Neighbourhood Watch: Stewart Copeland
Words by Tom Hoare
Technically speaking, I was trespassing. But there was a good reason as to why I was sprawled out on Stewart Copeland’s driveway at 8:00am.
The previous 24 hours had not gone to plan. In fact, they’d been a total disaster. I like to think the challenges I overcame were equally as stressful as the average Jason Statham character arc. As a result, I arrived in Los Angeles in a sleep-deprived daze, roughly a day later than I had intended. By the time I got to Stewart Copeland’s house, I was unsure if I would be able to speak, let alone sustain a conversation.
The sun had barely risen, so, desperate for rest, I sat down in the only place I realistically could. Before long, I was fully horizontal, using my bag as a pillow, dozing before the huge wooden gate and exterior wall of a large Bel Air mansion.
What happened next wasn’t something I’d intended.
“Can I help you?” I sit up and look around for the source of the inquiry. “Up here,” the voice instructs. I crane my head back and see a man, brow furrowed, leaning over a balcony above my head. “Hi…” His greeting has an underlying tone of concern. It makes introducing myself as the person who is supposed to be interviewing him at 10.30am slightly more awkward.
“You’re early. Why didn’t you just buzz the gate?” he asks.
“I thought you might be busy.”
“I am busy.”
For some reason, I’m still sat down with my head twisted round like an ungainly owl. The man on the balcony looks wholly unimpressed. “Well, come on in and we can get this over and done with. See that bell by the gate? Ring that.”
“Get this over and done with.” That’s how I used to feel about going to the dentist. As the mental images I’d had of meeting Stewart Copeland with a vague air of professionalism vanish, I realise I might as well have introduced myself with a pair of outstretched pliers.
I buzz the intercom and after a few seconds Stewart’s voice crackles out of a small metal box to the left of the gate: “On second thoughts, just go away.”
I stand there for a second, confused. “Sorry? Hello? Stewart?” No answer. My confusion turns to frustration. I press the buzzer again. Nothing. I feel desolate. I consider whether crying is an appropriate reaction.
“Just kidding,” fizzles the speaker. “Come on in.”
Stewart’s studio is known as Sacred Grove. It’s a sort of annexe to his main house in Bel Air, an area of Los Angeles which the Fresh Prince had taught me all about. Around the outside of the building, there is a sort of elevated walkway which looks out over the main gate. It was from here where Stewart had spied me asleep on his driveway.
“So you were just going to lie there?” He seems mildly intrigued.
“Were you comfortable?”
“I was actually.”
“I see. Do you want a coffee?”
“Are you having one?”
“I’m trying to drink less coffee. My next cup isn’t until midday.” He glances at his watch. It’s 9:00am. “Ah, fuck it then. You came to see Stewart Copeland the rock star, right?” He grins. I feel a bit better.
Stewart begins to tend a coffee machine in the corner, and I wander through the large square room navigating around the various instruments that populate the majority of floor space. In the centre, there’s a huge desk which arcs across the studio, crammed with monitors, keyboards and consoles. A large bookcase stretches along one wall and on a small shelf near its centre are a number of awards. Several are Grammys. I realise I’ve never seen a Grammy award in real life and get the urge to pick one up. I look over at Stewart who is staring intently at his little red coffee machine as it dispenses a brew into a small glass cup. As a compromise, I decide to quickly give the award a little prod. It makes a satisfying clinking noise as it bumps into the others.
“Trinkets,” Stewart nods.
“You’re not proud of them?”
“Yes. I mean, I’m proud of what they represent.”
“You mean The Police?”
The time Stewart spent in The Police is likely the reason many people will know of him. It’s certainly why I did. On Saturday mornings whilst my dad went to Safeway, I’d go into WH Smith and read the music magazines, much to the annoyance of the staff.
For a 10 year old, interviews with Stewart were great because he swore a lot. Plus he was apparently a pretty good musician, though, in all honesty, I don’t think I appreciated that as much as seeing photographs of some choice expletives scribbled on his drumheads.
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