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Silver Rails and Circus Hero: Conversations With Jack Bruce and Andy Summers

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A Conversation with Jack Bruce

Mike Ragogna: Jack, you have a new album, Silver Rails with many special guests.

Jack Bruce: Especially guitar players! I must be a glutton for punishment. [laughs] No, I love the guitars, that's what rock music's all about, really, to me. You've got to have great guitars.

MR: You recorded Silver Rails at Abbey Road.

JB: I did, yeah.

MR: What was the experience like at Abbey Road this time out?

JB: Oh it was great to be back there. I haven't recorded an album there for some time. Abbey Road, what can you say about it? The music's just sort of dripping off the walls. You just kind of start to soak it up. It takes everybody's playing up just a little bit more. You always tend to try a little harder at Abbey Road. It's a great place, it's like working in a museum, but it's got all of the equipment to the highest standard, it's all maintained fantastically, you might be singing into a microphone that John Lennon used or something, it's just phenomenal.

MR: Speaking of soaking up the vibe, did recording at Abbey Road affect the twists and turns that the album creatively took?

JB: Oh, I'm quite sure it did. Obviously I'd written the songs before I went in there, and originally I didn't plan to record at Abbey Road, but one of my daughters is a film maker and she had a premiere of her first film and she had done some work for Rob Cass who's the house producer at Abbey Road. He was at the premiere and he said, "Hey, why don't you come and do it at my place, Abbey Road?" Wow, I thought, "That's a fantastic idea!" No doubt that it did influence the music in a good way. No doubt about that. It's a lovely place to work. All the people who work there are all great. It's like stepping back in time as well.

MR: Okay, and the then sonically, how did it come off versus other places that you've worked?

JB: Well just as an example I'm playing a lot of pianos on this album because they've got a bunch of pianos in those rooms to die for. They've got Bosendorfers, they've got Steinways, they've got Yamahas, you name it, they've got it. I'm playing a different piano on each of the tracks. If you go to a little studio that's got one piano, it might be great, but you've got that one piano. If you've got more pianos can choose the sound that you want on that track. It makes a fantastic difference. Plus you've got the engineers there, Paul Pritchard, he's a really, really top-notch engineer. The whole album seems to be kind of organic, it wasn't a struggle to make it, it just sort of happened.

MR: So you and Rob ended up being a good partnership?

JB: Oh yeah. I've already written a couple of tracks and when he came back in there to do the next one. He had to drag me out kicking and screaming. "I don't want to go! I'll move in! I'll live there! I'll sleep on the floor!"

MR: You like the recording process, don't you.

JB: Well to be honest I think I've fallen out of love with it a little bit. I'm more concentrating on live work. A couple years ago I toured all over the world from South America to Japan and all points in between, we did Bonnaroo and all sorts of different things and it was fantastic. But just going in to do this album has made me fall in love with the recording process again. I've come to terms with the technology now. I've got my own little home studio which is remarkable. You can actually get your own studio. So yeah, I'm way back in love with recording. It's different, working with Rob. It's just a different thing. We're a great team.

MR: Yeah. And speaking of teams, you worked with some lyricists on this one, Pete Brown, Kip Hanrahan and Margrit Seyffer.

JB: Yeah, well it's great to still be working with Pete, I think he really came up with the goods on this album. It's all very biographical and though it's a bit dark I think it kind of captured a lot of great things. I'm very pleased with what he's done. Kip's from the Bronx, he's an old friend of mine, Kip Hanrahan and it's a different process, working with him. You really have to hang out with Kip. Every word it's always, "Why do we want this word?" It's very philosophical. And then Margaret, I was so amazed, she came up with the most beautiful words for "Candlelight." She just blew me away with those words. It was so musical, so good.

MR: And let's go back to some of the instrumentalists who joined you, like Phil Manzanera, Robin Trower, Bernie Marsden, and John Medeski. What were some of the adventures with them like?

