George Lynch may only be days away from releasing his new record with Lynch Mob but he is already at work, in fact almost finished with, his next project. When he called in to talk about Rebel a few weeks ago, he was actually pulling up to the studio in LA about to record the last of his guitar tracks for that. “I’m already onto the next two things,” Lynch said. “It’s like my head is all into this project at the moment with the Infidels. We did Rebel a while ago, you know, and Shadow Train [his solo record released in July], that was finished a year ago.” There was also his album with Stryper’s Michael Sweet, Only To Rise, released in January, and ongoing talks with former Dokken bandmate Jeff Pilson about doing another record with him. “George and I are always talking,” Pilson told me earlier this year.
“I never really dealt with anybody who was quite as straight-forward,” Pilson said during a 2013 interview with me about his musical relationship with Lynch. “I think it’s helped me maintain a level of integrity that I probably wouldn’t have had without my association with him.” Gaining fame and guitar hero status during the height of Sunset Strip metal in the mid-1980’s as part of Dokken, the band rode high on such songs as “In My Dreams,” “Alone Again,” “Dream Warriors” and Lynch’s signature “Mr Scary” screaming instrumental. But things weren’t always easy in the band and Lynch pursued other routes at the end of the eighties, forming Lynch Mob and releasing their first album, Wicked Sensation, in 1990 with Dokken drummer Mick Brown and former Racer X and Ferrari frontman Oni Logan.
Now, twenty-five years later, after five subsequent albums, including 2014’s Sun Red Sun, Lynch Mob is putting out Rebel on August 21st featuring Lynch, Pilson, Logan and drummer Brian Tichy. Heavy with Lynch’s meaty guitar sound, songs like “Automatic Fix,” “Testify,” “Dirty Money” and “Jelly Roll” will surely please fans and keep the turntable humming for continuous playings.
I hear you are in the studio today. What are you working on?
I’m in the studio with the Infidels. It’s a project with the singer from Fishbone and the bass player from Tower Of Power. It’s a very eclectic, interesting project, a lot of fun. We’re actually in a studio called Killion Sound. It’s kind of like walking into a time machine, into a studio from 1975 or something; tape, old mics, all old equipment, really super funky but it’s great. They cater to a lot of R&B and soul and funk bands and musicians in the LA area.
Do you know when this may come out?
I think it will come out this year, probably in the fall. It’s moving pretty quick. I’ve got my last guitar date today and then it’ll take another week to finish vocals and a few other things, and then we’ll go to mix, mixing up in San Francisco, and that’ll be it.
What was the process like for you and Oni to create this Lynch Mob record?
Well, we were feeling inspired and I think we were kind of at the creative curve in our lives where we wanted to really not just play the same thing again. We’d kind of did that with Wicked Sensation and then again with maybe Smoke & Mirrors; and then we did Sound Mountain Sessions, we did Sun Red Sun. We have a sound and we have a chemistry but we didn’t want to tread all over the same territory again so we did branch out a bit. I think we did anyways. So we kept the basic formula but also went sideways a couple of places and experimented and took some liberties.
Are you one of these guys who has a lot of riffs laying around that you go back to when you’re creating new music or do you prefer to work with your newer ideas?
Mostly newer ideas, meaning if we’re just kind of depending on inspiration to happen. But I usually have a safety net, a backlog of little snippets of things I always record just throughout my daily practice. If I’m sitting around in my studio here at home or somewhere and I got a guitar on, “Whoa, that’s a nice riff.” Or I’ll sing something in my car in my memo on my iPhone. And I’ll catalog it, I’ll name it something. Like, I’ll catalog it for a future Lynch Mob record or whatever project I think it might fit; or stylistically what it is. Like something funky, I’ll put Funk #whatever, Funk #10. Then when I’m in the saddle and I’m working and recording or rehearsing for a record, in a writing session, I’ll have that to refer to. And it’s nice to have that because it sort of relaxes me and I don’t feel like if I don’t come up with everything right now by myself in a flash in the moment, I’m going to be in trouble. I know I have this little safety net of ideas. Even if I don’t use them, it’s nice to know that they’re there. It helps me relax and I think I’m more creative when I’m relaxed. I play better, I think better, I react better, more quickly, if I’m relaxed. If I’m uptight or stressed and nervous, I don’t play as well and I don’t create as well.
