Summers/Fripp interview Part I
From: "Kerns, Steven R - SUN7" <cheska at teleport dot com>
Subject: Summers/Fripp interview Part I
Date: Wed, 01 Feb 95 06:46:00 PST
The following is Part 1 an interview with Andy Summers and Robert Fripp
conducted in 1984 or 1985. I have had this on audio tape for ten years and
forgot about it until I read some of the other interview transcripts in the
archived digests. If anyone wants a copy, I am sure we can work out a
trade. The interview was recorded from WHFS 99.1 in Annapolis/Baltimore.
I have done the best job that I could to get down their comments verbatim.
As a consequence, some of the text is hard to read, since the participants
are occasionally talking at the same time. I considered editing the
confusing parts, but decided that you, the reader, can do just as good a
job as I can do! The words in parenthesis are mine and are intended to add
description and clarity. Finally, since I live in Oregon, I am unfamiliar
with some of the places that Fripp & Summers refer to. My apologies to
anybody's hometown whose spelling I have butchered! :)
Enjoy (it is kind of long)
[ Part 2 of this interview will appear in the next E.T. -- Toby ]
Song: "Begin the Day"
Robert Fripp: So would you like to describe what it is that's going on here
and where we are and when we are.
Vic Garbarini: A good point. Hmm, starting with who we are, my name is Vic
Garbarini and I am executive editor of Musician magazine. The fellow at
the opposite end of the large pink table, signing strange lithographs which
are about to become the cover of his new album, is Robert Fripp.
RF: Hello team.
VG: You can hear that pen scratching in the background.
RF: This is what is called art.
VG: Abstract art for those listening on the radio, but art nonetheless.
RF: I don't do these for a living, I do it for art's sake.
VG: And Art himself is not here, but in his place is young Andy Summers.
Andy Summers: Thank you
RF: Did you actually find the magazine with the article "Sex and the Rock
and Rollers" (?) in which you are, may I say, heavily featured? Did I tell
AS: Thank you for striking this low note at the beginning of this art
interview, Robert. I did and I am still here.
RF: What was your reaction to that comments in the article?
VG: Understandable. You two have just completed your second duet album
together. The Summers/Fripp album or Fripp/Summers album, depending on
which end of the alphabet...
AS: Or Frummers/Siff, Sipp/Frummers anyway you like.
VG: Exactly. Why would two people with such obvious problems as you two
have, decide to work together in this creative format?
RF: (in a funny accent amid much giggling) I couldn't find no one else that
would let me work with them, see, so I said to my mate Andy "Andy, let's go
down to Arnie's, let's go down to Arnie's hut and make us a record"
VG: Now, for those Americans listening in the college audience who wonder
why Robert is talking like this, I should say that one of the things I know
about these two is they come from the same part of Profidious (?) Albion.
That is, they come from the same county of England, being the county
Dorset. Now, is that a real Dorset accent we are hearing there?
AS: That is what's known as "guilding the lily".
RF: It is. Um, (in the same accent) I'd say "No, no, no". (back to normal
voice) And that is a real Dorset accent. John Wetton, who is now a member
of Asia, when he was fifteen or sixteen, and also living in Bournemouth and
in a band called Palmer-James, with Palmer-James would go off to country
lanes and show to each other from one side of the road to the other
(accent) "Awright, awright, goin well, awright"
AS: Wonderful music background they have together.
VG: Yes, I think people have to understand - they didn't have MTV in those
days, where that can be done for you. Um, so you both came from roughly
the same area down there, around Bournemouth.
AS: This is true.
VG: When did you meet each other, did you ever interlock as
musicians or in any other strange way?
RF : No, no I can tell you I haven't. Andy was working in Mins and I went
in for some... Mins was a music shop in Bournemouth, since bankrupt by the
most appallingly dinosauric policy. They had, a friend of mine was
managing it until they sold out shortly ago, they has a whole pile of
redundant, really awful, feeble, cheap organs.
AS: Well, we are all cursed with this, aren't we.
VG: I have to check that magazine for that, Andy.
RF: They used to do a lot of good business selling them to the middle-class
of Bournemouth. And the middle-class of Bournemouth either ran out of
money or improved it's taste or ran about new technology. Anyway, going
back to, well, Andy was there, I went in and asked him a question and he
was rude to me. Insouciant.
AS: This story continues to haunt me through the years.
RF: Well, you shouldn't have been so rude then.
AS: I know, but to pick up the story here, I was working at the Majestic
Hotel in the guitar seat, let's say working for the Hebrew fraternity of
Bournemouth. When I finally vacated to go to London, who should take my
place, but young Mister Fripp. Who, of course, was to go onto London and
assume much larger fame and fortune than I in the early term.
VG: And bigger shoes, if I remember.
AS: And bigger shoes.
VG: Yeah. One thing I have always been curious about. At that great time
of transition, now lost in the mists of history. What kind of tunes were
AS: Oh, that was just last year.
