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Exclusive! Kerby's Interview With Guitarist George Lynch

By Jeff Kerby, Contributor
Tuesday, December 21, 2004 @ 11:17 PM

Mr. Scary's Revenge: Kerby's S

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Chances are that if a guy wore spandex and played air guitar in the Ď80s, he probably mimicked the virtuosity displayed by axeman George Lynch in front of his mirror at least once. Georgeís work with Dokken and later with the Lynch Mob has become legendary. When he finally left Dokken for a variety of reasonsóprimarily financial--itís undeniable that Lynch took something with him. Although subsequent replacements Reb Beach and John Norum are generally considered to be more than competent guitarists, neither is on the level of Lynch, and the sound of the band that made Dokken so compelling during the albums Tooth and Nail, Back For the Attack and Under Lock and Key has yet to be replicated without him. That isnít to say that some of Dokkenís releases since then havenít been respectable, it simply means that the substantial dislike certain members of this group had for each other during much of the time they spent together may have just been the very thing that contributed to the chemistry that resulted in the band producing some of the best rock and roll of the era. Whether or not the bandís output was due at least in part to this volatility may be up for debate, but the fact is that the magic which was present at times in Ď80s-era Dokken has been lost, and even their ill-fated attempt at reconciliation coming in the form of two lackluster records-- Dysfunctional and Shadow Life failed to rekindle any of the old melodic ferocity that the band was know for during its halcyon days.

Even though Don and Mick have continued recording under the Dokken moniker, the split from his former band hasnít resulted in a lack of productivity from Mr. Lynch either. Instead, he has went on to record albums with his band the Lynch Mob as well as releasing various solo efforts and engaging in a collaboration with longtime Dokken bassist Jeff Pilson. If after reading Don Dokkenís interview, the reader feels that maybe some of the animosity/frustration Don espoused previously was unreasonable or unwarranted in some way, it appears as though Lynchís matches his former front manís in many respects. Itís easy to recognize that there is more than a passing sense of dislike apparent here, but it also appears to be the type of disdain that occurs with spouses wherein you may want to kill your significant other at times, and in fact you may find yourself saying things that are totally deplorable, but when it comes down to it, the situation probably isnít over for good. This one may not be either. Lynchís latest offering, Furious George, is made up of twelve covers featuring the type of guitar playing that has six string enthusiasts drooling worldwideÖ No, Don doesnít make a guest appearance on the record.

KNAC.COM: What do you think made you different from the other guitarists that came out of southern California during the Ď80sóspecifically Eddie Van Halen?
LYNCH: I think it is important for musicians or artists of any type to create their own signature. As a guitarist, my palette is the sound. What it is that I try to do is create or recreate what I hear in my head. My style is just a combination of all of the people that Iíve listened to, and Iíve tried to find my own open niche right there between Hendrix, Eddie and everyone else that I really admire. I have what you might call either a gift or a handicap in that I have a definite problem emulating or copying anybodyóit just means that I have had to create my own style.

KNAC.COM: Has living a healthier lifestyle affected your playing at all? Is there any difference?
LYNCH: The working out is sort of a balancing act for me. I do it because itís the right thing to do to a certain extent, but I donít think itís the right thing for me to do musically.

KNAC.COM: Really?
LYNCH: Yeah, throughout history all the greatest bands, guitar players and musicians have been pretty fucked up and wacked outóbut itís good for the music. Thereís great advice for the kidsóďstay high!Ē [Laughs] You do make great music, but you burn out a lot quicker too. I think I can do it without them, but Iíve done so many drugs that I think I could go into like a type of THC groove without really thing without actually smoking pot. I can just sort of put myself into that state. It is a balancing act though because I donít lead a completely healthy lifestyle by any means. I just finished off a half a dozen Krispy Kreme doughnuts which are as addictive as any drug.

KNAC.COM: How was it working with Jeff Pilson again? Is the transition always easy when you know someone that well?
LYNCH: It was fun, but I think Jeff and I sort of hit a snag. I think we both wanted it to be a quick process where we just got in and got it done. It didnít work that way though. Instead, it took about a year and a half, and it was not without pain. I donít want to say it was super painful, but things happened. We ended up moving it into a real studio and out of his home studio. It just became a bigger deal than we had originally envisioned because we just didnít want to settle for this being some home-recorded type of process. A lot of things happened, like the drummerís mother died, and it turned a one or two month process into something that took over a year. I do think it was worth it though.

