Interview: RECORD MIRROR (1985)

June 23, 1985

The following article by Mike Gardner appeared in a June 1985 issue of Record Mirror magazine...

Sting looks like he hasn't slept for a week. His face carries the glazed expression of someone who's not only burnt the candle at both ends but had a good attempt at attacking the centre.

He's ushered onto a podium, with the other six members of his new band - currently in the middle of a seven day session of dates at the Theatre Mogador, Paris - their European debut.

The band - drummer Omar Hakim (Weather Report), Darryl Jones on bass (Miles Davis Band), keyboardist Kenny Kirkland and saxophonist Branford Marsalis (both from the Wynton Marsalis Band) and singers Dolette McDonald and Janice Pendarvis - are sitting on the top floor of the Centre National d'Art et de Culture Georges-Pompidou. They are gathered together with the European press, a film crew and sundry record company personnel to promote Sting's new LP project 'The Dream Of The Blue Turtles' and single 'If You Love Somebody Set Them Free'. With the beautiful Parisienne skyline as a backdrop, Sting makes an announcement and explains his tiredness.

"This morning I became a father again. My girlfriend Trudie gave birth to a nine pound boy. We're going to call him Jake. He was born in Paris, so that makes him a Parisienne, I guess he's going to be a British citizen. I just like the name - it's a pirate's name."

On whether the Police have broken up

"I haven't left the Police. The Police achieved everything we set out to do and more - maybe a hundred times more than we expected. All of us are enjoying a year - 18 months of exploring different areas and playing with other musicians. I think its important that we exercise a bit of freedom as individuals an I'm having a ball playing with these great players and great friends. We will be touring until next March (British dates will be around Christmas) and we will be going everywhere. As far as the Police goes we have no plans to do anything as yet. We haven't broken up or fallen out. We're just seeing what happens next."

On forming his new band

"I held a workshop in New York City for three weeks and put out an open invitation to the best jazz players in the area. I was very warmed by how many great jazz players turned up. They weren't all black - it just happened that the ones I chose were. I chose them because they were the best players and the way they had a rapport with each other and with me seemed to work. What's interesting is that we come from different areas; I'm a white pop star from the north-east of England and they're all from different parts of the States - all have different backgrounds and viewpoints. What's been interesting is that both sides have been stretched into an area that is common. I did all the numbers as demos where I play everything myself. The demo was a starting point and the musicians were free to interpret, within certain parameters. It's certainly not a solo album, as people have called it - it's a team effort."

On filming the press conference and concerts

"The film's about the formation of this group. It's about musicians from different areas forming a common language. A lot of the film is rehearsal footage in which we explain how arrangements are put together and how certain decisions are made; plus concert footage taken from the Mogador. So it's not just a concert movie. Hopefully it will explain how music is made. Most rock films are made about bands at the peak of their career or when they are finished - like 'The Last Waltz' or 'Let It Be'. I can't think of a film that's about a band starting off. It's being shot as a 35mm feature by Michael Apted - the director of 'Gorky Park', 'Coalminer's Daughter', 'Stardust', - and to me some of his best works were his documentaries for Granada. He did a series called '28 Up' which took children at the age of seven and interviewed them at seven year periods."

On his own jazz roots

"In reality the first rock band I ever played in was the Police. Before that I worked extensively in different kinds of jazz groups. My first band was a Dixieland trad group and I played double bass. Then I played in a mainstream jazz group where I learned things like 'Green Dolphin Street' and other standards. I played in a big band, a modern jazz group and a fusion-jazz group. So I feel at home with jazz players. They certainly have more finesse than your average heavy metal guitarist. I wasn't frustrated by my jazz roots playing in the Police. I think the Police comprises some of the best musicians playing today in the world. Stewart Copeland and Andy Summers are wonderful, brilliant musicians. But I was interested in seeing how my work would be interpreted elsewhere."

On being addressed as 'Gordon' by a fleet street journalist

"Who's this 'Gordon' character? Everybody calls me Sting. My Mother, my children call me Sting, Branford calls me Sting - among other things."

On the title of the album - 'The Dream Of The Blue Turtles'

"I had a dream - during the formation of the new group. I dreamt about my garden at home in London. It's a very small little garden with walls covered in ivy and nice little lawns and flower beds and it's very tidy. Out of the walls came these massive blue turtles who were drunk on their own virility - massive, athletic and crazy. They started to do backflips and show off in this drunken, athletic way and destroyed my garden. I don't really know what it means."

