Interview: REVOLVER (2000)

April 17, 2000

The following article by Vic Garbarini appeared in the Spring 2000 issue of Revolver magazine...

Police Reunion! - The members of The Police grant their first joint interview since parting ways more than 15 years ago...

"I think if we came back..."

Andy Summers pauses, fortifies himself with another gulp of wine, then plunges ahead,"... we could wipe the floor with every f***in' little band on the planet."

The guitarist slides his empty glass across an ancient oak table toward Sting, his old friend and ex-bandmate. It's early autumn 1999, and the clock in the kitchen of the singer's summer home in the Italian hills north of Rome indicates 3am. "Wipe the floor with the little bands, eh?" says Sting, smiling as he refills Summers' glass with more primo vino. "What about the all the big bands?" he asks.

"If we did reunite, we'd have to locate Andy's 'Ring of Good Vibes'", Stewart Copeland says to Sting. "Whenever we had our hands round each other's throats, Andy would hold this reel of two inch tape over our heads and chant 'I am nothing' until we stopped. To this day, it still settles me when I think 'I am nothing.'"

Sting rolls his eyes, "Stewart," he chortles, "you were the loudest f***ing 'nothing' in the world!"

Sound like a scene from a VH1 dramatisation of a fictitious Police reunion? Well, it's not. It's the real thing - the three members of the last British band to conquer America participating in their first joint interview in more than 15 years.

As the above exchange indicates, this Police encounter is filled with the kind of good-natured sparring and reminiscences often seen as reunions of old army buddies. At the same time, it offers a clear window into the power struggles, deep-rooted jealousies and artistic conflicts of the great lost band of the eighties - a group that conquered the world and threw it all away at the height of their popularity.

Friction produces creative heat, and anyone familiar with the dynamics of a rock band knows what a double-edged sword that can be. Sting, Summers, and Copeland were true musical subversives - the first 'alternative' band to break into the big time during the darkest days of corporate rock in the early Eighties. The bright, hook-laden structures of their songs masked a depth and complexity matched only by rock's most adventurous bands, then or now. Bt blending punk, reggae, and Miles Davis-style minimalism and employing roller-coaster dynamics, they laid the musical groundwork for bands as diverse as Nirvana and Phish, not to mention the Nineties West Coast ska-punk scene that produced the Offspring, No Doubt and Sublime.

Equally influential were Sting's lyrics. Their unflinching exploration of guilt, jealousy, and other psychologically based themes left their imprint on artists such as Alanis Morissette (who recently covered the Police's 'King Of Pain') and Pearl Jam (whose members have a betting pool concerning a possible Police reunion).

From the release of Roxanne as a single in 1978 through 1983's 'Every Breath You Take', and the Police's triumphant farewell at Shea Stadium, Sting, Copeland and Summers had it all, enjoying massive commercial success without sacrificing a whit of their artistic credibility.

So why did they quite at the height of their powers?

The tension between us gave us an edge," admits Copeland, "but when it got bitter, it was what tore us apart."

The primary source of trouble was Sting and Copeland's starkly contrasting personalities. Sting, the very British son of a Newcastle milkman, was the relatively quiet - at least on the surface - and thoughtful minimalist in the group. Copeland, an American, who grew up in Beirut, Lebanon, where his father served as CIA chief, was a garrulous extrovert - at least on the surface - whose busy polyrhythmic drumming echoed his outgoing personality. As Sting admits, "There was this incredible, almost sexual tension between us - not in the literal sense, but it was charged."

That left guitarist Andy Summers, a few years older than the others, to play the role of designated adult and peacemaker. Musically and personally, Summers was the vital link between his two bandmates, which often put a severe strain on his patience and nerves.

As you'll see in the following interview, many of those tensions emerged as turf battles over the direction of the music itself, Sting, the band's chief songwriter and vocalist, felt the others wanted to interfere far too much with his musical vision. On the other end, Summers and Copeland, whose contributions lent an acerbic edge to Sting's compositions, resented the singer's attempts to rein in their playing. In a sense, they were all right. But, in the way they all fought, all wrong.

Not surprisingly, many of the old wounds have yet to heal. As a result, you've never read a group interview quite as raw and revealing as this encounter with the Police. No one knew what to expect - even Sting's management called every half hour to ask if they were still in the same room. And while it is evident that there was legitimate cause for concern, the more the sparks flew, the more the old grudges seemed to melt away and the friendlier the former bandmates became with each other. Interestingly, the emotional arc of the conversation paralleled the very history of the band: As the group discussed their early musical differences, tensions slowly emerged. By the time the interview turned to the Police's later work, tempers flared uncontrollably. By the end of the heated conversation, an exhausted but purged Andy Summers summed it up best: "This wasn't an interview - it was a therapy session!" - exactly as they did when the albums were recorded.

