“I’m a little bit shell-shocked today,” guitarist Andy Summers said with a laugh a few weeks ago when I called him for an afternoon interview. “We’ve been making this insane video till after midnight last night where we were throwing paint all over each other. That was intense. And we did that time and time again. And every time they said it was a perfect take, we did it again.”
It’s been a hair over thirty years since the release of Synchronicity, The Police’s final studio album, so why is Summers spending his evening hours making a music video? Does he have something up his musical sleeve? The answer is yes, he does. After spending the majority of his post-Police years composing primarily instrumental music for solo albums and movie soundtracks, collaborating with peers such as King Crimson’s Robert Fripp, writing his autobiography and focusing on his photography, Summers has hopped back on the rock & roll train with his new band, Circa Zero. With their debut album, Circus Hero, releasing next week on March 25th, Summers is ready for another, albeit less chaotic, adventure.
So after all this time, content with his musical and personal endeavors, what has spurred the superstar guitar maestro to begin the cycle again? It’s not like he needs another megahit record. He had plenty of those when he was with The Police: “Don’t Stand So Close To Me,” “Roxanne,” “Message In A Bottle,” “Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic” and the goliath “Every Breath You Take.” He’s already in the Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame, having been inducted alongside bandmates Sting and Stewart Copeland in 2003. He’s been on endless tours around the world, earned awards for his guitar playing, exhibited his photographs in Paris, Tokyo and New York City, spawned children, and adorned three Rolling Stone covers.
So why go back to long nights in recording studios, hours answering the same questions over and over for journalists and performing in small clubs on even smaller stages? Because he met The Rescues’ Rob Giles and the chemistry felt too good to let it slip away. Hence, an all-nighter sloshing paint while filming a video for Circa Zero’s first single, “Levitation.”
You produced Circus Hero with Rob. What is the hardest part about producing yourself instead of having someone come from the outside?
Well, you know, in my life, I’ve worked with producers a couple of times and it’s ok. I generally don’t. Personally, I don’t feel like I’ve ever needed a producer. I know how to make records and certainly true in the Police, we never had a producer. Rob worked as a producer so we both know how to do this. I suppose I could say the hardest thing is to have perspective but I don’t think we have much problem with that. I prefer to be doing the producing. I mean, you could have other people. What we did do with this was we took it out of my studio, where it was all recorded in my setting, and took it to a mixing engineer. That was a production device but we thought that was a really good thing to do. The guy, literally, had more equipment, more things available to him to process the record and is a very skilled mixer. Then we finally had it remastered, actually, by a guy who is probably the number one mastering engineer in LA. And the sound of it is fantastic, I think, after we did that last mastering go through. Very strong.
Why was Rob’s voice perfect for your music and where is the chemistry for you two?
That’s an interesting question because sort of post-Police tour, I was writing a lot of songs. I was thinking about maybe going back and doing some rock. I had such a good time doing it and I said, well, it’s been really a while since I had done that but I’m not a singer. I can write songs and all the rest of it and I can do it but I need a really good singer. I was working with one guy for quite a while at the end and I basically built a whole album but I think I was looking for something that I thought, you know, how many ways can you say it, it was the real thing, it was the voice that really cut it all in and yet someone that really understood the attitude you need in rock or if you’re going to do some indie alternative, someone who really gets it. I went through a whole process and it was right at the end of that process where I was possibly ready to release a record that I met Rob. And I was blown away by his voice and we got together and I sort of knew within ten minutes that, oh my God, I think this is what I was looking for, this is fantastic, this guy has really got it. In fact, he sang one of the songs I had that someone else had sung and he just sang it so much better (laughs). I said, this is it. And he was into it, I was into it so we said, let’s make a great rock record. And we were both in LA, so we literally saw the process where he started to come to my studio, I had things that I could play him and we revised and we sort of got into the creative process of it, you know. We had a chemistry.