March 02, 1988

The following article by Divina Infusino appeared in March 1988 issue of The San Diego Union-Tribune newspaper...

Sting: 'I've gotten better as a band leader.'

A loud screech interrupts Sting's sound check in the empty auditorium at New Mexico State University. Sting performed a concert here last Thursday night, much like the one he and his eight-piece band will stage at the Sports Arena tonight.

"Who is that on the sound board?" Sting shouts in a mock off-with-his-head voice. A roadie had stepped in for the usual sound man.

"You're terrible," Sting says with a laugh, as the band titters behind him.

Sting returns to a particularly tricky instrumental segment on one of his tunes from 'Nothing Like the Sun', his second solo album since leaving his post as head of the Police. "Very nice," he reassures the group and heads for his dressing room, outfitted with massage table, fresh fruit, flowers and vaporizer.

"I've gotten better as a band leader," he says, settling his long athletic body onto the couch, as he discusses the differences between this tour and his first solo outing.

"It's taken a little while to learn how to be a good band leader. It requires diplomacy, gentleness, firmness. It's kind of like being head of a traveling family. Because I've gotten better as a band leader, I'm having a lot more fun this time."

He feels no pressure to sell more records, fill larger halls, outdo his last show?

"The record is selling more than the last one. We're attracting more people to the shows and those people are coming for the music. I think the first time around people came out of curiosity. They didn't know what to expect," Sting says calmly. "Pressure? No. I have a great life."

Sting's manner reinforces that statement. Dressed in black plaid shorts and gray sweater, his hair long enough to brush his shoulders, he speaks quietly, jokes frequently and maintains eye contact. He strikes no poses and puts on few airs, negating the reputation for arrogance that has dogged him since his solo career started 2? years ago.

"People think that how you are on stage, in videos, posters and all, is how you are all the time. That really angers me," he says, frowning momentarily. "The pop machinery needs the photos, the video screens, the image. But I try to separate myself from all that. I'm trying to get rid of my ego in all aspects of my life. I'm trying to lose Sting."

Lose Sting - the leonine presence at the top of the charts ever since Sting (Gordon Sumner), Stewart Copeland, and Andy Summers dyed their hair the same platinum blond and released an album as the Police nine years ago?

"The Police had the ego problems," Sting counters. "That was our energy, to beat out the other guy, to jockey for position. At first that competitiveness gave us an energy, but eventually it got in the way."

So the rumors about Sting re-forming the Police in the future aren't true?

"Sounds like my manager talking," Sting huffs, shaking his head. "I have no intention of going back with the Police. Why should I?"

Since leaving the Police, Sting has tried to dignify his work by addressing political issues in some songs such as 'Russians' from 1985's LP 'The Dream of the Blue Turtles' and in 'They Dance Alone' about Chilean women left alone after their husbands and sons became victims of political oppression. The haunting song is the centerpiece of 'Nothing Like the Sun'.

"I'm 36 years old, the father of four. What am I supposed to write about but the things that interest me?

Political issues are of great interest to me," he says. "People say politics don't have a place in pop music. And they resent you for even trying. I think it does have a place in pop. It's had a place for a long time. I do worry about being heavy-handed. So I always approach the subject through metaphor.

"I don't want to do something like Sun City.' My response to that was, Who asked you?' To me, that was just a lot of people congratulating themselves for not doing something they've never been asked to do anyway."

Metaphor proved necessary for dealing with feelings about his mother's death during the recording of 'Nothing Like the Sun'. The song 'The Lazarus Heart' discusses the subject directly. Yet, even here, the lyrics are offset by a jubilant rhythm and melody.

"The grief is disguised a bit, yes," Sting acknowledges. "I don't know how to approach death as a subject in popular art. For me, my mother had a victory over death. She showed remarkable courage and kept her sense of humor until the end. What I learned is that life goes on."

Thoughts of his mother did encourage him to explore the feminine side of his personality, Sting says.

"All men are involved in a conspiracy to suppress the side of their nature that was given to them by their mothers. But if you repress the female side - gentleness, tenderness, understanding - you tend not to be a whole person," he says. "If you're all male, although that is a compliment in this society, you end up like a Rambo character, a big hunk of idiocy, holding a toy gun in film posters. Ugh. That drives me nuts."

Sting has a substantial list of acting credits, mostly recently "Julia and Julia," with Kathleen Turner and 'Stormy Monday' with Melanie Griffith.

But he wields the most power in the music world, where he has just started his own eclectic label, Pangaea. The label will release its first four albums April 18: 'Days and Nights of Blue Luck Inverted' and 'Vertical's Currency' by New York music experimenter Kip Hanrahan; 'Tango Zero Hour' by Astor Piazzola, an Argentina-based musician considered a leader in new tango music; and 'Conjure: Music for the Texts of Ishamel Reed' featuring songs and performances by Taj Mahal, Allen Toussaint, Carla Bley and Lester Bowie.

Sting started the label as "part of my crusade against categorizing and labeling music. The dangers of labeling and categorizing go into politics and people as well. I hate it. And I blame the media for it, ultimately."

Besides his record company, Sting will perform on an Amnesty International tour, as he did two years ago. He, Peter Gabriel, and still unannounced acts will begin worldwide Amnesty concerts in September. "We're hoping to perform where the message needs to heard most - Africa, Russia, Korea. We'll play some shows in Europe and the Unites States, to pay the bills."

But Sting is making a political point on his present solo tour: "The President of the United States has a great effect on everyone. He is the president of the world, so to speak. So it's frustrating not to have a say in it. So we have set up voter registration booths at the shows. I'm urging all Americans to utilize their right to vote."

© The San Diego Union-Tribune



Mar 1, 1988

Hell, at least he's trying. Plenty have called him pretentious - quoting Shakespeare to drunks, diddling Jung, sporting philosophers and musicians like designer accessories - and I'll happily accept that he may well be. But his music isn't asinine, it's sensuous and clever. He's not a guru, he's an ex-schoolmaster from Newcastle, and if he likes to teach the world to whatever, that seems admirable to me. "I'm 36," says Sting, "I'm still asking questions." Here's some of the answers...

Mar 1, 1988

On his way to this interview, Sting's car spun out on rain-slicked highway. With his legendary composure ever so slightly shaken, he allows a peel into the private man behind the public persona. Sting - glorious, elegant, profound, stunning Sting - blew into the Malibu motel room, threw his grungy rain drenched self across the bed and moaned. "We had an accident getting here." While driving to the motel in a torrential California downpour, his rented BMW skidded into another car on the Pacific Coast highway...