07.01.85 THE MAIL ON SUNDAY
The following interview with Peter Martin appeared in a July 1985 issue of The Mail on Sunday magazine...
The star who lost his Sting - 'Blond Dracula' was one of the kinder descriptions of the old Sting - mean and moody as they come. But now, with a new band, a new album and a new baby, he hardly knows himself.
Peter Martin was in Paris for the child's birth... and the rebirth of a star.
Here we at the Mogador, Paris, one of those antique theatres with an interior like an inside-out wedding cake. The French fans have turned up in force to see the new Sting, here to launch his first solo album, 'The Dream Of The Blue Turtles', with an entirely new, all-black band. Punk-jumping around the stage, very fast and nasty, now looking heroic and vulnerable, now coming on like a blond Dracula, the old Sting is very much apparent.
But there's something else now, too, something deeper, broader, and never more so than when he sings 'Children's Crusade'. From the new album, which he has pointedly dedicated 'to children', the song links the fake 11th century crusade for which European children were recruited only to be sold off into slavery; the boy-soldiers of the First World War - the 'virgins with rifles'; and the current lost generation of young heroin addicts. Both as a symbol of remembrance and as a source of heroin, poppies recur in the song, and Sting's wearing a cluster of them in his buttonhole on stage. It's a song to tear your heart out.
On such evidence of such new material and the brilliant new band it's hard to imagine a Police comeback.
Sting insists the option is still open. He's taking a solo break until 1986, that's all. We'll see.
If Sting was in a class of his own before, however, he has now excelled himself. The song 'Russians', for instance, has a subtle symphonic backing - vast, haunting, populous, like Russia itself. A plea for humanity to grasp for a future beyond that of nuclear dread, it reasonably assumes that 'Russians love their children too'.
But the theme of children is more poignant than tonight's audience knows. For backstage, Sting's girlfriend, Trudie Styler, is nine months' pregnant and , even now, experiencing mild contractions. She has a midwife with her, and there's a doctor on standby.
But the show goes on, Sting introducing his other new songs in charmingly broken French. Hugely appreciative, the fans are also able to forgive the fact that they are starkly arc-lit: the whole show is being filmed for a feature length documentary about the launch of the band.
Trudie, it turns out, is fine. Contractions subsided, she stays for the champagne celebrations in the theatre afterwards. Flushed with pleasure already, she refuses drink. People keep feeling her tummy, and there are happy cracks about the occupant kicking no less forcefully than its old man does on stage.
The local hospital has agreed that Sting can be present in the delivery-room. This will be his fourth child, his second with Trudie. A documentary camera will be in the delivery room, too. From a distance, the idea may seem a tacky one. Up close, it is a happier matter. 'A new band, a new album and a new baby all at the same time,' says Sting, joyfully. 'I call that auspicious.'
Sting's wearing a pair of joke hornrims, one lens oval, the other round. 'Do these disturb you at all?' It's a rare thing to see him so pleasantly disturbed. He's so happy he's embarrassed.
Where now the moody bastard with the ruthless streak? The superstar who would rip up any publicity photographs that showed him smiling. Issued by A&M Records in the manner of a royal summons, the invitation seemed straight-forward enough - come to Paris, see a gig, interview Sting one-to-one next day.
Navively, one accepted - only to step into a multi-media, rock'n'roll chaos with a cast of hundreds, a budget of millions and Sting locked inside a ring of documentary cameras wherever he goes. There are gigs at night, filming during the day, a queue of reporters waiting for their 'exclusive' interviews, not to mention the priorities imposed by Trudie's imminent baby. And then Sting would appear, cameras fore and aft, only to disappear into a waiting car, whoosh.
But it's Day Three now and here's Sting one-to-one at last - and where else but in the back of a car speeding across Paris. Ah, the rock'n'roll life. Across town at the Pompidou Centre about a hundred reporters are waiting for the formal press conference to begin. Madness, truly.
Oh, have l mentioned that the baby's been born? Just five hours ago, in fact, on camera: a boy, Jake, 9¬? lb.'Trudie's great,' says Sting, laughing, 'loads of fun.' And baby? 'Wonderful. Very long. But when the baby was actually born¬Ö' and Sting makes a holding, then a cradling motion with his hands, 'overwhelming. That was no performance on my part. A tremendous feeling.'
