THE STEWART COPELAND INTERVIEW

 
After eight years of working with us and five albums, Sting was less and less willing to make those compromises, so eventually we parted company.

-Copeland on the demise of The Police

 

So you said it was an amicable separation?


The Police
There was another side to it which was band life. We were in this cocoon separated from the real world and we felt a little bit uncomfortable about that. I felt like the Aztec Sun King and that any minute now the priests are gonna come drag me out of my palace, take me up the pyramid and cut my heart out. It just didn't seem like this could last.

By stopping when you did, you cemented yourselves as absolute legends at the top of your game. Did that have anything to do with the thought process at the time?

It turned out that way fortuitously. But no, that wasn't part of our thought process. I certainly felt that there was a lot more gold in them hills. And I continue to be inspired by Sting's songs; he didn't run out of gas as a songwriter. And it may be that he felt that, "god damn it I want to write jazz songs and have it sound like my own thing." Maybe he was burnt out on working with Andy's concept of how guitar chords should work and my concept of how the drums should be. But it didn't feel like that. When we played on stage we always turned each other on.

What's your relationship like now with Sting and Andy?


Stewart Copeland
Very good. I'll probably see Sting in the next couple days, he's in town, just got to L.A. Andy I see all the time because he lives just down the road. One of the surprises of this film, and by the way in all the other fifty hours of footage that I have, is that we liked each other. All the shots I have we are laughing and goofing off.

What songs are you most proud of?

"Don't Stand So Close To Me," "Can't Stand Loosing You" and "Message In a Bottle" are my favorites, and "Beds Too Big Without You." "Roxanne," "Synchronicity." And "One World is Enough," you get the idea, I love them all.

One thing that has always blown me away about The Police was that you guys sort of existed in a vacuum where you were creating something very new and unique, which is a difficult thing to do.

We were very lucky that there was a vacuum at that time.

So how did you develop this sound?

By playing with each other. Andy and Sting inspired a certain kind of drumming in me and I believe my drumming inspired a certain kind of bass playing in Sting and so on. We really developed our style as a result of working with each other. My concept of how drums and bass works evolved by working with one particular bass player.

And how about just fundamentally, what were your influenced that led you to this?


The Police
Well the vacuum you were talking about was such that there were no new wave groups that had chops, which meant we were the only ones.

How about the rock - meets - reggae - meets - punk?

It was a meshing of all three [Sting, Andy, Copeland]. Sting certainly discovered reggae. He had a New Years Eve party in 76-77 and he borrowed my record player because he didn't have one, and also my record collection, and for the first five days of the following year I think Sting was deeply lost in a world entrenched by reggae. There was a real sudden and dramatic conversion.

I read something where a writer said that you have some sort of aversion to jazz?


Stewart Copeland
It's a fun party trick, but I am allergic to jazz. I was raised to be a jazz musician, my father was a jazz musician and I was steeped in jazz from the moment my ears blinked open, which is why I am immune to jazz. And my main reason why I love dissing jazz is jazz musicians. The problem with jazz musicians is that they are all crap. It's sort of like jazz is the refuge of the talent-less. If you really want to be a musician and you are prepared to really work hard at it, but you don't have the gift and you don't have any soul and you don't have any talent, jazz is what you should do; because all you need to do is just spend hours training your fingers to wiggle very quickly and you'll be a hero in the jazz world. Not so in blues. In blues you need talent, you need X factor, you need heart, you need to have lived a life, you have to have something to say, you need to be an actual musician to play the blues. Jazz, any fool can do it; all you gotta do is practice.

And do you think that hold true for the elite, for folks like Jack DeJohneete?

I love Jack DeJohneete. Some of the others – Miles [Davis], mostly crap. Some of his early records where he had Tony Williams, great, I love those. But mostly it was crap. He was out of tune and he was a fucking junky and it sounded like shit. It was utterly preposterous. The king just wasn't wearing any clothes. Coltrane, same thing. [In a condescending voice] "Love supreme, love supreme" it's a joke.

It's commendable to hear people speak up for what they believe.


Stewart Copeland
Well half of all this is just because I enjoy the frisson caused by such comments, and the other thing that colors all this is that it's not about the music, it's about the guys. Jazz musicians as a rule are stuck up snobs. And the reason is because they don't get laid! Rock musicians get laid, jazz musicians don't!

That would piss anyone off.

And it turns them into grouchy people to hang with. There are many exceptions to that rule. One of my best friends is Stanley Clarke; he's great fun to hang out with.

Now thinking back, you mentioned your father and growing up in a jazz household, and I'm curious if there was any rub in the fact that he was a C.I.A. agent and you were a rock star, did that create any issues?

No-no-no. My father's job as a C.I.A. agent... to observe the C.I.A. agent at work was to watch him attend cocktails parties.

So I guess there are more similarities than one may think.

Well he saw himself primarily as a musician. And all his sons and daughters went by without showing any talent for playing. Miles and Ian were both real music heads, they listened to music all the time, but they couldn't play anything. So by the time I came along – the fourth child – the house was full of abandoned musical instruments. So I started to pick them up and play stuff, so my dad jumped up, "Finally one of my kids!" So I was immediately packed-off to every lesson. I think trombone was my first instrument at age six or something. I don't remember ever not being the musician of the family and having lessons of some kind.


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