It isn’t often that the cry “The Police are coming” generates as much excitement as it did in January of this year when Sting, Andy Summers and Stewart Copeland announced the much anticipated reunion tour of The Police. The tour ” the band’s first since the globetrotting Synchronicity publicity caravan came to a halt in March of 1984 ” has sold out within minutes in many markets and is sure to be one of the highest grossing tours of the year.
Known for fierce fighting and massive egos, many thought that a Police reunion was something that would never materialize. In fact, Sting’s infamous quote, “If I ever reformed the Police, I’d be certified insane,” ranks right up there with Don Henley saying The Eagles would get back together “when hell freezes over.” Apparently hell froze over back in 1994, and now it seems Sting has been fitted for a straitjacket.
While the legacy of The Police has always remained strong, the members have, until recent years, been very quiet about the band. In the last two years, both guitarist Andy Summers and drummer Stewart Copeland have broken the silence about the band’s tumultuous history and The Police have bubbled to the surface again.
Summers has recently published two books. In 2006 his memoir One Train Later hit shelves and his most recent, a collection of photographs entitled I’ll Be Watching You: Inside The Police, 1980-83, dropped in March of this year. Copeland chose another medium to share his thoughts, and his documentary film Everyone Stares: The Police Inside Out premiered at The Sundance Film Festival in January of 2006.
Listen Up Denver! recently caught up with Stewart Copeland in Vancouver Canada, while the band was rehearsing for their world tour. Copeland was able to shed some light on the current state of The Police and what led to the reformation of one of the most popular bands of the last 30 years. “In the dark canyons of Sting’s mind a creature arose from the slime. It was the monster known as The Police,” Copeland said. “What caused this arousal? No one knows. It may have been the noise made by my little film about the group; it may have been Andy’s book. One day, Andy and I were in a meeting with the record company to discuss the Police catalogue and the phone rang. It was Sting, with a proposal that we light up the band again for a full world tour. We said ‘yes.’”
In a March interview with London’s Sunday Times, Sting shared his side of the story when he discussed what drove him to make that phone call. “I meant it when I said it would be a sign of insanity if it ever came back. I said that every day before I made the decision to get back together. But one day I just woke up and thought, ‘Let’s do that.’ My instinct said this is what you should do. My instincts have nothing to do with logic. The logic of leaving the band when it was the most successful band in the world was odd,” said Sting in March.
Finally, more than 20 years after their abrupt departure from the world’s stage, these three men returned as The Police with a single song performance that kicked off the 2007 Grammy Awards in Los Angeles. “We’re The Police, and we’re back,” was all Sting said before the trio launched into “Roxanne,” the single that broke the band in the United States nearly 30 years ago.
“The first seconds of any show are all music,” said Copeland, recalling that night in LA. “After a few moments, when the engine is running, it is possible to look up. What we saw was a large crowd of our flinty eyed peers, but their eyes were full of tears, their arms upraised. There was a wave of emotion in the cavernous arena.”
This “wave of emotion” will be sweeping around the globe with the band as they plan to play nearly every major market on the planet. While there has been some skepticism as to whether the band will live up to their legacy, Copeland is supremely confident. “This has always been a band that rose to the occasion,” he said. “We feel so human in rehearsals, but when we get in front of an audience, we are overcome by the voodoo of it all. Something much larger than ourselves rises up among us and we become servants of this greater entity.”
One of the things that may keep Copeland’s confidence up is the fact that The Police aren’t writing any new songs at this point. For now, as they prepare to hit the road, all three are holed up together in Vancouver, focusing on relearning the songs that made them the household name they are. “We have so much to do rebuilding our group consciousness and we have so much great material to play, that new stuff just doesn’t seem to be part of the program,” he said.
In his Sunday Times interview, Sting echoed Copeland’s thoughts when he said, “There is a lot of work to be done. I have developed a lot of these songs as a solo performer, so they are very different. There are rhythmical and structural differences I’ve woven in and haven’t shared with the others, and they were like, ‘What’s this?’ They said they want to do it the way it was in 1982. I said I want it to represent who we are now as musicians. We had a negotiation about the way to keep things fresh and also respect what we did before. And that’s ongoing and I think it’s exciting. We never really wrote songs together, that was part of the problem. I wrote in isolation ” brought them a finished product. When you start a band, your roles aren’t defined but they get defined pretty quickly, causing all kinds of machinations and alliances, but it’s hard. I’m a singer/songwriter. Stewart’s a great drummer, and Andy is a great guitarist. Within those roles we can move forward, but at first it was difficult.”
It is clear that while they have respect for each other, the members of The Police do not have the best of relationships. “We drive each other nuts, but we all know that we are good for each other,” said Copeland, before going on to confess that “the rehearsals have been brutally cheerful. We all love to work. We don’t waste a minute; we don’t deviate. We don’t even jam because there is so much to do.”
It is that work ethic that has kept these men extremely busy in their years apart. While Sting has been the most commercially successful of the trio, with albums like The Soul Cages, Ten Summoner’s Tales, and Brand New Day, both Summers and Copeland have been prolifically creative in their own right. Aside from being a father to seven children, Copeland has managed to score more than 40 films for iconic directors like Francis Ford Coppola, Oliver Stone and John Hughes, and form a power trio with Trey Anastasio (Phish) and Les Claypool (Primus) that they dubbed Oysterhead.
Copeland counts his participation in Oysterhead as the one project that stands out the most to him in his musical life outside The Police. “Oysterhead is the opposite of The Police. The Police experience is about singing along with tightly crafted music that you know. Oysterhead is about a wild adventure into the unknown. Anything can happen at an Oysterhead show,” Copeland said.
While Oysterhead has been dormant since their 2006 performance at The Bonnaroo Music Festival, Copeland has stated that he would like to do something with the band every couple of years. While jamband fans wait with bated breath, Copeland seems comfortable in his familiar place behind the kit of the band that he started in 1977, resurrecting the tightly crafted music of The Police.
As their tour begins its way around the globe, the group signed on for support duties on the U.S. leg is the little-known British band Fiction Plane. Joe Sumner, the front man for the quartet, is the son of Gordon Sumner, better known to Police fans and the rest of the world as Sting. “You probably think this is nepotism,” Sting told the Sunday Times. “He is aware of this and it is a huge problem for him. He says he doesn’t want to be associated with me. But this is a huge opportunity for him to shine.”
Apparently, despite his aversion to a helping hand, the offer from Dad was too good to pass up. This summer, arenas full of flinty (and not so flinty) eyed Police fans will have an opportunity to see if Joe is following in his father’s footsteps and cranking out infectious pop tunes that will stand the test of time.