George Lynch in the midst of creative fervour

There’s a plethora of classic rock supergroups surfacing lately, but no one really expected KXM, considering the highly different musical backgrounds the musicians who make it up (namely Korn’s drummer Ray Luzier, King’s X’s bassist/vocalist Doug Pinnick and Lynch Mob’s guitarist George Lynch) come from. But the element of surprise and the rather original sound are precisely what makes this first album so pleasant. And yet, as George Lynch keeps telling us in the following interview, everything was spontaneous, and not at all premeditated. What with their busy schedules, it’s not like the members of the band had time to dither, anyway: everything had to be done in ten days, so they took the direction their instinct was telling them to go. In the end, the pleasure everyone got out of this little dalliance is obvious, in the music as well as in Lynch’s words.

Outside of KXM, it was impossible not to talk about the guitarist’s multiple projects, especially Lynch Mob, whose line-up was becoming a little hazy. We also couldn’t fail to mention Lynch’s relationship with Don Dokken, regarding whom he doesn’t mince his words. With great honesty, he attributes the band’s recent failed reformations to the vocalist and his ego. This long and fascination interview is to be read below.

« It’s disrespectful to our fans to be arrogant. […] I think we have an obligation to do our work, and do it right. There’s no room for the egos anymore. »

Radio Metal: I’ve read you say that in the music scene in Southern California, there are always talks about projects between musicians, but they never really go anywhere. So how did you hook up with Doug and Ray and what made this project actually work?

George Lynch (guitar): Well it’s not that those projects never go anywhere… You’ve seen a lot of this type of band in the last few years: Black Country Communion, Chickenfoot, the Winery Dogs and Glenn Hughes’ new group (note: California Breed), so obviously there’s this spur for this kind of projects. But from my personal experience, it happens quite often that I’m running into people, we talk about putting something together and of course it doesn’t materialize. That’s usually what happens in my personal experience. But in this case, I felt that it had such a strong potential that I really insisted on giving it a 110% effort to make it happen, as were the other guys. We met at Ray’s house at a party for his son and we ended up in the studio jamming. Then it just evolved from that.

Given the strong personalities involved in the band, how did you guys approach the songwriting?

It was actually an interesting and very simple process. The most challenging thing was to find time for us to get together, and that took a good amount of effort. Once we managed to find a week of time, we all met at a converted house that have been turned into a studio a couple of hours outside of Los Angeles, somewhere up in the hills, in a very remote area. We basically lived there: we ate there, we slept there, just the three of us, with the engineer and a photographer. We had never really played together before and we hadn’t written any song, so what we did is we set up and put microphones on everything, all in one room, and we started to play together, to take parts apart and arrange ideas. And in that initial eight day period, we’d written most of the record and recorded it. We realized a few weeks after that that we were still short of a couple of songs, so we had to find another two days to get back in the same studio, meet again and do the same thing, which we did. Again, it was challenging to find these two days, but we found them, we went back at the Sound Mountain studio with our engineer “The Wizard” (note: Chris Collier) and we wrote and recorded three more songs to complete the album. The whole process only took ten days, including the writing, which is phenomenal. I guess that, for a lot of people, it doesn’t really matter how a record is written and recorded, whether it took millions of dollars and two years, or 10, 000 dollars and ten days, the end result is all that matters. From a personal standpoint, it was very gratifying to have done the record that way, because I think that’s what made it unique. Not unique just in the matter of the process but unique in the result. We didn’t have time to over think the songs. We didn’t really have time to think about what we were supposed to be and what we were trying to do, we just did was what the chemistry between the three of us dictated. So it was very intuitive, and I think the results were very gratifying and unexpected, because we had no idea what we were gonna come up with [laughs]… And we didn’t even know that it would be good. We had no idea what the result of our efforts would be because it was just a gamble, really. As we started working together, it all started up okay and things were pretty cool, we came up with an idea and then two or three, and as we progressed the first and second days, we sort of saw this thing emerging, a kind of sound and style. I saw the rest of the guys were getting really excited, you could see it their eyes, they were like little kids [laughs]! We were all very enthusiastic as the days progressed, we would wake up early, start early… We couldn’t wait to work on it because we were excited about it, we could feel that energy, and we also enjoyed the process. We had a lot of fun together, just hanging out and joking, it was really a very brief but fine moment in my creative life.

