Heart of Steel: Interviews

Interview With Andy Timmons
Andy Timmons - Guitar Ecstasy

Interview By Keith McDonald


Just because Andy Timmons isn’t mentioned in the same breath as Eddie Van Halen and George Lynch doesn’t mean he isn’t as talented a guitarist as they are. Andy came to be known as the guitarist for the hard rock band Danger Danger in the late 80’s. As the clock ran out on these talented ‘hair bands’ so did Andy’s time in the radio and MTV spotlight. He has kept himself busy releasing solo albums and session work. I recently had the opportunity to see what Andy has been up to lately. You can check out his website at www.andytimmons.com.



Tell me about your new CD coming out. Will it be an instrumental?

Yes the new CD (still untitled!) is completely instrumental and will hopefully be released later this year (Summer maybe!) on Steve Vai's Favored Nations label. It picks up where Super '70s, Beautiful Strange and Falling Down left off from the previous CD...it rocks!



What about your new guitar AT300 Signature model.

I'm really proud that the Ibanez AT200 and AT300 are finally available! This new guitar stems from the prototype that I used on Super 70's and Beautiful Strange on the last CD. The mahogany body and rosewood fingerboard provides for a heavier, warmer tone than the AT100 (though of course I still use this guitar too!) The neck shape is fantastic and feels like an old friend when you pick it up. The pickups are a DiMarzio custom AT humbuckerBridge) and 2 DiMarzio Cruisers in the middle and neck. Check www.Ibanez.com for more info.



How was your time in Danger Danger?

It was a blast and an education I'll never forget! We had such awesome experiences as touring with Kiss and Alice Cooper; traveling to Japan and Europe, and having 2 Top 5 videos on MTV. It was also a reality check about how the music business is exactly that.... a BUSINESS! I didn't begin playing music to deal with that part of life, and dealing with a major label was quite an eye opener. I am still exasperated at what I have to deal with business-wise in this world...I just want it all to go away so I can just make music.



Do you feel that being in a 'hair band' helped or hurt after your stint with them?

It certainly didn't help my credibility, but by the same token, it didn't hurt having been in a band that sold over a million records worldwide. It definitely helped get my foot in the door with my solo career, no matter how different the music.



Do you still speak with any of the former members of D2?

Yes, of course!



Did it bother you that they replaced Ted Poley with Paul Laine?

Ted left the band so why wouldn't they replace him? Paul is a great writer and singer, but Ted was the sound of that band.



Would you ever consider touring with them again if asked or are you more content with what you're doing now?

I'm certainly very content on my own, but a couple of shows would be fun at some point, provided it's all the original members...Bruno and I actually discussed this recently...you never know!



How has the session work been and whom have you played with so far?

I do quite a bit of work here in Dallas, but it's not a lot of record work, mainly TV and radio music.



Who are your influences?

