Guitar Man: Gnarly Charlieís Exclusive Interview with George Lynch

By Charlie Steffens aka Gnarly Charlie, Writer/Photographer
Friday, November 27, 2009 @ 8:05 PM

ďIf the point of my existence was to sit there and prove to people and myself that Iím the greatest guitar player in the world, I mean, that would be pointless."

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In a career spanning over three decades, George Lynch has carved a distinct niche in the world of guitar and remains one of rockís greatest players. Lynchís most notable commercial accomplishment was achieved during his days with Dokken, but his boundless musical innovation and brilliance have never ceased. As a solo artist, a session player, or as a member in a band, Lynchís contributions are staggering, as is his attack on guitar, both visually and sonically.

In conversation, Lynchís mellow disposition and candor are disarming. Heíll tell you about his world in a fearless stream of consciousness. How much time could he spend in his head if he plays guitar like heís out of his mind?

In the last year George Lynch has been working hard and playing hard in Souls of We and a reformed Lynch Mob. With the release of Smoke and Mirrors, and original singer Oni Logan back in the fold, Lynch Mobís sound is a continuation of the Wicked Sensation era, spiked with lyrical and political evolution.

George Lynch"Oni (Logan) and I have worked together off and on--much more off than on--over the two ensuing decades since we did Wicked Sensation, which was the most success Iíve had on any record outside of Dokken, and itís really, I think, stood the test of time for a lot of people. So, we felt that at some point it would make sense to get back together and revisit that. Oni really dropped out of the game in a big way for many, many years. He dabbled, did some acoustic stuff and played with a local band in Oslo, I believe, in Switzerland. I think he was really disenchanted with the way it workedóthe game works and the successes and failures and so forth. But, taking all of that into account I guess he had decided to pick up all his stuff and pack a bag and come back to America and he gave me a call.Ē

Smoke and Mirrors was released in September. While Lynch seems concerned with the lack of exposure the new album is getting presently, he seems optimistic about getting the word out there through the usual channels and lots of touring.

ďIíve been hearing nothing but good things about this record, and thatís great. Of course you want to hear that. When you donít hear great stuff you try to look at it objectively. I havenít heard hardly any negatives on this record. The reviews are not the problem and the people who have the record say they love it, but the obstacle, the fight that we have to fight right now, is getting this record out there. And thatís only going to happen with perseverance and lots of touring, really, and a lot of other things, from trying to work the internet from every single angle, all the web stuff. Iím getting really involved in that, even though Iím not much of a computer guy. I have lots of people and friends that help us and work with us to try to get the word out. Publicists, press releases, and working the press, doing every single interview that we can possibly do. Making sure we got photo shoots out there and bios. Just firing on all cylinders is the way to achieve slow, methodical success. I don't think the problem is the record itself. Itís people being aware that it exists.Ē

George LynchLoganís writing has always done lyrical and poetic justice to Lynchís compositions. As in previous collaborations, Lynch gave the singer creative license to let his pen bleed all over the page.

ďOni is the wordsmith, definitely,Ē says Lynch. ďWeíve been able to have lots of discussions back and forth and exploration of ideas about subjects that matter to us and he has expressed a lot of interesting thoughts in his lyrics, which he always has. In the past though, I think his lyrics have been a little more, I would say, oblique, meaning that maybe the actual concept he was trying to get across wasnít so clear. He left it up to the listenerís subjectivity. I think this time around heís been a little more clear. I like some clearness, because I think it allows the listener to be a part of the creative process in their own digestion of the lyrics and what it means to them. But, personally, myself, Iím very politically involved and politically-minded, but I am not a lyricist and not a singer, obviously. So the chemistry between Oni and I is very important because, yes, I write the vast majority of the music itself and I have ideas that are very important to me that Iíd like to get across in my music, but I really rely on Oni to bring his vision in to finish the other half of the song. I think thatís a great challenge for me and for him. To try to meld those two visions together. I feel the point of my music in the context of my life is to try to express myself in more than just a purely musical sense, ideally. Thatís the challenge before me and Oni, I think, has done a great job in getting part way there in this new record Smoke and Mirrors. In the bands Iím in, ideally what we like to do is let the people that do what they do, do what they do (laughs). If your strength is drumming and partying, than thatís what you do. If itís writing the riffs to make the best possible song, thatís what you do. In Oniís case, his comfort zone is taking the music that Iíve written and going away into a cave somewhere and coming back with all this beautiful stuff, this poetry. Rock poetry. And heís great at it. So I leave it alone. If itís not broke donít fix it. Heís a very introspective person,Ē Lynch continues. ďVery quiet and unassuming, but the waters run deep. And whatís amazing about Oni is when you have a conversation with him you maybe don't get that impression of him right off the bat. Thatís whatís cool about Oni, as I said, the waters run deep. He has these profound thoughts and experiences and is able to pull stuff out of his own experiences and have them relate to everybody, and thatís a rare gift, I think. And it is a gift, I think, just as much as my ability to come up with what I do on guitar and many of us do, is something we canít really figure out (laughs). It just happens, and I think he does that as well.Ē

George LynchEven at the height of Dokkenís success there were vicious fights between Lynch and Don Dokken, debilitating the integrity of their band. How many more great songs that could have been made during that period is anyoneís guess. Lynch and Dokken seemed to have put their differences aside these days, to the point of being able to perform together onstage again. Letís cross our fingers.

