Available NOW, Andy’s much anticipated new album ELECTRIC TRUTH produced by Josh Smith. It’s earthy, funky and bluesy. CLICK HERE
CLICK HERE to read Part 1 of All Music Magazine’s interview with Andy
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 latest release, Electric Truth.
In Part 2 of this intimate conversation, Timmons sat down with myself and my 17-year-old guitarist son, Zach, to discuss the differences between instrumental and lyrical music creation, his experiences giving online lessons, the music business education gleaned from his tenure in Danger Danger, what’s in his record collection, and his potential touring plans for Electric Truth.
Zach Gordon (All Music Magazine): What are the different challenges you face when writing instrumental songs versus lyrical songs?
Andy Timmons: I’ve gotten to the point where it is pretty much interchangeable, but only in that lyrically I am more challenged to really craft intelligent phrases and things that make sense and convey the emotion I want to convey. The reason that is more difficult is because language, the spoken and written language, is fairly finite. What becomes easier for me as an instrumental guitar player is I am not so concerned about the lyrical content. I am more concerned with the emotional and messaged transference, meaning I can convey whatever my inspiration for a song might be.
Sometimes music is just music and a cool riff, and an “OK, let’s go with that,” but there is a lot of music that I have written that was specifically inspired by a world event or things going on in life, whether happy, sad, or whatever it might be. I might be trying to reflect emotion that in the music. I really think that music can go deeper than the lyric, especially in the right hands with the right musician that is able to express it on a high level.
I think the guitar is capable of so much and we are just scratching the surface. Look a Jeff Beck, who is a hero to so many of us. He keeps growing and evolving and getting to a higher level of expression. That is how I see myself evolving, with time and getting better at the instrument and getting better at saying something musically that I might not be able to convey verbally. Music was always that way for me anyway, as I was kind of a shy kid. I am a little less-so now in some ways, but music was my safe place and solace. That is where I went when I was spending a lot of time alone growing up. Not a sad story, but just the way it was, and boy that was my safe place, and music is still that for me.
The real challenge in the difference is purely just the lyrical content and how can I craft a phrase that hasn’t been done or heard a thousand times, and still sounds cool and has a message. I like to speak on the instrument a lot, but I do also love writing lyrics.
Elliott Gordon (All Music Magazine): Going back to guitar lessons, you have been very active online through StageIt and GuitarXperience, long before the pandemic froze out live touring for a period of time. As you have spent time on these platforms, what has inspired you or surprised you when engaging with fans this way?
Andy: There are multiple things for sure! There was a core of like 50-75 StageIt attendees that would come to every show, and mind you I was doing two shows every Saturday at 2pm and 8pm Central. That was over 140 shows, and some of them came to every single one of them! I tried really hard throughout that entire StageIt process to always make every show different. The 2pm and 8pm shows would always be different, but I kept trying to vary them as much as I could, just going through all my records over the years. I even did a couple of Danger Danger shows, or I would do just singing and playing acoustic guitar for a night of Beatles.
I would keep getting these emails just thanking me for giving people something to look forward to. Remember, and it seems like forever ago, but it was a couple years there where no one was going anywhere, and we were stuck at home and very isolated. What ended up happening is a nice community of people started getting together on a regular basis, and I was the catalyst in a way. I was coming to play some music, but there was a message board and they were all chatting and friendships were being forged. It was this thing people were looking forward to, so as tragic of an era for the planet and the people dying and the lives that were forever changed, there were at least those moments of light with something positive here.
With the teaching, I’ve grown into someone who really enjoys teaching. When I was younger, it was a bit of a chore because I wasn’t really sure sometimes how to articulate and explain some of these techniques I might have come across just out of years of naturally playing. Now I am in a position where I know how I did that or why I did that and what does it mean. I have plenty of education to know how to explain things in music theory terms, but also just the physicality and what I call the oralect – what drives that melodic instinct and where does it come from.
The fun thing for me is that, and I always tell students along the way that might feel overwhelmed, that I have to learn every scale and every mode with all the information available, but what is really important is just to make small little bits of improvement as frequently as you can. Like today, just go learn one little phrase or one little lick.
What I started noticing when I am teaching my own songs – and every month I put up a new song of the month – is that while it is important for me to be able to replicate what’s on the record, I also explain what I am doing. In doing so there could be a little phrase that might be something I’ve never done anything like before or since, but in re-learning it and going “Oh man, I wish I would have taken that idea and extrapolated it into as many different permutations as I could,” that little nugget could lead to all these other things.
That is the beauty of teaching, and a good teacher will not just say “Here’s the lick, here’s what’s going on, have fun,” but “Here is what it can also do if you take the time to see what else you can get from that.” I like to leave a student with a sense of “I’ve learned something, but now I can teach myself something.”
When I studied at the University of Miami, during my third and fourth years of college, I learned so much, but I knew I wouldn’t get through that much material in a lifetime. It is impossible, and it is somewhat infinite the world of music. That can be daunting to some, but hopefully for my students that check my lessons out, it is inspiring because you just need a little bit every day to feel like, OK, I am growing. That is the important thing to try and keep from getting stagnant or in a rut is open up those little doorways and make those differences. Those are the things I really enjoy about the teaching and the StageIt gigs.
Elliott (All Music Magazine): You made a comment in an interview I read where you considered the Danger Danger days “to be your music business education and you really discovered a lot about yourself from those experiences.” Would you be willing to elaborate a bit on that thought? What did you learn?
