By Andrew Catania
George Lynch is more than an extraordinary guitar player. He’s a luthier, an activist for causes he strongly believes in, plays in multiple bands and has over 20 albums worth of music. His work has spanned over thirty years. Although he was born in Washington, Lynch grew up in sunny California and it was there that he learned how to play the guitar at only ten years old. Roughly twenty years later, in the 1980’s, the band Dokken began to rise, with Lynch as the guitarist, Don Dokken as the vocalist, Mick Brown as the drummer and Jeff Pilson, the bassist. Due to the fame of Dokken, Lynch’s work became well-known. Lynch having been a member of Dokken is what truly started Lynch’s career. Dokken has sold more than ten million albums throughout the world.
In 1990 George Lynch left to form Lynch Mob. George Lynch then released a solo album, entitled Sacred Groove, which was well received by his fans.
In 1994 Lynch and Dokken reunited and released two more albums, while Lynch continued to work on his own solo work. Regardless, Lynch and Dokken still had differences that they were not fortunate enough to settle and Lynch again left the band in 1997, returning to Lynch Mob. This time, Lynch took his band in a new direction, and by 1999 Lynch Mob was touring. After the tour, Lynch put the band on hiatus to focus on some other work. In 2002, Lynch brought Lynch Mob back, again, this time with more contemporary music than before.
George Lynch worked with Dokken’s previous bassist Jeff Pilson to create Lynch/Pilson, and then he also went on to form The George Lynch Group. In 2008, Lynch Mob released a new album. In 2009, Lynch worked with Raven Quinn for her self-titled album which would be released in 2010. That same year, George Lynch toured with Souls of We and Lynch Mob.
It was in 2013, at a birthday party for Ray Luzier’s son, that band KXM was first thought of. Lynch, along with Ray Luzier and Dug Pinnick decided to label their new band after the names of their full-time bands. K for Korn, X for King’s X and M for Lynch Mob. KXM released their first album in the next year, after hard work from the three members. They released their second album, Scatterbrain, with part of Lynch’s most recent work, on March 17, 2017. Saying George Lynch is a busy man is an understatement. I recently caught up with George to discuss his new KXM album, Lynch Mob, and Dokken.
The KXM album, I think it’s darker and heavier than your first KXM album. Would you agree with that?
I don’t know if it’s heavier, not that it’s a contest but I think there are elements that might be heavier. I think it’s recorded better, sonically or pleasing, you know. It’s got more fidelity and frequency range and depth because we did it in an actual real studio rather than a vacant house that we just built a studio in you know. So sonically it was a better record. A more adventurous record by the mere fact that we already established something with the first record and we built it. Since we created a foundation we could start building on it and expanding on it a little bit. Go sideways, up and down and so forth and add different influences a little bit of ska and jazz motives here and there
You guys don’t have a lot of pre-production when you are going in. Do you guys just do it on a whim when you’re in there?
For sure! That’s the whole philosophy behind the KXM. It’s the whole premise of the band and it’s funny I read some comments from someone yesterday commenting that they thought the record was whatever but they felt that we should spend more time on the next record working on the song
That is the whole defining thing about KXM is that we don’t do that. That’s like telling a jam band well you guys should you know you guys should go in and have well-prepared songs and that’s a jam band that’s the whole point. I try to press that in interviews to people whenever I talk to them
I have other projects that we put more thought into but we didn’t need to take time in developing an arrangement in songs we have that already
You have many projects going on. I see you with one band then you’re with another then you’re back with Lynch Mob. I don’t know how you do it. And then you make guitars too
Yes. I’ve got a project called Abanishment which I’ve been working on for about 5 years with a gentleman called Haze who is an industrial programmer engineer, fixer, real talented and has worked with Brian Schnell The Prodigy and Zombie things like that. It’s sort of an industrious less project. And Tommy Victor is the singer and again that’s called Abanishment we just got everything done except we’ve got some vocals to finish up. I’ve got the new Sweet & Lynch record that I just finished writing that last week. We were in the studio on the east coast with Brian Tichy, James Lomenzo, and Michael Sweet and we finished tracking that. We’ll be done tracking tomorrow and finish up the vocals and that will be done this coming week. Sweet & Lynch 2 or whatever we end up calling it, which I hope we don’t call it that Thirdly, we have a project called Ultra Phonics which is an evolution of Project Nfidelikah which features Angelo Moore from Fishbone on vocals who we replaced with Corey Glover from Living Color.
