On February 20th, I had the pleasure of speaking with George Lynch, the founder of hard rock band, Lynch Mob. Lynch first emerged in the 1980’s with iconic hair-metal band, Dokken. He quickly earned a place as renowned and respected musician within the guitar community. Guitar World magazine has recognized him in its 100 greatest guitarists of all time.
I spoke with Lynch today as he was on the road touring with Lynch Mob. They we were en route from a gig in Seattle, Washington on their way to Portland, Oregon. He was kind enough offer some of his thoughts, insights, and wisdom during our conversation; the kind of wisdom one can only attain from a lifetime in the music business. From clubs to stadiums, its fair to say George Lynch has seen it all.
Here is what he had to say.
[Photo: George Lynch by Alex Rufinni; photo courtesy of GeorgeLynch.com]
BF: Today I have on the line Mr. George Lynch of Dokken, Lynch Mob and soon to be KMX fame. How are you doing there George?
GL: I’m doing great, doing great. Were out on the road here from Seattle working our way to Portland, so ya know were out here with Lynch Mob right now so im doing a, I guess a good way to occupy the time of, while driving from Seattle to Portland, ya know doing interviews and making my time productive and maki e it go by a little quicker.
BF: Hows the weather out there? (currently experiencing more of our Michigan blizzard as we do this)
GL: Well ya know, lets put it this way, were out walking yesterday going to get something to eat and I literally got blown over by the wind. How does that happen? It was beautiful, I mean I love seattle and I love Portland. I’m kind of a desert guy, so I mean the weather, I’m not quite use to that. But it was wonderful, we had a great time. Great people. It’s hard for us to get up here, uh, cuz its kind of out in the middle of, ya know the northwest is kind of its own thing and its hard to get to travel wise. A lot of times we’ve neglected this area but I really love playing up there because its â€¦I mean last night I was playing on a stage that Jimi Hendrix had played on.
BF: What venue was that?
GL: El Corazon theatre ( Seattle, WA,) and it had been a USO place for the military and Jimi was in the military playing with the bass player that he knew that was in The Band Of Gypsies Bill Cox and they played, they did a gig there at the USO on that same stage. It was called something else but still. I mean, that was pretty profound. I had my minimum daily requirement of Hendrix that day for sure.
BF: I can see you looking around the stage imagining where Jimi was playing when he was there back in the day huh?
GL: Yeah well I kinda would feel like if I went off to the left a little bit I would play less like him and then when I would go to the right, ya know, oh yeah! (laughs) I didn’t consciously think of that when I first started the show but it was there. It’s funny how those things can inspire you though, because he was such a huge, huge thing in my life, ya know, the guitar, my guitar life. I mean I just tried to emulate him. I never tried to learn anything he played exactly, it was just in the spirit of ya know. You wouldn’t know it listening too Dokken or anything but that’s where I lived in my imaginary, ideal, musical mind
BF: I don’t know, listening to the things you’ve recorded over the years, your style is, it’s always been very tight and controlled but there’s always been a little sense of the wildness in the flair, the same kind of thing that Hendrix did, along with Eddie (Van Halen) did as well.
GL: Yeah well I remember listening when I was a kid to his solos and I would go, How did he get that where he’s justâ€¦it’s not vibrato, it’s not the bar it’s just like he’s going nuts and its perfect and I don’t know what it is he’s doing technically. We didn’t have YouTube back then, And I tried to kinda emulate it in my own juvenile way and I kind of ended up doing this thing where I do this thing I call a horizontal vibrato, which is basically just shaking the string but kind of laterally and ya know just to get a feel of what he does or did. He does a lot of that slide stuff that’s in my playing because its not like Randy Hanson where I can just go play his solos note for note or get his sound. It’s defiantly had a huge influence on me though and ya know he was just such a gentle, beautiful person and so much of his music was about good things and things that mattered. It was during the Vietnam war and civil rights movement and he addressed those things in his music. I just can’t believe the guy died, he wasn’t even 30. It seemed like he was an old soul, a lot older than that but he did many lifetimes of work in that amount of time.
BF: I Know your out with Lynch Mob right now and I noticed you’re doing some west coast dates but there are only a few of them, is there a reason for that and do you plan on adding more Lynch Mob dates?
GL: uh were doing 9 dates. The band Lynch Mob sorta fell off the cliff and dissolved last year unfortunately. It’s very painful, for everybody involved cause we’ve done a lot of work in those recent years leading up that with our plan to kinda conquer the universe (laughs). And it was a lot of work, years of work and as I said it just kind of fell apart for all the wrong reasons. So it was really hard to get back in the saddle. Were just really good friends and that’s it. im not trying to do the super group thing or be the world’s most successful rock band or anything. We play cause were friends and we’ve got a certain brand that were tied to which is a sound, what we did on the first record (Wicked Sensation) and so forth which is kinda what defines us and try to find a way to expand on that a little bit. So we’ve got half a record in the can and we will absolutely be adding dates, we have a wonderful new agent and were going to Europe for a month to play the festivals. Sweadrock, sonisphere, and Hellfest and things like that and continuing on.
