10 Questions for Sting

Singer, activist and former Police man Sting is 60. He talks about sex, death and his father's timing

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Kevin Mazur / WireImage for TIME

Sting performs on stage at the TIME 100 Gala, TIME'S 100 Most Influential People In The World at Frederick P. Rose Hall, Jazz at Lincoln Center on April 26, 2011 in New York City.

Does everybody in your family call you Sting?

[My wife] Trudy calls me Sting. I was never called Gordon. You could shout Gordon in the street and I would just move out of your way. My children call me Dad.

Shouldn't it be Sir Sting by now? What's up with that?

Oh no, I'm not old enough to be Sir. I'm a Commander of the British Empire.

But the CBE--blue cross, red ribbon--isn't it a bit gaudy?

That's true. I wouldn't wear it.

You say in your book and box set Sting: 25 Years that you don't believe in miracles, that success is about perseverance. Was there never a song that just came as a gift?

Some do come already wrapped in ribbon--probably the most successful ones. "Every Breath You Take," for example. Or "Roxanne." Not that there's anything particularly original about those songs. I don't think there's such a thing as composition in pop music. I think what we do in pop music is collate. It's like folk music. It makes copyright a bit interesting and difficult. I'm a good collator.

When asked your religion, you write "devout musician." Does that mean you pray to Angus Young?

It's not a frivolous answer. I'm essentially agnostic. I don't have a problem with God. I have a problem with religion. I've chosen to live my life without the certainties of religious faith. I think they're dangerous. Music is something that gives my life value and spiritual solace.

You're 60 and agnostic. Do you think about death?

Of course I do. Am I afraid of it? No, I'm intrigued by it. I'm not ready for it yet. But in many ways, acknowledging that sense of mortality enriches the life you have left. My dad and I had the same hands. I hadn't really noticed that until he was on his deathbed, and I mentioned it. And he said, "You used your hands better than I did." My dad was a milkman. And I realized that was probably the first compliment he'd ever paid me, and that was kind of devastating. I suppose I included it in this book because I wanted to assess whether in the 25 years since he died I used my hands well.

One thing that seems to upset people about you and your wife is that you talk about your sex life. Why do you do that?

I think everyone's obsessed by sex. It's the strongest impulse in human nature. But we don't take it that seriously. We're just having fun.

You've had a home in the U.S. for decades, but you're a British citizen. What do you think of the way the U.S. is going?

I don't think there is any political discourse in this country. People tend to speak in sound bites, which have nothing to do with any kind of information that's useful. I miss genuine debate. It's not to say there aren't intelligent people in politics. Of course there are. But the system doesn't seem to support that level of discourse even in, you know, the greatest democracy on the planet.

As an environmentalist, how do you think the Obama Administration is doing?

I was disappointed when he abandoned plans to tighten smog standards [in September]. But I understand the realpolitik of being President. Hopefully, with a second term, he will be able to be greener.

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