GEORGE LYNCH INTERVIEW:
September 1, 2009
Interviewer: Pete Fry – Farcry guitarist
I still remember my first exposure to George Lynch. It was actually with Dokken, opening for Dio on the “Holy Diver” tour. I was going with a friend and I remember asking him who the hell “Dokken” was, to which he replied, “oh, just some LA metal band”. Needless to say, I was impressed as hell and picked up “Tooth and Nail” shortly thereafter. From the uber-solo on the title track, to the haunting melody lines of “Just Got Lucky”, and the passionate solo in “Alone Again”, I became an instant George Lynch fan. I had also started playing guitar right around this time, and George was a big influence on my playing, and continues to be to this day.
George has gone through a lot of changes since then but has always pushed the envelope, never fearing to venture into territories where others dare not. After a long stint with Dokken, several widely varying albums with Lynch Mob, solo efforts, Lynch/Pilson, etc. and most recently Souls of We with London LeGrand, George has reconnected with Oni Logan from the first Lynch Mob’s “Wicked Sensation” album to release a brand new effort, “Smoke and Mirrors” out this Fall in both Europe and the US. In the midst of the PR whirlwind accompanying the upcoming release, I was able to steal a few moments of George’s time and talk about guitars… recording, playing, teaching, and even building them, check it out!
Sleaze Roxx: I’d like to ask a few questions more about playing live, equipment, and playing in general, that kind of thing, more for the musicians out there if you don’t mind. I noticed your cleaner tone on this album, and read your blog post about sustain vs. sparkle, which then led me to the part about the Tiger being your go to guitar, and the ’68 Marshall Plexi being square one of your tone. How do you deal with that when you’re touring? Do you actually bring those with you, or do you use whatever they have for backline?
George Lynch: Well, my main rig is a combination of my Lynch Box, a 100W head, with a couple of my modules, the Mr. Scary module, and the Grail module, and I’m constantly working on that head, I’m doing different things, swapping out tubes, changing the bias, things like that. I’m constantly fiddling with my modules, and then that goes through a Lynch Box cabinet that I’ve got loaded with Super V speakers and then a lot of times I’ll either hook that up with my Soldano, which is the sixth Soldano ever made, it’s the one I used for the Wicked Sensation record through an old HiWatt cabinet and/or my ’68 Plexi through an old basketweave Marshall cabinet, and that’s my main rig that I use live or in the studio, doesn’t matter. And yeah, my Tiger is my go to guitar for most everything, if I put that down I’ll usually pick up my Super V, which I used for all the rhythms on the new Lynch Mob record, Smoke and Mirrors. For solos I used my Tiger, or my 20th Anniversary Kamikaze or my ’59 Esquire, which is what really gives it the sparkle on top of the heaviness and the warmth of the Super V.
Sleaze Roxx: It’s amazing just listening to it how heavy you can get with such a clean sound. It’s pretty cool how you do that.
George Lynch: Well because what you’re getting is instead of oversaturation and front-end distortion you’re getting, what you want to hear is the tone of the fingers, and the strings, and the wood, and if you have too much gain you lose all that. Now of course if you’re an ultra-heavy band and you just want to hit someone in the head with a ball peen hammer, or a sledgehammer, well then that’s a different thing, you know? When you tune down low, use heavy strings, get as much gain as you can, and that’s great, but to me that’s very sort of one dimensional and un-dynamic, and if you really want those subtle nuances that go from light to dark to heavy to clean and everything in between, and you want to have all that expression, different picking techniques and inflections of your playing, you need to have less gain to a certain extent. So I’ve been listening to a lot of country players, and other types of music, and fusion music, and jazz players, but especially country, and really listening to guys like Brad Paisley, and Albert Lee, and guys like that, and learning from that I become more dynamic with my tone and signal path.
Sleaze Roxx: Absolutely, and those guys do some amazing stuff with some really clean sounds. As far as the recording of the album itself, a large part of that industry seems to be moving towards the whole “Pro-Tools” mindset as opposed to analog tape and even some are not even using amps for recording guitars, but are just kind of going direct in and using different modules and that sort of thing. What did you do for the recording of the Lynch Mob and how do you feel about that “progression”?
