Stewart Copeland in Marseille in 2008
|Birth name||Stewart Armstrong Copeland|
|Also known as||Klark Kent, Drum Pow Stew|
July 16, 1952|
Alexandria, Virginia, USA
|Genres||Rock, reggae rock, new wave|
|Instruments||Drums, percussion, guitar, vocals|
|Labels||A&M, E1 Music|
|Associated acts||The Police, Animal Logic, Oysterhead, Gizmo, Curved Air, Manzarek-Krieger, Stan Ridgway, Mike Rutherford, Peter Gabriel, Tom Waits, Snoop Dogg, Spyro The Dragon, Strontium 90|
Stewart Armstrong Copeland (born July 16, 1952) is an American musician, multi-instrumentalist and composer best known as the former drummer for the English-American rock band The Police and for his film and video game soundtracks. He has also written various pieces of music for ballet, opera and orchestra. According to MusicRadar, Copeland’s "distinctive drum sound and uniqueness of style has made him one of the most popular drummers to ever get behind a drumset". He was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as a member of the Police in 2003 and the Modern Drummer Hall of Fame in 2005. In 2016, he was ranked 10th on Rolling Stone magazine's "100 Greatest Drummers of All Time".
Stewart Armstrong Copeland was born in Alexandria, Virginia on July 16, 1952, the youngest of four children of CIA officer Miles Copeland, Jr. and Scottish archaeologist Lorraine Adie. The family moved to Cairo, Egypt, a few months after his birth, and Copeland spent his formative years in the Middle East. In 1957, his family moved to Beirut, Lebanon, and Copeland attended the American Community School there. He started taking drum lessons at age 12 and was playing drums for school dances within a year. Later he moved to England and attended Millfield from 1967 to 1969. Copeland went to college in California, attending United States International University and University of California, Berkeley. Returning to England, he worked as road manager for the progressive rock band Curved Air's 1974 reunion tour, and then as drummer for the band during 1975 and 1976.
The Police (1977–86)
In 1977, Copeland founded the Police with singer-bassist Sting and guitarist Henry Padovani (who was soon replaced by Andy Summers), and it became one of the top bands of the 1980s. The Police's early track list was mostly made of Copeland's compositions, including the band's first single "Fall Out" (Illegal Records, 1977) and the B side "Nothing Achieving". Though Copeland's songwriting contribution was reduced to a couple of songs per album as Sting started writing more material, he continued to co-arrange all the Police's songs with his two bandmates. Amongst Copeland's most notable songs are "On Any Other Day" (where he sang lead vocals too), "Does Everyone Stare" (later to be used as the title of his documentary on the band Everyone Stares: The Police Inside Out), "Contact", "Bombs Away", "Darkness" and "Miss Gradenko". Copeland also co-authored a number of songs with Sting, including "Peanuts", "Landlord", "It's Alright for You" and "Re-Humanize Yourself".
Copeland also recorded under the pseudonym Klark Kent, releasing several UK singles in 1978 with one ("Don't Care") entering the UK Singles Chart that year, along with an eponymously titled 10-inch album on green vinyl released in 1980. Recorded at Nigel Gray's Surrey Sound Studio, Copeland played all the instruments and sang the lead vocals himself. Kent's "Don't Care", which peaked at #48 UK in August 1978, actually predates the first chart single by The Police by several months ("Can't Stand Losing You", issued in October 1978) as "Don't Care" was released in early June 1978. In 1982 Copeland was involved in the production of a WOMAD benefit album called Music and Rhythm. Copeland's score for Rumble Fish secured him a Golden Globe nomination in 1983. The film, directed and produced by Francis Ford Coppola from the S. E. Hinton novel, also had a song released to radio on A&M Records "Don't Box Me In" (UK Singles Chart n. 91)—a collaboration between Copeland and singer/songwriter Stan Ridgway, leader of the band Wall of Voodoo—that received significant airplay upon release of the film that year.
The Police stopped touring in 1984, and during this brief hiatus he released a solo album, The Rhythmatist. The record was the result of a pilgrimage to Africa and its people, and it features local drums and percussion, with more drums, percussion, other musical instruments and occasional lead vocals added by Copeland. The album was the official soundtrack to the movie of the same name, which was co-written by Stewart. He also starred in the film, which is "A musical odyssey through the heart of Africa in search of the roots of rock & roll." (Copeland is seen playing the drums in a cage with lions surrounding him.)
