Extreme multi-tasker George Lynch talks recording, playing live, and fearless approach to building guitars with poisonous wood.
Lynch has shown no signs of slowing down over the years. Kill All Control is his eleventh solo album and closely follows Smoke And Mirrors, Lynch Mob’s last release. Lynch continues to tour, record, teach guitar clinics, and somehow find the time to build Mr. Scary Guitars, his own line of instruments. PG recently caught up with Lynch to pick his brain about the new record, gear, his guitar company, and the son of “Mr. Scary.”
How did Kill All Control come about?
It was originally going to be the second Souls Of We record and it took us two years to make. The ironic thing is that we were going to do the record in four or five weeks with London LeGrand [vocalist for Brides Of Destruction], Nic Speck [bassist for Run, Run, Run], and Adrian Ost [drummer for Powerman 5000]. We thought we’d capture a moment, and knock it out of the park.
We had a deal set up with Slate Studios. We had the rehearsal room, got in there, worked ten days straight, and wrote the instrumentals for the whole record in that time. We then got into the studio and tracked all the music in two weeks. We’re three and a half weeks into it and figured we’d knock the vocals out in a week—still within the time frame allotted for the budget. But things just went sideways for another two years after that.
What happened to tracking the vocals?
I love singers, but they’re like women—it’s a very complicated thing. You can’t live with them, you can’t live without them. If somebody could figure out singers, they could probably figure out the problems of the world.
The record really should have been called Happy Accident because I basically lost the record. I was out of money, we had exceeded our budget, and we were way beyond the time we had allotted for it. I had no album and I had no singer, so I had to go on and do other things. London did his best, but personal things were happening in his life and it just didn’t work out. I love him, he’s a very good friend, and I felt bad for him, but it just wasn’t working out at that moment in time.
So we hooked up with Will Martin [vocalist for Earshot], an extended laborious process, but what he did was unbelievably beautiful. He did a great job, but he got busy with Earshot. Then we got Keith St. John from Montrose to come in. He’s a very good friend, very hard worker, a saint, a sweet guy, and very easy to work with. He was right there for me when I said, “Dude, I got another song! My singer went away. Do you have any ideas?” He filled in the gaps for me, and he was really a saint to come in at the eleventh hour and just bust his ass.
Marc Torien [vocalist for Bullet Boys] did a few fill-in dates for Oni Logan when he couldn’t go to Canada with us. He did some Lynch Mob dates and some California dates as well, so I thought maybe he could help out. He came in and did a great job on a couple songs that weren’t finished, but he had his commitments with Bullet Boys, so he went away as well.
Then London came back in at the very end. He had gotten everything together in his life and expressed it in the song “Wicked Witch,” which is the single [listen to the stream above]. It came out amazing! It was actually something that he and I had been working on for about a week at his place, before he fell out of the band. He remembered it, found the tapes, brought all that back, and still improved on it. When he went in and tracked it, I literally cried when I heard it. It was just so beautiful, so unexpected. So, he came back, which was kind of a full circle story with a happy ending.
What we ended up doing with some of the singers was comping them together. We took a verse of Marc’s, a chorus of Keith’s, and it all worked out. It did require some work, but we made it work.
Are you happy with the way it turned out?
We were obviously forced to do certain things. Ideally, we could have made vast improvements on some of the material, but we captured a moment. Eighty percent of the record I’m very happy with.
It’s a strong record and your playing sounds inspired. What gear did you use?
Thanks. I used the same gear on the whole record. Because it was done very quickly, we didn’t have time to really dial stuff in. I stacked all my heads up in the control room and my cabinets were off in another room. We used an R-121, a Shure 57, a [Randall] Lynch Box cab, and an old Hiwatt cab.
For the rhythms, one side was a [Randall] Lynch Box and the other side was a Diezel Herbert. I used a variety of guitars for the rhythms, but I always try to find two guitars that have chemistry. We do two rhythm tracks for the main chords. So one side would usually be my old Tiger and the other side my Tele-style, and I’d mix that combination up. Sometimes I would use my Les Paul-style, which is a real chunky, fake ’58 [ESP] built for me back in the ’80s. The other side would be something else. Generally, it was the Tele-style, the Tiger, a little bit of the GL-56, and the Les Paul-style—all made by ESP. Do the left side, do the right side, and make it match—that’s pretty much all it was and I just banged through.
