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60 Seconds With ... Andy Summers

January 03, 2008|Jason Gelt

Best known as the guitarist for seminal superband the Police, Andy Summers' list of artistic achievements include the Guitar Player Hall of Fame, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, more than two dozen solo albums and photography, as seen in "I'll Be Watching You: Inside the Police, 1980-1983," a striking visual record of that time. He'll sign copies at Amoeba Music on Tuesday at 6 p.m.

WHO ARE YOUR PHOTOGRAPHIC INFLUENCES?

Ralph Gibson, Lee Friedlander, Diane Arbus, Cartier-Bresson, Robert Frank -- that was the school I was turned on by. I was really influenced by black-and-white imagery and living the life I was -- on the road -- that approach felt suited to me. It's sort of like playing guitar -- you hear something or look at something or feel something and you want to emulate it.

WHAT'S THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN PHOTOGRAPHY AND MUSIC?

In my own primitive way, I'm looking for harmonic content in a photograph. When you look through the lens, you're seeing a chord with all its harmonic extensions and its asymmetry. Going out in the street and shooting, just following your eye, you are improvising in the sense that a musician improvises.

YOU HAVE A VIBRANT, SHOOT-FROM-THE-HIP STYLE.

We were living a hyper-reality, and at some level that's what I was trying to get with the photography, this somewhat otherworldly existence we were passing through. I'm always looking for a more expressionistic, surrealistic, gritty kind of imagery. I enjoy going out on the streets late at night, shooting with fast film. I'm not interested in portrait photography of celebrities, which I find boring.

YOU'VE JUST RELEASED A CD, "FIRST YOU BUILD A CLOUD . . . ," WITH A CLASSICAL GUITARIST.

I met Ben Verdery at a guitar festival four years ago, and we immediately hit it off. We got a commission from Yale University to do a concerto for electrical and classical guitar with orchestra, which we eventually performed at Carnegie Hall. The album is improvised; we found a way to play together that was very non-generic, building a voice out of two disparate disciplines, which made it a very fresh kind of music. I'm very proud of that CD.

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Jason.Gelt @latimes.com

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