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!


  1. I heard him interviewed on Radio 4 and hadn't appreciated what a life he'd had post-Police. Ben Hur at O2 arena - not bad to have on your CV! Would love to know more about him...

  2. O M G! D I D Y O U R E A L L Y I N T E R V I E W S T E W A R T? H E W A S M Y P O L I C E F A V O U R I T E! I saw The Police'a concert last year in Manchester and the truly rocked!!! Please invite me along when you get to interview Sting please! I can interpret for you. As far as I know his Italian is very good! Ciao. A.

  3. Absolutely Catharine - what a life! As if being a rock star wasn't enough...

    Well, you've gone one better than me there, Antonella! I missed the whole reunion tour (in spite of my sis-in-law having a spare ticket and not telling me - I'm still not talking to her!). And as soon as I get Gordon, you're invited.

  4. Congrats on the interview! He's also my childhood hero and I also missed the ruddy reunion tour. We had tickets but I got ill! Do you remember that he did all the music for 'The Equaliser' starring Edward Woodward? Best TV score ever that...

  5. What is your secret? Is there something you're not telling us? Lucky you! And Ben Hur sounds great, what a venue for something like that!

  6. If I write five comments do I go into the draw five times?!

    The book sounds fascinating. Incidentally, he didn't say who his drumming heroes were. Ginger Baker? Keith Moon?

  7. Thanks MD. Y'know, I could've used those tickets...

    Like I said CM, Stewart and I go back a long way. (He doesn't know that, but what the heck?)

    Er, no Mr DD. Sorry!

  8. Right. From sex machine to nappy changing. I am not sure I can make that link....but what a lovely delight in your life to have had an opportunity to meet someone who was important to you in your youth! Love your style and humour, thank you!

  9. Wow how exciting to actually meet your childhood hero and the fact that he didn't disapoint too bonus!!

  10. I saw Sting on The One Show earlier this week and, my God, did he look hard work to interview. So po-faced and up his own backside he had skidmarks on his new, carefully stage-managed tramp-like beard. I always preferred Copeland. Throw my hat into the ring for the book please!

  11. ooh, I've not been round yours for a while and there's this treat waiting around! My brother's a drummer so natch we loved Copeland. The only rock concert we ever agreed on was The Police and we steamed to the front of the crowd and stood right by the stage gawping in amazement. If I'd caught the reunion I expect I'd have been at the back with earplugs in... that's what twenty-seven years will do to one, sadly.

  12. OK well I was a Police fanatic. Regatta de Blanc was the first album I ever bought (with my own pocket money!) and 'On Any Other Day', and 'Does Everyone Stare', the two songs he wrote and sang, instant classics. I made my mum queue with me for 3 hours in the pouring rain on Tooting Bec Common for tickets the gig they were playing, but sadly, just yards from the booth, they sold out of tickets. And of course I loved Sting (aka Groundskeeper Willie with that bizarre beard and fisherman's jumper he's sporting now) but Stewart was always my hero. So I know you're using random to select the winner here but I think I probably deserve to win. Please?

    PS I have met a few of my 'childhood' heroes with mixed results. Glad to hear he didn't disappoint.

  13. Oooh memories....yes I'd like to read more.

  14. My first ever concert was The Police at the Cow Palace in San Francisco. It was 1982! What acool interview.

  15. My brother in law has been trying to ge us tickets for Ben Hur, it sounds amazing. Can't believe you got to meet him you lucky old dog.

  16. A trully cool Dad! I bet it was moment you won't forget.

  17. Well, smack my bottom and call me surprised! What a fabulous interview! I LoVeD The Police (still do!) What a fascinating life he's led! I do need to read more!

    My best friend in high school seriously thought the lyrics to "Don't Stand So Close to Me" were "Ghost Man So Close to Me" used to drive me bonkers!

  18. I always thought he had the best hair. You can tell us, you know, is he your real life famous friend that you have known for years and is actually your God father, or uncle or 2nd cousin twice removed?

  19. Oooh, Im liking the comment 'smack my bottom and call me suprised!'.

    I need this, I need it more than anyone else, and I need to be educated. Fact.

  20. Ohhh, this sounds like a really interesting book! Great interview too, like his answer to the last question :)


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