One of the last standing heroes of the golden age of shred, George Lynch is still one of the most prolific players out there, and is still showcasing his inimitable playing style around the world. Our restless interviewer Rodrigo Altaf caught up with George a few hours before his show with Lynch Mob in Toronto on June 21st, and had a candid and very revealing conversation with him as the band was doing the soundcheck. Find the interview transcript below.
George, welcome to Toronto – you’re playing tonight with Lynch Mob, as part of a tour in North America. How’s the tour going so far?
I wouldn’t really call it a tour of North America. I mean, we’re technically on tour, and we’re definitely in North America [laughs], but we go out, we do a few shows and go home for a few days, then go back on the road for five more days. It’s kinda like an extended weekend warrior type of touring for us. But you know, I love it. I get to play with my friends and play guitar for the fans. I don’t have to convince anybody to come and see us, we have a captive audience [laughs]. And we’re having a blast, and we’re changing things up every night. Last night in Detroit in particular was really fun, because we added things to the set that we don’t normally do and we improvised quite a bit, and the audience was really into it. We did a funk jam, some jazzy stuff, some blues…we dug down and did some deeper tracks and some covers we had never done before. We went off the rails and it was super fun.
Lynch Mob has always been a kind of revolving door. Who else is in the band with you this time?
I don’t even know…I don’t even know their names…one guy is named Mike I think, there’s another guy named Rick, or Mick, or something…[laughs]. No, I’m just kidding. It is a bit of a revolving door unfortunately, and I’ve come to accept that and stopped fighting it. I was always resistant to that and it was always frustrating to me and stressful because I always tried to keep the band together. But now I just kinda look at it with a glass half full. It keeps the band in a state of flux, morphing and evolving, and that is due to the fact that people come in and out f this band. We have now Jimmy D’Anda (drums) back in the group for the third time, Andrew Freeman on vocals for most of the shows until the rest of the year, and Sean McNabb has been on bass for many, many years now. It’s a fairly consistent band at this point and I’m just appreciating it for what it is at the moment. Things will inevitably change, and when they do, I’m not going to stress over it. I’ll welcome it and take advantage of the fact that it gives me an opportunity to evolve a little bit, or at least change, whether it’s for better or worse. Instead of being stuck in a rut and doing every year the same thing over and over again. That’s why we change the setlist every night. One side effect is that the lineup changes from time to time, but I’m ok with it.
This year marks the 30th anniversary of Lynch Mob, and I’m surprised this is not mentioned in the tour posters…
That’s because we don’t have any posters! [laughs]But you know what? I didn’t even know that! I mean, 30 times around the sun, I guess that matters.
What kind of reflections can you share about all these years – what were the highest points and the lowest points of the band?
I think some of the highest points were also the lowest points [laughs]. Sometimes you have more money and you have more problems, you have more success, you have more problems. Initially, this band was born with a silver spoon so to speak. We came off of the Dokken train, and I was blessed with that big machine. I took that and adopted it for Lynch Mob initially, but I think when things come up to you too easily, they don’t mean as much. We had to really work at it in the last couple of decades, and it got to a point now where we’re very, very comfortable in our skin, playing our music and having fun with it. We take our music very seriously, but we don’t take ourselves too seriously [laughs]. I think that’s healthy and we’ve learned that. People sense that it’s genuine and that we’re here for the right reasons, and they love that, so everybody wins.
That’s good to hear. And rumour has it that you have a new Lynch Mob album already recorded? Is that true, and if so, what does it sound like?
No, that’s not true…I wish it could happen that easily! [laughs]. I do have albums that are due to be released. KXM 3 is coming out next month. We had The End Machine coming out a few months ago, and I’ve got a project called Dirty Shirley, with Dino, the singer of Trans Siberian Orchestra. He’s an incredible singer, and that album is coming out late in the year. We’re starting to work on a new Lynch Mob record next month, I believe we’ll start pre-production on it. It’s going to be a slow process for us. Oni [Logan, singer] likes to work slow. I’m not sure yet, but I’m fairly certain he’s going to join me on this record, and it’ll come out next year.
Speaking of your side projects, The End Machine was released in March like you said. Do you still have plans to tour a bit more with that band?
We did a sum total of three shows – we rehearsed a week for three shows, in LA, Vegas and Arizona. Those were super fun shows, it was great and everybody loved it, but then Jeff [Pilson, bassist] had to go back to Foreigner world, Robert [Mason, singer] had to go back to Warrant world, and Mick [Brown, drums] retired, at least temporarily anyways. So we’re in a holding pattern right now until the end of the year, and we’re looking at possibly going to Japan. If that goes well and we have time – and this is all very, very speculative – we’re hoping to add some domestic dates. I hope we do that and I think everyone else in the bad hopes that. It’s just that the limitations that are posed on us – you know, everybody has stronger commitments and you can’t change that unless you quit Foreigner or quit Warrant… you can’t force people to do that, it’s their bread and butter, so we’ll just have to wait.
