George Lynch Still Got That Wicked Sensation
With two new albums out this year (so far), the Dokken guitar great keeps it moving
Guitarist George Lynch became renowned for his virtuosity as a member of the metal bands Dokken and Lynch Mob, but he has also explored many other genres across his nearly 50 year career.
He proves his wide-ranging abilities once again with the latest albums from his industrial group The Banishment, who released Machine and Bone in March, and his hard rock band Sweet & Lynch (with Stryper vocalist Michael Sweet), which has just put out Heart & Sacrifice on May 19.
This sense of adventurousness seems to come naturally to Lynch these days.
“I sit down and play, and something happens,” he says, calling from his Los Angeles guitar shop. “There was a period of time, especially in the ’80s, when I remember [Dokken bassist] Jeff Pilson and I just sitting there and laboring over parts. Or in some earlier bands, struggling to really figure out what to do. But now things are a little more wide open and unrestrained. I find myself moving all across the spectrum.”
This isn’t to say that everything about the process comes easily, though. “That Banishment record took [programmer/multi-instrumentalist Joe] Haze and I over ten years to finally get out,” Lynch says. “That was a monumental Bhutan death march that was full of all kinds of twists and turns. Mere mortals would have given up years ago. And I almost did, many, many times, and so did he. We’re both elated that it actually came out.”
Fortunately, things have gone more smoothly for Sweet & Lynch with Heart & Sacrifice, which is the band’s third album together. Still, this group has its own unique challenge because of the way Lynch and Michael Sweet divide up their duties. In this case, Lynch does the songwriting, but doesn’t touch the vocals or lyrics. “That’s Michael’s world – and he has his certain [Christian] beliefs that he speaks to when he writes his lyrics. I don’t agree with him; they’re not my beliefs. So it’s a little bit strange for me to be playing music with this kind of belief system imposed on it, but I’m all right with it.
“We have discussed the idea of me being involved in the messaging a little bit more, but the problem that we couldn’t get around was, how would he sing that?” Lynch continues. “I wouldn’t want him to sing something that makes him uncomfortable. So it was a tricky situation, so I just kind of let it go.”
These days, Lynch says he applies that more laid back approach to his career overall. “I got to the point in my life that I think I’m done aspiring to have this master plan,” he says. “I’m just enjoying making music and playing with my friends and doing what I’m doing. I’m just going wherever the path leads me.”
This has resulted in a vast number of collaborations. Besides The Banishment and Sweet & Lynch, he has also worked with Doug Pinnick (King’s X) and Ray Luzier (KoRn) in the band KXM, formed Ultraphonix with Living Colour’s Corey Glover, and played in the group Dirty Shirley with Dino Jelusick (Trans-Siberian Orchestra), among many more. And, of course, there are the six studio albums he made with Dokken starting in the 1980s, followed by the seven studio albums he did with his own band, Lynch Mob. He has also released thirteen albums as a solo artist, starting with 1993’s Sacred Groove.
Although he’s been incredibly prolific across his career, Lynch can’t pinpoint precisely what made him want to become a professional musician in the first place, though he’s sure his upbringing in Southern California set him on this path at an early age.
“My dad was a fledgling audiophile, so we had all these reel to reel tapes and vinyl of all these jazz guitarists and classical music and flamenco music,” Lynch says, “so I was exposed to that a lot and I think that’s probably what piqued my interest. But I can’t really say what the one motivating thing was to get me interested in actually asking my mom and dad to buy me a guitar.”
To get that first guitar, Lynch moved lawns and did other yard work all summer in his Lakewood, California neighborhood. “I had to save up half the money I needed for the guitar I wanted, and my dad paid the other half,” he says.
He went on to play in various local bands in the L.A. scene, including The Boyz with drummer Mick Brown, who would also be his future Dokken bandmate. Even so, Lynch didn’t think this was going to become his career. “I was a very late bloomer, as far as making music a profession – I really loved playing in bands, so it was just part of my life,” he says. “I had a couple kids and lived in an apartment. Didn’t really have any money, and was just living my normal life.”
To support his family, Lynch says he “managed and worked at every fast food place that you can imagine. I don’t have a formal education because I dropped out of school in the ninth grade, but Taco Bell sent me to Taco Bell University in Seal Beach, California. I went there for two weeks and I learned all about portions, how to pay the bills, how to run the stores, and how to cook everything.”
He recalls that working in the restaurant business was extremely intense: “I would run a store all day, from opening to closing, including lunch and dinner. Sometimes all by myself. And I’d have to do every aspect: clean the fryers, run the drive through, run the grill, deal with the money, do the bank drops, do inventory, keep everything clean. I got held up at gunpoint twice. It was dangerous. It was in bad parts of town. So I learned to work really hard.”
Lynch had a similarly high work ethic with his music, which eventually earned him the break that he needed to play guitar for a living. “Word had gotten around over the years that I had something to offer, and people took notice of me and my bands, and at some point, some opportunities came up,” he says.
In 1981, Lynch joined the band Dokken, with whom he earned international fame. The group released multiple platinum-selling albums, and their 1988 live album Beast from the East was nominated for a Grammy for “Best Metal Performance.” Lynch’s technically brilliant and melodic guitar playing has often been praised as being one of the key reasons why Dokken became so popular, especially his memorable riffs on hit singles such as “Alone Again,” “In My Dreams” and “Dream Warriors.”
VIDEO: Dokken “Dream Warriors”
Although his work with Dokken and all of his other projects have made him one of the most celebrated guitarists in modern times, Lynch is modest, pointing to the way he and his family live nowadays. “We live normal lives. We’re just normal people. This just happens to be my job,” he says, adding that his kids don’t see him as a rock star. “The few times they’ve ever been exposed to me actually playing in that context, they’ve been shocked. ‘That’s Dad? What?’ It’s funny.”
All the same, Lynch is proud of the legacy he has created for himself. “I have to sit back and be appreciative and thankful for where I’m at, and I’m constantly reminding myself of that,” he says. “The chances of actually succeeding and accomplishing even what I’ve accomplished at my level is so exceedingly small. So I’m absolutely very, very grateful.”
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