Skip to main content

Sting looks back on The Police: "I'm a heavy metal singer but I have a little more melody"

The Police
(Image credit: Jeff Vinnick/Getty Images))

Rick Beato's new hour-long interview with Sting and guitarist Dominic Miller is a real treat for musicians; it's full of wisdom and inspiring perspectives. And early on Police überfan remarks on how he thinks the trio would still have the same huge impact if they came out today.

"Sting, I've said this many times on my YouTube channel that if The Police came out today, if a song like Roxanne came out and no one had every heard The Police, people would say, 'What's that? That is amazing', begins Beato. "I listened to your Audible book that you did recently and you talked about that there was a small window of time when as a punk band you snuck in the door with The Police, but I disagree with that. 

"I think at any time, you would have been successful because of your voice, the way that you write songs, the uniqueness would have always risen above," continues Beato. "Roxanne in the form that it was, out in 2021, people would say, 'What is that?! That is amazing!' What do you think about that?"

"I open the current show with a version of it that I wrote in Paris in 1978, just on a guitar. It was kind of a bossa nova," replies Sting. "The same melody, the same chords but without that quirky thing that Stewart [Copeland] and I worked out where the bass was on the second beat. But the song still resonated today as if it was a modern song. A lot of our songs still do – they're not rooted in time. They're sort of unmoored… I love that. They don't sound like they belong to 1978. They belong to now." 

Read more

Beato also pointed out that the higher register of Sting's voice also helped The Police to stand out on the radio, which prompted a surprising response from the musician. 

"Register is interesting," replied Sting. "I think most heavy metal singers sing up there, so I'm a heavy metal singer but I have a little more melody. It's the same king of thing; to get above the noise of the band you need that register. You can't be a baritone with a rock band, really.

"The same way a sergeant major would scream and yell on the parade ground," Sting added. "You know why? Because they had to get over the sound of artillery in battle. Charge of retreat. They needed to be heard. Singers have the same need."

The Police clearly had more than Sting's vocal register going for them though. Sting, along with guitarist Andy Summers and drummer Stewart Copeland were frequently inventive. And in the case of their 1984 song King Of Pain, odd - even by Sting's own admission.

"We were just messing around," he reflects. "I thought of it as a sort of operatic song really. It has different chapters in it. We didn't care, we just wanted to have fun."

Eventually the fun stopped and Sting would go on to have huge success as a solo artist, with Miller as his long-time guitarist. But the trio went out at the top 1996, and didn't even linger for long when they did return for a hugely successful 2007 reunion tour.

"My instinct was that we'd achieved everything we could have though to achieve, ten fold… 100 fold. After that you get diminishing returns of satisfaction. So I needed to take another risk with my life. And of course I had momentum because of the success of The Police. Whatever I did next, people would be at least curious. So I used that momentum to boost me into another career. 

"But it was a risk. I think art is always about taking a risk. If you're not taking a risk, you're not doing it."

The trio of musicians talk about plenty more – including a great story about Miller's audition – and you can check it out below. Sting's new album, The Bridge, is out now.

5 minutes alone: Sting

Rob Laing

I'm the Guitars Editor for MusicRadar, handling news, reviews, features, tuition, advice for the strings side of the site and everything in between. Before that I worked on guitar magazines for 15 years, including Editor of Total Guitar.