The Police Are Back

Stewart Copeland on the new LP 'Ghost in the Machine'

British pop group The Police, from left to right, Andy Summers, Sting and Stewart Copeland. Circa 1982. Credit: Terry O'Neill/Getty

THE POLICE ARE BACK on the case. The band, which has just released its fourth album, Ghost in the Machine, will tentatively begin its next U.S. tour (with the Go-Go's opening) in Boston on January 15th, winding up at the Aladdin Hotel in Las Vegas on February 14th and then pressing on to Japan and Australia. It's a more circumscribed outing than the last two Police tours; but then, as drummer Stewart Copeland put it, "We're not thinking in terms of world conquest anymore. That seems to have been achieved."

The group's spectacular success in the past year has allowed its members leeway to pursue personal interests: bassist Gordon "Sting" Sumner has been acting in English TV films; guitarist Andy Summers has collaborated on an album with guitarist Robert Fripp, which will be released by A&M; and Copeland busies himself making Super-8 videos. Unfortunately, the promotional video for the new Police single in Britain, "Invisible Sun," was refused TV air time by the government-run BBC — ostensibly because of its political overtones. Copeland commented on that and discussed the group's new album when we reached him in London recently.

Why did the BBC reject your "Invisible Sun" video?
Well, the song is about people who have to struggle through adverse conditions, and the idea is that there has to be something an "invisible sun," perhaps — that keeps them going. And this film showed people under those conditions, keeping on going. It's not shots of soldiers in Ireland or bombs going off or IRA demonstrations or anything. There's no political message regarding the "Irish question." All it was, was a finger pointing to the fact that there is a question there and something ought to be done about it.

Ghost in the Machine is heavier, more rock & roll-oriented than the last album, Zenyatta Mondatta. Was this a conscious decision?
Yes, it was. Zenyatta was a lighter album. The guitar and drum sounds on it were a lot cleaner. On this one, we wanted to get back some of the rough edges.

There are some strange sounds on Ghost, particularly on such tracks as "Rehumanize Yourself." What are those noises?
They're all human. There's guitars, saxophones, typewriters, wailing secretaries, dancing cooks.

Ghost in the Machine takes its title from a book by Arthur Koestler. What's the connection?
Koestler's book is actually relevant to a very limited extent. We had hundreds of titles. The one we ended up with just happened to coincide with the title of his book, and on further examination, the book did have a lot of parallels to the material on the album. The book is about behavioral psychology. However, I don't think you need to read the book to understand the album. I haven't read it myself.

Is there an underlying theme that holds the songs together?
It's more an understanding of the fact that we have reached a different place in terms of what we have to say with our music. We started out with relatively humble ideas of what we had to say, concerned with the life that we personally led: hanging out in clubs, mixing with prostitutes and committing suicide — ordinary stuff like that. But having traveled around the world — and to some of the funkier places — we find there are more deeply emotional things that inspire our art at this point.