By Tricia Witkower
Most people know Stewart Copeland as a founding member and drummer of the popular band, The Police, whose accolades and achievements include a Rock n Roll Hall of Fame induction, 10th best drummer of all time ranking by Rolling Stone, as well as many Grammys and other awards. Copeland is also a talented composer who has written various pieces of ballet, opera, and orchestral music. Since 2021, Copeland has been touring with his high energy orchestral show featuring Police songs, Deranged Police for Orchestra.
Why “deranged”, and what does that word mean to him? “Instead of just orchestral arrangements, I de-arranged them. Deconstructed our songs.” I ask Copeland to describe this experience for someone who has no idea what to expect since when I watched a video of a past show, it was very different from how I imagined it. “Fascinating,” Copeland says, “how did you imagine it?” I sheepishly tell him I had thought it was all instrumental. He emphasizes there are three soul sisters on the mic who sing the songs – there are no instrumental versions. “It’s The Police songs you know, some of which I’ve really deranged but still recognize.” He explains there’s not much messing around you can do with songs like Message in a Bottle. But others, he says, he’s taken huge liberties with, many times based on improvisations Sting and Andy (Summers) did on stage.
The inspiration for the derangements were born out of a film about The Police Copeland made. He was able to digitize his super 8 footage. The music for that had to be The Police, but different versions. “Once the scalpel was out,” he says, “the orgy began.” In addition to a full orchestra, his show includes three women doing the vocals for all the songs. “I’ve become a fan of the Supremes, the Chiffons, the Ronettes…three women on the mic. When I was a raging, headstrong youth, I was always looking for raging guitar and now I’ve discovered this other wonderful instrument – the female vocal ensemble. These three women can do a lot more stuff than the singer in most rock bands. (Except the singer in my old group, who can do amazing stuff.) How can I replace Stingo? I can’t, no way. So, I got the three soul sisters on the mic because that was the only way I knew to do these songs without him and have them be powerful.” He affectionately calls these women the Derangettes.
Some musicians are so tired of playing their biggest hits, they say they would love to never even hear the song again. So does Copeland feel that his new arrangements give some of his most often played hits a new life? “Some musicians feel that way about their songs and it’s a tragedy. Playing Roxanne for the 5,998,288th time is not a problem. Songs have an emotional impact and that’s what we’re really there for. Every scintilla of what note they’ll play is on the page. I know exactly what the song is going to be so I can take a detour and go off the reservation with it in this show.
What can concert goers expect when they see Stewart Copeland’s Deranged show at Fantasy Springs on Saturday, March 25 at 8 pm? To hear Copeland tell it, they’re in for a wild ride. “It’ll be a wild frenzy – we’ll all take off our clothes and run through the streets singing Police songs,” he jokes. “There’s a big orchestra with me banging on shit.” Head to https://www.fantasyspringsresort.com/stewart-copeland to purchase your tickets.