Stewart Copeland is big in Italy. He’s also big as a TV and film composer, and he was in a really big rock band called the Police. In May, Copeland took part in the Taranta Ensemble concert in Rome and wailed on his drums in front of 500,000 people. The free concert, showcasing the regional southern Italian music called puglia — a mixture of ethnic Mediterranean sounds and percussion — was broadcast live throughout Italy.
Copeland began a tour with the 20-piece Taranta band this week that will take them throughout Italy and Greece. He also recently released his “Orchestralli” album and DVD in Europe, which was recorded live during the course of four concerts in Italy and features music from his extensive soundtracks, ballets and operas. A North American distribution deal is in the works.
Of his orchestral compositions, Copeland notes: “I went through a period, as a drummer, trying to prove that I am actually a musician by writing a lot of orchestral music. I wrote three operas, three ballets for the Seattle symphony, and I wrote some orchestra work. I actually have quite a lot of orchestral music.”
On the TV side, Copeland has been working diligently on scoring the second season of Showtime’s hit series “Dead Like Me,” which stars Mandy Patinkin, Ellen Muth and Rebecca Gayheart. The new season premieres July 25.
Copeland says he came to “Dead Like Me” because series creator Bryan Fuller was a fan of his work. “[Bryan] laid a lot of very stringent parameters around me: no electric guitar or keyboard,” Copeland says. “So I couldn’t use any guitar or any rock ‘n’ roll instruments for a youth-oriented show, which actually forced me to think of something else. I ended up with this kind of diabolical quartet, with strings and baroque trumpet. I had to find other ways of telling the story that don’t involve the [rock] cliche.”
Copeland says that after almost a decade of writing with the Police, he loved making the transition to film and TV music during the 1980s because the parameters of writing for a particular mood and scene are both challenging and liberating. His scoring work includes “Rumble Fish,” “Wall Street,” “Highlander II,” “She’s All That” and “Gridlock’d.”
Copeland also says he is hoping to regroup with his Oysterhead bandmates Les Claypool (Primus) and Trey Anastasio (Phish) to work on new material later this year.