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This article was originally published in issue #28
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Growing up in small-town California in the ‘60s and ‘70s, things were different. A young Lynch first learned his way around the fingerboard from listening to what he called the “four horsemen school of guitar”:
George Lynch is one of the most influential of all that generation of players we've come to know as 'the shredders'. GI's own Mr Scary, Stuart Bull, meets the original owner of the title, while Richard Morgan assesses the career of one of shred's inventors.
The distinction of being honoured with a signature guitar is one many of us mere mortal guitarists can only dream of. Dokken lynchpin George Lynch - who may or may not be blessed with eternal life; time will tell on that one - has had a bunch, and amps too. What separates Lynch from the rest, though, is his pure devotion to the craft - literally. Not content with simply adding his name to an established headstock and design, Lynch’s creativity has resulted in a number of uniquely visually striking models over the years, and these days, he even custom builds his own idiosyncratic axes for fans under the Mr. Scary (remember that name) Guitars moniker. It’s just one of numerous atypical steps in a 35-year long career that have led Lynch to be regarded as way more than just a shred king in tight pants.
The Lynch/Dokken story began in earnest in the early ‘80s, when the band’s intoxicating brand of shred and tight pants brought them to the wider attentions of the Hard Rock and Heavy Metal communities. The band’s success - they’ve sold more than 10 million records to date - always revolved around the creative axis of Lynch and singer Don Dokken, but their relationship was often fraught, ending in an acrimonious split in 1989.
Although the group reformed four years later, the time apart enabled Lynch to kickstart a memorable solo career, which has seen him release records under his own name, with his bands Lynch Mob and Souls of We, and a number of other projects as well. Lynch left Dokken for a second time in 1997, and, as of 2014, still hasn’t returned, despite reunion rumours in recent years.
Many guitarists and shred metal fans cite Mr. Scary as Lynch’s defining moment. A mind boggling four-and-a-half minute instrumental that appeared on Dokken’s 1987 Back For The Attack album (the last one before the band’s split), the track showcases Lynch’s unparalleled high-energy guitar style and tonal finesse. In a period when any guitarist worth his or her salt was aping Van Halen licks, Lynch’s playing on Mr. Scary was arguably Eruption’s more sophisticated cousin. And while Eddie Van Halen was plying his trade in the world’s biggest band, with a whole canon of great songs to noodle over, Lynch’s talent was to elevate his slightly lesser ensemble - in terms of pure quality songs - into the big leagues with his fretboard mastery and his head-turning showmanship.
Growing up in small-town California in the ‘60s and ‘70s, things were different. A young Lynch first learned his way around the fingerboard from listening to what he called the “four horsemen school of guitar”: Jimi Hendrix, Jeff Beck, Eric Clapton and Jimmy Page. As a 16-year-old sitting in his room at home, Lynch would play along with his heroes’ records relentlessly, for hours and hours at a time. Sometimes, he’d riff along to 10-minute Cream jams over and over, until the vinyl was worn out. Then, he’d start on the next LP. There would be early Sabbath records too, which would inform Lynch’s love of harder Rock and Metal, and he gradually increased his tonal palette through a kind of musical osmosis.
As a young Lynch began his forays into the music business, he was involved in a number of lesser projects - including unsuccessfully auditioning to play with Ozzy Osbourne, twice - before Dokken hit the big time. The album that did it was 1984’s Tooth And Nail, which went on to sell a million records in the USA alone and spawned the power ballad Alone Again, the group’s biggest hit.
Lynch quickly established himself as something of a guitar hero, and by 1986 had become an official endorser and user of ESP guitars. Nearly two decades later, that relationship continues and fans can buy at least a handful of different ESP Lynch signature models. All Super Strat or Strat-like in body shape, the guitars come in a number of visually distinct styles - model names like Kamikaze-1, Tiger and Skulls & Snakes give the game away somewhat - that Lynch has used throughout his career. In fact we've managed to secure one of the handmade Japanese Kamikaze models for review in this issue and it also features in our exclusive Jamie Humphries Tech Session.
The guitars are built to handle Lynch-esque Rock and Metal sounds, now featuring Arcane pickups (generally a single coil Desert Eagle in the neck and a Mr. Scary humbucker at the bridge) and Floyd Rose Original bridges and locking nuts to handle all the dive-bombing and wobbling you can throw at them. For those Lynch fans who fancy something a little less visually dominating and more attainable - although only slightly less visually OTT- there’s also the LTD GL-256, an HSS Strat-type in the Rory Gallagher (i.e. beaten to hell and back) and if money really is an object, you can even get a less costly LTD Kamikaze - but I digress!
Lynch has put his name and time to all sorts of guitar-related gear and FX over the years too. He’s currently a major signature artist for Randall amps, where he has the “LynchBox” range of head, cabs and a practice combo to his name, although the Lynch live inventory has previously included the likes of Marshall, Diezel, Soldano and Bogner over the years. This defection to Randall ties-in with our own recent findings on reviews: that Randall is doing some very interesting stuff indeed, these days and that more players need to wake up to it. Other Lynch projects, meanwhile, have included recreating all his signature studio and live tones in a multi FX pedal with Zoom, the G2G, and various additional guitar-related endorsements.
This love of gear resulted in Lynch creating Mr. Scary Guitars (are you noticing a running theme here?) in 2009. Built by Lynch personally, the six standard models in the Mr. Scary line-up - Burnt Tiger, Headhunter, Fossil, Snakehunter, Sharkhunter, and Dem Bones - are as standout as their names suggest, being hand-laid with genuine shark teeth, snakeskin, fossils and bones (although, thankfully, no heads are involved). Fans who order a guitar from Lynch can specify all sorts of details, including pickup selection, body and fingerboard woods, and fret wire size. The most modestly priced Mr. Scary axe will set you back a minimum of $3,500, but you sense that this will not be too much of a distraction for Lynch devotees.
Alongside his guitar-making work these days, Lynch continues to ply his trade as a solo musician and with his Lynch Mob project. Working with top musicians and singers, and constantly coming up with fresh slants on guitar playing, it’s clear that Lynch is not just churning material out because he feels he has to. No, this is a man who loves being on the road, creating music and sharing it with his family of friends and fans.
He’s diversified out of music recently too, being the driving force behind a film project entitled Shadow Nation: Under a Crooked Sky. The film, which also features other renowned players like Tom Morello of Rage Against The Machine, “explores a hybrid way of life merging modern society with the ancient practices of people who have lived in harmony with the land for thousands of years; native American Indians. The film reveals its message through the journey of a group of renowned musical artists as they share their rock music on a road trip through Indian reservations of the southwest.”
Shadow Nation is still to see the light of day, but the project is yet more proof that Lynch, who turns 60 in September 2014, still has an awful lot left to say. And who are we to doubt Mr. Scary himself?