The man is astonishing. Getting a new band and album together to the point of launch, he has been going like a train for the past five months and there will be no let-up until he finishes his world tour, probably at the Albert Hall, around Christmas time. Duran Duran reckon to be in the recording studio for six months producing their next album. Sting did his in 12 days.
Ten days later, we resume talking in his dressing-room at the BBC TV Theatre (for 15 minutes), and then in another car ride (22 minutes) across London. But perhaps the key to who he has lately become was stated back there in Paris. Suddenly, as if about absolutely everything, he'd said: 'I really love my life.'
Unquestionably the star of the Police, Sting has always been possessed of volcanic energy. Misdirected, it destroyed his marriage to Frances Tomelty. Redirected, it resulted in the emotional catharsis that was his previous album, 'Synchronicity'. Since pressure of public life had in part wrecked his marriage, it was perhaps not surprising that he should exorcise some of the unhappiness through songwriting and performing.
Aware that he, like everyone else, is neither wholly good nor wholly bad, he has developed his film career along similar lines. As in 'Dune', 'The Bride of Frankenstein' and 'Plenty', with Meryl Streep, to be released in August, he chooses parts he can see himself in - 'good guys with a dark side', bad characters with redeeming qualities.
All good therapy. He likes to be called Sting, he says, because it protects his private self, Gordon Sumner, from the excesses of success. 'It's Sting,' he insists, 'who's the superstar, who has the fans, not me.'
But back then, it was chiefly Gordon Sumner who had wrecked his own marriage, of course and who was in real crisis as a consequence. Another man might have plugged on, proceeding ever outwards by way of escaping the emotional responsibility of what had happened. Instead assisted by analysis, and not without courage Gordon Sumner embarked upon the downward journey to the pit of his depression.
'It was,' he says, 'fairly terrifying.' But seeing and understanding something of his 'dark side there, he eventually resurfaced a healthier, happier man in fuller control of his complex energies. In America, on the 1983 Police tour, Sting was sullen, withdrawn, in turmoil. Today, he could still be 'cleaning up' with the Police. Instead, he has remade himself as a musician.
'I've spent too many years at war with myself', goes one line of a song on the new album. But as is apparent from the other songs on it, Sting has now focused his considerable talent on the troubled world outside himself.
'Yes, the album is more objective,' he was saying somewhere around the Arc de Triomphe. Clearly alluding to the song 'Russians' he continued: 'We've never had such a dangerous situation between the superpowers, so much terrible tension. These are times when it's important that all our pop songs shouldn't be nonsense.
Oh there's room for fun, Moon in June, all that. But if I'm still allowed the privilege of writing and per forming my songs, at 33, I think I should be saying something which equates with my intelligence.
'If we actually want better relations with the Russians, for instance, each of us has to find counterparts on the other side to relate to. I wanted to record 'Russians' with the Leningrad State Orchestra - except red tape's been holding it up - just for the opportunity of meeting and working with people there."
And in his BBC dressing-room: 'Pop music itself is a pejorative term. Oh, here's another rock star taking himself too seriously, biting off more than he can chew. And that is pretentious, yes. But I've got four children now. And I think like a lot of other people with, a stake in the future, I feel we've got to go out and win it for ourselves. The world is opening up, we can travel almost anywhere now.
'That terrible thing that happened in Belgium - 38 people killed at a football match. God, to be able to travel to other people's countries is too precious a thing to be jeopardised like that. It's put this country back years.
'But we can't just follow the flag any more. That's what those young lads did in the First World War. In a very different way, that's what those Liverpool fans were doing in Belgium. All that aggression bound up in the red and the blues, us versus them, and people killed.'
Later, in another car, approaching Hampstead: 'I've no patience with doom and gloom. But you have to be realistic. You have to acknowledge how bad things are before you can possibly find the solutions. Why I'm writing idealistic songs, hopeful ones, is because I think we need to be that in order to win a future worth having. There are no totally good guys or bad guys. We're all imperfect, and we have to make the best of that, not the worst.'
The interview ended there in Sting's driveway. On occasions he'd put on his joke homrims as if to say, 'Yes, it's only a pop star talking.' Then he'd take them off again and you could see the father and the man.
© The Mail On Sunday magazine