This transcription represents only a portion of this remarkable encounter. Audio excerpts of this conversation will appear on soon to be released remastered editions of the entire Police catalogue. The full interview may also be issued in a separate disc sometime in the future. If you ever wanted to know why the Police really broke up, read on. You'll also learn why they just might get together again - and why they just might not.

Revolver: Not counting indie singles, what was the first Police song you recorded?

Sting: 'Next To You'.

Stewart: I remember our political discourse over Andy's slide guitar part, which in my book was very 'old wave' bullshit...

Andy: But of course, I still get letters to this day about that brilliant slide guitar solo.

Sting: All this brings up a memory you two probably won't like. 'Next To You' is essentially a love song. However it was written during the height of punk, and Andy and Stewart complained it wasn't political enough. So I said, "Okay, go and write some lyrics." Andy came up with "I'm going to take a gun to you".

Copeland (sings): "Gun to you, gun to you, all I want is to take a gun to you!" That would have been great. Why didn't we do that?

Sting: Because I vetoed it. The truth is, we liked the energy of punk, but we couldn't really be a part of it. One of our problems was we were quite good at playing our instruments - that was definitely a handicap. You were supposed to have just come off the streets, having never played a bass or sang before.

Copeland: We were handicapped by punk "rules", but the trappings of punk were beneficial to us - which is why we succumbed to the straightjacket of the punk hairdo, the punk stance, and other "punkarama".

Revolver: 'So Lonely' was your first stab at reggae, which became part of your trademark sound. How did that evolve?

Sting: People thrashing out three chords didn't really interest us musically. Reggae was accepted in punk circles and musically more sophisticated, and we could play it, so we veered off in that direction. I mean let's be honest here, So Lonely was unabashedly culled from 'No Woman No Cry' by Bob Marley. Same chorus. What we invented was this thing of going back and forth between thrash punk and reggae. That was the little niche we created for ourselves.

Copeland: It was also the first time Sting said 'screw the punk formula'. Sting started playing the song and I distinctly remember Andy and I making farting noises and going, 'Yeah, right'. But then he got to that steaming chorus, we looked at each other and realised that maybe we should give it a try. In spite of our kerfuffling, Sting persevered and made us create something new.

Sting: The other nice thing about playing a reggae groove in the verses was that you could leave holes in the music. I needed those holes because, initially, I had a hard time singing and playing at the same time. So if we had a signature in the band it was...

Summers: Big holes?

Sting: Using silence - more is less.

Copeland: What a preposterous notion!

Summers (mock seriously): Hey, we were working within limitations, yet making a deeply artistic message for the audience.

Revolver: On 'Roxanne', the band's first big hit, there's a laugh followed by a weird piano chord in the beginning. What the hell was that all about?

Copeland: Tell them what really happened, Sting. Tell them about that brilliant musical moment of yours.

Sting: I was just about to sing the first line of this celebrated song when I noticed there was an upright piano next to the microphone. I was feeling tired - I'd been up all night for some reason - so I just sort of sat down. I though the piano lid was closed, but it was open, so I wound up playing this incredible chord with my ass. It was this atonal sort of cluster that went really nicely against the chords we were playing. We thought it was funny, so we left it in.

Summers: And real musicians can tell he's playing more from the left buttock than the right.

Revolver: Bands like the Offspring cite 'Can't Stand Losing You' as an important early punk song. Wasn't it banned by the BBC?

Copeland: Actually, we got a lot of mileage out of it being supposedly banned by the BBC. In fact, all that really happened was that we didn't make their playlist, so we turned that into 'Banned by the BBC'.

Sting: Wait a minute - it was 'Roxanne' they wouldn't play. Then we had that publicity campaign with posters about how the BBC banned 'Roxanne'. The reason they had a problem with 'Can't Stand Losing You' was because the photo on the cover of the single had Stewart standing on a block of ice with a noose around his neck, waiting for the ice to melt.

Copeland: Oh, so it was all my fault?

Sting: No, no, I applauded you for doing that Stewart. The only problem is... you didn't actually go through with it. (laughs)

Revolver: Both 'Roxanne' and 'Can't Stand Losing You' feature another Police hallmark: pounding out the choruses and smoothing out the verses, which Nirvana and a lot of nineties band copied.

Sting: Yes, as a matter of fact, we were trying to influence Nirvana. That was the whole idea. I said, 'I'm going to influence this band in Seattle. I know the members are only about seven years old at the moment, but still..."

