Andy Timmons - Sgt. Peppers Redux
Andy Timmons came blazing out of the hot Texas sun as a member of Danger, Danger, low those many years and hair-dos ago. However, this was just the launching point of recognition for a long legacy of guitar players from that little ole' state of Texas. The diversity of tone and style has landed Andy gigs with everyone from Paula Abdul to Kip Winger; Simon Phillips (drummer extraordinaire) to the musical director for Olivia Newton-John. If you've ever had the pleasure to see Andy live, he can cover everything from full-on shred to a hill-billy back-beat boogie that'll leave your head spinning.
October 27th, Andy released a very ambitious recording. It's one thing to record original material or to even have a cover or tribute song on your release but to record one of the most influential recordings of the mid-to-late '60s, takes stones......big ones. Andy just released "Andy Timmons Band Plays Sgt. Pepper". It's a very cool take on a classic recording that has vibe, feel and some great playing. You can read more about it on Andy's site.
Andy's currently out on tour in Europe but let's check in and see what he's up to at the moment.
Guitar.com: Mr Timmons - good to speak with you. Hope you're well. Let's get right to it, shall we? Whether it’s Jeff Beck or Joe Pass, the hands are largely responsible for tone. If you had to strip down your rig down to the bare essentials, let’s say, your guitar, your amp, a cable and one pedal – what would it be?
Andy Timmons: Easy question (that is, if you allow me TWO pedals haha!)
Guitar: my signature Ibanez AT100. It's the best of classic design (thanks Leo!) with some modern hardware and pickup modifications.
Amplifier: Mesa Boogie Lone Star. Very versatile, yet simple. I can easily pull a wide variety of tones from it and it really records well. It's my go-to amp both for live and studio. Engineers love it! I dial in my tone and there's never any need for EQ.
Two Pedals: Electro Harmonix Memory Man in the effects loop and my signature Xotic BB Preamp in front of the amp. The Memory Man is the closest thing to tape echo in a pedal. I love having the chorusing on the repeats to emulate the "wow and flutter" of the tape. It creates a "halo" around the note and allows the guitar to sing.
The BB Preamp is another really useful tool. I basically set all the controls at 12 o'clock and it's the perfect boost for my clean channel (creating a nice bluesy break-up) as well as a nice warm gain for my lead channel.
Cables: I've been using DiMarzio cables for years now. Just a really well made straight-ahead cable. No hype, just great tone and very reliable.
Guitar.com: Well that's cheating ever so slightly but we'll give you a pass on this one....You’re currently the musical director for Olivia Newton-John (not many people may know that). How often are you out on the road with ONJ versus able to spend time with your own band?
Timmons: I've been with Olivia for 11 years now and she's wonderful to work with! She doesn't tour quite as much these days, but it's always a joy when we do. Fortunately, things have been really busy with my own career, so it's a good balance. I'll do a two week your with her in December and open the shows with a few Sgt. Pepper tunes.
Guitar.com: Your responsibilities for ONJ versus the Andy Timmons Band would seem pretty broad. What’s the biggest difference between the two?
Timmons: I treat any musical situation with the same respect and effort level. The bottom line is that I always want to play what's right for each song and each gig. With Olivia the most important goal for me as guitarist and musical director is to present her music in the most authentic way possible. I put myself in the mindset of the fan coming to the show: What would I want to hear? It's not about "what ability do I have" it's more "what can I do to present Olivia in the best light?" She's really an amazing singer with great pitch and groove.
It's a fun challenge as her music covers a wide range of styles from her early country hits to rock to pop and even jazz and bossa novas. Then of course with my band I have carte blanche!
Guitar.com: Dream gig involving the current music scene? (i.e. Playing for Jeff Beck; McCartney Tour, etc….no dead guys)
Timmons: It would be amazing to work with Jeff Beck, but maybe as a roadie!!! I just want to be in the front row! He is truly the greatest guitarist I've ever witnessed. Such a wonderful vibe and spirit. He gives us all inspiration as he continues to get better and better. I think Emotion and Commotion is his best record yet. He's what I want to be when I grow up. So if you're listening Jeff, I make a nice tea!
As far as THE dream gig, of course that would be to play w/Paul McCartney or Ringo!! Paul if you're listening, you clearly already have the greatest band, but maybe a guest spot one night? I know the tunes haha (I can dream, right?!!!) Same for Ringo: He has the greatest 4/4 groove of ANY drummer out there! So underrated. The Beatles would absolutely not have been the same without him You're only as strong as your drummer and his playing is nothing short of brilliant. So completely natural and always perfect for the song. A lot of people tend to criticize his playing for not being technical, but I I haven't found very many drummers that can truly duplicate his feel. It's very special! Brian Wilson would be another dream gig!
Guitar.com: The Beatles have been such a strong influence on so many artists. What is your earliest Beatle memory? And then, what led you to take on the challenge of recreating Sgt. Peppers?
Timmons: My earliest musical memory was loving the instrumental section of "I SawHer Standing There", the flip side of the great Beatles' single "I Want To Hold Your Hand". That , of course, was the wonderful reverb-drenched guitar solo from George Harrison, before I even knew what a guitar solo was!! I was born in 1963 and my oldest brother Mark was 12 years old at that time. He proceeded to buy every Beatles record as it was released so the Beatles music is quite literally the soundtrack of my childhood and continues to be my favorite music to this day. It's so amazing how they have continued to influence and inspire so many generations.
