The Police's Stewart Copeland on 40 years in rock: 'Back in the day, we had to actually play that s***'

Wendy Geller
Writer, Yahoo Entertainment

As a founding member of the legendary classic rock trio the Police, drummer Stewart Copeland knows quite a bit about the shenanigans rock stars can get into — in fact, he even documented some of the escapades of his own band in the 2006 documentary, Everyone Stares: The Police Inside Out.

Copeland’s startlingly intimate — and amusingly unedited — peek into the Police’s evolution will air tonight, Monday, July 16, at 8 p.m. ET on HDNET Movies. It serves as the kickoff for “Classic Rock Week,”  which the legendary drummer will host, giving his take on a mega-lineup of acclaimed rock documentaries.

The airing of the documentary comes just a few months before the 40th anniversary of the Police’s first album, Outlandos d’Amour, which introduced several of the band’s most iconic singles (“Roxanne,” “So Lonely,” “Can’t Stand Losing You”) and is widely regarded as one of the strongest debuts in rock history.

Copeland marvels at the process they underwent to create the album: “We recorded [it] 40 years ago, before computers were even invented! I know, most of you are going ‘C’mon…’ [but] there were no computers. We had to play every note ourselves, in running order of how they actually appear on the record. We had to play a three-minute song in three minutes! Not many people do that these days,” he notes.

Copeland admits he has respect for musical technology’s evolution, but adds wryly, “Back in the day, we had to actually play that s***.”

Copeland concedes that his documentary is on the raw side, due to the fact that he had more enthusiasm than technical prowess at the time. “The film was just a glorified home movie,” he shrugs, with a grin. “As soon as we had a little bit of money in our pockets — we were still starving — I got a movie camera. And I shot everything that moved.”

However, Copeland explains that the movie is unique for Police fans, not only in that it gives an exposed look at the band’s earliest days before rocketing to fame, it also sheds a rare spotlight on guitarist Andy Summers — who takes the central role and is actually the star of the production, rather than frontman Sting. “Our illustrious, charismatic mysterious singer was busy being charismatic and mysterious,” he jokes.

“The only reason we make rock docs is because nobody can believe how crazy these musicians really are,” he adds. “To me, musicians seem the most normal people on the planet and everyone else is weird.”

Watch the full interview with Copeland above, in which he also discusses some of his favorite musical influences, his current work with supergroup Gizmodrome, and gives more details on his stint hosting the classic rockumentary week — he’ll be giving commentary on docs featuring the Rolling Stones, Eric Clapton, Bob Dylan, the Allman Brothers, the Doors, Elton John, Pink Floyd, Roger Waters, the Who, Bad Company, Rush, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Chicago, Stevie Ray Vaughan, the Doobie Brothers, Rod Stewart, Les Paul, and the 1982 US Festival. HDNET Movies’ “Classic Rock Week” runs through July 22.

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