Sunday, May 18, 2014

Hey Steve Lynch, Can I Get Your Autograph? (A Conversation with Steve Lynch of Autograph)


It seems not that long ago that the metal scene here in Toronto was quite weak.  It was few and far between when bands would come through town and when they did the venues were not packed to capacity as many fans were unaware of the event, not being in tune with the scene.  Now, largely thanks to the folks at The Rockpile, there are many more bands and rock events visiting Toronto
Event poster (erroneously listing Keni Richards)
Canada.  The trouble with that now that the scene has expanded is that there are so many shows and events that often occur on the same day and I've seen some less than full venues.  This was I suspect, the case on Saturday May 10, 2014 as the attendance for one of the best bands that I've had the pleasure to witness in years stormed the Rockpile West in Etobicoke.  The crowd may not have had to be worked in with a shoehorn, but the fans that were there were rabid Autograph'ers, one I spoke to toting LP covers for the three album releases of the 80's.

The stage was set with entertaining sets by two familiar local bands with Three Quarter Stone and Twitch before the headliners from Los Angeles California took over.  Having had seen Autograph recently, twice on the cruise, at M3 and now here (that's 4 times in about a month span), I was front and just off to the side ready to watch guitarist Steve Lynch wail.  The band members, originals Randy Rand (bass), and Steve Lynch (guitar), along with newcomers Marc Weiland (drums) and Simon Daniels (Vocals/Guitar) spread out on the dim (darkened) stage when Simon quickly grabbed the mike and said "Ladies and Gentlemen, I want to introduce you to Kate."  With the spotlight directly on her, Decibel Geek's Kate Campbell had the pleasure of introducing the band captured in this video.  Great job Kate, but you should have had a Decibel Geek shirt on for the!

The 2014 Autograph ripped through a setlist covering a steady balance of material from all three of the 80's released albums, Sign In Please, That's The Stuff and Loud & Clear.  The rabid fans that were crowding the front of the stage hung on every word Simon Daniels delivered and many, like me were singing along at the top of their lungs with every lyric.  Marc Weiland was a beast behind the kit pounding his drums, while bassist Randy Rand, obviously happy to be up on stage again was nothing but smiles all around.  Steve Lynch is a very under rated guitar player evidenced by the skills he displayed that night and with Simon Daniels also playing guitar the Autograph sound is decidedly thicker.  All four get along well and enjoy playing together as they laughed, joked and even threw towels at each other at different points throughout the set, something that resonates through the spectators at a concert.  Claiming it was time to get warmed up Simon asked who was going to buy them a shot as he polled the band on what they wanted.  Several shots made their way to the stage and were downed quickly with Steve Lynch even inviting the audience to hang around and have some drinks with the band after the show.

Steve Lynch and Randy Rand at The Rockpile-photo by Meister
After allowing the fans to get photos and autographs and while enjoying those drinks after the show I was able to get a few moments to chat with Steve Lynch on the 2014 Autograph.

The Meister:  "What brought Autograph back?"

Steve Lynch:  "Well, Randy and I got together at the NAMM Show down in L.A. in January 2011 and we talked about the possibility.  We weren't sure how far it was going to go, so we decided let's start toying around with this idea.  We just decided let's try this and we got together with Keni (Richards), you know the original drummer and we talked to the original singer (Steve Plunkett), the original keyboard player, he died about six years ago, Steve Isham."

The Meister:  "I had heard that, but am not familiar with the circumstances"

Steve: "Cancer, yeah.  I'd known him from Seattle from 1976, long time.  And so he was playing in a group called Bighorn in Seattle and I was playing in another group in Seattle.  Then when I moved to L.A. after I graduated from the guitar institute, I was looking for a place to live and he was moving out of the apartment I was moving into in Glendale.  And we're going whoa, out of a city of 16 million how can we run into each other again!  Then we ended up playing in the same band together which ended up being Autograph.  When we got together this time we decided, you know, Steve's gone so why don't we try it without keyboards.  Steve Plunkett, the original singer, he didn't want to do it."

The Meister:  "No interest at all?"

Steve:  "The last time he was interested in doing something was about 11 years ago and that was different players because I wasn't interested in doing it at that point.  I had too much stuff going on, I was doing some solo stuff and I owned a music store and I just......wasn't the right time.  But when Randy and I started talking, we decided let's try this again maybe with a new lead singer (since Steve wasn't into it) you know and so what happened is through different circumstances that me and Randy, right here.....(as Randy joins our chat).

Autograph's bassist Randy Rand-by Meister
The Meister:  "Speak of the devil"

Steve:  "....then so after we started talking, we decided we're gonna try it again and then Simon came into the picture and that worked out great.

The Meister:  "How had you guys known Simon?"

