Interview: THE BOSTON GLOBE (1991)

March 01, 1991

The following article by Steve Morse appeared in a March 1991 issue of The Boston Globe newspaper...

Sting: No cages for his tour.

Sting's new album 'The Soul Cages', a darkly mystical look at his British boyhood, is No.1 in Boston and No.3 in Billboard. But don't expect him to play the songs note for note on tour. Sting, is too much of a restless improviser to settle for that. "I think one of the challenges of performing live is that you use the album as a blueprint. That's all. You can follow it - or ignore it. I'm going to ignore it and do something that's better," Sting said during a recent interview in Manhattan.

Sting, who performs Saturday in the Worcester Centrum, has assembled a new band that shares his chameleon streak and doesn't believe in pre-packaged musical arrangements.

"I like musicians who don't have any prejudice about the kind of music they play," he says. "My new guitarist, Dominic Miller can play classical music, jazz and rock'n'roll. In fact, all the musicians I use have that facility. They don't draw a line and say 'Well, this isn't music. This isn't what I like, therefore I won't play it.' They play everything."

"I hate prejudice in music. I think it's so negative - a function of fear more than anything else. I'm not a purist or archivist or musicologist. I like music as a continuum."

Sting's new band will likely be more rock-based than his previous jazz-flavoured unit but that's only a generalisation. He still has Kenny Kirkland on piano, but has added Miller on guitar - Miller has played with rockers World Party, the Pretenders and King Swamp - and he has added former Bruce Springsteen band-mate David Sancious on keyboards.

They'll adapt 'The Soul Cages', an album which mutes the World Beat influences of Sting's earlier solo albums in favour of folk and rock modalities. The latter evoke Sting's upbringing in Newcastle - a rugged coal mining and shipbuilding town at the north of England - and frame a wistful, personal look at his parents, both of whom recently died of cancer.

"I was trying to suggest where I came from, more than anything else. So I took out any Afro-Caribbean or other world influences on the record. I do enjoy that music and I like making it, but it didn't seem to apply this time," said Sting. "So the bulk of the record is based on folk melodies - Celtic melodies. It seems to suggest where I come from. Rather than being about the world, it's very specific. Much more specific than I normally am."

But the album also contains more rock'n'roll than some past efforts. Two prime examples are the songs 'The Soul Cages' and 'All This Time', which have received the most radio airplay.

"The record is more guitar-based because I have Dominic Miller, who can play anything," Sting said. "So with him in mind, I wrote a lot of the guitar-based stuff."

Speaking of writing music, Sting first wrote most of it on his Synclavier, a high-tech keyboard and sound sampler. "I can access an orchestra, basically, on Synclavier, and I can build things and improvise very slowly," Sting said. "It allows me to do that. And I've written songs on that machine that I wouldn't have written on the piano.

"It allows you a sophistication and time to create a sophisticated musical structure. It's a wonderful device. I mean it doesn't write music for you. You have to program it. But it allows you to present an almost finished work to musicians and say, 'Well, this is what I want to do. This is how it works,' rather than trying to describe it with words. It's a powerful tool."

Of course, no matter how successful Sting is as a solo act, there will always be fans longing for him to quit his solo efforts and reunite his supergroup, the Police, which scored hit after hit and became a stadium attraction before disbanding at their peak in the mid-'80s.

"We achieved what we set out to do ten-fold, and more," said Sting, ready for the question. "And I've moved on. I think we've all moved on. There would only be two reasons to get back together again - one would be to make money; two would be nostalgia. I'm not particularly nostalgic, and I don't need the money at the moment."

What happened to the other Police? Guitarist Andy Summers has gone into jazz. Drummer Stewart Copeland has made a series of soundtracks, including the atmospheric 'Rumble Fish'.

"All of us are very busy and we're actually much happier being our own bosses, rather than having this collective ego to deal with," Sting said. "It's very hard to be in a band. When you're an adult, you like to stand on your own two feet. It's very difficult to be in a gang again."

OK, an obligatory question. What does Sting say to people who think his best work was with the Police and that some of his solo music is a little too self-indulgent?

"I think all of that's valid, but I've made the choice," he said without hesitation. "This is what I'm doing. I find it more of a challenge at this point, more risky. I mean, it's unusual for someone to step out of a group that's as successful as the Police were, and be allowed to have any authentic voice of, your own. People don't usually allow that to happen. So I'm thankful to have that chance."

© The Boston Globe


Feb 3, 1991

Into Sting's soul - His 'Caged' unlocks sad memories: "I didn't want to make this record, frankly," Sting says, "but there basically was no choice." 'The Soul Cages', his third solo album, dwells on a painful subject the 39- year-old British pop star resisted confronting for two years: the 1987 death of his father, with whom he had a strained and unresolved relationship. He held sorrow at bay with such distractions as his MacHeath role in Broadway's '3 Penny Opera', a long 1987-88 tour and efforts to save the rain forest...

Feb 1, 1991

Sting's intellect stifles passion: It's a bloodless album; will show come alive? From the beginning, Sting was the perfect Rock Star - so rich and talented that all the boys wanted to be him, so chiselled-from-stone handsome that all the girls wanted him, period. By his own admission he was arrogant and aloof, but we found those to be forgivable sins. We forgave him because he was also literate, uncommonly articulate and politically correct. Most important, though, we forgave him because of the music he made: a moody blend of rock energy and reggae bounce that, as an added bonus, had something on its mind and the ability to express it with uncommon grace...