After Police and Opera, Copeland Turns Logical

TIMES STAFF WRITER

After hobnobbing with the fine-arts upper crust by composing an opera, "Holy Blood and Crescent Moon," which the Cleveland Opera premiered last month, Stewart Copeland has his pop shoes on again.

The former Police drummer is now devoting time to his new pop-rock band, Animal Logic, which features famed jazz-rock bassist Stanley Clarke and a newcomer, singer-songwriter Deborah Holland. The trio's debut album, "Animal Logic," has just been released by I.R.S. Records.

The group begins a series of Southern California dates tonight at the Coach House in San Juan Capistrano. The band will also appear Sunday at the Ventura Theatre in Ventura, Tuesday at the Bacchanal in San Diego and Wednesday at the Palace in Hollywood.

In the living room of his Beverly Hills home, Copeland--lanky, aggressive, hard-boiled and very authoritative--bristled at the thought that part of the pop music audience might consider him a snob.

"Just because I've composed an opera doesn't mean I'm condescending toward pop music," said Copeland, 37, who has also written a ballet score for the San Francisco Ballet production of "King Lear."

"People who say that are revealing their own insecurities about pop music. I don't look at classical being better than pop. They're just different worlds."

Copeland has been active in yet another world. He also composes movie scores, his credits including "Wall Street" and "Talk Radio."

"I love all these different forms of music," said Copeland, who also explored African music in his 1985 album "The Rhythmist."

"When it comes to music, I'm the adventurous type. I'll try just about anything. If I don't know enough about it, I'll learn. I'm a very disciplined person. I do what I set my mind to."

What's remarkable about Copeland's two-hour opera is that, before taking on the task, he knew absolutely nothing about the music form. Still, Cleveland Opera Director David Bamberger, eager to experiment with a new composer, commissioned him to compose the work. (Susan Shirwen wrote the libretto.)

Some critics maintain he still doesn't know what opera is all about.

"There were some bad reviews but there were some good ones too," Copeland said. "But the opera is not perfect by any means. It needs some fine tuning. Some scenes need to be cut and some need to be added."

Copeland, who last worked with Sting and guitarist Andy Summers in the hugely successful Police band in 1986, started the Animal Logic project while he was still working on the opera. "I wanted to get back into pop music because I missed it," he said. "I've worked in pop for so many years, whatever else I do, I'll always come back to it."

Two years ago, Copeland was craving a pop fix. He and Stanley Clarke decided to form a band centered around a female singer. After an extensive search, they settled on Holland.

"A publisher sent in her tape," Copeland said. "She has this depth, this honesty of delivery and this slight country sound that was very impressive. For the concept we had, she was just what we were looking for."

That concept is straight-ahead pop, with Copeland and Clarke taking a back seat to Holland, whose high, country-tinged vocals suggest early Linda Ronstadt.

Holland, 35, is a New Jersey native who migrated to Los Angeles 10 years ago. She taught piano and played in piano bars for survival money, waiting for that big break.

But the break, Holland said, almost didn't happen. Copeland and Clarke financed the "Animal Logic" album and then went looking for a deal: "I thought we'd get a record deal right away--on the strength of their names. But we didn't get a deal in this country until early this year, maybe a year after we started. We did shows in Brazil and Europe. We showcased the band in L.A. too, looking for a deal.

"I think some labels were leery of Animal Logic because they thought it was a one-shot project. Or maybe they didn't think it would be commercial. There was also another complication. Stanley and Stewart had other commitments and they needed a deal that wouldn't restrict them."

I.R.S. Records, headed by Copeland's brother Miles, eventually offered the right deal.

While Animal Logic is Holland's lifeblood, Stewart Copeland, though committed to the trio, has a head full of projects.

"We're going to do everything to make this project work," he said. "But my mind drifts to other possible projects too. There's always other projects, some in other musical genres. That's what keeps me going."

LIVE ACTION: 1,500 tickets for each of the five Paul McCartney shows at the Forum later this month go on sale today. The seats, available through Ticketmaster, are termed "obstructed view," but a spokeswoman for the promoter said that only the video screens will be out of sight. . . . The Grateful Dead will be at the Forum Dec. 8-10. Tickets go on sale Sunday. . . . On sale Monday: tickets for Patti LaBelle and James Ingram at the Universal Amphitheatre, Dec. 21 and 22. . . . Julio Iglesias will play the Pantages Theatre on Nov. 30. Tickets are available Sunday. . . . Joe Strummer and Thelonious Monster will be at the Santa Monica Civic on Nov. 22. . . . Camper Van Beethoven, the Call, Mary's Danish and Food for Feet team up for a KROQ Christmas Bash at the Universal Amphitheatre on Dec. 10.

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