George Lynch’s captivating playing style and rock ‘n’ roll attitude have established himself as one of the music electrifying guitar players in the music business. This guitar legend rose to prominence back in the 80s as lead shredder for Dokken. His story did end there as Lynch remained determined to continue to mold his blossoming career by working outside the box. His latest musical project is no exception to that rule. T&N reunites George Lynch, Jeff Pilson and “Wild” Mick Brown – aka “The Big Three” from Dokken – for this brand new 12 song disk that is sure to please fans and critics alike! Returning to their roots, “Slave to the Empire” offers seven new original songs and five re-recorded classic Dokken songs that feature sensational vocal performances by Tim “Ripper” Owens, Doug Pinnick (King’s X), Sebastian Bach, and Robert Mason (Warrant). Add to the mix the hard hitting, multi-talented drumming of Brian Tichy and you’ve got yourself a major dose of awesome! This 12 song release is progressive, it’s heavy, it’s dark, it’s bluesy, and each player’s performance is absolutely stellar. “Slave to the Empire” captures the spirit and magic from the classic metal genre, and is truly a work of art that will not disappoint! Jason Price of Icon Vs. Icon recently caught up with George Lynch to discuss his formative years, the heavy metal powerhouse that is T&N, his upcoming film titled “Shadow Train” and much more!
You have been an inspiration for so many young musicians and have impacted their formative years. What are the first musical memories and influences that influenced you?
I imagine my first music memories are from the womb, but I don’t think that is what you are alluding to! [laughs] Very early on, I would say it was, classical flamenco music, jazz, blues and R&B. That is what my father, who was sort of an audiophile, was listening to on reel-to-reel tapes. We also had neighbors, who were older guys, that had 78s, which I would listen to. There was all kinds of strange music including Django Reinhardt, who was one of my early guitar influences. The next step in the evolution of listening was The Beatles. Beatlemania occurred and it was truly a profound phenomenon and hard to explain. Nothing has happened like that since. It was a little overwhelming! After that, there was the whole late 60s British Invasion era and Zeppelin, [Jimmy] Page, Jimi Hendrix and Eric Clapton. When they had records, I had the very first ones! I was there when they first came on the scene. They completely reinvented rock ‘n’ roll and changed the world. Of course, those are huge guitar icons for young George to be exposed to at an early age. That was my initial exposure to it all.
That being said, you have been at it for a long time now and are very successful in doing so. To what do you attribute your longevity in the ever-changing music industry?
I not giving up, for one. Two, having a point in what I am doing. I mean, if you are just staying in it because it is your job to do, then you are just like a monkey with a blindfold in the dark, shooting a handful of darts at a dartboard and hoping something hits the bullseye! If you have a running soundtrack in your head and you are chasing that dragon, you have a vision and you are trying to obtain that ideal. That is what I have always done.
Your latest project is T&N. We are pretty excited about it as I am sure you are as well. What inspired you guys to come together and take on this project now? What can you tell us about the timing and how it came together?
It was sort of a triangulation of events, a perfect storm and all the planets lined up! Jeff [Pilson], Mick [Brown] and myself have always wanted to play together and now we do play together in a more meaningful way than back in the day. We just needed an excuse and a reason. What had been happening over the past few years was talk of a Dokken reunion, which never materialized, obviously. Out of that came an opportunity and it brought us together. We started to think about it and in thinking about it and being in the same room together was the catalyst for us to find a way to do it. When we realized the Dokken thing wasn’t going to pan out, we said “Well, let’s do it anyway!” Which we did! More specifically, Jeff and I were writing. We live close to each other and love writing and playing together, we thought “How about we write for Lynch Mob? Let’s write a few songs and maybe they will end up on that record.” That was the first idea and it didn’t pan out. We wrote the songs anyway and we had them. Then Brian Kitschy, who was drumming for Lynch Mob at the time, came up with Tooth and Nail, which later became T&N. It was his concept and we rolled with that.At that point, we knew we had a vehicle, some songs and concept. We said “Ok! Let’s do it!”
The title of the record is “Slave To The Empire”. How did you arrive at that title and what does it mean to you personally?
Jeff and I are politically aligned in that we are both extreme progressives, which I don’t even like characterizing these political views as extreme or progressive but that is what people know them as. Really how we like to think of ourselves is as humanistic free-thinkers! [laughs] We felt we had an obligation to use our music as a sounding board and a vehicle to express our ideas.
