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© Mario Anzuoni/Reuters/Corbis
Halfway into the song Say Goodnight – just one of 13 hook-filled and immensely satisfying tracks from Circa Zero's debut album, Circus Hero – former Police guitarist Andy Summers hits a couple of echoey chords that wouldn't sound out of place on classic discs like Outlandos d'Amour or Regatta de Blanc.
Summers admits that the Roxanne-ish sound is "a little bit Policey," but he also claims that if anybody has the right to such a sonic style, it's him. “Yeah, I own that one,” he says with a laugh.
Over the years, scores of guitarists, including a few well-known players, have lifted bits from Summers' signature sound, a shimmering blend of creative chord voicings and effects treatments. And don't think that he hasn't noticed: "What we did in The Police definitely entered the lexicon, if you like," Summers says. "It’s there as part of the fabric. It’s a very nice thing to have, a legacy, I suppose. I take it as a compliment.”
At an age (71) when most well-heeled rock legends would either be rounding the globe on a reunion tour (he's done that already) or retiring to their private island, Summers is apparently hungry for more action. Last year, he formed Circa Zero with multi-instrumentalist and singer Rob Giles (from The Rescues). After a small handful of LA gigs last year, the two cut Circus Hero at Summers' Bowl Of Cherries studio in Venice, California. For millions of fans hankering to hear the guitar icon applying his skills once again to smart, driving melodic pop-rock, the album is a made-to-order winner.
Summers spoke to MusicRadar by phone about Circus Hero, why The Police never made another album, his status as a guitar "anti-hero," the axes and effects he's currently using, and his thoughts on another six-string sonic pioneer, The Edge. (Circa Zero's Circus Hero can be purchased at the following links: Amazon, iTunes, Walmart and Amazon.)
Last year, you said that this record is what you "thought the Police should have done, but didn’t." Which begs the question: Well, why didn’t you?
“Yeah, I know. That was a very provocative line for me to put out there, sort of upsetting for some people, I suppose. [Laughs] And it reflects on me good or bad – hmm, let me think… Within that, you know, we were a very political, difficult band, although obviously there was a musical chemistry. I was probably thinking in some ways that we’d been a bit more ‘rock’ that we were. You know, we’re a rock band, so we should hit it harder.
“With this record, working with Rob, some of those constraints went away. Our chemistry is very much there; we get on really well. We don’t seem to have the difficulties that I experienced in The Police about wrestling something to the ground. We get to things faster. I think the message to ourselves was, ‘Let’s make a rock record.’ And when we said ‘rock,’ we didn’t mean an alternative record or an indie soft record. We were gonna play like a rock band, very guitar driven. That was the mission.”
Within The Police, was the prevailing notion about making another record something like, “Well, we made five flat-out classics. Why mess with that?”
“There always is that thought, sure. You know, and there’s the eternal question: ‘When are you guys going back on the road?’ It’s like, listen, we just had one of the greatest tours of all time. It was the absolute golden moment since 2000 hit us. What’ll we do, a tour that is not as good and is a lot smaller? That wouldn’t look so good, would it? I suppose if you were a greedy person, you’d say, “Oh, yeah, let’s go out and do it again – make some more money!’
“But you know, you have a sense of self. We know who we are – we think we’re pretty classy people. We don’t want to smirch or smear that golden thing we just left behind. There is some thinking to that. For The Police to go out again, it’d be difficult. It’d be such a sell-out and so political to make another record. And it’s like, ‘You know what? We just did incredibly well. Let’s leave it there.’ Making this record was so fresh and exciting, so that’s the move for me.”