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As musicians gain fame and fortune through their musical accomplishments, some fall victim to the condition we often label as “gear lust” or GAS – Gear Acquisition Syndrome. While some go after Golden Era solidbodies or trick their pedalboard out with an assortment of boutique fuzzes, flangers and delays, a select few try to put their stamp on everything that can be plugged or played. The leader of this select group is none other than George Lynch, who is not only a long-time sufferer of GAS, but also a stellar guitarist who has initiated and developed signature Randall Amps, ESP guitars, Dean Markley strings, the Seymour Duncan Screamin’ Demon pickup and countless other effects and accessories. It’s such an affliction that Lynch extensively alters his rigs for each tour, all in search of the perfect setup. Before Lynch, this would have been pure insanity; now it’s de rigueur for any major artist. While Lynch didn’t invent gear lust, he certainly had a hand in legitimizing it.
You might think that a guitarist who is so enamored with tone, who spends a large part of his time developing and designing the newest gear, wouldn’t have any time left for touring and records, but we’re talking about Mr. Scary. Ever the creator, Lynch was a founding member of the platinum-selling metal band, Dokken, cultivated the Lynch Mob, produced a string of successful solo projects and, in his latest endeavor, leads a crunch-filled ensemble called Souls of We. Lynch hasn’t had much time to sit and dwell on his past success; rather, he just keeps striving for that “carnal spontaneity” which many of his metal riffs are derived from.
He finds himself just as busy as before, but that’s alright for the six-string virtuoso, who hasn’t shut the door on a Dokken reunion tour later this year and already has some dates lined up with the Lynch Mob. While Lynch can be found anywhere from his George Lynch Dojo Guitar Academy – an internet hub with online lessons from Lynch himself – to playing onstage regularly to hiding away in his personal recording bunker, Lynch Box Studios, he’s always willing to talk gear and tone. We recently tracked him down and got his take on gear, his attitudes on tuning and what it’s like for a decorated rocker to play in front of 60 elementary school kids.
Thanks for talking with us, George. You have a load of stuff going on right now, between Souls of We and the Lynch Mob. What’s been happening lately?
The Souls of We record, Let The Truth Be Known, was just released in August. The band includes myself, London LeGrand from Brides of Destruction, Johnny Chow from Fireball Ministry and Cavalera Conspiracy, and Yael, a female drummer who has played with Dave Grohl and Tom Morello. Featured on the record are a lot of really cool musicians from important musical friendships that have developed over the years. The record was a five-year process, self-produced and done primarily at Henson Studios in Hollywood, and mixed by Mudrock, who mixed Godsmack and Avenged Sevenfold’s first couple records.
Tell me a little bit about Henson Studios.
Well, Henson Studios is very historic. It was Charlie Chaplin’s movie lot in the early 20th century – it’s this huge, private compound. It consists of acres where they have huge sets and old mastering labs. There were all kinds of magnificent producers there, and I learned a lot from just being around them. You’d turn around one day and there’s Ozzy, Paul McCartney, Christina Aguilera or even the Backstreet Boys – like that’s relevant to what I do! And then there were some great jazz musicians and session players like Kenny Aronoff and Abe Laboriel. It was intimidating to a certain extent, but you also realize people are just people.
Sounds like the environment was definitely conducive to just getting your whole creative process rolling. What did you take offsite?
Well, the solos I pretty much did exclusively at Lynch Box Studio, which is just my own private Pro Tools studio, because I felt more comfortable there. If you have PC or Pro Tools rigs, good mics and mic pres, a lot of times you can get what you need from a much smaller, economical room. What you need the big room for is drums and a board to mix and mash. If you’re spending $1500-2200 a day you’re definitely worried about the clock ticking. That’s intimidating and the last thing you want. You also don’t want Paul McCartney or the Backstreet Boys running around outside your studio and popping in when you’re trying to work.
This seems a lot more open than your previous recording situations.
Back in the eighties and early nineties, I was very private and secretive – I wouldn’t even allow the band in. We would go to the extent of nailing plywood up on the doors to keep people out throughout the whole day and night. I would do 20-hour stretches. In fact, there were even points where I would ask the engineer to leave. I would say, “Hey dude, I don’t think it’s necessary that you be here and push that button all day long – I’ll do that.” And he would show me how to run the board and leave – I’d do it myself.
What was your approach to guitar on this recording? Were they tuned to low B?
I used an ESP LTD Viper. It’s alder with an EMG pickup in it – tapped pickups didn’t work very well because the response wasn’t fast enough. They were more dynamic and I missed that, but this is a very un-dynamic guitar – I use it exclusively for doing low-tune rhythms. I’ve actually toured with it and it’s a bitch to play solos on because I’ve got 13s on it. When it’s used for rhythms, it’s phenomenal. It gets a very unique, low-tuning sound, unlike what you generally hear with most new metal bands when they do the low stuff. They’re pretty much interchangeable as far as the guitar sounds with most bands.
It’s hard to get audible mids, which I think can be the biggest challenge with low tunings – actually creating a sound that you can hear that has a mid to it.
That sets you apart. The Viper does that to a certain extent, which is limited by the tuning effect. If you’re in that frequency range, you’re not going to get those mids like you would on a guitar tuned to Eb or E. But on all the overdubs, I used traditionally tuned guitars or alternately tuned guitars. I’d use my Tiger, TL- 56 or Super V, and a lot of times, depending on where the song was recorded, key-wise, I’d use a capo for the rhythm stuff and then do another rhythm on top of it with a capo on a traditionally tuned guitar, just to create another layer that creates an identity and uniqueness to the rhythm sound.