ROLLING STONEApril 17, 1998
"A strip bar is the only place where you can get a quiet drink. Nobody's looking at you."
What's happening here? Sting, the rain-forest savin', VH1-storytellin', 60-acre-estate-ownin', 46 year old former Policeman, has a newfound following of rap fans. It started with 'I'll Be Missing You', Sean "Puffy" Combs' remake of the Police's 'Every Breath You Take', which shot to No. 1 (notably, the last time Sting found himself in that spot was 14 years ago... for 'Every Breath You Take'). On 'The Very Best of Sting and the Police', a compendium of reasons why he and his band mates have sold more than 40 million records, Combs puffied up 'Roxanne', bringing in Pras from the Fugees to rap and threading bits from 'Roxanne, Roxanne' by U.T.F.O. (Check the video - Sting plays a sleazy rich guy who gets offed.) Sting! Six kids, four houses, 12 Grammys, 10 solo albums.
Globally recognisable with just one name (as in Jesus, Charo, Liberace), Sting phones from his estate, Lake House, a 16th-century stone mansion outside London, where he's working on a new album - when he's not working on his yoga-honed bod.
I was talking to a group of kids recently. They had three over-riding impressions of you. One is that you and "Puffy" Combs are best friends. You've actually only met once right?
"That's true. We met at this year's MTV awards. But we've met on the grooves of a couple of records now [laughs]."
What did you think when you first heard 'I'll Be Missing You'?
"It was a shock at first, because he changed the lyrics, and, um, that normally doesn't happen to me. It's like having a friend of yours have plastic surgery - what do you say, you know? Once I'd got over that, I thought, 'Well, this is a tribute to his dead friend [the Notorious B.I.G.], and I'm honoured that he chose my song to transmit an emotional response."
So another impression these youngsters have is that you're a swordsman extraordinaire.
"That's not a bad reputation to have!"
It came from your now-famous remarks about tantric sex.
"Well. I take sex fairly seriously. I think people misunderstand the adjective 'tantric'. They think it means you have sex for hours and hours and hours. That's a very small part of it. The basic philosophy of tantric is that everything in life - walking, eating, talking, sleeping - is potentially sacred practice. Which I believe. I think that we have opportunities in life to be more than flesh and blood."
Third, they know you because you've been on Howard Stern's show.
"I've been on numerous occasions, usually with my wife, Trudie. Those two really get on. I have a soft spot for him. He's a very vulnerable guy, and I like that. I enjoy his show in the morning, though sometimes I'm outraged by it."
You once told one of your kids that you were going to spend all of your money before you die.
What do you spend it on exactly?
"There's any number of things you can waste money on, but, actually, I don't spend that much. I don't have any nasty habits."
Weren't you at that strip club Scores, in New York, a few times?
"Oh, I've been there."
I can't picture you at Scores.
"That's the best thing about it [chuckles]. That's the only place where you can get a quiet drink. Nobody's looking at you."
Now, tell me about this drug Dead-Man's Root that you're into. I want to get my hands on some.
"That's difficult. You have to go to the Amazon jungle."
You can't get anything in New York.
"I'm sure you can! But it's not a frivolous pursuit. It's very much part of the religious practice of the people there. There is a certain amount of dread attached to taking it - you have a hallucinogenic trip that really deals with death and your mortality. So it's quite an ordeal. It's not something you're going to score and have a great time on."
How do you age gracefully in rock and roll?
"You have to be yourself. Be very honest about who and what you are. And if people still like you, that's fine. If they don't, well that's their problem."
You're starting to work on your next album.
"It's been two years. And I have to figure out if I've learned anything - either in music or about myself or the world - that I turn into some useful information for a listener. If the answer is no, then I hope I have the courage and the wisdom to shut the fuck up."
© Rolling Stone by Jancee Dunn