THE MINNEAPOLIS STAR-TRIBUNEJune 01, 1993
The following article by Jon Bream appeared in a June 1993 issue of The Minneapolis Star-Tribune newspaper...
Sting: From music and movies to the wife, kids and farm.
Sting, the singer, songwriter and actor, has gone from rock's Renaissance Man to its Family Man. He married Trudie Styler, his long-time companion, last August. Then he recorded his latest album, 'Ten Summoner's Tales', in the dining room of the farm in England where he and Styler live with their three children. Now he even has his oldest child, Joe, 16 (from his first marriage), in the road crew for his tour, which will visit Target Center Tuesday.
"I was always a fairly committed family man," Sting said the other day. "I think my wife gets more respect than she used to, which surprises me in this day and age. For that reason, it's good to be married. I was a bit worried that getting married would change the colour of my relationship with the woman I'd been with for over 10 years. If something's not broken, you don't fix it. We got married basically because our children were very militant about this idea. You can't really argue with your kids."
There's a true Family Man, one who listens to the wishes of his youngest children, ages 2 to 8. He even recorded in the dining room, from where he could smell what was cooking in the kitchen.
"You take that mystery out of what Dad does when you have it in the house," he said. "I'm more comfortable. I can't tell you why. Maybe it's the age I am. I'm pleased to be 41. I feel settled in my personal life and settled in my career, and I do things now for fun."
Has this domestic bliss made it difficult for Sting, who has been dubbed the "king of pain," to write songs? He used to think happiness would hamper creativity.
"I was fond of this romantic idea that you had to suffer to make art," he said. "I'm not necessarily sure anymore that that is true. I'd like to believe you can be happy and creative at the same time. I like to write songs in the kitchen with a pen and paper when the kids are around making noise. That's bliss for me."
Sting also likes to write when he's walking about. "The rhythm of walking is essentially in common time," he said. "If you're walking in the country on your own, you can sing at the top of your voice. I walk and write songs."
He's too self-conscious to take a tape recorder along on walks, he said. Sometimes ideas - rhythmic, melodic or lyrical - come to him. "I'm never sure what comes first," he said. "In fact, I don't really know how to write a song. I couldn't sit down and write a treatise on how to write music or songs because I really don't know. I'm
just happy they come."
When Sting worked on his last album, 1991's 'The Soul Cages', he suffered writer's block as he crafted painful art songs dealing with the death of his father. This time, he made a pop album in a mere eight weeks. Despite some odd time signatures and unusual cross-pollination of musical styles, 'Ten Summoner's Tales' is the most accessible album he's done since the Police's swan song, 'Synchronicity'. There's nothing confessional or therapeutic about the new recording. It's not even autobiographical.
"The public's perception is totally out of my control," said the man who has been branded as rock's most serious thinker. "Sometimes it pleases me that it's totally wrong, as far as I'm concerned, because it allows me the freedom to be what I am. I'm sort of painted in primary colours, sometimes negatively and sometimes positively, and exist somewhere between those poles. But my private life is a private life, and it's a very fulfilled one. So I don't worry about the public perception of me. It doesn't seem to affect my career."
For each new project in his career, this sophisticated artiste seems to reinvent himself. He said he doesn't change in order to challenge himself and his audience, but it's merely a matter of personal evolution.
"As a serious student of life, I'm a very different person from the one I started out as. I continue to evolve, and therefore I'm projecting what I'm going through without any conscious attempt to try and present something different. I'm getting older, sometimes I'm getting wiser, a little smarter and other times I realise how stupid I am."
As he gets older, Sting is learning how to deal with his five children. Joe Sumner, his first born, is part of his musical entourage this summer. Joe's a musician, but he's part of the crew this time around. Sting and son sometimes talk music.
"I'm really no help in any regard," Dad said. "If anything I'm a gross disadvantage to him. I take his aspirations very seriously. He likes Nirvana. He likes rock'n'roll. He tolerates my beliefs. He doesn't swallow the whole. I often wondered what my kid would do to shock me. My kid telling me he doesn't like jazz was like me saying to my dad that I want to grow my hair to my shoulders. Surprisingly, he likes the more melodic elements in my own music, which I suppose is encouraging to me. I am only 23 years older than him so I don't know how qualified I feel about being 'Dad.' Invariably whatever I say to him is gonna be wrong. I think the dialogue is important, nonetheless."
Sting (nee Gordon Sumner) has done lots of things right since he quit teaching school in the mid-'70s and cofounded a new-wave rock trio called the Police. The British trio went on to become one of the biggest bands of the late '70s and early '80s with such hits as 'Roxanne', 'Message in a Bottle' and the Grammy-winning 'Every Breath You Take'. The Police disbanded in 1984 and reunited momentarily last year for a performance at Sting's wedding.
"Obviously we're much more mellow as individuals after 10 years. But it only took a few bars for me to become the monster I was 10 years ago," Sting said. "And Stewart [Copeland] and I were looking daggers at each other and then we both caught each other out and started to laugh uncontrollably for what we were doing - suddenly being put back in time to when the band was breaking up. We're much better friends now."
Ex-Police guitarist Andy Summers is still making instrumental albums, and drummer Copeland is working on film soundtracks. Speaking of films, Sting the Renaissance Man has had many offers lately, but he's been turning them down. He's already acted in nearly a dozen films, including 'Quadrophenia' and 'Dune', and he appeared on Broadway in 'Three Penny Opera'. Even if he's not making movies, his music is landing in films. 'It's Probably Me' was written for 'Lethal Weapon III', and it is included on 'Ten Summoner's Tales'. Sylvester Stallone is making a movie inspired by Sting's 'Demolition Man', and 'Shape of My Heart', from 'Ten Summoner's Tales', is headed for 'Three of Hearts' starring one of the Baldwin brothers.
"I'm not burning with desire to make another movie," Sting said. "I don't know if I'm cut out to be an actor. I do it out of curiosity because you're offered a chance to do something that's out of the ordinary."
Curiosity and opportunity have led him this year to open a handful of stadium concerts for the Grateful Dead.
"For me, it's a strange feeling because I've never played opening act for anybody. You're confronted with a set of new challenges: You come on cold. You play in the daylight. You only play for an hour. It's nice to play to an audience that isn't won over necessarily before you begin. It brings out something else in the music. I have no regrets. It's really fun. I can't give you a rational explanation why. Someone suggested it. I actually don't need to do it. I was curious about the phenomenon of the Grateful Dead. I think it's about the spirit of community that is engendered not only by the group and the crew, but also the audience itself. It's a huge piece of theatre that everyone is involved in creating. I'm more interested sociologically than I am musically. It's like the audience is made up of people who want a sense of community, who want to belong to a family. Maybe they're from families that are dysfunctional, and the Grateful Dead provides them with this sense of community."
Spoken like rock's true Family Man.
© The Minneapolis Star-Tribune