The End Machine - Summer 2021
The End Machine is an American rock band bringing together some of the very best musicians the world has ever had the good fortune to experience. Originally born of an idea by Frontiers SRL – the forward-thinking record company who absolutely appear to have the Midas touch – guitarist George Lynch (Dokken, Lynch Mob, KXM), bass player Jeff Pilson (Dokken, Dio, Foreigner, McAuley Schenker Group), Mick Brown (Dokken, Lynch Mob, Ted Nugent) and Robert Mason (Warrant, Lynch Mob) came together to release The End Machine’s self-titled debut in 2019, a wholly incredible and immersive record representing the very best in classic rock. It was everything a demanding fan would hope and expect from a line up with this heritage. Now, with Steve Brown replacing his brother Mick on drums, The End Machine are back with their sophomore album Phase 2 - and it’s outstanding. With its 12 tracks this record really builds on the more bluesy sound of its predecessor whilst perhaps creating a more modern interpretation of classic 80s hard rock sound. We also firmly believe that facts are not being overstated when we say that lead track Blood And Money could potentially be the rock track of 2021. It is that good. To find out how it all came together we catch up with George at his home studio in Los Angeles. Wearing a plain grey T shirt which coincidentally coordinates perfectly with his tied back hair, it’s a very chilled and content George who greets us today, the 80 degree LA sunshine and a Gibson Les Paul Gold Top on his lap no doubt contributing to his tranquil demeanour. As he noodles away our conversation begins…
Well it’s such a hugely exciting time with Phase 2 being released in just a couple of weeks time. What sort of thoughts are going through your mind at album release time?
Well it’s becoming a little bit of a Groundhog Day scenario with all these different projects that I do and not to belittle them in any way because I love every single one of them. It’s just like your children – they are all different and you love them equally – and when you finish these projects you are so proud of them and you love everything about them, you’ve listened to them 1000 times, you tell your friends about them, you play them incessantly to whoever will listen to them until they get sick of listening to them. Then it comes out and it does what it does. It doesn’t shape the world but it serves the base and then you move on and do another one. That just keeps happening and happening and happening. So in one part of me it’s just like this cathartic beautiful experience and another side of me it’s sort of routine.
As such a highly accomplished artist you’ve released so many albums over a more than 40 year career. Is it still as exciting – regardless of the band or the project – as it was back in the early 80s?
I get excited about the individual songs and the music but as far as the trajectory of the career and the album being a vehicle for propelling that career, no it’s not the same. But that’s because it’s 35 or 40 years later! I’m not really trying to prove to the world that I matter and punch through the fog of existence or have the world wake up and recognise that what we do is historically significant in some small way. I still feel a little bit of that! I’m more practical about my expectations.
The End Machine’s debut album had a great bluesy hard rock sound but the new album sees the band move more towards the classic Dokken sound. To what extent was this a conscious decision?
Well, Jeff and I started writing on our own as we usually do without Robert, just like we did in the Dokken days, and what we decided collectively was let’s really be focused and not get sidetracked, and try and put ourselves in the mindset that we can remember being in in 1986, let’s say. And what was that? So we really had to think about that. Besides the cocaine what were we doing? (Laughs!) We were focused on a formula and the formula was ‘hooks are first’. We write around the hook, and everything had to be accessible, and it was basically meat and potatoes, stick to your ribs kind of arrangement and tempos and riffs with some adventurous stuff added on as pure candy but not as the primary mover of the songs. So we kept reminding ourselves of that as as we wrote and I think we did a pretty good job of achieving what we set out to achieve, and so the result is this more… (George adopts a thoughtful composure) we weren’t copying Dokken songs but we were copying the formula so I think we ended up with that. We ended up with songs that have hooks, I’d like to think, better hooks than the first record, and they’re more digestible songs. Sort of ‘okay, this isn’t challenging to listen to - it’s satisfying but not challenging’. So I think in my mind that this record is really the first record and the first record sounds more like the sophomore record. Like we did the more basic record, now we’re doing the second record and we are taking chances and being more adventurous . Also, I’ve got to say that the ‘second’ record was more 70s influenced – not entirely but for some of the songs we were thinking 70s. We were thinking sounds and and inspiration that we were pulling from that era and that wasn’t the case on the new record.
