Former Police Guitarist Andy Summers on His New Band, Circa Zero: "It's What I Thought the Police Should Have Done, But Didn't"
Circa Zero — a new band featuring guitarist Andy Summers (the Police), singer/bassist/guitarist Rob Giles (the Rescues) and Canadian drummer Emmanuelle Caplette — got together after a mutual friend invited Summers to Giles' shows with the Rescues.
Summers was immediately impressed by Giles' vocals and instrumental skills. After getting together to jam and kick around song ideas, it quickly became apparent the duo needed to work together. They began creating edgy, lyrical rock tunes that manage to capture a sound that's both modern and classic.
While their debut album, Circus Hero, isn't expected until later this year, their debut performance takes place this very week — Thursday, July 25, at the El Rey Theatre in Los Angeles.
I recently spoke with Summers about Circa Zero — and also got his thoughts on the 30th anniversary of the Police's monster album, Synchronicity.
GUITAR WORLD: Tell me about the origin of Circa Zero.
After the Police tour ended in 2008, I was back in the studio working on my own music as well as with various other people. I was searching for that magical thing, but couldn't find the chemistry I was looking for. One night, a friend of mine [who was also the manager of the Rescues] took me to the Troubadour to see them perform.
I remember thinking how fantastic they were. Rob is such an amazing singer. Plus he was playing drums, bass and guitar. About a year or so later, I went back and discovered the band was on the brink of separating. So I asked Rob if he'd like to come into the studio. We started playing, and within five minutes I knew he had the groove I was looking for. The chemistry between us established itself very quickly. It was new and completely real.
How did you get hooked up with Emmanuelle Caplette?
Rob and I had actually been working with several different drummers, but nothing was working out. Then one day Rob came up with the idea of using a female drummer, and that’s when we discovered Emmanuelle, who lives in Montreal. We called her up and she came down to LA to play with us for a few days, and it was fantastic.
How do you and Rob collaborate to write songs?
We always look at doing things together, and I think that's what makes the chemistry so amazing. Sometimes I'll come in with a riff that Rob will think is cool. Then we'll start building on the hook and Rob might come up with a melody to go on top of it. Lyrically, it's very open between us. Some are mine, but more are Rob's.
Do you have a release date for the album or any tour info to share?
We have a debut show at the El-Rey on July 25. We've also got a lot of great people working with us and are ramping up to see which direction we want to go as far as releasing the album — most likely within the next few months. Touring-wise, we certainly expect to be on the road for most of next year. I'd really like to make it a point to tour Canada as well. They've always been incredible for the Police, not to mention that we also have a Canadian drummer.
What's your current setup like?
I'm always in flux. In the Police, I used to use an incredible Bradshaw setup where everything was programmed, but now I'm using just a medium-sized board. I've got a nice unit that includes a few Centaurs as well as a Love Pedal and a Box of Rock. For guitars, I’d normally always use Strats, but lately I've also been using a red Custom Shop Les Paul as well. It's a beautiful guitar that's absolutely unique.
This year marks the 30th anniversary of Synchronicity. What comes to mind when you think about that album and those days?
It was an amazing time for us, and we were kings of the world. It was worldwide mania and pretty insane, particularly for 1983. You really can't do more than what we had accomplished. It was the first album of ours that went straight to No. 1 (and knocked Michael Jackson out of the top spot) and the single "Every Breath You Take" was No. 1 for eight weeks. We all knew it couldn't go on forever, but at the time we were hotter than anything you could ever imagine.
Tell me a little bit about the origins of "Every Breath You Take."
When Sting first brought that song in, I didn't think we could do it. What he came in with was something completely different from what we ended up with. He had this thing that sort of sounded like "sub-Yes" with all of these huge rolling synthesizers. He made a demo, but it didn't sound anything like us at all. But that was what the story was with much of the material. Our word was that we had to "Police-ify" it, which basically meant the chemistry of the three of us playing on the track, each guy doing his own thing.
That's what made it sound like the Police. The thing that's so great about all of those tracks is not just the songwriting, but also the way they're played. It was a sound only the three of us could get across.
What excites you the most about Circa Zero?
What I'm doing now is what I thought the Police should have done, but didn't do. This is all new music with new energy and chemistry. Rob is an amazing vocalist and these are great rock songs that have a lot of appeal. We're a brand-new band, but we've got the music and want to get it out there. As a musician, you know in your gut when something is great. And this is the real thing.
James Wood is a writer, musician and self-proclaimed metalhead who maintains his own website, GoJimmyGo.net. His articles and interviews are written on a variety of topics with passion and humor. You can follow him on Twitter @JimEWood.