Steve:  "It was actually through a mutual friend of our management and stuff and we decided, hey, let's try it again.

Randy:  "We were best friends (gesturing towards Steve).

Steve:  "We were roomates for like six years with Autograph."

The Meister:  "And you guys stayed in contact?"

Randy:  "Well no we didn't stay in contact, but when I found out he (jerks thumb towards Steve) was going to the NAMM show. I said dude let's meet up."

The Meister: "And that's what sparked everything.  So what happened with Keni then?"

Steve:  "Well with Keni......"

Randy:  "Health problems."

Steve:  "Yeah, he had health problems.  The first rehearsal went good and then the second he had problems with his legs and stuff and the the third rehearsal, he couldn't even make it to rehearsal because he had respiratory problems.  And we thought.....well, you saw Marc play tonight, he's 40 and he has a hard time keeping up with the set!  We've got 14 songs that we do, he comes off stage and he's fuckin' exhausted so....."

Randy:  "So we got a 57 year old guy who doesn't have passports or driver's licenses or ..... and so we just decided to move forward.  We wish him......."

Steve:  "Of course we wish the best for him......" (Randy and Steve talking over each other in their wishes for original drummer Keni Richards)So there's no negativity on our parts towards Keni whatsoever and so like I said we wish him all the best and everything, but in order for us to really make this thing work we had to move on."

The Meister:  "With the new crew now are you guys looking at recording some new music at all?"

Steve:  "Absolutely!"

Randy:  "There's four song writers in the band, three singers so you know....."

Steve:  "We've already started, a couple of ideas......and this is only our tenth gig!  We started at Penn's Peak which is north of Philedelphia, great venue and we played there with KIX.  So that was great and then we did Pittsburg and Detroit, Chicago and Indianapolis after that and then we did the Monsters of Rock Cruise, which was really cool.........and that's Simon our new singer right there (points to nearby Simon).  So that's how that whole thing came into place.  So, Simon (calling to Simon), you want to chip in anything here?  We're doing an interview here."

Autograph's Simon Daniels-photo by Meister
Simon:  "Oh, do I want to chip in?  That depends on how much you're asking for? (laughing)"

The Meister:  "What ever you got my friend, whatever you got! (laughing)"

Steve:  "Trouble is I only have American though (laughing)"

Simon:  (pulling some bills out of his pocket) "I only have two (dollars)."

The Meister:  "That's good, it's worth like four up here (laughing)....actually it's about a dollar thirteen for one dollar US right now I think."

Simon:  "We don't want people to get mad at us, they didn't look happy at a gas station already when we tried to pay!"  (Simon's attention is captured by some fans)

The Meister:  "So how was the experience on the cruise?  It really did look like you guys were having fun up there."

Steve:  "It was great!  We did the pre-party at the casino, which was alot of fun.  We have fun everywhere we're playing, we are a fun band, it's not Steel Panther but...."

The Meister:  "I've seen you guys four times now in about a month and you seem to get better and better every time, like M3 was awesome.  It seemed that you brought it just a little harder for that one!"

Steve:  "We did!  I was just up there rocking out and I'm going this is fucking cool, you know.  But it seems to get that way with every show we play, you know as we get more comfortable with each other."

The Meister:  "So you guys are working on some new music, the cruise was a good experience, M3 was a good experience, where does Autograph go after this?"

Steve:  "We do a Harley Davidson Convention and this really cool casino in Connecticut with Slaughter and then we play in New Jersey, then Maryland again.  Then we go to Moondance Jam, Minnesota to play with Styx and Foreigner.  And then some other gigs filled in and Firefest in England."

Steve Lynch & Simon Daniels-by Meister
The Meister:  "Are you guys on Firefest as well (surprised)?  (As Steve nods yes) Fuck, I'll see you there!  I looked at it so long ago that I've forgotten who's all on the bill!  We'll have some drinks there for sure!"

Steve:  "Cool! (laughing)  You're everywhere!  There's supposed to be England's oldest pub there in Nottingham, so we gotta go there!"

The Meister:  "Deal!  Well, I have one other question that I wanted to ask you, actually it might be like a three part question.........for someone that doesn't play guitar, what's a "hammer on"?"

Steve:  "A "hammer on" is when you, well there's two ways to look at it, you can look at it like when you hammer on with your left hand, which is usually on the neck.  In my case is with your right hand hammering out the notes with your right hand.  What I would do, actually it's in my first, second and third book and instructional video is how to play with two hands on the finger board, so you're playing two different parts of a scale at the same time.  So I got the idea from Emmett Chapman and the Stick......"

The Meister:  So, if that's what a "hammer on" is, what happened when you guys were opening for Van Halen?  Did he tell you that you couldn't do that?"