Summers: We always clearly demarcated the lines between the chorus and the verses. The choruses were played harder. I would sometimes stuff cloth under the strings for the softer parts, and we'd throw in 9ths and 10ths, or...

Copeland: Stop them! They're talking technical musical stuff. It's a classic exclusion technique, just because I'm a drummer.

Sting: Stewart, those are called "notes".

Summers: You want to hear an oxymoron? Musical drummer!

Copeland: Hey Andy. What do you throw at a drowning guitarist? His amp!

Sting: What was three legs and a c***? A drum stool!

Revolver: Your second album, 'Reggatta de Blanc' (1979) was where the archetypal Police sound really jelled. What brought all those elements together?

Sting: On the first tour we had a very short set - only about 10 numbers. The songs only lasted two minutes each. And when Stewart was on form they'd last even less time. So we had about a nine-minute set, right? People would tend to want their money back after that. So we had to extend the songs ad nauseum so we could get paid at the end of the night. Eventually, all the songs began to develop a free form jazz aspect to them, and that growing sophistication was reflected on the album.

Copeland: Right, like 'Reggatta de Blanc' was actually a stage jam from the middle of 'Can't Stand Losing You' that eventually solidified into a new piece.

Revolver: Were the new songs more difficult to get down on tape in the studio?

Summers: No, because after the sound came together on the road, we went right into the studio and banged it out. Stylistically, we really knew what we wanted. The first album took longer to record because we were groping...

Sting: ...each other's girlfriends. We made both albums in the same old converted dairy in Surrey, with egg cartons on the wall for insulation.

Copeland: The engineer was also a doctor. He'd have to go out on house calls in the middle of the recording sessions.

Sting: I think the two albums cost about five pounds each to record.

Revolver: 'Message In A Bottle' is one of the band's most intense tracks. What made it work so well?

Summers: I've always said it was Stewart's finest drum track, plus great guitar riffs, lyrics, the song - it was one track where everything came together. We had also just learned the trick of playing a song two or three times in a row to let the energy build, then we'd come straight in for another take with the tape still rolling.

Copeland: It was also a great way of getting the tempo up to where I like - which is really fast.

Sting: That's what he thought. We were actually trying to tire Stewart out so we could slow it down a bit.

Revolver: Lyrically, wasn't it a big step out of simple alienation when the narrator realises he's not 'alone in being alone' in the third verse?

Sting: I was always sort of proud of that, yeah. As a narrative, it had a beginning, middle and an end. The story actually developed. It wasn't just 'I'm lonely, isn't it terrible!' - which is what a lot of my other songs were about. If I'm lonely, but I realise everybody else is too. I feel better. I think the Germans call that Schadenfreude - enjoying the misery of others.

Copeland: My favourite thing about 'Message In A Bottle', apart from all the money we made off it, was hearing cover bands trying to play my drum parts. I'd overdubbed about six different parts, and to watch some band in a Holiday Inn struggling to play all those overdubs still gives me great joy. Now that is really Schadenfreude.

Revolver: Speaking of which, your next album 'Zenyatta Mondatta' was reportedly hell to make, and yet broke you guys in America.

Sting: That was probably our most desperate album. We were riding the crest of an amazing wave of success in England. We wanted to take advantage of our popularity, so we booked some time to do the album in Holland, and we'd also booked a tour that started two weeks later! Maybe we could have done an album in two weeks, but we were fighting a lot, so it took a long time. We were still recording this album while we were touring. We rushed it. We should have taken our time.

Summers: Yeah, but there were some incredibly hooky songs on there: 'Don't Stand So Close To Me', 'When the World Is Running Down'. 'De Do Do Do', and, of course, I got a Grammy for my composition 'Behind My Camel'. Can we talk about that for an hour? (laughs)

Revolver: Primus recently recorded a cover version of 'Behind My Camel'.

Summers: There you go!

Copeland: As hard done by as I ever felt in this band, I could always take comfort in the fact that Andy got shafted even worse than I did on that little instrumental. Sting didn't even bother to play on it. Andy played all the bass and guitars, and I only played on the song because there wasn't anyone else to play drums.

Summers: Well, all I know is that Primus thinks it's cool, and I got the Grammy.

Copeland: The irony is that I got a Grammy too - and so did Sting!

Sting: I hated that song so much that, one day when I was in the studio, I found the tape lying on the table. So I took it around the back of the studio and actually buried it in the garden. (laughs)

Copeland: But Andy was not to be denied. He dug it up. True story.

Revolver: 'Ghost In The Machine' (1981) signalled a radical change in your sound. Suddenly you had layers of horns, synths and keyboards.