The song “The Ledge” kind of catches you off-guard because it’s so serious. I don’t know what came first in the process of it’s creation but what did you think when you first saw Oni’s lyrics and how much did that dictate the tone of your guitar?
The lyrics came after but like any good lyric or book or movie or creative act, it came, obviously, from real life experience so I can empathize with that and unfortunately sometimes the painful stuff we go through inspires us to create the most beautiful creation, whether it be a piece of art or music or whatever. You kind of have to go through some pain to be able to have the inspiration to produce something meaningful. I haven’t really talked to him about it in depth but I’m sure it came from a personal place.
Which guitar did you use primarily on this record?
Well, I used three guitars primarily. I used quite a few for smaller things but the bulk of the work was done on my Tiger, my ESP Tele, custom shop Tele, and I have an ESP fake Les Paul that they, the Japanese custom shop, built for me in the late-80’s that is a clone of a 1958 Plain Top Les Paul. It’s called the George Lynch Paul (laughs) and I used that for a chunkier sound. But I pulled other things off the shelf for various other little sounds. I can’t really remember exactly what I used but I’ve got an arsenal of other things that I’ll dig into for incidental sounds here and there. I’ve got a 12-string, a Resonator guitar, I’ve got a Baritone. I used my LTD Viper Baritone very selectively on a few things just to add girth underneath kind of a heavier part. I used a capo on it to try to get it in the right key. Sometimes I’d break off one string and retune it to a Nashville tuning for a clean part for a kind of 12-string attack. But primarily it was those three.
Whatever happened to the guitar with the skull and bones?
Well, I have the second one at home but the first one is being moved around from Hard Rock to Hard Rock. It was at the Hard Rock in Hollywood until they closed that one and then from what I understand it got moved to some Hard Rock in the Caribbean somewhere.
What happened to it that you stopped using it?
I was approached by the Hard Rock to buy it. I was on the road with Dokken at the time in the eighties and I asked John, the guy that I built it with, who was my partner in the guitar, if this was something we wanted to do, was he interested in selling to the Hard Rock, cause it would be kind of cool cause it would preserve it and hang it up and it’d be kind of a cool thing. At the time I didn’t put much thought into it and said, “Okay, we’ll do that.” So we sold it, and it wasn’t for very much money, and John got all the money. I wasn’t really worried about that part of it but then John turned around and without consulting with me, sold the rights to that guitar design to a guitar builder named Ed Roman, sold it to him for perpetuity, for forever, for the whole universe. It’s kind of fucked up (laughs) and it kind of caused a rift between us and I can’t believe he did that. But he basically took the money and ran and it was a fucked up thing to do but whatever.
But I actually build that, a replica of that model of guitar. I built probably close to ten in the last five years. I’ve been taking luthier classes for the last five years and I’ve been building, crafting and building, and I have a company called Mr Scary Guitars and I’ve sold about ten here and it’s one of the models that I make. Exception is the ones I make are out of tonewood and play like a dream. Highly playable and very functional, whereas my original bones guitar did not sound or play very well. It was made to look cool but it wasn’t really built right.
You have a website for that so people can go look at them?
What song in your career would you say was the most difficult to transfer to the live stage from the recording?
Probably “Mr Scary” because it has so many guitars on it. What I’ve done in more recent years is sometimes I’ll have a guitar tech that is actually a guitar player play the rhythm part offstage, play one of the rhythm parts, and it really makes a huge difference. And if I don’t have that I’ll run a tape of just me playing the rhythm guitar so that I can play all the lead stuff on top of it and it sounds like the record. Cause really, if I just play the lead parts and there’s no rhythm parts happening live, it doesn’t sound very good (laughs). And I can’t do both at the same time, it’s physically impossible.
I asked this question of Jeff Pilson a few years ago so I want to ask it to you as well: You two have been friends a very long time. What have you learned from him as a musician and what do you think you’ve rubbed off on him?
