Stewart Copeland's Online Discovery Channel Interview
Live! With Derek McGinty 9-19-96 (Katie Davis)
KATIE: Welcome to Live! Discovery Channel's online talk show cybercast on America Online and the Internet. RealAudio is provided by Digital Nation. I'm Katie Davis, filling in for Derek McGinty. Music can create a "movie of the mind." And when music is added to a movie...it highlights nuances and underlines emotions. Composer Stewart Copeland, founder of the New wave band The Police, does this in an innovative and arresting manner. Back in 1983, after his first film score for Rumblefish was released, some fans rented the video again and again to dissect the sound track. Now Stewart Copeland has written the score for Discovery's first feature-length film, The Leopard Son, which premieres September 27th. The movie capsulizes 30 hours of patiently-filmed wildlife footage. It tells the story of a leopard cub, coming of age in the African Serengeti. There is some narration, but the documentary is driven by images, real-life sounds and the music of Stewart Copeland, who joins us now. Welcome, Stewart.
STEWART: Well, thank you very much!
KATIE: You have said that you tend to look at a rough cut and then you dream the music. Did you dream the music to The Leopard Son?
STEWART: Well, hopefully I don't snooze while I'm working. So I -- this dreaming goes on during waking hours. As picture rolls in front of me, the music just presents itself in my brain, I suppose, you could call it dreaming it up I suppose.
KATIE: And you've also said that every scene has a tempo and you just have to sit with it and discover it, that it's almost like an act of skofery rather than inventing.
STEWART: Seems that way. It seems as if the piece of music is already there. Sometimes I feel like an archaeologist uncovering something and you'll follow along, you find a bit of a wall or tomb and you follow it and then suddenly it disappears and you dig around in front of it and then you dig around to the left, to the right, ah, there it is. It's taken a different direction and you find it. Although it's creation, it actually -- the sensation is more like discovery.
KATIE: Now, take us to your studio when you're composing this particular film, you're looking at images of lions and leopards, are you finding a kind of natural music in their movement or are you trying to give these animals kind of characters?
STEWART: Well, the animals do have a lot of character. As you get to know them. And during the -- you know, the 30 hours and also the time I spent out in the Serengeti observing the animals with Hugo, the cinematographer, but the film condenses all that so I have to kind of flesh that out at a faster pace than -- than the film unfolds. So, yes, each -- the character -- the animals do have different characters. And specifically in this film, some of the animals have specific characters, like the lions in this movie are not the heroic noble creatures that you normally -- they don't have the normal aspect that they normally have because in this film, they are the threat to the leopard. The leopard is the hero of this movie and lions are extremely bad news for leopards. Whenever leopards come into contact with lions, the lions drop what they're doing and go get that thing. In a way, it's more important than catching dinner is getting rid of competing predators.
STEWART: So they also have altercation with the baboons as well. Whenever he runs into these other predators, they always -- they always fight it out.
KATIE: So did you create sort of musical, uhm, cues for when the lions come in or the baboons come in?
STEWART: Well, the music almost never stops in this film, as a matter of fact. It's one big cue, it starts at the first frame of picture and ends with the last frame of picture. In fact, continues even longer than the picture because there's the credit roll at the end! But the music does drop out occasionally so we just play the sound effects which have an atmosphere of their own, as a matter of fact.
KATIE: Can you give us a sense at all of what the music, for instance, of the baboons might be like versus the leopard, who is the hero of this movie?
STEWART: Well, during most of the film, the leopard is a youngster and so his music is actually pretty cheerful. The baboons at one point a pack, a gang of baboons chase him up a tree. And, uhm, he gets to a position where they can't get at him more than one at a time so he's actually safe there but it's still kind of a tense moment. They chase him right up to the top branches of this tree. And although one leopard and one baboon, I put my money on the leopard, but when there's 20 or 30 baboons, it's trouble for our pal, the leopard. [Laughter] And the actual music that we have for that is one of my favorite pieces where I got Stanley Clarke to play bass and when we were recording that scene, I was very fortunate that another bass player friend of mine happened to walk in the studio and visit that day. Well, of course, Mr. Clarke just had to let out all the fireworks and he wasn't going to, you know, slouch when he had another bass player sitting in the room! So he really burns on that scene. It's some of the best bass playing he has done since Return to Forever..
KATIE: That's great. Did you end up liking one animal more than the others in terms of the way you connected with the animal and the music that came out of it?