Solo projects and movie soundtracks (1987–98)
After the Police disbanded, Copeland established a career composing soundtracks for movies (Airborne, Talk Radio, Wall Street, Riff Raff, Raining Stones, Surviving the Game, See No Evil, Hear No Evil, Highlander II: The Quickening, The Leopard Son, She's Having a Baby, The First Power, "Fresh," Taking Care of Business, West Beirut, I am David, Good Burger), television (The Equalizer, Dead Like Me, Star Wars: Droids, the pilot for Babylon 5 (1993), Nickelodeon's The Amanda Show, The Life and Times of Juniper Lee), operas (Holy Blood and Crescent Moon, commissioned by Cleveland Opera) and ballets (Prey' Ballet Oklahoma, Casque of Amontillado, Noah's Ark/Solcheeka, commissioned by the Seattle Symphony Orchestra, King Lear, commissioned by the San Francisco Ballet Company, Emilio).
Copeland also occasionally played drums for other artists. Peter Gabriel employed Copeland for his mastery of the hi-hat to perform on his song "Red Rain" from his 1986 album So. He has also performed with Mike Rutherford and Tom Waits. That year he also teamed with Adam Ant to record the title track and video for the Anthony Michael Hall movie Out of Bounds. In 1989, Copeland formed Animal Logic with jazz bassist Stanley Clarke and singer-songwriter Deborah Holland. The trio had success with their first album and world tour but the follow-up recording sold poorly, and the band did not continue.
In 1993 he composed the music for Channel 4's Horse Opera and director Bob Baldwin. In 1999, he provided the voice of an additional American soldier in the animated musical comedy war film South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut (1999).
Spyro the Dragon soundtracks (1998–02)
He was commissioned by Insomniac Games in 1998 to make the musical score for the hit PlayStation game Spyro the Dragon. Copeland would play through the levels first to get a feel for each one before composing the soundtrack. He also stayed with the project to create the musical scores for the remaining Insomniac sequels Spyro 2: Ripto's Rage! and Spyro: Year of the Dragon. The franchise shifted over to Universal for the fourth title, Spyro: Enter the Dragonfly, which would be Copeland's last outing with the series. While the soundtracks never saw commercial release, the limited edition of the fourth game came packaged with a bonus CD, containing unused tracks. The soundtracks were very well received, and one track would later appear on the 2007 compilation album The Stewart Copeland Anthology.
This period also saw Copeland compose the soundtrack for Alone in the Dark: The New Nightmare, his only video game soundtrack outside of the Spyro franchise to date. In 2000, he combined with Les Claypool of Primus (with whom he produced a track on the Primus album Antipop) and Trey Anastasio of Phish to create the band Oysterhead. That same year, he was approached by director Adam Collis to assemble the score for the film Sunset Strip.
In 2002, Copeland was hired by Ray Manzarek and Robby Krieger of The Doors to play with them for a new album and tour, but after an injury sidelined Copeland, the arrangement ended in mutual lawsuits. In 2005, Copeland released "Orchestralli", a live recording of chamber ensemble music which he had composed during a short tour of Italy in 2002. Also in 2005, Copeland started Gizmo, a new project with avant-garde guitarist David Fiuczynski, multi-instrumentalist Vittorio Cosma, singer Raiz and bassist Max Gazzè. The band made their U.S debut on September 16, 2006 at the Modern Drummer Drum Festival. In January 2006, Copeland premiered his film about the Police called Everyone Stares: The Police Inside Out at the Sundance Film Festival. In February and March, he appeared as one of the judges on the BBC television show Just the Two of Us (a role he later reprised for a second series in January 2007).
The Police reunion (2007–08)
At the 2007 Grammy Awards, Copeland, Andy Summers and Sting performed the song "Roxanne" together again as The Police. This marked the band's first public performance since 1986 (they had previously reunited only for an improvised set at Sting's wedding party in 1992 and for their induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2003). One day later, the band announced that in celebration of The Police's 30th anniversary, they would be embarking on what turned out to be a one-off reunion tour on May 28, 2007. During the tour, Copeland also released his compilation album The Stewart Copeland Anthology, which was composed of his independent work.
The group performed 151 dates across five continents, concluding with a final show in August 2008 at Madison Square Garden, New York.
Orchestral projects (2008–present)
In 2008, RIM commissioned Copeland to write a "soundtrack" for the BlackBerry Bold. Copeland created a highly percussive theme of one minute's length, from which he evolved six ringtones and a softer 'alarm tone' that are preloaded on the device.
In March 2008, Copeland premiered a new orchestral composition "Celeste" at "An Evening with Stewart Copeland", part of the Savannah Music Festival. The performance featured classical violinist Daniel Hope. Copeland's appearance at Savannah included a screening of Everyone Stares: The Police Inside Out and a question and answer session.