KNAC.COM: There wasnít any of that old school Dokken-type animosity coming out?
LYNCH: Oh noóany ugliness that was there was just because we both cared passionately about what we were doing. I think what it mainly came down to was that Jeff wanted to keep it primarily just him and I. At times I wanted to pull some other people in, and maybe that wasnít right. I donít know. In the end, there was a little bit of a struggle, but Jeff is a great guy.

KNAC.COM: If you could have changed anything about the Ď80s, what would it have been? Would you have gotten out of Dokken earlier?
LYNCH: Hmm, if I could change anything. I donít know if I could. I guess there would have been two things I would have changed. One is that I probably would have focused on my family a little more. The other part would have been that a lot of what happened with Dokken didnít really pay off in the late Ď80s after we had had some success. After we had sold all those records, that would have been when we could have been somewhat secure financially. Thatís the reward. Thatís the payoff-- is when you negotiate. We were at that point where we could finally get paid a fair amount of money. Thatís when Don decided that he wasnít going to split the money with--in his words--his ďdrunk, drug addicted drummerĒ and pretty much anyone else. He wanted it all for himself. My point of view was that we were talking millions of dollars here, and we could all be okay. His point of view was that he wanted it all for himself. He was like, ďWhy should I share?Ē Iím thinking, ďBecause we all worked equally as hard or harder than you did.Ē We contributed equally or more to the success than he didónot in the lying bullshit way, but we all put in the work on the songs and did the tours. It was like we all trudged up the hill and did all the work, and finally we were going to get paid for it. Thatís when Don tried to pull the rug out from under us. He essentially managed to pull it out from under himself too, but thatís the bottom line. Thatís the whole bottom line. It all came down to money.

KNAC.COM: Thatís interesting because when you hear Don speak, I donít recall ever really hearing much about finances. It seems that from his perspective much of what went wrong centered on jealously and drugs.
LYNCH: You know, let me see anybody complain about any of the great bands in history who have done drugs. Zeppelin? Hendrix? Oh, they did drugs. Hello? Pink Floyd. Velvet Revolver. We want our rock stars to be on drugs. [Laughs] Itís great music. Who fuckiní cares? I donít give a shit. Every band does it. Every musician in history--even the great jazz musicians. Iím not condoning it--it is what it is. Van Gogh did too. They ware all on morphine or something. Then there is pot and the Rasta guysÖ you know, ďHey, Bob Marley was on drugs!Ē Did you hear about that?

KNAC.COM: I think I may have heard something about it.
LYNCH: What a bad guy--thatís the stupidest thing Iíve ever heard. Thatís just such a red herring. Don just does that to throw off the focus. All it was is that we were up for renegotiating our contract, and Motley Crue--who was on the same label as us, Elektra--got $25 million. We were next, and we all would have done very well on the deal if we had just split everything at twenty-five percent. That would have been fair so that Don wasnít driving a fucking Rolls Royce while Mick was driving a Yugo. Is five million enough for you Don? ďNo, I want all 20 million.Ē Thatís all it was. It was very, very simple. There was nothing else. Then, Don would come to me and say, ďIt could just be you and I. Fuck these other two guys.Ē I wouldnít go for that. I wanted it for the whole band, and he wouldnít go for that. In the end, he found a way around it.

KNAC.COM: Again, that is a different take on the situation. Don basically said that he constantly felt paranoid about the band wanting to overthrow him.
LYNCH: Oh right. How would that happen? Hereís Dokken without Dokken. Hereís the thing--on that Monsters of Rock Tour, it had already been arranged that Don was going to stick with our management at the time, Q-Prime Management who was going to stay with him and not us. Basically, the band was already dead. Don was going to leave, and he was going to fight for the name. Then he was going to sign a new contract. We knew that going into Monsters of Rock. We got to go onstage knowing that, so thatís why it got ugly.

KNAC.COM: Do you recall performing for a whole show with your back to the audience?
LYNCH: Oh, Iím sure I did. [Laughs] Uh, I was just confused. I didnít know which way to look.

KNAC.COM: To your knowledge, did Don ever need to get his jacket cleaned after at least one show because you had continually spit on it during the preceding set?
LYNCH: [Just laughs.]

KNAC.COM: Iím not making this up--
LYNCH: I know. No, I donít remember that happening. I donít think so.

KNAC.COM: Wouldnít you remember something like spitting on your lead singer?
LYNCH: I donít remember that, but I donít have a great memory. I would have remembered that though--that didnít happen.