VG: What kind of tunes were you guys playing in the hotel?
RF: You share the ones you played, then I'll share the ones I played.
AS: I think we used to do Profidea, the Jewish National Anthem, and Happy
Birthday Sweet Sixteen. Those are the three I knew the chords of. The
rest I had to red-face on.
RF: I used to do all the Jolsons, the fast Jolsons and the slow Jolsons.
Hava Nagila. All the wedding songs. If you were doing a bahmitzva, then
obviously the music was a bit different. But I was responsible for what
the band called the twists. "Have you got any twists, Bob?" they used to
say to me. Every now and then I would go out and buy some sheet music to a
new twist and write it out for them.
RF: I still have occasional nightmares about it.
VG: Anyway, Andrew, looking at Robert, signing away there busy as a little
bee. What was it about his playing that made you reach out for him, as
they say in the Mafia. The first time you decided to do a duet album like
this. What was it about his compatibility or the difference in his playing
or why Robert?
AS: Why Robert, indeed. Well, the serious answer, I suppose, is ...you
know, like how, as you go through life and there is something that you are
aware of all the time and then suddenly it leaps into focus and you are
enlightened. Well, I heard his solo on, and I have quoted this before,
what was that tune, that marvelous tune on The Roches album.
RF: "The Hammond Song"?
AS: He produced a marvelous, heart-rending solo on that, which suddenly lit
me up to him and his works. And I had listened to what he did with David
Bowie, which I enjoyed that very much. I thought it was terrific. At the
time, I was looking for something to do outside of The Police, like a
guitar duet. Something that could be, hopefully, wouldn't interfere with
my activities in The Police and would be sort of rewarding musically.
Really a completely different kettle of fish in terms of commercial
pressures. And I like the idea of trying to do a very sort of 1980s guitar
duet kind of album. So I wrote a letter to Robert from the Munich Hilton.
When I got back to it, I was told that he responded with some enthusiasm.
Of course, eventually, we managed to get together and talk this over. I
think it was at my parent's house at Christmas in 1980. In September 81,
we finally got together and made the album. And of course, that was the
start of this sort of Laurel-and-Hardy career we have pursued since.
VG: Now, one of the things I'm sure our avid and attentive listeners have
noticed about the difference between the first album and this one is that,
on the first album, the term duet was very appropriate for that. There
were clearly two guitar parts there interacting. Now on the second album,
the format has been shifted quite a bit. The first side is sort of dance
oriented and very minimalist, and the second side is remarkably fluid and
it's sometimes hard to tell who is doing what. Even though you are both,
in a sense, equals on the album, if you had to define how your
responsibilities were divided in terms of - does one person play a
particular type of sound, a particular role or responsibility? How does
AS: Yeah, I think you could say that to some extent, but not totally.
RF: It would be inaccurate to say that this was an equal album. I was
there for two and a half weeks and then had to leave for the Crimson tour.
And leave Andy to finish it. So, I think it is certainly fair to Andrew to
say that the album is a lot more Andrew than it is me.
VG: Half of Fripp is better than none, though.
RF: Yes, I think it would be unfair for me to claim half the value of the
album, that's not true.
VG: Okay, but I am talking in terms of when you are both playing on a
particular tune. Is there an instinctive tendency for the way you work
AS: Yeah, I think that is the way we work together. I think, to give you
some sort of idea, if you have a body which is composed of flesh and bones,
then maybe you could say that Robert provides the bones and I provide the
flesh. But this is a real generalization, I don't think this true of every
track we ever recorded. But, I think that's a fair comment on the way we
do it. Robert will come up with a lot of single-line, polyrhythmic riffs
and I will supply the harmonies around them.
VG: For instance, on the new album now, I still have the original cassette
that you gave me which doesn't have any of the tunes listed on it. So, the
thing on the second side that sounds almost Spanish or Moorish.
RF: Oh, that's a hummer.
VG: That really impressed me. Now, there is one guitar going through with
a sort of arppegiating slowly and stately and then there is a fluid guitar
in the middle of that.
RF: That is my new standard guitar tuning.
VG: Now, on the tune in question that we are talking about, what is the
title on that?
RF: Andy chooses the titles. I never know what songs are what. I really
AS: Well, it does get confusing, you know, it almost actually makes a mess
of the production part of the album. Because you work so long for like
these ridiculous, stupid titles you make up - working titles you go
through. And everyone is referring to that. And then you kind of get your
sort of "real" titles for the album sleeve. I remember trying to tell them
to master one tune and they got really confused. It does get confusing.
VG: What does Maquillage mean?
AS: Actually, I think it's French, it means make-up. It has its
implications, I think.
VG: Oh yes.
Song: "Maquillage" (excerpt)
VG: Now, all right, since we happen to be working this one over, Robert,
did your part come first? Did you come to Andy with that simple outline?
