Andy Timmons: The Interview

Andy Timmons Interview

Feature Photo: courtesy of SKH Music

Be it with hair metal late-comers, Danger Danger, or through his riveting career as an instrumental guitar virtuoso; one thing is certain: with a guitar in his hands, Andy Timmons knows how to make a statement.

Timmons’s talent was first thrust upon the masses in the late ’80s after coming on as a touring guitarist for New York-bred glam metal outfit Danger Danger. But in retrospect, it’s plain to see that Timmons, with his hyper-fluid, neoclassical meets funk-inspired approach, was a cut above many of his peers.

In an era where shredding, hot-rodded guitars, and whammy bar extreme were the norm, Timmons brought a level of melodicism rarely seen at the time. While Timmons’s star might have begun its ascent in the glam era, in truth, the young six-stringers dreams reached far beyond that arena. With talent bristling from his fingertips and a work ethic that stretched for miles, Timmons made quick work of the field in the wake of Danger Dangers’s initial demise.

Timmons has stayed busy in the years since, working with multitudes of musicians across various genres. Moreover, he’s released seven solo recordings, culminating in his latest, Electric Truth, which once puts listeners on notice that Timmons’s versatility and songsmith know no bounds.

As he rounds out another successful year, Andy Timmons took a moment to reflect as he beamed in with to discuss Electric Truth, his love of instrumental guitar, nearly joining Tower of Power, his time with Danger Danger  and his musical outlook as he moves into 2023

Give me the rundown on Electric Truth.

We live in an age of misinformation, but music and guitar have always been there for me through all of it. The world can get noisy, so I like to use the guitar to disappear and drown all of that out. So, with this album, I put all my emotion into the music into my instrument to tune out the noise is out, and that’s really what this record signifies for me.

Everything is alright, just if I’ve got my guitar, and that’s why I’ve everything around me on the front cover blurred out. When I’ve got a guitar in my hand, the rest of the world shuts off, and I am only focused on that. Essentially, when the world gets to be too much, I seek solace and peace in the music and the guitar.

I would assume that those same sentiments are coursing through these songs then, right?

Absolutely. These songs are definitely tuned toward that theme. I always hope that every record that I do reflects where I’m at in that current moment. I’m still so passionate about all the great players and great bands that have come before me and still surface to this day, so it’s hard not to be humbled by the amount of talented young players coming up. There’s never a bottom of the well as far as inspiration is concerned, which is reflected in my music. My emotions are transmitted through my writing and music, and I hope that’s reflected as well.

One of my observations as I was listening to this record is that there seems to be a lot of R&B influences throughout.

I think you’re right. I do have a history there dating back to my younger days, so I’ve always had an appreciation for that music. I wrote a lot of this record while I was in a particular mood, and I guess a lot of the phrases that developed came through in an R&B sort of way.

What is it about instrumental guitar that you enjoy most as opposed to traditional rock music?

I’ve often spoken about how instrumental music has the potential to be very expressive and that it allows the artist to dig very deeply into the language of the guitar. We’ve got a finite number of words used to express ourselves in music, right? There are only so many ways to convey emotions through lyrics, but it’s completely different with instrumental guitar.

I think a performer who is in tune with their instrument can dig a little bit deeper to express themselves with instrumental music because it’s limitless. When words fail, instrumental music can pick up the slack, you know? And you have to remember not everybody has the gift of expressing themselves accurately through words. And then, sometimes, there are no words to represent the emotion you are going through anyway.

Earlier in your career, you played with Danger Danger, a far cry from what you’re doing now. Does that type of music still speak to you at all?

In some ways, yes. I genuinely enjoy all of it, even if I don’t go back to it as often as I once did. I guess if we’re talking about the late ’80s era, it was certainly more about a good-time vibe and having fun. With Danger Danger, we were trying to create uplifting, good-energy rock ‘n’ roll, which is still valid.

The truth is that there are people who are huge fans of that music. These people got into that stuff when they were very young, or maybe even younger people now who are only digging into that particular era of music. I am thankful for all of that, and I would say that I was already doing similar things from an instrumental standpoint even before I joined Danger Danger.

So, you would liken your group Timmons to Danger Danger, then?

Oh, absolutely. I had already formed my instrumental band, Timmons, in 1988. The whole reason I ended up in Danger Danger is that the demos from Timmons ended up in Ted Poley’s hands. I was able to get them into Ted’s hands after a Danger Danger gig in ’88. He loved them and asked me to join the band, which was great.

