STAR HITSMay 01, 1984
The following interview with David Keeps appeared in a 1984 issue of Star Hits magazine....
Fresh from conquering the world the 'Synchronicity' way, Sting, Stewart and Andy answer some hard questions about the recent past and near future. David Keeps handles the bright lights and rubber hoses.
Policeman Stewart Copeland comes bounding into the A&M Records interview room, frighteningly larger than life. "Where's the other blond bombshell?" he asks Andy Summers.
"He's got a sniffle," the guitarist replies.
Stewart looks crestfallen. "I was looking forward to this. I thought we were going to do the interview together. It's been so long."
"Oh you're lucky," Summers tells me with a wink. "Its almost impossible to interview the three of us together."
Not, I correctly presume, because the Police are fighting like cats and dogs. With four hit singles and an LP that sat at Number One for four months, plus the artistic freedom to pursue any kind of solo project, they've every reason to celebrate. "We've gotten this far," Stewart beams "and we still don't hate each other."
I'll catch up with Sting later, I assure them. But before I take on Stewart, one last question, Andy. "What's the single greatest injustice in the world?"
"Oh, jeez," Stewart cries in disbelief.
"Oh, don't worry," Andy says to Stewart with a grin, looking relieved that his interrogation is over. "All of his questions are like that."
DK: Did you make any resolutions this year?
AS: I tend to start a journal every year, but it peters out in about six days. Collectively, there's an approximate plan to come back together during the summer to put a live LP together and after that it's a bit hazy until the summer of '85, when we'll do a little touring to prepare for a world-wide TV broadcast. I think it would be foolish to go on touring relentlessly, because familiarity breeds contempt.
DK: What were the high points of 1983?
AS: Playing Shea Stadium, obviously, and finishing my photo book Throb, which consumed my time between February and July.
DK: In light of all the band's solo projects, how do you cope with rumours that the Police are breaking up?
AS: Usually we confirm them, because it seems to be what everyone wants us to say. But anyone would say we were insane to split. We're right on the top, we can earn a lot of money and we still enjoy playing together. If we were really going to split, we'd be the first to say so in bold letters.
DK: But are there personality differences?
AS: Well, some things just don't get resolved, but that's what makes things tick.
DK: What's the most pleasant discovery you've made about yourself?
AS: I think I'm relaxing more. I'm not as relentless on myself as I used to be.
DK: How do you relax?
AS: I don't know what relaxing is. I might go to the movies or sit around with friends. I exercise, run, read, and obviously take pictures. I'd like to have more holidays. I definitely don't want to work as hard as I've done in the past. But then, I'm a workaholic by nature.
DK: That would explain your second album with Robert Fripp coming up.
AS: Hopefully you'll be hearing that in June. The Police works more like a proper rock group. With Robert, it's like two classical musicians. Oh, we have a laugh, don't get me wrong. But we work in a very precise way and improvise a lot. With the Police, we tend to jam more and things grow over a period of time.
DK: And after that, there's a film project.
AS: The working title is Goosefoot and we should start shooting in June. I'll be acting and writing the soundtrack, maybe even singing. Basically, it's about a young girl who goes to live in Dublin and has a relationship with a guy - that's me. It's a murder film.
DK: What do you consider home?
AS: It's a confusing issue for me now. Obviously I'm English and I've lived in London most of my life. But I love New York and I think I will end up there permanently. Everything seems to fall into place for me and I have more friends there than anywhere else. But home is where your head is, really.
DK: Do the Police operate under any ethical guidelines?
AS: We've always had a pretty strong idea of our image. That helped us define ourselves to the public. We haven't done all of the merchandising we could have. Lesser mortals might have just grabbed the money. Maybe we've been a bit precious about it, but you've got to have a sense of career. You have to have the strength to turn things down.
DK: Do you have a personal credo?
AS: Be kind to animals. I'm not a vegetarian, really, but I have stopped eating meat and I'm only eating fruit. Do I look thin?
DK: What happens after a Number One record? What's the next challenge?
Sting: Going down with dignity. (Laughs) I really wanted a Number One record because it has eluded us. Not that it's particularly important other than as a symbol. It's all pretty meaningless. Someone's integrity doesn't rise or fall by how long you're at Number One.
DK: How has success changed your life?
Sting: I think life has changed my life.
DK: What were you like at 20?
Sting: A dedicated, serious musician. I practised seven hours a day and wrote at least three songs a day.
DK: What will you be like at 40?
Sting: Not a rock singer. And not trying to pretend I'm younger.
DK: Are you a workaholic?
Sting: Yes, but I'm trying to give the habit up!
DK: How do you manage to write about loneliness, suicide, alienation and despair and still make records that sell?
Sting: Most literature and drama and songs have been about exactly those subjects. I don't know how the other stuff manages to sell.
DK: Do you ever feel lonely yourself?
Sting: Yeah, of course I do. I don't imagine all this, you know. It's not particularly strange that a human being should be lonely. That's the human condition - period.
DK: What hope do you hold for the human race?
Sting: A small one. Without hope, there's only nihilism. The problem isn't the bomb particularly. It's the bomb inside our heads. If we can defuse that, then the world will be okay.
DK: How do you relate now to your involvement with the punk explosion in 1977?
