Available April 1, Andy’s much anticipated new album ELECTRIC TRUTH produced by Josh Smith. It’s earthy, funky and bluesy. Pre-orders and bundles are now available. CLICK HERE
While well-known for his early career work with Danger Danger, guitarist Andy Timmons has been a prolific and accomplished musician in the decades since, having released seven solo albums prior to his upcoming release, Electric Truth, set for Friday, April 1.
In Part 1 of this intimate conversation, Timmons sat down with myself and my 17-year-old guitarist son, Zach, to discuss his 40+ year journey in the music business, his experience working with producer and guitar virtuoso Josh Smith, his thoughts on why 80s rock music is back in favor, and offers some advice to aspiring musicians.
Elliott Gordon (All Music Magazine): Before we dive into discussing your upcoming release ELECTRIC TRUTH, I realized that my son Zach is the same age I was when I was standing in the front row watching Danger Danger open for Slaughter and KISS back in 1990 at the Patriot Center in Virginia. As you continue to make new music for his generation, what are some personal reflections upon your now 40+ year musical journey?
Andy Timmons: It all starts from the point that I am just a fan. My first concert I ever saw was KISS. I saw them in 1976 in Evansville, Indiana, at Roberts Stadium, a 13,000 capacity arena, on the Destroyer tour. I was maybe 13, and somehow my mom let me go by myself to my first rock concert (laughs)! I just knew that day, like man, this is what I had to do.
I was already playing guitar and I was already learning the KISS ALIVE! record, which was a big record for me, but seeing that spectacle and just the energy of it, I just knew this is what I had to do. Little did I know that 14 short years down the road, there I was in a band opening for these guys (KISS). I say that because at that point I was in a major label band playing arenas, becoming known on our own, but I am still there every night on the side of the stage watching KISS like I am a little kid.
I feel very fortunate that I still have that attitude towards the music that I love. I still love going to shows, I still buy vinyl and CDs, and I am still growing as a musician and have been since I began playing. Luckily Danger Danger wasn’t the end of the road for me. I was just getting started as far as where I see my career now and where I am going. I have taken in so much, not just from rock and roll, but from jazz, classical, and blues. Even what I haven’t absorbed from the past, I know it is waiting for me, whenever that might be.
Now I even have a website where I teach, where I am showing all my songs from my entire catalog. I’m going back through and recording them on video, but then also teaching for sometimes 90 minutes to 2 hours of tutorials of “here’s how I did it,” and “here’s exactly what I am playing in every part of the song.” I am enjoying that part now, too, so as much as I am a fan and a student, I am also a teacher. I am getting this inspiration from both ends.
It is wonderful to see young guys like Zach getting into the music that came before him. My son is all about Metallica and Megadeth, and I couldn’t have tried to make that happen! It was all on his own. I don’t own that music, but I dig it though because it is great guitar playing. I love the Megadeth stuff that has Marty Friedman on it, and James Hetfield is one of the great rock power cord guitar players out there with amazing technique, so my son is teaching me all of that stuff! It just comes from every direction, but it is beautiful we can have this in our lives, and Zach I am glad you are playing, no matter what level you aspire to get to. You may be professional eventually, but if not, you will always have this in your life.
This is a thing we can all participate in that we love so much. My son said something funny to me, as we are now both guitar players, he said “Dad, isn’t it great we have the same hobby?” For him to consider what I do a hobby is totally accurate. Yes, it is why we have a house to live in, etc., but it is my passion and what I would be doing in my spare time anyway. That is the beautiful thing, Zach; it can be with you for all time and it is such a great thing to have in your life, to get away from everything else, all the noise and whatever is going on in the world. We’ve got our music, we’ve got our instrument, and things will be alright. Just keep pushing.
Elliott (All Music Magazine): You worked with guitar virtuoso and producer Josh Smith on ELECTRIC TRUTH. Friendship aside and given his history with some of your contemporaries like Eric Johnson and Joe Bonamassa, describe your song development process with him in the studio.
Andy: I, like a lot of people, starting hearing about him (Josh Smith) through videos on YouTube. Obviously he is in the blues world, but there is a lot more going on there with influences across jazz, rock and roll, and even some country stuff. We didn’t know each other at the point I reached out to him back in 2019. I don’t remember how I got his phone number, but I just reached out to him and said “Hey, I’m Andy, and I’m a big fan of yours.”
He had just finished putting together a studio in the back of his home out in Los Angeles, California. As we were developing this friendship between emails and phone calls, he said “Hey man, come record a project at my place.” So I went out in January 2020, and it basically came down to “I’ll write some tunes, you write some tunes, and maybe we will co-write some things,” but literally everything was kind of written before I got there because we only had two-and-a-half days to make the record.
We would play things back and forth telephonically sometimes, and sometimes I would just send him an email with the sound file as “what do you think about this?” I was writing with my 1968 telecaster, as he plays with a tele a lot. There is a new video I put out (March 1) called “EWF,” which is an Earth, Wind and Fire-inspired funky thing. I played it on a tele because Al McKay would have played it on a tele, but also because Josh plays on a tele and I wanted to get some of that flavor on the record.
That was the fun thing for me. Josh was going to produce and pick the band, and I would just show up and be the artist, which took me out of what I normally do with my own band. I love doing things where I am plugging into other situations that are off my beaten path. That is always going to bring out something different, and maybe even better, than you could have done on your own. Josh is obviously an amazing player, but he has a great ear and is a great producer. He had great ideas in the studio with arrangements. He has also been co-producing a lot of stuff with Joe Bonamassa, Eric Gales, and Larry McCray. He’s got a lot going on so I was very fortunate to get in with him when he invited me out and we are both really proud of the record.
