“Message in a Bottle,” “Roxanne,” “Every Breath You Take,” “Can’t Stand Losing You,” “Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic” — those are just a few of the still-popular anthems featured iconic guitar riffs played by Andy Summers. While Summers is best known as the guitarist of the Police, he had a musical career before playing with Stewart Copeland and Sting, and he has certainly maintained one in the decades since then. In turn, it is not surprising to learn that Summers has five Grammy Awards to his credit, beyond placements on many “best guitar player” lists and various hall of fame inductions.
Rather than just resting on the laurels that come with being one-third of one of the rock’s most popular groups of all time, Summers has stayed busy with a mix of projects over the years. Beyond his solo albums — the latest is 2017’s Triboluminescence, now available as a limited-edition double LP via Flickering Shadow Productions — he has scored close to a dozen movies, written five books, and been the subject of dozens of photography exhibits. Rumor has it that another book is currently in the works, as is a concert tour featuring Summers’ photography.
On behalf of the Inquisitr, I had the pleasure of speaking with Andy Summers by phone. A resident of Los Angeles, Summers was refreshingly honest, opening up about why he still makes music. He also had a more impressive vocabulary than just about anyone I have ever interviewed. More on the past, present, and future of Summers can be found at www.andysummers.com.
Triboluminescence was recently released as a 2LP title on vinyl. Do you listen to a lot of music these days on vinyl?
Andy Summers: No, I don’t. I don’t have time to do that. But I did have to go out and buy a better vinyl player, so I have a better vinyl player in my stereo. But I really enjoyed putting the package together. The salient point is all the extra tracks. This album Triboluminescence took me a while to make, put everything together, form everything that ultimately became the record. There’s a lot of other music that I made, apart from what ended up on the original CD. Of course, you’d love to cram them onto a CD, but that won’t happen. So the vinyl becomes a nice venue for going back in and being able to put that out without the pain of no one ever hearing them. (laughs)
Do you have a favorite song on Triboluminescence?
Andy Summers: Triboluminescence, the original CD or the re-issue?
Andy Summers: Well, there are a lot of tracks. The choice to make the original CD was difficult because I had a lot of other tracks. But when we got to put all these on vinyl, in this case, it’s almost like a new album, there’s another nine tracks. We went back into our archives, everything we had recorded for the CD, probably cleaned them up, listened to them to see if I had to do anything to them… There’s one actually I really like called “Sweet Milk.” It’s just an improvisation on an instrument, a mini-oud, it’s called a latva. It’s a Middle Eastern instrument.
I’m curious about your song titles. When in the process do you come up with them? I ask because you’re making instrumental music.
Andy Summers: It’s a multi-pronged answer. I’m a literary person, I think about words a lot. It helps to immediately create a landscape or an atmosphere that you’re entering into with a style of music. I think it’s important to give them worthy names, just like you would with children. Something that’s really going to stay the course. I try to, with the title, kind of create a vibe that gives you an idea of what the might be like. Same with the artwork as well.
Rewinding a few decades, I heard a rumor that the title of your Police instrumental “Behind My Camel” was a reference to what would you find behind a camel. Is that true?
Andy Summers: That’s a sort of stupid joke, not really. It might be what was in front of a camel, too. I think what you see there is the predilection for this kind of titling of atmospheric, instrumental music that was going on in my head back then. Same with the two records I did with Robert Fripp.
— Andy Summers Music (@asummersmusic) August 15, 2017
When you’re not busy with music, do you have any hobbies you like to pursue?
Andy Summers: I don’t like hobbies. The idea of a hobby always sounds to me like something that you do on the weekends. I’m not that kind of a person. I’m generally all the way in. The other thing I do, obviously, is photography, but that’s serious. It’s not a hobby, it’s a real commitment. I have seven shows lined up at the moment, plus another book, so it’s a pretty full plate.
Actually, what I’m trying to do right now… I’ve already done this in L.A., there’s a solo show where I’m playing basically in front of projected photography. We’re refining it right now. Next year, I’m going back to Europe to do that.
I hope to see that in New York. Are there plans to bring that to the States?
Andy Summers: Yeah, we’re refining it now. Mostly this summer that’s what we’ve been working on. I haven’t been out much this much, which is fine for me… I’ve been through thousands and thousands of photographs. We did it very quickly at the Grammy Museum in L.A., but it went so well that we’re trying to make it into a real thing. That’s the next real performance thing for me.
[Featured Image by Mo Summers]