George Lynch is a guitar hero by anyone’s standards and has been for as long as I remember. He rose to prominence of course as lead shredder for Dokken playing with them through their 80s heyday and again on a few albums when they reunited in the 90s. Lynch has since molded a career by working outside the box and the Dokken formula but now he and Jeff Pilson (ex-Dokken bassist) have teamed up with Dokken drummer Mick Brown and the amazing Brian Tichy in a new project called T&N (formerly Tooth and Nail). Their album combines some really great new music with re-recorded Dokken classics featuring guest vocalists and is one of the most talked about end-of -year record releases. I talked with George about everything going on with his many ongoing projects While so much has been written in the past about George being difficult to work with and demanding, it should be noted that he’s easily one of the most laid-back and friendly interviews you could hope to have (As is Don Dokken, which makes the acrimony that much harder to understand). Read on….
Legendary Rock Interviews: Hi George, we are set to talk about your new project Tooth and Nail or T&N as it’s officially known. Your former lead singer has been making the rounds in interviews saying the project is already dead in the water so I really wanted to start by having you address that.
George Lynch: Which former lead singer ?? (laughs). There have been a few….
LRI: True….. It was Don Dokken.
George: Oh, Don said that. Well, that’s sort of self-evident where that’s coming from, he’s the spinmaster. No, there is no truth to that whatsoever, T&N is very active. We obviously have this record which is finished and released and we are promoting but Jeff, Mick and I are also already working on the second T&N record. We’re pretty far into the second album, we’ve recorded all the Dokken stuff. It will be the same balance of new material and re-worked Dokken stuff as the first record. We’ve got all the Dokken stuff done and have a few new originals written for the second album. We’re going to release the second album next year and release it in the summer and go out and tour heavily to support both releases.
LRI: Were you surprised to hear that Don was going to stop making Dokken albums?
George: I hadn’t heard that until just recently but I don’t know…..It’s hard for me to say why people do what they do or say what they say or how they think just like I’m sure it’s hard sometimes for people to understand what i say or do or think. That’s why it’s kind of my job to just shut up and play guitar (laughs). That’s all that really matters and everything else is just superfluous and meant to distract or call attention to oneself or even be a cry for help.
LRI: Is it true that Michael Sweet of Stryper will be the touring singer for T&N when you tour?
George: Yeah, that was the decision we all collectively came up with, we thought he was really the right choice. Lynch Mob has done quite a few dates with Stryper and we know Michael as a man and he’s just such a wonderful guy which is important at this stage in the game. I’ve learned that lesson the hard way over the years and now it’s to the point where you just wanna work with people who want to work with you and are dedicated, honest, transparent and have a good work ethic. Michael is obviously talented, we all knew that but he is also just a good person who has all of those qualities and architecture and is a solid guy but more importantly his voice is really suited to what we are trying to accomplish live which is to recreate the Dokken stuff faithfully. Jeff’s voice is not necessarily ideal for all of that because he has a bit of a raspier, harder edge which is better suited to the original music that T&N has done, Jeff will do some of the Dokken stuff but then Michael will come in and do some of the material that he’s better at. The other advantage we have with Michael Sweet other than him being just a great human being is that he’s a really good guitar player and really suited to playing the rhythm parts we have which is something we really need collectively in this band and for this material. There’s a lot of guitars on this record and we wanna reproduce the record faithfully. Plus, he’s not a bad lookin guy either!
LRI: I was really hoping it was true because I am a huge fan but kind of got the feeling that Michael didn’t want me to formally announce it. His mother put it out there on Facebook (laughs). Is it formally announced? Is it alright for fans to officially plan on this?
George: I guess we just announced it (laughs). It’s something that we held back on only because of the fact that the tour isn’t going to happen for a few months, like I said, we are going to finish this second album and then tour behind the both of them. We just have so many other touring commitments and Michael has Stryper so the timing has to be just right but we are looking to have that in place for summer of 2013.
LRI: There are also a great many people who are under the impression that your band Lynch Mob is also over and broken up which is partially because of Robbie Crane talking about his leaving the band. The last EP was probably the best thing you’ve ever done. Is there any future for Lynch Mob?
