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So You Say | Andy Summers

Old gold top helps readers with their enquiries.

This month Police guitarist Andy Summers answers questions sent in by One Two reader C. J. Etherton from Brighton.

What are the best and the worst gigs you've ever played?

"I've had that one before... er... (stares at ceiling for inspiration). It sounds a bit corny but the best gig was probably at Shea Stadium in New York, The worst... well... I've played a lot of bad gigs in my time... but thinking about it, one of the worst was right after Shea, the next date at the JFK Stadium in Philadelphia. It's a concrete bowl which starts at ground level and goes down. It was 110 degrees at 3.00 in the afternoon with an arc of white lights around us. I've seen a picture of me at the gig and it looks like a man who should be six feet under. My blood was boiling in my veins, I wanted to throw up on stage. That wasn't a lot of fun."

What's your favourite guitar?

"I suppose it's still the Tele. I've got a lot of beautiful guitars but that one sails on through all the others."

Do you still play much classical guitar?

"Not a lot. On this tour at the beginning of the summer I took about 10 pieces of music and thought in an odd moment I'd relearn a few and pick it up, but of course they sat in the suitcase and when I came back for a few days, I took them all out and put them away. At least I found them again. There's really no time, honestly. There's never enough time to do any work because we're always working."

If you couldn't play guitar, which instrument would you choose instead?

"The piano. I think it's the easiest, all the literature is written. If I was starting all over again; I'd play classical piano."

Which strings do you use?

"Dean Markley. I used to use Ernie Balls but they're a bit twangy. Generally a set runs from 10 or 46 or 42. I actually lightened up a bit on this tour. Last time I was playing with a heavier set... I must be getting weaker. The theory is that you use heavier and heavier strings to get the best tone, but slightly lighter ones are better for rock."

Which guitar did you use on the track Synchronicity II and how did you get that feedback effect in the middle?

"That was mostly on the Strat, double tracked twice, with maybe a Les Paul in one place. I laid down the basic track as it is and maybe overdubbed one section and took out the original.

"Now let's see if I can get this in the right order. We had this section we called The Loch which was supposed to go in the middle but wasn't working. We were all sitting around, unable to work anything out and I suggested we just do something completely off the wall and see what happens.

"So I was in the studio with the Strat and two Marshalls full up, waiting for them to run the track. I put the headphones on and started messing around with the feedback, really giving it one... six minutes of screeching with my life passing before me on the guitar!

"After a while I looked up and they're all staring at me in shock, calling me into the control room. I walk in saying 'why don't you play the track' and they said, we did, it's incredible. They could hear it in the control room, I couldn't hear anything in the phones. So that's what we stuck in the middle. I've got a tape of the whole six minutes — it's one of the best things I've ever done in my life."

If you have a series of questions you'd like us to launch at your favourite musician, write to us at So You Say, One Two Testing, (Contact Details).

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