RF & AS: Yes
AS: But what Robert did do, which was nifty, because... Most of this
material was made up in the studio. We did have a little rehearsal period,
a few months before, which really didn't get on to the album, apart from
this one tune. Robert, as you may remember, where we were playing it,
because it had kind of a "film" feeling to it, this one. Robert was
playing it, and I was trying to construct a melody over it. But what he
did in the studio, finally, which was pretty nifty, was to remove a note
which put it into 7/4, which made it a lot more interesting. And I merely
improvised over the top of it.
VG: The guitar synthesizer. Both of you now are using guitar synthesizers
on and off, and I think in the washes of sound that we hear on the second
side of the album, it seems to be very predominant. Andy, the first time I
remember hearing you using a guitar synthesizer, I think was on "Doo Doo
Doo" with The Police. Is that where there is that break where there is a
chordal wash? Or is that "Don't Stand"
AS: That's "Don't Stand So Close To Me", yeah.
VG: Okay, now, the track that I heard on "Synchronicity" that I thought was
one of the most beautiful uses of guitar synthesizer was "Tea in the
Sahara", but that wasn't really a guitar synthesizer, was it?
AS: No, actually it is all done with a Stratocaster and an Echoplex.
Song: "Tea in the Sahara" (excerpt)
VG: How did you get that liquid smear sound?
AS: I think that way that I did it, because on the track, each of the three
of the group were all in different rooms. So I was able to turn up
extremely loud, and, you know, you are on the brink of feeding back. So it
starts to kind of wobble, it's not quite sure which way to go. I mean, it
literally depends on whether you turn to face the amplifier. You have to
stand, physically, in the right spot of the room. It is very crucial.
Played very loud and used a volume pedal. Literally, the way I held my
hands on the string and shifted the chord position right at the moment
where it was about to start feeding back. I aged about ten years doing
VG: Now, when you say that you were all in three different rooms, that was
because of personal hygiene problems in the band?
AS: Yeah, personal and mental hygiene problems. No, actually, to be
honest, in Monserat (sp?), the best sounding room for the drums is actually
the dining room, which is a great, long sort of wooden room. And we
actually just cleared the entire space and Stewart had his drums there.
Because it was the best room to get the live sound, much better than the
studio. Sting likes to play through the board, and I was able to just line
up my six amplifiers against one wall and choose whichever combination at
will and blast forth.
VG: As a critic, I have a responsibility to make idiotic theories, of
course, and one of the ones I've come up with is just looking at the two of
you working over the past two or three years and feeling that you have
influenced each other. I think some of Robert's work has become more fluid
and I notice Andy working in some of the odd time signatures that you first
started doing on "I Advance Masked". For instance, "Mother" on The Police
Song: "Mother" (excerpt)
VG: Did that come out of, do you feel, out of some of the work you have
been doing with Robert?
AS: Yeah, there is a little in-joke there, which never offended Robert, I
RF: Not at all.
AS: Good, I mean this is about interacting and everything. I
guess actually the riff as it is in 7, does sound very Frippish,
let's say. Frippesque?
AS: Frippian, yeah I like that. But the solo in particular, which I played
on that track which is actually quite difficult to pull off because the
chords changed and it is in 7/4 time. I sort of had to work it out. But
it starts out as a imitation (AS sings the solo), it starts out as an
imitation of a solo that Robert played on, I believe on..
RF: "Another Green World", isn't it?
AS: "Another Green World". Is it "On Fire Island"?
RF: Once again, Eno's titles always used to throw me.
AS: Well, it was a track that Robert recorded with Brian Eno a few years
back. That solo I particularly like.
RF: Just after midnight in Island number two, actually, with Rhett Davies
AS: Well there you go.
RF: I was just leaving to go to Sherbourne. There you are.
AS: So, I thought is was nice and I started off my solo quoting Robert.
And for the cognoscenti if they had known the two albums that Robert and I,
there was a little joke there. So that's the story on that.
VG: It is Frank and Alice Cognoscenti in Columbus, Ohio
AS: It's Frank and Ernest.
VG: Oh Ernest, that's right. They went through some changes in the
RF: I thought they were fish merchants from Patterson?
VG: Uh, yeah. Of course, the biggest song of last year and a lot of people
would say the biggest single of the decade so far was "Every Breath You
Take". Of course, Sting wrote the song and it is a simple sort of
fifties-sixties chord pattern. But, the guitar figure in there, if I am
not mistaken and I know I am not because you have told me this once before,
the guitar figure and the way it was formatted came from you and didn't
that come from something you were working on out of Bartok and out of
Fripp/Summers or something that was somehow changed or altered for that
AS: Yeah, in between finishing the album with Robert and then going on to
record another Police album and thinking about doing another album with
Robert. I was in various sessions with myself in the kitchen where I live
playing into a tape recorder. I was working on one of those little riffs
that we had done on the first album, which was sort of Bartok, "Painting
and Dance" it was called.
Song: "Painting and Dance" (excerpt)
Song: "Every Breath You Take" (excerpt)
End Part I