Friday, 6 November 2009

Police! Camera! Action!

Whoever said that drummers are a breed apart was dead right. If the all-action percussion maestro of the eighties rock band 'The Police' is typical of the breed then they play polo, write film scores, meet pygmies, make movies, and - of course - play damn fine drums.

Describing himself as 'the nervous twitch from hell', as a child Stewart Copeland channelled his energy and musical ability into drumming. Drummers are often musical mavericks, but Copeland's innovative style was grounded in a solid musical education. The opening chords of 'Does Everyone Stare' (one of Stewart's songs from his 'Police' days) were even written as a homework assignment at music school in San Diego.

All this and more comes courtesy of Stewart's autobiography, Strange Things Happen. And they do. Frequently. There's a childhood spent scaling the walls of ruined castles in the middle-east, there's the CIA (hush hush - why do you think the band was called 'Police'?) there's Major Ronald Ferguson and 'Planet Sumner' (Sting) to name a few. And you can read about them all, because Stewart (we go back a long way) has very kindly agreed to donate a copy of the book to one lucky reader of Bringing up Charlie! All you have to do is leave a comment below. Random-factor (Charlie) will then take over, and I'll announce the winner shortly. You've got until midnight on Saturday to enter. In the meantime, Stew (we're like *that* y'know) has kindly agreed to give a short interview. So...

Knowing me, The Dotterel, knowing you Stewart Copeland, ex-drummer of eighties rock band The Police... A-HA!

(Only joking)

Stewart was in the UK a few weeks ago, having written the music for the live 'Ben Hur' epic at the O2 Arena. I asked him what attracted him to it...

Why Ben Hur?  What, are you nuts? I have been blazing away at orchestral pieces for decades now while earning a living otherwise.  I don’t know why big Mac [Sir Paul McCartney] didn’t get the bug. 

Next, I wanted to know who Stewart's drumming heroes or inspirations are. I also asked him about his latest work - a percussion concerto...

Well now that’s tricky because I have several favorite percussion ensembles, but my next percussion concerto will be premiered by D’Drum and the Dallas Symphony. They’ve got the gamelan bells.

And finally, I had to ask about him about 'Planet Sumner' didn't I? The spats between Sting and Stewart Copeland have become the stuff of rock legend.

Me: I guess someone like Sting might cast a fairly long musical shadow. Do you feel your song-writing was limited during your time in 'The Police'? Is life 'outside the force' better, or will the recent reunion be the start of a longer sentence?

Stewart: Yes, Sting did set the bar impossibly high but inspiration springs eternal. I learned a lot from Sting and we learned a lot together but I do have more fun with my music when he’s not around. I’m out on parole for good behavior right now and have no desire to serve any more of my sentence.

So there you have it. Strange Things Happen. And none much stranger than me getting to interview one of my all-time childhood heroes. Thanks, Stewart. The book, written in the present tense, has all the immediacy and impact of Stewart's drumming... and every word was written by the man himself!

Want to read more? It's easy. All you have to do is change a nappy!

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