KNAC.COM: You guys would have upped Spinal Tap if that could have been verified though.
LYNCH: Did he say ďshitĒ or ďspitĒ? NoÖ it may have been the other way around. There were times when he would just come over and unplug me or take my cabinets. I would be like, ďWhat is happening to my sound?Ē Heíd be over there in my stacks moving the cabinets. Iíd have like ten Marshall stacks over there, and heíd be over there trying to face all of them the other way. Then, he might be yelling at my tech and strangling him or something.

KNAC.COM: Okay, now the story couldnít be farther apart! He more or less told me that you had been known to engage in that type of thing. Were you guys going around doing the same types of things to each other? [Laughs]
LYNCH: Oh no, he used to be so fucking loud on stage. I just didnít want to hear that warbling at 130 decibels. It was like a Don Dokken jet engine in my fucking left ear. I had my boy, who was teenager at the time, as a roadie for me in Dokken in the Ď90s. He didnít like that--I figure he was unhappy that I was too loud or something. Then, it was like he was having a battle with my son, and that actually became a problem. Heíd go after him. A couple of times heíd have a Jack & Coke in a little glass onstage, and heíd wing it at my boy. One time, he hit him upside the head with it. It was more than a little irrational.

KNAC.COM: There was one story I heard where Don confronted you over to the side of the stage and asked what he could do to make things better. Word has it that you pointed up towards the ďDokkenĒ banner placed above the stage, and you said, ďThatís the problem.Ē Do you remember that?
LYNCH: Thatís a great story, actually. I wish I would have said that.

KNAC.COM: You know, even if it isnít true, that is so good that you guys should just all say it is.
LYNCH: It is a nice story, but I was so fucking high on drugs that I donít remember.

KNAC.COM: This would have happened after the Ď95 reunion though. Youíre saying itís inaccurate?
LYNCH: No, no. Iím not saying itís inaccurate. I was just so high and such a fucking psycho.

KNAC.COM: Is it hard to think about the good times with Dokken--is it difficult to separate the good from the bad?
LYNCH: You know, I ran into him recently at a drugstore. I had just seen an interview with him where he was asked about the whole ďGeorge getting back together againĒ and I decided that the way he twists things is just so wonderful. The guy has a gift. Iíve got to tell ya. He went through this whole thing where the problem was the drugs and the band was just falling apart, and it was all bullshit. Like I said, it was all about money. He was greedy, and he wanted it all. Thatís all it is, and there was no two ways about it. He could have cared less about whether somebody killed themselves on drugs. Anyway, as I mentioned, we ran into each other at a drugstore, and we were cordial to each other. You know, I havenít seen him in a long time. I almost didnít recognize him because when he came up to me, I thought he looked like Michael Moore. He had a beard, blue blockers and a baseball cap.

KNAC.COM: Looked like Michael Moore? Ouch! That implies more than glasses and a beard and cap. That suggests massive girth.
LYNCH: Of course, he looked kinda like a big dirt bag. What are you gonna do though? Act shitty? You going to rehash twenty years of history at the drugstore in five minutes? No, it was like, ďHowís it going?Ē That kind of thing. He was the one who actually said something like, ďIf there is ever a reason to put it back together, Iím sure weíll know.Ē It was something like that. We were both kind of like, ďYeah, sure.Ē That was it. Later on, he called me and wanted me to play on his record. He wanted me to come in and do an old Exciter song called, ďItís Alive.Ē I thought it might be cool, and then he said, ďIíll give you a couple of thousand to play on it.Ē I told him, ďIím not playing on your record for a couple of thousand dollars.Ē I told him that when it was time to do a real record to let me know. Iím talking about the original band and splitting everything down the middle. Heíll never do it though. Yeah, market ďDon Dokken Featuring George LynchĒ and pay me a couple of thousand dollars? Yeah, thatís Don Dokken for ya. That wouldnít even pay half my frickiní mortgage payment. Yeah, Iím gonna make your career by putting my name on it for like this little bone that youíre gonna throw me? What can you say? Heís the world and everyone else is just little orbiting satellites circling around him. The way he represented this little encounter in this interview I read was that I had been calling him and begging to reform the band. That isnít cool. He just has this wonderful way of tweaking the truth to accommodate his own warped view of reality.