JB: A lot of the songs I had those people in mind as I was writing, I would say, "Hmm, it would be great to have Phil Manzanera on that track." I worked with him a couple of years ago, we got to know each other really well, we went to Cuba and worked with some Cuban musicians. That was great fun. We've kept our friendship going and he did a great job on that track. And with Robin Trower, as soon as I wrote the bass for "Rusty Lady" I thought, "That is Robin." It's such a dirty kind of riff, "we've got to get Robin in there."

MR: Were there any surprises when they played on your songs? Did you hear the song differently than before?

JB: Phil did kick it up another level as soon as he staretd playing guitar on that track. He just took it to another place, which is what I think a great musician should do. Not just playing, but also making it their own. He did a great job on that.

MR: Now John Medeski came in, was there a certain degree of improv on that?

JB: Well it's all written, but there was a certain amount of improv, certainly on "Reach For The Night," he's got a solo on there and that's an amazing solo.

MR: And you also have the very celebrated Cindy Blackman-Santana.

JB: Yeah, absolutely! We have this band called Spectrum Road which is a kind of improvisation band, metal, jazz, punk, I don't know what you want to call it, but it's kind of inspired by the music of Tony Williams of Lifetime, who I worked with years ago. Vernon Reid is also in the band, and we're all very influenced by Tony, we love his music and we wanted some way to keep the spirit of his music alive. So about five years ago we put this band together. If we're lucky we might play once a year, we might play in Japan or somewhere, we did a European tour a couple of years ago doing the jazz festivals, but we do get together every now and then. I'm very familiar with the playing of Cindy, she's fantastic, you know? She really knows how to play.

MR: Nice. And speaking of people who know how to play, you've teamed up with all sorts of amazing folks like John Mayall, Eric Clapton... Obviously, I have to ask you a couple of Cream questions, but before I get to that, I want to ask how has the evolution of Jack Bruce been affected by other great players in your life?

JB: I think when I was starting out I was very lucky, kind of blessed, really, to play with those great people. Just take Eric as an example. Eric Clapton is not just a great guitar player, he's also got a tremendous knowledge of the blues, he's a musicologist in that sense, whereas I'm not, I don't know very much about blues music as such. I know about the feeling, but maybe not so much else. I guess I was able to absorb so much from all those great people that I played with I think what's happened is I'm now inspired by myself. I know it sounds weird, but I'm kind of taking my inspiration from me because I've been around for so long. You know what I'm saying. If you're writing a novel or something like that you might start off emulating some great writer, but then after a while you're kind of going back and ripping yourself off.

MR: When artists surround themselves with great players, I guess they can't help but grow, huh?

JB: Exactly. I think of recording something such as this album as a team effort although it's definitely my project. You've got to have one guy who's the boss, I think. You've got to have one. If you're making a movie, you can't really have anarchy, you know? I'm the boss, but it's a team and everybody brings what they've got to the table. It's like casting a movie, you get the right guys, you don't even really have to tell them what to play, but they do great. They might come up with a couple of ideas, but they're going to know what to do because of who they are.

MR: You were talking about making the next project already, are you just constantly inspired, the kind of person who always has to write or play?

JB: Well yeah, I'm always writing, I've always got this kind of soundtrack of gibberish in my head because I can go from some ridiculously old tune to some bit of a symphony I might have heard or something that goes round and round and drives me nuts. So I always say, "I might as well write something of my own instead of just putting up with this."

MR: [laughs] You know the place that Cream has in music culture. I'm sure you don't dwell on it, but what are your thoughts on Cream?

JB: Well I think out of the three guys I'm probably the one who looks back with the most affection at that band. It was great for me because it was a vehicle for my writing because of "Sunshine" and the other songs, I was very lucky to have these amazing players interpret those songs. Who knows what would have happened if that band hadn't happened? Apart from that I think it was just a really great band in its own way. I think Frank Zappa described it as a nifty little trio, and I think that kind of sums it up, too. I like to look back and remember the good times with that band, when we started out and we first started having our success and things like that, before evil started creeping in and management and whatever got in the way of the music we had some great times, I'm telling you, we really had some fun times traveling around and playing and feeling that we were making a difference to the musical scene.

