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Dokken to Lynch Mob to art

Rocker George Lynch continues to reinvent himself

Posted: February 21, 2009 11:38 p.m.
Updated: February 22, 2009 4:55 a.m.

George Lynch, former guitarist for the '80s rock band Dokken, still performs throughout the United States.

 
It was a fellow guitarist named George that started George Lynch down the path of rock ‘n’ roll stardom.

A 10-year-old Lynch watched in awe as the Beatles performed on “The Ed Sullivan Show” and quickly became swept up in the first wave of the British Invasion.  

“It had a huge effect on me and everyone else on the planet. After that, I tried to emulate George Harrison, since we had the same first name,” Lynch said.

Two decades later, Lynch, now a Castaic resident, made a name for himself as the lead guitarist for ’80s heavy metal band Dokken, selling multi-platinum records, touring the world, and scoring a Grammy nomination in 1989 for Best Rock Instrumental, before the band broke up in 1989.

Lynch went on to create the gold-selling Lynch Mob in 1990, recorded his first solo album in 1993, and reunited briefly with Dokken in the mid-90s. Today, the husband, father and grandfather can be found playing with the reformed Lynch Mob and overseeing several creative projects.

Fans of all kinds show up at Lynch Mob concerts, from kids his children’s age to an older audience who dug Dokken back in the day. “It’s kind of amazing, the amount of credibility we carry. It’s nice to be recognized, but it’s much nicer to be appreciated,” Lynch said. “When people say that a certain song of yours moves them, it’s really empowering. That’s what it’s all about.”

The early days
Born in Spokane, Wash., Lynch moved with his family to Bellflower, Calif. when he was very young. Lynch’s father was an avid jazz and flamenco lover who would set up pots, pans and trash cans for his kids to play, instilling in Lynch the percussive sound for which he would eventually became known.

“It really developed my sense of timing,” Lynch said.

Still, it wasn’t a natural fit when Lynch picked up a guitar at the age of 10.

“I had no idea what I was doing. I was more into posing with it than playing with it at first,” he said.

He learned the basics at music school — until he was kicked out at the age of 14. Lynch then went from store to store, from teacher to teacher, until finding a mentor in Jim Kelly, a 17-year- old guitarist. Lynch would ride his bike from Paramount to Lakewood, showing up two hours early to practice with Kelly, whom he recently reunited with at a Tucson show.

Lynch formed Tungus Grump with friends in the late 1960s, which had a heavy blues rock influence indicative of the era.

“I was fortunate to grow up at a time when the most amazing bands were emerging — Led Zeppelin, Cream, Jimi Hendrix. It was a wonderful time to learn about music and it’s stuck with me over the decades,” Lynch said.

While at Paramount High School, Lynch developed a reputation as a guitar hotshot and was recruited into a popular older band to perform at a Battle of the Bands competition. It was not an auspicious debut. Lynch froze in front of the audience that included family and friends, before fumbling through the first song. When the curtain closed, Lynch was promptly fired.

Undeterred, Lynch continued to play with Tungus Grump before moving to Northern California, where he met drummer Mick Brown, bassist Juan Croucier and singer Michael White.

The quartet returned to Los Angeles and shared a one-room studio with no bathroom or running water while pursuing their rock ‘n’ roll dreams.

“We lived off our girlfriends, who worked at Burger King. They fed us and let us take showers at their houses,” Lynch recalled.

The band crowned themselves The Boyz before morphing into Xciter.

“We were very into Kiss. We painted our faces like animals and were very loud. We thought we were the greatest thing in the world, which kept us going,” Lynch said.

Xciter was becoming well-known on the L.A. music scene, opening for heavy metal stalwarts like Van Halen, Quiet Riot and Motley Crue, when they caught the attention of singer Don Dokken.

Dokken, who was performing with a band called Airborn, pursued Xciter and persuaded them to be a part of his new, self-titled band. Croucier left to play with Ratt and was replaced with bassist Jeff Pilson.  

The big time
Managed by Cliff Bernstein of QPrime, a huge player in the music industry, Dokken’s success came quickly with the release of 1983’s “Breaking the Chains.” Bolstered by the single of the same name, “Breaking the Chains” quickly sold 500,000 copies, earning gold status.

Dokken launched on a nonstop, global tour that lasted for years, opening for Aerosmith, Bon Jovi and countless other arena headliners.

“You name a band and we supported them,” Lynch said.

Known for his blazing riffs, black-and-blonde hair and leading man good looks, Lynch quickly became a favorite of heavy metal magazines such as “Hit Parader” and “Cream” and some might argue, the star of the band. He and Dokken clashed almost immediately on a personal level, though Lynch acknowledged the singer’s determination and business acumen helped take them to a higher level of fame.

“Sometimes, someone may not be as talented musically, but is such a shameless self-promoter that they can really get the band’s name out there. In hindsight, I appreciate that. Because who cares how good you are if no one knows about you?” Lynch said.

Dokken’s second album, “Tooth and Nail,” was released in 1984, and went platinum on the strength of songs like “Just Got Lucky,” the power-ballad “Alone Again” and “Into the Fire.” The band decided to film a video for the latter while touring with Dio in Hawaii.

In addition to concert footage, they wanted to get pickup shots of Lynch’s guitar solo atop an active volcano. The result was something out of “Spinal Tap.”

