Interview: TEEN (1983)

November 23, 1983

The following article appeared in the November 1983 issue of Teen magazine...

The Police: music's most arresting superstars...

In the six years since those three guys named Sting, Stewart Copeland and Andy Summers teamed up to form a rock group and called themselves the Police, the three have earned a succession of hit singles, gold records, platinum albums and glowing reviews. They've done sold-out international tours and are one of the hottest bands in the world today. This past summer, they released their fifth album, 'Synchronicity', and the reviewers couldn't find enough superlatives to describe it.

Just who are these three gifted musicians with their matching blond locks and distinctive musical sound who seemed to appear out of nowhere in 1977 and, in just a few short years, succeeded in their plan to "conquer the world"? The most recognizable member of the Police is Sting, the group's outspoken lead singer, songwriter and bass player. The son of a milkman and a hairdresser, he was born Gordon Matthew Sumner, 32 years ago in Newcastle, England. The name Sting, he says, "is a nickname I've had since I was very young - 17. I used to wear a striped jersey, like a bee, and that's one of the reasons I'm called Sting. Also, if you define what a sting is - a little bit of pain, a con trick - the name suits me. "He also likes the name, he claims with a grin, because "it's great for autographs. Can you imagine signing Gordon Matthew Sumner 30 times a day? Sting is graphic and short." Before he launched his rock career, Sting was working in Newcastle as a schoolteacher. He pursued his musical interests at the same time by getting night jobs playing in jazz bands at the local clubs. At the time, he couldn't have even dreamed of the wealth and fame he was destined for. "I'm from a working-class background where getting ahead is very much a principle," he explains, "except that the society I come from wants you to get only one step beyond. You could become a teacher, a civil servant, a doctor, maybe. To go beyond that, to become a public figure--they like it but they don't understand it. I suppose that background is very important to my drive. I don't want to be poor."

It was drummer Stewart Copeland who actually formed the Police. Although he was living in London at the time, 30-year-old Stewart is American. He was born in Virginia, but grew up in the Middle East where his father-a CIA agent and U.S. diplomat - was assigned. He returned to the United States to attend college at Berkeley, Calif., then moved to England to work as a musician. After playing with a group called Curved Air, he decided to form a band of his own:

The third and oldest Police member is 39-year-old guitarist Andy Summers. Born in the English resort town of Blackpool, Lancashire, Andy was also the most musically experienced member of the trio when the group was formed. Any lived in Los Angeles for four years in order to study classical guitar and music at San Fernando State College. He got his on-the-job experience by playing with Neil Sedaka, the well known group the Animals and several other British performers.

Stewart recruited Sting first, then Andy, to form the Police in 1977. Stewart's brother, Miles Copeland, was signed on as their manager. It's no coincidence that the trio are look-alike blonds. When they were first starting out, they dyed their darker hair golden blond in order to qualify for the part of a punk-rock band to appear in a chewing-gum commercial. Afterward, they liked the look and decided to keep it.

Although Sting was originally a jazz singer, Stewart's decision to recruit him quickly paid off when Sting proved to be a talented and charismatic lead singer. "I knew Sting had what it takes," says Stewart. "He's obviously got a natural, instinctive kind of originality. No matter who discovered him, he would have happened. Fact is, this is the way it did happen, and I can take pride in discovering him."

The band signed an American record deal, but broke the "rules" by going on tour in the United States before they'd even released a single, much less an album. The low-budget tour was a success and when their first single, 'Roxanne', was released, it quickly gained hit status.

Andy recalls that none of them ever doubted their eventual success.

"When we got together," he explains, "we felt that the group was very strong on all levels, and that it was only a question of time. The first thing was to become a good group and have fun musically. Later, the image part of it and all the rest came into operation. Then Sting caught on in a big way and we really rocketed."

The Police released their first hit LP, 'Outlandos d'Amour' in 1978, and followed up over the next three years with 'Reggatta de Blanc', 'Zenyatta Mondatta' and 'Ghost In The Machine'. Their fan following grows yearly, and Sting is pleased by the affection and attention from fans that the band receives, even though he must deal with the majority of "public relations" as the unofficial "star" of the group. In both America and Europe, he sums up the fans' response with the statement: "They adore us. I don't know why." But he's not complaining. "If they like you," he says. "Then I feel that we've done our job properly." Although he's the most visible member of the group, Sting admits, "I am fairly lonely. I'm not terribly social. The real me is fairly isolated. I'm an introvert who's an extrovert on stage."