MR: Ah, so you do acknowledge that Cream really was amazing.

JB: Oh yeah, absolutely. I think we're all aware of that in different ways. I think we were kind of unsure of ourselves when we first went to the states because there was us, three Brits taking this really American-type music -- I know I felt quite insecure about it, but as soon as we got the reactions from the audiences and from other musicians it was really encouraging. It was a life-changing experience. I don't look back in anger at that band. Things happen, but I'm very fond of it and I'm certainly not ashamed of the songs that came from that band.

MR: Yeah. A lot of important recording artists have said that you influenced them, such as Paul McCartney, Jaco Pastorius, Sting and Flea. When you hear that kind of compliment, what is your reaction? And are there any artists who you can hear yourself in their playing?

JB: There's things that I hear people playing where I know that they got that idea from me but music is like that, you share ideas, really and there's nothing completely original. Nobody's coming up with something that's never happened before, not even somebody like Jimi Hendrix. It's all music, it's all influenced by whatever is around you at the time, there's a feeling in the air, these kind of things happen by osmosis, it's a generational thing; that's also very important. We were the first ones to actually have kids. The original rock 'n' roll, Elvis and all those amazing things that happened when I was nine years old or whatever, it's going to affect you. All the other guys, The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, The Kinks, we were all of a similar age and we all heard the hits and thought, "God, I want to do something like that."

MR: Who were your favorite early influences and do you feel like you're still influenced by them in some way?

JB: Oh yeah. I think probably I was more drawn to the black music. I wasn't even conscious of what people were black or white, coming from Glasgow, but there was a certain feeling in Fats Domino, Ray Charles, those people that I heard, there really was something about that music, I didn't know what it was, but something that I liked a lot. I still listen to a lot of that stuff now. If I'm in the mood for it, it goes on all night and it doesn't stop.

MR: How do you feel about blues these days?

JB: Blues itself, it's difficult for me to say. At least it's still around, but I wouldn't say it's in a tremendously healthy state. But it's always up and down, the real blues, isn't it? I think at least it's still around, because if it hadn't been for people like the Stones and people like that the blues could easily have disappeared in the states, because nobody was really into it, espeically the young black kids. To them it was not considered hip to listen to Robert Johnson or Skip James. In a funny way we kind of brought attention to those guys, like Muddy Waters and so on.

MR: I had to get some of your history in here, but to back to Silver Rails, it's a very personal album. What motivated you to make a more personal album?

JB: I think all of my albums are pretty personal. I think this one, because of the age I am and the experiences I've had it feels quite reflective. I wouldn't quite say it's looking back, but it's sort of looking sideways. Obviously, you get to seventy and you think, "What's next?" We're all affected like that. It's a personal album but I think a lot of the things that are in there apply to a lot of people of all ages. I'd like to think so anyway. I think there's little things in there that people can understand. I think it's more accessible than a lot of my previous things.

MR: There's a deluxe edition of this release, did your daughter direct the documentary portion?

JB: She did. She deigned to take some time off her own work. I begged her and she agreed to do it cheap. She's very talented. Her film is in a competition soon as one of the three first movies. It's looking good for her, it's very competetive, very difficult, but she's very talented and very dedicated. I think when you see the making of DVD, she's done a great job.

MR: So you're a very proud papa?

JB: Oh yeah, all of my kids, I'm very proud of all of them. They're all very talented and very great people. I learn stuff from them all the time. In fact the whole beginning of this album came from one of my kids, who played me a couple of tracks about a year ago when I first started to write songs, he played me this track by a band called Om, which was his favorite band at the time. I really enjoyed it. It was very interesting for me to hear what the kids were doing. I took a little inspiration from that, I said, "Why not have it going that way instead of this way?"

MR: What advice do you have for new artists?

JB: Well the first thing I would say is never give up, because it's not going to be easy. Just don't give up. The second thing I would say, which is a pretty standard answer, is get a good lawyer... Although I've never managed to get one. [laughs] I'm still looking. Do you know anybody?

