11.21.00 THE SUN HERALD: Backstage pastimes...


The following article appeared in an October 2000 issue of the Australian newspaper The Sun Herald...

Backstage pastimes.

After more than a year bouncing between North America and Europe playing songs from his latest album 'Brand New Day', Sting finds himself in the Japanese city of Fukuoka.

Under 60 minutes to stage time and the blond singer, songwriter and bassist is not quietly contemplating set lists, band issues or yoga positions, rather he's pining for his homes, including the rather impressive compound in the Italian region of Tuscany.

"Fukuoka is not bad," Sting said, "but I would prefer to be looking at the vineyards and the olive groves." He paused.

"Actually, I'd prefer to be in England watching the football this afternoon. Newcastle are at home to Everton, Manchester United are playing Leeds, Bradford City are playing Ipswich Town, Charlton Athletic are playing Middlesborough."

Warming to the task, Sting adopts a disc jockey's tone - "Chelsea will play Coventry City, Liverpool will play Leicester City and Tottenham will play Derby County. Any more?" - before cracking up with laughter. Clearly the road is taking its toll.

Although his sales at times during the 1990s look a little shoddy when contrasted with the stadium salad days of The Police and his hit-laden first solo album, 1985's 'The Dream Of The Blue Turtles', Sting continues to rack up platinum albums in various countries around the world, due to his loyal core fan base and enthusiasm for touring each release.

During his last series of engagements in Australia, Sting eschewed the whizz-bangery of a flashy light show or stage production. A casual, musical affair at the State Theatre, with the main man in sandals, it was almost as if we'd been invited to a final dress rehearsal rather than opening night.

"It really depends on where we're playing," Sting said. "If you're in a large arena playing to 70,000 people you tend to make more noise and have more flashing lights and all that because you need to grab people's attention. In a small theatre like we played last time in Sydney, and where we're going back to, you don't need that, it's about music essentially. It's actually what I'm good at. I'm not particularly good at the lights, [laughs] I'm colour-blind. I sing well, the band play like demons and that's what people come to see. People know me well enough to expect that."

What people shouldn't expect, according to Sting, is a marathon similar to recent three-hour explorations of sound conducted in Sydney by Lou Reed and The Cure.

"The only thing I do for three hours is have sex," he said, revealing information that really ought to be shared on a need-to-know basis. "I don't want to be a critic, but it's not something I'd do. Three hours is too long for anybody."

While in the past Sting has used his songwriting to help cope with the death of his mother (1987's 'Nothing Like The Sun') and father (1991's 'The Soul Cages'), 'Brand New Day' is built around a series of characters, many of whom are having a hard time finding happiness in relationships.

"It is interesting to do an album that wasn't in the least bit autobiographical or confessional," Sting said. "It was really about standing in other people's shoes, looking through other viewpoints and figuring out what they see and how they feel, and it was a great release."

If it is possible, then, for Sting to peer inside the minds of others, has anyone ever truly sussed out the man from Wallsend?

"Has anyone ever gotten inside me? I would very much doubt it," he said, laughing. "Very much doubt it." Cryptically, he added: "I've enjoyed singing the song about the transsexual hooker, which is as far removed from my experience as you could possibly imagine, but fun. I like those shoes, anyway."

Ladies' footwear aside, he is also partial to a game of chess. Earlier this year Sting and his band challenged chess champion Gary Kasparov in the ABC TV studios in Times Square, New York. "He was lucky," said Sting. "He's very intimidating; it's a bit like facing Mike Tyson in the ring, you sort of throw in the towel after two rounds. I lost a pawn quite early and after that I was defending."

Website kasparovchess.com reported: "Sting tried to keep the balance in the centre, but then he managed to bury his bishop in the corner and it was clear the end was near."

Sting said: "I defended for about 45 minutes, which isn't too shabby. [Kasparov] was grinning like a demon, as if we were dead meat from the first move. We all harboured fantasies he might make a mistake, but he doesn't."

© The Sun Herald (Australia)
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