THE TORONTO STARNovember 17, 2003
The following interview by Vit Wagner appeared in the Toronto Star newspaper...
Sting, in Toronto on the weekend to perform at MuchMoreMusic and to promote a new album and book, admits he gave half a thought to checking out Bono's appearance at the Liberal leadership convention on Friday night.
"I found out Bono was here after my show," said Sting, 52, during a Saturday afternoon interview in a suite at the Windsor Arms Hotel. "But I was too tired to go and see him."
The coincidence of the two universally recognizable pop stars being in Toronto at the same time, while not quite cosmic, was at least noteworthy.
Sting and Bono have charted a similar career trajectory over the past quarter century. Both are mega-selling celebrity musicians who have used their fame to promote humanitarian causes. Sting, who has lent his weight to Amnesty International and various environmental causes, will be honoured at next year's Grammy Awards as the MusiCares Person of the Year, succeeding Bono in that role.
"It's not an honorific I'm particularly keen to accept," Sting said. "But MusiCares does a lot of good work for musicians who need help, so I'm perfectly willing to play that role. Do I think of myself as the MusiCares Person of the Year? No, I don't. But somebody's got to do it. And it's my turn."
Sting expressed similar ambivalence about last year's induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame of his former trio, the Police, which disbanded at the height of its popularity in 1985.
"I felt that we were inducted too early," he said. "I would have preferred to have waited another decade, so I could feel rosy and sentimental and nostalgic about it. It just seemed strange to me to be stuffed and put in a museum. It is the end. It's the final nail in the coffin."
The plus side, he said, is that it's another argument against reuniting the Police, a prospect for which he has no appetite.
"I'm always asked if the Police will reform. Why do I need to recreate the past? What's that about? We're already inducted. It's done and dusted. It's stuffed.
"I just found being in a band limiting to my needs," he continued. "And so my instinct was to try and carve out more freedom for myself. And it has worked out, against all logic. At the time, we were the biggest band in the world. Why would you want to leave that particular train when it was moving so fast? But my instinct usually takes precedence over logic."
It isn't lost on Sting that the break-up opened the door to Bono's U2 to assume the unofficial title as the world's biggest band.
"They took over from the Police and maintained that. And God bless them. There's a great continuity in that band. They really are a band. They stick together. And they're good friends."
Sting has had little reason to second-guess his intuition. As a solo artist, he has sold nearly 100 million albums worldwide. His latest, Sacred Love, will send him back on the road for a tour that starts in North America early next year.
The album was composed at the same time as Broken Music, a newly published autobiography that documents his life from childhood, as Gordon Sumner, in Newcastle to early adulthood. The memoir includes a frank account of his parents' unhappy marriage.
"I would write down these deeply intimate details of my childhood and family life and think, `This is pretty personal. Do I really want to put this out in the world?' And then I would delay that decision. At the end of the day I could decide, `I've done the work. I don't need to put this out in the public domain.' I always had that as an option.
"But the closer I got to pressing the button on publication the more confident I became that I was saying something that had a universal meaning. Everybody can understand a dysfunctional family. I'm not the first child to have witnessed parental infidelity. But the way that I dealt with it is something I have to be grateful for.
"The conclusion I reached was that my childhood was absolutely perfect for me to become me. That is my history. There is no alternative universe I can go to."
Sting deliberately chose to break off the story at the point where the Police were on the verge of hitting it big.
"The idea of a celebrity bio dealing with album, tour, album, tour, celebrity parties, blah, blah, blah bored the pants off me. I thought it was much more interesting to write about a real person with a real family, explaining how that ordinary person could become a celebrity.
"I don't define myself as a celebrity, but I know I am perceived that way. I define myself as a musician, which I think is an honourable profession. I define myself as a father, as a husband, as a citizen.
"Celebrity is a side-effect of success. It's not something I take particularly seriously. It doesn't bug me. It's not an unpleasant experience for me generally.
"There are different ways to be a celebrity. Some people pretend they want to be ignored, but actually they're saying, `Look at me. Look at me.' If you wear sunglasses in a dark room, you're really saying, `Look at me.' Or if you're surrounded by gorillas with walkie-talkies and guns, you're saying, `I'm important. Please look at me.'
"I don't have bodyguards. I don't wear sunglasses. I don't have armoured cars. I have a citizens' rights. And when people see you exercising your citizens' rights in a normal way, they're generally very happy to respond in a perfectly civil and respectful way."
© The Toronto Star