You can never say never and I don’t want to cry wolf but I feel in my bones that this version of the band can really remain intact because all the architecture is pretty solid here as far as good people who like each other and want to work together for the right reasons and im willing to work hard and show up (laughs) and be dependable. I go and do clinics and music schools and talk to kids and invariably at the end of the question period they’ll say â€œwhat advise do you have?â€ That’s one of the things I always tell young fans, you know half the game is just sticking together, just persevering, just keep it together, just continuing to exist is half the battle. And that is the same with lynch Mob. I mean its been such a revolving door, its been very frustrating, and I don’t want that so well continue on. This is my touring band because a lot of my other project are very difficult to tour on. KXM being one of those although we are going to do some dates. T&N, almost impossible to tour on. The infidels, more of a side project. So Lynch Mob is like my meat and potatoes touring band which I feel we can incorporate elements of everything we want to do within this band which is a part of my wide showcase.
BF: Well I am glad myself, as a Lynch Mob fan that you guys are playing together again and Im hoping you’ll hit the detroit area in the near future, Who is in the touring band right now? Is it the actual members that recorded on the E.P. ( Sound Mountain Sessions) ?
GL: Jimmy D’Anda on drums, we’ve played off and on over the years, were like soul mates and brothers and we come from the same place. Were always locked in on stage and when were recording, its like were so comfortable with each other it’s just like im playing with the guy ive played with since junior high or something (laughs) it’s really awesome, we enjoy each others company and have fun together, its just a blast . The bass player is Kevin Baldes from Lit, the band Lit. I kinda grew up with Kevin in the neighborhood when I lived in a certain area in California. He was like 10, 12 years old and he use to come over and ride the skateboard on the half-pipe in our back yard and I was in Dokken then. He would run around the house, he’d grab my tiger guitar, he was gonna be a rock star someday. He was gonna have gold records up on the wall like we did and all that stuff. He was just a little kid. Anyway he went on to grow up a little bit and you know, well not a little bit, he grew up and formed Lit and had a lot of success with that and recently come full circle and he was available, were like, lets play together! It’s just beautiful, he brings so much to the table. It’s an interesting band where everybody, ya know we just have a good time. No uncomfortables at all. We laugh, we have fun, well work hard. everybody has kind of got their thing that they do. Like Kevin is really good at vocals, he’s a great singer, a great back up singer. He’s got the high voice and all that, we need that. He’s a great bass player, great stage presence, got a really good look, he kind of keeps us on track , like guys, kinda listen for it! So he’s kind of our, he presses us a little bit so we don’t get too lazy there. He’s a graphic designer so like when we went out this time we needed posters designed and t-shirts, he did that for us. He’s got a lot of connections there. So we all have kind of things that we too contribute to the overall effort and it all dovetails together really nicely. It’s a really good working and friendship situation.
BF: I just recently had an opportunity to listen to the Sound Mountain Sessions E.P. which you recorded and the one thing that stuck out, Really good E.P. by the way and congratulations on that, the one thing that stood out to me is your tone. I mean everybody who is a musician, myself included knows, George Lynch is the tone freak! Listening to the E.P. I heard that early, well the first 2 albums. That very similar tone, and then watching the video (Slow Drag) you were playing a Telecaster, it looked like maybe an ESP, and I’m thinking to myself, How in the hell is he getting those kind of tones after all these years?? What are you doing to get that similarity?
GL: Well on that particular E.P., Sound House Sessions, which was done a couple of years ago I guess, We were defiantly going for the first record, we tried to emulate that, sound wise. We worked with our engineer , his name is Chris Caulier, we call him the Wizard and he’s brilliant. He listened and listened and listened and we talked about it. Now I didn’t have those old amps anymore cause they were stolen, my Soldono. I’ve got my Lynch boxes, I’ve got my Wizard, My Marshall Plexi and a bunch of other stuff. So what we did do, we kind of mixed those together to find some things as close as possible and then did some things in the studio, EQ it properly and so forth. He kept A/b ing back and forth. He got it very close, Did a great job, but since then I have actually found that amp that was responsible for the Wicked Sensation sound, the amp that was used for that recording and tours. ( at this point the call dropped, here’s where we chimed back in)
GL: Hey Bryan, where did I leave off?
BF: You were telling me that you recovered the amp from the wicked sensation sessions. What was that amp?