George: We have half a record which is just on the shelf, it’s something we’ve been working on for quite a long time and it’s beautiful and I would really hate to see the record not be heard but at this point it’s only half done and I don’t know exactly when we will be getting back together to finish it, if at all but I am hopefully optimistic (laughs). We all have a lot of other things going on though and I understand that, Robbie’s got some other project, Oni (Logan, vocalist) is doing Dio Disciples and I have two or three very heavy projects going on with the T&N thing, the movie and associated band Shadow Train which is working on the soundtrack to the movie and then the album I am making with Doug Pinnick of King’s X and Ray Luzier of Korn.
LRI: I had heard about that, You, Doug and Ray, that is pretty amazing sounding on paper….
George: Yeah, we are doing a power trio thing and have been writing. We’re getting through the initial stages of the album and have completed a few sketched out song ideas which are pretty exciting to me and are hitting it really hard this winter. We’re gonna see where this goes.
LRI: I am not a fan of re-recordings, although I understand the variety of reasons artists do them, but my favorite track of the Dokken re-records is easily Doug Pinnick’s take on the song “Tooth and Nail”.
George: Obviously we redid these songs for a lot of reasons and one of them is so more people would possibly want to listen to it. Maybe they’d be curious to hear what someone like Doug Pinnick or Ripper Owens does with a Dokken song but it was also to get into a room again with Mick and Jeff and play material we had written decades ago just to see where we were at now and what the chemistry was like and there was all this fresh, raw energy that was so contagious that it was just fun. We had to also strike a balance between doing something new with them and staying true to the original arrangements. I think a song like “Alone Again” is pretty true to the original while a song like “Into The Fire” for instance is a pretty big departure. The next record will have something even more extreme, we re-recorded “Just Got Lucky” with Sass Jordan in mind to do the vocal and it doesn’t sound anything like the original. If you compared this track to the original, you literally wouldn’t probably recognize it if somebody hadn’t told you what it was. It has country elements to it, which is pretty amazing.
LRI: Have you got any other guest vocalists in mind for the second T&N album? Michael Sweet has gotta be on there!
George: Yeah, that would be a very logical choice and I’m sure that will probably happen but there are lots of other people as well. Glenn Hughes was supposed to be on the first album but that didn’t work out, I would still love to have him on the next album. I worked with Glenn on my first solo album back in 1992 and we just work really well together. If you’ve listened to Black Country Communion you know just what Glenn can do these days. He’s pretty amazing and he’s definitely on that list of people we’d like for the second album . I talked briefly with Phil Anselmo of Pantera when we were both at tapings for That Metal Show about doing something about maybe doing something on a harder track although also, to be honest, I always loved the way he sang on other songs like “Cemetery Gates”. Phil has a great natural singing voice and might be really good at doing something like that which would be different for him.
LRI: It seems like Wild Mick Brown is sort of the Switzerland of Dokken, he has worked with you in Lynch Mob, he works with you and Jeff currently on T&N and he’s STILL working with Don as a member of Dokken. Is that just a matter of him having an easy-going personality?
George: I think it’s just a practical decision, he needs to work. He has a history and legacy with Dokken and has obviously been a part of that band for many, many years and fits very well in that group and by extension fits very well in T&N so it’s just a matter of logistics and scheduling beyond that. We all sort of regret that we’re not back in our high school days where we could just play to play because now we all have careers and obligations and commitments beyond just getting together for the love of music and playing together but it is what it is.
LRI: I have to ask, you’ve talked about your interaction with my all time favorite guitarist, Randy Rhoads. I worked with Kelly Garni on some quote gathering and editing for his upcoming book talking about growing up with Randy and was just wondering, what was the extent of your relationship with Randy?
George: Well, I gotta be honest with you, we were not like best friends or anything, it was more like casual acquaintances. We would play shows together, share a dressing room, hang out and talk. He liked the way I played and we shared a mutual respect in that sense but we didn’t know each other much beyond that. He was obviously on the radar in the Hollywood scene before breaking out but I didn’t understand or have an appreciation for how deep of a player he was until he went to England and made the records with Ozzy. At that point, I took over his teaching duties at Musonia, his mom’s school and really started delving into the repertoire of what Randy had actually recorded. Of course when I later auditioned for Ozzy it gave me an even greater appreciation for the complexity and depth of his compositions.
LRI: We also have an interview with Kelle Rhoads coming up and the history of his mom’s school is real interesting. Was that time spent working at Musonia as a teacher something you look back fondly on?
George: Yes, first and foremost for the purely selfish reason that it flat out made me a better player. When you’re sitting in the saddle for six hours a day teaching you kind of naturally become a better all-around player and hopefully your students do too (laughs).
