Andy Summers Recalls Not Wanting to Play Guitar After The Police Disbanded, Reveals Who Brought Him Back to It

Andy Summers, legendary guitar player known for his work in The Police, discussed his career, focusing on the creative side of things and how he comes up with new music. Discussing his current musical endeavors in an interview with Adam Levy, Summers was asked whether he experiments with different sounds as he writes stuff. He then explained how guitar effects that he uses make an impact (transcribed by Killer Guitar Rigs):

“I didn’t sit at home and try to write out on manuscript this exact thing — you can’t. Because I’m a complete full-of-music musician. I’ve got my stuff down there, and so sometimes — this sounds weird — I sort of let the effects, or pedals, or whatever I’ve got, however I combine them, guide me, because I will be looking for a fresh — let’s just say ‘sonic’ — quality, which you could also call ‘sound.'”

Andy Summers Live 1991・Bill Evans(Sax), Mitch Forman(Key), Darryl Jones(Bs), Chad Wackerman(Ds)

“I’ll go, ‘Oh, that’s good. Yeah, that kind of thing. Let me see if I can guide it into a formed composition’, rather than writing out the whole melody and harmony and all that and then trying to just play it.”

As Andy further adds, his idea is to “catch the ear” of the listener, so to speak. And for that, using musical elements together with sonic textures is the key:

“Because I’m looking for something that catches the ear, and in today’s world it’s sort of got to be stranger, sonic, blah, blah, blah. And I know that I’ve got all the harmony and melodic lines inside me anyway, but I let the ‘sonic things’ guide me.”

Andy Summers | Breakfast jam...!

For Andy, most of the music he makes is not all planned out ahead. Instead, he prefers to have a more spontaneous approach:

“Most of the albums were done that way. Not fully prepared. ‘Here are the twelve songs I’ve got, they’re all written out, this is your part.’ No, this was like the lone wolf going in with the pedals.”

And, of course, there’s also the engineer/producer aspect to it:

“I have a very musical engineer that understands that, and we sort of collaborate on trying to get that thing together, like other people I know. I now have millions of pedals and things. I’ve tried to sort of stay on top of it. Occasionally, something new comes out that’s worth a glance, but not very often.”

Andy Summers Interview (The Late Late Show 1981)

“Mostly, it’s the same old shit — echo, chorus, fuzz, Boss… They keep making it. We’ve got enough, guys. Okay? I’ve got a few weird ones that I like to use.”

“So part of you as a guitarist, part of you as the sonic technician, and you’re combining pedals, trying to get something that’s ear-catching in itself, and it may guide you into a composition and then see how good you are if you can come up with something interesting.”

“But that’s kind of how I did that group of the last three records. Next, I want to go play drums and bass and do something a bit more raw. A little bit different. Sort of unadulterated guitar with a great bass player and drummer.”

Andy Summers | Roxanne (instrumental)

During the interview, Summers was also asked what keeps the guitar “fresh” for him. And he simply explained that he couldn’t imagine his life without the instrument:

“I’ve never gotten tired of it. I enjoy it. I like playing guitars. I mean, I can’t even imagine life without it, because it’s been part of me since I was a kid. Yeah, okay, life is terrible, but you’ve still got the guitar, so whatever.”

“It’s sort of a central fact of your existence because you come back to it. I never got bored with it.”

Andy Summers, Last Dance of Mr X @ Ridgefield Playhouse, July 23 2023

However, it wasn’t always sunshine and rainbows for Andy and his approach to guitar. As he recalls, there was a certain period where he just didn’t feel like playing:

“Maybe, oddly, I say that — I’m just catching myself — I think right after The Police, I sort of went through a weird period — now I’m thinking about it — where I didn’t want to play it much anymore.”

“I would do shows, I made records, but I barely picked up the guitar. It was a sort of weird head trip that I went through.”

Andy Summers, Larry Coryell, Trilok Gurtu - Live In Belgrade 1996.

But all that changed when he got the chance to play with another guitar legend — jazz master Larry Coryell:

“And then I went on tour with Larry Coryell — the two of us played together. Larry is a very enthusiastic person and actually, he was a catalyst — he brought me back to it. And I’ve, you know, played and toured with Larry, I started playing all the time again, and it’s never gone away again.”

The tour he’s talking about took place sometime in the 1990s. The Police called it a day in the 1980s, with five massive albums behind them, so Andy focused his attention on his solo career. The legendary trio did get back together on a few occasions, including the reunion tour in 2007 and 2008.

Larry Coryell, Andy Summers, & Trilok Gurtu 1996 NSJF: "Nuages".

Photo: S Pisharam (Andy Summers 2007)

  • David Slavkovic

    David always planned for music to be nothing more than a hobby. However, after a short career as an agricultural engineer he ended up news editor at KillerGuitarRigs, senior editor at, as well as a freelance contributor to online magazines such as GuitaristNextdoor and brands like Sam Ash.