Steve Lynch of Autograph – The full in bloom Legacy Interview – Steve Plunkett, Sign in Please, Turn up the Radio
Autograph Guitarist / Guitar Teacher
full in bloom: You started out your musical career playing bass, then switched to guitar on September 18, 1970. Can you tell us what is special about that date and why the switch?
Steve Lynch: It was the day Jimi Hendrix passed on to the other side and I was grief stricken by the loss. I always wanted to play guitar instead of bass but there was already a guitar player on my block and he asked me if I would learn bass so we could put a band together, so I did. But a year later I moved to a different part of Seattle and started playing around with the guitar instead. When Hendrix died I made a promise to myself that I was going to commit my life to playing guitar and almost 40 years later am still commited to that promise.
full in bloom: Your 2-handed tapping technique is legendary. Can you tell us a little about the origins of it and how you developed it over the years?
Steve: The first time I saw Harvey Mandel play was when I was first exposed to the technique back in 1971 or ’72. I then tried to emulate what he was doing but didn’t have the technical knowledge of theory to quite understand how it was done. When I attended the Guitar Institute of Technology back in 1978 there was a guy by the name of Emmett Chapman who had invented an instrument called The Stick who did a clinic there in the early part of 1978. The instrument consists of ten strings in which one hand plays the 5 bass strings and the other plays the melodies and solos on thinner strings. I was amazed by the sounds and the technique and cornered him after the clinic to show him some of the things I had done and in return he showed me some of the things he had done on guitar with the technique. At that point a light bulb went off in my head and I started applying everything I learned at the school to using both hands.
Guitar Institute of Technology
full in bloom: You were one of the first graduates of the Guitar Institute of Technology and voted “Student of the Year” as well as “Most Likely to Succeed”. What was it like to attend GIT?
Steve: It was a great experience just going there and being in an atmosphere of professionalism that I had previously never been exposed to. The teachers were great, the students were great and everyone was happy to be in such a generous learning environment. To attend GIT was one of the best decisions of my life. The awards and respect from fellow students and teachers was an incredible honor but the experience itself was what proved to be the most gratifying.
full in bloom: How did Dan Mock, Harvey Mandel, and Emmett Chapman help influence your style.
Steve: Well, Harvey Mandell and Emmett Chapman were already introduced in a previous question but as far as Don Mock goes I consider him to be one of the most influencial people in my life. He was and still is such a brilliant player that I’m amazed that he’s not a household name in the world of guitar. But that’s not Don, he doesn’t care about the glitz and glam of the whole thing, he just loves to play. It’s that attitude that I try to encompass myself with these days and is one of the key things that I have learned from him, to just love what you’re doing.
Emerson, Lake and Palmer
full in bloom: Didn’t you record with Greg Lake of Emerson, Lake and Palmer?
Steve: Yes, I was nervous as hell! It was my first professional session in a real LA studio and I wasn’t sure if I could pull it off. They loved what I recorded but I heard some time later that they scrapped all the songs and re-did the entire album. So I was left on the cutting room floor so to speak with Steve Lukather and many others that guested on the album.
full in bloom: When did you move to Los Angeles and what were your early experiences like there?
Steve: I moved there in February of 1978 to attend GIT and was overwhelmed with how big LA was. Seattle at that time was a relatively small city so moving to such an ominous one was definitely a cultural shock. I fell in love with it right away and learned that I was in with the big boys of the music world. It was time to go to work!
full in bloom: What was it like playing the clubs in those early days? What bands did you play with?
Steve: I played in groups called Outlawed, Yellow Dog, Ross Taylor Band and Silverload in the Seattle area until leaving for LA in ’78. I didn’t like the club scene and I didn’t enjoy playing other people’s music. It was very beneficial for the experience of playing live and learning how songs were arranged but was very unsatisfying for me professionally. I decided to go to GIT after I found out my early guitar teacher Don Mock had moved there to help open the school. After graduating I found myself in bands like Savoy Brown, Holly Penfield, Looker, Wolfgang, The Word and several others before forming Autograph. The local club scene in LA was disappointing as well but I still found it a good learning experience because I was honing my playing and writing chops.
Autograph – “Sign in Please”
full in bloom: How did you start working with Steve Plunkett, Randy Rand, Steve Isham and Keni Richards?
Steve: I knew them from playing with Looker and Wolfgang. Some members were the same that ended up in Autograph. We were all local LA club guys.
In the mid-90s, Autograph vocalist Steve Plunkett got heavily involved in music for film/television. After partnering with Spencer Proffer (Quiet Riot, Kick Axe), Plunkett has gone on to write and produce music for over 40 movies including “Gods and Monsters,” “Rock Star” and “Shake Rattle and Roll.” Theme songs that he is credited with writing include “7th Heaven”, “The Never-ending Story”, “Kojak” and “Summerland”.
full in bloom: What was it like working with Steve Plunkett?