George Lynch: Well, I think that the state of the technology for these kind of digital guitar platforms is not there yet. But I’ve heard a few that are getting closer and closer to the point where I think people for certain purposes can absolutely use these modeled amps in lieu of real amps. I’m so old school, I’m sorry, very sad day when you can beat tape and tubes, and I hope that day never comes. (laughs) We did a hybrid recording, we did tape and Pro-Tools on this one, this record, and I record both ways obviously. I haven’t found much use for any of these digital modeled amps or any of that software that emulates you know, Marshalls and Boogies, and so forth. You know if you look at the screen, they look great, but it’s like going eating food at a fancy restaurant, and you look at it and it’s beautiful, but at the end of the day In-N-Out would’ve been just as good. (laughs) So I don’t know, I know Avid is coming out with a product called Eleven which is supposed to really set the bar much higher than some of these other products have as far as the software for direct recording into a digital platform. I know a lot of people are jumping on that and are very enthusiastic about it, and I’m gonna check it out. So I’m sort of in the middle you know, I use a lot of the new stuff, but I always seem to go back to what I know. But having said that I think we’ll get to a point where yeah, there will be no amps, and it’ll be unnecessary. Everything will be run off computers, your whole guitar rig will be on your laptop and it’ll be the same in the studio. Brave new world.
Sleaze Roxx: Well, it’ll be easier to carry! Recording vs. Performing: You seem to do a whole lot of both, do you prefer one over the other, and what do you like/dislike about either one?
George Lynch: Playing live is my measure of… a live performance has to do with the band itself, you know I love what I do, and I love playing, and one of the things I love about it is having a band of brothers, you know guys that we’re having a blast, we’re making music together, we’re dealing with all the obstacles of getting ourselves out there, and making the show happen. If we have a great show, and the crowd is with us, and we’ve got a full room, it’s beautiful, there’s nothing better than that. It’s instant gratification, a relatively instant gratification. A record is a whole other thing, I mean it’s very time involved process, and there’s lots of incremental moments of instant satisfaction, but until you get to the mix, it’s just a whole bunch of frustrating waiting, like making a movie, you know, when are we going to see this whole thing put together? (laughs) You’re just dealing with the minutiae microscopically of every component of the record, and it’s not that gratifying until it starts getting to the end of the process, and it takes months, and can be very frustrating. But when it’s done and if it’s done right like with the Smoke and Mirrors, and you can finally sit back and listen, and fold your arms and go yeah it’s beautiful it can be, you know, you get goosebumps, it’s beautiful, it’s wonderful, wow I had a part in creating that, that’s great and people are going to listen to it and appreciate it. It’s going to make them happy, and so that’s very rewarding, but in a much longer time. And the other thing is when you do a record, it’s ostensibly forever, so you documented it forever. Live shows, in the moment, you were there and it only exists in the memory of the people that were there. (laughs) That’s kind of frustrating because when you have a magical show, doesn’t happen all the time you wish there was a way you could capture that like you do a record, that can be frustrating, because you can never reproduce that magic show ever, and if you try, it even makes it worse, so you can never try, it just has to happen. Well, okay, well it was this kind of venue, and I used this gear, and you put all those elements together you will not recreate that event. It’s just like a guitar, okay I have the Tiger guitar, it’s made of a certain kind of wood, and a certain kind of paint, and a certain pickup, and so forth. But I’ve built copies of that thing, and they’re not the same. So, go figure.
Sleaze Roxx: Lightning in a bottle. You’ve been a huge influence on so many players over the last 30 years or so, myself included. I’ve read that Billy Gibbons is actually a big influence of yours, and you mentioned Albert Lee, and Brad Paisley is there anyone else that’s influenced you over the years?
George Lynch: Everybody has influenced me, in fact the list of people that haven’t influenced me, is shorter than the list that have. You in my initial, as a player, in learning, it would be Beck, Page, Clapton and Hendrix were the big four, and then everybody that came after that. Allan Holdsworth was a big influence, Albert King was a huge influence, just about any guy that’s in the guitar hero genre, I’d listen to him and learn from him. Eddie had a big influence on me, Yngwie had a big influence on me, Al DiMeola to a lesser extent, I could just go on forever, Gary Moore, Michael Schenker, Leslie West, the list goes on and on.
Sleaze Roxx: Yeah, no doubt, there’ve been a lot of great players over the years. The Dojo is your online teaching presence, which from what I’ve read is not just about how to “like shred dude”, but it’s kind of like a more holistic approach to the guitar. What more can you tell me about that, and why would someone want to be a part of it?
