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To say that Sting is busy this fall is an understatement! The day before his concert at the AccorHotels Arena, the singer gave a press conference to which Music Waves was invited...
STRUCK - 01.11.2019
It is in the walls of the prestigious Royal Monceau that Gordon Matthew Thomas Sumner, better known as Sting, gives this press conference and talks about this new world tour but also about the special edition of his latest album, "My Songs". In addition to this special edition which includes reinterpretations of his most famous songs in remixed versions as well as live versions recorded live last summer, Sting's news is also the release of a boxed set of 6 CDs from all The Police studio albums with a CD of rarities, B sides... 

When you are told that its current events are busy, you are not lied to... And it is a natural and perfectly relaxed Sting who therefore answered all our questions during a short but very informative exchange to evoke of course his current events, but also his career in general, his aspirations as a musician but also as a citizen and a man.... 

Why do you propose us this re-release of your titles?

Sting: In my opinion, a recording is never finished, it's always a work in progress. So I constantly work on the songs, trying to reimagine them, redo them... Albums are never finished: they are organic, living things!

You have never stopped evolving throughout your career from The Police, to your solo career and duos with Shaggy. How do you explain this?

You know, I really like the diversity of my career. I prefer to create surprises (Smile) for the listener but also for myself! So I try to do unexpected things like songs from the Renaissance to the lute (the album "Songs from the Labyrinth", his eighth solo album) or work with Shaggy (the album "44/876") which are very different things but it allows me to evolve, it keeps my interest alive. I try never to be complacent, I try to be sincere and fresh about all these different projects: I am always outside my comfort zone...

But so you're aware that you can disappoint some of your fans from the first hour?

But if I did the same thing over and over again, I'd be bored (Smile)! 

And regarding the re-release of these boxes: is this a way to close a chapter or can we reassure your fans right now, it doesn't mark the end of your career?

No, the release of these boxes is one thing, but it is important to have such a beautiful object to mark such a career with a cornerstone. And as I said earlier, a song is never finished: I'm going to play 'Roxanne' tomorrow at Bercy and I'm going to have to reinvent the way I sing it. It's my job: these songs are not museum pieces, they're living organs!

How was the choice of songs included in this new album made?

The songs choose themselves! The most popular songs are very easy to choose: I've been playing them for years on stage and when I play them, I realize if that's what the audience wants to hear. And when I reimagine one of these songs, it's better that they are titles with which the audience is familiar so that they can see the difference, rather than a reinterpretation of an obscure song that they may not know. My intention for the songs has always been to make them evolve and these titles are the best examples of this evolution over the years. I know these songs better today than I did on the first recording. A first recording is like a first date, and like any relationship, the longer the relationship with a song, the more you know it, the richer it is...

Despite everything, can we say that these songs are very favorite?

It's a question that's not fair, it's like asking me what my favorite child is (Smile)! In a way, it sounds like different songs but I like to consider these songs as one that represents a long story in my life and some are therefore more popular but I am grateful for each of them.

What are your relationships with former members of The Police? How did you organize yourself for the release of this box set dedicated to The Police?

We just did it (Laughs): there was very little conversation! 

Concerning the box set The Police, did you rediscover some of the titles among the rarities you propose?

I listen to my music by accident! Sometimes I shop and one of my old songs has been played in the store and I think to myself how I could have made such music when we were still just children (Smile)! So I don't often listen to my music if it's not by accident... But generally I'm pleasantly surprised and happy with my music! 
If I listened to the box set, I would probably find things that would interest me and I hope that this will also be the case for those who buy it. 
But I also think I could have done better, I could do it differently... And the album "My Songs" is the very example: the idea that songs are always evolving

You've always been prolific during these 40 years of career but have you ever known anything that comes close to the blank page? And if so, how do you apprehend him?

