03.01.1980 - Record Mirror
Well, we know it's not funny but we could have said - Sumo Or Later or The Yellow Perils or Blondes Turn Yellow or There's A Nip In The Air, but what we mean is - Police in Japan. The inscrutable Stewart Copeland nips (banzai!) to a phone with a yen (cue hari kiri) to talk to Mike Nicholls.
Picture that lean streak of Police meat Andy Summers. He of the bleached barnet and jarring guitar figures. Consider his angular attractiveness, accentuated by him standing amidst a beach-load of indigenous Nips. For indeed, Mr Summers is currently basking in the Land Of The Rising Sun and I can't imagine any sallow-skinned Jap kicking sand in his face. Can you?
Not unless the native happens to be one of the legendary Sumo wrestlers weighing in at a corpulent couple of dozen stone. An unlikely proposition, you may think, but not according to another cop in the shop, baton-wielding drummer Stewart Copeland.
In common with the rest of the band, Stewart has a passion for films. Last year saw Sting star in 'Quadrophenia' and 'Radio On'. This year Andy will appear in "a sorta thriller," with none other than Copeland directing.
"Yeah, I'm shooting in Super-Eight with Andy taking care of the male role," he bubbled down a crystal clear telephone line. "We're not just sitting on our asses over here y'know. We're kept pretty busy!"
As understatements go, this one's fairly impressive. For the Police are in the midst of a marathon world tour which takes in such exotic spots as Bombay, Bangkok and Cairo, not to mention the usual American and European circuit.
In addition to the gigs, the band are collectively clocking up an exhausting six hours a day of interviews and making a bee-line for the recording studios in every city they visit. Then of course there's the filming.
"We were taken to this house where all the Sumos live," Stewart explained. "Christ, what a sight! Especially when all the rest of the people here are so tiny! Anyhow, I picked one guy out - he must have weighed at least twenty stone - to appear in the movie. Just think! Stringy little Andy fighting with one of those enormous fat hulks!"
Copeland chuckles affectionately at the thought. I wonder why a bunch of self-styled white reggae merchants are suddenly taking on the film world, an industry even more cut-throat than the sufficiently ruthless music business.
"Well, I've always dabbled with movies and we seem to attract people who do likewise," he replies immodestly. "At the moment the BBC are preparing a 50 minute documentary about the band, and Anne Nightingale and Michael Appleton are here producing a promotional film for the 'Old Grey Whistle Test'."
So the increasing monopoly the Police appear to be having over that programme looks set to continue. Copeland also continues.
"Did you see those promo clips they showed on 'Top Of The Pops' to go with our last singles ('Message In A Bottle' and 'Walking On The Moon')? Well we're also doing another of those, since to our complete surprise, 'So Lonely' has entered the British charts."
The reason for the surprise element is that the band had no idea it was going to be released, or to be more precise, re-released.
"We had nothing to do with it," Stewart is at pains to point out, "and when first told about it, said it stinks." The record company said 'We're not releasing it, just making it available due to excessive demand from record shops'. Apparently, making it available means just putting it out, without any back up by advertising and so on."
Well I can't see what you're complaining about. The worst thing that can happen is that you'll have another hit.
"Yeah. I suppose so, but we're not pleased," he whines unaccountably. "We've had enough hit singles. We've already shifted plenty of units, maaan!"
As I mentioned earlier, Stewart isn't the most modest of souls, but to be fair, his blunt honesty is quite refreshing alongside the bullshit most pop stars prefer to spout. Hero worship at home and abroad can't have gone completely to his head otherwise the group wouldn't be pushing themselves through the present publishing schedule.
What are the audiences like in Japan?
"Well, put it this way. In Britain we're 20 times bigger, but here the fans are 50 times more hysterical. But unfortunately the security is very heavy. Someone got killed at a Ritchie Blackmore gig and since then they won't let anyone stand up. If they do, they get pushed right down. But in two out of every four cities we've played, kids have managed to get up on stage! In Kyoto we booked a special barn and even though it only held 1,000 people, the authorities thought there'd be a riot."
And naturally there was?
"Well, sort of. Some crazy student faction reckoned the concert should be free. You know what students are like! Anyway, some managed to to get on stage, so Sting poured buckets of water over them."
Nothing like a bit of British hospitality!
"Well, if anyone walks out on our stage while we're playing, maan, they're taking their life in their hands!"
Local enthusiasm for the band evidently extends beyond the concert arena. "Getting in and out of the hotels requires something of a strategy," Stewart goes on, "uniformed police with walkie talkies, the whole lot. Wherever we went people jumped in cabs and followed us for miles. In the north there's temple which all touring rock bands visit. When we got there it was already full!"
And accompanying the fans presence have been the material rewards of actual presents.
"They've been real generous over here," Copeland gushes. "Especially on Valentine's Day the other week. I gotta whole trunkful of chocolate and even one or two small gadgets that all the shops here appear to be crammed full of."
In between their other commitments. The Police have been taking time out to acquaint themselves with some home grown craftsmanship.
"I've bought a million things here," says Stewart, "tape machines, clocks, accessories for movies, the lot. Everything's so small and efficient. Just like the people. I guess that's why they call them Nips. They never stop nipping about all over the place. Life really does seem very fast over here, particularly after the lazier lifestyle they enjoy in Hawaii."
The Police played Hawaii towards the end of their American tour and found it particularly relaxing after their non-stop gigging through most of the other states.
"It really was paradise," claims Copeland, giving credit where it is due. "Sun, sea, palm trees and always a gentle breeze, so it never gets too hot. Each evening the locals make some comment like 'there goes another shitty day in paradise!' That's a great remark from those idle Utopians who live luxuriously in the eternal spring climate."
Stewart sounds quite nostalgic as he reflects upon his recent stay in the heavenly isles, and his yearning is made more complete by the fact that the Police will soon be touring down under, seemingly something he is not looking forward to.
"My brother (and manager) Miles just got back from Australia with Squeeze and reckoned it was a godawful place. The end of the Earth. So bad, in fact, that he only managed to put up with it for three days."
The band will be staying on the continent for rather more time, and as well as the gigs they face the usual rigmarole of meeting local record company people, visiting radio stations, appearing on TV and, of course, being interviewed by the press. The Police have never enjoyed the latter because in common with most successful bands they have been regularly slagged off, especially by the British music papers, as he is only too aware.
"I'm sure the press tried to stop us," he declares. "At first they claimed we were jumping on the bandwagon and every record we put out was slammed. Even Reggatta De Blanc. And then what happens? The next week it's straight in at number one in the album charts. That shows the kids have got more faith in us than they have in you guys."
So you think the press is more or less impotent?
"Well, in America, the papers are like reading so much mush. But in Britain, criticism seems to have a valid place. Almost like the shadow cabinet. But if anyone gets destroyed by the press, they are so obviously too weak to have survived in the first place. At the same time," he elaborates, "the punk revolution wouldn't have occurred without the music papers. The radio certainly wouldn't have let it happen and word-of-mouth always travels from the point of view of getting small groups airplay."
What are your own band's feelings towards us these days?
"Well, none of us feel spiteful about dispensing interviews since we're treated more respectfully now. The earlier lack of support gives me the feeling that you're powerless against the Police. We're a Leviathan that can squash anything that can stand in our way!"
Including 300 pound muscle-bound Sumo wrestlers? I guess we'll have to wait and see our arrogant friend's first full length feature film before finding that one out.