’We Don’t Need a Lead Singer!’ Andy Timmons Explains How He Started Doing Instrumental Music

Rock guitar legend Andy Timmons reflected on his work as an instrumentalist and how he ended up doing music that’s mostly without vocals.

Timmons emerged around the time when music was changing. Despite the more “alternative” artists commercially outperforming classic rock and metal, there was still a movement of great solo-oriented guitar players, like Joe Satriani, Steve Vai, Tony MacAlpine, and many others. Timmons was also a part of that movement.

Van Halen Stories #35 Andy Timmons "The Undeniable Edward"

During a recent interview with Final Resonance TV, Andy was asked whether his approach to making instrumental music was born from Joe Satriani’s and Steve Vai’s groundbreaking albums, like “Surfing With the Alien” and “Passion and Warfare.” Timmons then replied (transcribed by Killer Guitar Rigs):

“I had plenty of influences before that, and I would have already been hip to Larry Carlton, Jeff Beck, and other guys who created guitar instrumentals on a very high level.”

However, at the same time, Vai and Satriani still made a huge impact on his works. Andy continued:

“But when they came along, and as I was progressing as a rock player, that was like, ‘Oh, yeah! Okay, this resonated even more with the energy that I was playing with. This is something.'”

Steve Vai hands off his guitar to Andy Timmons

Going more into the matter, Timmons also recalled how he ended up recording his first instrumental track and how Satriani’s music, as well as the music of other instrumental-oriented rock guitar players of the era, influenced him. He continued:

“Again, the very first instrumental I recorded was called ‘It’s Getting Better.’ There was a Sound Page competition on Guitar Player magazine in ’88. They used to have these little flexi disc records you got inside the magazine and put in on — they had ‘Blue Powder,’ ‘Cliffs of Dover’ [by] Eric Johnson from the first ‘Austin City Limits’ [TV show], all these great pieces on there — so they had a contest, ‘Send in your tape, and we will select the one that we’ll put on the Sound Page!'”

It's Getting Better (Remastered)

Andy then decided to give it a go, and that’s what eventually helped him start his solo career. He added:

“So a good buddy of mine — Rob Wechsler, a recording engineer I just started working with — was like, ‘Hey, I’ve got some studio time, come in!’ I didn’t even have a song, so I kind of cobbled this song together with this riff that’s kind of Jeff Beck-ian. But you hear bits that sound like a little bit of Vai or even some Tony MacAlpine-sounding stuff —  I was listening to ‘Maximum Security’ a lot at that time, and then ‘Surfing with the Alien.'”

This was crucial for his development as a musician. We could easily say that vocal-oriented music dominates over instrumental. However, at that point, Andy realized that there was still a lot of room and audience for guitar-focused instrumental rock. He concluded by adding:

“I don’t know if that was already out by then [Satriani’s ‘Surfing with the Alien’] —  it was about the same time [in] ’87/’88 —  but that was the lightbulb moment for me. It was like, ‘Yeah, this is possible.’ No offense to the lead singers out there, we don’t need a lead singer!”

Andy Timmons - Live Resolution - Lydia

“Surfing with the Alien” was released in 1987. Although Satriani, at that point, already had one album out, 1986’s “Not of This Earth,” the “Alien” was a game-changer for him, earning him worldwide success.

Before embarking on his solo career, Timmons already had experience as a professional musician, namely the guitar player in glam metal band Danger Danger. His first proper solo release was 1994 album “Ear X-Tacy.” He also had a few albums released under the Andy Timmons Band moniker, although his latest release, 2022’s record “Electric Truth,” is once again a regular solo record.

Andy Timmons Band - "Ghost Of You" from "Live Resolution"

Photo: Joe Bielawa (DSC 0536 Andy Timmons (3999529934))


  • David Slavkovic

    David always planned for music to be nothing more than a hobby. However, after a short career as an agricultural engineer he ended up news editor at KillerGuitarRigs, senior editor at Ultimate-Guitar.com, as well as a freelance contributor to online magazines such as GuitaristNextdoor.