STEWART: I've always been very fond of the giraffe and the giraffe gets a very funky tune, very funky riff with this kind of Viennese waltz at the top end. You look at their face, it's actually like an old lady serving tea. Sort of mildly grumpy, worried about your table manners.
KATIE: So you chose to give it a little bit of a funky tune, though?
STEWART: In places, yeah.
KATIE: Was the fact that you're a drummer and your background is in percussion, did this make it easier to be creating music that was in the animal world? I mean, a lot of the natural sound in Africa is very percussive.
STEWART: Yes, that's true. But we didn't go with an African motive for this film because I figured the animals, they don't have any cultural attachment necessarily although Africa might include the animals as part of its human culture, I think the animals are very ignorant of any human culture that will be around them so I have just used a symphony orchestra, some slide guitar, you know, Ry Cooder: Once I got Stanley on the mike, I got him on the bass. Looks of orchestra, excuse stiff guitar.
KATIE: You mentioned that the music never stops in this film. And in fact, there is no dialogue, some narration, did you feel more pressure to carry this film, the music, the score, had to, uhm, take care of a lot of the emotions or gap that is there might be in a film sometimes?
STEWART: Well, not so much pressure but certainly a challenge. Just the amount of music and this is not so much under score where in a normal film that I score there's dialogue and that actors are telling you what's going on, even though the music will sometimes negate what they say. You know, the guy says to the girl, "I love you!" And the audience needs to know that the scum bag is lying. So the music I put in, instead of the love chord, I put in the not love chord, the scum bag chord. And the audience, therefore, knows what the scene is all about. Well, with these animals, there is no artifice like this. And also, their faces --
KATIE: What a pleasure!
STEWART: Particularly with the big cats. Their faces are kind of expressionless. We see what's going on but we can't see fear in the leopard's face. There's a scene where his mother gets killed. And his -- that's actually the best bit of acting the leopard does. I mean, Pacino couldn't have done it any more, you know, dramatically! The shot of him gazing on his mother, killed by lions, incidentally, uhm, is very, very moving. But in most instances, you don't -- you can't tell by looking at, you know, they're not acting so you don't know what their jeopardy is and you sort of have to indicate that with the music. But there's a huge amount of it. But the pictures are so big that it really wasn't a pressure. It was very inspiring, as a matter of fact.
KATIE: Do you think music can carry an entire film?
STEWART: Oh, of course. [Laughter] Where would we be without music?
KATIE: Right. You went to Africa more than ten years ago before this was even on the drawing board and you traveled around, you recorded music, you created an album. Can you talk a little bit about that and whether or not you drew at all on that experience?
STEWART: Well, that was about human music and human culture. I actually went over to Africa, this was a documentary that I might call The Rhythmatist.
KATIE: This was after The Police broke up?
STEWART: Well, I'm not sure if The Police are broken up yet. It was towards the end of The Police years anyway.
STEWART: And the idea was, I was over there actually looking for the origins of American music. As we know, American culture is kind of the real stand-out feature of American culture is American music. And the main contribution to American music didn't come from Europe, it came from Africa. And I was very curious to learn the origins of American music and find them in Africa. Well, I didn't find them because as I discovered, the American music is not African, it's black. And there's a big difference because black American is something that was created here in America. And although there are some distant echoes of African elements of music, really it's very, very hard to find because, you know, black culture is something as I discovered was created here in America. It's unique to this country. And it's a part of all of our culture now. But in Africa, you know, it's like -- I found that that didn't exist but I sure did find some very -- some other very, very cool stuff. I spent most of the time in Africa out in the bush, you know, with the -- what's called the fourth world, with the tribes. But really, the most exciting music in Africa is in the cities which I didn't discover until one of the few nights that I spent in the city. In fact, I was in a jail in Zaire and the radio was playing all night this incredible music, played on electric guitars and drums and bass. It's called lingala [phonetic].
KATIE: And did you mind it at all? Was it in the back of your mind? Was it more that you went with the different sort of feel in this movie?
STEWART: No, this movie was, as I said, about the animals, not about human culture. And so in fact, it was a very different musical thing. This album is not like the Rid Maives. The Rid Maives used a lot of pygmy music from the Congo, Samburu and music from Kenya, Tanzania, music from Burundi and various places that I traveled. Vocal music as well as their drumming and other instruments. This actually doesn't have any cultural attachment to Africa -- attachment to African culture. This is symphonic as I said with guitar and acoustic bass.