On the track 'Children's Crusade'

"It's a song about three periods of history. One is in the 11th century where the Children's Crusade was the idea of two monks who recruited children from the streets of Europe, ostensibly to fight the Palastinians to get them out of the Holy Land - which is an old idea. What they were actually doing was selling them as slaves in North Africa. It's a wonderful symbol of cynicism and the futility of following leaders. The second part is about the First World War when thousands of young men were led to their death for reasons they didn't understand. That too was a Children's Crusade. The third part is about the growth of the heroin industry in England - where it is cheaper to buy heroin than it is to buy sugar. I think the people who run the heroin industry - and I'm talking about the fat businessmen who are making lots and lots of profit (I wish them hell) - are the same breed who sold children into slavery in the 11th Century and sent people off to fight in the 1914-18 war."

On whether the song is based on personal experiences

"I'm not a heroin addict. I've never taken heroin either socially, medically or any other way. It's hard to ignore what's happening in our schools though. I think that kids being given heroin free, just to get them hooked; is horrendous. The song isn't an attack on addicts or even pushers. It's an attack on the industrial entrepreneurial aspect of the heroin industry which I find distasteful - that's too light a word - I f***ing hate those people."

On his plans to use the Leningrad State Orchestra to record the track 'Russians'

"Unfortunately it takes longer than three weeks to set up. I'd been naive. The original idea of the 'Russians' song was to record it in the Soviet Union. I feel very strongly that in order to relax East-West tension, you can't leave it to the politicians anymore - they've proved themselves totally inept: It's up to individuals to make contact with one's counterpart behind the so-called Iron Curtain in order to ascertain and confirm that they are human beings and not demographic sub-robotic morons. So I felt that it was important to go to the Soviet Union and perhaps meet fellow musicians and do something together. Unfortunately I came up against the bureaucracy that politicians put in front of you. It's not easy to get into the Soviet Union to make a record - and it should be. I'd love to take this band to Russia. I think it would freak them out."

On becoming a father for the fourth time

"I was present at the birth for the first time. I'd always been on tour before and it was very moving, quite heavy - intense. Trudie is fine."

On future film plans

"I have no plans to make more movies. 'Plenty' is due out August 12th. 'The Bride' is due out August 12th."

On plans to join the hunt for the Abominable Snowman

"A great friend of mine named Bill Grant - who's a complete madman who I love dearly and spends most of his time in the Himalayas looking for the Yeti - keeps inviting me to join him. I'm always on tour. One day I shall join him on this quest."

On whether songs like 'Russians', 'Children's Crusade' and 'We Work The Black Seam' - about the Miner's Strike - herald a new political awareness

"That's not really true. If you look clearly at my work as a whole, there's a political theme running through it all. I don't think it's a new fad. There's a lot of political songs on Police albums. Invisible Sun was a political song - 'De Do Do Do, De Da Da Da' wasn't."

On meeting his hero - Miles Davis - and appearing on his album

"Miles Davis is a very important figure in my musical education. Miles Davis taught me, more than anybody else, the use of space - the way of isolating an instrument or a note with silence on either side. Silence is one of the most profound musical statements. Some of Miles Davis's best work is maybe three notes on 16 bars just placed beautifully. Darryl knew I was an enormous fan and since he works with him all the time he asked me if I wanted to meet him. I said I'd love to but I wasn't sure how he'd react to me - the stories about him are legion. I went down to the studio and Darryl introduced us. The first think he said to me was 'Do you speak French?'. I don't but I said yes. He said 'I want you to come into the studio and speak French to me'. They dragged me into the studio and he said 'I want you to translate the Miranda rights into French and shout them at me'. The Miranda rights are what they say in America when you are arrested - 'Anything you say will be taken down and used in evidence against you - so shut up'. I said give me five minutes. I got onto the phone to Trudie who speaks fluent French. I found her in an Indian restaurant in Fulham. Five minutes later I had it written down. Miles starts the backing track and I start screaming at him, in French, the Miranda rights. At the end he said 'Great to meet you Sting, see you around'. That was Miles Davis - 10 minutes - a great character."

© Record Mirror magazine



Jun 1, 1985

Sting, lead singer of The Police, talks to Tony Wragg... Sting, it has been more than two years since the last Police album, 'Synchronicity'. You are now touring the world for seven months as a solo performer. Were you at any stage apprehensive about going it alone...?

Jun 1, 1985

Hampstead, North London. Chez Sting. Across the lane is where Charles de Gaulle lived during the Nazi occupation of France. Two centuries ago this and the neighbouring house were joined as a pub called the Three Pigeons, and three decades ago Tamara Karsavina, the Diaghilev prima ballerina, trod these creaky floorboards. The current householder, planning a move across Hampstead Heath to the equally artsy and venerable Highgate, now peers across the room at his daughter with a wry grin and the barest edge of pique. "Give me a kiss," he says in the age-old paternal lilt. "Hey, give me a kiss - no...?"