Also in 2008, Copeland was commissioned by the Dallas Symphony Orchestra to create a percussion piece involving primarily Indonesian instruments. "Gamelan D’Drum" was first performed (after two weather delays) in Dallas on February 5, 2011, and had its European Premiere at the Royal Academy of Music in London in July 2012.
On August 21, 2009, at SummerFest '09, Copeland unveiled a recent composition, "Retail Therapy", which had been commissioned by the Music Society. Copeland then performed three more original works: "Kaya", "Celeste", and "Gene Pool", the last aided by San Diego-based percussion ensemble red fish blue fish. Copeland was also present for a composer's roundtable and a question and answer discussion in conjunction with the festival. Copeland wrote the score for an updated theatrical presentation of chariot-racing saga Ben-Hur, premiered September 17, 2009, at the London O2 Arena. Copeland provided English-language narration of the production, which is performed entirely in Latin and the Aramaic language. In September 2009, a memoir by Copeland entitled Strange Things Happen: A Life with The Police, Polo, and Pygmies was released by Harper Collins. The book chronicles much of Copeland's life, from his childhood through the course of his work with The Police and to the present.
On May 24, 2011, Copeland started a personal YouTube channel devoted to personal videos and project updates. On this channel, he uploads jams with various musicians, including Primus, Andy Summers, Jeff Lynne, Snoop Dogg and others in his home studio, which he refers to as the Sacred Grove.
On August 24, 2011, Copeland was a featured soloist on the Late Show with David Letterman, as part of their second "Drum Solo Week".
On January 10, 2012, he appeared on an episode of the A&E reality series Storage Wars to appraise a drum set for Barry Weiss, buying a Turkish cymbal from the set for $40. In July he reunited with former Animal Logic band mate Stanley Clarke for a European tour.
On November 26, 2013, he appeared in the first episode of the Tim Ferriss Experiment.
Copeland was romantically involved with Curved Air vocalist Sonja Kristina beginning in 1974, and they were married from 1982 to 1991. Copeland adopted Kristina's son Sven from a prior relationship, and they had two more sons together, Jordan and Scott. In 1981, Copeland fathered a son, Patrick, with Marina Guinness, daughter of Irish author Desmond Guinness. Copeland currently lives in Los Angeles with his second wife, Fiona Dent, with whom he has three daughters (Eve, Grace and Celeste).
Copeland's oldest brother Miles Copeland III, founder of I.R.S. Records, was the manager of The Police and has overseen Stewart's interests in other music projects. Stewart's other brother, the late Ian Copeland, was a pioneering booking agent who represented the Police and many others. His father, Miles Copeland, Jr., was a founding member of the Office of Strategic Services (OSS) and the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), according to his 1989 biography and files released by the CIA in 2008. Despite his occasional references to "Uncle Aaron", Copeland is not a relative of the composer Aaron Copland
He is also active on his YouTube channel, where he uploads videos of himself and other musicians during jam sessions in his studio, the Sacred Grove.
Copeland is known for precise, energetic, and creative reggae-influenced drumming along with a Lebanese-influenced style. His distinctive sound centers on a hard, high-pitched crack on a snare or rimshot, and subtle hi-hat work with understated flourishes.
Despite being left-handed, Copeland plays drums like a right-handed drummer, with the hi-hat on his left and ride cymbal and floor toms on his right. He played his snare drum in a very peculiar way: from big booming hits to jazzy counter-tempo to soft beating on the ridge. During his years with The Police, he became known for engaging only the hi-hat with bass drum to keep the beat on many Police tracks. Copeland is a master of the syncopated beat, and his distinct approach consolidates his position as an important drummer on the world stage, subsequently influencing generations of drummers.
In an interview with Modern Drummer, Copeland has cited Mitch Mitchell of The Jimi Hendrix Experience as a prime musical influence. He states that as a child, whenever he had a song or melody pop up in his head, he would walk around wondering how Mitch Mitchell would drum to that particular tune. He also named Sandy Nelson and Ginger Baker as other fundamental influences in the youth years. Copeland has stated that due to his 'enforced listening' to Buddy Rich, he considers himself as being 'allergic to jazz.'
Copeland is also noted for his strong emphasis on the groove as a complement to the song, rather than as its core component. He once drove this point home at a drum clinic: Copeland announced that he would show the audience something "that very few modern drummers can do," and proceeded to play a simple rock beat for two minutes. Nonetheless, his playing often incorporates spectacular fills and subtle inflections which greatly augment the groove. Compared to most of his 1980s contemporaries, Copeland's snare sound was very bright and cutting. Another novelty was his use of splash cymbals. He is also one of the few rock drummers to use the traditional grip rather than the matched grip.
Original live kit set-up (1984)
The Police Reunion (2007–2008) tour kit
Video game soundtracks
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