“We were up there for so long that seismic activity developed. Everyone else had left the park, but we were so off the beaten path, we didn’t know,” Lynch said. “Steam started coming up, it was hard to breathe. Then my shoes broke through lava crust to the hot magma underneath. I could feel the heat and thought to myself, ‘Is this normal?’”

Lynch played on. As dusk came and the shoot was ending, rangers came to warn the group that needed to leave immediately. They were on the plane when the volcano blew — the camera crew spent an hour circling the eruption for extra footage.

New beginning
After following up their early success with the equally popular 1985 album “Under Lock and Key” and in 1987 “Back for the Attack,” Dokken was in the position of crossing over to become a signature headlining act as they headed into contract negotiations with their record label, Elektra, in 1989.

Negotiations fell apart when, according to Lynch, Dokken decided to take the band’s momentum as a sign to  go solo.

“He (Dokken) wanted to keep 100 percent of everything. It was devastating,” Lynch said. “After all the experiences we went through, I considered my bandmates to be friends and family. We had put in years of hard work that was about to pay off, then he (Dokken) goes and does an about face. I really questioned human nature and this business after that.”

It didn’t take Lynch long to recover.

He stayed with Elektra and created The Lynch Mob with vocalist Oni Logan. Their 1990 debut, “Wicked Sensation,” went gold, but Lynch knew things were about to change.

“If ‘Wicked Sensation’ had been released two years earlier, it would have been massive, but Nirvana and the whole grunge scene were on the horizon and heavy metal was on its way out,” he said.

Lynch retreated to the Arizona desert to raise his children Tasha, Sean and Mariah, and enjoy a quieter life. In 1993, he released “Sacred Groove,” his first solo endeavor, and in 1994, a call came in from Elektra to rejoin Dokken.

They refused to release a new album under the band’s name without the guitarist on board.

Lynch acquiesced and three more years of recording and touring followed.

He was happy to return to The Lynch Mob in 1998, releasing “Smoke This,” before reuniting with Pilson for “Wicked Underground,” under the name of LP (Lynch/Pilson Project).

Delivered to stores in 2003, the LP release coincided with a move to the Santa Clarita Valley, where he met wife Danica after an introduction by a mutual friend.

Married in 2006, the couple recently celebrated an anniversary.

Lynch is stepfather to Devon, 11, and Dakota, 9.

Art, family, business
A typical tour for Lynch now includes his family. The Lynches logged nearly 7,000 miles in two weeks during last year’s Lynch Mob trek across the United States.

“We drive behind the bus in our SUV and go sightseeing and camping in places like Yellowstone and Yosemite,” Lynch said. “The band will play until 1 a.m. or 2 a.m., then we load up the gear and kids, drive 10 hours and sleep at a rest stop for a while. It’s brutal, but fun.”

Lynch often flies solo for treks across the world as a teacher at guitar clinics, as well as for his gig as spokesperson for ESP Guitars.

The company, for whom Lynch has designed 15 guitars, has held him as their highest profile endorser for nearly two decades. Lynch has his own signature series Seymour Duncan guitar pick-up, “The Screamin’ Demon,” which reigns as one of the company’s most popular items. Many more apparel items, guitar cases, strings and pedals also bear the Lynch name.

A prolific songwriter, Lynch estimated he has 12 hard drives full of original songs ranging from traditional metal to straightforward pop, which he’s sold to artists such as Australian singer Michelle Joan Smith.

“Songs come when they come, so I carry a digital recorder with me everywhere. I get an idea in my head and I bark it into the receiver. If I don’t, they disappear. I must have thrown away a hit song a thousand times,” he said with a smile.

Guitarists seeking instruction from Lynch can sign up online at www.georgelynch.com for the “Dojo Guitar Academy.” Geared towards intermediate to advanced students, the academy costs $29 a month and includes equipment testing, technological comparisons and behind-the-scenes footage of Lynch in concert and at the studio in addition to straightforward lessons.

The most recent artistic venture for Lynch is producing paintings with powerhouse creative agency Scene Four. Each canvas features a shot of Lynch against a downtown Los Angeles backdrop overlaid with multimedia elements.

“Bag of Bones” includes an empty pack of Chenghua cigarettes, which Lynch picked up in China. The first series of 200 is priced at $500 each and will be sold directly to the public, as well as at art galleries. Lynch is also working on larger-scale originals that will retail for $1,000 or more.

It’s all part of a strategy to stay relevant in an ever-changing marketplace, a process which can be exhausting. “Sometimes I get so frustrated with the business, I take my cup of coffee in the morning, check the classifieds and think about applying for a job in the industrial center, where I could just kiss the kids goodbye in the morning and be home in time for dinner,” Lynch said. “There’s just no safety net with this career. I come from a salesman’s family, so I know I have to create opportunities, then market and communicate them.”

On stage and in the studio, Lynch can forget about the business end and focus on playing, which never fails to excite him. The newest incarnation of The Lynch Mob, which includes original singer Oni Logan, bassist Marco Mendoza of Ted Nugent, Thin Lizzy and Whitesnake, and Scott Coogan of The Ace Frehley Band, is currently recording “Smoke & Mirrors,” which Lynch described as a return to the band’s original sound with a deeper, complex vibe and lots of fire.

“We’re one of the few legacy bands that’s not just out there banging out our hits. We like to stay viable and vibrant. We’re very hungry, we still have something to prove,” Lynch said. “When you get it right, it’s such a rush.”

For more information on George Lynch, visit www.georgelynch.com.

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