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Interviews

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Andy Summers, Circa Zero

“I’ve been through the whole thing you can do with a rock band,” says Andy Summers. He’s not kidding. Even before joining The Police, the guitarist had jammed with Jimi Hendrix in L.A. and with Eric Clapton in London, recorded a crossover album with an orchestra of Hungarian refugees in Munich, broken his nose in a tour-van crash in Yorkshire, thrown up on Richard Branson’s Persian rug after celebrating a record deal and had a tour manager kidnapped by yakuza promoters in Japan. And now, at 72, after playing psych-rock, prog-rock, pub-rock and The Police’s 2007-08 reunion jaunt — the seventh-highest-grossing tour ever — he’s started a new band.

Hugh Laurie

In the packed, neo-Gothic Union Chapel in north London, Hugh Laurie sits onstage at a piano, introducing the solemn blues song Six Cold Feet in the Ground. His guitarist, Toronto’s Kevin Breit, starts laughing so hard at Laurie’s wisecracks that he screws up his prelude to the tune—twice.

Yes

Benoît David was repairing a raccoon-damaged boat on the St. Lawrence River in June 2008 when he got the call that would change his life. Little did he know that the 14 years he’d spent singing in a tribute band to progressive-rock pioneers Yes had been, in a sense, one very long audition. On his cellphone was bassist Chris Squire, asking him to tour with Yes itself.

Darcy James Argue’s Secret Society

Most jazz musicians, asked about the defining concerts in their careers, will name a prestigious venue or heralded festival. For Darcy James Argue’s Grammy- and Juno-nominated big band Secret Society, old-school adulation is all very well, but the sweat, grunge and intimacy more common to indie rock has given them a vision of the future of jazz.

Bootsy Collins

From the bottom of his platform boots to the top of his stovepipe hat, Bootsy Collins is one larger-than-life character. But in his dressing room at Metropolis before a Montreal Jazz Festival show, surrounded by his sparkly robes and ruffs, the bassist becomes introspective.

There’s No Place Like Dome

The recording studio is a wonderful invention, but the daily routine in its cramped confines can lead to malaise. One way for a rock band to recapture excitement is to redecorate: prog-rockers Yes, for instance, turned their studio into a barn with bales of hay and cardboard cows for their infamous opus Tales from Topographic Oceans; Talk Talk recorded their post-rock tour de force Laughing Stock by shutting out natural light, burning candles, and losing all sense of time. More adventurous bands simply leave the traditional studio behind.

A Musical Awakening

“Don’t you remember when you were young / How you wanted to ‘Don’t set the world on fire?” sings Tim McIlrath on Endgame, the new album by punk band Rise Against. It sounds like a rallying cry for a generation of rockers who have been led to believe, by blingaddled hedonists and smug reality TV judges, that popular music can’t be revolutionary.

Robbie Robertson

On a postage stamp to be issued this June, Robbie Robertson peers into the distance with narrowed eyes. Depending on how you look at him, he’s either contemplative or suspicious. The dichotomy is fitting: the copious literature about his former group, the Band, depicts him alternately as visionary or cool, even a cold, careerist cat.

deadmau5

Although he wears cute, cartoonish mouse heads when he performs, Joel Zimmerman is not the cuddliest guy on the music scene. Judging by his various online spats with DJs, promoters, fellow electronic music producers (and even their fans), the artist known as Deadmau5 can seem ornery indeed.

Mike Tompkins

In a World Wide Web full of bizarre celebrities, from the histrionic Chris “Leave Britney alone!” Crocker to the glassy-eyed Tay “Chocolate Rain” Zonday, one YouTube sensation stands out. His name is Mike Tompkins, and he’s… rather normal.