03.01.91 THE BOSTON GLOBE
The following article by Steve Morse appeared in a March 1991 issue of The Boston Globe newspaper...
Sting: No cages for his tour.
Sting's new album 'The Soul Cages', a darkly mystical look at his British boyhood, is No.1 in Boston and No.3 in Billboard. But don't expect him to play the songs note for note on tour. Sting, is too much of a restless improviser to settle for that. "I think one of the challenges of performing live is that you use the album as a blueprint. That's all. You can follow it - or ignore it. I'm going to ignore it and do something that's better," Sting said during a recent interview in Manhattan.
Sting, who performs Saturday in the Worcester Centrum, has assembled a new band that shares his chameleon streak and doesn't believe in pre-packaged musical arrangements.
"I like musicians who don't have any prejudice about the kind of music they play," he says. "My new guitarist, Dominic Miller can play classical music, jazz and rock'n'roll. In fact, all the musicians I use have that facility. They don't draw a line and say 'Well, this isn't music. This isn't what I like, therefore I won't play it.' They play everything."
"I hate prejudice in music. I think it's so negative - a function of fear more than anything else. I'm not a purist or archivist or musicologist. I like music as a continuum."
Sting's new band will likely be more rock-based than his previous jazz-flavoured unit but that's only a generalisation. He still has Kenny Kirkland on piano, but has added Miller on guitar - Miller has played with rockers World Party, the Pretenders and King Swamp - and he has added former Bruce Springsteen band-mate David Sancious on keyboards.
They'll adapt 'The Soul Cages', an album which mutes the World Beat influences of Sting's earlier solo albums in favour of folk and rock modalities. The latter evoke Sting's upbringing in Newcastle - a rugged coal mining and shipbuilding town at the north of England - and frame a wistful, personal look at his parents, both of whom recently died of cancer.
"I was trying to suggest where I came from, more than anything else. So I took out any Afro-Caribbean or other world influences on the record. I do enjoy that music and I like making it, but it didn't seem to apply this time," said Sting. "So the bulk of the record is based on folk melodies - Celtic melodies. It seems to suggest where I come from. Rather than being about the world, it's very specific. Much more specific than I normally am."
But the album also contains more rock'n'roll than some past efforts. Two prime examples are the songs 'The Soul Cages' and 'All This Time', which have received the most radio airplay.
"The record is more guitar-based because I have Dominic Miller, who can play anything," Sting said. "So with him in mind, I wrote a lot of the guitar-based stuff."
Speaking of writing music, Sting first wrote most of it on his Synclavier, a high-tech keyboard and sound sampler. "I can access an orchestra, basically, on Synclavier, and I can build things and improvise very slowly," Sting said. "It allows me to do that. And I've written songs on that machine that I wouldn't have written on the piano.
"It allows you a sophistication and time to create a sophisticated musical structure. It's a wonderful device. I mean it doesn't write music for you. You have to program it. But it allows you to present an almost finished work to musicians and say, 'Well, this is what I want to do. This is how it works,' rather than trying to describe it with words. It's a powerful tool."
Of course, no matter how successful Sting is as a solo act, there will always be fans longing for him to quit his solo efforts and reunite his supergroup, the Police, which scored hit after hit and became a stadium attraction before disbanding at their peak in the mid-'80s.
"We achieved what we set out to do ten-fold, and more," said Sting, ready for the question. "And I've moved on. I think we've all moved on. There would only be two reasons to get back together again - one would be to make money; two would be nostalgia. I'm not particularly nostalgic, and I don't need the money at the moment."
What happened to the other Police? Guitarist Andy Summers has gone into jazz. Drummer Stewart Copeland has made a series of soundtracks, including the atmospheric 'Rumble Fish'.
"All of us are very busy and we're actually much happier being our own bosses, rather than having this collective ego to deal with," Sting said. "It's very hard to be in a band. When you're an adult, you like to stand on your own two feet. It's very difficult to be in a gang again."
OK, an obligatory question. What does Sting say to people who think his best work was with the Police and that some of his solo music is a little too self-indulgent?
"I think all of that's valid, but I've made the choice," he said without hesitation. "This is what I'm doing. I find it more of a challenge at this point, more risky. I mean, it's unusual for someone to step out of a group that's as successful as the Police were, and be allowed to have any authentic voice of, your own. People don't usually allow that to happen. So I'm thankful to have that chance."
© The Boston Globe
While Sting's commercial success is undeniable, his artistic and political aspirations remain a popular subject of debate. His high-profile activism has met with mixed reactions, especially his much-touted campaign on behalf of the environment and people of the Amazon rainforest. His music, too, has flirted with lofty idealism, mixing sometimes emotional messages with pristine production values that sometimes seem soulless. But now, with the release of 'The Soul Cages', his most personal solo album and already a major hit, Sting has put pop politics aside to reflect on his past...
Sting: No cages for his tour. Sting's new album 'The Soul Cages', a darkly mystical look at his British boyhood, is No.1 in Boston and No.3 in Billboard. But don't expect him to play the songs note for note on tour. Sting, is too much of a restless improviser to settle for that. "I think one of the challenges of performing live is that you use the album as a blueprint. That's all. You can follow it - or ignore it. I'm going to ignore it and do something that's better," Sting said during a recent interview in Manhattan...
Into Sting's soul - His 'Caged' unlocks sad memories: "I didn't want to make this record, frankly," Sting says, "but there basically was no choice." 'The Soul Cages', his third solo album, dwells on a painful subject the 39- year-old British pop star resisted confronting for two years: the 1987 death of his father, with whom he had a strained and unresolved relationship. He held sorrow at bay with such distractions as his MacHeath role in Broadway's '3 Penny Opera', a long 1987-88 tour and efforts to save the rain forest...
Sting has chosen to open his world tour in small theatres rather than big arenas. Giles Smith met him in New York. Sting's new live show opens, naturally enough, with a string of songs from his latest album, 'The Soul Cages'. Then comes a pause during which, ruffling his hair with calculated diffidence, he leans into the microphone and asks, "Any requests?" At which point - bedlam. The audience, until now seated in what, by American standards, would have to count as calm acquiescence (ie outbreaks of shrill whistling and chimp whoops at merely 15 second intervals) suddenly bursts into a barely decipherable roar, some people even rising out of their chairs to stake a claim: 'Every Breath You Take', 'Message in a Bottle', 'Don't Stand So Close To Me', 'So Lonely' (Someone near me appeared to be shouting, again and again, "Kiss my ass!" but he seemed to be having a good time and probably intended it kindly.) In short, too many requests to honour...
Where the hell have you been? It was the return of the prodigal son. A lapsed Geordie, Sting was suddenly confronted by the twin crises of a writers' block and the deaths of his parents. He began to panic - but found a solution by going home to Newcastle. "I had something to say, but I was scared to face it. It was time to reassess..."