Interview: Q (1996)

May 01, 1996

The following article by Sting appeared in the May 1996 issue of Q magazine...

Am I a pervert? Thus ponders the man they call Sting, spending five days in New York City, developing a crutch fetish, dressing up as a bishop and having an alleged five-hour spot of how's-your father with the missus. "Thank God for yoga," he muses.

Thursday February 22 1996 - I got in to New York on Sunday. I'm here to rehearse the band for Saturday Night Live and the coming tour. Woke up at seven o'clock in the morning and went downtown to a yoga class at this place called the Shiva Mukti Yoga Centre. It's a seriously militant yoga class full of other maniacs and masochists and it really kicks my arse. I've been doing yoga for a long time but after an hour and a half there I virtually have to crawl home.

Got home to the apartment I have on Central Park West and had breakfast before starting work. Today there were two press interviews before lunch. Generally, I'm talking about the new album and the impression I get is that people like it. The enthusiasm seems genuine. Some people understand the record on one level and some understand it on another. That's fine. A journalist from the Washington Post really got into meanings within meanings and references within references and that's encouraging because I do tend to layer my work. There's normally something going on beneath the surface, so it's nice to know that someone's making that journey. It encourages me to go on with my perverse plan.

Joe the cook made lunch for us at the house. Couscous parcels with mushrooms and salad. Walked from the apartment down to SIR rehearsal studios on 52nd Street. It's funny, I always wear a hat here because I like to walk in this town but you don't want to invite recognition. The only thing is, I've discovered that when I wear the hat more people recognise me. Construction workers yell, "Yo! Sting! The guy in the hat!" Fame in New York is more fun than anywhere else but I'm getting less and less anonymous. Maybe the hat's getting famous. Maybe I should stop wearing it.

Turned up at the rehearsal studio at two. I'm very punctual. I don't understand lateness. Had two TV interviews to do: CNN and Entertainment Tonight. We talked about this conference that the Grammy Committee had held which discussed testing for drugs in the music industry After you've finished your album, they'll test you for drugs If you're positive they disqualify your album. It should be the other way around: if you don't test positive they disqualify your album. But if it's as I suspect, then they'll have to disqualify virtually every great album made in the last 30 years I laughed out loud and gave my drugs spiel. Then we talked about the record and being famous. I've got the sound bites down for that so I can give them those and can go next door and do what I really love doing most, which is playing music with the band.

Rehearsal goes extremely well. It's always difficult to bring new material into the set, but it's a different challenge. We worked out new tempos and chords and arrangements. I'm a pretty benign dictator: I'll ask for ideas but I'm the final arbiter of what happens. We take regular breaks and everyone else has a cigarette and I lie on the ground moaning. The Fresh Air Patrol. By the end of the session I'll have brow-beaten one person and encouraged someone else. It's actually a bit like being a schoolteacher. But I've found that I'm getting more and more comfortable with being a band leader. Marshalling the group's talent is my forte. We rehearsed from two until nine. By the end, I was totally shagged-out and feeling a bit jet-lagged but we managed to go to the local Irish bar for a pint. Good Guinness, Got home quite early, at about 10.30, and watched some of Restoration on video. I was in bed by half eleven because I had to get up for eight the next morning. I've been taking this stuff called Melatonin, which is perfectly legal; you can get it on prescription at home but in America you can buy it as a vitamin supplement. It's a hormone that your penile gland secretes when it gets dark. It's the hormone that tells you it's time to go to sleep. So by giving yourself an extra half-milligram of that you really get off to sleep straight away. It also makes you dream very vividly but my dreams have got nothing to do with you. Which you're probably pretty relieved about.

