Interview: RECORD MIRROR (1987)

August 01, 1987

The following article by David Stansfield appeared in an August 1987 issue of Record Mirror magazine...

Gimme that Sting - under a moonlight sky in Italy, Sting pop star and 'actor' met Gil Evans - 'genius' jazz arranger - and they made sweet music together.

A rather famous pop star is holding court.

"The first time I met Gil Evans was about three or four years ago when I went to see him at Ronnie Scott's in London. I'd been a fan of Gil's since I was 15 and I went backstage and had the nerve to say 'Hello', and 'I admire your work'. I said, 'I'm Sting, I sing' and he said, 'I've heard of you'. I couldn't believe that he'd heard of me. He said, 'Yeah, I remember 'Walking On The Moon', good bass line'. It was like... I couldn't believe this great man knew about me. I said, 'We must work together one day', so Gil said, 'Yeah, sure'."

I don't suppose Sting gets much time to talk to the press these days, what with ail his recording in the Virgin Islands, his film acting, his special projects and experiments. But, there he is, all rugged and bronzed, because they finally did get to work together at this summer's Umbria Jazz Festival, in Perugia, Italy.

Under a full moonlit sky, Sting the pop star and Gil Evans the genius jazz arranger held a 25,000 capacity audience spellbound with music that included a Billie Holiday classic, some of Sting's own compositions and even a couple of Jimi Hendrix songs, like 'Little Wing' and 'Up From The Skies'. The music of Hendrix was perhaps not an obvious choice, so why choose material by the late, great axeman?

"They were the first things we did together. We met at a club where Gil played every week and he asked me to sing. I asked him what we should do, and he asked me what I knew. I knew he played Jimi Hendrix arrangements, I knew the songs, so we sang those. It was common ground, it was both Gil's music and rock and roll, so we met musically through Jimi Hendrix."

Both Sting and Gil Evans are busy people, so how did they find the time to rehearse?

"We performed in public once at the very tiny New York club, Sweet Basil. At one end there were 17 musicians, and the rest of it was full of tables and people drinking. The night I sang with Gil there was no room for me on the stage so I had to stand in between the tables. That was nice for me because normally I sing on big stages and I don't see the people. That was our first rehearsal; we've been collaborating for a couple of months now."

Will there be more collaborations in the future?

"Ask my boss! I'm not sure how much Gil will get out of this, but for me, who's still learning about music, there's a universe to learn. Gil is one of the geniuses of the 20th Century, so for me, it's like winning the World Cup!'

You're now working in the 'straight' field of jazz and this will obviously attract a lot of new listeners. Are you conscious of this, and does it please you?

"Well, one of my crusades in life is that there should be no such thing as a label in music. I see music as a whole and I think it doesn't really serve music to be labelled jazz or classical because it stops musicians meeting. There's all kinds of barriers; highbrow, lowbrow, serious, light, yet really music is a great medium for bringing people together. In this case we are trying to find common ground. I'm not that interested in jazz, seriously; I'm interested in music."

But your very first group was the Newcastle Jazz Band.

"I love jazz but I'm not a jazz musician. I'm interested in encompassing jazz as part of a world music."

Some 'jazz-lovers' will treat the partnership of pop star and jazz man with contempt.

"That makes me very happy. It makes me very happy to get up the noses of people who are snobs."

It's been rumoured that Sting and Gil have been recording together (in fact, Mr Evans let it slip that they've recorded the Hendrix songs) so what can the public expect to hear on vinyl?

"It's a secret, a total secret and I'm not telling you any more than that!" he laughs.

Sting's also experimented with the music of Kurt Weill. Is experimentation now his musical policy?

"Look, I sincerely believe that music should be viewed as a whole. I did a concert in May comprised of Kurt Weill's music with an orchestra, they way it was written. I sang Mack The Knife the way Kurt Weill wrote it because the song's been ruined by cabaret performers. I just think that to stretch the boundaries of what a musician can do can only be good.

"I'm in a great position because I'm a pop star. I can do basically what I like and someone will listen. If I fail it doesn't matter so I enjoy taking risks, although for me it's not really a risk. I just enjoy playing music."

Andy Summers said right here in Italy he thought the Police had definitely finished. Is this true?

"You know, I don't believe in making definitive statements because I change my mind every five minutes. I do this because it proves I'm thinking. It would be easy to say, 'let's be the Police again, why not?' and similarly I'd hate to make a statement that makes that impossible."

Did you decide a long time ago to embark on a solo career?

"When you start a band you have the same ideals and the same aims. You share a lot, but, as you mature, you either follow one person or, if you are strong individuals, each go your separate ways. The more you travel and mature, the more separate you become until, in order to stay in the band, you compromise what you believe in.

"Therefore it's better to separate. It doesn't mean you won't ever get back together again, but over the past few years we've all been going in different ways. That's natural, it happens in all bands, you just want to make personal statements."

Sting may be a good musician but it's no secret that he's also a bit of a heart throb. If he'd not been so ruggedly handsome, would he have reached the same peaks of stardom?

"Well, I have to say that when I wake up in the morning and I look in the mirror, I wonder how anybody finds me attractive," he laughs. "But as the day goes on I look better, and by seven o'clock tonight I'll look gorgeous. I don't know, I mean I can't help looking the way I do."

And what's the next experiment for modest Sting?

"I don't know, there's a whole world out there to discover. I don't want to stand still and just keep doing the same thing. I get bored very easily so I have to keep doing different stuff. Perhaps I'll work with Pavarotti next!"

© Record Mirror magazine


Dec 1, 1985

Blue Turtles and Blue Notes - Sting speaks: "I was committed to do an album without the Police, and I went through all kinds of ideas about how I would do it. There are various ways of skinning this cat. I could have done it all on my own, which would have involved synthesisers and sequencers and drum machines and all the rest of it. Actually I wandered to a certain extent along that path and then I thought, 'No, there's too much of that out there already, why add fuel to the fire?' Then I thought perhaps what I needed was a big producer - I think I was going through a need for a big brother figure, somebody to convince me, 'Yes, it's great, do try that'. So I approached Quincy Jones. I sent Quincy some demos, and he was really enthusiastic and said he loved the songs, which was nice. Before that I had approached Gil Evans, who I'm an enormous fan of. I met Gil backstage at Ronnie Scott's club in London. I went to see his show and introduced myself, and surprise, surprise, he'd actually heard of me. And he too was interested...

Nov 23, 1985

Pop star Sting goes jazz: Sting, the pop star and actor who left the hugely successful Police to start his own jazz-rock band, has returned to the sound that first inspired him to become a musician...