SEATTLE — Drummer Stewart Copeland had already secured his place in the Rock Hall of Fame by the time the Police disbanded in 1986. But despite a love of polo and the good life, he's never rested on his laurels. Copeland has an entirely new career as a film composer, a documentary film maker, and is now performing what he calls "derangements" of Police songs with symphonies and orchestras. He'll be conducting, drumming and playing guitar with the Seattle Symphony Sept. 14 at Benaroya Hall.
He spoke to our own Saint Bryan recently by Zoom.
BRYAN: Stewart, what is the concept here? Because it's not the music of The Police "arranged" for an orchestra. It's "deranged" for an orchestra.
COPELAND: Well it wasn't broke so I decided to fix it. The purpose of the derangements was actually something else. I had a movie at Sundance ("Everyone Stares: The Police Inside Out," 2006) made up of all of the Super 8 footage that I shot of the band back in the day when we were starving all the way up through when we were playing stadiums.
As a film composer I had to carve out that Police music to make it fit the movie. Once I got the scalpel out, then the orgy began. I found all kinds of live performances, improvisations and jams that we did on stage versions of "Roxanne" and everything where Sting went off on extrapolations and (guitarist) Andy (Summers) came out with cool stuff that was never on the album, so I was able to get all these different versions. I would also take these lyrics here and put them on that song over there and just generally "derange" all of that Police material for the film.
But then when it came to the symphony thing that I do, I thought, 'Well let me take those derangements and orchestrate them' and so what we have are songs you'll recognize but re-arranged, "deranged" if I may, with three soul sisters on the mic. There's guitar bass and drum as well, but mainly it's an orchestral event.
BRYAN: So you must have gone back and listened to the Police albums as you were putting all of this together. How do you assess the skills of the young drummer on them?
COPELAND: I'm actually more impressed by the skills of that songwriter and that guitarist. Clever little songwriter, that guy! You know, I never really noticed. I was just in the back of the stage banging stuff. I'm more focused on the guitar riffs than on the lyrics, but now with my nose deep into this material I have a newfound respect. As you may have read, Sting and I did have our conflicts, but I have now come to realize the man is a genius and has been all along. Such a genius in fact that this is my revenge!
BRYAN: (laughs) Well you guys may have had discord offstage but on the stage that was one heck of a rhythm section.
COPELAND: Oh we had discord on the stage as well. The place we did not have discord was anywhere outside the music, you know, dinner, hanging out the next day, then we were always the closest friends. But as soon as we were making music there was that clash. We have different ideas about how you make it and why you make it. And you know it's not comfortable, but in fact that clash made the band what it is.
The one-night-only concert features Copeland himself on drums alongside the Seattle Symphony, a guest guitarist and vocalists, and dives into The Police’s biggest hits including "Roxanne," "Don’t Stand So Close to Me," and "Message in a Bottle." Tickets are still available.