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Stewart is interviewed and photographed for "Beat Instrumental"
a photo from today - copyright Sue Arber
Date: 1979-07-04
Location: London, England, UK
Attendees: Stewart Copeland, Sue Arber, Tony Horkins

At 4:30pm Stewart Copeland has an appointment with journalists at his Lena Gardens apartment in London, England, UK.

Tony Horkins interviews him while Sue Arber takes photos. Interview and a photo would be printed in "Beat Instrumental" September 1979 - used here with kind permission by Tony Horkins and Sue Arber:


HOW MANY of you a year ago would have bothered paying as much as a quid to see The Police? And how many of you have just paid about £4 to see them? At long last people have realised what a good band they are, and their album sales are finally reflecting the talent each of the three members has.

I first saw The Police before I joined BEAT, while holidaying around the western bays of California (he tries to say casually). Santa Monica was the destination and wild was the audience. I remember as I walked out saying to a guy I was with that one of the first people I'm going to interview when I get back is that drummer, Stewart Copeland. You'd never guess from the album what an excellent drummer he really is, and how original too.

Apparently Stewart formed The Police about four years ago after splitting with Curved Air. When he left Curved Air his fellow musicians thought he was nuts because he was into "all that new wave stuff".

"They thought I was joining the Gary Glitter set!"

Stewart has eternal admiration for the guys that got up in '76 and played their stuff, bringing the first major change, musically, in years.

"Stuff today is 20 times better than it was before '76, and it's all because of those guys who just got up and played."

The Police were officially formed when Stewart talked Sting out of a jazz group in Newcastle to come down to London, where they met Andy Summers on a session. For the first two years he was the band's manager renting trucks and hiring PA's, as well as drumming for the group. Because of this he didn't have any time for writing songs, therefore Sting was the main writing force. However, now the band's got a manager he's been busy writing some of his own stuff. At home he has a Revox tape machine, various mikes, a load of great guitars and basses and he just builds up songs the best way he can. So expect some shared songwriting on the next Police album.

But even though he can now get by pretty good on bass and guitar, and a bit of piano, drums are still his main interest. He recalls how he first got into playing the drums.

"When I was about 13 and listening to Jimi Hendrix records I was doing all the posing in the mirror stuff and trying to figure out whether I wanted to be the guitarist or the drummer. I decided I'd rather be the drummer.

Those who have seen The Police will realise that Stewart plays TAMA drums.

"I was one of the first to spot them, luckily. It was when they first started making drums and I saw them in a shop and really liked them. I was playing with Curved Air at the time, so I rang TAMA up and asked if they'd send me a set. They didn't want money or anything - all they wanted was a picture of me playing them. I didn't actually have to play them, but once I did, that was it."

"I used Ludwig before that, and the first time I used the TAMA kit I remember our mixer saying to me - pleading with me - to burn the old Ludwig kit because the TAMA sound was just automatically better."

I wondered what particular characteristic he liked so much about TAMA drums.

"I like a really fast action so I tune the drums really tight, which gives them a fast response. But usually to get a really heavy sound you have to take your drums down, which loses that bounce. But with TAMA drums you can tune them really tight but still get a very deep sound."

He also enthuses about the stands, pedals, hi-hat, construction and anything else you'd like to think of. Is there anything he doesn't use that isn't TAMA?

"Sticks. I'll use any old sticks. But I think I'll see if I can get TAMA to give me some..."

Stewart now owns three kits. He still has the original one he bought four years ago, another that he keeps in America (Stewart was born in America) and he's just got a brand new one. He only replaced the original kit because it's got a bit dirty, and the stands are beginning to show signs of wear, but that's not bad going after four years.

"After all I really do give 'em hell."

The kit he uses isn't exactly massive. Like he says, he uses the tiniest of tiny drum sets, although a little extravagant with cymbals (he's got three crashes and a splash, and will only use Zildjian and Paiste). The kit only has a 22" bass drum and only three tom-toms, all of which are small.

"In Curved Air I had a great big double bass-drum kit with millions of tom-toms but it was just too complicated. You can't get to the root of the thing unless you start simple and go from there. You don't need 14 tom-toms to go rat-a-tat-tat on. Three will do the job."

Instead of having masses of drums, Stewart opts for effects. He'd rather have a Roland Chorus Echo than masses of drums anyday.

"I use the echo on stage - it affects the rhythm. I plug it in and get a rhythm out of it and play with that rhythm. I've got a foot switch next to my hi-hat so I can switch it on and off."

"It's got different speeds and different kinds of echo and I set it all up before a song. It's great because you can do on-stage dubs just like reggae records. There's a million ways of using it."

"For example, I've got two mikes on the snare drum. One goes to the PA and the other to the echo machine. But you don't hear the beat on the one that goes to the echo machine, just the echo. It comes through my monitors and then through the PA as well. Because the two signals are separeted they can be made into stereo, which has a great effect going from one side to the other."

Apart from that, he's thinking of using some Octobans for creating various effects, and doesn't mind using the occasional roto-tom on a studio overdub.

"But for a kit playing on stage the're just a pain in the neck and a waste of space."

We wound up the conversation by talking about other drummers. At the moment he likes listening to the B-52's, so at the moment that's the drummer he's listening to the most. He thinks he can impersonate anybody's style of drumming, and that nearly every drummer can anyhow. He also thinks that musos worry too much about technique instead of getting down and actually playing. And he's probably right. After all I'm writing this instead of playing my drum kit, and you're reading this instead of playing yours.

Now, where did I leave my sticks...?

See also

This section needs more information.

External links


source: Stewart Copeland's diary, Sue Arber, Tony Horkins

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