Interview: THE VANCOUVER SUN (1996)

August 01, 1996

The following interview appeared in an August 1996 issue of The Vancouver Sun newspaper. The interviewer was Katherine Monk.

Taking the sting out of his music: Music is still his passion...

Sting makes no apologies for being happy. No more manufactured crises for the sake of art. No more icy image. No more writhing songs steeped in angst.

"No more king of pain," he says from a stop in Kansas City before heading north to Vancouver.

Sting performs a show with Jann Arden at GM Place on Sunday, but his time in B.C. will be more than a simple tour stop for the former Police-man: He'll also be shooting a video in Merritt for his new single, a country crooner called 'I'm So Happy I Can't Stop Crying'.

Did you say country crooner? As in Garth, Reba, Dolly and Randy-country? As in sequins and smiling Nashville how-deeees!?

Sting in a Stetson?

Yep. You got it. The man who wore khaki green army pants and rode a Vespa in Quadrophenia, powered the Police to the top of the pop charts and jazzed himself up solo, will sport a down-home look for his new tune.

And if the "happy" bent seems like a pendulum swing for Sting, he wants you to know he wouldn't have it any other way.

"I think every one in this business tries to control their image to a certain extent. But in the end, you can't. My public persona is quite a mixed bag... I'm either very good or very bad: from savior of the rainforest to drugs. I move to the extremes. But I enjoy the polarity because in all that space, I can be myself," he says, quick on the uptake and crafting his answers to poke through the questions.

"I see, you're asking the 'Road to Damascus' question? About why I'm happy... but it's not like that. It's a function of maturity. I've never really planned ahead. I've tried to live in the moment for the most part. The one thing I did learn along the way was that success and happiness aren't necessarily the same thing.

"When we were the biggest rock band in the world I didn't like it very much, actually. It didn't really suit me. So we stopped," he says, quickly reviewing the Police history that ended in 1984 right after the power trio released its most successful album, 'Synchronicity'.

Sting says while the Police experience was valuable, it was a real drain -- not just for him, but for the entire band.

Every tour brought with it a new set of troubles and power issues and sooner or later, all three men would find themselves locked in silent stares.

"We still speak to each other now. In fact, they [Stewart Copeland and Andy Summers] came to my wedding. We even played a few songs together, but by the end of it, we were the same people we were eight years ago ... we started fighting again."

A Police reunion is unlikely, he says. "It's broken. Why fix it?"

Indeed, he's moved on. Sting is now married to his second wife. At 44, he has six kids, a huge house, millions of dollars in the bank and a new gold record sitting at No. 84 on the Billboard charts, 'Mercury Falling'.

"If I weren't happy with my life as it is now, I think there'd be something seriously wrong with me," he says with a laugh.

"I don't think I even need fame. I'm fully prepared to live my life without it. I hope I'm telling you the truth, but I have enough people in my life who know me for who I am that I don't need anything more than that. I still get supercharged in front of an audience, but I don't need the fame."

Of course, he's older now. He has a catalogue of hits, from his Police days, to solo jaunts which he reviews in his shows, and each time he sings them, he harkens back to his earlier self.

"I sort of go through my whole history in the show... from 'Roxanne' to 'Every Breath You Take'.

"At 24, I thought rock 'n' roll was the only art form - and while I still think rock 'n' roll is an art form, I think I'm doing my best work in my 40s. It's been my ambition to get better as a musician and I think I'm finally getting there. I haven't sat back at all."

Besides, he says, he's had enough heartache for one lifetime. And most of it has already been explored on his records: 'Nothing Like the Sun' (1987) was written for his mother after she died, and 'Soul Cages' (1991) was dedicated to his father after he passed away.

"There's pain in the country song, too. But the character realizes that life moves on," he says.

"You see my job as a musician is very different from that of a prose writer - which I don't ever see myself being -- because my job is to miniaturize. I take a big subject like love and make it small, where a writer takes a small subject and must make it bigger. As a musician, I think I frame silence with music... and at 60, I'd rather be singing that than be stuck behind a desk writing," he says.

"Music is my passion and it always will be."

And next to passion, of course, one usually finds the fragrance of obsession - which Sting wears casually.

"I'm an obsessive person. I know it. I think most musicians are obsessive. You'd have to be to get good at your instrument. No matter how good you are, you can always get better. It's an endless road."

Sting says he follows the same course in the rest of his life as well. An avid yogist, Sting has yakked about his seven-hour sex marathons on national television as evidence of the mental - and physical - gains yoga affords.

"Well that seven hours includes a dinner and a movie," he says, laughing. "But really, you can have seven hours of sex if you want to. If you really, really want to. But certainly not every day."

The real big challenge ahead, Sting says, is the great beyond.

As a man who takes pride in being aware and in control, when the guise of Sting falls and Gordon Sumner is wrapped in his earthly coat, he wants to be there.

"I want to be in control when I die. I don't want to be afraid. So I'm trying to get to that place where I can accept it for what it really is: a natural part of being alive."

© The Vancouver Sun


Jul 1, 1996

Stately homeboy Sting fuses a world of musical styles and discovers his true self. Sting and I ride on horseback through the frigid morning mist. The lights of Lake House, Sting's idyllic Jacobean manor, have long ago faded into the swirling fog. To our left, a flock of swans float gracefully on the legendary river Avon. We gallop past the burial mounds of Bronze Age Celtic chieftains, up and down valley trails through some of the most stunning countryside in England...

Jun 10, 1996

The rock star who steps out as an actor has, traditionally, been tantamount to a First World War squaddie sticking his head up above the trenches and poking his tongue at the enemy. Sting, who has chosen to face the critics' sniping more than most, knows this only too well. But this time, he is prepared to accept full responsibility for his actions. After all, 'The Grotesque', which is his tenth film, is a family affair it was produced by his wife, Trudie Styler. They called up a few friends, who worked for virtually nothing, and got the whole project on to the screen for just $3 million...