What were your expectations going into this project? I am presuming you have exceeded those expectations along the way.
It is interesting doing these kind of records and projects coming from a world, in the 80s, where you have a record deal with a major record company with a band. Back then, everything was categorized and compartmentalized. You had a certain amount of time for preproduction, a budget, a producer, a manager, an agent and all of that. You would release the record, go on tour, open up for a bigger band, sell your t-shirts ad records. You would just keep doing it and doing it. That system is broken now and it is a brave new world. Essentially, what it is project is about is creating and we focused on that. We will find a place to put it and a reason to do it later! [laughs] What it ends up being is an adventure. You are putting the cart before the horse and writing the music first and everything will fall into place later, you hope. We have never been good at business and I probably never will be. I am not good at marketing, self promotion, lying to people or playing the Hollywood game. I just do what I do, which is putting my heart and soul into the work. Hopefully, I get out of my own way with all the things to follow. I think the thing that concerns me when we do work like this is that people might not know about it. It isn’t that they wouldn’t like it but they just might not know about it and that is the obstacle. It is something that I am not sure how to remedy, other than by talking to people like you.
We are happy to be able to spread the word. What can you tell us about the writing process of this album?
It wasn’t done in band context. We didn’t sit in a room like in the old days or like Lynch Mob does or Dokken did, it was really just Jeff and I. Jeff and I work best when get in the studio and create in that environment. Back in the Dokken days, it was a primitive drum machine and a four track cassette recorder. Of course, today we have studios and the technology has really advanced but it is essentially the same thing! It is just Jeff and I getting together to talk, think, play and build intellectually.
How much material did you come up with during the writing process and do you still have some stuff in the vault from those sessions? The big question from a fans standpoint is “Will there be more T&N in the future?”
We already have half of the second record recorded and we have all of the Dokken songs recorded. There are also a couple of new songs that we had left on the back burner when we were working on “Slave To The Empire’. We are just trying to finish the second record at the moment, which is the fun part!
You guys are best enjoyed in a live setting as you aren’t afraid to rock! What are you guys looking at in regard to touring?
We are making plans to tour in the Fall of 2013, Japan, Europe and limited United States touring. Further out we are thinking about doing a more meaningful ground tour in the U.S. spring into the summer or 2014 in support of both records. We have Michael Sweet from Stryper on vocals for the live shows. He also plays guitar, so we will be able do a little bit of a different arrangement live than I am traditionally used to, being the only guitar player. He won’t be playing all of the time but there is a lot of guitar on this record, so I can’t play it all! [laughs] Truthfully, we want this project to continue, it is a long term project, not just one or two records. As long as people are willing to listen and come out, we want a reason to do this!
What can you tell us about the film project you have had in the works and what we can expect from “Shadow Train” in the near future?
I have always been disappointed in myself that I haven’t used the music I have been involved with to express a larger message of things that I care about such as the environment, human nature, philosophy, spirituality, the way people treat each other, a better way forward or anything else. I am sort of ashamed of that. I felt compelled, very deeply, that this is what I should be doing. Jeff feels the same way. We both arrived at the same place in our lives at the same time. That is really what T&N is really all about, as is “Shadow Train”. This was me thinking “How can I do this in a larger context to reach people’s ears but to also open their eyes as well?” I was on a mission to do that and it has been incredibly rewarding from a personally standpoint. The film is about all of the things I just mentioned and it also has a huge music component. I have a band called Shadow Train, which runs throughout the movie. In the film, you will see us performing and we wrote the soundtrack as well. We are dealing with all the issues on Indian reservations, talking to politicians and musicians that are politically active like Tom Morello, Serj Tankian and Ted Nugent, talking to the American Indian Movement leaders who were at the Wounded Knee uprising in the 70s. We are talking to philosophers, progressives, talking heads, for instance — Noam Chomsky of MIT. We are discussing very important, meaningful things and what it does for me musically, is flesh out everything musically by giving it so much more gravity and weight, as a lot of music did when I was growing up in the late 60s and early 70s. At that time there were bands and artists like Jimi Hendrix, Crosby, Stills and Nash and countless others that spoke to social and economic injustice, war, civil rights and other important issues. I am a child and student of that. I am very passionate about all of those things. As I said, I have a small megaphone, so I should be using it as a vehicle for issues that impact us all.
From what I have read, you are co-directing this project. Is that correct?
