Center Presents: Stewart Copeland: Police Deranged for Orchestra
Table of Contents
The Palladium // Thursday, Oct 19, 7:30 p.m. ET
Stewart Copeland’s Police Deranged for Orchestra is a high-energy orchestral evening celebrating a career that has spanned more than four decades. Copeland is best known as the founder and drummer of the Police, as well as a seasoned and prolific composer in opera, ballet and orchestral music. This production — featuring a 28-piece orchestra, three vocalists and a rock trio with Copeland on drums — is packed with Police hits such as “Roxanne,” “Don’t Stand So Close to Me” and “Message in a Bottle.”
Tickets are available for purchase at thecenterpresents.org.
Janelle Morrison: Congratulations on your 6th and 7th Grammy Awards for Divine Tides.
Stewart Copeland: The thing that I’m most proud of, more than the number of Grammys, is when — here I am in my 71st year now and I’m still winning Grammys … that’s pretty cool.
JM: Speaking of things that are pretty cool, you did work on the soundtrack for the 1983 film “Rumble Fish,” and the intro to Hostile Bridge to Benney’s, I think, is predominantly a typewriter and maybe a drum loop. My words … that was pure musical genius.
SC: It is one drum break loop! And back in those days, a loop was physically a loop … a 2-inch magnetic tape looped around the studio, joined together into an actual physical loop.
JM: Kids these days just don’t know about those things.
SC: Ha, ha, ha, ha … kids these days don’t know!
JM: Let’s talk about your latest book, “Stewart Copeland’s Police Diaries” [pre-orders available at policediariesbook.com]. I know it’s about the “hungry years,” and I’m curious why you decided to finally write about those.
SC: I kind of screwed up with my first book. I thought that I had it all there from the ex-rockstar life perspective. I thought it was an interesting story, but what people really want is the Police, so I’m finally “crossing that t and dotting that i.”
JM: The book is based on journals that you wrote back in those years, correct?
SC: Oh yeah, I recorded how much we got paid, how many people showed up, how well we played and all other aspects of the show that I was booking. It’s all there — the contemporaneous observations — because I kept a diary that was facts and data. And then I kept the other [diary], which [includes] my secret writings for grievance nurturing and for crackpot schemes. [Laughing] You could call it the Mwahahaha Diaries”!
JM: Was there anything, a particular moment or memory, that you thought, “Oh, that’s totally going in the book”?
SC: There were a few, but the biggest one was more of a generality, which was “How did I hold on to those two guys?” Because we were starving! First of all, Sting … we stuck together through thick and thin. Wait … that’s not true. We stuck together through thin and thinner! To get into the “punk” scene, we had to play these crap punk songs that were totally utilitarian and were fundamentally bass lines with yelling. At first, we were having a great time and we were starving, but we were carving it up at these shows. It was tough to keep hold of Sting, musically. He’s a man of great loyalty, but it was a miracle that he stuck with it until the day Andy Summers walked into the room.
We were doing a session and then walked in Andy Summers, the triple scale guitarist, the legend himself. We had been starved of actual music. Driving home, Sting was like, “Oh my God, we’ve got to get Andy in the band!” I was humoring him and was like, “Sure. Yeah, right. It’s never going to happen. Are you kidding me?” And then it did happen. It’s a longer story in the book, but little did we know that Andy had discovered us. There was this dance going back and forth, and when I ran into Andy, he pulled me into a café and said, “Look, you and that bass player … you’ve got something. But you need me, and I accept.” He [Andy] hates it when I tell that story, but it’s true. And Andy is very direct. So, long story short, I told him, “We haven’t got a record company — the record company is me pretending to be a record company. Agent … that’s me on the phone. Roadies … that would be you.”
As soon as Sting heard what Andy could do on the guitar, that’s when he started writing the songs. Andy joined the Police. A fake punk rock band with no songs — and he threw in his career to join such a thing! I asked him years later, “What were you thinking?” And he said, “I don’t know, mate … I should have stuck with Neil Sedaka!”
JM: What are you most proud of in regard to the Police?
SC: The fact that it was unique. There was no precedent for our band’s sound. And that we quit while we were ahead. We never saw the other side of the parabola.
JM: How is your creative process different when composing for orchestras?
SC: With bands, you find the right musicians, get in a room with them and cool stuff happens. But with the orchs, it’s all homework. I sit here at my home desk, and I agonize over the score. I can’t hear it. I’m just seeing it, and I have to imagine it. It’s a much more engrossing process, is much more challenging, and takes much deeper concentration. Let not the birds sing nor the phone ring because you have lots of plates in the air when organizing the score.
JM: We, the fans, are beyond excited about your upcoming concert in Carmel, Indiana, Police Deranged for Orchestra. How have your audiences been responding to it?
SC: I did think [at first] they might come after me with pitchforks, but so far, it’s been really good, and the orchs love it. I very much include the orchestra in the event, as it’s about the orchestra very heavily. For the audience, they know the songs, and they have so much more emotional impact when you give it the majesty, the vocabulary and the power of a symphony orchestra. That takes the songs to a new level, and folks are loving it.
JM: And you’ve got three outstanding female lead vocals, correct?
SC: Yes — this was an intellectual decision, because I can’t get some guy up there singing Sting songs. He would get killed, poor bastard. So how about three soul sisters on the mic? That’s a clever idea! So, I orchestrated it, I raised the vocals, I met the ladies and we started doing it, and I was like, “Oh, Jesus Christ — this is incredible! This is the Police sung by the Supremes!” And I discovered a whole new genre that I had missed as a kid. I didn’t get into R&B. I was into Jimi Hendrix, the Doors and anger music. I don’t know why … I was a privileged kid living a pretty good life, but for some reason, Slipknot makes me happy and death metal cheers me up. God knows why! But their three voices are instruments, and they’re so powerful and moving! They are top-line front Los Angeles singers, and they’re really stepping forward.