Interview: THE VANCOUVER SUN (1993)

May 02, 1993

The following article by John Mackie appeared in a May 1993 issue of The Vancouver Sun newspaper...

Gordon Sumner ignores image to take ...STING... out of stardom...

Sting's image is that he's Mr. Dour, the hardest thinking man in show business. It's an image born out of a lot of sombre, serious songs, and a lot of involvement with sombre, serious issues like the destruction of the Amazon Rain Forest. But it's an image that he doesn't really agree with.

"I think that's a very simple generalization, that I'm Mr. Dour," offers the former Gordon Sumner over the phone from San Francisco. "In fact, it's generally given to me by people who've never met me or listened to my music. It's a kind of easy piece of shorthand, basically lazy journalism. "I'm not really interested in my image, because I can't really control it. I just have to be as I am. Each day is different. But I'm a much more complicated person than the media would cope with. As everyone is, you know."

In any event, he unfurrows his brow, musically speaking, on his latest album, Ten Summoner's Tales. The songs are poppier and the lyrics a bit lighter than anything Sting has done in ages.

"I really wanted to get out of the loop of doing confessional, intimately personal records and just concentrate on the craft of songwriting," explains Sting, whose last album, the 'Soul Cages', dealt with his feelings after his father's death.

"To do that, you really have to tell stories that are essentially about other people. But in doing that, you of course touch on your own experience and your own life. It's not so much writing about your own life as that your own self comes through in a roundabout kind of way. Which is why I finished the album off saying, 'you've listened to this record, but you still know nothing about me.' But that's not strictly true."

It's a poppier record, but there is still a fair bit of musical exotica. 'Love is Stronger Than Justice (The Munificent Seven') was written because he wanted ti write a song in 7/8 time, "a strange time signature." What's really strange, though, is that the chorus sounds like it was lifted out of a country tune.

"I don't think I've ever done that before, but I think everything's up for grabs," he explains. "Essentially what I do is add bits of music together that shouldn't necessarily be joined up. I enjoy that kind of hybrid, that kind of Frankenstein like creation. You end up with something that isn't country at all, it's something else."

'St. Augustine in Hell', on the other hand, is jazzier and more overtly humorous, in a dark kind of way.

"I've always been fascinated by St. Augustine, because he ended up a saint but he really didn't live much like a saint," he says. "He loved women, basically. I thought it would be a great idea if I put St. Augustine in hell for his sins. He found a lot of people there he had a lot in common with."

By big time rock standards, the album was done quickly. Sting gave himself a deadline to write the album (April to June), then recorded it in eight weeks. Now, he's on tour, a tour that touches down at the Pacific Coliseum tonight.

A lot of people in his position (his net worth has been estimated at 40 million pounds - about $ 80 million Canadian) take life easy, putting out a record every five years and touring about as often. But Sting says he still "lives to work."

"Work gives you your sense of self, your sense of dignity," he says. "I'm not going to sit on my ass for five years. That's why I gave myself a deadline. Otherwise, I could just sit around waiting for inspiration to fly by my ear. I don't want to do that. I don't want to make assumptions about what my position is, or how privileged I am at all."

This segues into a discussion of being famous. Sting has to own one of the most recognizable faces on earth: he probably can't go out to the corner store without somebody asking him for an autograph. Is it a pain in the ass to be so massive?

"There are bigger pains in the ass," he notes. "Most people hate their work, they struggle to earn money, can't feed themselves properly. I don't have any of that, so I can't really say I have any complaints about being famous. Sometimes it's great fun to be famous, sometimes it's a little bit strange. But I wouldn't change it. I'm blessed enough in my life to be grateful enough about it, to say 'hey, come on Sting, you've got a lot going for you son."'

The last time I talked to Sting, he was 39: now, he's 41.

"No, actually last time I was 39 now I'm 35," he laughs.

Nice try. How does he feel about reaching the the big 4-0?

"I'm actually happier," he replies. "I seem to get happier as I get older. Or at least more balanced, somehow the equation seems to work itself out a little more.

"I'm not so much on the swings and roundabouts, oscillating between being happy and sad. I'm kind of in the middle. I think the older I get, that's the way I want to be. I'm still fit and my mind isn't atrophying, so it's not bad. I still have women throwing themselves at me, so... I don't mind."

Women may still be throwing themselves at him, but Sting is, in fact, now happily married to his long time companion, Trudie. Why'd he finally decide to get hitched, after they'd been together a decade?

"Why? Because my kids were concerned that we weren't. They figured it was some kind of stigma that people from my generation didn't see. Kids are very conservative, often reactionary. They convinced us that we should do it: they said it would make then happier. So I waited for a romantic moment and popped the question, and she said yes. But you know I'm a very cautious guy. I don't like to rush into these things."

© TheVancouver Sun



May 1, 1993

How we mock our most serious Star, our forest saver. Shouldn't he be protected, or at least respected? Sting must be a really horrible, selfish, cynical, manipulating, pompous, vain bastard. Stands to reason. We know that sort. Superstar rock'n'roller who preserves rain forests for Friends of the Earth; helps Chile, wants to save the world. Always trying to do good. Ergo, he must be be bad. It's weird how this happens Stick to drug orgies, teenage brides and smashing up hotel bedrooms, and the world loves you. What a card, what a bloke. But try to put something back, when you've taken out so much, and everyone is suspicious...

May 1, 1993

Ah, springtime in Paris. It's a postcard-perfect day, and Sting is sitting outside at a cafe, leisurely sipping coffee and occasionally ducking his head into his enormous sweater like a turtle pulling back into its shell. And despite being hounded with questions about whether or not he can program a VCR ("No"), if he's ever read a Jackie Collins novel ("No, I'm a horrible snob when it comes to literature") and how he'll react the first time a boy shows up to take out his daughter ("If he's a musician, I'll shoot him"), he is, as usual, in perfect humour. At the moment, neck and noggin safely outside the mouth of his garment, he is waxing philosophic about whether he ever waxes nostalgic...