A release that’s already much talked about amongst hard rock fans worldwide and specifically fans of Dokken, is the new project T&N, which reunites George Lynch, Jeff Pilson and “Wild” Mick Brown, along with featuring drummer Brian Tichy. With an album in the bag and due for release on October 31st, Slave To The Empire sees T&N re-recording five Dokken classics, featuring guest vocalists Tim “Ripper” Owens, Doug Pinnick (Kings X), Sebastian Bach, and Robert Mason (Warrant). In addition to the re-recorded classics, there’s 7 original tracks, which deliver a moody, dark, progressive take on the hard rock and metal genre.
We had an extensive chat with George Lynch well before sunrise (Australian time), last week about the upcoming release, delving into his thoughts on re-recording the Dokken classics, what T&N aim to deliver musically with their new tracks and look ahead to what Lynch and T&N fans can expect over the coming months.
Hey George, thanks for chatting this morning! So, we are getting closer to the release date for T&N’s ‘Slave To The Empire’, which from the tracks I’ve heard, sound like it’s going to be a killer release, what has the response to T&N been thus far?
Well, it’s always a little hard to gauge the interest levels from where I’m at. Every time you do a record or project, of course you’re consumed with it at a microscopic level creatively and it’s kind of like bearing children. It’s the greatest thing on the planet, then your opinion on it is moulded by how well, or not well, it’s received once it gets out. We feel great about this album, we’ve been making it now for around 18 months and it’s been a somewhat slow process, but a very enjoyable process. Jeff (Pilson) and I live very close to each other and he’s a very accomplished engineer and has a wonderful studio, and when time allows, we’ve always gotten together and worked together, even if we don’t have a reason too. It’s just wonderful chemistry that we’ve had since 1985 or so when we first got together. We’re really good friends and have wonderful respect for each other and Jeff serves the same function as what he has always kind of served, which is what he did in Dokken, he’s a jack of many trades. He engineers, he sings, he plays bass obviously, he plays guitar, he plays keyboards, he mixes, he produces, he’s just the whole package. Sometimes I’m sitting there thinking to myself and even out loud, why am I even here (laughs). Of course I know why I’m here, but I fulfil such a narrow role that I feel guilty sometimes. Is there something that I can do, maybe sweep up, or go get coffee (laughs)? Jeff’s just a wonderful human being.
Now the obvious question around T&N is the fact that half the album includes a bunch of re-recorded Dokken songs and how people may perceive that?
You know T&N was really a response to an earlier record we had done called L&P. We felt it would make sense to connect the project to our Dokken legacy, so we did half the record with the Dokken remakes and guest singers and we thought that would be creatively cool and also a good way to market it. You know, we’ve made that connection for people between what we are most known for and what we are known for now and they can see all that on the one record.
Did I hear correctly on your electronic press kit that you guys have recorded 2 albums worth of material, with another album to be released down the track?
That’s somewhat correct. We’ve recorded 6 more Dokken songs with Mick on drums, those are in the can but we don’t have vocals on those yet, we are still to pick our guest vocalists. That will be done next year. We’ve only written two original songs for the second T&N release, so we have to finish that work as well next year, but we are pretty far along.
The album has re-recorded versions of Tooth and Nail (Doug Pinnick), It’s Not Love (Robert Mason), Alone Again (Sebastian Bach), Kiss of Death (Tim ‘Ripper’ Owns) and Into The Fire (Jeff Pilson). So how much debate did you engage in to come up with the choice of Dokken songs to re-record and who was going to sing them?