MR: [laughs] What does the future look like for Jack Bruce? Is there anything you haven't gotten to that you'd really like to?

JB: Well I might play a few gigs, some nice summer festivals, they're always fun to do, nice and laid back, not trudging around in the snow. I like it nice and easy nowadays. But yeah, apart from that my huge ambition is to get back in Abbey Road next winter. I'll spend some time in my garden as well, that would be nice.

MR: Well all the best for that.

JB: Thank you very much, Mike, I appreciate your call.

MR: Thank you!

Transcribed By Galen Hawthorne

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Mike Ragogna: Andy, let's take a few minutes to talk about Circa Zero and your new documentary.

Andy Summers: That's why I'm here!

MR: Sweet. Okay, how did Circa Zero form?

AS: It's an awfully standard short story. I met Rob Giles, the singer, here in L.A. We're musicians, we live in Los Angeles. He was in a group that was managed by an English friend of mine who introduced me to the band, they called it The Rescues. In that time--it was a couple of years ago--I worked with other singers, I was writing other songs, I was thinking about doing another rock band and I was working on a lot of tracks, but I think I was sort of searching for the right voice, you could say. I saw the rescues a couple of times, but by the time I saw them twice I was right on the verge of it, I had everything ready but I was still a bit unsure about the vocalist. As I met Rob, The Rescues were sort of on the brink of breaking up, so I met him and talked to him and asked his manager if he'd like to come to the studio and sing something with me. He did and we hit it off and I knew in about ten minutes flat that this was the guy I'd been looking for. He's a wonderful singer and a great musician. We just completely clicked, the chemistry was there. Once we got going we started to meet on a daily basis, which was great. He's a great drummer, but he also plays rock bass as well as a bit of guitar and of course is a fantastic singer, so we have a very good hookup. That's basically the story. We worked on and off over about six months putting the album together and then it's taken us a lot longer than that to find the manage,r the agents, the record company, and getting the whole thing up and running.

MR: Andy, how did you guys create the material? Was it in the studio or over the internet?

AS: I have a fully equipped studio in Venice Beach, California. I've done everything there for years, I've made many records and film scores, everything. It's a great room with ProTools set up. We just set up in there. Basically, the way it starts is that we sit on the couch with a couple of guitars and while I play the thing he'll try some stuff on the Roland electronic drum kit which we play a lot. Then maybe we put some bass on it and sing on it and that's our demo. We got a number of things going and then over a period of time we'd work on the material and keep upping the ante on it until we felt that it was getting better and better. I think that process was also where we found out how to work together and what our collective voice was. Hence the record that you have there, I presume.

MR: How would you describe what's going on creatively on the album?

AS: Well I do think it's a spectacular process. I just came from Universal Records in Santa Monica and met everyone for the monthly meeting. It was a great vibe. I have to say, I haven't done something like that for a while, talking to the people who go out there and actually sell your product. It was great. A very strong vibe. It's so hard to find that really special chemistry. It's a rare thing, actually. I actually felt like I had that. It's my first time singing since Sting and I were together, so it was all the there. He should be a great, famous singer. He's got all the stuff, but he needs to sell it. We got very excited early on. [whispers] "Hey, let's make a classic rock band..." I think what we were going for was guitar-driven rock, but not as heavy as, say, The Foo Fighters or Metallica or anything. We wanted it to be edgy but quite lyrical, I think. I've done a lot of music, I've done jazz and Brazilian music and all kinds of stuff as well as obviously rock. I think it was those two sensibilities coming together where we wanted something really fresh with a kind of youthful drive, but rock music. We weren't trying to do anything too strange and alternative and indie, at this point we thought it was most important to make a record with a lot of killer songs and guitar parts and all the rest of it. And obviously, it's going to come out how it's going to come out, obviously it's dominated by Rob's voice and there's a lot of guitar parts on it.

MR: And more natural and honest, speaking to what you guys are about.

