I was actually probably about four or five. I think there was a succession of plastic toy guitars but the year you're actually able to play...I remember learning single string melodies as early as four and five years old. I think "I'm Not Your Stepping Stone" was the first thing I could play on one string by The Monkees. I had three older brothers that they all played a bit of acoustic guitar but it was largely their '60s pop record collections. All The Beatles stuff and Herman's Hermits and Dave Park Five. All the picture sleeves and record covers of these guys playing these cool good looking instruments. I thought that was neat. I remember my first musical memory was really being into the middle section of "I Saw Her Standing There" which we had on a 45. It was the flip side of "I Wanna Hold Your Hand". I just remember loving that particular section. It would turn out to be the guitar solo. I thought okay, well. That's kind of what sent me down that path, I think, was just being so turned on by the sound of it. The look of it. I've been ruined ever since.
I've been corrupted. Exactly.
Tell me about your time with Danger Danger.
That came about in 1988. I'd been through a succession of bands and was in a cover band locally here in Denton, Texas. I finally decided well I really need to start my own band if I'm ever going to do anything in the music world, which I did. It was the first earliest incarnation of The Andy Timmons Band. So about 1988 we started playing around the Dallas area, doing some original material but also music of other guitar heroes like Steve Vai and Joe Satriani and Eric Johnson. A lot of Hendrix and those kind of guys. In a pretty short amount of time we really got quite a bit of notoriety because guitar instrumental music was doing so well at the time with Satriani having success with Surfing With The Alien and all that. About that time I'd hooked up with a guy named Buddy Blaze who was an artist relations rep for Kramer Guitars who at the time were one of the leading guitar companies. He knew the guys in Danger Danger were looking for a guitar player and just basically recommended me for the gig. Sent them a demo tape and they loved what they heard and sent for me to audition. It just kind of worked out. It's definitely the Reader's Digest version of the story but as far as musically, it was quite different than what I was doing on my own. What I was doing is what eventually became the Ear X-tacy record. Danger Danger obviously was quite a metal pop kind of group. At first I wasn't quite sure musically if it was going to be what I really wanted to do with my career but I realized it would be a lot of fun because basically I started off as just a rock and roller and they were already signed to a record label. I thought it would be a good break for me so it really was an awesome opportunity and a great experience because we got to do a lot of great touring and opened for some of my heroes along the way. We did a couple of different tours with KISS. We did one with Alice Cooper. It really was a blast to get to experience that kind of rock and roll lifestyle. The thing of it was, is that for so many years I'd really worked as hard as I could to be known as a serious musician so it might not have been the best career move as far as credibility and respect in the music community. As far as living the childhood fantasy, it was a perfect vehicle I suppose.
You opened up for two of my favorite bands.
Yeah, you can't argue with that. We did have a fantastic time and it certainly led to a lot of connections for me in the music business. Not that I didn't enjoy it but there was a lot to overcome as far as after that band falling by the wayside, as far as people only knew me from that group. Maybe they didn't realized the scope of my diversity and my abilities in other styles of music. You get stigmatized a little bit so it takes a bit to overcome that. It's all worked out great I must say.
People tend to see you perform one musical style and they're really totally surprised to see you do something else. It's not like you live in a box.
As a session player you played with some big names. How did you get started in that business?
I was doing that very early on before the Danger Danger thing started. I knew pretty early on that I wanted to make music my life and my career. I also realized early on that making it in a rock and roll band was such a long shot, it struck me as winning the lottery or something. I thought well, I need to figure out a way that I can make music my career and make a living doing it. I was always reading the guitar magazines of the day. I started reading about guitar players like Steve Lukather and Larry Carlton that made their living not only that they had their own bands, but they recorded on other people's records. I realized to do that you need to be proficient in a lot of different styles. Sometimes it's necessary for you to read music. I really went about just educating myself as much as I could. I had grown up self-taught for years but then started taking very rudimentary music lessons from a local jazz guitar teacher in Evansville, Indiana, my hometown. He started me learning "Row, Row, Row Your Boat" on single string so I could learn how to read, but at the same time he started teaching me chords to jazz standards from "Satin Doll" to "Misty" and all those classic jazz tunes. He was turning me on to the jazz world a bit and then when it came time to go to college, I started off as a classical guitar major in my hometown of Evansville while still taking the jazz guitar lessons and then also still playing four and five nights a week at my rock and roll band. I was really getting this wide range of influence and education from playing live and being in the rock group and from all the other folks. I started recording, I guess, about 1981 with some of the first records that I did with my local band there called Taylor Bay. We were kind of the local heroes I guess you might say. Never got a record deal. We got close though. Then I transferred to the University Of Miami in 1983 and was a jazz guitar major there for a couple of years. All along the way getting into session work little by little. It was when I moved to Texas that it really started as far as playing on people's records and doing a lot of radio and television work as well. Just advertising or stuff along those lines. It's a blast because it's always very challenging to try to musically interpret what the producer is wanting to hear.
Is there anybody you haven't worked with yet that you'd like to?