KNAC.COM: I guess in some ways, it is easy for someone on the outside to imagine a lead singer wanting more money, butÖ by the same token, once you move away from the realm of equal percentages, it probably opens up a Pandoraís box of trouble.
LYNCH: I donít know. I think that things in life should really be simple. I donít care if itís your view of the world or spirituality or friendship. Complexity just puts too much strain on a situation. Nothing is ever equitable, so itís hard to assign value on what a person does. You have four guys in a band--how do you say that one guy is more important than another? Maybe one person writes more songs or something, but at the end of the day, it is just one entity and it doesnít do any good to fractionalize things. Things should be equitable, and we should all be working for one thingÖ I think. I would like to know how other bands work. How did AC/DC, Judas Priest or Black Sabbath make it work? Does Angus Young get forty percent?

KNAC.COM: Of course that all gets hashed out in the writing credits, right?
LYNCH: Not always, see because we split all publishing down the middle. I wrote the lionís share though. Iím not complaining though because I wanted to do it. I wanted to find what the direction of the band was instrumentally, and I wasnít asking any more for it--I certainly didnít want any less though. He started cutting Mick out of the equation though and Jeff to a certain extent; I wasnít going to back down. At one point I had to give up on everyone else. At some point they had to fight their own battles. I wasnít budging.

KNAC.COM: How do you feel about the fact that every interview with you probably touches on Don at some point and vice versa? What does it mean to be intrinsically linked to something this way?
LYNCH: Well, I just feel like itís unresolved to a certain extent, but is it worth resolving? I think that really what it comes down to is that enough time has to pass, and everybody has to be in the right space career-wise for it to happen. The bitterness would have to go away, and it would have to make sense to everyone.

KNAC.COM: So you would never say never on a reunion?
LYNCH: No, no. Of course not. Iíll always voice my opinions about my past history, and it may contain a little emotion, but I wonít let that keep me from doing what needs to be done.

KNAC.COM: When you started making music with the Lynch Mob, did you feel a sense of relief, or were there other pressures?
LYNCH: Yeah, there was a lot of weight on my shoulders. There was a lot of stress, but I built it as a band. We split everything equally, and I didnít get a dime more than anyone else.

KNAC.COM: Really?
LYNCH: Yeah, and we had a lucrative record deal and did okay touring, but we put everything right back into the band. Nobody got rich off that. I could have done that by just building it around myself, and I could have done records cheaply, but I just chose to invest in the group. I donít know if it was a great investment, but we got a great first album out of it. I think it will stand up forever.

KNAC.COM: Is it possible for a guitar player to make it today without having to deal with all of the behind the scenes situations that go on which take away time from the creative process?
LYNCH: For an eighteen, nineteen or twenty-two year old guitar player maybe. Yeah, you could be in some new band like the Vines or some new band that is just great. Look what happened to us. Sure, we worked at it, but as you get older, everything gets so much more complex and so many other things become involved. At this stage of my career I do clinic work, teach, have endorsements and sell cds and products on my website. I help manufacturers develop products, play on other peoplesí records as well as have my own band and write my own songs and tour. There are just a lot of different components to what I do now. It has to be that way. I manage myself, so I have to know the legal aspects of things. Everything is in my hands, basically.

KNAC.COM: On your website, there are plenty of places where a fan can express themselves. Is it difficult to give a forum that type of freedom? Does part you wish you could just censor every little comment?
LYNCH: It is kind of a democratic voicing, so I want people to express themselves. I donít let it affect me. Iíd rather people care, and be interested enough to form some kind of opinion. Iíve gotten a lot of flack about certain things Iíve done in the past. Iíve just had to endure it.

KNAC.COM: A lot of people will say that those dissentient opinions donít affect them, but it is pretty hard to believe that. How do you feel about letting those comments guide influence what you create?
LYNCH: Actually, I donít look at it very often. I have a fourteen-year-old daughter, and she looks at it and reports back to me. She loves telling me the negative stuff. [Laughs] Sheís like, ďHow do you feel about that?Ē Iím like, ďOh, great.Ē I look at the guys I used to idolize as a kid, and theyíre all older and a lot of them arenít playing any heavy, vital music that they were back when they were younger. I think Iíve at least been able to maintain that. Iím not just some old frumpy guy with a beard playing some watered down crap. Iím still hitting it hard.

KNAC.COM: Could you ever see a point where that is going to have to change?
LYNCH: Uhhmm. I like other types of music. Like I said, Iím a blues player. I could do that and enjoy it, but Iíve got another ten years of fuckiní fight left in me. At some point itís all gonna fall apart, but Iím in a race with time here. There is a little desperation there, but me being desperate and pushing things harder isnít necessarily going to make anything better any quicker. It all works in cycles. You get a certain amount of energy for a certain amount of time, and when the opportunity is there, youíve got to hit it hard and then kind of lay back.

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