Andy: The music business part was the good, the bad, and the ugly, and mostly ugly. We got to be medium-level rock stars through the tours opening for KISS and Alice Cooper. We had some experiences that were irreplaceable, which of course I would have done for no money! The music business as it existed at that time, going into it as a naïve, early 20s-something young guy, I had nothing in mind except for I am going to try and play the best guitar I can play. After a while you start to take note that the musician and the music is kind of the lowest thing on the totem pole as it was a big corporate business. The more that I witnessed that I realized this isn’t really why I do what I do. I really didn’t start off playing guitar with aspirations of being the rock star, I just loved it.
Prior to Danger Danger, I’d approached my career geared towards studio work, even though I was in bands “trying to make it.” We all thought that was the holy grail, to get in a major label deal with a band like that. Part of the self-realization thing with Danger Danger was well, this was fun, and I love this rock and roll, but I love a lot of other things, too.
I was very much kind of a side man in Danger Danger. It was Bruno (Ravel) and Steve’s (West) band, and they were a really good songwriting team, and really smart guys. They were good leaders and writers, and they are the ones that got the record deal. I am just very good at being a team player. I love being able to know what is expected of me so I can come in and do the best I can. At the same time, I also needed to figure out what was my music and what I really wanted to do at the end of the day.
Before Danger Danger, I was already recording instrumental music like (Joe) Satriani and (Steve) Vai, and I had just started doing the Andy Timmons Band. That first recording from the Andy Timmons Band is the demo that got in the hands of Danger Danger, which is how I got recommended for that gig. I recognized that it was a great opportunity to be in a band on a major label and to be on a record.
That was a career goal being achieved, but the longer I did it, even if I loved the guys and had a great time, at a certain point I needed to do my own music. I stuck it out and we stayed together until the ship was just sinking as far as the music business with the hair bands, because we had Seattle, and rap, and MTV was changing course quite a bit, so it was kind of a losing prospect. At the end of the day, it was an incredible experience, where I got some music business awareness.
After that, there was a third record for Epic that we (Danger Danger) made called Cockroach, which eventually came out a decade or so later. At the time, when the band fell apart, there were lawsuits between the singer (Ted Poley) and Bruno and Steve. We wanted to release the record anyway, but they wanted a quarter of a million dollars to get the record, and well, I didn’t have that on me! (laughs) Why would you work so hard and put your heart and soul into something that doesn’t belong to you? That was the deal for many, and still to this day with the major label terms, they own that record.
From that point onward, I was going to record the music I wanted to record and I’m going to own it, even if I am just handing it out on the street corner. I am never going to be in a position again where someone is going to own my work. That just made no sense to me.
The first label I entertained working with was Steve Vai’s label Favored Nations. When he started that label in 1999, his was the first label to come along and say, OK, this is a 50/50 split between artist and label once we recoup whatever expenses we have. It was a licensing deal, so I still owned the record and they are just the label partner. That made sense, and of course Steve Vai would be the guy to come up with that because he had been one of the guys screwed all these years ago with whatever projects he might have had, or at least was so aware of it that now he could benefit the players that he liked.
I was very honored that I was one of the first guys to be added to that label. They had Larry Carlton and Steve Lukather, and Steve had the first record Favored Nations put out and it was the live album of the year (2002). That’s pretty good! I was with some really good company. Having Steve Vai supporting you and giving you his seal of approval, so to speak, was not a bad thing for my career, with just establishing myself as that type of artist. I am not saying negative things about Danger Danger, because that was a great period of my life, but I had other things in mind as well.
Elliott (All Music Magazine): I also read that you are an avid record collector. What was the first album you fell in love with, and is it part of your collection?
Andy: Yes, of course! This is tricky because a lot of my early record collection was hand-me-down Beatles records. My first real Beatles LP love was Something New, which is one of the Capital American repackages from the English records. I got my first job around early 8th grade at 12 and I took my first pay from that week and went straight to Karma Records in Evansville, Indiana, and bought the Raspberries’ Greatest Hits and KISS Alive!. That was a good bookend, because the Raspberries were the next level, kind of carrying on what the Beatles had been doing in the early and mid-60s, but they also had a Beach Boys and Who-vibe to it. And KISS Alive!, man … you see that album cover, you hear that music, and I was off to the races! That is how I learned how to play guitar was with KISS Alive! and Ace Frehley, listening to all his solos and his great tunes.
Elliott (All Music Magazine): Final question. Should fans expect you out on the road supporting the release of ELECTRIC TRUTH, and if so, can I please put in a request for an Atlanta date?
Andy: I have been hesitant to commit to any touring yet, but it feels like things are opening up, so hopefully later this year we will get out to the East Coast, maybe down to Atlanta! I would love that very much. In fact, that last time I played there might have been with Uli John Roth back in 2017. We had a tour back then with Uli John Roth, Jennifer Batten and myself. That was a blast and a great tour. Uli is quite a character and an amazing player, and Jennifer is brilliant. I am overdue for Atlanta!
CLICK HERE to read Part 1 of All Music Magazine’s interview with Andy
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Elliott is a music photographer covering shows in Atlanta, Georgia, and the surrounding area. The highlight of his photography career was back in the early ’90s, when he sold Neil Diamond the rights to his negatives from a show and then purchased a set of tires for his 1979 280ZX during college with the money.