Andy Summers says that touring with the Police during 2007-2008 whetted his appetite to play in a rock band again -- and helped give birth to his new group, Circa Zero, whose debut album, "Circus Hero," comes out March 25.
Though his solo work has tended to be in jazz, World and experimental music, Summers tells Billboard that "it was obviously exciting to be out there playing rock again. I certainly felt like I could do it again. But you've got to remember I came out of a band that was probably one of the biggest bands of all time, an incredible band with a really great vocalist, and that's a very hard thing to follow with another band and not get slagged off for it -- unless you find some absolute magic with another singer. It was a daunting thing to try."
Summers found that magic with Rob Giles, a multi-instrumentalist playing in a Los Angeles band called the Rescues, which was managed by one of the guitarist's friends.
"I knew in about 10 minutes this guy's really got it," Summers recalls. "I loved his voice and his ability to phrase. I had a track that already had another guy singing on it, but Rob just completely blew it away. It was like fate putting a hand in the studio room. And Rob said, 'Y'know, we should really do a great rock record together."
And rock is the operative term, as "Circus Hero" -- titled after a radio DJ's mispronunciation of the band name -- hits hard, maybe even harder than what Summers did in his previous band.
"I think it's heavier and edgier than most of the Police stuff -- it's more aggressive, generally," he explains. "The basic goal was 'Let's make a rock record,' as simple as that, and when we say 'rock' we mean ROCK, not soft rock or folk rock or anything else but a real rock-driven band record. I'm not trying to play jazz or anything else on this record. It's rock."
Listeners will get their first taste of Circa Zero with the single "Levitation" -- here it exclusively, above -- which was built from a riff Summers came up with during a writing session. "Rob heard it and said, 'That's nice. Let's come up with something over that,' and it just kind of developed. We really built that one up between the two of us."
Summers says he and Giles have already started working on material for a second album, on which Summers predicts the duo will "push the boat out a bit more. I think 'Circus Hero' is pretty... accessible, in a really nice way. I think we would add some more spice the second time around. I think we'll give ourselves permission to do that, stretch a bit as it were."
Summers says the material he and Giles have so far "are great to play live," which Circa Zero will be doing at this year's South By Southwest Music + Media Conference -- and beyond, if all goes according to plan. Meanwhile, Summers' documentary "Can't Stand Losing You: Surviving the Police" will also be part of the South By Southwest Film Festival and is coming to U.S. theaters in late spring, with a DVD release likely later in the year.