ve gotten older, wiser, and we tracked everything in four days in an old great analog studio called Sound City where Nirvana did their big record.  Lot’s of fantastic records were done there by Fleetwood Mac, Whitesnake, Tom Petty, on and on and on.

It’s all about your emotional state and feeling good.  Recording at Sound City is inspiring.

It’s so true.  Rock and roll is a mind game.  Everything is in our heads.  Those external forces really do matter.  It depends on what kind of person you are.  The super pro session guys like Lukather, Landau, and guys like that, they can walk in anywhere and make it happen.  I wish I could be that way, but I’m really affected by the environment.  That whole feed back loop of what I’m hearing, affects what I’m playing.  I’m really a slave to tone and to the room in a live context.

Are you hard on yourself when you listen to the playback?

I have become less critical over the years and also better at getting something that’s good.  To get to where I got back in the 80’s on a record required a lot of work and cost money.  The Dokken and Lynch Mob records were punched in and microscopically attended to.  Now I’ve become a more effective player.  I’m able to go in and know what I want, and get it done a lot quicker without as much pain.  I enjoy myself more when I’m playing in the studio.

Are you able to play longer passes with more feeling, as opposed to perfect execution?

I went through a phase in the 90’s where I thought I didn’t deserve my reputation as a guitar player if I couldn’t do it for real.  So I made this concerted effort to nail solos from beginning to end.  If it’s in my hands and in my brain, I should be able to do it with the minimum of fuss.  I should be able to play things without constructing them in the studio.    Then I remember going to Japan and I had this interview with one of the Japanese guitar magazines over there.  They kept getting asked the same question.  “Why aren’t your solos the same as they were in the 80’s?”  I explained to them what I just told you and they said, “We don’t care!  Japanese fans like the old George better!” (Laughing)

I thought about it and I talked to an engineer who worked on a lot of the old Dokken records.  He said, “George, you gotta stop beating yourself up about that.  It’s ok, because that’s the way you compose.”  I don’t have a lot of musical text book knowledge when it comes to scales and modes.  I’m more of a seat of your pants kinda player.  He said, “Because of that you go in and compose and construct solos in the studio and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that.  Why not do that in the studio as opposed to before you get in the studio?  It’s ok!”  (Laughing)  I started thinking about that and I felt less guilty about the way I work in the studio.  Now I sort of split the difference and do both.

I’ve been following your career since the first Dokken record and it all sounds like you.  It’s nobody else.

I think whatever it takes to get to where you need to be is justifiable, as long as you’re not hurting anybody.  (Laughing)

As long as no one is slain it’s ok.  (Laughing)

That’s the beautiful thing about music.  There really are no rules.  I think the challenge is to find other ways to accomplish things rather than just do them the same old way.  Take a guy like Jack White.  He’s so creative and thinks up so many ways to approach things outside the box.  I respect that.  That’s why it was interesting when they had that Rolling Stone poll many years ago and he was listed as one of the top 100 guitar players.    There was a slight uproar in the shred community.  (Laughing)

I thought, “No!  He’s like the new Jimmy Page!”  Why is it just about this myopic, narrow vision, shred, technical thing?  That’s part of it but there’s other stuff too.  I think people in certain periods of rock and roll have forgotten that there’s a bigger picture involved here.  The song and the band I don’t think should serve the solo or the instrument.  It should really be the other way around ideally, most of the time.  Jimmy Page does his “Black Mountain Side” and we all do our solo things and all that, but I think in the larger context it’s about rock and roll being revolutionary.  It should affect change, and be a reflection of what’s happening in the culture and society.  Being embedded in the fabric of what’s going on in the world around us.  That’s what happened in the 60’s and to a lesser extent the 70’s.  In the 80’s there was a huge disconnect there and I think that’s why it just crashed and burned and dissolved into irrelevancy.  It became relevant again, thank God.

There’s all kinds of flavors for all kinds of people, but the kind of bands I grew up with like Hendrix during when the Viet Nam war, was a reflection of that.  Crosby, Stills & Nash and The Beatles and all that stuff was just so more vital and important.  That’s where I see myself growing to.  Kinda coming full circle and having my music be somewhat relevant in that context rather than just, “George did a good solo today.”  (Laughing)

There’s a commonality between Jack White and The Beatles in that there is an energy that people feel that has little to do with ripping guitar solos and techniques.

Yeah, and you can’t learn that in a text book, and you can’t learn that at GIT.  I don’t know if you can ever even learn it.  It’s something that’s innate.  That’s why the punk movement was so appealing and so important.  I really thought the 80’s was a very vacuous period of rock music except for the punk movement.  I don’t live in that world, and I’m not saying I understand punk music that well, but it was vital and raw, and I love that.  That’s a hard thing to do for a guy who is a player’s player to do that kind of music.

Do you ever want to go in another direction and do something that has a more raw visceral vibe like that, as opposed to continuing to be “The 80’s guitar hero” guy?  Does it ever get frustrating having to always do what you’re known for?

