The following article by Mary Campbell appeared in an March 1993 issue of The Long Beach Press-Telegram
Fans and critics may think of Sting as a pretty serious guy, but his new record really isn't that serious. At least for Sting.
Take the album's title: 'Ten Summoner's Tales'. It's "a mild literary joke,'' a takeoff on the story 'Summoner's Tale' from Chaucer's 'The Canterbury Tales' and also a reference to Sting's real name, Gordon Sumner.
If that's not exactly 'National Lampoon's Loaded Weapon', it's still a change of pace for the self-proclaimed 'King of Pain', a man best known for tortured love songs ('Every Breath You Take') and social commentary ('Russians'), for reminding listeners, "There is a deeper world than this.''
His latest album includes such songs as 'Love Is Stronger Than Justice (the Magnificent Seven)', in which seven brothers compete for one bride, and 'Seven Days', the story of a love-struck David and the Goliath who competes for his girl. There are also more typical Sting compositions: the moody ballad 'It's Probably Me' and 'Shape of My Heart', with its line about "the sacred geometry of chance.'' He even takes on the media in 'Epilogue (Nothing 'Bout Me)', chiding those who "check my records, check my facts, check if I paid my income tax.''
Despite having just arrived from London, the bassist and former leader of the Police was in a friendly mood during a recent interview. His plane was several hours late, but the 41-year-old singer-songwriter showed few signs of jet lag, giving his usual thoughtful, articulate answers and responding openly to questions both professional and personal.
Q: Do you think your reputation for seriousness is deserved?
A: I think it's a distortion. I think writers tend to focus on songs about issues because they're easier to write about. It's as if I suddenly discovered a sense of humour.
Q: How do you write songs about issues?
A: I never write about an issue unless I find a metaphor to express it. I don't want to state the obvious. If I knew where to look for metaphors, I'd be there digging. Somehow they come to you by a magical process, which I'm grateful for, sometimes anxious about. There aren't any songs about issues on the new album.
Q: You did say that your 1991 'The Soul Cages' contained "heavy imagery,'' didn't you?
A: That was very personal and confessional. As a piece of therapy it worked for me. I didn't feel the need to repeat the exercise. I didn't have to dredge up an inner wound. I wanted to get back to writing songs to amuse my band and family. I was always very happy during the period of making 'Ten Summoner's Tales' and wanted the album to reflect that.
Q: Were you happy because you and (actress-film producer) Trudie Styler married during 1992?
A: Yes. I wrote the songs before I got married, but that was the mood. The songs are very much about being happy, being who you are. We got married Aug. 22 in a 900-year-old Saxon church in England. It was a fabulous day. It rained until we made our promises, then the sun came through the stained-glass window.
Q: The rumour is that the marriage was your children's idea.
A: That's true. I think children are very conservative in their needs and desires. They were very militant about the wish that we should get married. We're from the generation that didn't want to get married. They said, "We'll feel better if you're married.'' I waited for a romantic moment and I proposed. The wedding was about six months later.
Q: How old are your children?
A: My wife and I have three, 2, 6 and 8. My first wife (actress Frances Tomelty) and I have two, 10 and 16. The 16-year-old is in a band and he's very serious about it. He won't let me listen to it. The hippest thing for him is to have me at arm's length. I appreciate that and understand.
Q: Have you given him any advice?
A: I will when I'm asked. The only advice so far is that schooling is important.
Q: What effect did turning 40 a year ago have on you?
A: It does tend to make you take stock of your life and ask yourself a lot of questions. We've moved to the countryside. I've never lived in the country before. I had this thought a couple of weeks ago that I could actually die in the country. It's kind of a macabre thought but rather comforting at the same time, to select a place you want to die. That was my main thought at 40, accepting mortality, accepting who you are - slowly coming around to the idea I actually like myself, which wasn't really apparent in my earlier years.
Q: Is there a key tale on 'Ten Summoner's Tales'?
A: I think the album opens with kind of a manifesto of faith, 'If I Ever Lose My Faith in You'. It is easy to define what you've lost faith in. In my case, it's the idea of technological progress, organised religion and politics. Despite all those things, I still have a great deal of hope and faith. I can't really define what I have faith in. In the song, I leave it open. It could be interpreted faith in romantic love, in God, in myself.
Q: How long will you tour?
A: I'm going to do a short tour - short for me. Three months in America, three months in Europe. I actually love touring. I have an alternative family on the road, the crew and the band. My family comes when school is out, when we're in one place for some time where it is nice to be.
Q: Is it so hard to write songs?
A: It's very difficult, very demanding - intellectually, spiritually, physically. I tend to walk around a lot and compose. The rhythm of walking will tend to inspire me.
Q: Is quick success, which the Police had, good or bad?
A: You have to accept that if the initial attention you get is very positive and confirming, it is just as easy for that to turn into its opposite without logical reason. You can't be on top of the wheel forever. It does turn. You're performing a balancing act really, as a performer. The fun is that you do stay on by hook or by crook. Success came to me fairly late. I was 25 by the time I got a recording contract. I'd had time to hold down a job, have a family, get an education. I wasn't exactly unformed, which I'm glad about.
© The Long Beach Press-Telegram