Dokken Vets Launch T&N Project with ‘Slave to the Empire’ Album
There’s just no denying musical chemistry, and the members of T&N found that out very quickly after several years of not playing together. Former Dokken guitarist George Lynch initially reached out to ex-Dokken bassist Jeff Pilson to contribute to his Lynch Mob record, but it didn’t take long before the pair realized that the music was meant for something else. At the insistence of drummer Brian Tichy, who is also part of the band, the group called up another former bandmate, Dokken’s drummer “Wild” Mick Brown,’ and the full T&N lineup was complete.
With T&N set, the group started providing a mixture of new songs and re-recorded versions of older Dokken favorites with a variety of guest vocalists (Sebastian Bach, King’s X’s Doug Pinnick, Tim “Ripper” Owens and Warrant‘s Robert Mason) with the end result being their new ‘Slave to the Empire’ album, due Oct. 31.
Pilson, who also sings on the album, spoke with Loudwire about what it was like reuniting with his onetime bandmates, how T&N took their music in a more humanistic direction, and about the band’s current relationship with Don Dokken.
You have such a storied past working together, but in some ways this is essentially a new project. Can you talk about what it was like with the three of you back in the studio together for the first time and how it varied, if at all, from your process of working on past records?
When George, Mick and I got in the studio together, it felt very much like what we’ve come to know and love about working together. I’d say the biggest difference now is that we play better, and really know how to get the sounds and performances we’re looking for. We’re quite confident in our abilities and that makes it a lot of fun. This was a little different in that the songs we did with Mick were written a long time ago, but we got to add little elements that made it feel fresh. It couldn’t have been more fun or productive.
At what point was it decided to mix in some re-recorded Dokken material along with some original songs and how do they flow together on this disc?
Once the music to the original songs was recorded and we had an idea that we’d finish them for, what became, T&N, Brian (Tichy) suggested we call Mick and redo some Dokken songs. We loved the idea cuz it really helps to tie the new music in with our legacy together. As for how it flows, so far the response has been amazing. The fans will be the ultimate judge of that.
But it’s great because we were able to do the Dokken songs a little closer to how we had always pictured them, which was a little tougher, more raw. They still have many of the elements, harmonies, guitar production, etc., but not drowning in reverb like records were back then. It makes it all a little more in your face and the grooves really come alive that way. Plus the little additions we made to the Dokken songs help make them relate to the new music cuz they reflect where we are today. I’m so happy how it all came out and to see so many fans reacting positively is very rewarding.
Did you have a list of who you wanted for guest vocalists and how close was that list to who actually appears on the songs? Which guest surprised you the most with what they brought to the table during recording?
We just started calling friends who we knew were great and who we thought could really bring something special to Dokken material. We knew we didn’t want to get too far away from the original recordings, but wanted each guy to bring their unique gifts to the performances. So not every singer would work in that scenario. But they all impressed us so much.
Doug [Pinnick]’s take on ‘Tooth and Nail‘ is outstanding. His feel and delivery are unparalleled. We were always fans so it was a blast watching him record. Sebastian [Bach]’s ‘Alone Again’ still brings a tear to my eye every time. In some ways his version stayed truer to the original melody than any of the other ones — but that was his call. He didn’t want to tamper with the melody too much, and that’s a sign of his maturity as an artist. But we did get some “Sebastianisms” out of him and the overall performance is soaking in emotion. He was a joy — and he’s a nut as well!!! That was fun. Robert [Mason] nailed ‘It’s Not Love’ with incredible power and vibe — what a voice! He’s a world-class singer and it really shows on his performance. Ripper [Owens] was truly crazy, which is great! His screams are so sick. I love it! All I can say is we have a lot to top on record 2!!!!!!
‘Slave to the Empire’ definitely gives you the platform to express yourself. Can you talk about the writing process and deciding what messages you wanted to address with the original songs?
George and my writing process has changed very little over the years. Even in the early days we could always read each others’ minds, but it’s even more so now. As soon as we realized this record was not going to be a Lynch Mob record we decided we wanted the songs to have a social conscience. We don’t really want it to be perceived as political — but humanistic.
We both see a very lopsided world out there, where those who “have” are getting a bigger and bigger slice of the pie, and it’s hard working folks who are paying the price. But we’re both optimistic that the power to change, grow and improve lies with the people, if they make their voices heard. So we’re just one voice out there, but we have big old amps so we can be a very loud voice!!!!
With the album complete, what songs are most resonating with you after having a little bit of distance from recording and can you talk about why they stand out to you?
That’s always a tough question, a little like which one of your children do you like most these days??!! But I will have to say that of the new material, the ones that resonate for me most are ‘Slave to the Empire,’ cuz the message is core to us and George’s solo is genius. ‘Sweet Unknown,’ just cuz I love the sound of it and when the chorus kicks in I get goose bumps. ‘When Eagles Die’ is very close to me. I love all the textures and changes in it and George’s solo is one of his finest ever. I felt very “purged” after we finished that one. We got to express a lot in that song. Then there’s ‘Access Denied,’ which turned out to be a very cool and interesting song. It probably changed the most, melodically and lyrically, during the writing. We got a bit stuck so we brought in Brian (Tichy), who had some great ideas for it. And I love how the song ends, but then again, I’m a bit eccentric!
Coincidentally, Dokken released a new album this fall, as well. What’s your current relationship with Don Dokken? Have you spoken to him about the T & N project?
My relationship with Don is great these days, although it’s mostly by email. We did put in a message to him, via Wild Mick, that we’d love to have him sing on T&N, but understandably he wasn’t into that. I mean the minute you add Don it becomes Dokken, so it gets complicated, and we all get that.
T&N is really a chance for us to be creative together outside of Dokken. That doesn’t take anything away from Dokken’s legacy and this isn’t us versus them! It’s just the simple fact that even after nearly 30 years together, George Lynch and I love to make music with each other, we love to work with Brian and Mick and we’re in a position where we can and do. How cool is that?
To order the T&N album, ‘Slave to the Empire,’ click here.