No, because the music is a constantly morphing and changing thing.  I’m going to rehearsal in an hour.  I’m excited because every rehearsal, every performance, every record, every day in the studio whether I’m doing a session for someone else, for my band; is always an adventure.  It’s always a new experience and I always had this movie playing in my head since I was a kid, of this perfect solo or this perfect band experience or whatever.  This creative kind of musical dialogue.  I’m always chasing that.  That’s why what I do is such a wonderful thing.  I’m so fortunate and it’s a hopeful endeavor.

I may have had a bad gig yesterday or maybe that last record wasn’t everything that I had hoped it would be, but there’s always next time.  There’s always tomorrow, there’s always the next day.  There’s always another record, another gig, another rehearsal.  I take my rehearsals really seriously.  It’s really about interacting.  Today I’m rehearsing with Lynch Mob.  I’m rehearsing with Brian Tichy, Michael Bevan, and Oni Logan.  These are monster players and we’re going in there trying to be Band of Gypsys!  (Laughing)

We rehearse the songs, but where we really have fun is we’re big improvisers.  We just go off and every day I go in there, I got a riff in my head.  I go, “Ok, what’s the riff of the day?”  Then we put a couple of parts together and try to remember it for next record, but of course we always forget it.  But what was beautiful was that moment when we played it.  We do that live too, which is one of my favorite things to do.

I saw you with Richie Kotzen and Paul Gilbert on the Guitar Generation tour.  Are you a competitive person?

Absolutely.  Most guitar players are.  But it’s a friendly competition.  It’s healthy.  I grew up in the 60’s and 70’s and it was all about cutting heads, turf, and all that.  Now that I’m much older I’ve mellowed out quite a bit.  I still have that instinct but I temper it with reality.  I thought when I was younger that I would be the world’s greatest guitar player someday.  I was going to be Jimi Hendrix.  (Laughing)  Of course then reality sets in and you realize there’s millions of other guitar players, and there’s different flavors, and it’s all subjective.  I have a certain sound and style and I’m content with that.  As long as I just do what I do, I’m ok, as long as I’m at the top of my game and I’m playing well.

I technically cannot compete with Paul Gilbert.  (Laughing)  How many people can?  It’s just not going to happen at my age and I’m not that disciplined of a guy that’s going to woodshed for six hours a day for years.  I just don’t do that and I never will.  I’m not that kind of player.  I’m more of a seat of your pants kinda guy, just making shit up.  I’m not sure what I’m playing.  I just throw it out there and see what happens.  Richie Kotzen is a phenomenal technical player as well so I had my work cut out for me.  So what I thought on that tour was, “I’m more of the organic touchy-feely guy with some shred qualities.”  That was my little niche I had carved out for myself.  To be quite honest I didn’t put a lot of thought into it because I was involved in a record at the time, but it ended up being a lot of fun.

I notice you have a lot more fun with effects onstage than in the studio.

Like most guys from my era I’m really into old school stuff.  A couple of things I really rely on and I love using is the old MXR Phase 90.  I have a script logo and a block logo.  Those are really hard to find and nothing sounds like those original ones.  They make the pre-pros and there’s other companies who make their versions of it, but nothing sounds like the real deal.  The other thing I use a lot is the Fulltone Deja Vibe.  I have a prototype that Fulltone made for me back in the mid 90’s.  It has that Robin Trower, Hendrix, vibe thing.  It’s one of the best and I’m really happy with this one.  It does two things that I like.  It does the slow, sweeping, swelling, tremeloish kind of vibe.  I take my foot and crank it all the way to the right and make it really fast.  That gives it another kind of choppier vibratoed effect.  It’s basically a two trick pony but it’s awesome.

I saw you on an episode of That Metal Show with Don Dokken and you guys were discussing a reunion.  What’s the status of that?

The Dokken reunion is in the works but I’m notorious for crying wolf.  (Laughing)  I’m eternally hopeful about many things and I usually talk before there’s a reality.  Friends and fans and everybody just sort of finally got to the point with me where they say, “Oh it’s George with his pipe dreams, yeah, yeah, whatever.”  So I really shouldn’t say anything until it actually happens.  We’ll have to wait and see.  We’ve written some songs together and my thought is that unless it’s the original band, it’s really not worth doing.  Fans really want to see the guys that are responsible for those songs, and those performances that they saw thirty years ago that meant so much to them in their lives.  To come out with different people doesn’t work, and that’s the hurtle we’re trying to get over.  It’s very complicated but it may happen.

The larger thing I’m trying to do is actually just have a band.  (Laughing)  One band of guys that stay together consistently for the fans.  I want fans to know that when Dokken, Lynch Mob, or Souls of We rolls around or puts out a record, it’s still those four guys that they can depend on.  I do this because I love playing in bands with my friends and making music.  I don’t want to be a solo artist.

Check out George Lynch’s website HERE

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