I think we work together well because we’re different animals in our approach. We approach music from two polar opposite places. Jeff is very learned and knows music theory and understands music theory and is a multi-instrumentalist. He’s a, what do you call it, a jack-of-all-trades and a master of all trades. And I’m more of just a one trick pony. I mean, I do what I do and it’s just spontaneous and improvisational, kind of from the heart and the head all at the same time. And I think that makes for an interesting mix. He’s able to take things maybe I’ll start out with and go, “Oh man, that’s bad ass, that’s a great riff.” And he’s able to take it and polish it and add to it and make it right. Then he also challenges me to think outside my normal box where I have to kind of think a little bit harder about putting things together intelligently, because he’s putting together things right. He has a musical mind as far as arranging instrumentation and theory. So it forces me to try and raise the bar and come up to his level. At the same time, I think he appreciates the spontaneity of what I do. And it makes for a good creative pairing. We have wonderful chemistry.
This is what he told me about you. He said, “He made me really want to pursue an honest course in music. He’s very true to his soul when he writes and works.”
You know, we have a bromance thing and we both love each other a lot and been through a lot together. We love getting together and hanging and working on music because it’s the process, really. We’ll put out a record and maybe achieve some commercial success, maybe not, but it’s really the process that we love so much, the creative process that we’ve been doing since the eighties. It’s just cathartic and beautiful and we create this beautiful music together that comes out of nothing and it’s great and very rewarding. We live down the street from each other but we’re both incredibly busy so it’s hard to find the time but every year or every two years we try to make time to do some sort of project together. And the project that is on the table right now is possibly a Dokken reunion, but of course that comes and goes every couple of years (laughs) so who knows. But we’re talking again about that but if that doesn’t happen we may do another T&N-style record but with Michael Sweet.
You’ve talked about that before having Michael sing.
Yeah, it’s been on the books for a while but it’s just the logistics and the time constraints. Jeff is in Foreigner and very, very busy. Michael Sweet has a lot of things going on. And to make things more confusing is Michael and I did the Sweet/Lynch record, which kind of precluded Jeff and I and Michael from doing a T&N record, which is essentially the same thing, only without Jeff (laughs). There’s only one degree of separation between those two bands. I’m even getting confused (laughs).
Who was the first real rock star you ever met?
If I’m remembering correctly, it was Ritchie Blackmore. Me and my friends, I think we had taken a bus up to Hollywood or something. It’s been a long, long time ago but somewhere in Hollywood on Sunset Boulevard or something. He was with some friends, obviously older guys and stuff, and we were just like younger and we were all scared and wanted to introduce ourselves and I pulled the short straw. So I was the one that had to go up and say hi and I was really nervous. And it didn’t go so well. They kind of laughed me away and it was kind of hurtful so I went back and told my friends what happened and I felt dejected. But then Ritchie came over. He felt bad and he came over and sat down with us and started talking to us. Pretty cool.
How has your relationship with the guitar changed over the years?
I think my number one problem with guitar playing is that it’s a discipline that I have not been responsible enough in pursuing the academic part of it. In other words, you know, the discipline of practicing every day and practicing in a methodical way; the hard nuts and bolts of becoming a better technician. It’s very easy to rely on the fact that, oh, I have a sound and a style and kind of do my thing. It’s pretty easy to rely on that and get lazy. And I tend to do that and I’ve got to stop doing that. It’s not just the matter of having a guitar in your hands for a lot of hours a day, it’s a matter of actually applying yourself constructively to get better, to learn more, and I feel guilty about that, that I don’t do a better job at that.
When you were younger, you fought to make it, to be successful or to be a working professional musician. What do you fight for now musically?
Well, I wouldn’t call it a fight. I’d say it was an ongoing urgency to kind of catch that dragon I’ve been chasing, which is an ephemeral musical idea that has been floating in my head that I never actually reached and haven’t been able to grasp, which is attaining one of those musical heights I envisioned in my creative brain. You know, the world’s best solo, the world’s best song, and all that kind of stuff. It’s just there and I keep reaching for it and missing the mark to some extent. I don’t know but I think that. Somebody mentioned the other day, “Well, if you ever actually were successful at achieving that nirvana goal that you talk about then the game would be over (laughs), there’d be no reason to continue on.” So I guess it’s good that I don’t achieve it.