If you can share that with us, what’s the update on Mick Brown, is he ok, and is he really retired?
He’s just taking a year off. I didn’t talk to him a whole lot, but that’s what he said. Drumming is a very physical thing, it’s not the same as playing guitar. If you have some health issues that come with age, and maybe some lifestyle issues, you know, that takes a toll. Mick does drink a bit, and he’s not like us in this band, on this tour we’re going to vegan restaurants, drinking lots of water and half the band is 18, even 20 years sober. If you take care of yourself you can maybe do tours for a little bit longer, but if you don’t do that, you pay a price.
Another project you released was Ultraphonix, which came out last year. I love that album, and would love it if you toured. Is there a chance of that happening?
Well…again, it’s very speculative on my part, but we have another record coming out – sort of a live in the studio thing, which we made in three days, which we kinda jammed. I mean seriously jammed, like fifteen-minute jam sessions for three days, back to back, trying all kinds of crazy stuff. Corey [Glover], the singer, was singing through this massive pedal board into these old Fender amps. We were just playing, having lots of fun, but it’s also kind of scary, because it’s not really SONG songs, you know? It’s just improvisations by guys who normally don’t play together very often. So that’s coming out at some point, I’m not sure when. It’s being mixed now, and it’s a challenge to mix it because of the way we recorded. It’s really editing, more so than mixing, and if we do another studio album, then we might reconvene and go out and do some dates. But the last time we did some dates we weren’t called Ultraphonix, we were called Project NFidelikah, and we had the singer from fishbone, and we did tour with that, we did a fair amount of dates under that moniker. But whether or not we tour with Corey, that remains to be seen.
I do hope it pans out because that record for me showcases the two extremes of your playing: the more aggressive, sometimes even dissonant, and also the bluesy and groovy side of your music.
I love the record as well…and honestly, to me all my albums are like that. Even when it’s more on the classic rock vein, it’s still a challenge, it’s an expression of a side of you that you need to work at. This Dirty Shirley record that I mentioned has some stretching out moments in it. The KXM records are always a stretch, because we just throw ourselves in a room for twelve days, and we have to record at least one song every day, so on all these things we’re adding challenges to ourselves, so that we can say something that we haven’t said before. I want to continue to do that – why keep saying the same thing over and over again?
Is there any chance of a third “Sweet & Lynch” album?
No. I think did two records and we said what we had to say. I got so much on my table right now, and I can’t really add any more projects. I need to start focusing, for a lot of different reasons. It becomes silly at some point to flood the market with products. I hate to call it a market, but that’s what it is. On the creative side though, when you talk about things that come out organically out of you, you can’t really stop creativity. I’d still record all the songs I write even if I didn’t intend to release them on an album. I just kinda do what I do and I put it out there. I feel like they have to be released, and I kinda let the chips fall where they have to be. By the time I finish a record, I’m already thinking of the next one.
You have almost fifteen albums released as solo efforts. Are you planning on releasing more albums purely as “George Lynch”?
I’m thinking of doing an instrumental album. I’ve actually been thinking about it for years, but I’ve never really done a purely instrumental record. I feel that it would be such a magnum opus effort that it would require a lot of time, and there’s not a lot of money on records these days like there used to be, so I’m not sure how I could do it properly. I’m sure there is a way, and personally I think I will do it. But I just don’t know how I would take the time that would be required to do it, and I would like to go deep and have all the resources available. I have some ideas about it, I do have a friend who is well off and has probably the best collection of amps and guitars I’ve ever been aware of in my life, and he also has a recording studio. Bands like Metallica have recorded in his studio. He also owns a record label, and owns a lot of things here and there in Nashville and in California, so I thought I might go that route. I’m a gear guy, I’m totally inspired by gear. So to have that much gear around would be quite inspiring, and every piece of gear would write a song!
You’d go to town!
Yeah, can you imagine? Here’s Tom Petty’s Vox AC-30, with the 12-string Rickenbacker that he played on this or that song – let’s write a song with it. Here’s Stevie Ray Vaughan’s amp. Here’s Hendrix’s guitar and amp. Here’s Black Sabbath’s backline. Here’s Kiss’s backline…here’s Queen’s backline! Literally, the star of the project would be the gear, and I’d just be the facilitator. I think that’s the way I’d want to do it. I’d be completely scared, but I’d go out of my comfort zone and really challenge myself.
I’ll keep my fingers crossed for that one! And well, you obviously keep yourself very busy, but what is already locked in in your schedule for the second half of the year?