Did you record both amps at the same time or separately?
I did one side with one amp first, and then the other side with the other amp using a different guitar.
Did you use your pedalboard?
When I’m in the studio it’s like snakes on the floor [Laughing]. There’s like forty pedals—I have my pedalboard and then I have all my other stuff that won’t fit on the pedalboard [Laughing]. As I’m tracking, doing leads or clean parts or squirrely affected parts, I’ll have an “Oh! I want to put a little thing here!” I’ll plug in my old Electric Mistress, my DigiTech Whammy, my old Echoplex, or whatever I think I need right there—it could be an analog chorus with the rate turned way up. I’m always off the cuff.
What’s on your pedalboard?
An old Clyde-era wah that goes into a script-logo [MXR] Phase 90. I’m always changing my overdrives but I really like the Cusack Screamer, which is like a Tube Screamer. I have a new HomeBrew Electronics Skull Crusher I really like that Gary Hoey gave me. I’ve got thirty overdrives and I’m always swapping them out, but those are the two that I used on the record. From there it goes into two Zvex pedals—a Seek-Wah and a Seek-Trem. After that, it goes into a Boss CE-3 Chorus—which I didn’t use on the record, but do use live—and a ’70s Mu-Tron Octave Divider. Love that thing.
Then I use the Shimmer effect from a Strymon blueSky Reverb, followed by a Strymon El Capistan dTape Echo. Sometimes I’ll use my old EP-3 Echoplex or my EP-2 Tube Echoplex. Then it goes into an old Fulltone Deja’Vibe, which is phenomenal for the Trower/Hendrix thing.
The main riff on “Voices In My Head” is huge.
I quad tracked that with two amps on each side, both tracked twice. It makes it massive. I normally use 10-42 strings, but will use 11s for the rhythms and then go back to 10s for the solos. I like them light on the bottom when I play live, because I shake my chords and play pretty squirrely.
Which heads do you use live?
I change them up all the time. I have a foundation, which is my new [Randall] LB103 Lynch Box head and Lynch Box speakers—a variation on high-powered Celestion Greenbacks. I always add one other amp, and that’s always changing. It could be my ’68 Marshall Plexi with an old Boss ten-band EQ in front of it, or my Dave Friedman Brown Eye.
Let’s talk about your composing process. How do you come up with riffs and melody lines?
I love writing with my friends and my band. Nic, Adrian, and I basically just got into a room, and locked ourselves in there for ten days. It was sweaty, we had gear stacked up against the wall, we played loud, and we just got off on the vibe. Adrian throws down a beat, I throw out a riff.
All musicians have their dry periods, but as I get older, I seem to have this bottomless well. When I get into a room with my friends, it never ends. I can riff out and come up with shit for days—it’s just so much fun.
Do you come in with riffs that you’ve catalogued?
We make it up right then and don’t know what we’re going to do until we get there. Then when we get there, we just feed off each other—something will come. We have a little GarageBand or Pro Tools setup on a laptop. We just set up a couple of mics, capture it, and start piecing it together. We worked really hard on it, but it was so much fun.
Demonic riffs just come to you through some supernatural force?
[Laughing.] I’m just a conduit. I’m a vehicle. I didn’t create anything. It’s out there somewhere. I hear things in my head but I don’t know where it comes from, so I don’t take credit for anything. I do what I do and I don’t know why it happens, but I’m glad it does. I just try to get out of the way.
Did you use any of your Mr. Scary guitars?
No—I’ve never built one for myself, which is stupid. I just don’t have time, and I always have orders.
On the entire album, you didn’t play one Mr. Scary guitar?
