The Opportunity: A conversation with Stewart Copeland

by Michael Volpe

“Happenstance can be a big factor in success. You allow yourself to go along with events, and they may have seemed unimportant — or even shit — at the time, but turn out to be amazing.”

Hearing Stewart Copeland — one of the world’s greatest drummers in one of the biggest bands ever — pay homage to luck is surprising since he also says that “sitting behind the drums on these huge world tours — and playing the way I do — is damned hard work!”

“Francis Ford Coppola called me and said he wanted me to compose a score for this sort of gothic teen movie he was making called Rumblefish. I had no idea how to go about this but I said yes. It was Coppola after all.

“I finished the main score and Francis came to listen to it. He loved it but said he wanted some strings — I’d had all sorts of weird noises and banged things up to that point but no strings. I had never scored anything for orchestra at that point so I had about 3 seconds to make a decision. I said I could of course create some string sections — and then began to panic.”

Having committed to create new music, Stewart arranged for a chamber orchestra to come to his studio — he’d created some textural parts and handed out the music to the players who sat bemused as he began to describe what he was after in his regular, wildly emphatic way. “The leader of the strings just looked bemused as I ranted on, and when I’d finished he actually just asked ‘do you want us to play what’s on these sheets or try to work out what the f*** it is you just said?’ I thought that was wonderful and these guys just played precisely what I’d put down on the paper and were done in 20 minutes.”

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