George Lynch Discusses ‘ShadowTrain’ Movie, Custom Guitars & Musical Projects

By Andrew Bansal

Veteran hard rock guitarist George Lynch, known for his work in bands such as Dokken, Lynch Mob and several others, is as prolific and productive now as he ever has been, even after all these years. Currently, he has a lot on his plate, and one of his top priorities is the documentary movie called ‘ShadowTrain: Under A Crooked Sky’, which is an intense take on a band’s travels through Native American reservations of the West. Besides the movie itself, George is also involved in the band called ShadowTrain, which makes the soundtrack for this movie. The crew is now raising money for the completion of the film, and I spoke in detail with George Lynch himself to talk all about it. Besides, we also talk about his custom guitars and his various musical projects. Enjoy the conversation below. 

What’s this ShadowTrain documentary all about?

Well, it’s an independent documentary film that we’ve been working on for two years. There’s actually a band associated with the project, and the band is called ShadowTrain. It consists of Gregg Analla who’s the vocalist. He’s a 100 per cent Pueblo Indian. He’s a curator at the Indian Pueblo Center in Albeqerque, and he’s just a really talented guy. He’s an artist, a sculptor, a speaker and all these kinds of things. So he’s very knowledgeable about native culture and history and things lie that. And he’s an insanely good singer. He’s been in a lot of bands, bands that should have, could have, would have but didn’t in the 90s (laughs), but people know who is. He’s played with a lot of great people. And then we’ve got Gabe Rosales on bass, and he has played withe everybody from Cannibal Corpse to Jennifer Lopez and everybody in between. He’s currently playing with Andy Summers from the Police. He was in my Smoke This band around 2000. He was 19 at the time, and he’s a prodigy bass player, and as a social activist he’s very involved in political movements, social gestures and environmental defense campaigns. So he’s a solider for these kinds of causes. Real smart guy. Then we’ve got Donnie Dickman on keyboards, believe it or not. He’s an old-school keyboardist with old vintage gear, prophet 5, b3, leslie, and stuff like that. He lends a really cool element to the band.

So we’ve recorded this album which we’re just finishing up the mix on, which we don’t have the title for yet. It’s a very eclectic record because it’s also the soundtrack for the film so we’ve got everything from a quasi-bluegrass song to a acid-space jazz jam song. But really the heart of the record is what I would describe as mid-70s rock, just straight up right in the middle of old-school analog rock, very riff-based and melodic as well. It’s a record I’m very proud of because we actually wrote all of the material in five days. We went to Sound Mountain up in the hills of Southern California. It’s like a vacant house which is equipped as a studio. You can just live there, eat, sleep and play music from the time you get up to the time you go to bed. It ended up being very productive, so as I said, we wrote everything and recorded everything in five days. We’re not getting any awards for that but it’s pretty gratifying.

And the film is really a story of a band, it’s sort of like a travelog. We travel to parts of the West, specially Native American reservations, with lots of stops and adventures on the way. We play music at various locations, and there are a lot of elements to the film but it’s really about social and economic justice, and some history and politics. There’s a segment where I’m actually building a guitar with a gentleman named Greg Lewis who’s one of the first Alcatraz occupiers in 1969-72, and he’s one of the Indians who occupied the Rock for a while. He’s a jeweler, and him and I are building a guitar called the ShadowTrain guitar. It people want to go to the site, there’s a trailer there in which you can see him and I working on this guitar. It has quite an interesting story behind it, a lot of elements to this guitar which are very meaningful. When we finish the guitar we’re going to auction it off to raise funds for the film.

That’s very interesting, man. So, this IndieGoGo campaign that’s going on for the documentary, what’s the money exactly needed for? Is it for the final production of the movie, or editing?

Well, primarily the editing, because that is going to be the most expensive thing we’ve got coming up. This is my first experience with working on a film so I’m just learning things, but I’m working with people that do know a lot more about this and I trust them to steer me in the right direction. One of the things that I know nothing about is editing, and it is the most expensive single component of getting a film made. So yes, we’ve locked in the editor of choice, but we’re going to have to pay for that actually (laughs). The film will be done on a shoestring budget. It’s already been in the works for 2 years and we’ve got another six months to go, and the film will be well under $100,000 as far as its total cost to make when it’s all said and done. But that’s a relative number and some filmmakers spend that much on catering in a couple of weeks (laughs). But for us it’s a considerable amount of money and we stretch a dollar a long way, you know. We camp out a lot when we’re out. We aren’t in expensive hotels. We’re usually invited by families in their homes to eat, and most people are not paid. We just donate our time, effort and energy out of love for the cause of getting the film made. So we make do with a small amount of money and stretch it a long way.

How much money are you expecting to raise with this campaign and how much of it has been achieved already?