You all come from quite different backgrounds and main bands. Is it what made this process so fresh and exciting for you guys?

Absolutely, because for instance Doug has been in King’s X for decades and decades, and I’ve been in Lynch Mob let’s say for the same period of time, and Ray’s been in Korn for many many years… And any of these bands are wonderful to play with, but I guess in a way it’s almost like having a mistress [laughs]. You can do things with your mistress you can’t do with your wife, you know what I mean? [laughs]

Is this some kind of personal confession [laughs]?

No no, I’m a very faithful husband! I’m just saying… I’m making a very bad analogy [laughs]…

I was just joking!

Actually I think it’s a pretty good analogy. There’s things you can’t do with your normal band. For instance Korn has a certain style and sound, Lynch Mob has a certain style and sound, and King’s X does as well. KXM gives the three of us an opportunity to go outside these perimeters and our normal creative boundaries.

The three of you in KXM are pretty busy musicians, but what is the status of this band? Will you give it some special attention and go further with it?

We’re giving it every bit of attention that we can muster, and the reason is because not only we feel the record is worthy of our attention, but it’s also doing surprising well for us… You know, we didn’t expect that. We didn’t really do the record to be commercially successful. We didn’t know what it was gonna be. We just wanted to do it. And we did it. Even if we only sold one record we’d be happy because we were able to get this music out there for ourselves. But there are also some limits as for what KXM can do artistically because of the fact that we have already some other projects. For instance Ray being a member of Korn makes it very hard for us to tour: Korn tours extensively, so it’s hard for us go on tour, that’s the problem. Ray is very busy in that band, so it doesn’t leave us a lot of opportunity for us to tour, but having said that, we’re thinking everyday about when we can do it, we try to find [opportunities] so we can go probably to Japan and towards the States, and film that for a DVD.

« Richie Blackmore and the bass player in Kiss, Gene Simmons, both made mention of that: in a world where a band like Poison succeeds, and King’s X fails, there’s no justice [laughs]! »

Lynch Mob’s lineup has been completely renewed lately. What happened?

Since Lynch Mob formed in 1989, it’s gone through a number of personal changes. I like to say it’s like working at McDonalds [laughs], it’s like every musician in LA has to be in Lynch Mob at least once. It’s like basic training in the army or something [laughs]. It is sad and it’s not what I want but it’s very difficult to keep a band together, whether it’s personalities, business, or people finding other opportunities. The problem with Lynch Mob is that it’s not so big of a band that I can really retain people and they can make a good living of. It’s certainly like a project band. We do tour and we do make records, but we’re not Van Halen or AC/DC or anything like that [laughs], so it’s a lot of work, but the members in this band have to do other things as well. What happens is that they go in other bands, for instance Marco Mendoza stuck with us for two years, but eventually he had to go, he had to move on. We love each other and we want to play together but he just couldn’t hang in, there just wasn’t enough work and not enough money for his familly, so he joined Thin Lizzy. We’re still friends, we still talk. Sometimes people would join Lynch Mob just for a tour, a record or an album cycle, for instance Brian Tichy did a couple of tours with us, but then he’s in many other project, like he has played in Whitesnake, Billy Idol, Foreigner… But these days, the other musicians came to be… I don’t wanna say mercenaries, but they have to keep their options open and be free agents, and I respect that. But my dream is some day to be in a band that remains a band, like Rage Against The Machine: you’ve got 3 or 4 guys, they stay together as a family and they never change. I love the idea of that and of course, we had that in Dokken for many years but I haven’t experienced that much in the last couple of decades, and I would love to get to that point where I could have a band like KXM that have some staying power.

In 2012 you had announced that a new Lynch Mob album entitled I Am Weapon was almost finished. So what is its status now? Will it see the light of day and if yes, with which line up?

