Forget everything you know and all of his legendary ties to the past, George Lynch is just getting warmed up. His new band, KXM featuring lead vocalist/bassist Dug Pinnick of King’s X and drummer Ray Luzier of Korn have released their highly original, debut, self-titled album to rave reviews (including ours) and the fan interest is just as intense. George also has a ton of other musical and film projects going on (including an upcoming album with Michael Sweet and a brand new lineup of Lynch Mob) and he recently took the time to give me a call and talk about anything and everything swirling around the perpetual tornado known as “Mr. Scary”, read on…
LRI: I am glad to see how well KXM is being received because in so many ways it displays a much different side of your playing then we’ve seen in many of your other bands. Did you know soon into this that it was going to be a different approach to the instrument or songwriting?
George Lynch: Well, I felt challenged from just playing with Doug and Ray. I really had to step up and be at 110% initially in the songwriting phase of it which is where I was to begin with. It wasn’t like I was sitting here writing a record that was the vehicle for the ultimate guitar solo, that was really secondary. It was all about the chemistry, the vibe, the groove of the riffs and the arrangements and the final result of the songwriting, that was everything at that point so I really had to put that hat on. I had to show up and be at the top of my game because this was all done very quickly with us sitting in a room together and recording so…. (laughs) it really became a sink or swim situation at that point. I love that feeling actually, I love that because I’m very improvisational player, I love to improvise, I love to jam, that’s where most of my ideas come from so I felt pretty at home, comfortable and relaxed in that atmosphere. To answer your question of knowing what it was “going to be”, I had no idea what it was going to be, I didn’t know if it was a King’s X record with different guys playing on it or if we were gonna pretend to be Korn or if I was just gonna do another Lynch Mob record with all different players (laughs). We really didn’t know and we also didn’t think about it we just did what we did and the chemistry created what we ended up with here on the KXM record.
LRI: It’s a real “musician’s record” but it’s about the songs and the united groove rather than the dexterity and solo moments. Would it be safe to say that Doug and Ray are wildly different players who take you to a different place than say, Oni Logan and Mick Brown?
George: Yes, and players who are stylistically playing something that I have craved playing with for a long, long time. I’m a big fan of rhythm guitar and rhythm in general. When I hear a guitar lick in my head it’s all based really on rhythms and melodies. Even though I’m not much of a singer and can’t play drums at all, ever since I was a little kid and have been coming up with these, for lack of a better word, “songs”, in my head, I would always hear beats and would actually play them with my teeth while I am playing guitar, I actually do that to this day. I grind out these rhythms on my teeth and that’s what I’m playing to. I’ve actually thought about this lately but the way I play guitar is actually very percussive, almost like a rhythm instrument. It’s all about the timing and syncing up with that rhythm in my teeth and not even the note selection but where I’m hitting the notes on the beat. That’s a lot of what I do and I’m very dependent on the drummer to flesh that out so playing with a drummer like Ray who is a very technical drummer and ambidextrous, a very tribal drummer was really unique. He has these like, riffs, as opposed to like a standard, Bonham-style drummer who is focused on keeping the beat and keeping the time, not taking anything away from drummers like that but it’s a totally different animal playing with someone like Ray. It makes you play differently, it makes you think differently. It forces you into different areas and makes you reach beyond your comfort zone which I really enjoyed and relished. Doug was the same way, Doug is very self-contained as a singer. I’ve worked with singers who are like that and then I’ve worked with singers who need a lot of guidance. Doug doesn’t need any guidance and he knows it and best of all he knows what he wants which is beautiful. It’s great to work with three guys who all have the capacity to do what they do very, very well and understand what they do and can bring it to the table from the get-go. I knew right away that KXM definitely wasn’t going to have to be “the George Lynch record”. It was really a very mutual, three-way effort on all of our parts. A lot of these songs started with drum riffs, a lot of them started with basslines or vocal lines and a lot of times they started with guitars. It wasn’t a situation where I’m leading everything because in this case I wasn’t and I liked that, we had a better end result because of it, I think.
LRI: The production on “KXM” album is great and the end result sounds amazing. Did you guys have an idea of what were you guys going for sonically?
George: I don’t wanna disappoint you with my answer or give you a shabby answer to an intelligent question but it wouldn’t be honest for me to say that we put that much thought into it (laughs). We really didn’t. There was so much involved with the logistics of putting this together and just being able to get together. It’s not like we sat around Starbucks or the Rainbow for that matter, to sketch out what we were gonna be and what it was going to sound like, we just showed up and plugged in. We really just waited for own creativity to start flowing and then got out of our own and each others way. I think we’re all smart enough and have been doing this long enough that we know how to craft songs and arrange ideas. I’m throwing out ideas a mile a minute, Ray and Doug were doing the same thing and it went from there. For as long as we’ve all been doing this, if us collectively getting into a room together for ten days DIDN’T work in a magical way, I would have been surprised. It would have been more surprising if it would have sucked (laughs).
