(Let The Truth Be Known)
By David Iozzia
Truth or dare? I wouldn't dare ask guitarist George Lynch about Dokken, the albums they recorded two decades ago, or the often-rumored Dokken original lineup reunion. Yet the truth is that 2009 will be a very busy year for George Lynch. True or false? There's a new Lynch Mob record out. False, yet there is one slotted for a June or July 2009 release, and its working title is "Smoke and Mirrors." Does George Lynch have a new musical project? True! It's called George Lynch's Souls of We, and their debut record "Let the Truth Be Known" was released in North America on November 4, 2008.
Dave: Hello George. Thanks for agreeing to do this interview. Best of luck with your musical project Souls of We, and congratulations on the release of your new record, "Let the Truth Be Known."
George: Thank you so much!
Dave: My opening questions will focus on the words "conception" and "preconception." First off, how was the band conceived?
George: Souls of We was never conceived. Souls of We is the result of a lot of projects with various people throughout the years that started and went nowhere. Yet as I was writing the record, I was envisioning the band playing live. I wanted the audience to have the perspective of watching us play in a big old theater. When I listen to records that inspire me, I envision that when I see that music performed live it will be equally intense. With "Let the Truth Be Known," I wanted to create a record that got the power and groove across. When we were mixing, we strived for a semi-live feel, a bigness, and an arena-rock vibe. My challenges with this record are getting it heard and finding a way to get Souls of We out on the road.
Dave: At this point in your career, can you pack up your gear in a van and take the music to the people yourself?
George: That's possible and we've talked about that. Everybody in the band wants to see it on the road. Hopefully enough people will hear this record and get it. But we're also looking for a way to present this band in a bigger light. We need to service this music on the right stage. It's got to be powerful.
Dave: If Souls of We chooses to headline in small clubs, do the longer setlist or the fans yelling out requests force you to play Dokken or Lynch Mob songs?
George: No. That's where I draw the line. I can't play the older legacy material with Souls of We. It's a completely different and disconnected franchise from all of that. The music is deep enough that we can play a headlining set. It would be silly to be playing this material and throw in "Breaking the Chains." I couldn't do it with a straight face. I'll play some Dokken material when I tour with Lynch Mob later this year. And who knows? Maybe the long talked-about Dokken reunion will occur in the next couple of years.
Dave: George, because you as a musician will be forever linked to Dokken and Lynch Mob, was the music of Souls of We preconceived to NOT sound like your previous bands?
George: No. Nothing was preconceived. Probably unconsciously I was trying to go in another direction, but I couldn't write a new Dokken record now if you paid me. That was just a product of where I was at a long time ago, the people I was playing with, and the way things were at that time. It's been decades and it's strange, yet natural, that people perceive me the way that they remember me from way back when. There's been a whole lot going on since then for me. I've continued to write, play, and evolve. I listen to different stuff that has an influence on me. On the Souls of We record, I'm just playing what comes natural to me at the moment.
Dave: What approach did you take during the process of writing and recording "Let the Truth Be Known"?
George: It was a strange and convaluted process. It was the exact opposite of getting a band together, going into the studio, and writing some songs. It was done ass-backwards or back ass-wards, however you want to say it. It started out many projects ago as something completely different. I finally got to a point where I had to put a cap on it. I had to bring all the various elements together and write some new stuff. Having vocalist London LeGrand come back to work with me was what glued it all together. He and I had a previous project that we started called Microdot. He left that project to do "Brides of Destruction" with Tracii Guns and Nikki Sixx. Now that London is back, we basically finished something that we had already started. It was a do it yourself approach because we had no funding, no record label, and no producer. It was gratifying to do the record that way. You have to find inventive ways to get things done. Fortunately, I have a lot of friends in the music industry who respect me and like what I can do. To be quite honest, I got a lot of help. I was more involved in every aspect of the process from beginning to end, more than on any other record that I've done. It was both painful and rewarding. The record was self-funded so I spent quite a bit of money on it. That's kind of scary because you don't know what's going to happen. I'm not equating this record to "Apocalypse Now," but I feel like Francis Ford Coppola or any other filmmaker who had to put up his house to get the film made. "Let the Truth Be Known" is my version of that. I went through many valleys and mountains, and there was always something else around the corner. I'm invested emotionally with this record quite a bit. I think it's the best record I've done, but I think that about every record. I think every artist does. I've tried to distance myself from it as best as I can. I know it isn't all things to all people. I know there are disappointing moments on the record, even for me, but as a whole and when looking at the big picture, I'm very happy with "Let the Truth Be Known."