George Lynch: Well they’d want to be a part of it because they can get George Lynch guitar lessons for 20 bucks a month. (laughs) Or they can sign up for the whole six months for 99 bucks I think. Then if you pass the test at the end you get a belt, we have testing, and then we also have monthly contests. In the six month period you have six chances to win one of these contests if you submit music, and we give things away, everything from guitars, to old Dokken pickups and necks I have laying around, you know Zoom pedals, and Morley Dragon Wah pedals, George Lynch speakers and cables, pickups, whatever, guitar cases. There’s a great online community on the message board, we archive every lesson so you can go back for the last three and a half years and restudy the lesson. We do seminars every other year, we fly people out if they want to come out and do a whole long weekend at a hotel/convention center, it’s a lot of fun, it’s all catered. We hang out, we have people from the industry, from the record companies, from the endorsers and we have other teachers there, we get in one on one with the students. We have a big jam at the end, giveaways and all that stuff. Yeah, it’s pretty involved, as you said holistic is a great word, we talk about the state of the industry, what it takes to get your music out there. How I compose songs in the studios, I give examples of that, I sit there with an engineer, drum tracks, lay bass tracks, lay down riffs and piece songs together, show how we overdub and how we mic things up t achieve that sound. All the techniques involved and the signal chain, what works, and what doesn’t. So it’s what I wish I had when I was a kid, so I had to learn the hard way.
Sleaze Roxx: No question, it sounds pretty involved, much more involved than I thought. These days it seems like the big record labels are imploding, and professional musicians like the guys that are doing it like you 24/7 without a day job or something, need to do so much more in all aspects of their careers to make a living whether it’s doing their own recording, marketing, side projects, etc. It also seems like today’s professional musicians are much more savvy about all the aspects of the industry. What advice would you have for those who’ve decided they want to make music their full time career.
George Lynch: Well, one of the things that I try to tell my students, is first of all, develop your own voice. Because nobody else, you’re creating your own space when you do that. Nobody’s going to be like you if you can figure out who you are. (laughs) The second way to do that is to be able to document that, express it and document it, and the way you do that is recording, and that’s one of the frustrations I have and one of the things I haven’t mastered is become an engineer, and if I was younger I’d tackle that. Because unless you’re able to do that by yourself, you can play as great as you can play and write these great songs, make these great sounds but if you can’t document it nobody else is gonna know about it. So it’s really 50% of the equation, so I think it’s very important to know how to have a basic, fundamental engineering skill so you can translate the ideas that are in your head to the rest of the world. And then I’d say beyond that as you said, be a holistic player, and you have to be a businessman, you have to be a lawyer, you have to be an agent, you have to be a manager, you have to be a songwriter, you have to be a player, you have to be able to deal with people, and deal with the inner workings and politics of band members, and the other people in the business, the promoters and so forth. You have to be always be promoting yourself, so you have to be up on all the technologies, the Twitters, the Facebooks, the websites, you have to be computer savvy, and you have to be creative. You have to constantly reinvent yourself and learn new things, so you have to be flexible and adaptable.
Sleaze Roxx: Very good, very good. So I’ve got just one more for you. So… virtuoso guitarist, a Sensei, a guitar builder, what’s next for you?
George Lynch: Did we talk about the guitars I’m building?
Sleaze Roxx: No I actually didn’t ask about them, but I know about them, I probably should have mentioned something. Would you like to talk about that?
George Lynch: I actually just came from a photo shoot earlier today and part of the photo shoot was capturing some of these creations I’ve been building. Yeah I have my own shop and spray booth at ESP, and I customize my signature ESP’s and we also do stuff from the ground up. I surround myself with more proficient tradesman than myself, luthiers and metalworking people, and painters and stuff. I learn from them, but I do all the work myself. The last two guitars I’ve got on the table, I call them the Headhunters, one is a V, one is a Strat and I basically take the black sections of the tiger, I draw a different kind of tiger graphic on the body, and I want to get it back down to raw wood, and then I take a router and I just start routing between the stripes and once I get it routed out I start using Dremel tools and hand tools and I get it all just how I want it, and then I set the whole thing on fire. (laughs) I burn out all these cavities, and then I start painting on it, and then I’ve been collecting, I’ve collected thousands of bones, bones from all over the place, big ones, little ones, everything. I Go to a taxidermist actually and I learned a lot about the processes of hides and snakeskin and bones and I apply all these kinds of elements to the guitar. So I route out cavities and I create kind of a rib and vertebrae effect on the guitar. And then as far as hardware I’ll stress all the hardware with different chemical processes. One process I use is I take some of the snakeskin and I wrap the hardware and sometimes the bodies in the snakeskin and bury it in a graveyard for a little while until it does this kind of… all the little animals do their thing on it and it creates this pitted, very organic effect on the surface of whatever it is that I’m treating and then I blowtorch it, acids, use different solutions to sand it and so forth to get it to look 100 years old, and rust it out and everything. Then I wind my own pickups, and then I etch different things into the pickup covers, usually the name of the guitar, so the Headhunter guitar will have “Headhunter” in a Bone font etched on to the pickup cover. And you know, create the necks to my specific dimensions, quarter sawn wide, flat maple necks. For instance this one I have on the table right now I’m putting an old ’87 custom wound Seymour Duncan Distortion pickup, taking it out of one of my guitars from my I think Aerosmith tour, and I’m putting that in the guitar and then I have a couple of old, very original Floyd Rose’s, the ones that he used to make in his shop, that he had built for Randy Hansen, there all high grade steel machined in his garage, got no fine tuners on them, they’re very rare and they sound great, it’s amazing. They’re not finished very well, but that’s the beauty of them, when he first started making them. Very unique, so I carve my name into them down in the pickup cavity and I name them, and all the specs are written in the neck heel. And they come with a letter of authenticity, that also looks100 years old, and I burn and soak it in tobacco juice and do all this Mexican Day of the Dead stampwork on it. Very, very cool. And then it also comes with a DVD of me making the pickups, winding the pickups and making the guitar, sometimes playing it if I play it out live. A labor of love.