Well it was a relatively easy process as Jeff is a very organised thinker. It really came down to what singers fit what Dokken songs and the singers we had available. I mean some singers fell out and we even invited Don to participate. Had he participated, he would have picked a particular song and that song probably would have been on the record. So it was largely determined by the singers themselves and who was available. Having Doug Pinnick on the record was very important to us and we were very excited about that, as I’m a huge fan. In determining a song that would suit his voice, it was rather difficult as a lot of the Dokken stuff is un-bluesy and un-soulful, so finding something that had a bit of swing to it and grease to it, was challenging. It actually worked out fantastic though with the song we ended up picking which was Tooth & Nail and so the song picked itself. It’s frustrating for us because we had so many songs we could have picked and which we felt very strongly about, but you can’t put everything on the record!
Did you actually get the guys to come into the studio to record their vocal parts, or was that the product of modern technology where they recorded and submitted themselves?
It was about 50/50. Robert Mason and Tim ‘Ripper’ Owens recorded their stuff in their own studios. Doug Pinnick and Sebastian Bach actually came into our studio to record.
Obviously logistically this album would have been difficult to get completed, given you guys are all so busy independently?
That was definitely the biggest challenge with the record, the fact that Jeff works so much with Foreigner, I’m out doing different things, Mick’s doing his things, Brian Tichy is out here and there with Foreigner and now Whitesnake, so time was really our biggest obstacle.
As I had mentioned earlier, I haven’t yet heard the complete album, but from what I have heard, it sounds like the Dokken songs stay relatively true to their original form, was that a specific intention you guys had with this album?
We didn’t want to alienate the fans and completely go off into left field, which was a consideration and we thought about that. In an ideal world we’d have Immortal Technique and some old blues guy and some banshee metal screamer or the guy from Opeth and just go off the map! But I did an off the map record once and it’s called Smoke This and it wasn’t really that well received, but I continue to stand by that record to this day. So maybe I give audience and critics a bit too much credit sometimes for their flexibility and openness to new things. Sometimes you can pay a price when you refuse to compromise artistically and that price is maybe you ain’t going to pay your rent that month! I’ve got 6 kids, 6 grandkids and a big net to maintain here. So you know, it is a business, but sometimes I’m not always right. I could be this tortured artist that’s creatively pure and live in a cave in the desert. In an ideal world it would be great to be able to get to the point where you were untethered creatively.
Picking up on what you just said a moment ago, you now have grandchildren and it’s been over 25 years since you originally wrote and recorded the Dokken songs. Sitting down to re-record your parts again, how much of a process in critique did that become here in 2011/12 and how differently do you feel you may have re-recorded some of your specific parts?
You make an interesting point, it was sort of surreal re-recording those songs. I did re-record some of those for the Re-evolution record I did in the early 2000’s but I continue to also play these songs live on various occasions. The way I played them was different to the way that I had originally recorded them back in the day. I’ve had a lot of years and decades to think about these songs and think things like, well if I was writing and recording this song now, maybe I would have played it this way. So we had an opportunity to do that a little bit and if you’ve heard the record you may have noticed that there are some departures and slight variations in the way we play things. But overall, there’s just a better, fresher energy and I have to say when Jeff, Mick and I were writing the bulk of this material back in Dokken in the 80’s, we were always slightly frustrated with the final result as we actually preferred our demo versions of the songs which had more of a raw energy and more aggressive vocal style. Now, we were able to do that, so we are now finally doing the songs how we would have done them in an ideal situation.
But more than the re-recorded songs, the album has 7 new tracks, which Jeff Pilson handles vocals for. Did you find these songs gave you an outlet to really nail those frustrations you alluded to earlier going back to the Dokken days and wishing the songs had more of that raw energy and aggression?