I’m playing on a lot of other people’s records these days. I’ve always been really intrigued with the studio musician thing, which I had never done. I’ve never been in a cover band, I’ve never been a studio musician, I mean, we always want to find out what the other person is doing, while they think what’s cool is what you’re doing, you know? So I’ve never been a studio musician, and I was never a music theory guy. If I have to work with charts, or sheet music, with time signatures, I have to pretend I know what I’m doing [laughs]. So I always need to fake my way through it…and I hope somebody’s going to hire me after these records I’m playing on.
A lot of people say that it’s not profitable to release albums anymore, but I guess you found a way to make it economically viable – I saw an interview where you mentioned that you can do an album from start to finish in 3 weeks. How do you manage to do that?
It could take me less than that, actually. It depends on the project and who I’m working with. For instance, when I’m working with Jeff Pilson, he’s very close to me, we both have home studios, and he’s a wonderful engineer. He was our engineer in Dokken for all our demos. He’s a producer, engineer, multi-instrumentalist, singer, songwriter, bass player, guitar player, keyboard player… just the most beautiful human being that you could ask for on the planet! And all I do is play guitar and write songs, so he’s doing 80% of the work [laughs]. But we work very quickly, because we’ve just been doing this for what, thirty, thirty five years together and we already know what’s going to happen, we know all the shortcuts. As soon as we sit down and plug in and rehearse, he knows what I like to hear, we tune monitors, we know what to do with the drums, and we basically read each other’s minds. We’re like a two-headed compositional monster!
And all this time through the years, did it never occur to you to join a more established band? Like if/when Kiss needed a guitar player, or Judas Priest when KK left, did you feel tempted to throw your hat into the ring?
It wasn’t up to me! I was never approached, and it’s not like I’m knocking on these band’s doors saying “hey, Whitesnake, how about me joining the band?” [laughs}
Wow, Whitesnake would have been cool!
The possibility of that has come up a little bit once or twice. Not only with Whitesnake, but there were other bands, but there were reasons why it didn’t happen. One was because I wasn’t European…and I think in a lot of cases, for instance in the Ozzy case, I think I’m just kinda more my own animal, and not really the kind of guy that can step in and just fit into a mold, like a Zelig, a person that conforms to the environment and the demands that are placed on the role, and what’s dictated by whatever entity that is. Some guys are great at that. Doug Aldrich, you know, guys like that, they can wear all those hats, because they know what they’re doing. I’m just sorta doing it all by the seat of my pants [laughs]. I’m more of a Jeff Beck kind of guy, you know? I’m sort of faking it in a way, because I’m not even sure what I’m doing! It’s hard to repeat yourself when you don’t know what you’re doing. It’s hard for me to copy other people’s music. I was never in a cover band, so I never learned how to play “Stairway to Heaven”, or “Tush”! I mean, I can fake my way around them, but to fall into a heavy responsibility gig where people are depending on you to know the stuff, to have it nailed and expand on it…I could do it, but it’s not my thing, and it’s not what I’m known for. And I think they recognized that in the Ozzy audition. I was with them for a month. And Tommy Aldridge recently just told me – he’s the one that called it out, he said “I just don’t think he’s the guy. It’s not that he’s not good, but he’s got his own sound, his own style…”. I personally don’t agree with him, I think you gotta give somebody a little time to kinda fit in, but you know, it is what it is.
I see. And are you still doing guitar clinics from time to time? I saw you perform here in Toronto last year at the CosmoFest, and it was amazing!
Oh that’s right! I totally forgot that it was here! I was just talking about it with my tech the other day. There were a lot of great guitar players, and I remember I had to go on right before Tosin Abasi! Wow! He and I are two different animals, I would say. Doug Aldrich was after, and also Richie Kotzen! Out of all those guys, myself included, he’s my favorite! I mean, that voice…people would just want him only for his voice, and then he plays that guitar so effortlessly!
Going back to Lynch Mob, what do you think would have made the band bigger and more of a household name?
I think I would have come out a few years earlier. It took us a while to finish our first record. I mean, that’s why it’s so good, because we took our time writing it. But I think timing, with the way music changed in the early nineties, was a bit of an issue. And I think that taking the direction we took on the second album, rather than sticking with the direction we had on our first record did not help us. Sticking with Oni would have been the right thing to do. Not to take away from Robert, because he’s an amazing singer, but on our second album we went more towards what we were doing in the 80’s instead of moving away from it. I think we would have been more successful if we had stuck to the greasier, dirtier, bluesier sound we had on our first record. But you know, hindsight is always 20/20.
George, thank you so much for your time, and I’m looking forward to seeing the show tonight!
Thanks Rodrigo, I really appreciate it!