Of course and it made me very anxious... until I realized that I wouldn't be permanently productive. There must be moments when this productivity stops in order to be able to live one's life, to live experiences that are then transcribed in writing. Today, I am less afraid of the blank page, on the contrary, it is even a necessary part of the process, a part of the cycle. Right now, I'm facing a blank page, but it's okay, it'll come back: it's cyclical!

Have you considered making a duet album? 

I'm very lucky to be asked to do duets. My record company tells me that the latest one with Maitre Gims is a huge hit. I also did this very nice song with Mylène Farmer.... These opportunities come to me, I am grateful for them. I always learn something by working with another artist: making compromises, solving problems with another artist... is a real challenge! It is very interesting and it is an exercise in humility.

But how do you manage to keep your own signature by working with artists from such different backgrounds?

As I said, this relationship with another artist who are sometimes great stars is very interesting. It's a negotiation, a relationship, and you have to listen. The most important thing when you are a musician is not to work with your fingers with which you play an instrument but your ears. You have to know how to listen to what the other person sings and what he says and only then can you create a duo. Without listening, you can't be a musician! It is therefore an exercise in compromise, humility: you have to be humble enough to learn new things. As I said, I have always learned from other artists, always!

And do you plan to make an album of covers with artists of the new generation?

It would be a great opportunity but the duo requests we talked about initially come from others (Smile)! I have always been fascinated by young artists and what they do and the fact that they want to work with me when I am a certain age (Laughs)!

You're going to play tomorrow at AccorHotel Arena, the last concerts you gave in Paris were in smaller venues. How do you see the preparation of such a concert in relation to the other dates?

I have always been very lucky in my career to be able to play in very different sized venues. The first time I played in Paris was at Gibus which is a very small venue but I also played at the Stade de France and a lot of intermediate sizes. It's like a muscle: playing at the Stade de France requires you to work certain muscles and playing in small clubs makes you work others. So I try to keep these two extremes fluid....

You're a great singer but also a great bass player. The fact of being a bass player who is not the musician who is usually in the spotlight, do you think it has an impact on your reinterpretation of these songs?

Being a bass player in a band is very interesting. The guitarist has a much more harmonic place by playing on six strings. On my side, I can only play on one note but depending on the note I choose, I can totally change the harmony of the piece. And since I also sing, which is often the place of the group leader: so I lead the group and it's something very powerful. But playing bass and singing at the same time is not so easy, it's really complicated: it's a counterpoint exercise! And finally, playing these two roles allows me to get paid twice as much (Smile)! (In French) "That's not true" (Laughs)!

The French love you, but how do you perceive them with their qualities and flaws?

I find French culture very sophisticated musically. I don't know if your understanding of harmonies comes from your education. I was walking around Parc Manceau this morning and I met a group of schoolchildren singing in harmony: it impressed me. I find the French audience very sophisticated: they appreciate my attempts to make my music more complex, more interesting. 

In France, as in England, culture has assimilated the music and culture of some African countries. I heard for the first time raï, music from North Africa, here in Paris and it really stimulated me. As I was stimulated by this music from West Africa and Senegal more precisely. As Jamaican music with reggae has influenced English music. In this sense, the French and English cultures have been enriched by immigration by assimilating the cultures of this immigration: in my opinion, immigration makes everyone's life better!

"Roxanne" was written here in Paris and I think you've always been attracted to this city. And as for the blank page we were talking about earlier, do you think Paris will be able to inspire you again?

The question concerning new materials and their origin is still open. As you said,'Roxanne' was written here in Paris (Editor's note: Sting wrote this song in Paris in October 1977, inspired by the prostitutes he saw near the pathetic hotel of the band that was playing at the time at the Nashville club. The title of the song comes from the name of the heroine of Bergerac's play Cyrano, read on an old poster hanging in the hotel lobby. Roxanne's words - "you don't have to put on the red light" - refer to the lit red lantern of prostitution establishments to indicate that they were open in the Middle Ages and modern times). And tomorrow evening, I will start the concert (in French) "with a story" (Laughter). I will tell you how this song was inspired by me. 