KATIE: I'm getting a question from the audience. He wants to know what was that Charles Bronson movie you did the music to? Did you do the music for a Charles Bronson movie?
STEWART: No, I did not. [Laughter] If they've used my music in that movie, could he let me know the title so I can go chase them for royalties? [Laughter]
KATIE: And this is a follow-up to what you were just talking about. Why were you in jail in Africa? Can you tell?
STEWART: Nothing serious. I was not gun running or nothing subversive. It was just a visa infraction. I flew into Zaire and then I needed to cross the river, the Congo river to the Republic of Congo. I didn't have visas for either of them because I came from Burundi I which had no Congo embassy. They let me go through. I get on the boat and cross the river but they wouldn't let me into the Congo. They sent me back across the river. I was with the director at the time who was holding the cash in his wallet and he refused to reach in his pocket and pull out the ten dollars that it would have taken to spring us. So the end of the day, and so they threw us in jail overnight. They let us out next morning by which time I prevailed upon our director to reach into our back pocket and pay the man.
KATIE: Sometimes you have to do that.
STEWART: It wasn't -- it's a great cocktail party story. It wasn't actually that threatening at the time. You know, we were at one point handcuffed but fortunately, there was a changing of the guard at sunset. And the guys who came in were much more cheerful than the harassed daytime guys I guess.
KATIE: I have a couple musical questions. He says, "I am an aspiring drum America's I have been at it for 16 years and I found your drumming with The Police to be very helpful in learning new patterns and working independents."
STEWART: Boy! If after 16 years he is still aspiring, I suggest the guitar. [Laughter]
KATIE: Do you have any advice on breaking in or maybe he never had the right advice?
STEWART: Well, with drums, the sad thing about drums is that you have to find people to work with. Because drums are an accompanying instrument. They are fun to play. It's a very rewarding musical experience to play the drums. However, on the career level you don't get anywhere until you have found a singer, guitarist or lead instruments that you have to get hooked up with. And, now, drums, it's not enough to be good at playing drums. You have to find the rest of the band.
KATIE: Another listener wanted to know whether or not you play any other instrument besides the drums. Now, I know on this sound track you're playing the piano.
STEWART: Yes. I'm not a great pianist. But with the help of midi, I can turn my lame piano performances into something much more sparkling. But I do play guitar. I'm a frustrated guitarist. I love playing bass as well. In fact I can ham it up on pretty much all the rock and roll instruments. My first hit before The Police even was under the name of Klark Kent where I played all the instruments myself. Actually, no, that's a lie. Klark Kent was this unknown person. His identity was never revealed. But occasionally I hallucinate and imagine that it was me.
KATIE: Actually, someone had a question about Klark Kent. "Is any Klark Kent available on CD?"
STEWART: Yes, the complete works has been released on CD on IRS records. It's a very cool album, actually, written by a very young Klark Kent who played all the instruments and sang and produced and every note of it was one guy. The man's a genius!
KATIE: A genius. And now he's branching out into sound tracks and opera?
STEWART: Not that I know of. I think he went back to planet Zerkon from whence he came.
KATIE: "Enough with the animals," says one listener. "Stewart, how do you get that incredible snare drum sound?"
STEWART: Oh, that's easy. All you have to do is tighten that thing until it almost pops. And you'll find that having done that, not only will it sound kind of cool, but it's a lot easier to play, too. Indicate eight and --
KATIE: Another listener wants to know what you think of Vinnie's chops.
STEWART: He is one of my favorite drummers, one of the hottest in the business.
STEWART: Because he has those chops. He has a very, very loose feel. The main thing that he does is produce the bulls. It's very rare that you find a drummer who keeps the pulse going at the same time as having those chops. It's because he's so loose with his wrists that he is able to keep it going at the same time to do cool stuff.
KATIE: Someone is asking about the Rumblefish sound track. And says, "I'm a huge fan. Rumblefish sound track. Were you pleased with that?"
STEWART: Yes, very pleased. It's -- it was kind of a cool movie. I really enjoyed working on the movie, but the album was a whole thing in itself. In those days, I didn't understand the film composer's job which is really -- it's a craft. But for me, the Rumblefish was an art form and the album, you know, after the film was finished, I kept on working on the album. As I have done with The Leopard Son and so the album stands up on its own. And I'm very, very, very proud of that album.
KATIE: Another listener wants to know, is anything happening with Animal Logic?