No. I work so hard on them, fall in love with them, and then it’s like giving away your kids. A cool story is about the guy who bought The Fossil from me. He’s an archeologist, which is why it’s made out of three million-year-old fossil bones. He was nice enough to let me take it on the road and the city he lived in was the last date on the tour.
I played the guitar for a few songs, finished a solo, and then handed it to him in the audience. I knew I was handing it to him, but the audience didn’t know that—they just thought I was giving my guitar away. It was great and people freaked out! It looked awesome from where I had walked offstage, because it was still feeding back and ringing [Laughing].
I don’t think most people realize that you actually build guitars in your own shop and that you’re hands-on.
There are two misconceptions about Mr. Scary Guitars. One is that I don’t make them myself, which is absolutely not true. That’s why I send every customer a DVD. I do of course have help—I can’t do it all myself. At any guitar company, nobody does everything completely by themselves. I don’t do the fretwork or build the bridges from raw metal (Laughing). I order them from Floyd and retrofit them with upgraded parts, but I am completely hands on.
They’re works of art, but first and foremost, they sound and play amazing—that’s the number one thing. They have wide, flat, C, quartersawn necks, with stainless steel frets. I use the best woods available including black limba, which nobody builds with anymore because it’s poisonous. I have to use a double industrial breather so I don’t get mesothelioma, but it sounds amazing. It has the best qualities of mahogany, but it has a little more top and a little more spank, like you would get with a Les Paul by adding a maple top. It’s all tone-monster stuff and extremely playable.
I know luthiers who make these $35,000 sculptures, but you wouldn’t want to play them! Not because they’re art, but because they’re just not that playable. It’s not their primary purpose. They’re wall hangers, and my guitars are not that at all. Everyone who gets my guitars says, “Oh my god! I’ve never played a guitar like this.” It comes from that old San Dimas late ’70s early ’80s school of guitar building.
What’s the story behind the sequel to “Mr. Scary,” “Son of Scary?”
“Son Of Scary” was done independently. I did that with Fred Coury (Drummer for Cinderella). We did it in a couple days at his studio. What happened was that Guitar Hero approached me and wanted to use “Mr. Scary.” Back in the Dokken days, I was a big fan of “all for one, and one for all,” so we split everything up equally, even though I wrote the song. I split it up with the whole band thinking that was the right thing to do.
That came back to haunt me. When I approached Don Dokken, who has part of a controlling interest in the song, he got his lawyers on it. Basically he blew me out of the water just to be mean, even though he would have gotten twenty-five percent of the money. He scared Guitar Hero away so I said, “Screw it, I’m going to re-write the song!”
I did the song with a seven-string and we finished it in a couple of days. Then Guitar Hero went out of business by the time I got it done [Laughing].
What’s coming up next?
We’re in the middle of recording the new Lynch Mob record, which is coming out fantastic. We’re taking a lot of time with it and it’ll be heavier and stranger. Like Kings X meets Them Crooked Vultures with R&B elements—all ass-shaking stuff. That’ll come out next year.
Jeff Pilson [bassist for Dokken] and I have a record in the can that we’re going to call Tooth And Nail. It’s basically going to be Dokken without Don Dokken [Laughing]. Mick Brown [drummer for Dokken] will be playing drums on half the record and Brian Tichy on the other half. Fifty percent of the record is old Dokken songs with Jeff singing, and the remainder is original material. That’s coming out next year.
Then I’m doing a vocals and acoustic slide blues record with Oni Logan. I’m Blind Lemon Lynch and he’s Reverend Brown Eye [Laughing].
George Lynch’s Tool Box
ESP George Lynch Tiger
ESP Les Paul-style
Electro-Harmonix Electric Mistress
Vox Clyde McCoy wah
MXR Phase 90
HomeBrew Electronics Skull Crusher
Mu-Tron Octave Divider
Strymon blueSky Reverberator
Strymon El Capistan dTape Echo
EP-2 Tube Echoplex
EP-3 Solid State Echoplex
Diezel Herbert head
Randall LB103 Lynch Box head
Dave Friedman Marsha
’68 Marshall Plexi
Dean Markley Super V Nickel Wound 10-42s