Well, Lynch Mob is working on two different recording projects. The first one that we’re working on actually at the moment is a live record with the current line-up: Keith St. John from Montrose and Jefferson Starship on vocals, Jimmy D’Anda from Bullet Boys on drums who’s been in Lynch Mob’s prior incarnations of the band and our bassist Kevin Baldes from the band Lit who’s an old friend. So, it’s a really good band, we’ve been touring, we’ll be going to Europe I believe in June and July. The other record, and you’re speaking of this, is no longer called I Am Weapon. It was half finished when the band broke up, and the band at the time was Oni Logan, Scot Coogan on drums and Robbie Crane from Ratt on bass. That was a great band and I wanted to keep it together but it fell apart, and when it did, the record went back into the dustbin or the closet [laughs]… But I’m trying to find a way to finish it, possibly with those original members. A wonderful producer contacted me, [Dave Jordan] who’s worked with many bands before and pushed many of them into huge bands, so it’s possible he may be working with us, we’ve been talking about finishing this record eventually, but it’s quite challenging because of the way the band disbanded and moved on, it’s going to be complicated. But I think the record is worthy of being heard, mixed and finished just for the sake of the music itself.

In 2012, three out of the four musicians in the classic Dokken line-up have released an album under the name T&N with some new recordings of Dokken songs. Was there any provocation towards Don Dokken in that move?

Jeff, I and Mick did that record a couple of years ago, Slave To The Empire, and actually, at one point when we were doing the record we called Don and asked him to come along if he’d be interested. He did come over, we talked and did a few things but it never materialized, it never happened obviously. Because we thought it made sense to, instead of bringing the whole band without the singer here, to bring the singer so we can just be Dokken [laughs]… That record, Slave To The Empire, came out, did OK, and it’s a very good record. But it was a complicated record, I think it was hard for people to wrap their head around it because on one hand, it had the members of Dokken and doing Dokken covers, and they were also doing original material that wasn’t anything like the Dokken covers, and then we had four guest singers. So it’s very confusing, even for ourselves [laughs]. So we started working on another record, Jeff, Mick and I, and we asked Don again to be involved, it fell apart, and we knew that the Dokken reunion wasn’t gonna happen. But we decided: “Well, let’s get somebody to replace Don!”, so we got Michael Sweet from Stryper and Boston. So in November, we’re gonna go in, Michael, Mick, Jeff and myself, and finish this record that we already started, actually. But we’re not gonna call it T&N, we’re gonna call it something else.

And you actually recently said about the second T&N album that “There’s a very slight chance that it could actually become a Dokken record, if a miracle happens and Don decides to play ball and play fair.” So is this what you meant? That you wanted to approach Don to make this “miracle” happen?

We tried, and actually it all fell apart last week, so it’s not gonna happen. But yes, it’s all about playing fair which means, as we’ve always done in Dokken, we’d have to split it up equal, and Don would never agree to that, so without that there can’t be any reunion. So this next record will be basically Dokken without Don and with Michael Sweet replacing him. Of course we can’t call it Dokken, we’ll call it something else, but maybe we’ll call it Dokken backwards, Nekkod, I don’t know! [Laughs]

« The problem with Don is that he’s not a band player, he’s not a band guy, he likes to consider himself as some sort of a musical genius, which he’s not. »

You’re often asked about a Dokken reunion, but do you think this would be humanly possible? Would you get along enough with Don Dokken to get the chemistry back and make great music?

I highly doubt it. I mean the guy is off the rails, completely insane [laughs]… I can work with just about anybody but, for one thing, you have to do the work. That’s the problem with a lot of people in the music business, especially here Los Angeles and probably everywhere else: there are a lot of people who do a whole lot of talking, and not very much working. That’s all bullshit, and I can’t work with those kinds of people. I’m just about getting work done and let the other people do the talking. And Don is pretty much just a talker and that’s the way Dokken was back in the 80s’… He talks a lot and he would do all the talk and we would do all the work. I just chose not to surround myself with those kinds of people anymore, so unfortunately that wouldn’t work. I would love for a Dokken reunion to happen, because being 59 years old and all of us being older now, we think that this would be the right thing to do, for the fans, for ourselves, for the music… To try to do a last good record, a really good record, and go out and perform that record, play those songs, and I think that we owe that to ourselves and the fans. But you know, some people are more concerned about being in charge and being the boss [laughs]… It’s just that we’re too far apart, it’s not gonna happen. The problem with Don is that he’s not a band player, he’s not a band guy, he likes to consider himself as some sort of a musical genius, which he’s not. Until he can get to a point in his life where he can just work with a group of other guys as family and friends, we’ll never be able to work together anymore. It’s painful being in a room with the guy for more than 15 minutes of talking [laughs]. It’s hard to endure and it’s really painful, it’s really difficult for us. I’m too old for this shit, I don’t want to deal with egos anymore, it’s just not worth it.