LRI: You’re such a monster player that I don’t believe you totally but you’ve made mention in other interviews that you weren’t technically the best player in terms of knowledge of theory or technical music. Was that aspect of musical theory and instruction challenging to you in terms of teaching?
George: Well, teaching was a job. In the same sense that a plumber has a job and a truck driver has a job it was a situation where I had become a guitar player by trade and Delores had given me an opportunity to make money doing something I do. It also made my playing better, like I said and yeah, forced me to learn things I didn’t know during the time when I was teaching. I would be forced to have to explain things that I didn’t understand (laughs). I would have to learn them so I could properly explain them. I would have to actually stop and think and dissect what it was that I was playing when a student asked me something like, “Well, what IS that?”. Before I began teaching I would just play whatever came to mind without thinking about or dissecting any of it. To be honest, I didn’t really understand any of what I was playing. Teaching made me actually think about what it was that I was doing which is something of a double-edged sword. From the creative end of it, there is something of a beauty in the mystery of not knowing what it is you’re doing and I do like things to remain mysterious. It’s nice being able to speak the language without understanding why you can speak it, it’s exciting. When you start to understand the rules then you’re confined by the rules. That’s the catch-22.
LRI: Much has been made of Randy’s distaste for Black Sabbath’s music. When you auditioned for Ozzy were you a fan of those classic Sabbath songs?
George: Oh sure. I mean, I had a Black Sabbath poster hanging on my wall in the early 70s and my band played Sabbath songs. I can remember the first album coming out and blowing our minds and the Paranoid album and all of that, that was the material we cut our teeth on and learned from.
LRI: You’ve always been so adept at using some of those spooky minor modes during your career and still use them on the amazing new cuts on T&N in songs like “Sweet Unknown”. Was Tony Iommi the inspiration for a lot of that usage?
George: Absolutely and that stuff is ingrained and embedded in my psyche for the rest of my life because Black Sabbath were the first metal band, for me at least. Tony is the riffmaster, that music just didn’t exist before that in my opinion. His lead playing was not something I really aspired to or appreciated as much but his song construction and riff composition is unparalleled. Those grooves were really what I cut my teeth on in moving away from the music and influences I had grown up on, stuff like the Beatles and gravitating towards riff rock.
LRI: I want to ask you about an amazing quote you delivered on the VH1 show, Metal Evolution. You said something to the effect of “Everything that Dokken became popular and famous for was everything that I hated about Dokken, the clothing, the ballads etc…”.
George: (laughs). Yeah.
LRI: Do you think that if some of those ballads or fashion choices would have gone differently or been more along the lines of what you personally would have liked that the band may have been even more successful in the grand scheme of heavy metal?
George: No. I would guess that we would have been less popular if anything. I’m sort of a contrarian thinker. I could actually start a consulting business where people could hedge their bets by betting on the opposite of whatever I suggest. I could say, “Put your money on this band, they’re gonna be the next big thing but don’t bet on this act, it’s not gonna fly” and they would know where to put their money (laughs). I have been very, very reliable in my miscalculation and prophecy. I am wrong most of the time……on everything (laughs). So I should just stop.
LRI: Most people were disappointed when the Dokken reunion that was rumored on That Metal Show never came to be. I’ve talked with former W.A.S.P. members who have seen Blackie continue his version of the band years after they left and they just wonder why grown men in their middle age can’t put aside personal issues to make the fans happy and make some good money to boot by doing a reunion. I guess my question to you relates to you and Don but it could be about anyone…..Do people change, from making records and touring in their 20s to making music together in their 40s and 50s…..do people have the ability to change?
George: Of course. Yeah. I mean, they should, in a just and fair, ideal world (laughs). The thing is, humans are strange animals and nobody’s figured that out, I’m not gonna figure it out, but I try, as we all do. That’s a lot of what this movie that I am working on is about actually. In the larger scheme of things, the movie Shadow Train is about the architecture of the human mind and the tendency of human nature. It’s about why people do what they do and whether, if given the right conditions, they will ultimately be altruistic or just self-serving and really whether the two could possibly be the same thing. It’s a movie that attempts to ask these philosophical questions that I ask myself all the time, especially when I get in these predicaments with bands. All of these predicaments and breakdowns we’re talking about really come down to how we interact as human beings. I think bands are a wonderful laboratory to examine how people truly interact because it’s a community of people who depend on each other. Mathematically it is very hard to get four or five guys to collectively agree on things musically and work as one. Then it makes you think, “Well, if four guys can’t do that then how is a planet of people going to do that?”.