Dave: My next set of questions will focus on the words revolution and evolution. It's 2009 and new music is forever impacted by a digital revolution. Music fans can go to the Souls of We MySpace page to hear your music. Since they are reading this interview, give me one sentence that verbally describes Souls of We's musical direction.
George: That's the hardest thing in the world to do, other than relating it by comparison to other bands. Angst is definitely a word that applies to our musical direction because that's what I'm feeling. How about angst, fire, beauty, and pain?
Dave: Today's music industry has bands and musicians marketing themselves directly and communicating with their fan base one-on-one via MySpace pages, Facebook, and websites. From your perspective, does that interfere with your creative process of writing and recording music?
George: It's a brave new world for us old-school guys. The time I spend on the computer doesn't interfere with my writing or recording. It does take time, which I've learned to bank and ration. I have to be smart about it. It's gratifying to have a direct connection to people who enjoy and appreciate my music, and give direct feedback. In the old model, musicians were very detached from our fans. We were insulated from the audience, playing live in big venues with lots of security.
Dave: A basic premise of evolution is that animals are shaped by their environment. Looking back to the late 80s George, what effect did Los Angeles have on you as a musician?
George: Reversing that, all animals, and in our case humans, can also shape their environment. The culture present in Los Angeles at that time, which was more of a melting pot, affected all of the bands. It was very competitive, but it was competitive in a creative way. The nature of the competitiveness did not force people to have converging styles. It created diversity. The rules for creating music weren't set in stone. They were still a work in progress. We were still finding ourselves as people and as a country. I think we find the best of ourselves in those periods of flux. When we go through periods of changes, and we're not sure who and where we are, that's when we do our best work.
Dave: How about the California desert where your home studio is today?
George: The desert forces you to be more introspective and to focus on what you do because you don't have any distractions. Authors and film-makers, and to a lesser extent musicians, often search for locations and environments that will affect the end result by osmosis, by being there. Placing yourself in an environment like the desert helps you and forces you to strip down your music, keeping it more basic and essential in nature. It makes you keep everything real, just like the desert itself. Nothing exists there unless it struggles to exist. Water and life are precious, and it means more because you appreciate it more.
Dave: Introduce the Souls of We rhythm section.
George: Johnny Chow, our bass guitarist, played in Fireball Ministry and Cavalera Conspiracy. He's a sweetheart of a guy, he has a great image, and he's very driven. Besides playing bass, he's a powerhouse business guy, always working 24-7, and always coming up with new ideas. Every band needs a guy like Johnny: he's nuts and bolts, business-minded, logical, and practical. Yael is our drummer. She was in My Ruin and she also played in Fireball Ministry for a while. Yael loves her music, She eats, breathes, sleeps, and dreams nothing but. She's an amazing performer; she's the new Tommy Lee. Yael's technically brilliant and she has an amazing groove. Yael's kind of a hippie, and that's really cool. I grew up with that, and I can identify with that, with me being a product of the 60s and 70s.
Dave: The 60s was a time period when a lot of people were singing about peace and love. The 21st century is a violent time period, and I love the hypocrisy of the Souls of We song "Gandhi's Got a Gun."
George: I love juxtaposing mutually exclusive imagery in my song titles. It makes the listener think. Gandhi was one of the greatest peacemakers in history, and now his country has weapons of mass destruction. I struggle to express my world views in the context of my music. I would love to be able to morph my thoughts and beliefs in things I care about into music that I create. That would take having a singer and lyricist and songwriting partner who shares my beliefs. I haven't found that yet, but hopefully I will someday.
Dave: Yet you've been quoted that with London, you have "finally found my musical soul mate."
George: Maybe I shouldn't have used the term soul mate, but why not? London and I respect each other. We have different methods of working. I'm more nuts and bolts; London's more off the cuff. Somehow we complement each other, and it's always exciting to get together because we don't know what we're going to create. I love to watch him work. He leaves me alone and I write the bed of the song. Then he comes in at the last hour and gets involved a little bit in the arrangement. Then he takes over. I try to contribute melody-wise and lyric-wise, but he leaves me in the dark. London is so self-contained and self-sufficient. The stuff he comes up with is amazing. I can't imagine coming up with stuff like that. I love his lyrics. I've worked with many singers who were gifted that way. I already mentioned how I struggle to imbed my own ideas and beliefs into my music. I'm always frustrated writing lyrics by myself. I'm always trying to get over that obstacle and my own limitations. It's very special to work with guys like London or Oni Logan who have gifts for poetry. It's not plagiarized; they're not looking in books like I do or listening to other people's records and stealing stuff. It comes from within. London and I have a separation of abilities, and they are not conflicting. I think the term is a symbiotic relationship. It's like the bird on the rhino's back, but I don't know who the rhino is and who the bird is.
