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Andy Summers Interview: ‘Police’ Guitarist Unleashes Musical Genius on ‘Circus Hero’
May 8, 2014
By Ray Shasho
Legendary ‘Police’ guitarist Andy Summers and Rob Giles of the Los Angeles based indie/pop/ rock outfit, ‘The Rescues’ have joined forces to form an incredible new rock group called ‘Circa Zero.’ With the new band comes a brilliant new CD entitled ‘Circus Hero.’ The new release is brimming with virtuosity and rock and roll tenacity! Circa Zero’s progressive/pop debut single is entitled “Levitation” and succeeded by a music video. The musical chemistry of Rob Giles superlative vocals and Andy Summers rock guitar artistry has inaugurated a crucial new rock syndicate.
Favorite tracks on ‘Circus Hero’ are … “Levitation” -A progressive/pop/rock intro at its finest … “Underground”- An awesome psychedelic/rock tune supported by incredible wah-wah effects …. “Say Goodnight” and “Night Time Travelers”- Excellent tracks led by Bono-like vocalizations … “Gamma Ray”- is extremely innovative! … “Underwater” –A monumental rocker! …“Light the Fuse & Run”-Great title/ intricate guitar riffs … “Hot Camel” -An extreme instrumental groove! … I gave ‘Circus Hero’ by Circa Zero (5) Stars!
-You can purchase the brand new CD by ‘Circa Zero’ now at amazon.com.
ANDY SUMMERS: First entered the music scene in the mid to late 60’s. He was briefly a member of Eric Burdon & The Animals while recording one album with the band entitled Love Is (1968). The album spotlighted a 4 minute and 15 second solo by Summers on the Traffic cover track “Coloured Rain.” Side 4 of the album included a medley of songs by the Psychedelic rock group ‘Dantalian’s Chariot’ which included Andy Summers and Zoot Money. Summers also played with progressive rock pioneers Soft Machine for a short while. Andy also recorded and performed with acclaimed artists such as Kevin Ayers, Jon Lord, Kevin Coyne, and Michael Oldfield.
THE POLICE: formed in 1977 and were comprised of …Sting (lead vocals, bass), Andy Summers (guitar) and Stewart Copeland (drums). The Police were highly regarded as one of the most important, successful, and eclectic bands throughout the late 70’s and 80’s, while helping to introduce a new musical genre called new wave. The Police achieved incredible worldwide mainstream success by integrating elements of reggae, punk, jazz, and rock into their music.
Some of their biggest hits included … “Roxanne,” “Can’t Stand Losing You,” “Message in a Bottle,” “Don’t Stand So Close To Me,” “De Do Do Do, De Da Da Da,” “Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic,” “Spirits In The Material World,” “Every Breath You Take,” (#1 Billboard Hot 100 Hit) “Wrapped Around Your Finger,” “Synchronicity II,” and “King of Pain.”
'The Police' have sold more than (75) million records worldwide, won (6) Grammy Awards, (2) Brit Awards, an MTV Video Music Award, and were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2003.
The Police broke-up in 1984 but reunited for a worldwide tour in 2007.
Since The Police disbanded, Andy Summers has released (12) solo albums.
His solo projects gave Andy the fortuitousness to musically explore and create freely, including discovering an instinctive ability to compose. He’s written or collaborated on many film scores including …Down and Out in Beverly Hills, Weekend At Bernie’s, 2010, and Wild Life.
Summers has also become a critically-acclaimed photographer.
In 2006, Andy Summers released his autobiography entitled ‘One Train Later.”
I had the rare opportunity to chat with Andy Summers about his exciting new band with Rob Giles called ‘Circa Zero,’ and their brand new release entitled ‘Circus Hero.’
Here’s my recent interview with multi-instrumentalist, songwriter, producer, photographer, and legendary guitarist with ‘The Police’ …ANDY SUMMERS.
Ray Shasho: Hey Andy!
Andy Summers: “Hey there Ray, how are you doing?”
Ray Shasho: ‘Circus Hero’ the new album … ‘Circa Zero’ the new band … a superb and brilliant new group loaded with rock and roll virtuosity & vigor! I think the band presents a genuine opportunity to grandstand your ingenuity as one of the finest guitar players in the world.
Andy Summers: “It was obviously great fun making this record, you can hear that in the tracks. Part of the fun for me was to be able to sort of build all of the guitar parts. I’ve got to say Rob was very cool about that because we would get a sort of basic track and try and get a decent enough drum part, you’d get a bass line, and as we’d sort of put the first thing down, I’d put down some sort of a guitar part and then Rob would leave. He’d say you know what to do … and leave me to it. So I would take the time to really get the sounds, the colors, and the guitar parts really right, including the solos. In other words, he didn’t hover over my back, so there’s nothing inhibiting me whatsoever and that’s the way I work best. I can take time and experiment until I feel the sounds are right. So that’s why I think the sound is so good on this record.”
Ray Shasho: Rob Giles has an incredible voice … I thought Rob’s vocals sounded a bit like Bono on several tracks of the new album.
Andy Summers: “I think he’s one of the best singers out there and one of the best voices I ever heard. I think there is a little bit of sound in the voice like Bono.”
