Police drummer Stewart Copeland doesn’t want to make his new book, “Strange Things Happen: A Life With the Police, Polo, and Pygmies” (HarperStudio) a conventional autobiography. “It really isn’t because of all the stuff I left out, the boring stuff — I was born here, then I moved there, then I went to this school, then that school…Who cares?” Copeland tells Billboard.com. “These are war stories.”
Many of those, not surprisingly, come from his days with the Police, though Copeland acknowledges that “the eight years of Police supremacy back in the day (i.e., the 80s) get a little bit of short shrift.” But that, he adds, was by design. “The first part (of the Police), I told that story with my movie (“Everyone Stares: The Police Inside Out”). Sting and Andy (Summers) both wrote books about it and covered it very well, I thought,” he explains. “But the last third of my book is all about the reunion tour, which, unlike the first eight years, is untold.”
Copeland adds that he hopes “Strange Things Happen” also portrays what he feels is a more insightful and accurate view of the famous volatility that is part of the Police’s legend.
“I think I did succeed in clarifying the conflict in the band,” he explains. “It has always been too easy to assume it was just a clash of egos, and that was always very frustrating for me because it’s so far from the truth. In fact, we are very selfless in the Police, all three of us; we really leave our egos at the door and go in there and take a pasting from each other — and we take it. That’s what life in the Police was all about. It was always a clash of musical ideals…We were fighting over the right things.”
“Strange Things Happen” isn’t solely about the Police, of course. Copeland writes about his CIA agent father, his youth in the Middle East and England, and his other musical experiences, including the all-star Oysterhead with Primus’ Les Claypool and Phish’s Trey Anastasio, jamming with Rage Against the Machine and Foo Fighters and the time he nearly went on tour conducting an orchestra for the Moody Blues. Copeland also chronicles his transition into film scoring and writing classical and operatic music.
He notes that a large number of his “war stories” didn’t make the cut, but rather than a second book Copeland envisions publishing them episodically in magazines — which, he says, was his original intention for all the tales before he was “persuaded to save them and put them all in a book.”
Copeland, whose score for the theatrical production “Ben Hur Live” that’s now touring Europe, is currently finishing a concerto for the Dallas Symphony Orchestra that will premiere in 2010. He’s also finalizing a commission from a British opera company. As for another Police reunion…
“Who knows,” Copeland says. “I mean, I intend to be on the planet here for another 50 years; who knows what’ll happen. To escape from the Police we had to melt down the cage and…dismantle the huge behemoth that grew up around the band. The three of us had to get away from it. As to whether or not we do it again, who knows.”