Police legend s siren call

After decades of jazz albums and soundtracks, the Police guitarist Andy Summers has finally returned to rock. The 71-year-old has formed a power trio, although Sting and Stewart Copeland are not involved in the axe maestro's new band, Circa Zero.

His old sparring partners can take a little credit as it was the Police reunion and world tour of 2007-08 that got Summers back in the mood for the old guitar, bass and drums format.

"I've never really said anything as black and white as 'I'm done with rock', you know," Summers explains from Los Angeles, his adopted home of the past 20-odd years.

"After the Police tour, I suppose I've embraced the rock scene again - or they've embraced me. It was a phenomenal tour," he adds, fondly remembering the Australian leg which culminated in two Perth dates.

After that epic tour, Summers found himself writing rock songs again, and even working with a variety of singers in his LA studio. None were working out until he met local stalwart Rob Giles.

"I went to see him play in another band he was in called the Rescues," the veteran explains. "They were tremendous, but they were kind of breaking up, so our meeting was at a fortuitous time."

Giles joined Summers in the studio and within "a couple of hours", they decided to work on an album together. Talk about synchronicity.

"The chemistry was clearly there. It's a rare thing, I felt very in tune with this guy musically."

The pair recorded 10 of the 13 tracks on Circa Zero's debut album, Circus Hero, with the versatile Giles handling vocals, bass and drums and Summers providing his signature guitar textures - and some tasty solos. At the behest of their label, an anonymous drummer was roped in for three more tracks to beef up the album. Summers admits that recording with his new bandmate was very different to the five albums he made with the Police.

"That was a three-ring circus and there was a certain famous tension," he says. "This is different. It's really the two of us and we get on very well personally . . . we have similar tastes. We seem to agree pretty much on everything. We don't get into conflict about things."

Giles' voice, at times, bares an uncanny resemblance to that of Sting - at other times he seems to be channelling Bono.

"He's as good as anyone out there," Summers says in praise of his mate. "Let's hope this does something for him."

The guitarist is relishing the challenge of launching a new band. While there is plenty of interest in Circa Zero for obvious reasons, Summers insists: "I'm not trying to trade on the past at all - we're starting out as an unknown band."

Summers keeps busy doing lucrative soundtrack work, plus he has regular exhibitions of his photography in the US and overseas. The Police were just beginning to take off when he decided to pick up a camera to alleviate boredom between shows.

"It was probably 1979 in New York, I thought 'This is what I'm going to be doing for the next few years, sitting in hotel rooms in different cities' - I could see it coming - 'Let's get a camera'," Summers says.

"I started to take it seriously. I had a natural flair for it. I started studying it and carrying my camera everywhere and shooting all the time.

"I was in the Police for seven years and I shot the whole thing from start to finish from the inside."

Summers didn't realise the treasure trove of images he'd amassed until much later. Some of his shots have been used in a new documentary called Can't Stand Losing You, which mixes video of the Police world tour with historic footage and is based on his 2006 memoir One Train Later.

While Summers looks forward to Can't Stand Losing You getting a theatrical release in the US this year, he has moved on from backstage and tour photography. "My next show is called Mysterious Barricades and they're all vertical shots of Tokyo at night."

Speaking of Japan, Summers hopes Circa Zero can tour there and also Australia before the year is out.

But it's not that easy. He doesn't want to go back to playing "squalid clubs" in the US and UK, preferring to join a big-name tour as support act.

Either way, he's not losing sleep and has total faith in his new band.

"I think it's as good as anything the Police ever did," Summers states. "In fact, in some ways, it's even better.

"It's very consistent with the songs across the album and I think I had a lot of freedom. I wasn't fighting so much on this album.

"If the Police had done this album now, can you image," he laughs. "It would go straight to No. 1. Because it's not done by the Police we have to struggle a little bit, that's the irony."


The West Australian

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