The whole Pepper thing started with a medley arrangement I did of the songs Sgt. Pepper/Strawberry Fields Forever. We began including this in our setlist every night and it always got a great response!!! While we toured Italy, my good friend and promoter Riccardo Cappelli suggested "hey, next time you come back, why not play a whole set of Beatles songs?" My initial thought was "no way! I couldn't possibly play a whole set of Beatles material instrumentally
and make it interesting!" However, it got my curiosity going... "what if I played Lucy In The Sky.....how would I do that?" I just started playing around with different Beatles songs. It was so much fun!! Before I knew it, I was working on all the Sgt. Pepper songs, not a conscious thought, I just kind of went down that path. I literally worked on the arrangements (on and off) over the course of two years. I really wasn't thinking of making a record, I was just enjoying the process. Then I started to realize "wow, this is really working!!" The Andy Timmons Band had gone into the studio to record some new original material. At the end of the second day of recording, our engineer Rob Wechsler mentioned that we now had two extra day for recording, but we already recorded the material I had prepared so Mitch (Marine our drummer) said "what about those Beatle arrangements you're working on? Lets do it! "
So literally in two days we recorded the whole record!! Mitch and Mike (Daane our bassist) had never heard my arrangements, so it's pretty amazing how quickly Mitch got the drum tracks done. I never once had to mention anything about feel etc, he knew exactly what to play. He really understands the beauty of Ringo's drumming and feel and then puts his own flare into it. I literally heard him playing in my head when I created the arrangements. Magic!! I kept about half of my live tracks and replaced the other half with better performances at later sessions. Mike also replaced some of his parts. I think he had the most difficult task of learning the incredible McCartney bass parts, and then having to adapt them to my arrangements in the power trio setting. He did a brilliant job!
Guitar.com: Okay, went it comes to talking about The Beatles, you have to ask these “favorite” questions, I think is a state law or something so here goes…..Favorite Beatle and why?
Timmons: That changes frequently! I love all of them equally, but today it's George Harrison. The Martin Scorcese documentary "All Things Must Pass" is really great. It's such a loving and honest portrait of George. He wasn't a saint by any means, but he remains massively inspiring not only musically, but in his pursuit of truth and spirituality. I wish I could have known him.
Guitar.com: Favorite Beatle Album?
Early: Something New
End: Abbey Road
Guitar.com: Favorite Beatle Track?
Early: I'll Get You
Middle: "The Word"
End: "The End" (used to make me cry as a kid, thinking "it's the last Beatle song ever!")
Guitar.com: It's one of my favorites as well, especially with headphones (sniff - it does bring a tear to one's eye). The Beatles had layers upon layers of instrumentation (thank you Geoff Emerick) and yet you stripped Peppers to a three-piece with interesting voicing, no vocals and yet you’re pretty true to the original. Did you find the orchestration process of this effort difficult?
Timmons: Yes and no. Yes, it was challenging, but because I did it from memory, it kind of arranged itself in some ways. As the music plays in my head, different things become more prominent at different times: the vocal line, a chord, orchestrations, sound effects, etc. I simply tried to apply these events in a linear fashion, encompassed in a single performance.
Guitar.com: So now you’re taking it on the road – how are you changing your show up? Will you do the entire Sgt Peppers album or mix-it up? Bringing different gear?
Timmons: We're currently on tour in Italy and we're playing about half the CD in the middle of the show. I think once the record has been out for a while we'll eventually do some special shows where we perform the entire record, then some of our older tunes at the end.
Guitar.com: You'll also have the challenge of taking the Pepper tone on the road as well. So what does that mean for your studio to road rig?
Timmons: I'm essentially playing through a scaled down version of my studio rig live. On the record I was mainly playing through (2) two Mesa Boogie Lone Stars and (2) two Mesa Stilettos all running simultaneously. It's a little much for the live show, so I'm simply a/b-ing between a single Lone Star running through (2) two 2x12 Mesa Rectifier cabinets w/Celestion Vintage 30s and a single Stiletto running though a Mesa 4x12. I'm also running a Mesa TA30 amp on a few things. Killer new amp!
Guitar.com: That sounds sweet but it's rare when your tone isn't dead-on. How many shows are you doing to support Pepper?
Timmons: 11 European dates and we're just now solidifying some U.S. dates for January starting in California. More details soon on andytimmons.com
Guitar.com: So if you had to do another album recreation – non-Beatle – what might it be?
Timmons: I'm working on it in my head, but I don't want to disclose what it is until I'm ready to record it (in case it doesn't work haha).
Hint: It's not Beatles-related! The next Andy Timmons Band release will be a collection of new original material. We already have 14 songs recorded and I'm really happy with the material.
Guitar.com: Well, we'll most definitely look forward to hearing the new material. Okay one final question, there are recordings that become pivotal in one’s musical upbringing, recordings that maybe energize you or have become your muse or have some indefinable impact upon you. For example, when speaking with Frampton, he said Roxy Music’s Avalon – he loves the production value....What would that one recording be for you?
Timmons: Smile by Brian Wilson and the Beach Boys.
Guitar.com: Interesting choice - I'll be diggin' out the vinyl of that tonight. Haven't listened to it in a dogs age. Thanks for taking the time and we hope to catch up with out on the road soon. For more info on Andy, be sure to visit his site - AndyTimmons.com