STEWART: Sadly, not. I work with Stanley occasionally. He scores films as well. And occasionally, I'll play on one of his scores and occasionally he'll play on one of mine. As he has done on The Leopard Son, he is playing on this record.
KATIE: Five girl is asking, "do you have influences in terms of how you score a film or is this something you have developed more on your own?"
STEWART: Well, the main influence in scoring a film is the director. And every film is different and you know, films cover everything. One movie will be about Roman gladiators, the next will be about a stockbroker in New York. The next will be about drug dealers in Brooklyn. Next will be a cowboy movie. The next will be a period piece involving sword fighting. And so film composing takes you into every aspect of life, culture, time, and the various music that is go along with those different things. So the most varied musical life for any kind of musician is the life of a film composer.
KATIE: Do you ever feel a little stunted, though, in the sense that you say it takes you here, it takes you there, but it's never you sitting down and thinking, "this is where I want to go."
STEWART: That's why I write opera. Opera is kind of a Bogey thing. I don't know the right word for it. But they say about pop musicians, when they discover jazz, it's the end of their career. There's only one thing worse than jazz, and that's opera.
KATIE: Why do you like it so much?
STEWART: Well, it's something about what you're saying about driving the ship. You know, you have a story, and you turn the story into a script, in opera called the libretto and then you set all of every line, every line of dialogue is set to music. And I find that very challenging and very rewarding. Of course, the word opera turns most people off. And that operatic singing style is an earache for most people but I kind of like it myself. And I really do art for art's sake. I know that I will never make millions of dollars with that stuff but I can't stop myself from doing it. I just love it.
KATIE: There are some payoffs. I read an interview where you said you just love it because when you walk into a room, all of the singers and the other musicians, I mean, respond to you as if you were some sort of God!
STEWART: Well, never mind God. They respond to you as more than they respond to a drummer. [Laughter] Let me tell you a drummer joke. What kind of guy likes to hang out with musicians?
KATIE: I don't know.
STEWART: A drummer! [Laughter].
KATIE: Hey, but you got tremendous, tremendous respect and adoration as the drummer of The Police. I mean, half the questions that I'm looking at are about The Police. I have been waiting --
STEWART: Wonderful thing. Drums are a fun instrument. I have a whole string of drummer jokes. How do you tell if a drummer is knocking at the door? The knock speeds up. [Laughter] But I got some guitarist jokes, too. How do you stop a guitarist from drowning? You take your foot off his head. [Laughter] or what do you throw a drowning guitarist? His amp! [Laughter].
KATIE: I like that one.
STEWART: That's my favorite.
KATIE: Let me ask you some of these Sting questions that people have been sending us. People want to know if there is any possibility that there might be a Police reunion tour.
STEWART: I'm working on it, folks.
STEWART: The only way for me to work on it is to not mention it.
STEWART: You know, I -- I -- I agreed to the group breaking up at a time when we were getting along really well because I always hoped that we would get back together. I knew that there were things that I wanted to do that I couldn't do in the context of a group. But, uhm, Sting even more just needed to get out of that golden cage. He wanted to work with other musicians. He wanted to, uhm, he just wanted to go other places, do other things, work with other people. So I figured if we let the group go, that eventually we would get back together again and do it some more. I hadn't finished with the group yet. I hadn't explored all the possibility of Andy Summer's guitar playing, Sting's songs and so on. So I'm not finished. But Sting is business at the moment and we'll just have to wait until he comes around.
KATIE: Are you on good terms? You speak?
STEWART: Very good terms. We get along fine.
KATIE: Who do you consider the most influential drummer that you heard in your life?
STEWART: Well, my personal inspiration, I suppose, came from Buddy Rich and Mitch Mitchell. And also, uhm, damn... that's how important he was. I can't remember his name. Baker! My mind's gone. Ginger Baker. You've never heard of Ginger Baker?
KATIE: Oh, yes, I have. [Laughter]
STEWART: Okay. Ginger Baker earthquake, Mitch Mitchell and Buddy Rich. I listen to them occasionally but not that much anymore. I bought them all on CD when CD was invented. And occasionally, I'll put on a Buddy Rich album. Remind me of my dad. My dad always said I should play with a big band, play some real music. [Laughter]
KATIE: Tell us a little bit about your father, your whole family was musical, your father played jazz.
STEWART: Well, I think my kids are something like fifth generation musicians, I once worked out indicate
KATIE: Your son's a drummer?