Absolutely. Gosh, there's hundreds. Top of the list obviously would be either Paul or Ringo. Elvis Costello's another guy who I think is just the most brilliant songwriter out there. There would be a lot of guitar players too that it would be great to work with. Mike Stern or Carlton or Lukather. Go down the list. I've been pretty fortunate along the way too. At some point or other I either get to play with or meet a lot of my heroes that I had growing up but I'm still a big music fan. I haven't lost that fan part of me. Paul McCartney was in town for two nights this week and I was at both shows and doing everything I could to try to meet him.
Were you successful?
I was not successful. It was not for lack of trying or not the lack of having connections. He's a Beatle, man. He's hard to get to. Maybe someday I'll get to meet the ultimate hero but that's always been where I've been. I've always just really been a big fan of all styles of music. Not afraid to have some heroes.
That Was Then, This Is Now is your first American release. Why is it your first? Why weren't you able to release your other stuff here?
It wasn't a matter of not being able to. After my stint with Danger Danger, I moved back to Texas and from my experience with working with major labels, I decided it necessarily wasn't the best move for an artist to be signed to a major label. I'd seen so many horrible things go on in the business. It's a business is what it is. It's not about art and music all the time or the people involved in making that music. It's about dollars and bottom line. That doesn't compute for me. I've kind of lived my whole life purely for the music end of it. For the art form. Absolutely you have to figure out a way to make a living doing it if you want to be able to do it all the time. I was, I guess jaded is the right word, or maybe just smart. I'd seen too much bullshit go down. My objective coming back to Texas was to make the music I want to make, not what somebody else tells me what to make because that's part of the deal as well. To own my music which isn't the case when you sign with a major label. To cut to the present, this is my seventh album. My seventh CD that I've made. I own all my records. Most of them have been released as licensing and been released in Japan and Europe. That means you retain your ownership but you give others the right to release it. I didn't send one of those records to any label in the States. I just didn't think it would be the best thing for me. I didn't think that anybody would want to release it quite honestly. My music and my CDs tend to be pretty diverse. That's one of the things. If I maintain my creative control, it's not necessarily what an A&R guy wants to hear. He's going to want to hear that one song that he likes and then the whole record just like it. That's the situation I was in with Danger Danger. I just never wanted to be faced with that again. I love too much different styles of music. Along comes Steve Vai who I've known since about 1988 and then I would see more often after I was an Ibanez endorsee since he's an Ibanez guy as well. We tend to play together occasionally at different functions. He's always been a really, really nice guy to me and always very supportive. Over the past few years he was talking about starting his record label. He'd like to work together. The time just finally seemed right. He was really the first guy to come along that has really structured his label to where it's a partnership with the artist. It's not like "okay you get a penny of every record." You guys are really in it as a partnership which is certainly not the case with major labels. You're the low man on the totem pole and chances are you'll never see any money unless you sold 10 million records and even then you're liable to get screwed out of a lot of it. I'm completely comfortable working with Steve Vai at Favored Nations because it very much is a partnership and he obviously knows the market for guitar music better than anybody. He's been quite successful and he's just a really smart, creative guy. I'm looking forward to working more with him in the future just to learn more and to finally get my music out in the States. It feels great.
I interviewed Billy Sheehan and he's on Steve's label. He was telling me about how cool and fair Steve is which that's great.
It speaks volumes and again you're not going to find that at any other label that I know of quite honestly. For the artist to finally be in a situation to where he feels comfortable because so many times through the years because you're more concerned with the art and the music and the passion that you put into it, the business side can very easily go by the wayside. Every one of their stories is awful. How people are taken advantage of really because the business folks know they're just happy to get a record deal. They're not going to read the fine print. Signing their life away or whatever. Absolutely Steve is a good guy about that because he knows. He's been there on that end of it.
You're a regular guest when the G3 tour stops in Dallas.
Yeah, that's been awesome. Every time they've been through town, I've always been invited out. They get me up at the end of the night and I get to stand toe to toe with these fantastic musicians. It's definitely an honor because these are guys that I've looked up to for a long time.
Elaborate on some of the tracks on your CD.
The new record is 11 tracks compiled from my first two solo records, Ear X-tacy and Ear X-tacy 2 which we remastered so they sound better than ever and I recorded five new songs to add to that. I figure there's probably a part of the fan base that's got those first two records. We wanted to make it appealing to both hopefully the new listeners that haven't heard my music before but also to the existing fans that are out there that okay, the old stuff's been remastered and there's five new tracks. The five new tracks, four of which are studio recordings and they lead off the record. I'm really happy with the way they turned out. I think it's the best stuff the band has done. I put my original bassist and drummer, Mitch Marine on drums and Mike Dane on bass, and it's pretty raw rocking stuff. The fifth track is a live track which was taken right off a board recording at a gig that we did. I was very into surf music at that particular time. Guys like Nokie Edwards from The Ventures and Dick Vale and all those so I put together this version of a jazz bebop tune called "Donna Lee" that Charlie Parker had written I guess back in the '40s and it worked great as a surf tune. It's a fantastic melody. It seemed like the right thing to add to the record since it definitely goes through a lot of influences and genres. Surf wasn't one of them that was included so I thought that needs to go on there. To close the record with the one vocal song that's on there, it's called "Slips Away". Obviously we lost George Harrison in the past year. It was a song that I'd done back on the X-tacy 2 record but it was very much done with George and The Beatles in mind. It seemed fitting to close the record with that.