Whatever that means! [laughs] It’s funny, I am not sure if we will put this in the outtakes, but I had a chair made with a fictitious name that sounds like an aristocratic director from back in the 30s. I have a monocle, an ascot and a megaphone to shout out direction on the set! [laughs] The film is very low budget and we had a shoestring budget. We were out there in the desert on an Indian reservation, camping out and families feed us because we don’t really have a lot of funding but we did it out of love and passion. We were finding adventures everywhere we went. Being a director, hummm, I am not sure what that means. It is partly my vision and I am involved but there are other people equally involved, so that title doesn’t have a lot of weight.
I think it is that passion that intrigued me the most. It seems like a really cool project and you have turned up some interesting content along the way. When might the film debut?
We are shooting for hitting the film festivals like SXSW and many others in the Fall of 2013. We will be shooting throughout the year and will be in soft editing up until the end of Summer. Then we will have two months of hard editing and then take on the sweetening, foley, soundtrack, the credit roles and opening sequence. These things always take longer than you think they will! We really need to get this out by then because we have been working on it for two years. I would like to see it completed at some point! [laughs] I don’t want it to become one of those projects that I have seen many other people do which never end.
Where can people learn more about the film?
The website is www.shadowtrainmovie.com. We do accept donations. Films are very expensive to make and we have gifts for people who do contribute. That is what is keeping us moving forward. We do appreciate it!
Do you have any interest in taking on some other type of film project in the future?
Ya know, we have talked about that a bit and we really need to see how this one goes. This was a HUGE experiment for me! It takes a lot out of you. Albums are hard enough and they can be difficult but rewarding. This is that magnified ten times! This project has been an unbelievable amount of work. The difficulty is compounded by the fact that I have no idea what I am doing. I am learning the hard way by making lots of mistakes that would make you cringe! They make me cringe at night when I think about them! I think “Oh my God, I am so stupid!” [laughs] The innocence of it is something I find beautiful. One of the things I would make a parallel to is some of the bands that we are involved with out on the Indian reservation which are young kids in metal bands. There are two kinds of music on most of the reservations, country and metal. The younger kids are drawn toward metal, of course. A lot of these bands, I have to be honest with you, aren’t great but what gets me and touches my heart is the passion! They live within six miles of each other, have no equipment, it’s fifteen degrees outside and they will hitchhike to practice together in a chicken coup and play their music. They are so passionate! It really reminds me of myself when I was 15 or 16 years old and sucked! It was still the greatest thing in the world and it was what you lived for! That is what I love about it, it’s not about being Dream Theater! It is the angst of existence coming through, which we can all relate to!
How do you feel you have evolved as an artist since you started out all those years ago? Do you ever take time out to reflect?
No. I think it is pointless and it is not how I am built. I don’t sit there and reflect or try to triangulate where I should go from here, ponder how I can remain current or what my next move will be. I don’t really work that way. I react to my environment and people I am playing with and I try to make somewhat smart decisions. To me, music is such a mystery. “The Wilderness of The Mind” is what I like to call it. Without that mystery in life, life becomes very mundane. I feel truly sorry for people, not in a gloating way at all, that don’t have a passion like that in their life, no matter what the passion might be. I fortunately have that and it is something I am very thankful for and it is a gift. For instance, I am doing a project right now with Ray Luzier from Korn and Doug Pinnick from King’s X. It is called KXM. We just finished up the basic tracks with that. We went up in the studio in the mountains where we lived for a couple of weeks. We had no songs. We went up there and played together as a band for a couple of weeks. We created music from scratch, wrote it on the spot and recorded one song a day. We have the album done. It is just a beautiful project that was done in a very unorthodox way and was very gratifying. We don’t know where it is going to go but that is the beauty of it. It’s just like this film. I don’t know where it is going to go! [laughs] That is the adventure part of it all!
You project with Ray and Doug sounds very promising. When can we expect to hear more on that endeavor?
The website for KXM will be up soon. We may possibly be releasing a song a month for an entire year, versus the traditional record deal. T&N will also have a new record coming out in the Fall of 2013 and a tour to follow. There will also be a soundtrack record available for “Shadow Train”. That is what is happening musically at the moment.
It has been pleasure talking to you today, George. Thank you for your time!
I appreciate you having an interest in it! Thank you! Thank you for letting me talk about myself endlessly! [laughs]
Anytime! You have the number!
Great! Anytime I feel like talking about myself, I will give you a call! [laughs]
Sounds like a plan!
Thank you so much, man! I will talk to you soon!