Interview: THE MIAMI HERALD (1993)

February 01, 1993

The following article by Leonard Pitts appeared in a February 1993 issue of The Miami Herald newspaper...

'Iceman' cometh in concert...

Sting is amused.

Given that the man's reputation is that of an intellectual with all the warmth of an android in an iceberg, this is a moment worth savouring. Worth marking off and pressing into the scrapbook of memory.

Not that he's unleashed a torrent of giggles and guffaws. Rather, it's something that's just there, something that surfaces in his wry, patient tone of voice. The thing that has provoked this rare display is a question - a couple of questions, actually - about his alleged frostiness.

"I know what you want me to say," he protests at one point, declaring by implication that whatever this imagined statement is, he isn't about to make it.

Finally he admits, "There's some truth to that. But I'm also quite warm and friendly. I'm not that cold. It just depends on the person, you know? Sometimes it suits my purpose to be cold."

Fact is, sometimes it suits all our purposes to be cold. But most of us would never cop to that. So give the man his propers. There is in him a certain flat, can-the-jive honesty that can be as off-putting as it is refreshing.

Cold? Well... yeah. As far back as the early '80s, when he was frontman for the late, lamented Police, Sting was coming across as glacial and arrogant. More recently came his 'Soul Cages' CD, which drew mixed reviews; those who disliked it called it a frigid, unfeeling and emotionally distant examination of his father's death and his own feelings about it.

The 'Soul Cages' tour brought Sting to Miami Arena in 1991. On Monday, the iceman cometh again - to the Gusman Theater, 174 E. Flagler St., Miami, for a tour tuneup that'll run five days. Tickets, at $28.50 each, have all been snapped up.

If you're not able to wangle a seat, you can get a different kind of Sting infusion on March 9. That's when his latest album, 'Ten Summoner's Tales', arrives in stores. The album represents something of a thaw - more gracefully melodic, radio friendly and singable than its predecessor. The CD's lead single, 'If I Ever Lose My Faith In You', is already out and picking up airplay. Not that Sting is about to apologise for 'Soul Cages'. One of the perks of his position, he says, is that he can indulge himself in a personal, difficult album like that.

"The shape of my career (is such that) I would aim for a wide constituency on one record and then narrow its focus on the record that follows it...

In other words, the pattern goes, a commercial one followed by a highbrow one. Luckily for our ears, we're in the commercial phase now.

Hit records, says Sting, "give you that freedom. I think this record is easier to hear on the radio than the last one. The record company is very happy." But, he warns, "The next one will be different. I'm a blessed individual," he says of this freedom. "Very lucky. But there's a responsibility that goes with that. The responsibility not to blow it, to use your freedom well."

He is, let us face it, not your basic hot young thing willing to sell his soul for a hit. There's something settled about Sting - something that ought to be comforting to 40-somethings with mortgages and bills, fretting over expanding waistlines and receding hairlines.

Sting is 41, a father of five, recently married for the second time. And he's not a big fan of popular music. "I don't listen to pop radio very much," he says without a hint of apology. "I listen to classical music. I do. I find it hard to listen to (pop) music to relax to. I tend to analyse music for use; if I listen to a song, I pick it apart for where it's derived from, where its harmonic structure is from."

OK, so maybe your average 40-somethings have other reasons for avoiding pop radio, but it's the thought that counts. Whatever the reasoning, it all points to the same thing: Here's a 41-year-old who isn't trying to be 25. For which, he says, his kids are probably grateful.

"They're pretty blasé about Sting. Dad is somebody else, this guy at home. I have my good points and my bad points. The interesting thing about my son is that he's got a band and he's very influenced by Nirvana and Pearl Jam. He keeps me at arm's length."

You'd think maybe dad would be wounded by the cold shoulder. You'd think maybe he'd say, Uh, son, you know, I've got some little experience in this music thing myself.

But Sting says he doesn't mind his son's attitude. "I think he's right. I think the unhippest thing about your band when you're 16 is your dad digging it. I'll be ready with advice when he asks for it."

Of course, dad had a band of his own once - the aforementioned trio, the Police, who owned the early '80s, racking up gold and platinum with hits like 'Roxanne' and 'Every Breath You Take'. Pop hasn't been the same since they left. Which of course, begs the question that has become obligatory in any encounter with Sting: Hey, when you guys gonna get together again?

Sting says, hey, it already happened. You mean you missed it?!?

"We played at my wedding in August. The three of us got up there and we did three or four songs. And 10 years went by. I became the character I was 10 years ago and Stewart (Copeland) became the character he was. We glowered at each other, called each other out... and started to laugh. It's funny how you can assume old roles. But none of us is very sentimental or nostalgic."

Which means: Sorry, Police fans, but don't hold your breath. "I think fans tend to be nostalgic as a large group, but I don't see why I should pander to that. I tend to live in the moment. The other guys feel the same way. I think what we did was very clever: We stopped when we were at the top."

The end of the Police was the beginning for Sting. He launched into a solo career that has brought him that rarity: critical acclaim and hit records. Now it brings him to Miami.

"This will be the second time I've played at the Gusman," says Sting. "I played with the Police there very early on. I remember it fondly. Very beautiful theater." This series of shakedown performances, he says, "will be intimate, informal. I want the audience to share the excitement of songs being performed for the first time. We'll be experimenting, seeing what works, what doesn't work. I want to involve the audience."

With any luck, '(Epilogue) Nothing 'Bout Me' will be one of the new songs Sting tries out in front of the Miami crowd. The tune is a good-natured - and well-earned - swipe at music critics who have used his songs to put him on a metaphorical analyst's couch.

"I've suffered a lot from amateur psychoanalysis over the years, people investigating my lyrics. I thought (the song) was a tongue-in-cheek way of saying, 'Well, you've listened to the album. Now what do you know about me?' "

Sting says without rancour that the public perception of him is "miles away" from the real him. "It's generally a perception of a perception of a perception, which I don't mind. If anything, I can hide behind the polarity."

It is, of course, the curious duality - the eternal paradox of celebrity. These people who are so familiar, these people we like to think we know, are all simply strangers when you get right down to it. It makes you think that, for all the talk about his frostiness, Sting is at the bottom line, maybe a little too smart, too good a man, for celebrity.

Is he the Iceman or the Human Torch? More important, why do we feel we need to know? As he puts it in 'Nothing 'Bout Me', "Pick my brain, pick my pockets, steal my eyeballs and come back for the sockets, put every kind of test from A to Z, and you still know nothin' about me."

You suspect that, given a chance, he might add a coda: What do we need to know?

"Am I a bad guy or a good guy?" he asks. "I'm something in between. I'm a human being."

And he writes a mean song, too. Now really, what more do you need?

© The Miami Herald


Jan 1, 1993

Change the record: Sting has evolved several public personae, from a peroxide pop pin-up with all-too-clever lyrics to a defender of the rain forest. Now, with his eco-man suit packed away and film flops behind him, the musician has found a personal middle ground...

Dec 1, 1992

Sting puts the bass in its place: As bass player with the Police, Sting helped revive the old idea (as old as Cream, anyway) of the singer/bassist as bandleader. When he launched his solo career, though, Sting switched to guitar. He strummed through his first two post-Police albums, 'Dream Of The Blue Turtles' and 'Nothing Like The Sun', and the tours that went with them. Only on his 'Soul Cages' tour last year did Sting return to the bass. We talked to him about the joys and frustrations of his chosen instrument...