Stewart Copeland on the the pink carpet in Cannes Credit: SYSPEO/SIPA/Shutterstock

The Police’s Stewart Copeland on fights with Sting and discovering his dad was a spy

The Police drummer opens up about scuffles within the band, the chances of a reunion and turning 70

I was in college when I discovered that my father, Miles, was a CIA spy. He had just written a book [in 1969] and there it was. I grew up in Beirut during the Fifties and Sixties and ostensibly my father was a businessman who regularly threw cocktail parties at the Ottoman palace in which we lived. His friend [British intelligence officer] Kim Philby often attended those parties and was the life and soul of them. But later, when my father discovered that Philby had defected to the Soviet Union, he was devastated. When I was 15, our family moved to England and I attended Millfield boarding school in Somerset, which was a bit of a culture shock.

Hard times

I founded The Police in the Seventies and looking back, I’m amazed at how hard we worked without complaint. We lugged our own gear and made about 20 quid a night, split three ways between me, [singer/songwriter] Sting and [guitarist] Andy Summers. Money was very tight and I kept a diary of those times [Police Diaries, out October 26]. At one point, I was even evicted from my flat in London because I couldn’t pay the rent. But once the band got big, all that changed and I often say that Stingo’s songs are the reason I’m living in a big house now. That definitely helps our relationship.  

Scuffles with Sting

Sting and I had a reputation for getting into the occasional scuffle and my favourite was during the Police Reunion Tour in 2007/8 when we were playing in front of 80,000 Italians in Turin.

On the first couple of songs, I admittedly sped up a little and he didn’t like it, so he started looking daggers over his shoulder and wildly gesticulating at me, which did very little to calm me down. Meanwhile, the Italians were going bananas because there’s nothing they like more than a good gladiator fight.  

The band even had a counsellor and we eventually realised that we made music for different reasons – for him, music is a beautiful place where he can experience the purity of art, whereas for me, it’s about burning down the building. But as long as we don’t make music together, we get along fine and often send each other dumb Instagram clips.  

It’s funny because Andy is playing Police songs with an outfit called Call the Police, Stingo’s still playing the songs and I’m also doing them with Police Deranged for Orchestra and we all say how much fun it is to play these great songs without those two other a**holes! Don’t tell Stingo I said this, but the guy’s a heck of a songwriter. In terms of a Police reunion though, I’d say there’s about a 1% chance. We’re all getting along too well now to blow it.

Fit for a king

I turned 70 last year and, as I was performing in Schwerin, Germany, the mayor threw me a party in the grounds of the castle. I don’t drum like I used to – which is fine because I have much more technique now and nobody gets a headache.

I’ve also adopted an exercise ethic. My wife Fiona and I like to walk close to our home in Brentwood, LA, and I also cycle along Santa Monica beach. I used to play polo and once beat the then Prince Charles at Windsor in front of his mum, the Queen. There was some rather colourful language issuing from royal lips but I can happily report to the people of Great Britain that your King never once dropped the F-bomb. He did, however, prang my Range Rover with his Aston Martin, but since it’s his country and he’s now King, no matter who hit whom, it was all my fault.

Beat generation

I have five grandchildren and seven children – Celeste, 22, Dylan, 28, Eve, 30, Scott, 38, Jordan, 40, Patrick, 42, and Sven, 50 [Stewart adopted Sven – the son of his first wife, Sonja]. Dylan is the creative monster, who’s just written a novel. Born as our daughter [Grace], Dylan’s chosen pronoun is now “it”. Dylan has always been unique. All of my children can drum and hold a beat… whether they like it or not!  

Stewart Copeland’s Police Deranged for Orchestra album is out now. His Police Diaries (Rocket 88 Books, from £40) 
is out on October 26 and available to pre-order.

Written by Lina Das