You also have a track on there that's a tribute to Stevie Ray Vaughn.
Yeah, absolutely. That was actually written and recorded the year after Stevie had passed away. The original idea honestly was to do the basic track and to have a bunch of different guest guitar players on it. Stevie obviously grew up here in Dallas and there's a core of guitar players that are about that age that all grew up playing together, learning from each other, and there's a certain vibe and sound. I'd had the fantasy of doing the tribute, me playing a bit on it of course, but also having all these other guys. I could never get it to happen schedule wise and all that so I went ahead and finished the track myself and put it on the record. I really meant for me to attempt to play like Stevie. Just my own take on the influence that I've gotten from him. It's such a fantastic passion that he put into the guitar. There's so many people that have imitated him pretty well, but nobody has ever quite gotten what he's done. I don't think anybody ever will.
I think the only person that can really do a certain person's style is the individual himself.
Absolutely. It's great to learn from these individuals. I certainly learned a lot from Stevie but also a lot of other people. If you just go at that one person so much, what's the point of imitating their personality after a certain point. You've gotta say your own thing.
You're doing some guitar clinics.
Yeah, absolutely. I've got about five over the next couple of weeks. I go to Beaumont tomorrow and visit some friends down there. I did a guitar clinic once there in the early '90s. It was a lot of fun. Some good folks there. San Antonio on Wednesday and then the next week, Monday the 20th, I go to New Orleans and then Boston and Portland, Maine. Then in July I'm doing about three weeks in Asia. I get to go to China, Korea, Indonesia, and Japan. It's going to be crazy. The ultimate thing obviously is to tour with your own group and to be able to travel all these places. Initially that can be a very expensive thing to be able to do. To do these guitar clinics enables me to travel to these places and promote the record and in conjunction with Ibanez Guitars. I take tracks from the record. When I do mixes, I do a mix without the lead guitar track. I can take that CD and crank it through the PA and play my lead guitar track over it so people get the feel and the experience of watching me play live. Unfortunately the band's not there but they sound great on the record. Hopefully after this weekend we'll get some excitement going in those different areas and then take the band next time. That would be awesome.
I bet they'd like to go. What gear do you endorse and why?
Starting with Ibanez Guitars, as I mentioned earlier, my first major endorsement guitar wise was Kramer Guitars. It was at a point in my career where I was just happy to play anything. I couldn't afford much. They made a decent guitar. I was happy with it but they eventually went out of business. This was about 1990 or '91 and at that point Danger Danger had had some reasonable success. We'd got a couple of videos that did well on MTV and the first record had nearly gone gold. At that point just about every guitar manufacturer would want to work with you because they'd think "well he is going to be on MTV. Here, play our guitar please." It's a funny situation to be in because you grow up your whole life as a poor musician and it's like you can barely afford a guitar. Now anybody's gonna give you one. It was important to me from that point on that I found a company that I felt had integrity. That built a great guitar. Would obviously want to tour with me as a partnership. Ibanez at the time, as far as the rock genre, they were the top of the heap. They had Satriani and Vai and Reb Beach and all these great guitar players. I had met their artist relations guy a couple of years before that when I was with Kramer. We met a couple of years prior to that when I was playing Kramer guitars. I was in Danger Danger. He's like "if there's anything we can do for you just let us know." I finally went back and visited this guy. He says "well Japan has kind of closed the endorsement roster. We've got so many people but I really want you to be a part of this company. I'm going to see what I can do." He convinced the company that "this guy is a great player. He's got a future and we should work with him." I've been working with them ever since. At that time they said "well, we want to make you your ultimate guitar. What would that be?" I really didn't know. Again I'd always just been happy to have a guitar with six strings. I didn't really know what wood do I like. What neck shape. We took a couple of years quite honestly and they started making guitars for me. Let's try this, let's try this. Finally got down to the guitar they made for me in 1994 that eventually they released as a signature model in Japan a couple of years ago actually. That was a huge honor that they did that. We're actually working on a new guitar now that they're gonna release later this year as the second signature model. It's been an incredible journey. Just this nice little flow slowly building.
Any other thoughts or comments?
The main thing is, it's an honor to make music and especially if people have the interest to go and check it out. People raise an eyebrow like "why's it taking so long to get your new record out in the States?" It's always been available. It's just that you had to know how to look for it basically. It's a thrill for me at this point to finally get an official release worldwide as well as here in the States and to be associated with Steve and the Favored Nations label. It just seems like the right time. We'll see where we go with it. The bottom line is that I'll always continue making the music that I want to make. As long as there are some folks out there who like to hear it, that's the best possible scenario I suppose.