The KXM record was so fun, there’s no egos, nobody cares about that, we’re there because we love each other and we created a good work in a short amount of time, and I think that we did a piece of work that will stand the test of time, it was honest, it was genuine and it was fun, the work was fun. That’s the way it can be, and it should be most of the time. I have many other projects like that, The Infidels project, the Shadow Train project, the Shadow Nation movie, the new Michael Sweet project with Brian Tichy and James Lomenzo. All these projects that I play in are fine, everybody gets along fine, it’s great, we have a good time, get the work done, no egos… There’s no room for that bullshit anymore. We’re very lucky people to be artists that are able to actually not have to have regular jobs to make a decent living to support our families, and I think we have an obligation to respect that, because the people who’re going to buy our record are people who do have to push the clock, get up early in the morning to do shitty jobs to have money to buy our records. So I think it’s dishonorable to prance around like we’re special, because we’re not! It’s disrespectful to our fans to be arrogant, I think, to each other, and to them. I think we have an obligation to do our work, and do it right. There’s no room for the egos anymore. I mean we’re just musicians, we’re not Indira Gandhi or Martin Luther King [laughs], I wouldn’t put us on a pedestal like that.

What does that make you feel to see that Dokken, the band with which you had your greatest successes, in its current form, doesn’t generate much passion anymore? Would you somehow see this as waste, considering what it could be with the classic line-up back together?

Well, I think in comparing those two possibilities, we’re looking at the crux of the problem, in that you have Don, who looks at the band as a vehicle for himself, just going out there, using the name, playing the old songs, putting money his pocket and pretending he’s a big rockstar. Members Jeff, Mick and myself, we feel that a band should be a living entity and a musical product of chemistry that should evolve, and he doesn’t understand that. Those are two completely divergent philosophies, and that’s why it can’t work. Of course the original classic line-up would be wonderful because it’s not about how good the guitar player is or how good the singer is or anything like that, it’s the fact that it’s the original guys, with all their legacy and history, and those songs that meant so much to people in their lives and their personal histories, and that’s why the original members matter. Not because I’m a better guitar player or Mick’s a better drummer or anything like that. [Laughs] We’re not Dream Theater, you know. So yeah of course the classic line-up is really what matters, but you know, that’s not going to happen.

You always have many projects under your belt. You’ve had Dokken, Lynch Mob, your solo career, the Lynch/Pilson album, Souls Of We, T&N and now KXM, not counting many featurings. What draws you into doing so many projects and collaborations?

Well I didn’t really do it intentionally. I mean, with foresight, it wasn’t premeditated; it’s just that when I’m working through my days and my creative life, when ideas are occurring artistically, I think that you have an obligation to service that. You have an obligation to recognize the artistic and creative impulse and act on it. For instance, I have this project called The Infidels, which is the rhythm section from War and Sen Dog from Cypress Hill and the singer from B-Side Players. It’s a very eclectic, interesting mix of guys. Pancho, the bass player, Pancho Tomaselli from War, called me up – we were running into each other all the time, because we’re both Peavy endorsers – and he said: “I really really wanna play with you and jam some time”. He’s got his studio in Hollywood, a private studio, and we went in with his drummer from War, Sal [Rodriguez], set up for a few days and just jammed. And all this beautiful, heavy, funky stuff came out of it, we tracked it, we created songs out of it, and it just kind of happened. It wasn’t like I was looking for it [laughs], it just found me. And that’s the same with all the projects, for instance the Shadow Train band which is affiliated with the movie Shadow Nation, the documentary film that I’ve been working on for four years. We just finished the double CD which is the soundtrack for the film that will be coming out later this year. I’m doing an industrial project right now actually, I’m in the middle of that, with some guys of the production team who worked with Rob Zombie and Nine Inch Nails. I love industrial music, but I never really played it! [Laughs] I mean, not on a whole record. It’s just something I’m very passionate about. Someday I wanna do a very organic blues record, a couple of mics in the room, a box and all slide guitar [laughs]… Because I love that kind of thing, I grew up with that. It’s not like I have these plans for my career or that I’m trying to do everything, it’s just when I feel compelled to write something and to record something, I usually do, and then it turns into something hopefully… Because when I find something that I feel inspired to do, I’m tenacious and I don’t let go, I just keep going until it’s done. And fortunately or unfortunately, if I’m utterly inspired to do a lot of things then I end up doing a lot of things at the same time [laughs]! Right now I have a tremendous amount of output musically. I don’t worry about sorting it out, about when I’m going to release it or how I’m gonna tour with it or anything like that, I just record it, which isn’t very smart business wise, but when you have this sense of urgency to create something, you have to create it. Then you let it to the business people figure out how to give it out to the market place…