Zach Gordon (All Music Magazine): If I snuck into your studio, what would I find on your pedal board?
Andy: It is fairly large at this point! Everything I am doing is with pedals through a Mesa/Boogie Lone Star. With me, you are always going to hear some delay, but I also have my signature overdrive or distortion pedal with JHS called the “AT”. It has the @ sign on it because they do everything with the logo symbol. I also have a Sonic Research Tuner, which I often call my most important pedal on the board, so I can tune between songs nice and quietly. I have my signature Carl Martin “Andy Timmons Compressor” pedal on for cleaner sounds, and in front of that I have an RC Booster that has a nice mild gain, made by Xotic.
It is also nice to have a gain structure where you can get multiple tones out. I have a pedal call the Boss Blues Driver, which is a pretty common pedal, but the way I have it set up has more of a rock gain. The other important pedal I have is an Expression pedal that I connect to my delay pedal and that helps me to control any parameter of that effect pedal. I commonly only utilize it just for the delay level, that way I can keep that same patch on but vary it as I need it for whatever sound I am going for. I usually never turn my delay off – it is just part of my tone! (laughs) Those are the basics.
I work with a few companies like JHS, Keeley, Carl Martin, and another pedal company called GNI down in Brazil. Getting to a point in your career where companies want to work with you to build something that you don’t have has been a very wonderful situation. They ask “What do you like about these great pedals,” and “What would you change, what would you do different, and what could be better for you?” When I was a kid, I was lucky to just have a pedal and a guitar, so to be in a position now where people are wanting to build things for me, it is humbling and I don’t take it for granted.
Elliott (All Music Magazine): Between rock cruises and festivals, there is no hiding the fact that there is a resurgence of demand for 80s music; bands like Poison, KIX, Firehouse, Winger, and dozens more still actively tour. What do you think has changed in the past 5-10 years to drive this renewed interest?
Andy: I think it is just cycles and age. For example, by the time KISS did their first reunion with makeup, all those guys (fans) that were my age had grown up and were successful in business now. They wanted to relive their youth a bit. That is just going to keep going with each generation, and I think the people that grew up with the 80s stuff are at an age now that it really starts to come back into vogue.
When we talk about our sons, what’s cool is that they may or may not be into what’s on the radio now, but because we played it (80s music) or they heard it from a friend, they enjoy the stuff from the past because it had some merit and good to it. All of these bands like the Beatles, Stones and Led Zeppelin also keep getting “discovered” by this new generation through the influence of their parents, siblings, friends, or even hearing something on a commercial.
I remember when Guitar Hero became popular a decade or so ago, and I wondered, how does my son know “Barracuda”? He was jamming on it with Guitar Hero! However you get exposed to it, I don’t care, because that is a great guitar song! I am not sure what drives all that, but some of it is just cyclical and as people grow up they obviously want to reconnect with their youth and relive the great music they connected with at that very special time of your life. What you connect with musically in your teens, especially, it tends to last you a lifetime. That is why the Beatles and KISS for me still make me feel a certain way. I was listening to them more than anything else for a couple of years there and it is still stuff I like to visit and play and check out.
Zach (All Music Magazine): Speaking of Winger, I take Skype guitar lessons from Reb Beach. He once told me that the secret to a long musical career comes down to two simple things – have a good ear, and be easy to get along with. You’ve had a long career. Do you agree with Reb, and what else can you add to his advice?
Andy: I absolutely agree with Reb! As a musician, your ear is your strongest tool, your strongest asset. These days there is so much information available in our back pocket and we have the ability to get things spoon-fed to us from transcriptions and artists like myself showing you note for note “here is how you do it.” The things you keep longer with you are the things you learn by ear.
Being an older guy, I didn’t have the Internet when I was a kid. I just had a record player and my guitar, so I had to listen to the music and try to figure out what was going on, not realizing then that was the best thing I could have been doing. I didn’t have a teacher until I was 16. Before that, somebody just showed me a bar chord and a pentatonic scale and I didn’t need anything else other than that to learn KISS songs. I started developing that eye and ear and recognition of “Oh, that’s that sound” and being able to replicate it.
What that translates into is being able to come up with your own music once you have a vocabulary of things you have taken in and how to produce and write your own music. The ear also comes into play as far as recognizing how you are playing within a band. You are likely going to be the guitar player, and recognizing what the drums and the bass and the singer and the keyboards all have happening, you are analyzing in real time trying to figure out how you are fitting in. You want to ask yourself, “How can I add to this to where it makes it better and not be in the way or step on a conflict with other things going on?”
You want to have the kind of ear that allows you to be a positive part of what’s going on, but that also leads into what Reb was saying about being someone that is easy to get along with – just be a decent human being. That also comes with being empathetic to everything going on around you.
For me, I recognize that I’ve lead my life in a way that musically I am the same person in that if I am out in the world. I realize that whatever action I take is going to have an effect on everything around me. For example, if I change lanes driving and I am not looking where I am going, there could be a big problem. If I am aware of what I am about to do and how that is going to effect everybody, I think that is the same way when you are playing with other musicians. It is very much about an awareness of what’s happening, and having that empathy and desire for things to be great, for things to be as good as they can be. Rob is right on, absolutely, and I agree hole-hardheartedly with my buddy.
CHECK OUT PART 2 OF ALL MUSIC MAGAZINE’S INTERVIEW WITH ANDY TIMMONS ON FRIDAY, APRIL 1
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Elliott is a music photographer covering shows in the Atlanta, Georgia and the surrounding area. The highlight of his photography career was back in the early 90s, selling Neil Diamond the rights to his negatives from a show and purchasing a set of tires for his 1979 280ZX during college with the money.