Copeland: Time for another of my annoying Sting stories. We're on tour in Japan, and Sting buys a saxophone and one of those tune-a-day instructional booklets. Every night in the dressing room he's going "bluh, bluh, bluh," until he can finally play 'Tequila'. Cut to a mere three months later, and we're at Air Studios in Montserrat for the first time, starting this new album and Sting is playing all these layered brass parts like a f***ing one-man Tower of Power.

Summers: And your point, Stewart?

Copeland: He should've been drowned at birth, I believe is my point. (laughs) Another thing about 'Ghost was that we finally had a professional engineer on the case, Hugh Padgham. He'd recorded Genesis and all these big artists, and he really knew where to put the microphones. And he had this idea of where to put the drummer too - in the next building.

Summers: The son of a bitch!

Copeland: So they stuck me up in the dining room playing my drums with a video monitor. I could see the other two down there in the studio, but I couldn't hear what they were saying. They were scowling down there, these two grumpy guys.

Sting: I really enjoyed that part. And we weren't scowling, we were smoking dope.

Copeland: Actually, that first album in Montserrat was a lot of fun.

Summers: It was the next one where the doom set in.

Copeland: Yeah, okay, it was good. We each had our little houses on the island, and it was cool.

Revolver: More Schadenfreude. What can you tell me about 'Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic'?

Summers: Well, I'm going to get very insulting here. When Sting was off doing the demos in Canada, he used this pianist who was incredibly pushy.

Copeland: He wasn't pushy.

Summers: f*** he was! He even managed to come down to Montserrat when we were recording.

Copeland: He was just like us actually.

Summers: Well, yeah, but there wasn't room for him. He must have played 12 piano parts on that song alone. And as the guitar player I was saying, 'What the f*** is this? This is not the Police sound'.

Copeland: So we tried to make the song a Police song - which meant undoing all of Sting's arrangement. That was our basic policy anyway. Always has been. Throw out Sting's arrangement, keep his lyrics and the song. So we tried playing it slower than the demos, we tried my "rama-lama" punk version. Andy tried turning the chords upside down. We spent more time on this song than on all the other songs put together. One morning, in a state of extreme grumpiness, I remember saying, 'Okay put up Sting's original demo and I'll show you how crummy it is.' So Sting stood over me and waved me through all the changes. I did just one take, and that became the record. Then Andy did the same thing on the guitar. We just faced the music, but the bullet, and used Sting's arrangements and demo. Damn.

Revolver: 'Invisible Sun' was another song that was banned by the BBC - at least the video was - and which was about the troubles in Northern Ireland. Ironically, it's probably your most optimistic song.

Sting: I actually wrote the song in Ireland, where I was living at the time. It was during the hunger strikes in Belfast. I wanted to write about that but I wanted to show some light at the end of the tunnel. I do think there has to be an 'invisible sun'. You can't always see it, but there has to be something radiating light into our lives.

Copeland: For me, the song was about Beirut, where I'd grown up, which at that point was going up in flames. My hometown was being vilified by the media as a terrorist stronghold, and it was being blasted by bombs and napalm. Twenty thousand Lebanese were killed that year. And the Lebanese must have been feeling some heat from the invisible sun, because they were keeping their peckers up.

Sting: Is that what your drumming was all about?

Copeland: That's what the tom-toms were expressing, yeah. The snare drum was about a whole different thing - namely, 'Am I going to get laid tonight'?

Revolver: 'Invisible Sun' was also the last song you performed in concert as the Police. It was during the first Amnesty tour in 1986. I remember Sting rehearsing the vocals with Bono backstage in the men's room.

Sting: That's true, and it was a very symbolic moment. We'd broken up, then sort of reformed to do the Amnesty Tour. U2 were there as well and as closed our set with 'Invisible Sun', Bono came out and sang it with us. And then we symbolically handed our instruments over to U2, because they were about to become what we were - the biggest band in the world.

Revolver: Sting, I remember being backstage when you got Andy and Stewart to hand over their instruments to U2. But you also added, 'and make sure you detune them first!'

Copeland: (laughing) That's some very good advice... I wish I'd heard that!

Sting: (acting shocked) Why, that's not true, I would never have done that.

Copeland: Come on Sting. let it be true, let it be true!

Sting: (innocently) But I'm not that kind of person.

Copeland: Yes you are. We all are. Let's face it.

Sting: (smiles and makes peace sign) Peace and love!

Summers: (laughs) Okay, we did it to help them get their sound.

