"Don’t tell him I said this, but Sting is a genius": Stewart Copeland on the hateful tensions within The Police, and the therapy which allowed them to stage their hugely-profitable reunion tour

The Police
(Image credit: Koh Hasebe/Shinko Music/Getty Images)

It's no secret that there were tensions within The Police. Last year, speaking to Classic Rock, guitarist Andy Summers stated that, as early as 1979, when touring the group's second album, Regatta de Blanc, he realised that he was in a band with "two total arseholes", and it wasn't too long afterwards that Stewart Copeland was playing gigs with the words 'FUCK OFF YOU CUNT' written on his drum heads, in a none-too-subtle message to the member of the trio who wasn't Andy Summers.*

In a new [paywalled] interview with The Telegraph, Copeland reveals that under-going group therapy helped the trio resolve their bitter differences ahead of their hugely successful 2007/2008 reunion tour. 

"I’d heard that the Rolling Stones had had therapy," Copeland says, "so I wanted some of that band therapy. So we got some and they tweaked out of each of us our point of view, about which we were both gobsmacked. We could not believe what we were hearing from the other party. And it changed everything."

During the process, the drummer learned that a contributory factor to the band's internal tensions was the differences in their philosophies towards music.

"I want to burn down the house… I want to bang shit,” Copeland notes. Sting, on the other hand, “has a higher motivation. He runs quiet and deep, whereas I’m noisy and shallow. For him, music is a beautiful escape from the hurly-burly world, a place where he can explore ideas from some of the dense literature he reads and some of the deep thoughts he has that are native to himself. He’s a poet, mainly. And for a poet, those words [he writes] are very important, while the music is in the service of the poetry."

The drummer goes on to say that while working on this year's Police Deranged for Orchestra album he finally came to appreciate the depth of Sting's musical talents.

"I found out what Sting was doing with those songs," he says. "And I did come to an uncomfortable realisation. Now don’t tell him I said this, but the man is a genius. He really is, and I just have to deal with that."

* As a footnote, in 2022, Copeland insisted that his ''FUCK OFF YOU CUNT' message was not, as commonly believed, directed at Sting. "It was an entirely cheerful 'fuck off you cunt'," he insisted in an interview with superdeluxeedition.com "and, if it was directed at anyone, it was probably at myself. There was no hostility to that statement on my drums at all. But you know what? Let’s not spoil a perfectly good myth."

Paul Brannigan
Contributing Editor, Louder

A music writer since 1993, formerly Editor of Kerrang! and Planet Rock magazine (RIP), Paul Brannigan is a Contributing Editor to Louder. Having previously written books on Lemmy, Dave Grohl (the Sunday Times best-seller This Is A Call) and Metallica (Birth School Metallica Death, co-authored with Ian Winwood), his Eddie Van Halen biography (Eruption in the UK, Unchained in the US) emerged in 2021. He has written for Rolling Stone, Mojo and Q, hung out with Fugazi at Dischord House, flown on Ozzy Osbourne's private jet, played Angus Young's Gibson SG, and interviewed everyone from Aerosmith and Beastie Boys to Young Gods and ZZ Top. Born in the North of Ireland, Brannigan lives in North London and supports The Arsenal.