AS: Yeah! It was very natural, great fun, we didn't do anything we didn't like. This is not like two people from another genre saying, "How about you make a rock record?" "Well I don't really like that." We've completely embraced what we're doing. We're fans of our own style.

MR: Did you have any "Look what we've created!" moments where everything gelled beyond expectations?

AS: On most of the songs we did! "Levitation" came together pretty quickly. I had some stuff, the main riff, the chorus, the opening, and then Rob came in and fixed a chorus line, it sort of introduced me to where Rob could go. He's an amazing compendium of rock and pop, you might say. He's got a lot of sources to draw on. That was very pleasing. They're all so strong. What it is, I think, is that we start with something and then we explore the rest of the song together, "Let's try this, let's try that." It might be adding a guitar tone or a weird chord I'm playing that makes the chorus and will promote him into a particular melodic line. Another good example would be the very first thing we did. "No Highway," that was a song that I had written myself, I had a complete song, so I showed him how it went and he said, "Well, what if we change the main line," and he started singing it with a completely different melody and I thought, "Okay, that's different, that's not what I had but okay." We put our little demos out that day and when he went away I came up with that signature guitar line--we've got it like eight times at the beginning and eight times at the end--then we found another little bridge and you proceed on like that and it became a really strong piece. But the thing about the two of us working together is that we don't really seem to disagree on anything. We seem to find it together and it's like, "Ah-hah, that's what we were looking for."

MR: How was it working with Emmanuelle Capalette also?

AS: Emmanuelle is great. I should tell you, she's not in the band anymore. She's a fantastic drummer, and a real sweetheart. The problem that we all finally mutually agreed on a couple weeks ago is that she lives in Montreal, we're all in LA, it just became sort of impossible, getting her in and out to rehearse. You can imagine. She had so much work in France and Canada anyway that we couldn't really carry on with her. It was a cute idea, "Let's get a girl drummer," we found her on the internet. We went to China with her, we played a couple of shows in Shanghai, we did one in LA.

MR: Whose sense of humor was at work with the album title Circus Hero?

AS: I know, it's ridiculous. Really where that came from is about a year ago I was in New York for the premiere of my movie at the New York Film Festival, and I did a couple of interviews while I was there. I was on this early morning radio station and the guy said, "Yeah, here he is with the new record from Circus Hero!" and I went, "Oh, god. It's Circa. Zero." But anyway I told Rob and he said, "Yeah, we should call the album that." Just to be a little bit weird. I thought about the early police albums where we had all these weird titles that kind of got people's attention. Might as well have fun with it. And we've got that great cover, the girl with the flying trapeze.

MR: Andy, you mentioned The Police a little, so let's talk about the documentary. Can't Stand Losing You: Surviving The Police. When you looked at that piece when it was done, do you think that period in your life was captured properly? How do you feel about it all these years later?

AS: That film was a long time coming. We worked on that for about five and a half years, stopping and starting. It's a typical film saga. It's finally going to see the light of day. It's been out in Holland and theatrically distributed in Japan already, but I think it's getting theatrical distribution in America in July. I've been so long on it that I'm sort of emotionally detached from it. I think all the stuff I had to go through on this project was really the writing on this book which was obviously much denser, but you can't photograph every page of a book. The film is something else where instead of my literary device that the book had of telling the story in twenty four hours, they used The Police Around The World concert footage. It does have a lot of emotions, but I don't see it and break down into tears, I just sort of laugh about it now. If you don't laugh, you're going to cry. I see the tensions in The Police. There are a few moments when you go, "Christ, yes, I remember it so well," but I also see all the fun aspects of it. I think I've been a very lucky guy and I've had a fantastic life with all this stuff.

MR: Especially with the mark that The Police left on pop culture.

AS: Yeah, it's amazing. Going into Universal, I was sort of gobsmacked. People came and bowed down to me and asked for pictures and I said, "Well, okay!" I'm still amazed by it. It doesn't go away. It's great. I'm very thankful for it.

MR: And I imagine in some respects, this film is like looking at a scrapbook, with moments like, "God, I can't believe that happened," etc.