Revolver: 'Demolition Man' became sort of a signature song, showing Sting's warm and cuddly side. Wasn't that also written in Ireland, and what did Peter O'Toole have to do with it?

Sting: Grace Jones recorded it first, and we took umbrage that somebody else was having a hit with it. That made us want to do it ourselves. Regarding Peter O'Toole, I was staying at his house in Ireland when I wrote it.

Summers: You nicked his girlfriend didn't you?

Sting: I nicked his girlfriend, who's now my lovely wife.

Copeland: Trudie was Peter O'Toole's girlfriend?

Sting: Not for long. He was too old. I did write 'Demolition Man' there, and the best line is "I'm a three-line whip", which everybody assumes was about S&M. You have to know British constitutional law to know what it really means.

Copeland: Sting, you're so literary. Explain.

Sting: Whatever part's in power in Parliament, if it's a really important vote, you get a one line whip. If it's incredibly important, you have a two-line whip, and something monumentally important is a three-line whip. So it's not sado-masochistic. (laughs)

Copeland: I prefer the S&M thing. I just like to imagine you over at Peter O'Toole's house dressed in black leather, nicking his bird. I remember Sting for years trying to think of a rhyme for "magic", as in 'Every Little Things She Does Is Magic'. I think the only word he could come up with, apart from 'tragic', was 'pelagic', which means 'ocean going'. There I was in my leather pants and punk hairdo, pondering the distinction between ocean-going and river-going fish.

Sting: Here's a better rhyme for you Stewart: "How'd you like a kick?"

Summers: Wait, what did he say. Leather in Pittsburgh? Sounds like a Freudian slip.

Revolver: Sting, what's the difference between Jungian synchronicity and a Freudian slip?

Sting: Okay, this guy gets on a train to Pittsburgh. The ticket agent has big tits, and he blurts out, 'Give me two pickets to Tittsburgh, please'. She gets really mad at him, he's really embarrassed, and says, 'I'm so sorry!' Later he tells his friend, 'God I made a terrible Freudian slip this morning,' and tells him the story. His friend says, 'That's not a Freudian slip! I had a real Freudian slip last night. It was our anniversary, and I was having dinner with my wife. I meant to say, 'Happy anniversary, darling.' And instead I said, 'You f***in' c***, you ruined my life!' Now that's a Freudian slip.'

Revolver: Okay, next song! 'Too Much Information' was kind of prescient, now that we're in the age of CNN, 24/7-information overload.

Sting: Well, as you know, I'm not very bright, and I can't cope with too much information. I'm a very simple man. I like simple pleasures like food, sunshine, sex...

Copeland: Speaking of which, can you elaborate on this Tantric sex thing, Sting. Andy and I have been wondering about that. How do you keep it up for five hours?

Sting: The five hours includes dinner and a movie.

Copeland: And you never answered Bob Geldof's question: What's Trudie doing all this time?

Sting: I don't know, I'm usually doing it with your wife, Stewart!

Summers: Oh dear, dear, hold on. Let's "Rehumanize" ourselves for a moment.

Copeland: Well, I wrote that song and Sting threw out my lyrics, as usual, and wrote his own.

Sting: And Stewart, what was your lyric about, love?

Copeland: I think it was about being lost in... something to do with... Rangoon? Okay, we'll just let that one slide.

Summers: Sting has this big book of lyrics that he'd been working on for years. So, if we came up with a song with lyrics that were not quite up to it, Sting was real quick about replacing them.

Sting: Okay, here's the story behind that: I've been a songwriter since I was seven years old. And I've been writing songs in this book Andy's been talking about since I was very young. Now, Andy and Stewart only become songwriters when they realised there was money in it.

Copeland: You are absolutely correct. I remember when we did our first album, I only wrote these punk songs so we'd have something to play, then I realised, 'Ah... lyrics...'

Summers: Stewart and I were jumping on the bandwagon. Totally insincere! But I wrote all of 'Omegaman'. Can we talk about 'Behind My Camel' some more?

Revolver: Oh shut up. One World is the most 'old-school' Police song on the album.

Copeland: And it was my favourite song at the time because it did have that early Police vibe, where we jammed on one chord for hours.

Summers: Unfortunately, I never did find out what that one chord was.

Copeland: I guess Sting had a problem with the term 'Third World'. He thought it patronising or something. I had all these political arguments about the Cold War. Sting and I would argue about politics, and I would lay waste to his flimsy arguments. There he'd be at the table shattered! Then he'd quickly disappear up into his hotel room. Where he'd...

Sting: Snore, actually.

Copeland: And he'd come in the next morning with one line - just three or four words - that would hatter my logical, geopolitical, arguments. "One World Is Enough!"