STEWART: Yes, one is playing in a London band and the other is star of music school in London. And my father was a jazz trumpet player. And my grandmother was an opera diva. She sang at the Paris opera. And her father was a violinist.
KATIE: So there's basically no choice if you're a Copeland. You're going to be a musician!
STEWART: Either that or a manager or agent. Actually, there's one of my cousins, Kenneth Copeland who's a preacher. I'm not sure if he is a cousin or not. But when I see him on television, I know he is one of us! [Laughter].
KATIE: Is there a musical lilt to his speaking?
STEWART: I know when I look at that guy asking for your money, I know he is one of us! [Laughter].
KATIE: Someone wants to know whether Sting gave you a hard time in the group because often bands abuse their drummers.
STEWART: That's true. And I don't think Sting singled me out for a hard time. He was going through a phase in his life where he temporarily thought he was the devil. And we managed to disabuse him of that. And fortunately, he no longer suffers from that delusion.
KATIE: Do you ever sit down and listen to the music? If you do, is there a particular song you put on?
STEWART: Uhm... very, very rarely because what I find is that if I put on one Police track, that's it for the day. I have to listen to every piece of Police material and having done that I will have to listen to every one of my albums, having done that, I have to listen to every one of my scores, then the operas, and then the demos. And this takes about two or three days. So I try not to go down that road.
KATIE: You have to listen to the whole scope of what you've done, you have to compare or look at --
STEWART: I don't know what it is. But once I start out, that's it.
KATIE: Hm. Well, right, I could see why you wouldn't do that too often. Uhm... motive 8 wants to know what do you do to stay in shape for playing drums? I didn't realize you actually had to be in good physical shape.
STEWART: Well, you do and I have to get in shape and I get into shape by swimming pool exercises, tennis, walking, no jogging for me, I live on hills so I walk up the hill and then back down it. But, uhm, I, uhm, mainly, I have developed a bunch of swimming pool exercises. And it's too ridiculous for me to even begin to describe them. My wife bursts into hysterical laughter whenever she sees me in the pool doing my thing.
KATIE: We'll leave it at that.
KATIE: Do you ever imagine releasing an album totally dedicated to percussion?
STEWART: Well, I've written music for a percussion ensemble called ensemble Bash. They're a four-piece percussion ensemble in England, commissioned a piece of ten minutes duration. I enjoyed writing that and I'll probably write more. I write a lot of music for small ensembles. My favorite drumming that I do right now is that occasionally I'll play with an orchestra and I have a lot of symphonic music that I have written where I sit down with, say, the Seattle symphony or the Albany or one of these orchestras and play with them. And it's actually very cool because an orchestra with drums is very powerful. It's pretty heavy metal.
KATIE: Yeah, those are beautiful drums always in the back row.
STEWART: Well, I'm not only in the back row but I have to have a very large gap between me and the orchestra because they have their sensitive hearing and they all wear ear plugs because my instrument just happens to be very, very, very loud. And I have to play very quietly. And it's only when they're all playing forte forte forte that I can wail. So I write lots of loud music.
KATIE: How do they react to you when you arrive there? Perhaps they know you as a rock and roll drummer and you're showing up --
STEWART: It varies a great deal from musician to musician because some of the musicians are grumpy old ladies, some grumpy old men, some are hot young enthusiasts and orchestras are really like a city. It's amazing how every type of human being is represented in an orchestra. You know, the first violin will be a pinch-faced, uhm, spinster, the second will be a hippie with hair down to his knees, the third will be a young punk, the fourth will look like a stockbroker, the fifth will look like your mom... and, uhm... it goes like that so orchestras really contain every form of human.
KATIE: So who are you in that city?
STEWART: You got me there!
KATIE: Another listener wants to know who your favorite rock and roll drummer is right now.
STEWART: Hm -- well, I think my favorite guy right now is the guy that, uhm, Pearl Jam fired. Which I think was a bad mistake. The album before last, the guy on that whose name I can't remember, was really, really cool. And I talked to Eddie about that and apparently, the reason they fired him was because he -- you know, an ad appeared in a magazine, you know, endorsing some drums and apparently that was not cool as far as the rest of the band goes. And so they fired him. Which I thought was really dumb. The new guy's okay but the guy they had before was brilliant.
KATIE: Do you have any plans to perform live in the near future?
