Guitar solos hit new heights in the 1980s, with seemingly every metal song taking time to give shredders the spotlight. Among the group of talented lead guitarists that ruled the scene was Dokken
's George Lynch
, who although was already a household name with hit singles like "Breaking The Chains
" under his belt, was propelled to a different level when his instrumental "Mr. Scary
" made the rounds. Two decades have passed since that track was released and the Dokken
years are far behind him, but Lynch
has no intention of slowing down. When he's not acting as an instructor for the online Dojo Guitar Academy, the guitarist has been working diligently to get his latest project Souls Of We
off the ground. With London Legrand
(Brides of Destruction) on vocals, Yael
(Tom Morello) on drums, and Johnny Chow
(Fireball Ministry) on bass, Lynch
's newest creation has been 5 years in the making.
The classic lead work on Souls Of We
's debut record Let The Truth Be Known
is a testament to Lynch
's staying power, but what went on behind the scenes in the studio is just as groundbreaking. After sampling various recording studios over the years, Lynch
decided to go the untraditional route with the new album. Using desert surroundings and a fascinating space called The Integratron
(which apparently was built by a gentleman who claimed he was from Venus), Lynch
proved that after 30 years as a working guitarist, he can still think outside the box.
UG: I understand that Let The Truth Be Known was a 5-year undertaking for you. Did that include the entire songwriting and recording process?
It wasn't necessarily a continuous effort during that time period. There were other projects that I started on. The actual record itself took probably a year or year-and-a-half, at least of dedicated work to it with other people. I started writing before I had anything together. I'm really unorganized like that, but it works for me. I continually write, but I don't really have any records ready for it!
Anybody that writes knows that you have these hot-cold periods, and you need to take advantage of the hot periods when you're inspired. Those cycles sometimes go through like a year-and-a-half, where you'll have these really wonderful moments in a period of time where you just can't stop. Sometimes you'll have actually something to write for if you have a record. Other times you'll need to write a record, and you don't have anything cool for it. It's just not coming out at that time.
In that 5-year period, I had a project with the dude from Saigon Kick called Stonehouse. So I switched gears because for that record, where you write from a different place. I did another project that took over a year and wrote almost a whole record. My manager just didn't think I hit the nail on the head, so he wanted me to a do an instrumental record. I had this whole collective body of work and some of that ended up being part of the record. There really was no band. I mean it was friends working with me like Morgan from Sevendust and Fred from DragonForce. So I had all these great guys together in the studio helping me out.
You've called London a musical soulmate in a few different interviews. That's not a description someone just throws around, so I would assume your experience writing with London has been a far cry from past collaborations.
"I'm not a schooled player, and I'm pretty much a slave to what my ears hear."
Well, I have lots of soulmates! Working with Oni in the Lynch Mob, that was a great chemistry as well. I met London in a hair salon on Melrose in Hollywood. Actually he had sent in a tape to audition earlier on, but then I met him at the hair salon. I saw him through the window and he looked like he embodied the Hollywood lifestyle! He had it all together. We became friends. He's a hilarious, wonderful person and is really creative. When he speaks, it's so out there.
So I brought him in to work on the Souls of We. I think anybody that has heard the Brides' record is struck by him. He exceeded people's expectations. With this record, it really draws from a lot of old gospel stuff. Kind of the flavor that we're shooting for in a couple of the songs has a very gospel, preaching vibe. He's a poet. People don't know what I know. I talk to him all the time, and I get these insane text messages where he paints these unbelievable pictures.
Do you think that today's music scene is lacking those sort of visionary lyrics that London delivers in the band?
I think there are more now than in the past, especially the 80's. It was the most vacuous period for lyrics. I know bands that actually have dedicated lyricists. There are guys that tell stories that paint a picture, and I'm not very good at that. So I always sort of rely on a counterpart, better half, whatever. I think it's very important in songwriting, and it always has been but not in the 80s. The content of the songs were very superficial, rock and roll lifestyle, relationship stuff.
I have certain things that I think about and care about that I would like to get across in my music, and it's been very difficult for me because I'm not a very good lyricist. So I would really hope someday to work with somebody that shares those interests. If you listen to Rage or Tool or Beck, they really are amazing poets. I think London does that, too, but not in a way that I relate to. The things in my world view and things I care about are not what he cares about. I've been wanting to find that my whole life, but I haven't been able to yet. So that's something to look forward to.
I'm extremely fascinated by your choice of recording studios. You go the extremely untraditional route with both the desert studio and The Integratron.
Not to be confused with the Orgasmatron, which is just across the street! We went to the wrong place the first time. It was a happy accident!
How long have you been familiar with or working at these unusual locations?
My place is the desert. We have a property out there. It was actually a bomb shelter that was changed into a solar studio. I installed 18 solar panels with a battery backup. So it's a battery-powered studio. What I'll do a lot of times is I'll put the cabinets in the boulders. There's a bunch of acreage and it's all boulders. There's a natural amplitude that gives a natural kind of delay. It's huge out there. It's just a lot of work getting all the cabinets up there in the rocks! But we actually kind of camp out when we go out. We sit under the stars, fire lit, tribal drum thing, and see the coyotes and stuff. It was great.
I imagine that the outdoors could often be unpredictable in terms of the acoustics. Would you say that it usually creates the ideal sound for you?
"Every time I go to the studio, I don't know what's going to be happen."
So far it has. I'm not a schooled player, and I'm pretty much a slave to what my ears hear. I react to what I hear. I've been very happy with the results. I work out there a lot. The Integratron is a place I've known about for decades because my grandfather had a homestead out there. It was a giant rock, a free-standing boulder. We had a small cabin up there. There was a guy that moved his family in there. My folks all lived out there and my grandfather had a restaurant at Joshua Tree.
