Stewart Armstrong Copeland (bornJuly 16, 1952 ) is an American musician, multi-instrumentalist and composer best known as the drummer for the band The Police and for his film music soundtracks. He has also written various pieces of music for ballet, opera and orchestra. Copeland was ranked by a Rolling Stone magazine reader poll in 2010 as the fifth greatest drummer of all time.
Copeland was born in Alexandria, Virginia, 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, the family moved to Beirut, Lebanon and Copeland attended the American Community School there. He started taking drum lessons at age twelve 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 UC Berkeley. Returning to England, he worked as road manager for the progressive rock band Curved Air's 1974 reunion tour, and then assumed drumming duties for the band during 1975 and 1976.
In 1977, Copeland founded The Police with singer-bassist Sting and guitarist Henry Padovani (who was soon replaced by Andy Summers), which 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 flip 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.
In 1982 Copeland was involved in the production of a WOMAD benefit album called Music and Rhythm. In 1983, Copeland composed a musical score to earn a Golden Globe nomination for his scoring of Rumble Fish. 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. After The Police stopped touring in 1984, 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, 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).
In 1985, Copeland 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.) The film is an almost anthropological and mythological adventure drawing from sources like Joseph Campbell and Carl Jung, similar to Peter Weir's "The Last Wave."
In 1988 Copeland followed up with The Equalizer & Other Cliff Hangers on I.R.S. No Speak, an album collecting some of his soundtrack efforts for TV. In 1986, he 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. Copeland has occasionally played drums for other artists including Peter Gabriel, Mike Rutherford and Tom Waits. In 1993 he composed the music for Ch 4's Horse Opera and director Bob Baldwin. He was commissioned by Insomniac Games and Universal Interactive Studios (now Vivendi) in 1998 to make the musical scores for the hit PlayStation game Spyro the Dragon. He also created the musical scores for the sequels Spyro 2: Ripto's Rage!, Spyro: Year of the Dragon, and Spyro: Enter the Dragonfly. In 1999, he provided the voice of an additional American soldier in the animated musical comedy war film South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut (1999).
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 Gazzé. 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 (2007–2008)
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. Also at that time, Copeland released the compilation album The Stewart Copeland Anthology.
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. 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. According to an interview Copeland conducted with the Californian music store Amoeba Music, the book chronicles much of Copeland's life, from his childhood through the course of his work with The Police and to the present.
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.
In October 2009 he was a guest on Private Passions, the biographical music discussion programme on BBC Radio 3.
On May 24, 2011, Copeland started a YouTube channel under the name "stewartcopelandnet". On this channel, he uploads jams with various musicians, including Primus, Andy Summers, Jeff Lynne, Snoop Lion and others. He refers to the studio 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.
In 2007, the French Government appointed Copeland (along with Police bandmates Andy Summers and Sting) a Chevalier of the Ordre des Arts et des Lettres.
Copeland's hobbies include rollerskating, cycling along the beach in Santa Monica, filmmaking and playing polo.
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. 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.
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.
Stewart Copeland Drumstick Collection
Current Drumstick Count in Collection: 5.