And that took the rhythm section more with Tower of Power. That record has all been written and Corey is finishing up the vocals and we’ll be getting the mix on that and that record should be coming out soon, I imagine. And our new Lynch Mob is coming out it’s called The Brotherhood that’s coming out, it’s been finished for a while, that will be coming out in June
Any future Dokken records going to be released?
A Dokken Live album coming out with three new studio tracks on it as well as live DVD. That will be coming out probably in the beginning of 2018. And then Lynch Mob also has a live album and a DVD coming out at some point. So yes, I’ve got a lot of things in the pipeline which is very confusing
It’s confusing to me. I had to get that all off my chest, sorry
The KXM album I know you go in that’s the whole preface to it that you guys don’t have any production. Do you like it that way or do you like it where you guys go in with a plan?
Well, there’s apple and oranges, I like them both. I’ve done a similar approach on other projects where it’s just sort of jam things out, improvise and just capture the moment. The Lynch Mob EP Sound Mountain Sessions is done that way. It is actually done in the same way we did in the studio with KXM in and a lot of my records are done very quickly. We’re just kind of done working on another secret kind of project right now with Jeff Pilson and Mick Brown we’re actually working on it as we speak and we write a song a day. Now we’re writing it in a controlled atmosphere without the whole band but it’s still somewhat the same thing. The difference is the whole band we are just working off each other, feeding off each other, reacting off each other. Point being is I’m most comfortable being in an improvised atmosphere rather than being in a laboratory situation. I kind of come from that era of jam and the lost art improvisation at least in the rock context work. You don’t really see bands do that at all. Even bands that classify themselves as jam bands, I don’t think they are jam bands because to me a true jam band is when you just start something at the top of your head and everybody picks up on it and you just take it where ever it leads you. Whether it’s without a safety net, whether it dissolves into whatever or it evolves into something else. That’s a true improvisational jam band environment. And I don’t appreciate the bands that do that. Even the bands that claim to be like Phish or anything like that. They seem to jam like Umphrey’s McGee they’re amazing and I love them. They improvise within the context of a prearranged composition versus which is everybody actually creating something in the moment. You’re recreating the creative moment, you’re in the creative moment, creating on the spot and the audience is witnessing that. Which sometimes isn’t as exciting as it sounds. I mean if you listen to Band of Gypsies, which a lot of it was spontaneous, Early Led Zeppelin’s Black And White stuff, some of those shows we were just kind of going off jamming a bit. You know it takes some work to listen to that and appreciate it. It’s not an easy sell but challenging both for the player and
I’ve heard you use the word evolve and evolving in a lot of interviews with respect to music. How important is evolving today with all your projects that you have going on?
Without change, we die so you know I think we’re always in a state of flux. I think for me it requires more work to remain in a status. I mean it’s very difficult for me to put myself back in the 80’s and recreate that. I’m evolving fine and I’m in a position to, for instance, writing new Dokken stuff. I’ve actually done a project or two where I was hired to kind of recreate that era of myself and write a song and play in that style with that sound and that is very difficult to do. I think asking is it important is the wrong question it just isn’t inevitable and I think it just depends on who you are. I mean I know a lot of my friends do what I do and they’re a different animal than I am. They’re comfortable doing what they’ve always done it’s not a good or bad thing. I don’t think AC/DC can change any at this point and all of a sudden start playing an influence to any of the rap metal.
Because I’m not locked into anything with like with the mega-millionaire success you know I’m not trapped. Which is a little bit of a good and bad thing. I have the freedom of flexibility to do go a lot of different directions to be nimble and be flexible. It’s not the smartest thing. I’m sort of marketing and selling myself as an object that you sold, a marketable product, they can go and just market that. But I don’t worry about that you know,? I go out and do just the best I can do honestly, creatively, genuinely and just hope it takes me in the right direction. For me it’s an adventure otherwise, it’s just a job. Recreating what I did in the last 30 years was not just enticing or interesting to me at all.
Not saying that what I’ve been involved with in the past is not valid not to say that at all, not denigrating my work or anybody else’s work for thirty years ago. You know I’m still just trying to be Jimi Hendrix, Jeff Beck, Jimmy Page and Eric Clapton and Cream I mean I just try to live in the shoes of my hero’s and just try to fill them a little bit
Many people include you in the best of the best.
