The Police’s Stewart Copeland bares all in autobiography
By Andy Argyrakis
From the pages of Hear/Say Magazine
It would be impressive enough for Stewart Copeland to glow about membership in one of the most influential pop/punk bands in music history, but following his 1970s and ‘80s life as beat keeper for The Police, the multi-faceted entertainer conquered several additional arenas. For starters, he became one of the most sought after soundtrack and television composers, eventually branching off into video games, operas and even ballets, while also holding down a plethora of side projects (including Oysterhead with Les Claypool of Primus and Trey Anastasio of Phish). Though the father of seven was coasting right along contently in all of those endeavors, his rock star life took a turn of déjà vu when the famed trio announced a reunion tour in 2007 to celebrate its 30th anniversary.
“It was a jolt- not so much to my life at home because I could stay in touch and was used to being away from home for a little while [on a project], but the reunion tour was way beyond that scale,” says Copeland on a phone chat from England. “The strange part was life on the road and being back in a band. I couldn’t believe I was on stage staring at the back of that head on the right [singer/bassist Sting] and that other head on the left [guitarist Andy Summers].”
Between that extraordinary chain of events, it’s no wonder why Copeland would be inspired to now add author to his resume, which is official as of October when the legendary player releases the autobiography Strange Things Happen: A Life with The Police, Polo and Pygmies (HarperStudio). As the title suggests, the text takes readers through a sea of band stories (both retro and relatively recent), alongside extremely insightful and often witty travel tales.
“I already started it, but suddenly I got a call from Stingo and that gave me my last chapter,” Copeland contends with a chuckle. “I’ve always enjoyed writing and often posted some of the stories on a fan site run out of Italy. After awhile, everyone kept saying I should write a book, then an agent got in touch with me and one thing led to another. The working title was Dinner Tales because these stories were always a big hit around the dinner table, but that doesn’t have much snap to it. It’s basically my life in and out of rock n’ roll.”
While most rock star books drag with boring details of childhood before getting to the guts of superstardom, Copeland’s upbringing in Lebanon where his dad was a CIA operative through time in Africa on a film shoot with a troupe of Pygmies are just as appealing as the celebrity stuff. But the writer certainly realizes a lot of fans will wonder if he dishes all the dirt on The Police, to which he sarcastically offers “somewhere in book I tell Sting to f--- off,” he lets out with a laugh. “So I guess that’s pretty juicy to the point where a tabloid could make the whole book seem like an angry diatribe if they wanted to.”
In reality though, Copeland presents the working and personal dynamic of his band mates (regularly balanced with triumph and tension), but comes to the basic conclusion that the trio is wholeheartedly content with its artistic legacy and genuinely rekindled friendships, in spite of the gossip spread about the guys in the press.
“We felt very happy, though we always knew [the reunion] was a finite thing,” he continues. “The songs truly don’t belong to us anymore as they’ve been woven into people’s lives and engrained into their daily associations. We kept adding legs to the tour, but we knew it would be over one day and we’re just happy with the accomplishment. It was a competition of the circle and we all got to a place where we wanted to be. And at the end, we said ‘it’s time to go home now.’”
Besides mending fences with the fellas, the experience also gave Copeland a firsthand glance at The Police’s multi-generational reach. Sure, he’s jammed with younger bands like Rage Against the Machine, Incubus and Foo Fighters (all of whom are vocal fans of the band), but he had no idea the mainstream masses of all ages were ecstatic that the group reconvened.
“It’s very touching that all those college kids could give a shit and I apologize on behalf of the 30-something music makers that they have to go to grandpa for rock music,” he adds. “I have teenage kids, a daughter going into college and a son out of college. My 16-year-old has a boyfriend who’s a big Police fan and so is his dad, so it’s got her all confused!”
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