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Architect of Sting's new sound

By Sumit Bhattacharya
February 10, 2005 16:28 IST
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StingOne of Sting's key features has been his ability to stretch himself. And that does not refer to his affection for yoga. The bass player turned global icon has constantly reinvented himself, from the reggae meets progressive rock of Police to the loop-driven Sacred Love sound.

He has done that through the musicians he has collaborated with. Andy Summers' quirky chords and Stewart Copeland's staccato shots drove Police; Branford Marselis, Vinie Colaiuta and Dominic Miller defined the solo Sting sound; and Kipper, on keyboard and programming duties, is key to the new sound.

Kipper is also an Englishman. He was inspired to play music by an album he got as a Christmas gift -- by the first painter of soundscapes, Jimi Hendrix. He first featured with Sting on Brand New Day. Desert Rose was the first peep of him we got.

He has co-produced Sacred Love with Sting, and it is widely believed that the entire album came out of jams between the Policeman and him.

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Sting describes him as 'the beautiful Mr Kipper, the incredible, inimitable, unstoppable Mr Kipper.'

On the day of the concert in Bangalore last week, the man who sits on a set-up as elaborate the average jetliner cockpit was leaning on the fence, drinking India in.

"It's fantastic," he said. "I love India. I've never been here before, and I've almost just got here, but I love it."

What is it like? "It's like a completely different planet. It's like I'm from a different planet."

What is so different about India? "I don't know, everything. Being blonde and white in a country where no one's blond and white, for starters!"

"Do you know any Hindi," Sting asked Kipper an hour later on stage.

"Not yet."

"Can you say Cha-lo?"

"Cha-lo..." Kipper responded.

"Cha-lo, it means let's go."

The band launched into Roxanne.

How much of the music was written down and how much was each player contributing?

"There is a lot of jamming we do. The songs are thrown about and every player brings his stuff into it. So they evolve a lot."

And Roxanne was evolving into a chant as much electronic trance as eclectic jazz. It was impossible to say exactly which keyboard player was creating which layer in the million layered wall, and Kipper was flitting from keyboard to console, his chin-length tresses doing the trampoline act on his face.

He began music playing guitar, and Cream's Sunshine of your love was the first song he picked up. And he said the new Sting sound "involves a lot of influences from different parts of the world. That's the way the band is going right now."

Is that the shape of things to come? He shrugs. "I don't know. The next album might be completely different."

India is perceived as the land of yoga and mysticism and here, he was about to play to a rock concert. "I'm really looking forward to playing before thousands of people here in India. I feel it's going to be great."

After the two hour tryst with Bangalore, he flashed the pilot's thumb sign the world knows as the sign of approval.

Photograph: Indranil Mukherjee/AFP/Getty Images

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Sumit Bhattacharya