So this guy moved his family to the boulder and he was supposedly an alien from Venus! It's not necessarily what I believe, but they instructed him with these details on how to build a place called The Integratron. It's supposedly a cellular rejuvenation machine. You could live forever, but it would also refill their spaceships. The structure has triangles, which is the perfect geometric shape. The result is that today it's an anomaly because it's great anywhere you stand. In the center of the building is this tube that goes up through the roof for a triangulated-pointed sky, where a lot of convergence goes. It's the alignment of all these natural bodies that supposedly have these compounds that have a gravitational force on the earth.
On a very practical note, when I go in there and stand in certain places, the properties of the building create a slight rotation of the harmonics. So you get this fractualization of all the frequencies. It's very strange. It just creates these other tonalities that you can feel. It's very strange. I wanted to go out there and capture that. We didn't have a lot of time there because we were running so late. Plus we went to the Orgasmatron by accident!
Did any of the Integratron recordings make it onto the album?
I recorded the acoustic stuff there and some of the stranger, swirly electric sounds.
There's a clip on YouTube that shows you playing some absolutely incredible lead work on the song Adeline. At times it almost seems like there is a flamenco style incorporated in the way you attack the strings.
I guess I'm not really playing flamenco because I'd have to grow other hands out of my right hand and tap the guitar body and all that kind of stuff! But I think some of that stayed with me when I was 10 years old and started playing guitar the first couple of years. My dad knew a guy that played flamenco music, and I listened to a lot of Spanish guitar players. Those were some of the first songs I heard. So yeah, I have a little of that in me.
During your time with Dokken in the 1980's, you gained the status of being a guitar god of sorts. Seeing you play today, it's obvious that you continue to evolve and progress. Would you say that you're someone who makes a conscious effort to push the envelope musically?
In phases, yeah. Being 54 years old, I go through periods where I'm sort of apathetic. The bright side of that is that during those periods of time I really have settled in with my own style and comfort level. I've become much more relaxed with my ability. When I feel the urge to create, yeah, I try to stay very much on top of it. I do a lot of soundscape stuff for soundtracks, gaming. I never want my guitar efforts to become a job, where it's rudimentary and I do the same damn thing. A lot of players do that and I'm sure they're comfortable with that. It's truly an adventure, every time I pick it up. Every time I go to practice and every time I go to the studio, I don't know what's going to be happen. I don't have this kind of set thing that I do. I don't have set gear. I don't have set songs or a style that I write. It makes it an interesting adventure!
Talk a little bit about the Dojo Guitar Academy, which is your online instructional course. It sounds like it covers a lot of ground, whether it be the traditional lessons or the contests between the students. Is it true that you post a new session every week?
"Since I'm a non-theory guy, I never learned all the rules."
Yeah, we put up a whole series every week. We tape 4 times a year over a period of 2 days in the rotation. We obviously do lessons. I listen to a lot of the submissions from these students, and a lot of the students are in the middle range. The whole idea of the Dojo Online Guitar Academy is to go beyond GIT or music school or watching an instructional DVD. Since I'm a non-theory guy, I never learned all the rules. So I don't know how to break them! I try to capture that. I try to capture the way I come up with the stuff and the way I create.
We also cover the recording process, the composition process. So we'll be in my studio, program in a drum track and I'll very quickly come up with a bridge. That's just how I write. We show how to mic and other recording tricks. We'll show how we put in a second track or other things I've learned over the years. One guitar might create a little different sound, but with a different preamp it will create another different sound. Then we'll bring in another preamp that might create little bit of a different sound than the first track.
We help people in their quest to be a better player. Then we talk about the business side and about engineering. I always tell guitar players that you can't just be a musician. You have to be a businessman and you have to be an engineer. There's a lot to that. We have contests. We did a finger-picking contest 2 nights ago for the new G2G Mr. Scary pedal. We gave away a Washburn Evil Western acoustic guitar that just came out. There was an ESP guitar, Seymour Duncan pickups, Dean Markley strings, Morley Dragon Wah pedal, things like that.
We had an annual seminar last year where people fly in and spend a whole weekend. We had people from the industry, 3 or 4 other guitar players, teachers, performers. You could teach, converse, and learn. There were PowerPoint presentations, sessions where we all jammed together and eating. A lot of eating! We've also got a guitar magazine coming out. So I'm editor in chief, and it's all done on typewriter with coffee stains. We tell the truth. We're not beholden to any manufacturer. We tell the truth about gear.
Will that be available to only the Dojo students?
That will be given out free to the students when it comes out next Spring, but it's a commercial publication. It will have an online presence.
You spoke briefly about the G2G Mr. Scary Pedal, which looks like it's capable of creating the style of an insane amount of guitar-amp-EQ combinations. How did you go about designing it?
For every one that we've sold in the Mob Shop (Lynch's online store), I've reprogrammed it with custom patches. They're all unique. I don't do the same one for anyone. There are just 4 or 5 presets that I create, patch them down, and autograph it. I brought in monolithic amounts of gear into the studio, and we would have like 20 different setups. So let's say we'd go with a '68 Plexi on my Brahma module or old, slushier-made speakers with a cabinet and a Mr. Scary overdrive. Things like that. We would get 12 strings through an AC30 and an analog chorus. It's a great way to emulate. I think we did a really good job by converting it digitally through a microchip. It was a lot of work, but I think it turned out unbelievable.
Interview by Amy Kelly