Steve:  "Yeah.  Their tour manager came up to me and said "Are you Steve Lynch?" and I said "Yeah" and he goes "You're the guy that wrote the book on the two handed technique?", so...."

The Meister:  "So you wrote a book on it?"

Steve:  "Yes, back in 1978!"

The Meister:  "That was before Van Halen really broke it big?"

Steve:  "I didn't even know who Van Halen was!  And so my technique was a little different, I was going off kinda what I'd learned from that Emmett Chapman clinic that he did at the guitar institute and I took everything that I was learning at the institute and was writing everything out two handed rather than one handed and that's where the whole thing came from.  And so I didn't really think anything about it, this is kind of a different way to play and so what happened was the tour manager came up to me and asked me those questions and said "Well you can't do this on this tour".  He said "That's Eddie's thing." and I go, "Oh, well can I use a fucking pick?".  He had these two big bodyguards with him and they weren't laughing about it like we are now and I said "Fuck you guys, I'll do whatever I want.", you know."

The Meister:  "So you played like that anyway?"

Steve:  "No, he goes "Look, I'll break your fucking hands", oh they were serious and I knew where it came from.  It came from Eddie, so obviously we didn't talk much on the tour."

The Meister:  "No, I guess not.  Do you think that he learned his technique from you?"

Autograph guitarist Steve Lynch-by Meister
Steve:  "I'm a week older than him, so it just happened to be that we came into a similar technique around the same time.  There was a guy in Seattle named Steve Buffington that was doing it and I used to watch him, so I kinda got some stuff from him.  There was also a guy, Harvey Mandel, who played with John Mayall & The Bluesbreakers, he was doing some of that stuff and then I saw some old clips of Johnny Smith who was a jazz player back in the 40's.  He was doing different, like, quartet stuff with both hands and then I saw this clip from 1965 of this Italian guy who's actually a doctor, who was playing all this crazy stuff on a classical guitar and so all these guitar players have done it before in the past."

The Meister:  "So you just amalgamated some different elements of each one into your own style?"

Steve:  "Right, but the main guy that I got the idea from was Emmett Chapman and Stick."

The Meister:  "Well thanks for taking this time Steve, great show again tonight.  I'm just sorry that it wasn't sold out for you guys."

Steve:  "It's not a big deal.  We look at it like, we love the fans that come out and hang out, just like we're doing right now until the place closes, we love doing it.  This is our tenth show so we look at it like this is great, we're reestablishing ourselves, we're getting people out there to know that we're back.  We haven't been around for 25 years, so now we got a new singer, a new drummer and a new sound.  We're tuned down a whole step, just lower and it's thicker and I had to learn how to sing because we wanted to do three part harmonies as that's a big part of the Autograph sound.  So I had to learn how to sing because I'd never sang before.  Simon, since he was a vocal teacher, he helped me out a lot.  I actually love singing!"

The Meister:  I'm just happy that you guys are back and I look forward to some new music from Autograph down the road.  Sign in Please was one of the first albums I ever bought and I never thought that I'd be hearing the tunes live."

Steve:  "Well RCA wouldn't pay for us to go to a lot of places, so this is the first time we're going to be playing England....."

Steve Lynch-photo by The Meister
The Meister:  "Seriously?  With a song as huge as "Turn Up the Radio" and this is the first time you're playing England?"

Steve:  "Well what happened was Bob Summers, the original CEO of RCA died of aids.  Bob Buziak came in and fired like 50% of the staff in New York at the main offices.  So then what happened was, it wasn't really us that suffered but Mr. Mister, The Pointer Sisters, Kenny Rogers The Eurythmics.  All of them tanked because RCA didn't do anything with them.  All of us were so mad and I ran into Steve Farris, the guitar player from Mr. Mister and I told him what had happened because he didn't know the inside story.  He was really disappointed because they put a lot of work into their second album and it went nowhere because of the backing."

The Meister:  "Well, thanks again Steve.  I look forward to some new Autograph music down the road.  I keep making the jokes about it being called "Turn Up the I-pod" (laughing)."

Steve:  "(laughing) Well maybe "Turn up the Cardio", we are getting older (laughing)."

Autograph @ The Rockpile, Toronto Setlist:
Deep End
Dance All Night
Loud and Clear
Bad Boy
Blondes in Black Cars
When the Sun Goes Down
All I'm Gonna Take
Send Her to Me
Cloud Ten
My Girlfriend's Boyfriend Isn't Me
She Never Looked That Good For Me
Crazy World
That's The Stuff
Turn Up the Radio

The Meister

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Unknown said...

Awesome interview Rich.

Unknown said...

Looking forward to that UK date in October. Highlight of the FireFest weekend for me.

Unknown said...

Cheer Billy....was a lot of fun and a very cool group of guys. Adrian, you will not be disappointed.....see you at the pub?

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