Stewart Copeland has spent three decades in the forefront of contemporary music as a rock star, acclaimed film composer and film maker, and a much sort-after composer in the disparate worlds of opera, ballet, world music and chamber music composition.
As a late addition to the obscure fusion-rock band Curved Air, Stewart found himself in London in the mid '70s as the punk rock movement was in its nascent stages. Though hardly a punk by either background or education, Stewart and his agent brother Ian and manager brother Miles sensed a seismic shift in the music scene. Their timing was impeccable as Stewart assembled the trio that came to include Andy Summers and Gordon Sumner, now famously known as Sting. After a two year struggle, The Police metamorphosed into a musical unit that harnessed the energy of punk with formal musical training and an infusion of sophisticated harmonics and reggae dropbeats. In 1978, while The Police were still starving and plotting, Stewart scored a hit "Don't Care" under the pseudonym, Klark Kent. This masked performer released a 10" green vinyl EP and caused a flurry of speculation as to his true identity. Finally the source was revealed but the success of this side project, and the fact that Stewart composed and performed all of the music himself, only added to his credibility as a musician beyond the scope of his work with The Police. Over the next three year period The Police became a defining force in popular music throughout the 80's, before going on an unofficial twenty-three year hiatus in 1984 after the release of "Synchronicity," their fifth and most successful album.
As The Police were winding down in 1984, Stewart was contacted by the celebrated filmmaker Francis Ford Coppola who asked him to visit the set of his latest film "Rumble Fish" ("an art-movie for kids" as Coppola described it) to provide percussive accompaniment to the proceedings. Copeland turned this opportunity into the creation of his first film score. Featuring a strikingly original mixture of traditional percussion and unusual prior recordings which came to be called "samples," Stewart's work pioneered the field of sound-designed scores and earned him a Golden Globe nomination for Best Score. Soon afterwards Oliver Stone called on him to write the score to "Wall Street," and a unique and prolific career in composition for film and television was well on its way. Subsequent assignments have included a second Oliver Stone film "Talk Radio," three films for Ken Loach, the CBS series "The Equalizer," the Showtime Series "Dead Like Me," and the teen hit "She's All That." In 1998, Bruno Barreto's "Four Days in September" was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Foreign Film, featuring Copeland's soundtrack.
Shortly after Stewart began his film career, he wrote the score to a new ballet, "Lear" for the San Francisco Ballet. When asked at a press conference what he was doing next, joking, he answered "You mean after I've finished my Opera?" Thus was born "Holy Blood and the Crescent Moon" staged by The Cleveland Opera in 1989. The production generated huge amounts of press and was greeted with enthusiasm by both his Police fans and the broader music community. Since then Stewart has been commissioned to compose and/or perform works for the Seattle Symphony, the Dallas Symphony, Ballet Oklahoma, the Royal Opera House in London, La Jolla's Summerfest and The Savannah Music Festival.
In 1987 Stewart teamed with bassist Stanley Clarke and singer Deborah Holland to form Animal Logic, producing two exemplary albums. By 2000, Stewart found himself again searching for new bandmates and with Primus bassist Les Claypool and Phish guitarist Trey Anastasio together the three formed Oysterhead, a power trio. Like The Police, the band was a melding of distinct virtuosities that created a sound unto itself. Their album, "The Grand Pecking Order," was a hit and Oysterhead toured extensively in the US and Europe that year.
In 2003 Copeland began a fruitful collaboration in Italy as the maestro concertatore at La Notte della Taranta, an amazing ancient percussion festival in the Pugliese city of Melpignano on the Salentine peninsula. His appearances with the large folk ensemble which began at that Festival have been exhilarating and hugely enjoyable. He has returned to Italy and Melpignano several times since, toured Europe and Latin America with the tribe and was awarded the key to the cities of Melpignano and of Milan in 2009. In the aftermath of both this and the Police's reunion tour in 2007, Stewart was also honored with the Chevalier of the Order of Arts & Letters in France.