We often say that power trios have something special to them. Did you find in this band format with KXM something special that sets it apart from what you’ve known up to now?

Yes. Actually I was a little worried about that because I’m so used to be in four-members bands… But with the fact that Doug performs two functions, he plays bass and sings at the same time, we get the same functions out of the three members. But what was interesting was the fact that we didn’t know what it was gonna be like to hang out, what the chemistry was gonna be like, isn’t it gonna feel incomplete without that fourth member? And it didn’t! That surprised me, because I felt like it would always gonna be like an empty hole in the band, like we’d need a fourth guy, a keyboard player, a second guitar player or something, but we don’t. It feels so complete and intact, like Cream or Rush. And also, the other advantage that is interesting in a band with three players is that you never have a stalemate as far a making decisions, because you have an odd number of member. When you’re a band with four guys and you have two guys that vote one way and two guys that vote the other way, you have a stalemate, and that creates a lot of problems sometimes, with creative decisions, with business decisions… But when you only got three guys, it’s got to go one way or the other [laughs]. If two guys vote one way and one guy votes another way… Because we’re going along well with each other, we’re able to let things go. For instance we just did two new videos last week, first for the song “Faith Is A Room” and then “Gun Fight”. And we mixed the KXM record for the European label and rearranged some songs, the sequences used for the guitar solos are sometimes quite different. The song “Gun Fight” has the most dramatic arrangement difference, it has the most changes compared to the other songs on the record, it has added parts and vocals. It’s phenomenal, I love it, I love the European version of “Gun Fight”. So as a band, we had to make the decision when we were about to shoot the video: of which version are we gonna shoot the video? The US version or the European version? I was very adamant that we had to do the European version because it’s so much better. And Doug was adamant that he wanted to do the domestic version! So we had a little bit of a… Not a run-in, but a difference of opinion obviously, we both had strong opinions about it. And at the end of the day, as much as he hated to do it, he did it. At the end of the shoot, at the end of the two days, he looked at me and I said: “We can edit this out and go back to the domestic version if you’re not comfortable with this.” But he said: “No, I got it now, you were right.” Not that I wanted to be right! But I passionately felt that it was right, and he got it. It wasn’t about who’s right or wrong, it was about ending with the best result. And that’s the best part of this band: it’s that we have three members that don’t have egos and are not calcified in their opinion about things to the point where one won’t go over it, and things work out that way. To answer your question, I’m really enjoying being in a triangle, a three-piece band for the first time in my life!

Is it important for you to be one of the initiators of the bands you play in?

It’s not important to me, it’s just been a rule that’s been cast upon me which I become used to. For instance for Lynch Mob and Dokken, I’m one of the prime movers, just by the sheer fact that I have the guitar! [Laughs] And those are guitar-based bands, so I’m coming up with the riffs. Guitar players get to do a lot of the writing, so they get more attention. And I’m very opinionated about the music that we’re creating and all these other things, so that’s normal for me, but for KXM it’s a completely different thing. The personalities in KXM are so strong that we’re all on equal footing. Nobody shines above anybody else, and I love that. We all do. I mean, I’m in a band with a superstar drummer and for Ray and myself, Doug is our hero. We are both disgusted, like many other people in the music business in that genre, by the fact that Doug isn’t recognized more widely and hasn’t been more successful. Richie Blackmore and the bass player in Kiss, Gene Simmons, both made mention of that: in a world where a band like Poison succeeds, and King’s X fails, there’s no justice [laughs]! There was a reason that King’s X was on Woodstock in 94, they have a small but very fanatic following. To me, Doug is the epitome of the ultimate rock singer with his gospel and blues background. He’s a poet lyrically, has a huge personality and is a very intelligent guy and a fantastic performer… He’s so unique! There’s nobody like him. It’s an honor to play with him. I wish better things for him and hope that maybe KXM can help him get where he should be, as far as recognition and commercial success go. We all respect each other and admire each other. It’s like a mutual admiration society [laughs]. I talk about that a lot. There are no rears in this band, we’re sort of like a three-headed monster. We’re all on a kind of equal footing, songs are all written democratically and decisions are made democratically as well and it works!