STEWART: Yes, I'm hoping to take some of this music from The Leopard Son on the road or rather to take a small ensemble with me like piano, bass, and a few other pieces and play with orchestras around the country, so in your city, your viewers, your computer guys, should look up, uhm, write to our local symphony and say you have to have me play with them! [Laughter].
KATIE: And so you might take four or five people?
STEWART: Yeah, I'll take some core musicians and then sit down with the local orchestra.
KATIE: And the music, then, if the music was presented, would it sort of like be going to see Peter and the Wolf? Would you have a sense of a story?
STEWART: Probably not. I have written music like that I wrote a piece called Noah's Ark which is a symphonic piece which is a narrative telling the story of Noah's ark. And I have recordings of James Earl Jones telling bits of the story and then we play and then he -- a bit more voiceover and then we play a bit more. And it is like telling a story, but The Leopard Son material we'll probably just cut maybe ten or fifteen minutes from the film, play ten or fifteen minutes of the cool stuff from the score.
KATIE: Another question about Rumblefish from Big J Okay: "Were there any other musicians involved on those incredible tracks?" And he says that he loves your work; your mind must be on fire all the time.
STEWART: Aw shucks! I try and damp it out occasionally! [Laughter]. The swimming pool exercises reduces it to a smolder. But, uhm, yes, there are some other musicians on that. There is, uhm, there are -- I once had this worked out. Uhm... four French horns -- a string quintet, four trombones, double bass and a keyboard -- and a saxophone... uhm... I had an eight-piece string section. A bassist. A trumpet, I had a guy play trumpet effects. Various other people. I played most of it actually myself. Guitar, bass and drums and percussion and stuff. But I got these other people in. Francis Coppola said, "I want strings!!" So I had to go out and hire some strings. .
KATIE: When you work, do you work primarily in your own studio or do you prefer to go to, uhm, a very large recording facility? I don't know, perhaps some Los Angeles or San Francisco or....
STEWART: I have my own large recording facility here in Culver City. It's not quite big enough for some of the scores I do. When I need a full symphony orchestra, I go to Todd AO or Paramount studio which are humongous aircraft hangars with a great orchestra sound. I do orchestra there and everything else in my own studio, the Worried Wabbit.
KATIE: That's the name of the studio?
KATIE: Let's see. Jester --
STEWART: But that studio, the Worried Wabbit, is in Syria so it's a tough commute for some of my players.
KATIE: Jester 424 wants to say when they were in high school they saw The Police at Shea Stadium and want to know whether or not you miss those days ever.
STEWART: Well, during those days, when I was on the road, I used to miss being home like 60 percent of the time. And now that I'm at home, I miss being on stage about 1 percent of the time. [Laughter]
STEWART: But I did enjoy Shea Stadium. I think that was probably the best Police gig we ever played.
KATIE: This person was at a good concert.
STEWART: Yup, picked the right one.
KATIE: Another listener asks, "What do you think of electronic drums?"
STEWART: They're very useful. And in fact, I love rap music and all the -- the really innovative stuff that the youngsters are doing these days. [Laughter] I really am into it, as a matter of fact. I love playing live drums and I love live instruments, but I really also get a very cool groove out of those machines. There's something hypnotic about the quality of those electronic drum rhythms. I love it.
KATIE: What kind of music do you find yourself listening to these days?
STEWART: All kinds of stuff! Ethnic music, bluegrass, the current rock scene, Dubb, The Fugees, Rage Against the Machine, you know, you know, I don't research it. I used to -- when I was a professional purveyor of popular music, I used to keep up with the competition. Now I don't. I never listen to, you know, I listen to the radio but I don't care who played it or, I just listen to it the same way everyone else does, as a punter.
KATIE: Hm. What do you think of Cozy Pal's drumming?
STEWART: Very, very obscure. Okay. Nothing really standout. .
KATIE: Where is this drummer?
STEWART: He is in England. He played with -- well, his main claim to fame I guess was playing with Jeff Beck which is something I did a couple of summers ago, drove me nuts.
STEWART: Well, he programs the most brilliant guitarist on the planet but, uhm, if you blow in one ear, it comes out the other side. [Laughter] Sweet man. Sweet man.
KATIE: Speaking of --
STEWART: Drove me nuts working with him!
KATIE: Speaking of ears, how is your hearing?
STEWART: Very good. I have a slight notch at 4-k but then again just about everybody in rock music does. I'm just very sensitive to it because I do a lot of mixing and I'm very, you know, the sound quality is very important.