You know the other thing about the guitar aspect is you know that I again use that word evolve to try to describe my philosophy or my view about that is you know over the years I’ve sort of transitioned I think from as a younger man wanting to be you know the fastest you know the loudest, the shreddiest or whatever and you know which is a natural thing as you get older just to sort of think about compositions really as a more global historically important thing and gratifying thing than you know being the fastest guy on the block which if that stays behind me, that’s okay. I mean I have my little tool bag and I do what I do and I have a style and I’m very comfortable with that and I try to learn new things and evolve as a better player but on the same note what more interests me is the bigger picture which is a song and creating a band that matters. I mean creating Rage Against the Machine means more to me than doing you know a kind of shreddy solo that’s sort of guitar players do. Or writing a song that stands the test of time you know writing Imagine. Could you imagine writing Imagine? I mean it’s writing a prayer for the world, come on!
Your CD Shadow Train, when it came out I knew it there was a story behind it. Are you ever going to make the movie that you said you were going to about it?
Oh, the movie’s been made, been working on it for 8 years. It’s essentially finished. It’s been finished for a few years now. The struggle that we’re having getting it out there is recently we’ve had some fans who have taken it upon themselves who pick up the initiative and say look we’ve got to get these done and are helping us get it out there. Without getting into the nuts and bolts of the complicated inner workings of getting the film distributed it’s a monolithic task. And you know I’m used to doing records obviously which you know have their own obstacles and challenges they’re nothing like a film which seems to have been cursed from the beginning. It’s just like moving multiple mountains and rebuilding them again and rebuilding them again, it’s just insane. So having said that, it will come out and I can say that with some certainty that it will be before the end of the year
I’ve been waiting for this movie to come out, You’re very active in a lot of different political/social movements., Do you like having those deep conversations on your social/political issues when you’re talking for an interview on a record?
Well, no, of course, I don’t mind. I actually think it’s important to talk about things that matter, all of it. I’ve been blessed with you know I have the luxury of having a small soap box and a megaphone because of my music career so that I feel that I have a compulsion and an obligation to talk about things that matter. A responsibility to address issues that affect all of us and I think that’s what you know rock & roll did when I was a kid. You know I mean there was serious revolution going on in this country and in the world, the Vietnam War and the Civil Rights Movement and the Environmental Movement and millions of people were protesting and rallying and you know the country was polarized at a really important time and music would help litigate on a lot of those issues and basically a reflection of the culture and reality at the time and lent power to the voices of a lot of people on both sides. So music has always played an integral part of that you know the way people see themselves and manage ourselves and I think it should continue to so you know I try to play a small part in that. Not saying I’m very good at it but I’ve got to try you know.
Take some of the hot topics, environmental stories like the Dakota Access Pipeline, something you feel strongly about. Is that something you would try to get your opinion out there and get a movement against that?
Well absolutely! I was at the Seti camp my wife and me where there for a week. It was a very profound experience and I’m very passionate about it. You know the reason in that particular case, that was such an important issue or say it was because obviously money won and people lost is because it was really revealing in a very transparent fashion to people about what was really at stake. So FOX News couldn’t lie about it because of jobs, it really doesn’t provide jobs. What it was really about was a handful of banks and industrial billionaires and hedge funds. You know people who are millionaires and multimillionaires and multimillionaires becoming billionaires. People with you know that financially have the luxury of having their money work for them and the rest of us have to suffer and the environment suffers and environment means we suffer selectively. Well, these people are insulated from suffering because they have so much money they can protect themselves. They have great health care and they can live in you know glass towers and filter their air and eat pure food and people wait on them and so forth. You know the rest of us don’t have that luxury and they don’t care. So you know it really exposes the capitalistic side of a system that is uncaring and uncompassionate and very harmful to most people. You know 60% of the wealth and assets on the planet are owned by forty families in the world I mean that’s inequality on a historically precedent scale. And that is really the basis of all of our problems, inequality. I mean if you’ve got to really simplify things make them a blanket issue, I would say that all your environmental issues, your health issues, your unemployment issues, just about any issues you can run down you can trace it back to inequality being corporate. So you fix that you fix a whole lot of other things just as a trickle down effect.