LRI: I would never expect it to suck but it is pretty amazing to think of all the different projects you have going on between T&N and Lynch Mob, The Michael Sweet thing you are working on, etcetera….Every time I talk to you I notice you are really genuinely excited about whatever it is you’re working on. You’re not one to rush out something just to put it out or get involved with something that doesn’t fire you up, is that fair to say?
George: Yeah, I don’t think I’ve ever been one to get involved with a project for those reasons, I think the closest I’ve ever come was the Big Noise project I was involved with for a time (which featured Sebastian Bach and Phil Soussan). That was kind of a supergroup type of packaged thing that played only outside the states and was really just a live thing. I was hired to do that and it was a collection of these guys who were all relatively big named guys and this and that but because it was put together on paper and for business purposes it was just flat and never felt right. I don’t mean that to diss the project or the guys in the band in any way but I think anyone else in the project would agree and that’s why it’s not really active. That was an example of doing something for all the wrong reasons, not that there’s anything wrong with going out and making money I guess but musically it was not like me and those other guys were like “Hey, we need to put a project together because we have all these ideas or like playing with each other” (laughs). KXM was that, the Infidels (band featuring Lynch and members of WAR and Cypress Hill) was that, Shadow Train was that, working with Jeff (Pilson, Dokken/Foreigner bassist) and doing T&N was that, the Lynch Mob obviously is something that I care about immensely as well as the material I’m working with Michael Sweet on. I like playing all kinds of different music and I like working with all kinds of different people, these are all my friends and the bands I’m in are my extended families, we love each other. We went out on a Lynch Mob tour, we didn’t have a tour bus, we had a 15 person van and a small trailer and lifted our own gear and did everything ourselves just like 30 years ago but I’m willing to do that because I care and I enjoy and love it. When we got onstage you could tell we loved it and we meant it. Every project I am involved in now is something that I truly invested in emotionally and feels totally genuine and feeds off of all these ideas in my head. There are times, and I think this is true of any artist, but there are times where you hit kind of the doldrums of creativity or have some kind of writer’s block but when the stuff is flowing and flowing you have a responsibility, an obligation to make that manifest and make those ideas tangible. It really is a responsibility because we as players, are really just instruments, the music flows through us,we don’t actually “create it”, at least that’s how I feel. When that urgency comes along and you have all these ideas it is our obligation, as an artist, to put that down and expand on it or flesh it out in order to make it something people can actually enjoy or experience.
LRI: It sounds like you’re at the stage of the game where you are really enjoying the collaborative process with others. I did like your classical stuff as well as your Sacred Groove album, have you given more thought to any solo releases in the future?
George: I don’t really have a burning desire to do that, I do have something of a desire to do something like that but not right now, I just don’t feel like the time is right. I wanna make sure my head is in that space when it comes time for my playing to be in that space and right now I am essentially a band guy. I really genuinely like working with other people and enjoying and seeing the results of that band, community, democratic way of going about the creative process. I like getting together as friends and creating something that is historically significant or worthwhile artistically, creating something that makes everyone involved happy. To create something like that and listen back to the mix and maybe even hear something that could be commercially acceptable, there’s something incredibly gratifying about that. I really have no aspirations to be a solo artist like some of these guys like Vai or Satriani or Yngwie or whatever (laughs). Those guys are truly unbelievable players but that feels like a very lonely place for me to be right now. It’s almost like a William Randolph Hearst kind of thing, only from a musician’s point of view where you’re sort of a prisoner in your own castle. I don’t see myself wanting to do that from a personal standpoint but creatively, musically yes I could see doing a very personal guitar record someday, I could even see myself singing on it somehow. I’m trying to be a better singer just so I can sing backup in the bands I play with and lend a hand there. I really enjoy singing but I don’t wanna subject anybody to it if it’s not worth listening to so. In my head I’m a great singer (laughs). I just have to learn how to actually sound like a great singer or even a decent singer because I really do enjoy doing it so much (laughs). I think if I worked at it I might be able to be okay at it and I would like to do a record along those lines someday. Dug and I have actually been talking about doing a very, very organic blues style record, just coming up with it on the spot. I’m not talking Texas blues or Chicago blues, I’m talking about a box and dobro and a couple of 30 year old mics and going to tape with tubes. If I were ever going to do an album like that Dug is the guy to do it with so I could see us doing that. We’ve spoken about doing something like that soon if we have the time.
LRI: I want to know what your material with Michael Sweet of Stryper sounds like. Is it melodic? Is it heavy? Does it have a Stryper/Dokken feel or is it once again something altogether different?
George: I’m sure you are familiar with what Michael does vocally. I was not really aware or familiar with exactly what he was capable of. We had played some dates or shows with Stryper over the years and recently but I just hadn’t caught him for whatever reason but he is just a wonderful guy, a hard worker and just a sweetheart and his reputation was sterling so when they approached me about doing this we just sat down and wrote the record, he and I. We’ve finished it up and Brian Tichy and James Lomenzo put down their rhythm tracks not long ago with Michael back east at his studio there and I think it’s going to be great. It’s absolutely melodic but when I wrote what I wrote I made sure that I balanced it evenly between the melodic tendencies and the more metal, harder tendencies much as Dokken was in its day where we had that kind of balance. That’s what I sort of naturally do or where I naturally go where I’m thinking “Ok, I’m gonna have this big, beautiful, melodic chorus but at the same time we’re gonna pair it with this nasty, heavy riff on the verses and a little bit of evil, dark stuff scattered around among the rest of the track.” That’s kind of what I enjoy listening to also but it’s kind of the Dokken formula to a certain extent but maybe updated to a more modern take on it.