Sleaze Roxx: So you’d say it’s somewhat non-traditional, your approach to building guitars? That was a joke, I was just kidding…
George Lynch: Well yeah (laughs), they’re functional art.
Sleaze Roxx: It sounds amazing, so these are truly one of a kind, they don’t just look like they’re one of a kind but we really build a thousand of them.
George Lynch: No, no, no, they’ll never be mass produced. When I get a body in front of me, and I’ve got all these shells of elements that I’ve been collecting over the last 6 months. I start with a clean canvas so to speak, and I just start laying shit out and wondering well how am I gonna put this together? And what I do is I always build on the last one I did. So if I like what I did last time, I go well how can I take this to the next level? So that’s why this new Headhunter that I’m doing on a Strat body, I’ve actually decided to add a “spine” to the guitar. So I have this whole collection of vertebrae bones that I have carved into the very center of the body, it just really sets it off. Very bio-mechanical in a sense, very organic and stressed. I mean to my eye they’re beautiful, but they’re not everybody’s cup of tea. And I’m by no means saying I’m a luthier or anything, I’m just learning you know, this is a wonderful learning experience for me, because I was down for about a month and a half, I was having some health problems, I was in a wheelchair, and I wasn’t very mobile and in a lot of pain, so I just decided to keep myself busy and distracted by doing artwork. I did 75 canvases, which I’ve sold all of them, and those are up on my website as well, going to be doing about 200 of those over the next year or so. And that led to doing installations, just more sculpture kind of artwork, just do welding, silver soldering and shockware and painting and all kinds of stuff, and I’m doing some galleries and some art shows with these, and then that in turn led to well why don’t I do this to my guitars? It was kind of a natural evolution of what I was doing and I love it.
Sleaze Roxx: That sounds fantastic, it really sounds cool, I had no idea how involved this was, I mean I knew the guitars were unique but I had no idea how unique they were, that sounds really neat!
George Lynch: Well you can see a lot of what I’m doing on my website at GeorgeLynch.com, and it’s not all up there because it’s hard to keep it updated because you know, these guitars are pretty much spoken for before I finish them. Going all over the world, and people are jumping all over them. But I’ve got two more on the bench and we’re trying to get those documented and get them up on the website so people can see what I’m doing.
Sleaze Roxx: Fantastic. I really appreciate your time, you spent a lot of time with me, really took some time to answer the questions and I really appreciate that, and as I mentioned I’m a huge fan, so it was really cool for me.
George Lynch: Well thank you, and thank you for helping us get the word out, I really appreciate you letting people know what’s going on.
Sleaze Roxx: Absolutely my pleasure, any last words for the people out there reading this?
George Lynch: Well I think I’ve really turned a corner on this Lynch Mob Smoke and Mirrors record, and the way it’s resonating with people doing interviews like we just did, which I’ve been doing every single day now for the last three weeks. Like with past records, I’ve had a lot of people like what I do and some people wonder when are you going to get back together with Dokken? When are you going to get together with Lynch Mob? Why don’t you do what you used to do, and I thin k we did that on this record. We did what we used to do, but we did what we like to do now at the same time. So everbody’s happy, so I think this is really going to turn a corner for us and I hope people get a chance to listen to it.
Sleaze Roxx: I hope so, you certainly deserve it. Thanks very much George.
George Lynch: Alright, talk to you soon.
Thanks to George Lynch and Pete Fry