Sting: Our involvement was really a flag of convenience. The only thing we shared with those people was a feeling of energy and wanting to overturn things. The music played in the Marquee Club in 1977 has absolutely no bearing on what you hear on American radio today.
DK:Have you always wanted to be an actor?
Sting: Not really. People must think it's easy to step into the movies, but there's really a big credibility gap between what you can do as a singer and musician and what you can do as an actor. I worked hardest, I think, in Brimstone and Treacle. I was on the screen most of the time and had to work with really good actors in a very tight ensemble.
DK: You play another bad guy in 'Dune'.
Sting: I'm pretty bad. I'm one of a family of villains and have a very wicked uncle and an enormously perverse brother.
DK: What is your fantasy role?
Sting: I've written a script based on the 'Gormenghast' trilogy by an English writer called Mervyn Peake. The books were written after the Second World War and they're kind of a political horror story. A bit more like Kafka than George Orwell.
DK: Is Sting a different person than Gordon Sumner?
Sting: No, I think Sting is large enough to encompass Gordon Sumner.
DK: But what is Gordon Sumner like?
Sting: That's for me to know and you to find out. I've made Sting a pretty ambiguous sod. People don't know whether I'm friendly or arrogant or what. I can be as quixotic and inconsistent as I want.
DK: What's it like being a father?
Sting: Oh, it's wonderful. It's probably the best thing I ever did, actually. I have three children "and counting." My son Joe does just what I did as a kid; he composes. He doesn't sing other people's songs, he makes up his own, which is to be encouraged. He's seven now and plays the piano and the violin. My two-year-old daughter and the new baby girl are just so pretty.
DK: So how do you relate to being a sex symbol?
Sting: I find it a little embarrassing. It's all very flattering, but at the same time it's a pretty weak trait in human nature that we even need these symbols of sexuality. It all has to do with power. Sex isn't attractive unless it involves power.
DK: Is there anything you would have done differently last year?
SC: There must have been. To say no would be really conceited. I'm sure I screwed up somewhere.
DK: What about the Police?
SC: We foresaw that after nine months of touring we would hate each other, so we'd take a year off. But we actually enjoyed this last tour. Shea Stadium was the main thing - everything was hot. It was a real great coincidence of an important gig and a great performance.
DK: A synchronicity?
SC: I guess so. Sting would jump up and down and say that's an incorrect usage, which would encourage me to use it. This is one of the sparring points that we indulge in.
DK: What else do you fight about?
SC: There really isn't any jealousy. I mean, people ask, "Don't you worry when Sting goes off and does a movie?" Look, all three of us have spent hours on film sets and I know how much fun film-making isn't.
DK: As a drummer, do you believe that life has a rhythm?
SC: I have all kinds of outrageous theories like Dr. Copeland's Theory of Rhythmatism. As far as my heartbeat and emotions go, I can use a ritualistic application of rhythm - and this gets rather mystical - to induce mental states for creativity and concentration. As a student I got straight A's in philosophy, because I didn't believe a word of it.
DK: If you could go back to being an ordinary person would you?
SC: No, but then I've never known what that's like. I grew up in the Third World, where any paleface is stared at. In Lebanon or Egypt, the village kids would follow me down the street just gaping. When I came from Lebanon to England, I felt almost anonymous. It's personal, but my feelings about Beirut are very strong. I feel as if a part of me has been raped and my sense of humour vanishes when I think about what's happened. I was in Beirut for ten years. I was raised by a Palestinian nurse, and she's dead now, and she was certainly no terrorist.
DK: Do you think it's possible for bands to influence politics today?
SC: No. In the '60s it was possible because the issue was very real - they're going to send me to Vietnam. You could be apathetic as an individual but when someone sang a song and we were all in it together, that made it easier to participate and try to make a change.
DK: But politics aren't dead. You just produced directed and shot 'So What', a movie about punks.
SC: It seems like a terrible subject to invest money for a film in, because the punks were happening seven years ago, right? But there are more of them; they're weirder and wilder than they ever were in '77. They're not in London or the high-fashion zones. They're out in the sticks where there really is no alternative. I think that's true in America. There are more intense punks in Milwaukee than New York. Because in Milwaukee the conditions that created punk are still there.
DK: What are your future film projects?
SC: I'm sifting through offers after doing the music for 'Rumblefish' last year. I'd love to work with Coppola again. He's prepared to let a lot of art get in the way of realism.
DK: When will you act in a film?
SC: I'm not that serious about it. When I've done videos, it's like hurry-up-and-wait, you sit for hours in make-up and costumes. When we did the video for 'Don't Box Me In', they hired a guy from Hollywood and he couldn't believe I'd done the Police videos in one day. I couldn't believe they wanted two whole days of my time.
DK: How did that song come about?
SC: They had changed a relatively happy ending to a darker one, and I felt that it needed something upbeat to put some positivity in the end. So I called Stanard Ridgeway, who was on tour with Wall of Voodoo, to do the vocal. My voice is more of a comedy voice and to sing adult songs - I'm 30 now - I guess I'm just too self-conscious.
DK: What Mt. Everests are left for Stewart Copeland to climb?
SC: To write, direct, produce, star in and do the music for the next Star Wars.
© Star Hits magazine