It’s been nearly 25 years since the members of Autograph completed their three-album deal with RCA records and mutually decided to go their own separate ways.
For guitarist Steve Lynch, that departure also meant the opportunity to get more involved in writing, teaching and hosting guitar clinics. Eventually, Lynch made his way back to his native Seattle and opened the Federal Way School of Music, where he continues to demonstrate, among other things, his legendary two-handed technique.
After a long hiatus, Lynch and bassist Randy Rand have reunited Autograph in 2014. Together with new singer Simon Daniels, the band plans to tour extensively — with shows that already include the Monsters of Rock Cruise, M3 and Firefest — before returning to the studio to record new material.
I spoke with Lynch about the reunion, his music and Autograph’s unique first gig in 1984.
GUITAR WORLD: It’s been 25 years since we last saw Autograph. What sparked this reunion?
In 2011, I saw Randy down at the NAMM show, and the two of us started kicking around the idea of doing a reunion. We saw a lot of bands out doing a “weekend warrior” sort of thing, and since I run a music studio and teach during the week, I thought it would be a great way to do it. We got our original drummer Keni Richards involved in early rehearsals, but he had to back out due to health issues.
How did you get hooked up with Simon?
We asked our original singer Steve [Plunkett] if he wanted to do it, but he’s really busy with his writing company and wasn’t interested in going out on the road again. It was then that a friend of ours who heard that we were talking about doing a reunion mentioned Simon Daniels, who was working with the band Jailhouse. We watched a few of his videos online and thought he was great. But once we all got together and heard him do a few of the Autograph songs, there was no doubt!
Do you have plans to record any new material?
Absolutely. We all have a diverse selection of songs that we’ve been writing so we definitely want to get in and record. The first thing we want to do though is go out and reestablish ourselves to let people know that we’re back. We’re tuning down a whole step and adding more of an edge to our sound. It’s a new, more heavier Autograph.
When did you start playing?
I started playing bass in 1968, but on the day Jimi Hendrix died, I decided to switch over to guitar. I was always listening to him as soon as I got home from school and remember going to see him for the first time at the Seattle Coliseum when I was 12 and it was just incredible. He was my hero.
Who were some of your other influences?
Jeff Beck was a big influence on me. Then there was Jimmy Page, Allan Holdsworth and Al Di Meola. I was also really influenced by Emmett Chapman [the inventor of the Chapman Stick, an instrument you play with two hands]. I remember he had a clinic at GIT shortly after I started going there.
I was already well into the two-handed thing from seeing Harvey Mandel do it way back in the early Seventies and had started incorporating it into my playing. But once I saw Chapman’s clinic, it floored me. I began taking everything that I was learning at school and writing it down so that it could be played with two-hands. That was how I came up with my first book, The Right Touch.
What kind of regimen did you have when you were practicing hard-core?
Honestly, I didn’t have a life the entire time I was at GIT [laughs]. I literally would practice seven days a week anywhere from 10 to 16 hours a day! I remember weighing 114 pounds when I graduated at 24. I was just skin and bones, but I felt good about what I was doing. Afterwards, I kept to a more reasonable four- to six-hour practice session.
What made you decide to get involved in teaching?
I had gotten tired of going out on the road all the time so opening a school was a good way for me to not have to travel and I also enjoy doing it. Over the years, I wrote a few more books and did an instructional video. I also have my lynchlicks.com teaching website where I have more than 100 different guitar licks. There are also some YouTube videos of music from my solo album as well as some unreleased Autograph material floating around on the Internet.
Is there something you’ve noticed through your teaching that you think guitarists can improve upon?
I think players should concentrate on becoming a bit more blues-based. Most guitarists today have amazing technique and can play blazingly fast licks, but their playing lacks the emotional element of someone like a Stevie Ray Vaughan or Gary Moore. That kind of feel is really missing in many of today’s players.
Can you tell us the origin of Autograph?
We had known each other from the LA scene and were all playing in different bands as paid hands. We used to get together as a side project at this rehearsal place where we would mostly just jam, bang around songs and have a good time. We didn’t even have a name or anything. One day, Andy Johns, who had worked with Led Zeppelin, came down to a rehearsal to check us out and really liked what he heard.
He offered us some studio time to record with him so we went in one weekend and cut a five-song demo. At the time, Keni was jogging every morning with David Lee Roth. Dave asked him what he was up to and Keni played him our demo. Dave loved it so much that he offered to have us go out and open for Van Halen on the 1984 tour.
I still remember us all getting together in this rented Winnebago and literally having to think of a name for the band on the drive from Los Angeles to Jacksonville, Florida. We eventually decided on Autograph and our first gig was opening for Van Halen in front of 18,000 people!
James Wood is a writer, musician and self-proclaimed metalhead who maintains his own website, GoJimmyGo.net. His articles and interviews are written on a variety of topics with passion and humor. You can follow him on Twitter @JimEWood.