Friday February 23 1996 - After yoga this morning, I went to rehearse for Saturday Night Live. Elle McPherson is the guest presenter. I've met her before and she's a very sweet girl. Wasn't she one of the first supermodels? Then I had to go back to the studio to audition dancers for the Top Of The Pops outside broadcast we're doing this week for 'Let Your Soul Be Your Pilot'. There were about 20 dancers there and I felt a little like the Shah Of Iran: yes, you, you and you. Two of those, one of them. The others, you die. It was the oddest experience. They work so hard, but it must be tough being on trial every day Went back to Saturday Night Live for another run-through. As well as doing two songs I'm in a couple of sketches, so there's a script to learn. Don Henley was doing the David Letterman show a few blocks away so I went to visit. I like Don. Never liked the Eagles but he knows that. Don was fine but the song he was doing was completely out of tune because David Letterman likes to have the studio refrigerator-cold so he doesn't sweat on camera and he thinks it keeps the audience awake. Nice idea, but all the guitars were totally out of tune.

After Letterman I went home and the house was full of people: architects, designers, hairdressers. It was like some sort of sitcom. I just sat back and watched, giggling. We went out to dinner at a place called La Compagne down on 23rd Street. I was pretty well-fit by the time I got there and Don Henley was there with some cronies and don't think they were quite prepared for our high spirits. We talked about Pat Buchanan and how repulsive and frightening he is, and I spoke to one foolish man who decided that the best way for me to save the rainforest was to build a fence around it and fill it full of criminals. Now why didn't I think of that? That was the level of conversation so I was glad I was drunk. Then I made some joke about Don's greatest hits album being a very short record, which went down so badly we made our excuses and left. Came back and watched the rest of Restoration, which is excellent. Highly recommended. Four stars.

Trudie came in tonight so I didn't get to sleep as early as usual. If she doesn't get her five hours of sex she gets very cantankerous. Actually, she's broken her foot skiing so she's on crutches. She knew that she'd damaged it but she carried on skiing. She's peculiarly stubborn like that. So sexually we had to be inventive. Thank God for yoga. Actually, I find the crutches incredibly sexy. They make her look so vulnerable. Fell asleep wondering, "Am I a pervert?"

Saturday February 24 1996 - The yoga centre was shut today, so I took full advantage and went to the pub this morning. There's a place down by the 59th Street Bridge (as in Feeling Groovy, which I was) called The British Open, and at 10 in the morning it shows a live league match from Britain which you watch while having a full English breakfast and a pint. I was hoping to see Newcastle play Man City but it was Liverpool vs Blackburn. Great game. Stan Collymore was very good. Liverpool won 3-2 and deserved to win. I suppose. After the game we had to ring England for the Newcastle score. It was 3-3. The result was very important to me. It's totally irrational why grown men care so much about these things but it can make a difference to your day. If you've witnessed the game in per- son, it becomes even more poignant. Especially if your team lose. You enter a state of grace and experience all the flagellation and guilt that comes with religious devotion. God knows why.

Came home and had fish for lunch. We normally have vegetarian food but, hey, it's Saturday - National Vegetarian Hypocrisy Day. After lunch we went for a walk in Central Park. It was such a beautiful day and the park looked perfect. All the mad, middle class New Yorkers were doing their mad, middle-class New York things, pretending they're in the country. I'm really against jogging. This entire generation will end up hobbling around on zimmer frames without a cartilage between them. The old ones are the worst. I feel like getting in an ambulance and rounding them all up and saying, "Please stop!"

At four there were more Saturday Night Live run-throughs. Although the show isn't as good as it was in its John Belushi/Steve Martin heyday, it's pretty exciting to do. They're rewriting the show right up until you go on air: one of the sketches I was in actually got dropped, which I think was a mistake because it was a lot funnier than the one which replaced it. I was a bishop and it culminated in me stripping down to these red satin knickers in order to join a Nude Crusade. In the sketch that they kept I was a gay Australian phone sex guy. It was a good idea but I had this big moustache and leather hat on so no-one knew it was me anyway and it lost some of its impact. Musically, we peaked in the rehearsal and by the time it got to the actual transmission we felt like we'd already done the show and were on a downward curve. We were meant to go to a party afterwards but as my wife was on crutches I didn't feel like putting her through that particular ordeal.

James Taylor had come down to the show so we dropped him at his hotel. James is gorgeous. We got chased by these lunatics who wanted their guitar signed so we had a hairy car chase. I didn't want to get followed to the house, particularly in this street. The odd English rock star has been known to get shot around here.