Steve: Steve Plunkett was only into writing commercial songs that were intended for radio play. This is where we creatively butted heads because I wanted to be more experimental whereas he wanted to write nothing but radio friendly hits. I guess it was a sign of the times, being commercially intent, but I loved groups that had more depth to their creativity and were into expanding the boundaries.
full in bloom: Randy Rand?
Steve: Randy was a wild man and thought of life as one big long party. It was fun rooming with him for years. Coming up with unique bass parts was second nature to Randy and being on stage was like being at home to him.
full in bloom: Steve Isham?
Steve: Steve was a great friend and understood the constraints of working with a commercially driven band more than I did. He not only came up with great vocal harmonies but was always adding something that would take us out of the mainstream LA sound of the time. I miss him and his passing was a great loss to us all.
full in bloom: Keni Richards?
Steve: Keni was a great four on the floor drummer and the true comedian of the band. He had an undeniably unique attitude about music and how he perceived the world.
full in bloom: How did the 1984 tour with Van Halen come about?
Steve: That was through Keni. He was jogging every day with David Lee Roth when he played a demo of ours for him. David loved it and asked Keni if we would like to tour with them on their 1984 tour. The next day Keni came to rehearsal and mentioned the proposal from David, which we gladly accepted.
full in bloom: What was it like touring with Van Halen? Any cool stories from the road?
Steve: The experience was really good but there were a lot of restrictions. I was told I couldn’t use my hammering technique because it was “Eddie’s thing”, which I was completely turned off by, especially when I had developed the technique years before I had ever heard of him. The other things that we were restricted were we couldn’t say the name of the city we were in because that was “Davids’s thing”, we were very limited in our volume to a point of being ridiculous, they wouldn’t allow us to put our name on the marquee, we had to be out of the backstge hallways before and after their show….and the list went on and on. I thought it all was a big joke, but realized it wasn’t when they said if any of the “rules” were broken we would be fired from the tour immediately.
full in bloom: Where did you come up with the name and what were some other names being thrown around before you decided on “Autograph” ?
Steve: We came up with the name on the way to our first gig with Van Halen. We thought about the name Red Cross and a few others that each of us had compiled a list of, but the only one that was to last and voted upon unanimously was Autograph.
full in bloom: When were you approached by RCA? How did the band react to signing with a major label?
Steve: It wasn’t immediate, there was a lot of negotiating to be done first, but once it was a done deal we were all ecstatic about it.
Autograph – “Turn Up the Radio”
full in bloom: Was “Turn Up the Radio” really written just two days before you went in the studio to record “Sign In Please”. Did you guys realize it would be such a big hit?
Steve: Yes, it was a last minute song that RCA didn’t even want on the album because they thought it had no commercial value. Goes to show you what the music “professionals” know. We insisted on it until we finally got our way. We didn’t realize there was going to be any commercial success from that song or for the the band in general because we were all accustomed to how things worked (or didn’t work) in the music industry.
full in bloom: Where did you record “Sign In Please”?
Steve: We recorded it at the Record Plant in LA.
full in bloom: How long did it take?
Steve: It took 30 days to record and master. We were seasoned musicians in the studio so worked very fast and were always well prepared.
full in bloom: In 1985, “Sign In Please” went platinum. How did the band receive the news?
Steve: Paul Atkinson, the vice-president of RCA called us while we were on the road to give us the news.
full in bloom: Also in ’85, Guitar Player magazine awarded you “Guitar Solo of the Year” for your work on “Turn Up the Radio”. How did you find out about the award?
Steve: I found out through a phone call as well but was on the road so there were no official festivities. I was deeply honored that I would be considered for such an award.
full in bloom: Tell us about recording “You Can’t Hide from the Beast Inside” for the movie “Fright Night”.
Steve: Again, we were on the road when we wrote the song and recorded it by flying back to LA for a couple days. Immediately afterwards we were back out touring again. We did this several times while on tour. Our schedule didn’t slow down until the very end.
Autograph – “That’s the Stuff”
full in bloom: In 1985 you released “That’s the Stuff”. What happened to producer Tom Treumuth (Honeymoon Suite, Helix)?
Steve: We recorded that album with RCA thinking we had Tom Treumuth producing it, but little did RCA know, we sent Tom home after a few days in the studio when he realized we were doing just fine on our own. So, we ended up producing the album ourselves. Then, of course, (we) went right back out on the road.
full in bloom: How about the recording sessions for “Winning Is Everything” on the soundtrack of the film “Youngblood”?
Steve: We were on the road during this one also, so flew back in for a quick recording session and back out again.
full in bloom: In support of “That’s the Stuff”, you toured with Motley Crue and Heart. Any cool stories from the road?
Steve: Heart was great to us and so were Motley Crue! Completely different from the Van Halen tour. Both Heart and the Crue boys were very generous with anything we wanted when it came to sound, amenities, support, equipment….anything, you name it; they were there for us. With Motley Crue we would end up waking up on their tour bus and they would wake up on ours. It really didn’t matter because we were all going to the same city but never knew which bus we would wake up on. It was some of the most fun I have had in my entire life, even though there is quite a lot of “missing time”. Put it this way, I quit drinking for five years after that tour.