Dave: "Let the Truth Be Known" closes with a song called "Under the Dead Tree," and there's some great guitar playing on that track. Because it's the final song, was it your subliminal way of saying the project may be new, but it's the same old George Lynch on guitar and he hasn't gone anywhere?
George: It was an attempt to re-visit the instrumental thing that I did with "Mr. Scary." It was somewhat of an afterthought, as "Mr. Scary" was. Coincidentally, as we speak, I'm in the studio working on a song called "Son of Scary" that'll come out on Guitar Hero 5. To be quite honest with you, that song closes the record because I couldn't find a way to tuck that song into the record's sequence without interrupting the sequence of the record. Like naming a band, sequencing is relatively simple, but it's very difficult when you're writing. That song was either going to be at the end, or I could've made it a hidden track. "Under the Dead Tree" was originally a vocal song, and it was very cool as a vocal song. London's vocals were very dark and disturbing. They had the effect of making you feel strange and uncomfortable. I don't know if that's a good thing, but it did affect London and me. It definitely wasn't a party song.
Dave: You've called the Souls of We record "Let the Truth Be Known" one of the musical highlights of your life. Why?
George: In a timeline, every moment is a highlight. The beautiful thing about music is that you're living in the moment. You're so immersed in it and engulfed that you think of nothing else. Everything that you've done up to that moment is encapsulated in what you've just created. It's sort of like dropping a marker in time on that point of your life. Every one of those moments, every one of those steps in your musical life when you drop those markers, means something. They define you. When you make evolutions musically and you document them on a record, you've captured something that you can share with the people who listen to the record.
Dave: Before I forget George, I wanted to thank you for the bags of tandoori-flavored chips that I received in the mail from a company of yours called Pynch Chips.
George: Jeff Pilson, who I'm sure put you up to that question, had a bunch of ideas for business ventures that we would put together. He must have taken that one and run because I didn't even get a bag of chips.
Dave: When Jeff heard you were doing 10 interviews in a row today, and that I was number 8, he figured that I needed something to lighten the interview. Feel free to promote the instructional DVD you did with Jennifer Batten, Bruce Kulick, and Darrell Roberts called "All-Stars of Rock Guitar."
George: My inclusion on that DVD was pretty unorthodox. I was called in at the last minute and I did an end cap to the DVD, which was more of a performance piece with a little bit of instruction. It was basically me in the studio just going off! I have another series of instructional DVDs that I did for Hal Leonard. "Wicked Riffs" is rhythm-oriented and "Scary Licks" is lead-oriented. If fans are interested, those DVDs are available in music stores everywhere.
Dave: At the end of 2008, you toured overseas with a new Lynch Mob lineup that included Oni Logan on vocals, ex-Thin Lizzy and ex-Whitesnake bass guitarist Marco Mendoza, and ex-Brides of Destruction drummer Scott Coogan. Will U.S. music fans get to see that lineup play live in 2009?
George: Absolutely. We have a great new booking agent and great management. We're booking some festivals now and we're looking to jump on a bigger tour this summer. Lynch Mob will stay real busy in 2009 and possibly in 2010.
Dave: What's the status of a new Lynch Mob record?
George: We're right in the thick of recording. When you phoned, I was finishing up a day of guitars. The record's working title is "Smoke and Mirrors," and we hope to release it in June or July.
Dave: The last time I saw a G3 tour, the lineup included Joe Satriani, Paul Gilbert, and Dream Theater's John Petrucci. In late February 2009, you played a few West Coast shows with Paul Gilbert and Richie Kotzen billed as Guitar Generation. Are there any other shows being booked for 2009?
George: I don't have any details available at this time but we're booked in the Chicago area. Then we go across Canada and the Pacific Northwest. That's an event that will be out there and all around.
Dave: But I'm East Coast-based George. Where will I see you next?
George: That's a tough one Dave, I really don't know. It's too early to predict at this point.
Dave: Thanks for the interview George.
George: Thank you for listening. I can't wait to get Souls of We and the Lynch Mob out on the road. I'll see you somewhere, with somebody, someday real soon!