GL: 1988 Soldono. It was stolen from me in ’93 and a guy that legitimately ended up with it reached out to me and said hey, I think I got your amp. I made him whole on the money end and he sent it back to me and it hasn’t been touched, sounds just like it did when I was using it in 1989, from 1990. Beautiful, yeah ive got it out on the road with me right now with Lynch Mob.
BF: That’s amazing. Reminds me of when Zakk Wylde lost his guitar and he got it back.
GL: Yeah, when that stuff comes back its really rare, it really is and if it’s a really important piece it could mean the difference between you never capturing that sound again, or capturing it. These are our tools that we use but they are very unique tools, they’re not something that necessarily more of them in the world! If you don’t have it, you don’t have it!
BF: George I noticed that you run overdrive pedals and I was really surprised with that especially, I’ve watched some videos with your new Lynch Box amp, and with the amount of gain that it has, why do you use an overdrive in front of that?
GL: Well, I use a combination of amps, besides the Lynch Box I will use an old plexi which is not very gainy at all, those need something to drive it in front even during the rhythms. I’ve got a Freeman Dirty Shirley that I use quite often . that’s like a 45-50 watt like an offset Marshall clone kind of thing. Very sweet, very singy, very dynamic , not British distortion like the soldono has, but it can use something, it can use a little push in the front end. But having said that, quite honestly, depending on my amp array at the time, I usually don’t use my overdrive, I use it sparingly you know, depending on the amp array itself. If im just Lynch Box and my Wizard, im getting enough gain, I don’t need any overdrive. But the overdrive can sometimes be used for other things. Of course it gains it up but if you’re doing something, for instance kind of fast kind of sweep thing or something , sometimes your touching lightly, you need that to try to get it to pop. And also another thing, when im using my cusack screamer pedal and I use my octiver pedal it doesn’t sound right unless ive got the screamer on for some reason. It makes the octive actually sound like I want it to sound. There’s some interaction going on between those pedals. It’s not real science, just kind of random. Things that I have to be aware of, things mismatching on pedals and so forth. Im not using my rack, all these kinds of things. And then everyday is a challenge, things change everyday especially out here on the road or even in the studio. You’ll sound wonderful, everything dialed in you come in the next day and your like, what happened? What, did the barometric pressure change everything , did the voltage go down coming out of the wall or what? And it is a real difference and you don’t know why.
BF: I read once upon a time that you always wrote out all of your solos, you never really did any kind of 1 take improvising type of things. Was that the case and do you still do it that way?
GL: oh no, no ,no I, yeah its opposite I’ve never written out a solo. It’s all improvised, everything is improvised except for, the only solo I ever had figured out before I went in the studio was preconceived was Tooth and Nail. I actually had the parts, the chords picked out and all the solo that goes over it, it was intentional. But other than that, never been one solo in my life that ive gone in and like had anything planned. No they got it backwards, I do all my composing in the studio.
BF: So we are out of time so I will cut it and I want to say on a personal note that ive been a fan since I first heard Under Lock and key when it came out and ive loved everything you’ve ever done. Personally you’ve always been my favorite lead guitarist, more so its your tone and your melodic way of playing. I always considered you and Kirk Hammett to be in that same kind of zip code where your solos could always be something that you could hum, not always just a crazy flurry of notes and insanity just for the sake of it and it’s always been a pleasure to listen to everything you’ve recorded.
GL: well, you know im a fan of talking guitar and solos that are songs within songs and tell stories and take you somewhere and leave you somewhere. I don’t always accomplish it but that’s what I strive to do. I recently played on a shred record, and im not gonna say the name of the record but I mean there’s every new shred guy playing a billion notes a second , ya know I dig that too, its fun to listen to. It’s an 11 minute song and that’s all there is except my solo in the middle which is brief, but I didn’t do that ya know and I don’t do that. And I gotta say, pat myself on the back, I guess you could call my solo intermission , give you a little rest. Its like I never heard so many notes say so little in my life. I think speed can be used and technique used to accomplish something but not in an end in itself. That’s where people get confused and we got in that situation in the late 80’s when guitar was its own demise. Because it forgot that its rock and roll its songs about fans, it’s about messaging it’s about mystery of music and all these kinds of things, at the end it’s just worked itself into a corner that it couldn’t get out of. I see it kind of doing that again with this new breed of monster shredders, which I love to listen to but im just saying, its nice to have a song, its nice to have something to say. Like when you listen to somebody who isn’t trying to follow the last guy who came along, who isn’t trying to emulate them or top them, just think outside the box and be yourself.I mean that’s probably easier to say.
Thanks again to George Lynch. He is a straight-forward type of guy who still possesses the drive to write and play music, even after so many ups and downs, and a million miles on the road. Best of luck, George!