You mentioned working on an industrial project. Can you tell us more about that? Who’s part of this, how will this sound like and when will this come out?

Yeah. I do some mainstream stuff, like for instance the Michael Sweet-Lynch project with Brian Tichy and James Lomenzo. I just finished writing that with Michael, I finished the guitars a couple of weeks ago… That’s the kind of record where the songs are really good, it’s like maybe the Dokken record that we never wrote, it’s that kind of record. It’s got nice riffs, it’s got good guitar playing, all the sounds are fantastic, Michael sings like a bird, the hooks are there, I could see it being a huge commercial success, making all these 80s’ fans really happy in a modern day context. When I do things like that which are very gratifying and wonderful, then it’s just wonderful to bear off and do something like this industrial project which is very adventurous. I’m not sure where it’s gonna go, I don’t have a very clear idea of what kind of record this should be. I just know that I love industrial music. When I hear bands like The Prodigy, Ministry, Nine Inch Nails, I always go: “I wish I was in that band! It’s so cool!” [Laughs] And I never heard a band do that: it has a real guitar player with guitar parts that are important, you know. And I’m trying to create that and we’re in the middle of it, about half of the music has been written and recorded and we’re gonna write the rest of it from next week until the end of the month. How it’s gonna flesh out, I’ve no idea. I’m actually not much of a singer but I do hear things in my head. In my own head I’m a great singer, I just don’t have the ability to sing well, but I do hear things and I hear what a good singer should do on these songs that I write… So I spent a couple of days in the studio with my engineer and I actually sang some parts, not because I wanted to be a singer but because I wanted to get these ideas across for the singer, to express to him where things could go and he could just sing that. So that was a lot of fun. So we have the luxury in this project and projects like this to be able to experiment and work outside of our comfort zone and outside boxes. I think that’s a lot of fun and healthy too. And hopefully fans will be open to this stuff, because a lot of fans are like: “Well, George was playing in Dokken, he’s doing 80s’ music with stretchy pants and big hair, we don’t wanna hear about it!” So hopefully, a majority of fans, or some fans, will be open to having their artist sort of venture out in other areas… I would think they would welcome that.

Apart from that, what’s next for you in the future?

I’m trying to finish up the film Shadow Nation. It’s a documentary about Native Americans, indigenous people and music… It’s really a film about human nature: are we able to evolve, capable of evolving? When I say evolve, it’s not just spiritually. Evolve in a sense of survival, thinking long term on how we treat each other and how we treat the earth that we live on. That’s why I did the film. Mostly I met Native American in their reservations because they’re much closer in their personal history to being connected to the natural world and to their more primal existence. It’s a complicated film. It’s a documentary we’ve been working on for over four years now, and we’re very very close to finishing it. I’m finishing up editing it; the music is all done… We’ve got some wonderful people involved in the film, and some not so wonderful people [laughs]… Tom Morello is in it, Serj [Tankian] from System Of A Down too, and I flew to Boston to interview Noam Chomsky, which was an honor and a huge moment in my life to meet one of my heroes, we have Ted Nugent in the film too… So that would be done in about a month and I’ll be able to move beyond that hopefully [laughs]. Then I also build guitars, I have my own guitar company called MrScary Guitars: I build them myself from scratch in my shop in my home. I do 10 guitars a year, and I’ve got about 10 guitars on the bench right now that I’m trying to finish, so in between all my projects and everything that I do, touring and so on, I work on guitars. I build those from scratch for people that contact me through my website which is mrscaryguitars.com. It’s almost like meditation to me: I start doing these guitars and then I get kind of lost in them, I lose sense of time and space and out of it I’m creating something, it’s tangible, beautiful and functional, so it’s very rewarding…

Interview conducted by phone on April, 17th 2014 by Metal’O Phil.
Retranscription and traduction : Chloé.
Questions and introduction : Spaceman.

George Lynch official website: georgelynch.com

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