KATIE: Do you ever have to pull somebody over and say, tell me, is that okay?
STEWART: No. No. Uhm... I can actually hear 4-k, I just have a slight notch there.
KATIE: What is your --
STEWART: In fact, I must say, because this is important, that all you young rock fans, uhm, I am here to tell you that every single rock musician, particularly the drummers, have varying degrees of hearing loss that is directly attributable to rock music, particularly earphones. Walkman ear phones are one bad thing. And it's just -- you know, the -- we all know about, you know, the testing on nicotine and cigarettes and so on. But there hasn't been a lot of -- there has been a lot of testing but nobody has made a big noise about it. Rock music will ruin your ears. That's all there is to it! And if you play drums, uhm, you're going to suffer hearing loss. And that's not so terrible. Because everyone as they grow loses some hearing. But it's much worse with rock musicians. And guitarists. Because rock music and electric guitar is all at a concentrated frequencies, it really hammers your ears. You can kill your ear, you can do permanent damage, with one blast of feedback is all it takes. It's not the cumulative effect of years. It's each noise does damage. And sometimes there could be, you know, like when the PA, there's a loud screech because the guy pressed the wrong button, that can do permanent damage. Pete Townsend got his continueitis which is a terrible illness from one blast of feedback. Tinitus. What he has is a constant ringing in his ears. Jeff Beck has it as well. Lots of my friends have tinitus. It is a constant ringing in the ears. It isn't painful but drives them nuts.
KATIE: Kinds of gets in the way of the music they might be hearing.
KATIE: Do you think you don't really have this because you got out of rock music?
STEWART: No, it's because my head is made out of concrete! [Laughter]. Like I said, I suffered hearing loss.
KATIE: But really, what do you tell your son? Put -- you can't exactly put --
STEWART: Well, I can't do it because I discovered this very late in my career. I just can't play with ear plugs. But people who start out playing with ear plugs, uhm, do it very well. And I'm sure if I persevered, if I were to go on tour now, I would put on ear plugs and just get over it. Because it's really pretty important.
KATIE: Hm. Could you see yourself going on some sort of rock and roll tour?
STEWART: Only with the right band. And there's only one right band I can think of right now.
KATIE: What about --
STEWART: Unless it's an orchestra. I love playing with orchestra.
KATIE: What about with your son?
STEWART: Well, that would be two drummers in the band.
KATIE: That's true. [Laughter]
KATIE: Would you ever like to conduct your own orchestra? In the way that Bobby Mcferrin does?
STEWART: Well, I would love to but it takes a lot more training than I have had. When you write music, you write music that's in your head and the only technical trick is to get it on to the page. So that the musicians can play it. And you can take your time over it. But when you're standing at the podium in front of 120 musicians, you seriously have to know what you're doing. And I am usually under most circumstances happy to let the conductor conduct. You know, mostly it's for film scoring and I'm busy with making sure that music fits the picture and so I let the conductor conduct and I'm in the control room. I conduct the conductor, and he conducts the band. But it looks like a lot of fun. I conduct singers for opera, I conduct the singers. And I get kind of a kick out of that. It looks like a lot of fun.
KATIE: You've done so much varied things. You have done opera, you've done small ensembles. Rock and roll what is it you haven't done that you feel yourself moving toward?
STEWART: Underwater ballet, the synchronized swimming! The water thing! [Laughter]. I have always wanted to be a synchronized swimmer!
KATIE: Another listener wants to know whether or not your drum setup is very different between your studio work and what you do when you're live on stage.
STEWART: Well, the drums are an instrument. And when I play drums, they're the same setup that I used to have when I played in a band. But a lot of the work that I do is percussion, which is just a drum here, a cymbal there, a cow bell or conga there , so that's different.
KATIE: Do you have a particular set of drums that you say "if I have to perform I'm playing with these drums", or different ones for different occasions?
STEWART: I have several different drums. I have a particular snare drum for years.
KATIE: How long have you had it?
STEWART: Since early Police days. I don't know where it came from. It's a Pearl drum. All my drums are Toma. They make the best drums and that's why I play them. This one snare drum, I have tried to get the same model, year and everything else from the same company. But I can't replicate the sound of this one drum. It's the drum on all those records. And I just can't get that sound out of any other drum. I think it must be warped in some way. Which is what gives it its unique unreproducible sound.
KATIE: Which is why you like it.
KATIE: Will that drum last forever or is it --
STEWART: Oh, yeah, it's made out of metal.
