Andy James: The Beginning, The Regrets, The Future

Andy James in one of those instantly recognisable guitarists. He has spent years teaching guitarists how to mimic their hero's, but when you listen to his current album "Arrival", you can instantly recognise the sound of the Master of Metal Shred. I went back stage with Andy James to talk about the journey which guided him to discover his own unique sound.

School life for Andy was a challenge. He moved schools multiple times beforeeventually being placed by his parents in a boarding school. This made making friends hard, he always welcomed the opportunity to hang out with the guys, but often felt like an outsider infiltrating established friendship groups but when he did make friends, the common ground was always music. Back in the 1990’s without the internet, finding a friend who had the music to Guns and Roses was the pinnacle of entertainment, and learning the tab was the height of success. Without many friends, he found the music school music room where there were a couple of old battered guitars left in the corner. He borrowed tab music from the friends he did have and buried himself in the music roomfor hours at a time. Andy learned how to play the entire of Guns and Roses' "Use Your Illusion" in a matter of months and was hooked on the guitar forever. He told me “It wasn’t even that hard to learn.” with total sincerity. He met a singer and a drummer at college and formed a cover band. The band went from pub to pub gigging for beer tokens whilst dreaming of record deals.

Monday to Friday Andy had regular job and hated every minute of it. Working in a call centre, trying to help frequently rude customers, whilst being micro-manged by a supervisor. One day, the supervisor was critiquing one of Andy’s calls and something happened. As the realisation that this was not the direction he wanted his life to go, the rock and roll legend burst out of him and he shouted across the office “F**K OFF! The customer got what they f**king wanted didn’t they?”. Andy, realising the repercussions of his actions, quit his job instantly and walked out to be a rock star.

Andy started teaching guitar for cash and entered a competition sponsored by Ernie Ball called Guitar Hero. He breezed through the heats and claimed top prize as the outright winner. This encouraged him enough to continue his personal pursuit of happiness. He was on the right tracks and made some connections that he desperately needed for the long, hard, road ahead. Home life for Andy became challenging. With limited money, pressure had built on his relationship and he had split up from his girlfriend. He moved out, making himself a homeless, self employed guitar teacher living out of a bag at friends houses. He spent some days window shopping and testing expensive guitars that he had no way funding. Until one day his phone rang and Jamie Humphries was on the other end.

Jamie Humphries had known that Andy won the Guitar Hero competition and invited him to do a screen test for Lick Library. Delighted to have the opportunity, Andy played “Get the Funk Out” at his audition and the Lick Library team loved it! Before long Andy had a deal with JTC, he was endorsed by ESP and had his own successful series on Lick Library. It was close to this time that he also became lead guitarist of Sacred Mother Tongue. Backed by Bruce Dickenson, Sacred was dubbed the next band to watch and we all expected to see them touring with Iron Maiden but this never happened. Something wasn’t right. To be truly successful the whole package needs to work. Yes, the band chemistry in the earlier years, but differences started to crack Sacred Mother Tongue apart and eventually they split. Andy still doesn’t seem quite sure what exactly went wrong. “There was nothing that happened that we shouldn’t of been able to overcome.” he said, with an obvious level of regret. “There were definitely some great years as a band and I’m really grateful for that.”

Recently, Andy James has been focusing on his solo career. His latest album “Arrival” is outstanding and in many ways superior to his previous productions. While his previous albums has clear influences from Killswitch, Trinium and Martin Freeman, Arrival seems different. When you here it, you know instantly that Andy James is playing. It‘s uniquely individual and perfectly honest. This is the first album that Andy has truly produced himself and it allows his deep character to really shine.

Andy James’ future is still unmade. We know we can expect V2 of his guitar academy to launch soon, but the big question is will we see Andy back in a band or producing more solo material. Whispers from the USA say we should be looking out for Andy teaming up with a bass player who used to play in 5 Finger Death Punch, but that’s just between us.

Tim Mavers-Chance is an experienced Director Of Photography with a demonstrated history of working in the photography industry.

He is skilled in photojournalism, event photography, product photography, fashion photography, and portrait photography.

He graduated from The Henley College with a passion for documentary photography.

Tim Mavers-Chance