Vocals from Sting
Cris Cohen: Now earlier you brought up the tune “Round Midnight.” Why did you have Sting do the vocals on that track?
Andy Summers: There's the obvious reason that everyone likes to see him and I connected on something. But also, he does sing this with that husky, non-vibrato quality he's got to his singing that I thought was perfect for this. So it's just a nice thing that everybody would like. But the truth is, he can sing this stuff really well. So, it wasn't difficult to put together. I called and asked if he was interested in doing it. He was very responsive. It was on me then to construct the backing track that he could put the vocal on. I did (that) and then flew to Italy, where he was living, to get him on it. It was a good experience.
Cris Cohen: What direction did you get from Phil Collen of Def Leppard?
Troy Luccketta of Tesla: Phil came in to produce the "Shock" record. We were excited about that. And we were going to really be a hands-off band. Let him make the record he wanted to make. The first thing he told me was, "I want to be able to air drum the record." So in other words, nothing fancy. Don't give me these freakin' paradiddles and all this cool jazz stuff you play. We sat down and listened to the tracks and we discussed. And three and a half days later we had the drum stuff. And I hadn't played (to) any of the tracks until I actually recorded them. Because I didn't want those preconceived ideas about what I was going to do or thought I should do. I wanted to work with him.
Cris Cohen: I think it's also interesting, releasing "The Things You Wanted To Do" just as a downloadable / streaming single. It’s like, “Okay, how can we adapt to this new, bizarre music world?”
Fred LeBlanc of Cowboy Mouth: How can we make it work for us? Instead of making an album with anywhere from 11 to 14 songs, and you put it out there, it disappears from the public consciousness within a month, and you're still out there trying to sell it.
At this point, it's kind of like going back to the early 50s and 60s, where people used to put out singles. This is where we are at this moment. And they could do that every three months or six months or a year, depending on when they had good material, or when it was good for the marketplace, or when it was good for the band.
I like that, because everything will be very recent. Back in the days of albums, you could write a quality song. It could mean something to you or it could be your state of mind, and it still might not see the light of day for years.
And even if you're digging up old songs, there's always the chance of finding new meaning, like with “The Things You Wanted To Do.” When we did the first test of it, I was going through a pretty gnarly divorce, and all of those old songs all of a sudden had brand new relevance for me. And so, when I was singing and performing them, it was like I had just written them. It's good to be in touch emotionally with what you're doing and what you're putting out there so you can back it up with that certain force of belief and energy and emotion behind it.
Cris Cohen: Yeah, definitely. If you're not connecting with it then…
Fred LeBlanc: How can I expect 100,000 people to connect with it.
Cris Cohen: Right.
The Perfect Conduit
Cris Cohen: Did you ever have actual lessons or was it all...
Kryz Reid of Third Eye Blind: No. All self-taught. No, it was just watching Jimi Hendrix on (video tape), rewinding the fucking thing, and going, "How is he doing it?" That kind of stuff. But the thing is, when I started learning to play the guitar, I had already had a few girlfriends. I had been deeply in love. I had my heart completely smashed and all of that. And I'm an arty little fucker. I was always drawing and sketching and stuff like that as a kid. So, for me, (music was) the perfect conduit for all of that.
Rough Around The Edges
Cris Cohen: In addition to the producing you've done for your own band, you've been producing other artists. How has producing other artists influenced how you create sounds or songs for The Wind and The Wave?
Dwight Baker of The Wind and The Wave: I don't know how much you know about my discography, but there's a guy that I've made his last eight records with named Bob Schneider. Kind of a legend from around here (Texas). He's the type of guy who will sell out Bowery Ballroom up in New York in an hour when he puts tickets on sale.
When I first started producing, he was one of the first real records that I did. He's so fly by the seat of your pants, and I'm so organized that, for my Type-A brain, it was a very difficult record for me to make. I never knew if I was even getting anything usable. It's just so scattered and everything's just coming out of him, because he's a true, genuine artist. But that process kind of informed the rest of my record making, in that it's okay if it's rough around the edges. It's okay if you're not sure if you have it on day one. It's cool to let people just try their stuff on it and see what you have the next day or the next.