Ray Shasho: Andy, I really liked The Police, but I’m so glad that this album doesn’t sound like The Police. You’ve demonstrated so many facets of guitar ingenuity on ‘Circus Hero’ that were never musically expressed while you were with The Police.
Andy Summers: “Yea, it’s more of a rock album with a different vocalist. A lot of people commented like that, saying it was really great that you cut out on this one. I’m pleased because I did. I thought I would play all the solos, go to all these textures and let it really come through …people really like it.”
Ray Shasho: I especially enjoyed the enhanced usage of the wah-wah.
Andy Summers: “It was right for the album, you get that rock and edgy tone to it with a wah-wah and it just seemed appropriate.”
Ray Shasho: My favorite track on the new album was “Underground,” kind of a psychedelic/rock tune but also very mainstream. Did you swap guitar licks somewhere on the album with Rob Giles?
Andy Summers: “No, all the guitar is me. Rob is the drummer on everything except three tracks, which we added after we finished the album. On those tracks we used Dan Epand who we thought was going to be in the band. But Rob plays bass, drums, and sings.”
Ray Shasho: Wasn’t there actually a lot of drummers considered for Circa Zero?
Andy Summers: “Oh my God, I think we’ve had nine drummers. It’s weird; I don’t know why we’ve had a hard time with drummers (All laughing). The truth is that the album is made by me and Rob and he plays drums very well, but I didn’t want him to be stuck behind a drum kit singing vocals in a rock band. At first I thought he’d play a little guitar and we’d get a bass player, but he also plays bass very well and he decided that he wanted to play bass. We had a girl from Canada for awhile and it was sort of a cool ideal to have a girl drummer, so we found her and she came to LA. Honestly, the trouble was she lived in Montreal and we could never get her to stay in LA. It just wasn’t working. Then we had this other guy that we thought was good but he was in another band. Finally we got this Danish drummer, Fredrik Bokkenheuser, who is a fantastic rock drummer and we’re going to play with him next week. He’s on the video that is on You Tube now, just a killer rock drummer!”
Ray Shasho: I also really enjoyed the track “Say Goodnight” on the new release.
Andy Summers: “That’s a very nice Pop Song. A lot of people just love that one; it will probably be our next single.”
Ray Shasho: “Light the Fuse & Run” … Wow, what a great title for a song!
Andy Summers: “Yea, that came later, as a track, it started out with that lick that I had and it kind of built up from there. So it was only lyrics and then Rob suddenly came in with this one … yea, “Light the Fuse & Run”… that’s kind of a rocker, so you find this, you find that, and you finally kind of agree on what’s really working … and we felt really good about that one.”
Ray Shasho: Andy, what is the lyrical meaning behind the song “Underwater?”
Andy Summers: “It’s all about what we’re looking at on the nightly news now …floods and fire in this country, denial of climate change and environmental related things because they want to make money, economic growth and all that, while ignoring the real problem. It’s a concerned song.”
Ray Shasho: “Hot Camel” is a really cool instrumental groove.
Andy Summers: “That was one of the last things we did. It was intended maybe for the next album and then the record company wanted more songs. So we said let’s make this an instrumental and stick this on. You can really hear the band playing and it just makes the album interesting. We felt, we’re coming out of the door with this one, so we should just make it great. Literally, value for money, there’s a lot of great music on this album. “
Ray Shasho: Will ‘Circa Zero’ be hitting the road soon to promote the new album?
Andy Summers: “Hopefully, we’re looking at some touring this summer, we’re just waiting for the phone to ring from our manager to tell us which one. We want to get out there and start playing it for real.”
Ray Shasho: Andy, here’s a question that I ask everyone that I interview. If you had a ‘Field of Dreams’ wish like the movie, to play, sing or collaborate with anyone from the past or present, who would that be?
Andy Summers: “Louis Armstrong. What a great singer, just fantastic! It all came from Louis Armstrong.”
Ray Shasho: Anything else you’d like to promote?
Andy Summers: “I think the new album is the main thrust of our lives at the moment. I’m doing a bunch of photography shows and going off to China in a couple of weeks. My movie entitled ‘Can’t Stand Losing You’ is coming out September 26th. It’s based on my autobiography called ‘One Train Later,’ and pretty much about my life as a musician, before The Police, and then throughout The Police. There’s some fantastic concert footage and a lot of my photography in it.”
Ray Shasho: Andy, do you think there will be another reunion with The Police?
Andy Summers: “It sort of seems impossible, I don’t think so, and I’m not hoping so. Sting calls me every day and I tell him not to call me again and leave me alone. But I don’t think so, unless it’s Vegas in like 2025 (All laughing). Time is changing, the world is changing, and you’ve got to cling on to whatever you’ve got. I’m hoping ‘Circus Hero’ goes through the roof.”
Ray Shasho: Andy, thank you for being on the call today, but more importantly for all the incredible music you’ve given us and continue to bring.
Andy Summers: “Thanks Ray, see you mate!”
Purchase the brilliant new CD by Circa Zero (featuring Andy Summers and Rob Giles) entitled ‘Circus Hero’ at amazon.com
Contact classic rock music journalist Ray Shasho at firstname.lastname@example.org
Visit Ray Shasho’s classic rock music blogs at www.classicrockhereandnow.com