KATIE: Okay. Uhm --
STEWART: They're made to withstand me!
KATIE: With -- bought with you in mind. What is your favorite memory of the 1980s?
STEWART: Probably Shea Stadium.
KATIE: Tell us what that was about.
STEWART: Well, it was a concert for I think 80,000 people. You know, it wasn't the biggest concert we played but it was somehow the most symbolically important concert. Shea Stadium for anyone who grows up in England, when you play Shea Stadium, that means you've conquered America. Saddam Hussein probably dreams of playing Shea Stadium! But when you play there, it's sort of like that's where the Beatles played. And it has a resonance. And the sound, believe it or not, is really good in there.
KATIE: Did you play extra long there or just -- and really felt like you were all together that night?
STEWART: Yeah, we probably did play longer than usual because -- and the -- in The Police we had a lot of places in our songs where we would go off and improvise and the improvisations probably got deeper and further out that night.
KATIE: Do you ever play timpani?
STEWART: No, it's a very difficult instrument, mostly unrelated to other drums because of the tuning thing. My engineer is a timpanist, studied at Julliard. If I need any, he plays the also does a very good press roll better than me. If you hear a press roll on any of my records, Jeff played it.
KATIE: Was it something that you tried to learn and had trouble?
STEWART: No, I hooked up with Jeff pretty early on in my career so I never needed to.
KATIE: You just thought "forget it, I don't need it." Have you ever brought your son on stage?
STEWART: No, because it's -- you know, since the last time I was on tour, he started playing seriously since then.
KATIE: Have you seen him perform?
STEWART: Yeah. He's great. He is really good. He does all the things I do, speeds up, place too many drum fills, that sort of thing. [Laughter]
KATIE: What's it like to hear him play?
STEWART: Interesting. He sounds like me.
KATIE: Does he ask you about percussion --
STEWART: No he never asks me. He doesn't have to ask me. No, he never asks me. I just tell him. That's my reward for being dad.
KATIE: Right. [Laughter] Someone wants to know what Stan Ridgeway is up to these days.
STEWART: Probably self-destructing. He is a great guy, very talented but he is his own worst enemy. He suffers from wild paranoia. And which makes it very difficult for him to get anywhere because he's -- you know, he establish -- he gets a new manager, the next day he's convinced the manager is robbing from him. And it's very difficult for him to work with people because he thinks they're all out to get him. And that's what -- actually what makes him such an interesting artist is this wild -- he is really -- nuts! He is completely around the twist! Very talented. Actually, pretty cool guy. He just drives managers, agents, record companies and so on a little bit crazy.
KATIE: Have you ever released a disk of the Shea Stadium concert?
STEWART: No. We have released a disk of an Atlanta concert that we did.
KATIE: Do you know if a recording exists of that concert?
STEWART: I'm sure there's a bootleg somewhere!
KATIE: But not one that you --
STEWART: Not one that I know of. KATIE: When you do a project like The Leopard Son do you need a little bit of down time where your mind sort of clears of music or....
STEWART: No. As a matter of fact, the reverse. I find that when I'm working too hard, when I got two films going at once, when I'm going crazy from all the work I'm doing, that's when I do my best work actually. The other day, I had to write one piece for some other thing, while out in the middle of doing two films. And I thought I'll never -- I only have like two hours to do this and actually, the piece that I wrote was, you know, very good according to my own standards. And, uhm, it's the strange thing. The mind is like a muscle. The more you work it the better it works. You've always got that part of yourself in shape. Yeah. Fortunately.
KATIE: Did you ever have any formal training in drums?
STEWART: Yes, I did. I started very young at the age -- I started playing at the age of 9. And I immediately, my father started getting me lessons so I would start right and play correctly so I have very orthodox -- in fact, my playing technique is very, very orthodox. I have orthodox grip, any drummer will know what I'm talking about, and I practiced my rudiments growing up, the paradiddles, mammy daddy rolls, my technique is very by the book. All the stuff I do with that technique is as creative as you like, but the way that I do those thing, the way the muscles work, the way the sticks works, is all very correct orthodox technique.
KATIE: Alright, Stewart Copeland, that's all the time we have for now. Thank you very much.
STEWART: Thank you.
KATIE: That's all the time we have now. Composer Stewart Copeland, thank you for joining us. For Discovery Channel Online, I'm Katie Davis. Technical assistance for this event comes from Cheetah Software and Caption Colorado.