Sting: Stewart, you can't argue with a metaphor.

Summers: There's a lesson in all this. Metaphors be with you!

Copeland: Sting had a song that was partly in French. What album was that on?

Revolver: 'Hungry For You', and it was on 'Ghost'. Except for the French, it sounds exactly like five of the other one-chord jams on the album.

Copeland: Now, now Victor, we're all here pulling each other's chains, having a bit of fun at each other's expense. But you can shut the f*** up!

Revolver: Oh, c'mon! Sting wrote three good songs, and then he obviously thought, 'Okay, I'll write a bunch of one-riff jams and make Andy and Stewart happy.'

Copeland: Hey, I can call my mama a fat pig, but you can shut up okay?

Revolver: Stewart, you haven't talked enough. Tell us about 'Darkness', which many be your best song.

Sting: Can Andy and I leave now?

Copeland: 'Darkness' is a song about vertigo. I'm very proud of it, and there's not really much to say about it except that...

Sting: 'Vertigo' is an Alfred Hitchcock movie!

Copeland: True, but unlike you, Sting, I didn't steal my ideas from films or other literary sources. I came up with the crap I wrote my goddamn self!

Summers: That's easy for you to say, Stewart. You've never even read a book - or seen a film!

Sting: He nicked it from Ozzy Osbourne - Vertigo is the name of the label!

Copeland: But I didn't use the word 'vertigo' in the song. I didn't use some damn Jung bullshit.

Sting and Summers: Ooh... clever!

Revolver: On that note, we come to your last album, 'Synchronicity' [1983], paradoxically both the high and low point of the Police experience. Discuss.

Copeland: Well, there I was, back in Montserrat with these two other scumbags. It was the only place in the world where people weren't worshipping me every time I hit a drum. I was locked away on this far island with the only two people who didn't recognise my Godhead. In fact, they were trying to convince me that I was completely useless. I remember one day Sting even sat me down to give me some kindly advice with my personal growth. He said, 'Stewart, have you ever been in a disco and noticed that when one of our songs comes on, everybody sits down?' [rants] Sting, you piece of shit, I'm still pissed off about that, you f***ing son of a bitch! [calmly] Because that was not my observation at all. I've actually been carried around discos on people's shoulders.

Sting: Carried around? That's my point: Why aren't they dancing?

Copeland: I never hear your songs in a disco. But when I them on an elevator, I do notice that people remain standing. Actually, I'm only joking. However, I've been carried around discos to tracks from your 'Dream Of The Blue Turtles' solo album by people who thought it was by me.

Summers: [sighs] I'm totally confused now.

Sting: Stewart, with all humility, I apologise. I'm really sorry.

Copeland: Okay, I accept.

Summers: God, that was close. Can we go back to 'Behind My Camel' now?

Revolver: Does anybody have any drugs so I can get through this last bit? Tylenol, even?

Summers: Viagra would be good.

Revolver: Which reminds me: 'Synchronicity' was named after an ancient Greek sexual practice, wasn't it?

Summers: Originally called Sting-chronicity I believe.

Copeland: This whole album was recorded in an unbelievably bad atmosphere. We hated each others guts, and we had no respect for each other. Actually, I did, but I just felt like a piece of shit.

Summers: [sarcastically] That's odd. I thought there was a lot of love in the room.

Sting: But Stewart, I did like you...

Copeland: Well, I could hardly play my instrument. I couldn't even hold on to my drumsticks.

Sting: was your guts that I hated. [laughs]

Copeland: I wish you'd mentioned that at the time.

Sting: I'm so sorry - I didn't know.

Copeland: There I was again, sitting in that isolation room by myself, looking at my grumpy bandmates in the video monitor. I'd ask, 'How was that take, guys?' and I could see Sting with his head down making sideways comments to Andy, and I knew they were talking about that useless drummer they had upstairs, and how much of a drag I was...

Sting: We never did that.

Copeland: ...that crummy drummer, and how much more success we could've had without this weak link in the trio.

Summers: Jeez, that must have been very alienating Stewart. Because it was all true!

Revolver: So how is 'Synchronicity I' synchronous with 'Synchronicity II'?

Copeland: I've had Sting up against the wall on this issue before, and he point blank refuses to explain the connection. None of us in the band can even remember which one's which. The only way I can keep them straight is that 'Synch I' has Stings cool sequencer part, that 'dunga dunga dung' thing that I, to this day, get all the credit for. People think it's me playing some percussive instrument, and I have to put them right. It was real 'rama-lama' way of starting our set on tour, though it almost killed me to start with that kind of onslaught every night.

