Andy Summers Q&A: Circa Zero and The Police

Guitarist Andy Summers and Rob Giles are Circa Zero, whose debut album was released in March. Rob Hughes hunted down the former Policeman and took him in for questioning.

What struck you about Rob Giles when you saw him play with The Rescues in LA?

The first time, I thought they were an amazing band with four-part harmonies and they all played each other’s instruments. Then almost exactly a year later I went to see Rob’s band again and was just knocked out. Afterwards we got talking and he ended up coming to my studio, Bowl of Cherries [in Venice, CA]. For both of us we discovered this chemistry. And as went forward, it just got better and better. His vocals were particularly great. All the motion, ability and range were there. He had a lot of musical skills.

Was there some trepidation on his part, given that he’s relatively unknown and you’re the exact opposite?

Oh yeah. Honestly, he’s mentioned it so many times. He doesn’t want to be Sting and doesn’t want to play the drums like Stewart. He’s completely freaked out to be on stage with me. He grew up with The Police being this gigantic presence on the rock scene, so I think he has had difficulty with it. But at the same time he’s a completely valid and authoritative musician in his own right. He hasn’t got world recognition yet, but he is that good.

Was there also something about getting back into a band at the very beginning, before road-weariness sets in?

That’s really true. It’s always the early days, when it’s the band against the world, that’s the most exciting period. It’s certainly true of The Police. I think of the first two or three years with The Police as the halcyon days.

So when did the rot set in?

[Laughing] Well, once you have five number ones you’re just golden. It gets harder and in a way it gets more boring. The Police was an absolute phenomenon and it was very rare to be in that position. I don’t want to say ‘the rot’, because that’s not really fair. It was just a thrilling ride.

What can people expect from your new documentary, Can’t Stand Losing You: Surviving The Police?

It’s based on my book One Train Later, though it’s not the same because obviously you couldn’t cover all of that. The film turned into a saga that went on for about six years. We stopped at one point because we fired the original director and had spent most of the money. It’s coming out in US theatres in July and I’m hoping we get a UK distributor from all this. There’s a lot of archival footage. They followed me around the world with The Police reunion tour and the editor did some brilliant moves. So you see me playing a guitar solo from 1983, then it cuts to the same thing in 2008. The whole thing moves really well.

Going back to the very earliest days of The Police, you made some ill-fated recordings with John Cale in 1977…

Those sessions were horrendous. The people in charge always think they’ve got the best idea about how you should be a hit band. And they’re always wrong. One idea, and it might’ve come from A&M, was that John Cale should produce us. So we had this one session in the studio and John turned up. I think he was pretty drunk at the time, he was just so untogether. We were who we were, very focused on our music, and this idiot fucking turned up. He had no ideas about anything. I started to play some Led Zeppelin piece and he went: “That’s it! Let’s record that!” And at that point we just packed up and left.[](

Circa Zero’s Circus Hero is out now. An exhibition of Andy’s photography opens in Hollywood on Friday.

Rob Hughes

Freelance writer for Classic Rock since 2008, and sister title Prog since its inception in 2009. Regular contributor to Uncut magazine for over 20 years. Other clients include Word magazine, Record Collector, The Guardian, Sunday Times, The Telegraph and When Saturday Comes. Alongside Marc Riley, co-presenter of long-running A-Z Of David Bowie podcast. Also appears twice a week on Riley’s BBC6 radio show, rifling through old copies of the NME and Melody Maker in the Parallel Universe slot. Designed Aston Villa’s kit during a previous life as a sportswear designer. Geezer Butler told him he loved the all-black away strip.