ďItís funny that whatever history we haveódistorted history that we haveóhas been clarified through the prism of time (laughs). Weíve all had time to reflect over the last twenty years, or whatever the hell itís been, and thereís just a whole lot of silliness there. I mean, at the end of the day were all working for the same thing and the same thing we were working for twenty, twenty-five years ago, and that is to carve out our niche, and make our voices heard to as many people as possible, and validate our existence. Weíve all done that individually and collectively in the largest way in the context of Dokken. We sold the most records, we played in front of the most people, and we had the most success with that band. And it just seems like a no-brainer that at some point weíd want to put any little differences aside and put that back together. Thereís a couple of reasons, but one obvious reason is weíd get paid. But a better reason is that it would make a lot of people happy, including ourselves and put a nice cap on the story, a nice sort of bookend to the legacy. Dokken was not a huge, huge band. Weíre not Van Halen, you know. But important enough, I think where it matters and it matters to a lot of people and, as I said, to have it end with a happy ending versus this kind of slow dissolution and all this backbiting and backstabbing. Get onstage together and honor the music that we created for the people that supported us. So we are doing some shows. I actually called up Don and I presented the idea to him. This was outside our management or anything else, and he thought it was a good idea. And it is kind of a no-brainer because of the symbiotic relation Lynch Mob has with Dokken, and so forth. Mick was in Lynch Mob and Lynch Mob was born out of Dokken. I thought ĎWell, weíll open up for you, you know. Thatís fair.í So we did a show in Tokyo at a festival called Loud Park. Lynch Mob did, and Dokken. I said ĎNo problem, Don, Iím going to be there. What do you want to do?í He goes ďWell, come on stage!Ē So I went up there, did ďTooth and NailĒ with him, brought the house down, 20,000 folks out there went nuts. So we went ĎWhoa! That was cool. We gotta do that some more.í So weíre doing a few more shows maybe this year and adding some shows, I believe, in the Midwest early next year and weíll see where it goes. Baby steps.Ē

On guitar:

George Lynch ďIf the point of my existence was to sit there and prove to people and myself that Iím the greatest guitar player in the world, I mean, that would be pointless. That would be like trying to say youíre the biggest badass in the world. Thereís always somebody bigger and badder and always somebody faster. Thatís really not where I want to live. I don't care about that. On a small level I do, but you know Iíve marked out my little corner in the guitar world and I totally appreciate that and don't denigrate it in any way. I try to serve that, but in a larger sense I think songwriting and composition and creating an atmosphere, and a world of music that you live in, with the records you create is much more important, to me, anyways. Look to Zeppelin. Look to Hendrix. A lot of great stuff that lives on historically were not vehicles for Hendrixís prowess as a guitar player. He used his guitar as a vehicle to make a point, I think. He had something to say and his guitar served the music instead of the music serving the guitar.Ē

ďWhen I was in my early teens my parents thought it was a bad influence on me and they took it away for about a year (laughs). Iím not a disciplined guitar player where I go in the woodshed and practice constantly, everyday, and go through my scales. Iím not Paul Gilbert (laughs). Iím not that kind of a player. Iím more of a Jeff Beck player. When I need to work or I need to write a song or I need to work on a record or go on tour or practice or do a session, I play once in a while around the house. Iíll bounce around and try some new stuff or check out some of the tablature on one of the guitar magazines or a video. Iíll try to expand my knowledge base, but Iím not extremely disciplined in that way. Not consistently, anyway. And I like that, because to me, music and guitar is just a mystery to me. I don't know where it comes from or where the inspiration comes from or where the creative impulse comes from. I don't try to figure it out, because I think what happens if you look at it like a scientist would look at something and try to break it apart and break it down to its more basic constituents you take the mystery out of it. And thatís what I love about music is the mystical aspect of it. I mean, every time I pick it up something different happens. Each time I play with a different group of people thereís a different chemistry there. Itís in the air, the chemicals between the different players and all these sorts of things. Youíre having a good day, youíre having a bad day. All the collective experiences that you bring to the table. I don't want to figure it out, and itís hard to put that down on paper or in a lesson. Itís just sort of the way I conduct my life and my approach to my music. It makes everyday kind of interesting because itís an adventure.Ē

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