01.22.2008 - Andy Summers interview in The Courier Mail newspaper...
Message in a vintage bottle...
There is something surreal about a much-photographed rocker having viewed much of his own career through a camera lens.
While drummer Stewart Copeland was armed with a film camera, The Police guitarist Andy Summers spent the band's 1980s heyday armed with a Leica, snapping black-and-white shots of his bandmates, and occasionally himself, behind the scenes.
Summers' work was published last year and now comprises a photographic exhibition, I'll Be Watching You: Inside The Police 1980-1983, at Sydney's Blender Gallery in Paddington.
It has followed the band around the world on their reunion tour, although sadly it won't make it to Brisbane.
Summers agrees it can be strange looking at the band from the perspective of then and now.
"I can't say I am standing around in some twilight zone experiencing deja vu," he says.
"Yes, it is the same band but we are in a new moment, we're not living in the past."
But there are profound differences between The Police circa 1983 and their post-millennial version which extend beyond the subtle reinventions of their hits.
Summers says there is less incentive to photograph them now and he indulges his hobby by exploring the cities they are in, mostly in the early hours of the morning after the band's concerts.
"The existence of the band is very isolated and somewhat insular; it's a bit different from the old days.
"The photographs show you the transition from driving ourselves in a van to flying in a private plane.
"We were much more on the ground and in the streets, a life closer to the fans then.
"This time it is such a big deal and it's a different industry, it's kinda surreal. You leave the hotel, get out of the van backstage, play the show and leave.
"And I feel more self-conscious about shoving a camera in the other guys' faces. But I never asked people to pose."
The 65-year-old guitarist does seem to be indulging some youthful behaviour on the reunion tour.
There's his South Park "They killed Kenny" guitar strap and those late-night excursions into the dark side of town.
"That's something I have always done when I have travelled; it's an addiction, a slightly junkie aspect and I really get off on it," he says of the shoots.
"It can get dodgy and these days I usually take somebody with me to watch my back if I am heading into the backstreets."
One of the more intriguing images of the Summers collection is a snap of a toilet paper roll unravelled in a hotel corridor with "HELP" scrawled in black texta.
That was shot during the height of The Police 1980s superstardom when the band was trapped in a Mexico City hotel for a few days. The isolation was countered with humour rather than rock star behaviour.
"The hotel was surrounded by fans for three days and we couldn't leave. We had to go through the kitchen," Summers recalls. "And I would rather watch a television than throw it out the window."
An early attempt at indulging the whims of celebrity when they were on the Australian leg of their 1980 world tour backfired.
The band's promoter invited the trio and their crew on a harbour cruise, this time on Melbourne's Port Phillip Bay rather than the preferred Sydney Harbour.
"One of the promoters said, 'C'mon boys, we will take you out in a flash boat'. We all thought 'OK, we really are rock stars now'," Summers says, chuckling. "And then the engine died. So we were towed back to shore with our tails between our legs."
When they returned to Australia four years later, it would be their last shows.
"That was a bit strange. We're about to play in front of 50,000 people in Melbourne. We're doing these interviews and meeting people telling us 'It must be great to be in The Police' and all that kind of stuff and you're nodding and smiling, knowing it is your last gig," he says.
"There was the big scene after the show. But that won't be the case this time."
The Police reunion tour is scheduled to finish in Europe in July.
After that, who knows - and Summers isn't saying. Whether they will record a new album and remain together as The Eagles have done is anyone's guess.
"Well, we don't have to wonder if we're going to do a reunion tour. We did it," he says.
"Should we go on or not? We've played our arses off and there have been some very high moments on this tour."
© Courier Mail (Brisbane) by Kathy NcCabe