George Lynch (Lynch Mob, ex-Dokken)

by Greg Prato

The mid to late '80s featured countless "guitar heroes" within the realm of heavy metal. And one gentleman that seemed to balance shredding solos with songwriting was George Lynch - as evidenced by his work in Dokken, one of MTV's go-to rock bands of the era. After the band initially split in 1989, Lynch launched his own project, Lynch Mob (not to be confused with Ice Cube's group Da Lench Mob), and ever since, has been spotted in on-again/off-again Dokken reunions, as well as new Lynch Mob releases - as evidenced by the latter's eighth studio release in 2015, Rebel.

And Lynch doesn't set his sights solely on music, as he recently co-created a film titled Shadow Nation, which is described as "A hybrid way of life merging modern society with the ancient practices of people who have lived in harmony with the land for thousands of years; native American Indians."

Lynch called in to Songfacts shortly before the arrival of Rebel, and was up for chatting about some of the vocalists he has worked with over the years, songwriting, and the stories behind several Dokken rockers.
Greg Prato (Songfacts): Let's start by discussing the new Lynch Mob album, Rebel.

George Lynch: I think we retained the core aspects of the Lynch Mob formula, if there is such a thing: sort of a blues-based desert rock, with an exotic tinge to it. And we always work off that foundation when we're writing and push out the envelope a little bit - veer off into different areas. I think Rebel is probably the most ambitious record we've done, in the sense that we pushed the limits.

I'm not saying that it's "genre busting" or anything like that - it's a hard rock record. But I'm very proud of Oni [Logan, Lynch Mob vocalist] and myself, because we were able to stretch out a little bit. I always like to challenge ourselves, without abandoning who we are.

Songfacts: How would you compare the songwriting process in Lynch Mob to Dokken?

George: The process isn't much different, but the results and the chemistry are different. I subconsciously internalize who I'm playing with and who I'm surrounding myself with. When I'm playing with Dokken, I'm aware who is going to be singing this material, the parameters I'm working in, with how we're constructing songs, and stylistically what they're going to be.

With Oni, I know it's going to be more soul and R&B flavored, and try to give it a little twist. With the Dokken stuff, it's going to be a little more straight ahead, and a little bit "whiter," for lack of a better way to describe it. And the same with writing for the Sweet & Lynch record [2015's Only to Rise] - it's really identical to the Dokken writing sessions, in that both singers are in the same camp, the same world, the same universe, and I write accordingly.

Although Don Dokken served as the singer for the band that George is best known for (Dokken), the guitarist with the intriguingly decorated instruments has also collaborated with other vocalists over the years:

Oni Logan (Lynch Mob)
Doug Pinnick (KXM)
Michael Sweet (Sweet & Lynch)
Glenn Hughes (Lynch's 1993 solo album, Sacred Groove)
Angelo Moore (Infidels)

Additionally, Lynch has appeared on a healthy amount of tribute albums over the years, lending his six-string skills to tunes alongside Tim "Ripper" Owens (Immortal Randy Rhoads: The Ultimate Tribute) and Vince Neil (Let the Madness Begin: The Ultimate Tribute to Ozzy Osbourne), as well as multitude of '80s era hard rock singers on an all-Scorpions disc that he put out a few years ago called Scorpion Tales.
Songfacts: Out of all the singers you've worked with over the years, is there one that is the easiest to work with, or whose voice is closest to the one you hear in your head when you're writing a song?

George: No, I don't have a favorite, if that's what you're asking me - or anything closest to what I envision. All the singers I've worked with have aspects of maybe my "ideal singer," but I never played with one that had all the components of the ideal vocalist. It's maybe why I play in all different kind of situations.

For instance, I'm recording a record right now with a project called the Infidels, and the singer is Angelo Moore - the singer from Fishbone. That is something that is way out of my wheelhouse, and it's fantastic. He's doing things that I would never have imagined myself doing.