Paris is a magnificent city, it is the city of light. Of course, there are problems like in any city, so I don't see it through a candy pink filter, I see it as real as it is but it is an inspiring city. And once again, I'm a fan of French culture, French music, French films - I saw a great film on the plane yesterday, "Les Visiteurs 2", I was crying my eyes out....

Christmas marking the third anniversary of George Michael's death. What is your opinion of this cover? What do you remember about this duo and George Michael in general?

I knew George very well since his debut with Wham!.. He was an extremely talented man, an incredible singer, a magnificent composer... For some time, he lived not far from my home in North London: I knew him quite well... His death is a tragedy like all those musicians who leave us too early and for whom you wonder what they would do today, what kind of music would they do? I wish he was with us anymore: he was a beautiful man!

And do you remember doing a very beautiful duet with him on "Every Breath You Take"?

No (Laughs) (in French) "I don't remember!" My life is so extraordinary - singing with all these people, all these concerts every night... - that all this becomes blurry in my mind! All these so special moments become one special moment!

Do you remember his cover of 'Roxanne'?

Exactly! Exactly! And it inspired me to do something similar! What George had done with this orchestra was very interesting: I stole the idea and I did my song that way!

And what do you think about the return of vinyl?

For me, vinyl was a quasi-religious experience. I bought the albums, I read all the notes, I looked at the artworks, the cover... for me it was a sacred relic. 
Then I put the album on the turntable and the diamond on the vinyl: it was a real important ritual for me to listen to music like that and it's something I miss. Today, when you listen to music in streaming, it's like running a coffee machine, it's a convenience without any artistic experience! I like the fact that the vinyl is back, that we can hold this object in our hands again as something sacred... No, I'm really serious: it was a sacred ritual!

You support the Rainforest Foundation more than ever. Can you tell us a little more? And do you plan to get involved in politics?

(Laughs) (In French) "Never"! I speak about these subjects as a citizen of my country, of Europe, of the world. I speak as a father, husband, grandfather... I therefore have rights, responsibilities and duties as a citizen. I'm not talking about these problems as a rock star but as a citizen. 
For 30 years, I have been involved in these issues and trying to save these virgin forests in South America, Africa and the Far East... And the most effective way to slow down climate change is to protect these forests: it is the most economical solution... but today, we are burning these forests every day, which contributes to increasing the problem. My message has been constant for 30 years but politicians should start listening. They should listen to Greta Thunberg who is telling the truth for her generation but also for everyone because my generation has failed her generation. We really have to listen to what she says because her words really make sense!

What is your opinion on Brexit?

As you all know, I voted to keep us in the European Union, which I believe is a very important union. Basically, we created this union to stop wars and we forgot that (Smile)! We have forgotten how devastating the European wars were in the 1940s. Trading together has helped us to stay at peace! I think that this decision to leave the European Union will be very damaging in the short term but also in the medium and long term. I'm not sure we can really leave it, I think it's impossible: it's going to take another 20 years to figure out how to organize this new complex relationship! 

We have other more important topics to discuss such as climate change, wars... having a blue or red passport is totally irrelevant! I consider myself a European, I love my country, but I believe that we must remain in the Union. And then, we must remember that it was a very close referendum - it was not a unanimous vote to leave the Union, 48% wanted to stay - and I am convinced that if we hold another referendum tomorrow, my feeling would be that the result would be different but it is only my feeling...

And what could be the impact on English musicians?

Today, I can come and play in France easily. I can also go to Holland or Germany... Will I need a visa to play in Paris? It would be a nightmare.... And then I also live in Italy. Will I also need a visa to visit my farm? It won't be easy. If this Brexit becomes a reality, there will be monster traffic jams from Paris to Calais and from Dover to London... They will not be able to manage this traffic, it is impossible!

Thank you

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To say that Sting is busy this fall is an understatement! The day before his concert at the AccorHotels Arena, the singer gave a press conference to which Music Waves was invited...

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