Writing the new stuff was originally the product of an attempt to write the new Lynch Mob record. So Jeff and I sat down and started working on what was going to be a Lynch Mob record, but the band politely rejected it on the basis it wasn’t really in the style of Lynch Mob, which was probably true. So we put it on the back burner for the time being, then we thought about it, but then Brian Tichy come up with the idea of Tooth and Nail which is now T&N and do some Dokken songs as well. So it was basically the brainchild of Brian. What we’ve been taking about recently, which we hope to address on the second record is the fact that writing wise, stylistically there’s still a huge disconnect between the way we wrote 25 years ago to the way we write now, to some extent. That could be a good or bad thing, but I think what we will do on that next record is make that connection a little stronger on that gap between the 25 year old writing styles. We’ve kind of untethered ourselves to a certain extent and just went crazy with the writing. I think they’re beautiful songs and very powerful songs and very much about the message, but they’re kind of like two completely different worlds which I think for a pretty concise record with a common thread through it, we need to address that issue on the next record where the new stuff really sits well amongst the old material. That’s the challenge!
What is the situation regarding the prospect of live T&N shows, I thought I had seen something mentioned earlier about a bunch of dates planned, are they still happening?
The short answer is no. We did have quite an extensive world tour set up and then for reasons, which I won’t get into, it didn’t happen. So we will not be touring this year, which is very disappointing for both Jeff and I. We were going to go out with Mick Brown and Michael Sweet on 2nd guitar and vocals. So we are going to re- calibrate our efforts here and plan better for next year and if everything goes according to plan we will tour next fall on the heels of the 2nd record.
For you personally, 2012 sure seems to have been as busy as ever, T&N, Lynch Mob, a solo release, Shadowtrain and a new project with Doug Pinnick and Ray Luzier that’s been floating about…
It has you know and I always try and stay busy. Lynch Mob has always been my core band and that takes the lion share of my focus and energy, but outside of that I have other writing ambitions and playing ambitions and wider ambitions beyond music, but which music is still a part of. For example there’s the Shadowtrain documentary (http://shadowtrainmovie.com) which came into being and we will be working on that throughout this year and into next year. That’s not only a film but a soundtrack/record so there’s a band associated with that called Shadowtrain. That’s very interesting musically and actually I was just working on that yesterday here in my studio. Actually, the bass player from the Smoke This record is involved, there’s Greg Analla who was in a band called Slavior back in the 90’s, a wonderful singer and one of those people who should have been successful, but just didn’t make it for whatever reason and achieve the success he could have or should have. There’s Vinny Nicastro on drums and a wonderful keyboard player called Donny Dickman who lives up in the Big Sur and uses all this old antiquated, analogue equipment, it’s just a whole different vibe. It’s very kind of early 70’s vibe with everything from blues to bluegrass to metal and anything in between. It’s a fun, fun, fun record. We’ve also got guest singers and spoken word poets and things like that involved in the record. I just did a track with John Trudell called Trail Of Tears he’s an Indian American activist movement leader and was on the first boat to Alcatraz and has just an incredible story and a great musician and poet and speaker and soldier for his people, well for all people actually. It’s a very profound track and I’m just honoured to be involved with it. All these efforts that I’m now involved in are almost coming from the same places of social, economic justice.
I would say beyond T&N and Lynch Mob there’s another project, which my heart is really into and that’s a record I just started doing with Ray Luzier and Doug Pinnick. We are in the preliminary writing phase and well really start getting stuck into that in November/December. So there’s another project I’m doing and I’m doing way to many projects and flooding the market place, but I don’t care! We will hopefully have that out in Spring 2013, there’s no name for the project just yet. We’ve been doing some preliminary writing and Doug submitted a song that is wonderful, very Sly Stone, gospel, and rock kind of thing, which he does so well. Ray and I have been working on a few things that are just awesome and I can’t really see that thing missing – I’d go out and buy that record!!!
Band members: George Lynch, Jeff Pilson, Brian Tichy, Mick Brown
Slave To The Empire Track Listing
Slave to the Empire
Tooth and Nail (featuring Doug Pinnick of Kings X)
It’s Not Love (featuring Robert Mason of Warrant)
Rhythm of the Soul
When Eagles Die
Into The Fire
Alone Again (featuring Sebastian Bach)
Kiss of Death (featuring Tim “Ripper” Owens)
For orders of the album, please visit: www.ratpakrecords.com/TandN