Both Andy and Stewart emphatically deny that they harbor any jealousy over the amount of attention and fame directed toward Sting. "no, I don't envy him," asserts Andy. "I like to show off onstage and I enjoy the stardom part of it as well, but I'm glad that Sting has had all that attention, because he's been a fantastic focal point. He has everything: he's the right height; he's got blond hair and blue eyes; he's got a great voice, he's nice looking. He's the perfect lead man."

The trio is equally rational and practical in dealing with its sudden success, fame and wealth. The members feel that they're better equipped to deal with it all in their 30s than they would have been if they'd reached to top in their late teens or 20s. "If I were 19 and this were happening to me," admits Sting, "I think I would be as crazy as Sid Vicious."

Since the Police have no plans to stick together until they're middle-aged rockers, they've already been branching out into other career areas. Andy and Stewart have gotten increasingly involved in record producing and songwriting on projects for themselves and other performers. Sting, meanwhile, has begun an acting career. he has already completed his first starring movie role in a film called 'Brimstone & Treacle'. The switch from stage to screen isn't easy, he claims. "Most actors have had a lot of time to train, to find out the skills of acting in relative privacy," he explains. "But musicians spend all of their formative years learning to play an instrument. Suddenly, you're offered a chance to be in a movie and you have to learn almost overnight how to act and also you have to do that in the glaring spotlight, on screen, in my case. You have to learn. It's sink of swim, basically."

Sting's next project is a starring role in the film 'Dune', based on the classic science fiction trilogy. although he's been offered a number of scripts, he chooses his roles carefully. "I want to learn," he says. "Any film that gives me the opportunity to learn the craft of acting, I will take. It's not easy; you just can't walk on and be brilliant." In addition, he explains, "I've been looking for scripts that have nothing to do with rock 'n' roll. I'm not interested in becoming the new John Travolta."

Despite their work on independent projects, the members of the Police have no plans to split up in the near future. In fact, they enjoy working together much more after they've taken time out for solo work. During that time, says Sting, "We deliberately stay out of each other's hair. We spent six years living in each other's pockets, and we're like brothers. We don't need to see each other to remain good friends."

But unfortunately, Sting discovered that absence did not make the heart grow fonder when his increasing success kept him away from his wife and two kinds for longer and longer periods of time. Sting, who once described himself as "basically a family man," split up with his actress-wife, Frances Tomelty, earlier this year and claims that he's "still very bruised" by the failure of his marriage.

After much contemplation over the cause of the split, Sting says, "I had an overblown ego, but that wasn't really the problem. It was geographic. I don't live with my wife anymore, but I never did - I was geographic. I don't live with my wife anymore, but I never did - I was always traveling." The anguish of divorce, he confides, is the source of the songs that feature themes of pain and loss on the newest Police album. He's learning from his mistakes and tries to spend as much time as possible with his kids - 7-year-old Joseph, and 1 1/2-year-old Catherine - who occasionally travel with him.

Like his fellow Police, Sting is astounded by the changes that have occurred in his life since he joined the rock trio. Shortly after the release of 'Brimstone & Treacle', he summed up the changes: "There I was, a backwater school-teacher, happily married, very straight, from England basically, and now, here I am in New York with the film and with good reviews. I'm famous, I'm single and I'm rich. So my life has taken an extraordinary turn; it's suddenly completely the opposite of what it was."

© Teen magazine



Oct 1, 1983

The cavernous hangar is black and empty - except for thousands and thousands of candles, flickering and shining, laid out in arcane and symbolic patterns. And right in the middle of a spiral, as if trapped by the candles and yet entranced by them, moves the graceful figure of a young man. Carefully, I move closer to observe his bizarre dance, waiting for some ritualistic chant to surface from behind the altar of light, and fully expecting a tap on the shoulder by a hooded and faintly menacing figure...

Sep 23, 1983

Stop in the name of rock! - Sting and the Police pound the beat on the summer's hottest tour: His spiked hair might have been coiffed with garden shears. Some might say his clothes often show more Goodwill than good taste. At times, his confidence flirts unapologetically with arrogance. None of that matters, of course. When Sting, ne Gordon Sumner, struts out as point man for the Police, what shines forth is the sort of feral sexuality that can fill baseball stadiums at $17.50 a pop...