Yes, Dakota was one of my proudest and saddest moments in my life. I mean to share that struggle with 7,000 to 9,000 other people and you know, the Lakota Sioux and Standing Rock Tribe, as well as 250 other tribes that were represented there along with all the other supporters. Including the Veterans who came in for us and that changed everything. The real war is getting in the face of these rental cops and local police who are just working for the pipeline company working for Dapple. You know I saw a couple of cops just take their badges off and cross the line. But it was a very profound and very scary experience. I mean these are militarized the police, they’re no joke. You know you’re up in the middle of North Dakota out in an hour from Bismark you’re in the middle of nowhere and these guys are using you know armor, armored Humvee’s with sonic weaponry and automatic AR 15’s with bullets and drones and planes and connected to wires and tanks you know fully swatted out with gas masks and concussion devices. If you’re willing to use that kind of militarized weaponry against our own citizens who are basically fighting for all of us and fighting for the earth is disgusting. And you know trace it back of course to we have to mention Indigenous Rights and Treaties I mean again, the Treaty of Fort Laramie explicitly, a grant made of Americans this land that now is covered in the same as in dispute which is not in dispute but a Treaty which is a contract. So when a country built on rule of law supposedly a contract is basically scripture. And this country can basically say fuck you because you know what, you have resources that we want to steal and we’re just going to take them regardless of what we signed and what we agreed to because you have what we want. Resources are the basis for you know our capitalistic economy where all the money flows through the pump and there’s no inherent cost put on those increases you know on the books. They call them externalizing externalities. A fancy way of putting the cost of extracting resources that do cost all of us something. I mean and externalizing them so they are not reflected in the cost of doing business. So it’s a complicated issue but to really keep it simple you know do know harm or do as little harm as possible and make things that most benefit most people all the time and that’s the right thing to do. Keep it simple.
Have you ever considered running for public office?
No, I’m kind of busy right now. You know, listen, when I lived in Cave Creek Arizona for 13 years I was involved a little bit in things like political things on a very local level thinking globally and acting locally, city council and so forth. I wouldn’t wish that on my worst enemy. I thought band politics were ugly, oh my God! I mean literally, I witnessed fistfights in the parking lot, the silliest shit, crazy! So you know I’d rather influence people through my art, my music you know maybe write a book someday you know if I ever have the time to sit down and actually you know to apply myself and maybe with some help write something that matters and not some rock autobiographical silliness you know. Not the Bobby Blotzer book. Write something about something that matters.
I wanted to get to Mr. Scary Guitars. When did you decide you were going to start Luthering your own guitars? Are you doing this in conjunction with ESP or is this strictly all you?
No, it had nothing to do with ESP. Well actually, I started, listen the two go back in time. I was younger. I gave guitar lessons on the side to sort of supplement my income and I would a lot of times assemble guitars out of you know a bolt on necks and bodies and throw some parts on it for my students and of course, I do that for myself as well. My entire guitar or many of my earlier guitars were bodies and necks that I picked up at Mighty Mite and bolted them together. You know the tiger guitar is basically cost me $40.00. $20 for the body and $20 for the necks and I got the parts for free and my friend painted it in his garage and so that got me started. And then 6 or 7 years ago I set up shop at ESP and they gave me a room there and I started taking my signature models of ESP’s and sort of tearing them down and rebuilding them. I learned a lot doing that and those were my first Mr. Scary Guitars. They were modified GL 56’s and Super V’s built on an ESP platform. Then I completely moved away from that. Everything I’ve made in the last 6 years is basically from scratch, no C NC, everything is pin routed. I’ve got a pin router that used to belong to Leo Fender from the GL factory and I’m proud of that.
You’re doing this from your house, aren’t you?
Well, I do a lot of the work at my house but I don’t have room for machines at my place so I work at a shop that is not my shop that I rent and I’m able to come in and use machines when I need to but all cosmetic work and finish and stuff is done at my house, yes. I mean literally, I spray nitro in my back yard, I hang a body of the guitar with a clothes hanger on a tree you know and when I’m done and send it to you-you know it’s probably got bugs and lint and leaves in it.
I saw some of your pictures on Instagram about that.
Yes, it’s all pretty much learning as I go. I’ve taken luthier lessons on and off the last 5 or 6 years and learning more and more as the time goes on and changing up my approach and designs slowly
Are you still going to carry on with ESP as an endorsee?
Oh absolutely! They’re gracious enough to allow me to do this. It’s kind of extraordinary. It’s a company I’ve been endorsing for over 30 years and a great guitar company. But you know I make very few instruments. I probably make at the most, 10 a year. It’s a lot of time to do and so it’s not anything that’s going to threaten ESP it’s kind of a different animal. You know 10 made. It was interesting though ESP did do a run of 300 of my Tiger which is one of my models for a much more affordable price and they’re great. Sound great, they look great. Obviously, you know they’re Korean made but still really high quality. Not hand made or anything but at a much cheaper price point
Are you using the same rig for each of your different bands? Or do you just kind of change it up? I mean Dokken, then KXM and Sweet & Lynch?
