One From The Archives - Interview with Stewart Copeland
We caught up with Stewart Copeland at the UK premiere of "Everyone Stares: Inside the Police", a documentary movie he edited together from the reams of Super 8 footage he shot during the rise and peak of one of the world's biggest rock bands.
Looking at all the footage for "Everyone Stares", what did you think of those Police live performances?
The Police sounded like no one else: where did that unique new sound come from?
Police Songs always seemed to have amazing chops, fantastic groove playing and great hooks. Were you always trying to have all three in every song?
Lots of people think of orthodox grip as something weak and fiddly, but it is absolutely about power, that's how you GET the power is by doing it right, that's what orthodox technique is all about. (grabs marker pen from table, holds it in orthodox grip and starts to whack it on his knee) Look at the wrist muscles, these are the biggest muscles for making the stick move, but this... (switches marker pen to matched grip, makes thumb-up nodding movement with hand, marker pen thwacks more weakly against his knee)...match grip is good for bouncing but for a really hard whack, look here... (switches back to orthodox grip, thwacks immediately increase in volume)...my biggest finger, my thumb, pulling that ****er down like THAT! - (huge thwack, marker pen cap pings off into a corner of the room) THIS is where all the power is. For me, matched grip is just using the wrong part of the thumb.
Of course Technique in general is taking everything and maximising the ergonomics of your connection with the instrument whatever the instrument is. You can get a long way just being self-taught and having talent is way more important than technique, but technique enables physically to go way further.
What was your musical education? You’re classically taught and you studied at Berkeley, but not Berklee, and you didn’t actually study music there?
All your performances have an enormous focus and energy - is that a deliberate performance style, or just the way you play?
Do you have all the chops you want to play those gigs, or do you still work on new vocabulary?
How much of your hi-hat technique did you get, consciously or not, from Buddy Rich?
What advice would you give to young drummers just starting out?
With all the DVDs and books available these days, is it harder from drummers to develop a unique style?
Certainly the job of the drummer has got a lot easier. In my day, you had to finish the song, you had to play the whole damn song. Nowadays you just need one good bar and we can loop it. Young musicians shake their head at the enormity of such a concept.
Are drums and hardware a lot better than back them?
So I gave them a great review in Sounds magazine, then called the distributor, told them I was a big pop star, I played with Curved Air. I sent them all these press clippings of the band, and somehow managed to fudge the dates on these articles, and fudged the fact that I wasn't in Curved Air when they had their hits, and that actually I joined at the very tail end dregs of the Curved Air period, so I hornswoggled a set of drums out of the guys who imported Tama, and I've been playing them ever since. Would I still play them if I didn't have an endorsement deal? I guess I might experiment with DW. But I don't need to, because I see other people's kits and no one else makes Gong Drums, no one else makes Octabans. Tama are still right out in front in terms of innovation and new designs, and they take good care of me. If I need a drum set anywhere in the world, there it is. I don''t carry my drums anywhere, wherever I go, there''s a Tama drumset for me.
Same with Paiste. Except Paiste were there before I was, they've been there for a long, long time. The reason I don't switch to Zildjian - there's only two people that make cymbals, Zildjian and Paiste – and Paiste doesn’t make a ride cymbal as good as Zildjian, I'm tempted to break and get myself one of those great Zildjian ride cymbals, but Paiste are good enough and they make all these other things that Zildjian don't make. So I''ll probably stick with Paiste. For another thirty years.
How do you tune your drums?
I guess it's the same for the whole band: nothing happens unless it gets through the PA. The classic scenario is that while you’re playing the gig you have no idea if the PA mixer is doing his job or not, you only find out when your friends come backstage, you don't know at the time. The monitor guy better have his shit together, because you sure as hell know how well he's doing his job. I tried using in-ear on the last tour and I hated it, would never do it again. Everything sounds small and undramatic and I like to feel it. I actually just use stage monitors and wear earplugs that just reduce all the volumes of all the frequencies down, but I can still feel it. The in-ear monitors, well, you''re right there, it's clear but you just don''t have the feeling of magnificence, it doesn't have the power.
Of course, you have to be careful. I've got slight hearing loss, I've got a notch at around 4KHz, probably right about where my snare drum is. Of course, my snare drum is tightened so tight, it's tuned to bring a bird down from the sky. I always dread every soundcheck, the moment when I get up on the drum riser and...CRACK! Owwww! and eventually the mucous on the hair follicles on the audio membrane in my ears begins to freeze up. So now I wear these very fancy ear plugs. They're custom-moulded to my ear canals and give an even attenuation of all the frequencies so I still hear everything, just not as loud. In fact, sometimes I'll come off stage at a gig and pull my earplugs out, the audience are still making a noise "OK, let''s give them one more" and I'll forget to put them back in and count it off, one, two, three, four, CRACK! OWWWWW! And there's blood gushing from my ear. But I''m very fortunate. Andy Summers has tinnitus, Jeff Beck has it, Pete Townsend has it, it really is a problem. Fortunately I don't have it: I got away with it. Andy didn't. But then his ****ing amplifiers were so loud…
Is even that minor hearing loss a problem scoring film soundtracks?
Yes, but what films has he scored?
Thanks for you time
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