LRI: Okay, “Shadow Train” does sound interesting. Is this something you are writing and producing???
George: I’m co-directing and am narrating and interviewing in it. I am also playing guitar along with this band called Shadow Train. We’ve been working on it for about 18 months now and will continue to work on it for another good year or so. It’s a story about the band but within the context of Native American and Aboriginal conquest and subjugation and the whole sad history and politics associated with that. These people have been almost completely assimilated into our culture and our beliefs unfortunately and that was the plan all along. It was first to genocide them and decimate them and then to take what’s left of them and their culture and just turn them into second class citizens in their own land and ensure that they have no voice or political power. That’s what has largely happened. Reservations to this day are sort of split with many of them resigned to the fact that they want to be comfortable and have cable and do less to get more just like everyone else in western culture. You can’t fault them for that. When you completely destroy someone’s worldview and culture and way of life it is pretty hard to take issue with them wanting to just give up and be comfortable. We left them with what we thought was wasteland but in all actuality they were sitting on a bunch of resources and resources are money and resources are the source of all wealth and every dominating civilization will go to whatever means, even slave labor, to extract those resources.
LRI: Some of these bigger picture concepts your talking about have made it into the lyrics and ideas behind this new T&N music you are making. At this point in your career is it vitally important for your music to have a larger message or social impact?
George: I am very interested in the message of the music. Really, the message of this new album Slave To The Empire came to us before the music even did. It’s really the underpinning of the entire record and the music is really just more of a vehicle for the message. Jeff (Pilson, T&N bassist and vocalist) and I are of the same mind lyrically and in our worldview and so we speak with a commonality in terms of lyrics and message but Jeff really did the lion’s share of the lyric writing. To me it doesn’t even matter who or where it came from because it’s the truth (laughs). The hope, the expectation, is that half the people will actually listen or pay attention to the lyrics and the message.
LRI: I like every single one of the new cuts. What was the inspiration behind “Jesus Train”?
George: Well Jeff and I talked constantly and one of the things that came up constantly is that organized religion is a pariah and one of the tools that is used to control people and exploit people. Really, I think that’s sort of the epitome of evil. Evil doesn’t exist in the natural world, it only exists in the human world. We wanted to talk about it and we’re not just talking about the “holy roller” preacher that’s taking all of the widow’s social security check, we’re talking about the whole concept at large, the fact that they’re not taxable and are exempt while they sit there and pound the table about who to vote for, in other words, making people think they are out there voting and serving god and the greater good when they are really just serving the elite and voting against their own best interests. It’s sort of an indictment against organized religion and the fact that people are really just serving God Money. Musically, we had this idea that we were gonna do kind of a ZZ TOP, bluesy, slide guitar type thing. Something with a bit of honky-tonk, bluegrass feel to it and Brian (Tichy, drummer on the new material half of the album) came up with this amazing beat.
LRI: I’ve heard so much about Brian Tichy, this album proves what a monster he is.
George: (laughs) He is!! He is just a total monster! He is dedicated to making his mark in this cold, cruel world.
LRI: Control seems to be an underlying theme on the album and on another song, “Mind Control”.
George: Yeah, it’s an indictment against the fourth arm of the government which is the media. In my mind if we have to worry about the military industrial complex then we absolutely have to worry about the media and the messengers. All of these things are pieces of the overall puzzle which conspire to control an effect, an effect which does not serve most of the people most of the time but instead serves a select few. Words and ideas can be a very powerful weapon. All great or terrible things start with a word or an idea. This whole album is a collection of songs with a greater theme.
LRI: Thanks for talking with us George. If the new material on Slave To The Empire is any indication the next T&N album will be great. I’m hoping to check out one of the shows in 2013.
George: Thank you. We will be out there and there is much more to come.
Sites That Link to this Post
- Michael Sweet to front T&N on tour | News | Classic Rock | December 26, 2012
- George Lynch: Strypers Michael Sweet to join T&N for tour duties | Planet 6 String | December 27, 2012
- GEORGE LYNCH Confirms STRYPER’s MICHAEL SWEET Will Front T&N On Upcoming Tour « Rss « | January 18, 2013