AS: Yeah, there's all of those. There's been so much of it, and we touch on it in the film, there's some amazing moments on that two-year tour. One of my favorite moments in the movie is that karaoke bar. That was completely spontaneous but it's kind of symbolic of how far the music of The Police went when you walk through the backstreets of Tokyo and there they are singing our songs. That was a completely off-the-wall moment, I just walked into the bar and joined in with them.

MR: I also want to go to your post-Police period, especially when you composed for films.

AS: Yeah, I did film scoring for a while, and then I really got into making my own records which were a lot more jazz-based, I made twelve or thirteen of those.

MR: I saw you at a couple of conventions, once during a sound check they just couldn't get right. I felt bad for you.

AS: Well, these things happen. When you've done enough of it you pass through all of the permutations of what it's like to get on the stage and play and what the sound's going to be and how you feel and all of those things but you can't let it knock you down. You just have to keep going, whatever happens. It can't always be great. Sometimes conditions aren't perfect, but you've got to be a pro and soldier through it, because there's always going to be another one.

MR: Do you have a favorite movie of all the ones you've scored?

AS: Maybe Down And Out In Beverly Hills.

MR: Yeah, that was beautiful. I'm a sci-fi geek so 2010 was pretty special to me.

AS: Yeah, that was a fun project too. I did a video for that one and it almost killed me.

MR: And then, of course, there's your solo career. Minus the collaborative element, does Circa Zero basically supply to you the same process for creating an album?

AS: Well you've got to collaborate to some degree with people. The thing with Rob Giles and I, we literally get together and say, "Well I've been working on this stuff." We don't literally start in a vacuum. I'm always writing and taping and recording things and ideas, so I've usually got something that might be good and I say, "Let's see where this goes," and I'll wait for a reaction. I usually like to start with something. I think with Rob and I, we've sort of learned to trust the process and be secure with it. Even with all of my solo albums I'll generallly write everything and then I'll bring in the rhythm section or whatever and I've written all the charts out, but then I'm expecting them to bring their stuff to it, which I'm monitoring so I can say, "Well we really want the drums to do that right there, let's just change that up," espeically with jazz; it's improvisational music. A guy's gonna come and he plays the way he plays, and that's what you're looking for. Otherwise, you would go into a different process where you'd be writing every single part out. Rock or jazz don't really work that way. What you want is the player who's got some sort of conceptual imagination. You might record a track and listen back and say, "That's not quite right, let's change the bass drum part" or something, but that comes from being a musician all your life and hopefully having the talent to go, "I don't want it like that. That's not what I quite want emotionally." This is really being a musician and composer.

MR: You own a couple of Grammys, but also, for five years, you were voted number one guitar player in Guitar Player Magazine and you're in the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame.

AS: I'll take all those awards, thanks very much, but I don't take it all that seriously to be honest. You know what it's like, just go on YouTube, see how many incredible guitar players there are in the world. It's insane! "Who's the best guitar player" doesn't really exist, there are many, many great guitar players who just aren't known. You can't really take it seriously. Some people get ahead if they get in the right band, like The Police or The Who and they make a real serious impact and people start copying your style and what you're doing. I don't think The Police really took it in a different direction and that's been seriously emulated. I think as a musician you have to go forward without taking much notice of that, but listening to your own voice on the inside. It's going to make you crazy if people are always saying, "Oh, are you watching YouTube?" I don't want to watch it. I feel like I'm drowning in all this stuff. I don't need to know that much. I'll never pick up a bloody guitar again if I hear that.

MR: When you do these occasional Police reunions, what's going through your mind?

AS: Police is sort of famously known as being a somewhat fraught band. There's some truth, but it's not entirely the case at all. We wouldn't have done a reunion tour if it was just nothing but that. There is a camaraderie there. You've got to remember in the early days we slogged around in a van. We were three brothers doing it together, watching out for each other. But if you get as big as we got, things get somewhat "toxic," let's say. I certainly felt that going on a Police reunion tour wasn't going to be easy, and some of that stuff would probably surface, but the main thing was to stay centered and get through it and not get freaked out and walk out the door doing it. There was sort of an element of "Okay, gotta keep this together, gotta keep this together or else we're not even going to get to the first show." But we did. Hopefully there's a tiny bit of wisdom there. We kept it together and we had an amazing tour.