When I sit here and I talk to you and I talk about pushing the envelope with the Lynch Mob, I realize how much I neglected myself and avoiding areas of music that I should have been involved in - from punk to salsa to calypso to reggae and all these different influences that this guy [Moore] is bringing to the table. It's a learning process, really. I'd rather play with somebody who is influenced in a way that forces me to stretch a little bit.

Songfacts: How was it writing the soundtrack to the Shadow Nation documentary compared to the previous projects you've written music for in the past?

George: That was message-based, and the lyrics and messaging were vital, and my favorite part of the songs. I looked at the music as more of a vehicle for the message, rather than the other way around. The lyrics were not an afterthought - it was the primary motivation for the project.

Songfacts: What do you remember about the writing of the Dokken song, "Mr. Scary"?

George: That was originally intended to have vocals on it. I tried to write this heavier track - all the Dokken records had to have this balance: a ballad, a mid-tempo song, a fast song or two. And a heavy song balanced the light. We intended on Don to sing on it, but he just wasn't feeling it, which I can understand - you can't really sing over that song in retrospect. So instrumentalizing it was an afterthought.

We were just sitting there, and it was a really cool track, but it's either do that, or it wasn't going to make the cut on the record. So I spent all night in... I can't remember the name of the studio [Total Access Recording], but it was in Redondo Beach, and literally staying up all night tracking it. And it was one of the more memorable tracking sessions ever in my life, because it was so magical - all that stuff just happened. And it says something about songwriting: when you have a larger inspiration, it really takes it over the edge and pushes it to the next level.

Songfacts: What other Dokken tracks do you remember having a large part in writing?

George: "When Heaven Comes Down." I remember writing that. I had a little area in my house which Jeff [Pilson, Dokken's then-bassist] that I had boarded off and we locked ourselves in there, and it was one of those sessions. Actually, Jeff had to leave, and I just stayed awake all night and started getting into writing the lyrics, and I had a melody in my head for the chorus.

So I got my shitty little plastic mic and plugged it into an Octavider and some echo, into a Fostex 4-track cassette recorder, and I recorded it.

The sun was coming up, and I was singing really low, because I didn't have a lot of range. I'm a lousy singer, and I put all these effects on there - I put an Octavider and delay. I basically put all my effects on the mic! I wish I still had that recording.

Van Halen is thought of as the top hard rock band to emerge from the Los Angeles area in the late '70s, and with good reason - few acts have enjoyed as much success over an extended period.

However, there were other local rockers at the time that fell short of landing major label record deals in the US, tops being Quiet Riot (which featured a "pre-Ozzy" Randy Rhoads), London (which featured future members of Mötley Crüe, W.A.S.P., and Guns N' Roses at various points), as well as Xciter (which featured none other than a "pre-Dokken" George Lynch).

As Lynch explains below, the song "Paris is Burning" (which was the final track on the US version of Dokken's debut full-length, Breaking the Chains) in fact dates back to his Xciter days. To compare, check out the live rendition by Xciter in 1979, and the live rendition by Dokken in 1982.
Songfacts: What about "Paris is Burning"?

George: That's a song we'd been playing for a couple of years in Xciter. Don actually approached me to play together [in a band with him] - he liked that song and wanted to know if I would be interested in performing it in a project in Germany, to try and get a record deal there. I said, "Of course, why not." We talked about the deal, and then I never heard from him. So some time later, he approached Mick [Brown, Dokken's drummer] and me, to join him in Dokken. I said, "OK."

I was digging and pulled up the contract - I can't remember how I got my hands on it - but I found out that he actually sold two of my songs from Xciter to a publishing company, for something like 25,000 or 35,000 marks [about $15,000]. And he listed himself as the author. I was floored. So that started the rocky relationship.

August 21, 2015
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Comments: 1

  • Chris H. from Nw Florida, Usa That was an abrupt ending to the interview. I was hoping to read (much) more from George.
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