Interview: TRENDS & FUN (2000)

March 17, 2000

The following article by Claudius Dahlke appeared in the February 2000 issue of the German magazine Trends & Fun. The article was very kindly translated by Angelika Goldman...

Sting - Between exhaustion and euphoria.

Again a world super star is to perform in Goettingen: on Feb.5 Sting will stop for a gig of his 'Brand New Day' tour in the Lokhalle [editor's note: cancelled and rescheduled for April 9]. On his current CD Sting proves again his musical versatility. In this trends&fun interview the ex-Police-man talks about the cult band's split, his perspectives as a solo artist and about his personal millennium song.

Your current album starts out with the track 'A Thousand Years'. Can this be considered your personal millennium song?

I would say no - but maybe it is anyway. I suppose that this millennium business has permeated everybody's mind. That's what I wanted to express in a positive rather than in an apocalyptic way. So, sure, it could be a millennium song. It deals with different lives, and I think the concept of reincarnation is an extraordinarily creative idea.

Do you believe in it?

Not intellectually, but artistically, poetically and emotionally, yes. 'A Thousand Years' is a love story, a story of a relationship that fills many lives, other bodies, other types, other situations. And yet it is always the same woman and the same man. That's what connects all these lives: that both still love each other.

For a long time, the album's working title album had been 'The Lovers'. How did that affect your production?

Well, when the songs were written I realized pretty soon that they were all dominated more or less by the same theme. All of them revolved around love, i.e. relationships of love between people.

Where did you record the CD?

Oh, in many different places. Mainly in Italy, where I lived for a large part of 1998. The other recordings we did in New York, London and Paris. So it turned out to be a really international album.

Next to the studio musicians, some of your friends popped in for a guest performance...

Yes, James Taylor sang a character part for one song, the French-Algerian singer Cheb Mami joined, too. And Branford Marsalis played a small clarinet. Although he probably hates me for it - he had not touched a clarinet in 25 years. For the recording he played in what is usually an impossible key - my ears are still hurting.

After the publication of the CD you started on a world tour in October, in the USA. After a short Christmas break you continued the tour in Europe and are going to do a show in Goettingen, too. How do you feel about such a marathon schedule?

It varies. It depends on a multitude of factors. You fluctuate between complete exhaustion and complete euphoria - your own and the world's euphoria.

Can you write a love song more easily when you are happy - or is it for you like for those fellow musicians who can only sit down and write when they feel really bad?

I think it works both ways. You can write a good love song when your heart is completely broken, when someone has just left you and everything went wrong. Yeah, maybe it is more difficult to write a love song when you are happy and in love. The problem is not to lapse into trivialities or kitsch.

Can you make use of a certain routine in this regard? After all, you have been a professional musician for over 20 years now...

I think I have reached a level in my songwriting where I don't have to experience everything in an autobiographical sense. Things don't have to actually happen to me for me to be able to empathize. In a lot of my songs I put myself into the position of other people to be able to develop sympathy or antipathy for them. I don't write about myself although I could. It simply isn't important.

Did your fascination with music and composition start with the rock'n'roll songs of the Fifties and Sixties?

No, much earlier. I like standards, pieces from the Thirties and Forties. At that time, it was customary to put a prologue before each song, often with a completely different musical idea - and when the actual song began you would be really surprised. That's why some of my songs work the same way. I would be happy if they became standards one day, too. That's my ambition - perhaps my only one.

Does the order of songs on an album matter to you?

Very much so. Being an old-fashioned musician I still divide a CD into two halves, like the two sides of a record, although there is of course only one side nowadays. You used to have to devise the end of side A so that people would be encouraged to turn the record over. This rule still holds for me until today. 'Brand New Day' is structured like that. Apart from that I don't produce albums which are longer than an hour. I think 50 minutes are the optimum for people to listen to a CD at one go.

Many bands survive because once they have created their specific sound they keep it and recreate it again and again. What is the interesting thing about finding new facets instead - let's take 'Rubber Soul' by the Beatles as a classic example...

I am glad that you should mention this band. They are among my strongest influences. The Beatles created records with songs, not albums of one single style. A lot has been argued in favour of making single style records, but that's not what I am interested in. I like different moods, different colours, different instruments and different influences.

And during your time with the Police you could not realise this the way you wanted to?

As a member of a band I can have a different idea than my band mates. But we will have to perform together, with a recognizable sound. And that's precisely the reason why I am not part of a band anymore, but have a very elastic group of people around me with whom I can work. In many different ways - that's what I want, that's what I need.

In the film "48 hours" Eddie Murphy sang your old Police hit 'Roxanne'. What do you think of this version?

Well, they paid me for it (laughs). No, it's actually quite nice to hear one's own song in a film. But I am not quite sure if Eddie sang it in the right key. It sounded a bit too high for me.

That do you generally think of defining and differentiating music in terms of different styles?

For me, those definitions are artificial, created only by commerce. For example, I loved the band Traffic for their way of creating a musical universe without these boundaries, because whether it's country, pop, gospel, heavy metal or classical music, it's all a single language, a code. The only way to get ahead with music is to dissolve these boundaries. Of course, pure jazz or pure folk is nice, but to play it does not interest me as a musician. But where jazz meets pop or pop meets classical music - that's where it clicks. Okay, sometimes these blends sound clumsy or horrid, but sometimes you're lucky and you create something good and new.

Thank you very much for the interview.

© Trends & Fun (Germany)



Mar 1, 2000

Sting - Bring On The Note: Ask anyone who Sting is, and the most likely answer will be, "He's a singer." Few non-musicians understand that Sting's talents as a bassist and his influence on pop bass are as important as his singer/songwriter gifts, if not more so. In fact, most people know more about his legendary tales of sexual prowess than his knack for a tasty groove. Sure, Sting's bass lines are more subdued now than in his days as an angry young quasi-punk with the Police - but he can still pump out a mean bottom, as he does all over his latest release, 'Brand New Day'...

Feb 17, 2000

The angst is always with you: Big halls don't force Sting to play heavy metal. In Hamburg, he counts on the might of the subtle. Although "Der Stachel" (the German word for Sting) stings less than he did in the blessed days of Police, the Englishman with a temporary apartment in New York does not care much about it. Sting's songs have a relieving difference in their quality compared to Mainstream-Pop. As part of his world tour, Sting stops in Hamburg today (Sporthalle, 8 pm). Tom Fuchs and Manfred Müller talked to the musician before the concert...