In 2006 Copeland premiered "Everyone Stares, The Police Inside Out" at the Sundance Festival. The film was conceived, edited, narrated and directed by Stewart and also featured his score inclusive of Police 'derangements.' "Everyone Stares" was a compilation of 8mm film episodes recorded by Stewart which documented the ascent of The Police and their many highs and lows. The three old friends found themselves together at the Sundance Festival in 2006 and as they celebrated their legacy through this unique and compelling film, the notion of a reunion tour was broached. That highly anticipated reunion tour proved to be the highest grossing tour of 2007/8 and went around the world and back again, and extended in length several times as it became clear that The Police's appeal had far transcended the decade with which it was originally associated. It was a triumphant reminder of the strength of Sting's songwriting and the muscular yet sparse virtuosity that Andy and Stewart brought to the ensemble. It was also a reminder of the volatility that can arise when three accomplished professionals are asked to re-join a collective some twenty years after their initial run. So it was in 2008 that the members of The Police announced, with relief, that The Police was, once again, no more.
Copeland's "Anthology" CD was released in August 2007 by Koch Records and includes his most famous film and television work, as well as material from La Notte Della Taranta, Oysterhead, and his seminal work as "Klark Kent." In 2006, Stewart served as a humorous and acerbic judge on the BBC 1 talent show "Just the Two of Us" and its follow-up series in 2007. Performances of "Birds of Prey" from his Orchestralli album earned Stewart a Grammy nomination in the best rock instrumental category. A 2011 performance of his Orchestralli piece "Prey" took place on "Late Night" with David Letterman as part of his "Drum Solo Week."
In 2009 Copeland composed, narrated and recorded the music to an enormous arena show based on the original 1888 story of Ben Hur by General Lew Wallace. It ran for over four months in European arenas, including a highly successful series of shows at the O2 Arena in London. In 2011 "Ben Hur Live" was revived for a further three month run in Rome. 2011 also brought the premiere of Copeland's Concerto for Gamelan and Orchestra as commissioned by the Dallas Symphony. "Gamelan D'Drum" is a three movement work featuring the celebrated percussion quintet D'Drum. In April 2011 came a short opera based on the Edgar Allen Poe story "The Tell-Tale Heart," which premiered at the Royal Opera House in London under the direction of Jonathan D. Moore. Moore had previously collaborated with Copeland on his first Poe Opera: "A Casque of Amontillado," as well as "Horse Opera"—a piece composed directly for UK's Channel 4. Released in 2012 as well was "Elbtonal Percussion performs Stewart Copeland" by the dazzling Hamburg based percussion quartet.
Copeland's list of awards includes The Hollywood Film Festival's first-ever Outstanding Music in Film Visionary Award, as well as awards from BMI, Cable Ace, Cinequest, and Mobius and nominations from the Golden Globes and the Emmys. He has been inducted into both the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Modern Drummers Hall of Fame in addition to receiving five Grammys as a member of The Police.
In 2014, the Virginia Arts Festival commissioned and premiered a symphonic score to the 1925 MGM black and white silent movie, Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Christ. Written and Performed by Copeland on drums and percussion, and with Richard Kaufman conducting, the version of the epic film had also been edited and restored by Stewart. It was received with immense enthusiasm and will be performed again with The Chicago Symphony Orchestra in October 2014. This year has also seen Stewart complete a concerto for percussion and orchestra commissioned by the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra "Poltroons in Paradise," which was performed with the orchestra and conducted by its Music Director Maestro Vasily Petrenko. The RLPO is taking Poltroons on tour to Perth, Dublin and Beijing. Now at work on a new opera commissioned by The Long Beach Opera with book writing partner Jonathan D Moore ,"The Invention of Morel" is based on the H.G. Wells book and will premiere in April 2015.
Stewart's autobiography: "Strange Things Happen: a life with The Police, Polo and Pygmies" was published by Harper Collins in October 2009. In it, Stewart describes his childhood as the son of a CIA agent growing up in Beirut, through his days of rock-superstardom and his film and new music career. Other pursuits include a notable period spent playing polo. In 1987 Stewart's team "Outlandos" won the Archie David Cup at Windsor, defeating, among others, Prince Charles' team in the presence of HM The Queen. Through it all, his sense of humor and appreciation for his utterly unique career has shone through as he has enjoyed working in a blinding array of genres. Stewart lives in Los Angeles with his wife, Fiona and their three daughters, while continuing to enjoy being father of four grown sons out in the world.