Originally published in ‘zine issue #23, 2000
After leaving the ‘80s rock/metal band Dokken, guitarist George Lynch formed Lynch Mob and has released several LPs, the latest, Smoke This (on Koch Records), featuring a new sound for the band. R. Mason submitted the following interview for your enjoyment.
D.U.: Going back in time a little bit, what initially started you playing guitar?
George Lynch: I was just generally interested in music, not guitar in particular at first. Just listening to bands like, you know, old blues, R&B, basically black groups, a lot of classical stuff, flamenco guitar. My father kind of pushed me into guitar. [He] wanted me to play classical, and then of course I gradually worked into rock, and then I guess the Beatles were, like, my first big influence in rock music. It got me going.
I read that you were considered as a replacement for Randy Rhodes after his untimely departure from Ozzy’s band.
Yeah, I was considered, and [I] actually flew out and did some auditions and hung out for a while and [did] some rehearsals and so forth. That happened on three different occasions.
But I never quite cut it. So yeah, that was kind of disappointing, I thought at the time, but maybe it was for the best.
Considering how closely you’re associated with Dokken and all the incredible guitar work you did while you were involved with that, is it strange seeing that band continue after your departure?
Uh, no, not at all. I mean, I think that they’re gonna milk that as long as they can. [laughs]
I notice a sticker in your press pack that said, “fuck retro rock.” With that sentiment in mind, what is your whole take on the success of the Poison tour packages and the Dee Snider radio show and the big insurgence of interest in straight-up melodic ‘80s metal?
Well, I think there was a quality to that music that we did back then that was very cool. I think [with Lynch Mob] we’re isolating the elements of what it was that was really appealing and discarding some of the more frivolous, less-essential elements [of] that music, and maybe we’ll be incorporating that into new music as we go forward. But I really think it’s some kind of anomaly. As far as just bringing back the ‘80s, it’s just nostalgic, you know. I don’t think we’re really ever gonna go back there. I think it was just kind of a fluke. Y’know, I went to see that [Poison/]Ratt show, and I thought it was cool; I’ve always liked Ratt. But it really doesn’t relate to what’s going on right now.
What’s your impression of how things started changing in the early ‘90s as the lyrical aspects of a lot of bands went for a more negative, nihilistic slant as opposed to the more straightforward, optimistic, cliché-ridden lyrical approach of a lot of the ‘80s metal bands?
Well, it was just a reaction to the fact that the ‘80s was a very shallow decade in a lot of respects. All that music was a reflection of that. And another generation came along in the ‘90s and discounted that last generation, which all generations will do and have done. They’ll build their culture on the ashes of the previous generation. I think you need to break things down to grow. And I’m breaking down what I have been known for, if anybody cares or if it matters—I know it matters to me—and recreating myself. In one respect I can’t say that I’m not trying to remain viable. I am. Music is my life. It’s also a business. It’s what I do for a living. In one respect, you could look at it as a product or a company, you know? You have to remain flexible and continue to grow and find new areas and let the old stuff die. [laughs] But I could never just sit and do the same damn thing decade after decade and live off something I did eons ago. I mean, what’s the point? I’d rather just get a job.
Considering the awkward transition some metal bands have had trying to, for lack of a better word, modernize their sound, were you initially leery of the reaction you’d get from the long-time die hard George Lynch fans with the new version of Lynch Mob?
Yeah, I expect that. I expect any kind of change to be painful. It’s a painful process, and I don’t expect it to be seamless. I’m just catching up to making changes I should’ve make a long time ago. Although it may seem like a dramatic change to some people, because it’s been a while since I’ve done anything other than what I’ve been expected to do, really what I have always liked is really more groove-oriented music that goes more back to black music, ethnic music, urban music like Stevie Wonder, James Brown. I mean, these guys are my heroes, you know? Basically everybody’s heroes. I mean, all music came from there.
It seems like some of that was hinted on your Sacred Groove solo record, so it wasn’t totally a surprise, I think.
Hmm [pause] I don’t know about that. I think on that album I pretty much covered every base without a whole lot of forethought as to what direction that was gonna go in. I didn’t really have a direction. I just wanted to throw ideas off the top of my head out there and stretch out a bit. This album [Smoke This] also didn’t really have a clear-cut direction other than what the other members of the band brought to the mix. So I didn’t say, “Hey, I want rap” or “I want hip hop” or anything like that. I just played with people I liked who had good energy and we all got along together, and this is what happened. It was not preconceived.
As far as the live shows go, how have those been going so far?
We haven’t really started touring. We’ve done a few just one-off things here and there, some kind of record release parties and in-stores and some trade things. And we have done a couple actual real shows that just were kind of getting our feet wet locally in clubs and stuff. We did a show here in Phoenix, and it was wonderful. It was a packed house, we played great, the audience was totally into it. And there’s always gonna be three or four stragglers out there. “What’s all this? We just want straight-up ‘80s/early ‘90s Dokken/Lynch Mob. We’re not happy with this.” And so we got a little bit of that everywhere we’ve played, but not a lot, you know? And we also incorporate the older songs into our set.
Because we want to ease people into it. This isn’t a band that’s like, “Well, we’re not gonna do any old stuff.” We don’t care. I mean, we’ll do anything. We play covers, we go off and do, like, funk stuff that every night changes, just improvising. The band’s so good, I don’t care what happens. [laughs] So I think when people come to see us live, they’re gonna realize that the band has really a lot of substance and a lotta heart and isn’t really trying to follow what’s trendy. We do have our own distinct sound, and I think that’s what’s unique about us. It’s all about live, this band. I don’t think the [new] record is up to what the band is when you see us.
Since you’re considered a guitar god by so many people, I’d like to get your opinion on some other guitar players, your contemporaries, in a way. First one that comes to mind is Warren D. Martini.
Well, I think Warren and I have sort of similar tastes in what we like to convey as guitarists, pretty much blues-based rock with, you know, our own personal, unique style that we apply to that, and I think that’s where we find our niche. And I think our styles are very similar. We both rely very much on a personal vibrato that we use in our technique and phrasing, and I think it’s kind of basic pentatonic blues scale stuff with a little twist to it. I think I’m a little more adventurous in my style, and he’s a little bit more entrenched in, and is much better at, what he does and what he’s known for, where I just kind of spread myself out over a lot of different areas, not so much so as, say, Steve Vai, who’s everywhere.
Any comments on Vernon Reid’s playing?
I never got Vernon Reid’s style. I thought he was maybe a better composer, things in that area, but not as far as his soloing. You know, I read an interview with him in a guitar magazine, and if you’d never heard him play and you read the info, I was like, “This guy knows his shit. This guy’s really technical. He sounds like the world’s greatest guitar player in print.” [laughs] But it doesn’t quite translate that way for me on record, so maybe I’m missing something.
Any advice to aspiring guitar players?
Oh boy, yeah [pause] well, I think there’s a lot of different approaches you can take, and I think the best way to make sure you have all the tools is to cover all your bases and not just say, you know, “technique is unimportant,” because maybe it isn’t right now, but it always will be. They’re just all tools to and end, and you gotta [pause] if you’re proficient with more of them, then you just have a better chance of attaining what you want to attain. ■
Photos: George Lynch (courtesy Koch); live pic originally from George Lynch’s website (edited by D.U.)