Before we come on to the music, let’s talk about the band. You’ve mentioned Jeff Pilson of course who is a hugely legendary bass player, and you have in Robert Mason, in my view, one of the very best front men in the business. And of course we have the incredible Steve Brown who replaced his brother Mick on drums. This line-up, and the heritage of each individual member, represents the very best. What does it mean to be making music with such incredible taken?
As far as the band and the calibre of the musicians I’m pinching myself playing with these guys and not just with this project but with a lot of other projects that I’m privileged to play with. These musicians are phenomenal and quite honestly in the back of my mind I feel like – and this isn’t false modesty – but I just feel like I’m not a trained musician, I don’t know theory, I don’t know how to do anything as far as technology is concerned, I can’t engineer, I don’t play multiple instruments, I don’t sing, yet I play with all these guys who are multitaskers and prodigies and all kinds of levels of proficiency in multiple instruments, able to engineer, produce and sing and do all these different things. So I’m sort of in awe of them and I try to keep up and I do that by bullshit really, just kind of faking it, which I think is kind of an art in itself where I sort of tuck myself in and try to follow along as best as I can…. and hopefully nobody notices that I don’t belong! (Laughs!) Even people that know me and know all my deficiencies and so forth, they seem to be okay with it. In the rock world like The End Machine record, I know what to do. I’ve been doing this long enough. I can fake it very convincingly. But when you get into other kinds of genres of music, for instance I’ve got this project called Ultraphonix with the bass player from War (Pancho Tomaselli). These guys play different kinds of music and they listen to different kinds of music and they are all schooled players. It’s really intimidating and stressful but also an opportunity for growth so I really relish that. And I’ve found a way to fit in which, as I’ve mentioned, is to fake it but what I do is I take the reins, I write the material and that way I am in control and they can’t question my knowledge or authenticity. I throw this stuff out there but I’m not a schooled player. For instance, If I’m playing something kind of a jazzy I’m like fake jazz, I don’t know jazz! I don’t know anything, I don’t know what chords are, I don’t know scales. So I’ll just be playing something like (plays some jazz style rhythms). That’s nothing! It doesn’t mean anything but a play it for a guy that doesn’t know what he’s talking about and he’ll be like ‘holy shit – you’re a genius!’. And I’ll be asked ‘How do you do that?’ but because I don’t know what I’m doing I can’t really explain it. So when people try to like figure it out they’re like ‘It doesn’t make any sense but it’s insane!’.
Let’s talk about some specific tracks. The album begins with The Rising with its beautifully clean guitar lines and a wonderful atmosphere created by slide guitar and slow pick scrapes and some seriously cool lead lines. This is such a fantastic way of saying ‘We’re back – hold on tight!’. Was that the intention with this track?
Yeah, well we’re old school so we still think about albums as albums where you’re dropping the needle and you have an introduction that is hopefully awe-inspiring and majestic, and leads into the first track and it’s what you roll when you play live. So it kind of makes sense so that when you tour on that record you’ll play the intro before you come on and you’ll play that first song that’s on the record… like what we did with Dokken with Without Warning. On Tooth And Nail we had an intro called without Without Warning and that went into Tooth And Nail (the track) and that’s how we would open up our show. That’s just the way we learned to do things a long time ago and we love that. I understand that we don’t sell records anymore but that’s been ingrained in our way of thinking. It’s still an album experience for us.
Well, ‘hold on’ we must when the lead track Blood And Money kicks in as this is such a massive statement of intent. This is simply anthemic and to me a track that already stands out as potentially the rock track of 2021. Simply stunning! One of my favourite things about this track is the extended guitar solo that goes through so many twists and turns in the most breathtaking way. How much fun is it for you to play this track?
