The Police

Stewart Copeland: conflicts over music caused rifts with Sting

When we don’t play music together we get on famously, Police drummer reveals

The Police were a band that became notorious for bitter squabbles and proper fist fights but the drummer Stewart Copeland has insisted that he and Sting can get on famously – as long as they don’t play music together.

The band split without any formal announcement in 1984 after five stratospherically successful albums and No 1 hits which included Walking on the Moon, Don’t Stand So Close to Me, and Every Breath You Take.

It later emerged that Sting, Copeland and the guitarist Andy Summers were often at each other’s throats, verbally and physically.

In an interview with Radio Times Copeland explained that the problem between himself and Sting was their different approaches to music.

“For Sting, music was a painkiller, an anaesthetic, a way to escape from the evil, harsh, grim world, to a place of utter, unassailable, unblemished beauty,” he said. “For me, it’s a celebration: let’s light up this room and let’s have fun.

“This can overlap – we made five albums as the Police. But the conflict grew and grew, out of that diversity of purpose. And now we understand that, and Sting and I get along famously … as long as we’re not playing music!”

Stewart Copeland: Sting and I get on away from The Police

The Police have divided opinion since the first single Roxanne was released in 1978. Some see them as one of the greatest rock bands of all time. Others see them as one of the blandest.

One huge fan is the award-winning choreographer Kate Prince, founder and artistic director of the hip-hop dance company ZooNation. She has created a new show opening in London next month using songs from the back catalogue of the Police and Sting.

Copeland is exploring the whats and whys of music for a new three-part BBC Four series, Stewart Copeland’s Adventures in Music.

He was asked about his feelings to other drummers, including one of the most influential and irascible of them all: Ginger Baker.

“Oh, the guv’nor!” said Copeland. “I got along famously with Mr Baker. He called me Young Man, I called him Your Lordship.”

They met at a polo game in Colorado, he said. Baker later went to Copeland’s studio in Hawaii and after one minute of playing became ill and paramedics were called. They tried to take him to hospital. “He told them to fuck off, then he played a show that night.”

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