I believe, and I’m not sure if I’m being accurate with this number, but I think we’re looking to raise $15,000 and we’re up to around $3000 at this point. And if people can contribute, which of course we appreciate, we send them something for their contributions. There are different levels of contributions. At the $10 level they receive a pretty cool ShadowTrain pick which has the ShadowTrain graphic on it. The pick costs a little bit of money so we send them the pick. We put a dollar into making it and get a $9 profit which we use to fund the film. At a higher level, they get one or two ShadowTrain t-shirts, and then there are other levels beyond that which include such things as getting your name on the credits of the film and the record, as a supporter of both the record and the film. And there’s one package where you get a Skype guitar lesson with me. There’s another package where you get a guitar autographed by everybody in the ShadowTrain crew, and things like that. So we’ve built in nice prizes for people that want to contribute, to show our appreciation.

Can you tell me more about this guitar that you’re giving away?

Well, the guitar that we are giving away for contribution is not one of the guitars that I actually made. This is one of the LTDs made by ESP. It has a ShadowTrain sticker on it and everybody in the ShadowTrain organizer signs it. The other guitar which I was talking about earlier, that’s a different animal. It’s a custom one-off guitar that I’m building by hand that will be auctioned off for hopefully a considerable amount of money, as it should be, for raising funds. So these are two different animals.

Besides this documentary what else have you been up to lately in terms of your music?

There are  four other projects that I’ve got in the pipeline. The ones I’m working on currently, the first one is called KXM. Those three letters stand for the three members’ respective bands, K for Korn, X for King’s X and M for Lynch Mob. It consists of Ray Luzier, the Korn drummer, Dug Pinnick, the singer/bassist for King’s X, and me. So it’s a trio and we’re pretty far into the record. We’ve written and recorded all the basic tracks and we’re doing solos towards the end of this month. We’ve got the vocals down, and we’ll probably be going to mix next month. So that’s KXM, and we’ll have a website, facebook page, and a little video up soon. The second thing I’m working on is called the Infidels, and that’s the rhythm section from the band called War, so that’s Sal and Pancho. They have a kind of heavy funk with a big jam element, and it’s all instrumental with no vocals. What it looks like, once I finish up the guitars on that, is we’re going to cut a deal with somebody and release one song a month for a year and at the end of the year we’ll release the whole record with a video, artwork and everything. So it’s an interesting new way of marketing that we thought of doing with Infidels.

Another thing that we have coming out pretty soon is a Lynch Mob live acoustic EP called Live At Sugar Hill, which is a pretty incredible, old, historically significant analog recording studio that Willie Nelson, Eric Clapton, Bob Dylan and all these great people have recorded in over the past decades. So the walls are just oozing with significant musical history. So we set up with a percussionist named Tyson Sheth, Brian Tichy is playing the guitar, and we’ve got Oni Logan (vocals), Robbie Crane (bass) and myselfand we did a four-song acoustic EP live. So that’s coming out soon. And then the other thing I’ve done is, there’s a band called T&N with a record is called Slave To The Empire. It came out a few months ago. That’s essentially Dokken without Don, with guest singers and Jeff Pilson singing. We’re beginning to work on the second record. We already have half of it recorded, which consists of Dokken covers with guest singers singing on it. We’re going to start writing the rest of the record soon, and we’re aiming for a fall 2013 release. We’ll probably go out on the road to support it around that time.

Coming back to the custom one-off ShadowTrain guitar that you were talking about, how different is that going to be as compared to what you’re using these days on stage?

As far as the guitars that I’ve built, I have not built one for myself, quite honestly. Not that I don’t want to (laughs), because I love them, they play beautifully and sound wonderful as I use sonic tone woods and the concept or the philosophy is pretty much like that of a pre San Dimas or San Dimas Charvel one-trick ponies. So the handwound pickups, the Brazilian rosewood necks, wide flat C necks, great two-piece tone wood bodies, stainless steel frets, and all kinds of tricky stuff. That’s something I started doing just as a compulsion. So I was doing some artwork type thing and I translated what I was doing with the art to the guitars, and they became these art pieces but they are highly functional as guitars too. I build about 10 guitars a year on an average, and I haven’t actually played any of those myself live. There was one point when I did play one, for a portion of a tour with Lynch Mob a couple of years ago. I built what is called a Fossil Model for a client, and I was playing a show in the city where he lived in. He came to the show with that guitar so I borrowed it from him, and made him stand up close to me in the audience, so I played a solo with his guitar, and when I was done I just held it out over the audience and just gave it back to him. From the audience perspective it looked like I was simply giving my guitar away (laughs). It was kind of cool and he liked that.

Other than these four projects that you’re currently working on, are you planning on doing any solo albums any time soon?

Dude, I’m only one person (laughs). Well, I did an instrumental EP called Legacy and I think it got released last year. So, I just tried to turn on the gas and make a guitar hero kind of thing with no vocals. But I don’t know, I’ll do that when I feel like the time’s right and I don’t have five other projects on my plate, when my chops are up and when I feel like doing something like that. But at the moment, it’s not on my radar.

ShadowTrain official site
ShadowTrain IndieGoGo campaign page

George Lynch official site
George Lynch Facebook
Lynch Mob official site