MR: It's sort of like family. You're going to resort to the type of behavior that you had as friends.

AS: It's classic stuff for bands. It's like a marriage, it starts to go sour, but you say, "Let's grow up and remember what we're really here for and what we're really good at." So we played thirty, forty, fifty thousand people a night and they just go nuts and there's such love coming at you. "Can we not bicker and quarrel backstage because look at this! It's incredible! We're making a lot of people happy."

MR: There we go. It seemed like The Police were very connected with the fans. I'm sure this follows through everything you do and maybe gives you the motivation to keep it together.

AS: Absolutely. No fans, no audience, you're going to be doing it in your bedroom. You need a certain amount of cognizance and goodwill about all that. You don't have to force it, I'm generally very happy to meet people, they enjoy what I'm doing, they'll come up and say "Thank you, you're so great" I like that.

MR: What is your advice for new artists?

AS: It's all the clichés. Just do it if you love it. I don't think you can start trying to meet commercial needs because it's what you should do. I think you've got to do what you really want to do. Otherwise I don't know if it's the life for you.

MR: What would you have told Andy Summers when he was beginning?

AS: I would say, "Do what's in your heart and don't go away from it." and I did. I've never played for money-- I know I've got a lot. But it's the same with me and Rob Giles, we're doing what we love. I try to tell myself that all the time.

MR: How do you see Circa Zero's future?

AS: Well it's interesting because it's a different time. I don't want to use the word "Mainstream," but this isn't esoteric jazz or art music or anything, these are rock songs with big hooks that should appeal to a much wider audience. The whole landscape has changed. The record stores have gone, it's much harder to sell CDs, so it's just major social media. Many years ago you would've been playing in clubs for the next five years of your life, hoping that eventually you'd blow a major audience away. I don't think that would hold water anymore. Obviously we've done a little bit of playing but we haven't done any major touring. But I think what we need to do is get our music out there and let people hear the songs and either get on a big tour or try and crack it through the internet and YouTube. Otherwise it's a big grind that can be a bit meaningless at this point. That's my philosophy. I'm dying to come out and play, and we will be playing this summer for sure.

MR: How will Circa Zero affect your solo career?

AS: Well right now this is the main project for me. I've got one solo record waiting in the wings but I don't really want to confuse the issue because we're obviously going to be making a lot of noise with this and I've been doing a lot of interviews with it. I'm happy to just hold it there. I've made many records on tour for years. I'll just put it on the back burner while we really have a go of it with this band.

MR: Andy, what's going on with your photography these days?

AS: It's continuing, as it were. I just did a big show, it was up for three months at the beautiful Leica Gallery in Los Angeles. That was fun. I'm going to do another one with the independent photo festival, which is part of the Paris photo festival in late April. Then I'm also slotted to do one in Shanghai and Beijing in May.

MR: When you look at your creative expression between photography and music, are there similarities?

AS: I'm asked that many times. I think there are a lot of similar processes. Obviously, it's a different medium, but I feel like I can bring the information that I have from music into photography to some extent. Shooting with a camera is a lot of improvising. I'm used to starting with nothing, but just like music I've built up a whole catalog of images, pictures, shapes, lines, and so forth in my head of what I can do through the camera. Again it's a mindset and a tool, just like how a guitar and your mind are two things that work together. Photography's not about the camera, it's about the mind. I'm still enjoying it a lot. I was in China a few weeks ago, back in October, actually. I had a great time shooting there, I'm looking forward to going back and being able to do that.

MR: Does looking through the lens of the camera inspire you creatively and vice versa?

AS: It's hard to be real specific about that. Some of the places I've been have influenced my mindset in terms of music as well.

Transcribed by Galen Hawthorne