October 17, 1999

The following article by Aidin Vaziri appeared in an October 1999 issue of The San Francisco Chronicle newspaper...

Q&A with Sting...

Sting, 47, moves in some interesting directions on his latest album, 'Brand New Day'. He dabbles in French rap, Algerian chant, and country and western, and on the song 'Tomorrow We'll See' assumes the persona of a Brazilian transvestite prostitute. While impressive, these things pale in comparison to the details of his real life. Since making his debut with the Police, former schoolteacher Gordon Matthew Sumner has gone on to father four children, become an internationally renowned multimillionaire and an expert in tantric sex. We caught up with him at rehearsals for his forthcoming tour.

Q: How do you feel?

A: Pretty good. I've just been in rehearsal for eight hours so I'm a little bit shattered. But don't worry about me.

Q: You kind of set yourself up with Brand New Day. You're all over the place musically.

A: Well, that's part of the challenge, to constantly throw surprises at people. Basically, there are no rules. You're cruising around in one genre and suddenly you're in another. That amuses the hell out of me.

Q: How did you make it all stick together?

A: I tried to kid myself that I wasn't making a record. I just phoned up my musicians saying, 'Come over for a few weeks, the sun is shining, have some good wine.' I didn't really look on it as doing a record until I started mixing the tracks.

Q: Did you mean for it to be so sentimental?

A: The lyrics do tend to have an organic shape and a thread running through them. That was my intention.

Q: How do you write these songs with any authenticity?

A: (Laughs) Well, I have enough failures in my closet to remember. I have enough memory of pain not to have to manufacture it anew. One of the things about this record is that it's not biographical. It's not confessional. It's me putting myself in other people's shoes and looking out through their eyes at the world. I enjoyed that process. There's a level of maturity in being able to do that, instead of constantly gazing at your own navel.

Q: So you don't have a secret life as a Brazilian transvestite prostitute?

A: Um, no. (Laughs) That song is not about me. I actually know one, but it's far removed from my own experience.

Q: How exactly do you know this person?

A: My wife made a documentary about them. What interested me was, it's not just commerce in these groups of people. It's a branch of show business. These people care passionately about how they look. There's a pride in the way they look and behave that I find quite compelling. I actually admire them.

Q: A lot of guys are going to listen to these songs and think, 'What does Sting know about heartbreak?' Do you think your music caters to women?

A: Really? I have a song where I'm empathising with a dog.

Q: So you've got women and dogs covered. What about men?

A: Do you feel marginalized?

Q: Yeah. It's like, if Sting can't get it right, there's no hope for the rest of us.

A: That's the problem with being celebrated. Sometimes it's much easier to be unknown. But this is a problem I'll deal with, and I'm fine with it. Actually, it's your problem.

Q: Oh, thanks. Do you regret telling people about your super tantric sex powers?

A: Why should I?

Q: Because that's all anyone wants to talk about when they mention your name.

A: Well, I'm perfectly willing to give a good answer.

Q: What is the best way to have sex while hanging from a tree like a fruit bat?

A: (Laughs) I think that would take more of a practical lesson. With your girlfriend.

Q: You walk on water in the video for 'Brand New Day'. Anything that should be read into that?

A: No, please. (Laughs) I'm always amused by the rock star as messiah, so it was really a dig at that and not the man himself.

Q: Yet the Pacific island nation of Palau recently honoured you with your very own stamp. Have you received any letters with it yet?

A: No, but I'm not sure how many people live on that island. I was pretty flattered by that. It's quite rare.

Q: Do you think you've changed much since starting out with the Police?

A: The young Sting was absolutely certain about himself. Someone who was certain about many ideas and opinions already. The Sting of today knows much more about life and music but is less certain about himself. That is the paradox as one becomes older: The more you find out, the clearer it becomes to you that certainty is an illusion.

Q: Is the Sting of today any more mature?

A: Yes, I do feel more mature. I've never been happier in my life. I've finally come to realise that all I need is my wife, children and friends to be a happy man. Nothing else really matters.

Q: Speaking of which, you met the Dalai Lama last year. What was he like?

A: He's a nice bloke. I think he is what he seems to be. He's an interesting man, he's funny and he doesn't take himself too seriously.

Q: Are you a practising Buddhist?

A: No, I'm not a Buddhist or Hindu or anything. I'm a devout musician.

© The San Francisco Chronicle



Oct 13, 1999

Outside it's a miserably wet, late September afternoon. Inside Universal Music's London HQ, five minute walk from buzzing Piccadilly Circus, I'm warm, dry and the envy of every Sting fan on the planet. I'm so up close to Sting it hurts. And it's about to get better. The amateur photographer who elected to shoot me interviewing one of the planet's most famous rock stars is urging we move closer. I respond awkwardly, unfamiliar with this proximity of fame. Sting, however, remains rooted, breaking the ice with a crack about how he would have bathed had he known the interview was going to get this intimate.

Oct 12, 1999

'New Day' dawns: Sting has just finished practising his song an Englishman in New York and looks worn out. He sticks out a sweaty hand out to greet a visitor to the small Midtown studio and says, "Rehearsing is exhausting, and it's without reward. There's no feedback, just dead walls." Fame is exhausting, too...