Sting: I really enjoyed that part,. And you can keep that credit, baby.

Copeland: In 'Wrapped Around Your Finger' there's the classic line where he goes, "things they would not teach me of in college." Sting, I just want to say, I went to college and learned all this Jungian shit. It's just Psych 101. It had no mystique for me at all.

Sting: You explain it then, Stewart.

Copeland: 'Synchronicity' is about the overall unconscious that binds us together. If I wear a red tie and you happen to wearing a red tie, it isn't a coincidence, it's because we have this bond that goes beneath the outer surface. Something we can't even measure, but it's there. And that's Psych 101.

Revolver: Sting, you want comment here?

Sting: No, no, I'm a simple man. A simple man in my huge Tuscan villa, so piss off.

Copeland: Go on, put it into a three word aphorism and blow us away.

Sting: [loudly, over his shoulder] Is my Jacuzzi ready yet? I'm really happy with my millions in the bank, and you can just f*** off. [laughs]

Revolver: 'Synchronicity II' is easily the best song about the Loch Ness monster to ever appear on a Number One album. Explain.

Sting: It's about two separate but synchronistic events. One, the Loch Ness monster...

Copeland: ...which is synchronous with...

Sting: um... my penis?

Copeland: Yes, yes, yes! A little boasting there, perhaps; a little self-aggrandisation, but what the hell, we'll let that slide. I remember we argues about the tempo of this one.

Revolver: Wait a minute. Sting, what's the Loch Ness monster really synchronous with?

Copeland: His penis, he answered that question.

Sting: Yes, my dick! It's a another monstrous, hidden thing from Northern Britain.

Copeland: That comes out of the slime and that no one has ever seen, or believes in!

Sting: And the Japanese are fascinated by it!

Copeland: And a photograph of which would be worth a lot of money!

Revolver: Okay, we're back to Freud from Jung. We've finally come to the only cover song you ever did - that Puff Daddy hit 'Every Breath You Take'.

Copeland: In my humble opinion, this is Sting's best song with the worst arrangement. I think Sting could have had any other group do this song and it would have been better than our version - except for Andy's brilliant guitar part. Basically, there's an utter lack of groove. It's a totally wasted opportunity for our band. Even though we made gazillions off of it, and it's the biggest hit we ever had, when I listen to this recording, I think 'God, what a bunch of assholes we were!'

Revolver: Stewart, who was responsible for the groove?

Copeland: I say all this knowing exactly who's responsible for the groove. And yet, with an absolutely straight face, I will blame my two scumbag colleagues for all of it.

Summers: Wait a minute! It's stunning in its simplicity. It does have a great guitar part. I'll take credit for that.

Copeland: Andy, since we're here, I'm going to back you up on this. You should stand up right now and say, 'I Andy want all the Puff Daddy money. Because that's not Sting's song he's using, that's my guitar riff.' Okay over to you Andy, Go for it...

Summers: [meekly] Ok, I want all of the Puff Daddy Money.

Copeland: There you go, you feel better now don't you?

Sting: Okay Andy here's all the money. [pours some change on the table] Unfortunately, I've spent the rest of it.

Summers: I'll tell you what, Stewart, I'll take your share, I know Stings' not going to let me have his.

Copeland: So Sting's making out like a bankrobber here, while Andy and I have gone unrewarded and unloved for our efforts and contributions.

Sting: Life... is... f***ing... tough. Here I am in Tuscany.

Copeland: And don't we know it! You're in Tuscany in your palace with wine being poured down your throat and grapes being peeled for you. Sting can you buy me a castle in Italy too? With the proceeds from the longest running hit single in the history of radio? Just a little chateau somewhere?

Sting: We don't have f***ing chateaus in Italy, They're called palazzos. I'll lend you a room. [laughs]

Summers: Getting back to the song: This was a difficult one to get, because Sting wrote a very good song, but there was no guitar on it.

Sting: That's not what you f***in' said when I brought it in!

Summers: Well, you had this Hammond organ thing that sounded like Billy Preston. It certainly didn't sound like the Police, with that big, rolling synthesiser part. Though I'll come out of the closet and admit that I secretly liked it.

Copeland: Well, thank God you didn't say that at the time, because you came up with a much better guitar part.

Summers: At that point we were in a really gnarly state as a trio. We had sort of reached the end of our rope.

Copeland: Our golden goose was cooked. We were at each other's throats.

Summers: We spent about six weeks recording just the snare drums and the bass. It was a simple, classic chord sequence, but we couldn't agree how to do it. I'd been making an album with Robert Fripp, and I was kind of experimenting with playing Bartok violin duets and had worked up a new riff. When Sting said 'go and make it your own', I went and stuck that lick on it, and immediately we knew we had something special.