Different Approaches To Cover Songs
Cris: When you do cover songs, how much do you try and capture a note-for-note reproduction and how much do you try and just get the feel and let yourself kind of shine through?
Brian Nevin of Big Head Todd and the Monsters: Great question. Actually, it's a good little timing on that because we released a cover we did with John Popper, the harp player from Blues Traveler. We did a version of Bruce Springsteen's "Rosalita" with Popper doing the sax part (on harmonica), which is killer. But to respond to your question, so I'm listening to (the original track). It's some serious drumming on that track. That was Springsteen's I think first drummer. It was Vini Lopez I think was his name. "Mad Dog" Lopez I think, if I recall. I could be wrong on that, but I think that was his name. I like his drumming. Those first couple of Springsteen records, he plays a lot more like a kid from the block who you know has some Latin roots. I mean he had a feel. Totally different than Max Weinberg. But Max should be the guy. Point is, on that one I actually tried to play his style because I like his style on that song. So I did try and learn his licks and how he'd play them. Push the fills. They rush a little in this section. Keep the groove. But generally, if we're going to do a cover, I actually try and separate myself from the original part and try and hear it from (the perspective of) our song. How would we play this? So I usually don't go to the original drum track first. I think it keeps it fresher. I think the idea when you do a cover is it's us doing that song.
Cris: When you joined Y&T, what did you learn about this band that you didn't know as an outside fan?
Mike Vanderhule of Y&T: I'd say first off -- just in my audition playing together -- how good they are. They are a really good bunch of musicians. You know how it is when you start playing with other people… how you interact and how it grooves… just incredible. And then what a great singer Dave Meniketti is. The guy's incredible night after night. He's always spot on and sounds better than he did when he was 18 years old.
Converting Piano To Guitar
Cris Cohen: Regarding your album “Green Chimneys: The Music of Thelonious Monk,” what are the challenges in playing pieces on the guitar that were created for the piano?
Andy Summers: Well, that's a good question. I guess the challenge is to make it sound authentic on the guitar, which specifically for me involved things like changing keys, which of course some people think is sacrilegious. I think that is a little purist. For example, a piece like “Round Midnight” was composed in the key of E flat minor, which is difficult on the... not difficult, but it doesn't give you a lot on the guitar in terms of the guitar voices. If you move it up one fret or half a step, you get into E minor, which is of course basically the key the guitar is in, and you’ve got a lot of open strings, a lot of very interesting dissonances and open voicings that you wouldn't get in E flat minor. So it starts to really sound like a guitar piece then. It can sound a lot more beautiful, actually. There's a lot of stuff you can do, which is not available in E flat minor.
A love of teaching
Stanton Moore of Galactic on the instructional videos and live streams he has been releasing - "I've come to realize that yes, there is an abundance of drumming information out there. There's an abundance of online teachers and videos and websites. What I want to do is make myself available to the people who decide that I'm their guy. That they want to learn what I have to offer. If they want to learn from a guy who has studied brushes with Jeff Hamilton, but has also played double drums with Zigaboo Modeliste, but who also has learned from Shannon Powell, Herlin Riley, Johnny Vidacovich, and has actually spent 25 years on the road touring, then I'm your guy. It's not a competition thing. I love doing it. I love when I can present something to somebody in a way that makes the light bulb go off and I know that I've helped them to maybe be a better musician. I also love when they tell me, 'Man, that thing that you wrote… I worked on it for months and months and months. And then my band noticed that I had become a better drummer. And then that made me happier, made me more pleasant to be around.' That's why I get into this."
How the song wants to sound
Huey Lewis: Once you have the song, how it's handled, how it wants to be recorded and produced, is an interesting thing. Because it's very easy to hear a great song in your head and then lose it while you're trying to record it. The key is to try to stay true to that song. Let the song kind of dictate how it wants to be produced and how it wants to sound.