Interview: THE DAILY MAIL (1999)

September 09, 1999

The following article by Adrian Thrills appeared in a September 1999 issue of The Daily Mail newspaper...

Why Sting believes pop today is bad for the young.

With his latest album, 'Brand New Day', in the shops on Monday, Sting is keen to dispel any rumours of his imminent retirement from music. The singer, who turns 48 on October 2, is in the middle of a schedule that would exhaust a performer half his age. A typical day he says, involves rising at 7am, a television appearance, radio interview and a flight to Japan. Next month, he embarks on a world tour that lasts to the end of 2000.

"I was intrigued by stories about me quitting," he says. "What I was trying to explain was that I can live without fame. I judge myself on my abilities as a musician and as a husband, father and friend. But gold discs and Grammy Awards don't concern me. I've done all that and could walk away from it."

Talking to a Prada-suited Sting in the garden of his townhouse in Highgate, North London, it is clear that family life is his priority. He has six children, two from his first marriage, to actress Frances Tomelty, and four with his wife of the past seven years, film producer and documentary-maker Trudie Styler.

"Trudie and I have a very good marriage," he says. "We were together for ten years before we married, so we've been a couple for 17 years. Before we married, I wasn't a great believer in marriage as an institution. Having made that promise once and failed to keep it, I didn't want to do it all again. But our children overcame my reservations. They would always be asking Trudie and I why we weren't married, and they made it clear that they would feel better if we were. So we did it for them. But I've had no regrets."

Sting and Trudie - who runs a production company and has just published an organic cookbook - juggle the demands of their careers and home life.

"Trudie doesn't sit around twiddling her thumbs," laughs Sting. "She works hard, but she pencils me in for a "meeting" occasionally. So I do get some attention. We both keep busy and it keeps our relationship fresh."

Sting's album, the latest in a 22-year career that started with The Police, one of the most successful groups of the Eighties, is an adventurous one. Recorded at his home studio in Italy, it is a beautifully crafted record which combines pop, jazz, country and Algerian rai music, often in the same song.

"I'm more interested in hybrids than in purity," he says. "I like to mix it up, but I want to get my songs on the radio. That's why I'm pulling out all the stops. There's a dictatorship of common time in pop: I don't subscribe to the idea that it has to be a four-to-the-floor beat. A song can have a complex rhythm as long as it is hummable. I want to stretch the idea of what pop is. The golden era of music was the time of The Beatles. They used string quartets, French horns and orchestras, and that broadened my horizons."

When Sting's tour opens, his family will move to America. His two youngest children. Coco, nine, and three-year old Giacomo, will spend autumn in a New York school.

"I am essentially nomadic," says Sting. "Moving the family around can be a nightmare. There are so many of us, and there are always schools to sort out. But Trudie and I have managed to retain a strong family foundation."

But, even as a parent who has made such a wonderful living from pop, Sting has concerns that will be familiar to anyone with young children.

"I think kids are being robbed of their childhood by music and film," he says "The problem is that pop is basically about sex. You're selling sex to children who have no ability to understand it. My daughter Coco recently came up to me with a hat on. She said she was The Spy Who Shagged Me! I'm not being puritanical, but I find that odd. It's a bit mawkish."

Sting's globe-trotting lifestyle contrasts with his humble roots in Newcastle. The singer, born Gordon Sumner, is proud of his origins. A milkman's son; he was the eldest of four and has fond memories of his father's milk round.

"At five in the morning, my dad and I had the whole town to ourselves," he recalls "We lived in Wallsend, next to the shipyard on the Tyne. Newcastle has a beautiful skyline. It is still the landscape of my dreams. It was a perfect city for a daydreamer and a stimulating place for an aspiring young artist."

Apart from trips to watch football at St James' Park; Sting rarely returns to Newcastle now. His parents died within five months of one another in 1987, both in their 50s, severing his last physical links with the North-East.

"I had a powerful bond with my parents," he says. "But I'd also left home at 19 and rejected their world and lifestyle. I was on the way back to them - to reconciling my life and theirs - when they died. I felt cheated that I never got the chance to complete that circle. I'm still processing a lot of that stuff. It's not easy for anyone to lose their parents, particularly when they were still relatively young so I took it badly. I didn't go to their funerals, because of the likelihood of media intrusion, but I did my mourning in private."

Sting was 27 when The Police had their first hit single Roxanne in 1979. He believes his early days have given him a healthy perspective on his life now. "If I'd been successful at 18, I wouldn't have been able to handle it" he says. "At 27, I had experienced real life. I'd worked on a building site, got married and had a child. I'd sat in the back of a Transit on the M1. I was ready for it. "I have enough memories of my life before I was successful I certainly don't need to manufacture false misery to be creative. I want to make music that reflects my moods without it being smug or shallow. It can be difficult but it's an enjoyable challenge. It's hard won, but I'm happy."

© The Daily Mail



Sep 8, 1999

Sting: The reason for happiness: We went out of the studio where Sting is mixing the tracks from the new album. He lets us listen to, in his words, three 'naked' songs. 'Brand New Day', with Stevie Wonder on the harmonica, 'A Thousand Years' and 'Desert Rose', a duet with Cheb Mami...

Sep 1, 1999

Can we forgive Sting? Sting has invited me to listen to some new songs he's recording in New York for his next album, Brand New Day. We're at the studio, Right Track. He pulls out a cassette and makes the usual excuses: rough mixes, unfinished tracks, just a dub. He paces while I listen. He looks like Sgt. Fury today, all in khaki: baggy army pants, tight olive T-shirt, tan lace-up boots, scraggy beard, superhero shoulders. He reads the paper and puts it down. He walks in and out of the room. He eats some pasta and salad. He stands on his head. Sting can stand on his head a long, long time. He does not need to lean against a wall to do it...