Interview: HELLO! (1989)

April 01, 1989

The following article by Sarah Claredge appeared in an April 1989 issue of Hello! magazine...

Rock star Sting is a self-confessed changed man. One of the world's top-selling and most popular solo singers he has been moved to action by his concern for the destruction of the world's environment, and in particular by the plight of the Amazon Indians. Such is his dedication to their cause that he has committed himself to devoting nearly a year of his life to help the Indians to preserve their heritage.

He and companion Trudie Styler have set up The Rainforest Foundation, and Sting has already begun a world tour without any singing - but which aims to make people aware of the dangers the world faces if the rainforests are destroyed. Although only in London for a few hours on his daughter Kate's birthday, Sting invited HELLO! to his beautiful North London home to talk about his work, and his hopes.

What do you think has made you change from a rock star into a campaigner?

"Basically it is about maturing. I am 37 years old. I have four kids. I am not encouraged as a rock star to be mature but I think it is a pretty hard phenomenon to resist. You get a little older and wiser and you see the world for it is. I am a mature male! I didn't have a road to Damascus conversion or anything like that. Having children changes you. In a few years time when the kids turn round and say: 'What did you do to save the rainforests?', I want to give them a good answer. I want them to inherit a planet that is safe to live on, where they can be happy and healthy and have children of their own."

How has the jungle affected you personally?

"My friend, Jean-Pierre Dutilleux, who first took me there, said he was right. It is sensational! The jungle is a fantastic green, magical cathedral-like thing. The feeling I get when I am there is that we 'civilised' people are a bit lost. We are confused about who we are, what we are doing. The Indians don't have any such confusion. They are very centred and calm. They have a way of life, a technology, that exists in harmony with the environment, without destroying it.

So what can you as a rock star do to help prevent the destruction of the rainforest?

"What I am trying to do is give the rainforest a human face. I think the Indian Kayapo chief Raoni is the person to fill this gap and so we are touring together. Raoni is a very charismatic leader. He is my hero and he is going to show us the way to save the planet. When he speaks he is very powerful, and he looks extraordinary. He has a plate in his lip which proves his courage and frightens his enemies. It is frightening but you get used to it. My two little blonde children were with him in Paris last week sitting on his knee gazing with adoration into his eyes as if he was their grandfather."

How involved is your family in all this?

"Trudie was one of the founder members of the Foundation. She was really the one who convinced me to go to the jungle. I've learned to trust her intuition; I think women are superior in that they are more intuitive. Trudie is doing the tour with us and I do try and take the children. I try to make their lives as interesting as I possibly can and someone like Raoni is definitely interesting! "In fact the kids want to get to the jungle now, but I think it might be a bit dangerous. It really is Indiana Jones stuff out there! The first day Trudie and I were there we were attacked by a pit viper - so I think the kids will have to wait."

How did you become so actively involved with the plight of the Indians?

"Raoni realises the power of the media and knew he needed a celebrity to help him. He thought that I might be the person and he was right. What the Indians want to do is preserve an area bigger than Italy for themselves and their heirs. They don't want to be wiped out like the North American Indians nearly have been."

How did you get on with the Indians?

"They are amazing! One of the great things about them is that no one gives a monkey's who I am. They know I am a singer but they don't ask for my autograph. The first time I went there they did a tribal dance for me and then they asked me to sing for them. It is no good explaining that there is no band, no PA, no lights. They were clutching their knives and bows and arrows so I thought maybe I ought to sing something!"

What are your immediate plans?

"We are touring for six weeks which I need like a hole in the head. I have only just got back from two years touring. We go to Europe, then Australia and Japan and then we go back to Brazil. We have a problem with the Japanese in that they don't have a word for charity. That is not to say, they are not kind people - they are one of the kindest nations of people I have ever met, but the idea of giving money for causes is not known. Also the Japanese are responsible for much of the devastation of the rainforest because tropical hardwood has a very high value in Japan. It is probably going to take a lot of pressure to change their way of thinking."

Are you nervous of what you are aiming to do?

"Yes, it is terrifying! It started off as an agreement between friends to try to do something and then it became enormous very quickly. There is a great deal of responsibility. I am meeting heads of state, and raising money. It is fun, but at the same time there are all sorts of political games which you have to play. You survive from hour to hour. Last week in France I, met President Mitterand and Jacques Chirac. You never know, I might even get a chance to meet Mrs Thatcher!"

Is all this affecting your career?

"In a way it is a kind of relief I burnt myself out last year. I toured for 18 months and sang for five nights a week. The money is good, the life is fantastic but it does tend to get a bit lonely. I don't know yet whether I am going to do another album - the process of writing songs for me is a very slow and mysterious one. In August I am doing a show on Broadway, The Threepenny Opera by Brecht. That should keep me out of trouble."

Do you feel that you yourself have a moral obligation to help the Indians?

"No, I don't. It is just very natural for me to use some of my own fame to help them. I have a great life, I love what I do. Job satisfaction is what makes you happy, money doesn't, and I have a lot of job satisfaction. Singing is physically hard work but I love it. If you are a rock star your experience is actually quite limited so it is always, good to get out! I wouldn't want to sit round a pool eating ice cream like so many other singers. I know I haven't done anything creative this year but I am not sorry. For me it would be crazy to carry on with my life and not expect to play some part in this fight for the rainforests. There is no point in being the most successful rock singer or performer in the world if the rainforests are being destroyed and our earth is slowly dying."

© Hello! magazine


Oct 2, 1988

Having perfected his role as a pop star called Sting, Gordon Sumner has been serving his acting apprenticeship as Frankenstein, satanic seducer, sperm donor, and dune demon. Now 'Stormy Monday' takes him back to Newcastle, back to his jazz roots, and back to being a Geordie.It must have be the siren song of Sinatra, Streisand and Cher that encourages celebrities in one field or another to move horizontally across the board. They are a dangerous example. Most pop stars who try the big screen fail. Madonna looked like a natural in 'Desperately Seeking Susan' but fortunes have been squandered in pursuit of that first fine careless rapture...

Oct 1, 1988

Sting On the Warpath - Singing in the Rainforest. Hemmed in by hostile settlers and logging companies, Brazil's forest Indians stand in the Xingu National Park. But the world took no notice until Sting became involved. There were huge difficulties in getting permits for the trip. Officials were uneasy about possible adverse publicity. Sting's concert the night before had been a huge success - 200,000 fans had packed Rio de Janeiro's vast Maracana stadium to hear him and now the rock star was in his hotel, talking to Belgian film-maker Jean-Pierre Dutilleux...