LRI: One of the things that is first evident on KXM is how unhinged your playing and solos are. Are there a lot of first or second take solos that made it to the final mix?
George: Definitely. I didn’t overwork the solos on the album or sit there and microscopically punch in every note like the Dokken days or anything like that, it was all real and off the cuff. I feel like, at my age and as long as I’ve been playing it felt refreshing to do something like that and really liberating. Maybe I’m not the fastest guitar in the world and I’m not the most technical but I think I was able to sort of express what I am with my playing on KXM which is to say I’m a blues rock player from the late 60s, early 70s school (laughs) and a little bit of that other thing, whatever it is that I do (laughs) which is like flatted fifths and a little bit of speed or heat when I have to or when it needs it. The entire KXM album sounds as off the cuff as it was including the solos which weren’t planned, I didn’t have anything written out and it was very spontaneous. I think sometimes that’s the best way to do things is to just let things happen and not overwork them, over-analyze them or beat them to death.
LRI: What is your touring situation going to look like for the forseeable future. I saw the video of the new lineup of Lynch Mob which sounds great. Is Lynch Mob the major vehicle for dates or are you looking to also book KXM and the Sweet/Lynch project?
George: Well, Lynch Mob is my basic, meat and potatoes touring band but I have hopes that some of my other projects, including KXM, will tour and we are talking about that now. There was some concern with Ray being so busy with Korn and Dug and I with our projects that we wouldn’t be able to find time to do this but we are working right now to find a way. The Korn guys have been super supportive and really for such a big band have just gone out of their way to be helpful to us and understand we aren’t trying to take away anything from them or what they do but just find time to do this other project and do our thing. What we want to do is find time some month this year to at least do some select KXM tourdates and do it with a high value production so that we can film and record it and put it out so people who can’t see the shows because they will be so limited will still be able to watch the band and see us live that way.
LRI: As far as other new releases besides the Michael Sweet collaboration, what is on the horizon for releases from Shadow Train and Infidels or even Lynch Mob?
George: The Infidels project, my plan is to release one song a month, digitally, for a year. So we would have the whole album essentially in the can but we would only release a song a month which gives the world kind of a chance to just discover us. The Shadow Train record is a volume one and two, 2CD set with 22 songs and it is a very, very interesting record. I can’t wait for it to get out there and I have no idea exactly how it’s gonna get out there because we haven’t quite put together all the business side of that but I would imagine sometime this year that will be out along with the DVD of the actual “Shadow Nation” film which is a great documentary that revolves around the actual band Shadow Train. Lynch Mob has had a half of a record in the can for over a year and a half now and we were off to just a beautiful, beautiful start, it was going to be just an amazing, amazing record. I am really sort of discouraged and heartsick about the fact that the band broke up last year in the midst of making this amazing record with Brian Carlson who was a fantastic engineer and mixer who died in the process of waiting for us to finish it. For the sake of the music and out of respect to Brian, I would like to finish it but I don’t know how or in what context we’d be able to finish it. I haven’t figured that out since that band with Oni has since disbanded and I’ve had to regroup with a new lineup featuring Jimmy D’Anda from BulletBoys on drums, Kevin Valdez, the bass player from Lit and singer Keith St. John from Montrose. The new lineup is a really, really good live band and I just can’t see us finishing that material with this lineup, it just seems wrong to take the old record and mate it with the new band and I really don’t want to disrespect the new guys by getting the old band back together to finish the record (laughs). I’m kind of caught in a conundrum here as far as that goes and I just have to figure out what it is I am going to do as far as a new Lynch Mob album. Probably, the easiest thing to do would be to just put out the old record as an EP and finish it like that and move ahead with the new lineup. That would at least get the music that we worked on out there because it needs to be, it’s worthy of being out there and we were really off to a fantastic start before it fell apart. I’m also hard at work on an industrial project, I’ve always watched bands like that and thought “Wow, I would love to do something like that”. I just love that kind of stuff, love it and I just always imagined that style of music but paired with my style of guitar so that is something I have been very, very busy with as of late. I’ve spent some time here working with programmers and engineers who’ve worked with Zombie and Nine Inch Nails and bands like that and we just went in, we call it the devil’s laboratory, we went into the devil’s laboratory and just went nuts. Dude, I am telling you this music has me so excited and the sounds we are coming up with are just frightening it is so nuts and so unlike anything I’m doing on any of my other projects but I just love it. I can’t wait for you to hear this when it comes out because it is just blowing my mind (laughs). Mandy Lion is the vocalist and everything else is just machines and me on bass and guitars. It’s a lot of noise, a lot of guitars and it’s just sick, sick music. That project doesn’t have a name at this point but it is very, very interesting and a whole lot of fun to work on and a whole other look at this music I love so much, it’s insane.