Lynch left the Heartbreakers acrimoniously in 1995 and went on to establish a new career as a producer and songwriter. He briefly reunited with his ex-colleagues at their 2002 Rock & Roll Hall of Fame induction, and since then he’d only spoken to Campbell once, soon after Petty’s death in 2017.
But when Campbell called recently to ask Lynch to join him on the road with the Dirty Knobs in the absence of regular drummer Matt Laug, who had other commitments, Lynch agreed.
“I have a really good life,” Lynch told Rolling Stone in a new interview. “And it’s a new life. I haven’t been a drummer since I was in my 30s. That was 30 years ago. I felt like all of the uniforms and emotional and metaphysical stuff about being a drummer, I’d sort of outgrown. When I heard from Mike, I almost said, ‘That’s probably not a good fit, but I appreciate the offer.'”
Despite his reservations, Lynch found himself saying yes to the tour. “I could never really close doors on people that were important in my past,” he said. “Mike is a pivotal player in a previous life of mine. I’ve known him since I was 15. That’s a long run to have someone in your life one way or another.”
Lynch said having to learn someone else’s drum parts was “another experience,” and he asked session icons Kenny Aronoff and Gregg Bissonette for advice. “They were laughing their asses off,” he recalled. “I said, ‘How do you digest two albums worth of material?’ They went, ‘That’s Wednesday for me.'”
When Campbell and Lynch got together to start rehearsals, it didn’t take long to resolve their differences. “There was a lot of things that were not said that should have been said,” the drummer said of his Heartbreakers departure. “There was a lot of miscommunication and a lot of immature shit going down. I didn’t need to be that way. … I have regrets. Tons of them. There are things I could have handled better, specifically with Mike. And so I have regrets, but they don’t hold me back. I just learn from them.”
It also didn’t take long for the rockers to re-establish their musical relationship. “I don’t give a shit what we’re playing,” Lynch said. “If I look up and see Mike Campbell’s butt in front of my drum kit, it’s kind of like I’m home.” As a result, Lynch hasn’t ruled out the prospect of further reunions. “The original four ‘Breakers are all upright as far as I know,” he said. “I don’t know what it would mean to them since they have a lot more miles than I do, but it would be a joy for me.”
Lynch said reuniting with Campbell also helped him deal with Petty’s death. “I didn’t even speak to him at the Hall of Fame,” he explained. “But we had a quiet moment at the rehearsals. I grabbed him and told him what I needed to tell him. His last words to me were, ‘I heard you, man.’
“When I heard what happened [in 2017], it put me right down on my knees, literally,” he continued. “I was on my fuckin’ knees, staring at the sky. I didn’t know whether to say, ‘Thank you’ or ‘Fuck you.’ I only knew I was grateful to have had the experience of having all those men in my life. It made a big difference for me, and I believe my participation made a huge difference for them.”
Lynch’s current trek with Campbell ends in June, and so far, nothing else has been discussed. Regardless, Lynch said, “The coolest thing about this is that I get to put a bookend on a really, really long book of life. I get a good chapter out of this. ‘And then we got together when we were old fucks and we played some clubs.’ I would have never bet on that.”
Legends Who Never Had a No. 1 Single
It’s all the more surprising when you consider the success so many of them had by any other measure.