Sunday February 25 1996 - I was tired when I got up. The stop-start aspect of Saturday Night Live was exhausting. I had to convince myself to do yoga. Alfredo, my friend from New Mexico, persuaded me into it by saying he'd do it with me. We managed about 90 minutes together at home. After breakfast, I told Trudie she couldn't go for a walk in the park because of her leg. I took a constitutional myself only to find that about ten seconds after I'd left she had gone out anyway. She's that kind of obedient wife.

Walked down to rehearsal, which was a bit too relaxed today, but you know what Sunday afternoons are like. None of us were in the mood. I've got a feeling now that we're a bit over rehearsed. It's better to get on stage and not really know how you're going to get to the middle eight. You have to become a musician again.

Packed up at six and came back home. Some friends came around and we had a meditation together. It was mainly about a friend of mine who has AIDS. We wanted to be together and discuss life and death issues together. It was very uplifting. It's a privilege to be around him because he's turned a corner and every moment to him is charged with meaning. 'Let Your Soul Be Your Pilot' was inspired by Kenny. He seems extremely aware all the time, like he's high on some amazing drug. We ended up dancing to this rave tape he brought with him. It went on for hours. Dominic Miller, the guitarist in my band, turned up and got into the vibe. I drifted off to sleep at around two feeling very happy.

Monday February 26 1996 - Got up very early and felt fantastic. Really elated. Had to do Howard Stern's radio show. Howard's what used to be called a "shock jock". He's a lovely bloke. I always take Trudie along with me because she's a good foil. She can get more outrageous than Howard and she helps me out of my earnest self. About six or seven years ago I had an apartment downtown in New York and I was lying in bed with Trudie who was asleep. I'm listening to Howard Stern on the radio and he's talking about me. He used to have this thing where he'd call people up in their hotel rooms and he thought he had my hotel room number and was trying to call me. He was clearly barking up the wrong tree so I called up the station and verified it was me and said, "Howard, I live in New York, why would I be staying in a hotel?" Anyway, we were having this conversation and Trudie started to wake up and she had no idea I was on live radio and I said, "Here, speak to my girlfriend: I passed her the phone and she says, "Hi, Howard, how big's your d***?" Since then they've got on like a house on fire. Anytime we've done the show I've barely been able to get a word in edgeways.

This time, all Howard wanted to talk about was Trudie's knockers. Her E-cups. Apart from that, he seemed most intent on discussing Trudie's leg, Trudie's film, Trudie's birth, having sex with Trudie. The drugs issue came up and Howard ended up saying that they should legalise all drugs. Then they played my record and talked all the way through it, taking the piss out of the lyrics and playing all these sound effects over it of dogs barking and babies crying and Andy Summers knocking on the door. It was very funny. Howard's lovely if he likes you but if he doesn't he can be incredibly vicious. He has a sidekick called Robin, who's this black woman but he does these outrageous stereotypical spoofs on black people, making out they're stupid and lazy. Of course he's being ironic, but you wonder how many people listening take him seriously. There used to be an armed guard outside the radio building because people used to come along wanting to kill Howard. Needless to say, I steered well clear of all that ironic stuff. Won't have it in the house.

After that I had to do another radio interview in which we talked about themes on the album - boring things like that. Not one mention of Trudie's knockers. Came home and slept for half an hour then had lunch at the best restaurant in town: i.e. my kitchen, which is where I am now. This afternoon there's some more TV interviews, Good Morning America. There hasn't been much time for recreation this week but the work has been relatively painless. Exhausting but necessary. It'll be beneficial for me. I don't know what we're doing tonight, but I'd like to go to the movies because seeing a film with a New York audience is special. Watching an action movie in Times Square with the whole audience yelling "Shoot the motherf*****!" is just brilliant. New York energises me, I very rarely vegetate here. It makes you want to go out and get involved. In fact, it demands that you do. You can't escape.

© Q magazine


Apr 17, 1996

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