Well we did a video for it as you probably know. With these songs we don’t rehearse them as a band so after we write them they sort of go away outside of our minds. So it’s not like I sit around and practice. I come up with it, I compose it and I perform it for the record but that’s kind of it. And then I go on and do other work, live my life, and just kind of forget about it. And it’s pretty involved, as you mentioned so I really have to revisit it to get up to speed and to be able to figure out what I played. A lot of times I forget exactly how I did things. So when I did the video I had to revisit it. I’m not usually playing when I’m doing videos and in this instance I didn’t have anything plugged in, I was just miming, but my fingers have to be in the right place. So it was challenging for sure to try to figure that out. It was fairly accurate I think in the video! But if we toured on this record I would have to go back and learn all this stuff, especially that solo. It was a conscious attempt on Jeff and I’s part to create a Tooth And Nail-esque solo section. My feeling is that it’s too long, sort of like War And Peace: it just keeps going and going, but it’s come down to about half of what it originally was. Originally it was ridiculously long and involved and it was just like “okay, wake me up when it’s over”. (Laughs!) But hey, I think we’re all entitled to a little self-indulgent now and then, right?!
Prison Or Paradise (track 6) is a really thought provoking track, especially with the line ‘Living In A World on Fire’ and it absolutely made me reflect on how musicians may have been affected by events over the last year. How have you been affected? There have of course been restrictions but have there also been opportunities for you?
Sure! I’m a ‘glass half full’ kind of guy. There’s a lot of things that are positive about my life and the way I have adapted and my family have adapted and how a lot of my friends have adapted. I’ve tried to make a concerted effort to learn new things, with mixed results! But at least I tried to learn some new things, like how to use new software with my recording process. I’ve done a lot of recording. I’ve probably recorded 3 1/2 records in this last year. That’s a lot of work: 12 songs per record so that’s about 40 songs say, and this has kept me busy and it’s kept me sane. I’m really thankful that I have the job that I have. I sat around and thought ‘Man, what if I was just a guy that had to go work somewhere or who had nothing to do?’. I would go completely nuts! You can’t go outside, you can’t do anything so it kept me busy and I threw myself into it, and made a lot of great music that I’m really proud of. My wife and I were kind of worried because the last of our kids moved out last year and went to college and we were completely alone together and we were both kind of wondering how that was going to work! (Laughs!) It worked out great! We became closer and became better friends and our relationship has really improved considerably, like night and day quite honestly which neither one of us expected!
With there being a light at the end of the tunnel beginning to emerge and restrictions hopefully starting to be lifted, thoughts move to The End Machine in a live setting. Yes mentioned before ‘… if we ever get to play live..’. Is this something you would like to do and are there any plans?
Yeah, I’m playing at the Dallas Guitar Show (April 30 – May 2) which I try to do every year if I’m free because I have a lot of friends there and I love going and looking at the gear. Randy Hansen is playing there this year and I love Randy. It’s just an awesome hang. So I’m going to play there, it’s an outdoor stage and I’m extremely safe – I wear 2 masks. I don’t hang out in crowds and I do all the right stuff so should be okay. But as far as getting on a plane and playing in a club I don’t think so. Not for a while. I do have some shows lined up but they are outdoors. I actually have his four-wheel-drive solo adventure vehicle that my wife and I can living off the grid with for a month if we needed to, and we love taking that out. So really, as long as it’s within driving distance for me, and there is enough shows and enough money to justify it, we’ll just head into a big work vacation. The only time I really interact with anybody is when I get fuel. Other than that we are off the grid, driving and exploring and looking for adventures. And if I get to a gig and I can run up on an outdoor stage and plug in and play for an hour… I could live like that forever!
As our conversation draws to a close we reflect on what an absolutely outstanding record Phase 2 actually is. It deserves YOUR attention. Find out more at www.Facebook.com/TheEndMachine and in the meantime check out the video to lead single Blood And Money below.