Autograph – “Loud & Clear
full in bloom: “Loud and Clear” was released in the Spring of ’87. Tell us about that experience.
Steve: It was a great experience working with producer Andy Johns on that project. We had been trying to work with him since the first two but our schedules never worked out. RCA was going through a tough time with president Bob Summers’ death and the transition of power to Bob Bousiak. This resulted in an alarming disarray among the staff at RCA and they made some very poor business decisions, not only on our part but also with Mister Mister, The Eurythmics, The Pointer Sisters and Kenny Rogers to name a few. The promotion for the album was almost non-existent and there was no tour support. They fired half of their staff in New York and hired a bunch of little college yuppies that had no idea what they were doing. We actually had to tell them how to do their job. Welcome to the music business.
full in bloom: What was it like working with Andy Johns?
Steve: It was great, as I mentioned before we had been waiting to work with Andy for years. His production ideas were very inventive but we found ourselves very disappointed with the mixing job he did. We found out later that he was equally disappointed with that aspect.
full in bloom: The video for “Loud and Clear” had appearances by Ozzy Osbourne and Vince Neil of the Crue. How was it to work with them?
Steve: It was really enjoyable working with those guys. They were both friends of ours and Ozzy literally kept everyone in hysterics during the filming. I don’t usually like filming videos because they are so tiring with the long hours and playing the same damn song over and over, but with them on the set it made it a lot more fun.
full in bloom: What were the “Headbanger’s Ball” appearances like? Anything stand out?
Steve: Yeah, the one we guest hosted with Ozzy was a really cool experience. He had just gotten out of the Betty Ford Center that morning and when he tried to read the teleprompter he started shaking so badly his hair (which was spikey then) started shaking. The cameraman told him he had to stop shaking so much because it was making his hair shake as well. After about 40 attempts he asked Sharon to go get him a six pack so he could get through. She argued with him about it because he had only been out of treatment for a few hours. He then yelled at her saying “Sharon, just get me a fucking six pack”, which she did. He drank it all in about 20 minutes and said “roll tape” and got it perfect the first try. We laughed so hard we thought we were going to piss ourselves.
full in bloom: On Oct. of ’87 the band appeared in “Like Father Like Son”, a Dudley Moore/Kirk Cameron film. Tell us about that.
Steve: We video taped that live with rented equipment then had to fly out that night to play the first gig on the next tour, talk about a hectic schedule. I really enjoyed working with the camera crew on the movie. They were so much more professional than the crew you work with filming videos. They were extemely fast and efficient.
full in bloom: Early in ’88 you left RCA Records. What were some of the reasons?
Steve: Our three album deal was up with RCA and we were glad to move on. There were no harsh feelings but they were in such a shambles and we were on such a roll that we knew the end of the relationship was a positive thing.
full in bloom: Why did the band decide not to replace Steve Isham when he left the band?
Steve: We were into creating a heavier sound at that time and decided not to have keyboards any longer, except for a few parts here and there which either myself or Steve Plunkett could have done in the studio.
full in bloom: What happened with the Epic Records deal?
Steve: We were in the midst of cutting demos for them but they kept wanting to hear more. I got frustrated after a certain point and started to realize the Autograph days were coming to a close. At that point I had been writing in a completely different direction from Autograph and decided one day at rehearsal to throw in the towel. Since I initiated it the others joined in and agreed it was time to call it quits. There were no bad feelings whatsoever, we had taken it for a six year ride and had learned a lot and had a lot of fun along the way.
full in bloom: Out of all the bands you toured with over the years which did you enjoy sharing the bill with the most? Which were the most professional and which ones were just jerks?
Steve: They were all professional but the one I didn’t enjoy touring with was Van Halen because of the restrictions. With the exception of Michael Anthony I’d have to say I didn’t care for the personalities, maybe it was due to so much infighting within the band but they were uncomfortable to be around. Don’t get me wrong though, I appreciate what the Van Halen tour did for us but it was not due to any individual part by the members of Van Halen. Every other band was absolutely great to be with and very accomodating.
THE FAST 5
full in bloom: What is your most disgusting habit?
Steve: I have no vices now, my friends say I just work too hard.
full in bloom: What is the most feminine thing you do?
Steve: I don’t watch sports, I couldn’t care less about team competition, it just doesn’t make any sense to me; if you can even call that being feminine.
full in bloom: If there is a God, what is the first question you would ask God when you arrive?
Steve: What the fuck is that bullshit you call the human race?!!!
full in bloom: Greatest Rock band of all time?
Steve: Toss up between Pink Floyd and Led Zeppelin.
full in bloom: What were you doing 40 minutes before you sat down to do this interview?
Steve: Watching 60 Minutes.