Interview: THE NEW STRAITS TIMES (2005)

January 29, 2005

The following interview appeared in a January 2005 issue of The New Straits Times and The Malay Mail ...

Sacred Star...

It pays to be patient.

And a good dose of perseverance helps to get things done, too.

Several calls to Singapore concert promoters to interview their 'stars on the road' finally came to fruit.

There had been no go with the Rolling Stones, two years ago, and the same went for the Eagles, late last year. Time constraints ruled the road.

So, it was music to these old ears when Lushington Entertainments' Buu-Kim Hoang-Le called, early this week, when we'd all but given up hope. "Would you like to interview Sting over the phone on Thursday evening?" she asked.

This time, it was nice to hear that old Tinseltown line - "Don't call us. He'll call you."

Even after a barrage of sell-out Sacred Love concerts in this part of the world, Gordon 'Sting' Sumner sounded relaxed and cheerful.

He had just completed a last-minute sound-check in Hong Kong and was due for a show later that night. But, he was ready to talk.

There may be some hope for those who've felt let down after Sting left the Police and went solo.

When he hits the road in the United States in April, it will be with a band that's stripped down to the basics.

"I haven't done the university or college crowd for a very long time," he said. "And I haven't done a stripped-down, guitar-driven gig in that time either.

"It would be nice to go back and do that."

Those who've followed his career these last 30 years or so would realise that it's the first in a long time that he'll not be using a keyboard player; only guitars and drums.

"It will take some experimenting and it certainly will be risky," Sting added. "But that's what makes it exciting."

Later on in the phoner, he referred to his songwriting and attributed the same elements to it.

"I like the uncertainty of it all," he offered. "It helps me to be more creative."

Yes, he does admit that he misses his days with The Police.

"I'm not trying to recreate The Police, though," he was quick to note.

Like everything he's done, this return to basics is cyclical. In the late '70s, he began his career in The Police with Stewart Copeland and Andy Summers, and it's just that sort of outfit he's going back to, at least for the US varsity gigs.

Since leaving The Police, Sting has become one of the most successful singer-songwriters around. If he left the band to explore and exploit his own potential, he's certainly achieved it.

Along with that evolution, however, has come a great deal of musical sophistication.

It couldn't have been easy. It was tough enough doubling on bass and vocal duties in the band, while Copeland and Summers stuck to the guitar and drums.

Going solo in the mid-80s, Sting turned to the keyboards like other musicians and experimented; and his creativity brought on such hits as 'Fields Of Gold', 'Wrapped Around Your Finger', 'If I Ever Lose My Faith In You', 'Until' and 'You Will Be My Ain True Love'.

Now, after all that, he wants to take a break. "I just need to get back to basics for a while."

The basics, he added, includes taking a bus, reading the newspapers... "finding out again about what influences me, the things that make me angry... and who knows, I may be inspired enough to do a new album." Sting must love the adrenalin that comes with uncertainty, and he's ready to take it as it comes.

"I can't just say I'm going to write for a new album and then decide to start work on it at nine o'clock, the next morning," he said.

This whole idea to strip everything down, for example, came only a few months ago, when he was wondering how he was going to wind up the current 'Sacred Love' tour that's taken him half-way across the globe.

It's a tour that may also inspire him the way the Sept 11 New York twin towers disaster did.

At that time, he just didn't feel like writing songs. As a matter of fact, he was getting ready for a concert in his backyard at home in Italy when it happened.

When it did, he didn't feel like going on with the show.

"It was the last thing I wanted to do," he said, last year, "but people had come from all over the world to see this show in my backyard, and I felt they needed some kind of therapy, just to be together."

What resulted was a grippingly intimate show, soon documented on the live album and DVD, entitled 'All this Time'.

What also resulted from that tragedy was his latest album, 'Sacred Love'.

"Even then, while I was working on the songs, there was uncertainty, but this time around, as you can see from the lyrics, it resulted in some confusion."

Here, however, is where Sting shows what a straightforward composer and artiste he can be.

"I wasn't denying anything," he laughed. "It was realistic... I was confused."

While the Sept 11 tragedy brought out his creative side, the recent Boxing Day tsunami disaster brought out the generous donor.

At his sell-out concert in Bangkok, this month, Sting donated US$20,000 to relief efforts; and his coming concert in Perth will raise a grand total of A$3 million for the cause with the help of the Australian government.

"The entire proceeds from the concert will go to UNICEF," he said.

"It's sad that it took such a tragedy to bring people together and get the tsunami warning system for this part of the world going, but the outpouring of care and funds is comforting.

"This aid must be sustained," he added, "and it should also be used to help the affected areas rebuild their infrastructure."

"This includes the rebuilding of roads, hospitals and schools," he said. "It should be much more than just immediate emergency aid."

With all that going on, the artiste is looking forward to the rest of his Sacred Love tour.

Coming with him to Kuala Lumpur is the eight-piece outfit that's followed him.

"I've been to KL before, I'm looking forward to the show and I hope Malaysians will invite me back again."

The Sting concert begins at 8.30pm on Tuesday, Feb 1, at the Putra Indoor Stadium, Bukit Jalil.

© The New Straits Times and The Malay Mail