When I started playing guitar in the '70s, I was learning from the records of Kiss, Rush, Foghat, REO Speedwagon, and Ted Nugent, but Ace Frehley and Ted Nugent were the main guys. I could play Kiss Alive and Nugent's first record top to bottom. Ace had a great basic rock style that borrowed from the blues-rock players that preceded him so he was a real good guy to start with. Nugent just had a great primal energy (still does!) Soon after that I heard a song called "Breakdown Dead Ahead" by Boz Scaggs on the radio and the guitar player was just ridiculous!! It turned out to be Steve Lukather and he is still to this day probably my biggest influence! His solo on Hold The Line and Rosanna are amazing, but the Hydra album is all great (listen to the ending of "White Sister" and and drummer Jeff Pocaro lock in so hard it's scary! I've been fortunate enough to become friends with Lukather and I mentioned the White Sister ending to him as one of my favorite recorded moments and he said "ah dude, that was the first take...live!!!" (Thank God there was a lot of great music recorded BEFORE ProTools!) At this point I was playing in a local rock band and beginning to realize that I wanted to make music my career but that making it in a rock band was such a long shot (especially from a small town in Indiana) I was reading Guitar Player Magazine and there was a great article about session guitarists like Tommy Tedesco, Larry Carlton, and Steve Lukather. I thought, "that's it"! That's how I could make a living-playing guitar! Though I also realized you have to be able to read music and play any possible style thrown at you. At this time I was a good rock player, but couldn't read and certainly wasn't very versatile From there I began taking lessons at the age of 16 from a local teacher in Evanville, Indiana (where I grew up) from a guy named Ron Pritchett. He started me with very basic reading exercises (literally "Mary Had A Little Lamb") but at the end of the lesson would play some jazz for me (like Barney Kessel and Joe Pass) and then write out the changes to a jazz standard so I could comp for him the following week. He was also the author of a great chord book that I learned a lot from (available from a link on my website) Around this time, another epiphany occurred...I heard Mike Stern for the first time on Saturday Night Live with Miles Davis. He was playing some serious bop-style lines but with a Hendrix-y tone! It all hit me...it can all work together. It's all music...you don't have to separate everything into little categories. From there, things really took off for me. Listening to guys like Larry Carlton, Robben Ford, and especially, Pat Metheny really started to influence my melodic ideas and phrasing. About this time I started college and studied classical guitar with Renato Buturri at the University of Evansville. This was also a great time of growth for me. Although I didn't become a great classical guitarist (I believe this takes a lifetime of focused dedication!) I learned so much from studying the music and from Renato himself. He was (is!) a very soulful player and person. There were times when I would come to a lesson a little less than prepared, so he would turn the focus to improvisation (not so common in the classical world) We would literally play completely free-form for an hour, relying solely on listening to what the other player was playing. This is one of the most important lessons I could possibly pass on to other players...being aware of what the entire band is doing, especially if there's a vocalist! Knowing when and what NOT to play is just as important as what you do play! Next was my two years at the University of Miami (and probably my largest period of growth) studying jazz. In addition to a great faculty of players, the guitar students there were just ridiculous! There were a handful of guys that hung out together that were a great influence on each other: Brian Monroney, Mike Abbott, Teddy Castellucci, Ted Kumpel, and Tim Mitchell. I had two teachers during that time Rick Schmunk and Randall Dollahon...both really great players and instructors! I, of course, still learn a lot from al players. More recently guys like Joe Satriani (who certainly opened the door for modern instrumental guitar music!), Eric Johnson, Steve Vai...really everybody is an influence! Of course the blues guys: Stevie Ray Vaughan, Albert King, BB King, the list is endless! Also other jazz guys: Wes Montgomery, Pat Martino, and George Benson (his early jazz sides are amazing!) And Steve Morse! He's in a class by himself! Though, I must point out, in the end, it not just about guitar playing, it's about making great music. So at that realization, I have to say my biggest two influences are The Beatles and Brian Wilson (the genius behind the Beach Boys) Both were masters of songwriting and evolution but especially conveying and evoking great emotion on tape! Especially Brian Wilson...his ballads are unparalleled.



Do you have any advice for an up and coming guitarist?

Learn from all music. Learn from all your friends that play...the music world is a great community and we all learn from each other. Be open to sharing your knowledge too!



Any tour plans? How hard is it to tour these days?

We're working on this for later this year. Yes it's quite difficult to tour without losing money!



How many solo albums have you recorded and are all of them available here in the US?

7 CDs: ear X-tacy, ear X-tacy 2, Orange Swirl, Pawn Kings, Anthology 1 and 2, That Was Then, This Is Now, Spoken and the Unspoken. All are available on my website. ‘That Was Then’ is the only one commercially available in stores in the US



What type of gear do you use?

Everything! (sorry so vague...but it's true!)



Anything you'd like to plug/promote?

A new official live bootleg will be available on my website in mid-May "Live with the Pawn Kings" and will feature some cool blues and some covers (Gary Moore's "The Loner" and Santana'a "Black Magic Woman"). Of course the new Andy Timmons Band CD later this year. Plus lots of cool website features coming soon!



What's the future for you?

Hopefully great songs!

Band Website: www.andytimmons.com