So, it’s all congruent: I was running all these parallel lines of music I love through those two avenues. I think I’ve done that, and you can still hear it in my playing. I’m blessed that I can be a bit of a chameleon in whatever situation I’m plugged into, which allows me to do what I feel is right for that moment. Of course, when it’s in my own music, I have free rein to do what’s in my heart rather than what someone else might want.

Before Danger Danger, you were offered a gig with Tower of Power. How did you decide between the two?

Talk about a talk about a crossroads. [Laughs]. This was around the beginning of 1988, and I believe I had just my audition with Danger Danger, but I was still living back in Texas with a friend of mine, Steve Grove, who was a tenor player sax player I went to school with. So, Steve was in Tower of Power then, and one day, not long after the audition, Steve came to me and said, “Hey, Tower of Power needs a guitar player. Are you interested?” I hadn’t been offered the Danger Danger gig yet, so I said, “Yes.”

So, Steve asked me to learn a couple of tunes and sit in with them at a club in downtown Dallas to see how it would go. So, I went down to the record store, grabbed a few Tower of Power records, and learned as many tunes as I could. I went through most of their biggest funk hits and then went down to the club, and it went great. We had a great vibe, and after the gig, they said, “We’re interested in having you in the band. We’d like to get you out to Oakland.”

But the thing is that I was already pretty engaged with Danger Danger and was really considering the gig. Ultimately, once Danger Danger offered me the gig, I decided to join them over Tower of Power. I guess the allure of being in a rock band on the rise and being on MTV was too much to pass up. But it’s interesting to think about what might have happened had I chosen to join Tower of Power instead.

Coming of age in the “shred era,” it seemed that you provided something of an alternative to that style. Was that your intention?

I was definitely a team player and wanted to fulfill the vision that the guys in Danger Danger had happening. I wasn’t a part of the original band from when they got signed, I was a hired gun, so I guess that went into my thinking, too. At first, I came in as their touring guitar player, and eventually, I played on some of the records as well. It was a crazy time for guitar, and I did my best to retain as much of my own personality as possible.

Having said that, I certainly wanted to establish myself eventually, and I wanted to be thought of as more of a respected player. I didn’t see myself as a hair metal guy or a shredder; I saw myself as a different caliber of player. But I also realized that this was maybe my only shot at signing with a band that was on a major label. Being a part of that sort of thing had always seemed like such an impossibility as a kid growing up as a kid from a small town in the Midwest.

Once you became entrenched with Danger Danger, did you feel comfortable in that setting?

I was comfortable enough. I guess I just approached it as I would have done with anything else. I gave it my best, gave it my best, and played the best I could. I certainly got in as much shred and hip stuff as I could with a hair metal vibe. But it was interesting because when I joined Danger Danger, Epic Records seemed to recognize that I brought a level of additional credibility to the band because I was a real player rather than a noodler. We had things where I injected some neoclassical stylings into some of the music, which was way different than what Danger Danger had done beforehand.

It seemed like they turned you loose for Danger Danger’s second record, Screw It! Was that a reflection of you settling in more?

Yes, it was. I liked that record a lot and was very proud of it, but it was a bit of a mixed bag because there was still the sexual innuendo thing, which I wasn’t completely into. But that was very much a part of the lyrical writing, though there are some great tunes there, which was nice. That was a proud moment for me because it was my first full record on a major label, and the future seemed very bright. But as you know, things changed quickly in the industry, and before we knew it, Danger Danger was yesterday’s news. I guess nature took its course, and things were cyclical, as they tend to be. But that’s all good, I have very fond memories, and I’m proud of my work on that record.

Having straddled the line of funk, neoclassical, glam, and more, which genre do you identify with most?

That’s tough to say because each genre has essentially signified a different era in my career. I don’t like to box myself in, and I hope to look back and find some integrity in whatever I choose to do, no matter the situation. At the end of the day, I want whatever I’m doing to be as musical as possible. Having said that, even with all I’ve done, I know I’m still growing. I genuinely have a passion for growth, and I practice daily. I’m always writing and working to refine whatever gift I have.

With this record out in the world, what’s your mindset as you move forward?

I guess the overarching theme is that I want to honor what I’ve been given by pushing myself to improve. That’s what all of my heroes have done, like Jeff Beck or Pat Matheny, they always continue to grow, and they were never satisfied with their last record. Those guys are the players who are like, “Okay, that’s cool, but I’ve got other things that I want to say. I’ve got other things that I want to learn.”

So, my mindset has to be focused on growing and pushing my own envelope. Hopefully, by remaining true to that part of my spirit, it will resonate with other people. Because I think people really can tell the difference between somebody doing something just to put a record out as opposed to somebody trying to make a statement and further their art.

Andy Timmons

Photo: Rene Rivera

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