Copeland: Yeah, Sting said make it your own - just keep your hands off my f***in' royalties.

Summers: But we almost lost it. When we recorded it in Montserrat, the guitar sounded fantastic. We went to Canada to mix it, and the engineer took that big fat guitar riff and mixed it way down till it sounded terrible - really thin, with too much echo. I said we had to go back to the demo, and sure enough we remixed it and got it right. The rest is history.

Revolver: Sting, you wrote the song about loss, and you were surprised that everyone took it as a love song. But didn't it contain both those elements?

Sting: I think if it has any power at all, it's about that ambiguity. On one level it's a sinister song, on the other hand it's quite seductive.

Copeland: Did you say sinister stong?

Sting: Well, a song by Sting is... a 'stong' [laughs] I've had a bit of wine Stewart. So, it has this ambigoo-us [giggles], I think I mean ambiguous... Look, I make no claims about it an original song at all. It's a generic song, but somehow unique. I don't know.

Revolver: Did Andy's guitar part mirror that bittersweet quality?

Copeland: It wasn't bittersweet, it was just bitter. f***ed up.

Summers: No, it wasn't. I found a brilliant way of articulating that ambivalent, bittersweet quality over a I-vi-II-V sequence by adding the modal 9th with a 3rd thrown in...

Copeland: There he goes again, there he goes again! 9ths and 12ths!

Sting: Look, the fact is we're just a f***in' rock band.

Revolver: My point is, it is a song about complex emotions with music that mirrored those emotions, in a deceptively simple, yet sophisticated way. A Police trademark.

Copeland: It's a song about complex emotions with dumb music.

Summers: It has three c***s playing badly.

Revolver: Right. We've come to the last big single 'King Of Pain', a song that's a fine metaphor for the entire Police experience - including this interview.

Copeland: Stingo, you always considered yourself to be the 'King of Pain'. You had this concept at the time that you were Satan, that you were the evil one. I felt that it was my duty to point out to you that, no you were not Satan, you were not Beelzebub, You were just a common garden-variety asshole.

Sting: Shut up, Stewart. Have a drink, take a valium.

Revolver: Sting, did you think pain was necessary in order to write songs at the time? But obviously you grew out of that.

Sting: Now that I don't work with Stewart anymore, I've realised that pain isn't necessary. I can write happily whenever the f*** I like.

Copeland: You bastard! Sting, you did have a philosophy that you had to rip your heart out to write a good song. And I think your work subsequent to the Police proves the fallacy of that.

Sting: I don't think I was alone in that fallacy. A lot of people go through that phase of thinking they have to be in some sort of crisis to write. But we did have a lot of tension between us, which helped in a way.

Summers: Of course it did; that was often the spark.

Revolver: But didn't it eventually destroy the group?

Copeland: Beyond a certain point, the tension turned ugly.

Summers: I think I retired from he band with both arms, and legs broken.

Sting: To make a lifetime's career out of that tension wasn't possible. We all had to back away from it.

Revolver: Do you the accused have any last words before sentence is passed?

Copeland: Sting, without getting goopy or anything. I think your heart-felt solo stuff you've done with your hirelings - who you can kick around, and who don't give you any shit or grief at all is pretty cool.

Sting: Thanks man, I love you too. No really. The thing is Victor, We really do love each other.

Revolver: Sorry, I left 10 minutes ago.

Sting: We actually do love each other, and I have a great deal of respect and affection for my boys. Whatever happened happened. It was a great time, and I'm really proud of it. But... thank God we're not in a band anymore. [laughs]

© Revolver magazine



Mar 17, 2000

Sting - Between exhaustion and euphoria: Again a world super star is to perform in Goettingen: on Feb.5 Sting will stop for a gig of his 'Brand New Day' tour in the Lokhalle [editor's note: cancelled and rescheduled for April 9]. On his current CD Sting proves again his musical versatility. In this trends&fun interview the ex-Police-man talks about the cult band's split, his perspectives as a solo artist and about his personal millennium song...

Mar 17, 2000

More than the Sumner of his rock'n'roll past - All grown-up: At 48, Sting finds that being an adult is more important than being a pop star. Sting has left the rock'n'roll sandpit to become a joined-up songwriter. These days Sting doesn't sound much like a rock'n'roller. Words such as discipline and responsibility litter his conversation. "I know I sound like an old fart," he laughs with a refreshing lack of self-consciousness. "But if my lifestyle doesn't tie in with being elegantly wasted and not giving a f***, then that's too bad..."