You know I change everything up with every band all of the time. There’s no set anything and I love that. I just love experimenting with gear and swapping heads out. I mean it’s kind of stressful in some ways and I just don’t have one thing that I use and you know it probably would be nice to have that some day but I’m constantly swapping heads out and swapping pedals out and changing up guitars. It makes it fun for me and challenges me and interests me. You know sometimes I think I’m going forward and then I’ll end up you know after a whole bunch of experimenting I’ll go after all these years I went back and use my amp I used you know back in the Dokken days with Lynch Mob days and it sounds better in everything so I’ll go back to that. Maybe it’s just the exercise in enjoying you know, actually just enjoy trying different gear but I don’t know. Maybe I’m evolving, maybe I’m not with my tone. It’s fun because I’m trying anyways.
You guys put three tracks on the new Dokken DVD project that’s coming out next year you said?
Have you guys completely shut down doing any more reunion shows? Is that all done and over with?
Oh no. We’re talking about doing something possibly in 2018. Don’t really want to say what yet because you know nothing is set in stone.
We’re talking about it. I think something might happen next year.
there’s a lot of people hoping that you guys will do some dates in the US. Yes, you definitely would have sold them out
I know what we can expect from you in 2017. Are you going to be touring with Lynch Mob? Which albums are you going to be touring with? KXM, Sweet & Lynch or just one of the bands you are this year?
Primarily Lynch Mob is my touring band and we’re hitting it hard starting in June through the fall
What musical direction did you go with the new Lynch Mob record?
It’s along the lines of Rebel. I don’t know if you heard the Rebel Record but I think a phenomenal Lynch Mob effort you know it came out 2 years ago. It’s right along those lines. You know we always try to kick back into the Wicked Sensation days and always make sure you know that that’s in the mix a little bit but you know again it’s 25 years later so you know we’re not really that anymore so yes. This album is really adventurous but still, that blues based hard rock with a trippy element and with Oni (Logan) doing his magical poetry and you know one of the greatest rock singers on the planet, very unique obviously, he’s got his own ways. Nobody else sounds like Oni. Yes, we’ve got a chemistry here.
How does it feel to know you’ve inspired so many guitar players to pick up the instrument?
Well, it makes you feel good. It’s hard for me to really appreciate it in a truer sense in that you know I can’t feel that. For me, I’m on the inside of it. To me, I’m just a guy playing like everybody else and trying to make a living and trying to make music and just you know in the middle of the process. I don’t really see it that way. It’s interesting I met Jeff Beck for the second time just very briefly in the lobby of a hotel somewhat recently and you know the way some people have talked to me about expressing gratitude that I’ve influenced them and so forth and it’s hard for me to kind of get my head wrapped around that. I felt that same kind of dynamic with Jeff Beck when I met him. I was so in awe and almost near tears and shaking. I didn’t know what to say and here’s this guy who is a giant in my life you know, influentially you know guitar wise and I’m standing right next to him and it’s just you know. You could see it in his eyes he was just you know, he needed to get in his cab and get to where he was going you know. I mean he was just being nice and polite and it was like, okay good meeting you, gotta go! You know he doesn’t understand the fact that you know Truth was the first album I bought and took my lawn mowing money and walked two miles to Mom & Pops Record store and brought it back and put it on my dads tv console stereo and plugged my guitar into the headphone jack and jammed along with it for a whole year, trying to be Jeff Beck. You know and been a giant influence on me throughout my whole playing life you know. He doesn’t understand that nor should he.
Do you think that with the current state of the music scene, what is your opinion about that?
I think it’s a great time. I think that there’s so much out there for people to pick from and choose from it’s phenomenal. I mean and guitar playing is at such a high level right now. I mean these younger generations are just taking it to a point where you know it’s really beginning to explore places that people have never gone before, it’s just fascinating. And the music itself too, you can pick a genre and find so much great music in every genre. People just pushing the envelope in all directions so I think it’s very gratifying and interesting. It’s a little challenging to pick through I mean from this thing back in the day when I was growing up there’s like a half a dozen or 10 big giant great bands that are super groups you know. Now it’s like there are thousands of bands. It’s hard to pick through everything. It’s sort of stressful trying to find all the good music you know.
I saw a video of you at NAMM 2017 and there was that 11-year-old kid that you were playing before.
Oh geese, yes one of the things is I don’t think he was human. I think he was a robot
A lot of these YouTube kids are now, they’re just 4,5 years old. They’re picking up and playing parts of music of Bach and Beethoven and it’s incredible
Yes, some of these younger people their first influence might have been Yngwie. That’s their first influence you know. They start with that.
You can check out George @ http://georgelynch.com/