Oys­ters and Guin­ness in West Lon­don with the pair be­hind the bro­mance of 2018.

Q (UK) - - Incoming - NIALL DO­HERTY

On a rainy Wed­nes­day lunchtime at the end of March, Sting and Shaggy stroll to the back of The Cow, a gas­tropub in West Lon­don, and take a seat in the cor­ner. Sting, tall and thin with a healthy, wealthy glow and the hushed tone of a wildlife doc­u­men­tary nar­ra­tor, takes off his scarf and looks at the menu on the table in front of him. Shaggy, his new best mate, looks up to­wards the wait­ress com­ing over to take a drinks or­der. “Lit­tle bit of a wet day to­day, y’know, but you’re sun­shine in the mid­dle of the wet­ness,” he says in his soft Ja­maican lilt. He lets out an in­fec­tious cackle and asks for a mint tea. Sting or­ders half a Guin­ness and a dozen oys­ters to share. “I’m too cold for a Guin­ness right now,” says Shaggy. He’ll warm up over the next hour. The pair’s un­likely union is one of the hap­pier tales of 2018. There is some­thing bril­liantly odd about this com­ing to­gether of the se­ri­ous MOR su­per­star and reg­gae-pop’s Mr Lover Lover. Their col­lab­o­ra­tive al­bum, 44/876, came out last month. “Be­cause it’s so dark at the mo­ment, peo­ple need a smile,” says Sting. “I think the un­like­li­ness of this com­bi­na­tion in­trigues peo­ple.” What was sup­posed to be one track turned into a full-blown record when the duo hit it off. “We’d known each other in the busi­ness but never re­ally hung out hung out, y’know? And now we’re in­sep­a­ra­ble!” says Shaggy. He lets out an­other of his re­mark­able laughs, a long, pant­ing gig­gle that is fun­nier than most peo­ple’s best jokes. Sting or­ders the fish stew, and an­other Guin­ness, so Shaggy goes for the fish stew and a Guin­ness too. I opt for the Ir­ish stew, and the oblig­a­tory Guin­ness. Shaggy didn’t ex­pect for them to have so much in com­mon. Both their wives work in film and they’re both Li­bras, he says. “We both have ridicu­lous names, which is help­ful,” says Sting. “The col­lec­tive name for us now is ‘Shag­ging’. Which isn’t in­ap­pro­pri­ate.” More com­mon ground can be found in the fact that be­fore they be­came fa­mous, both had ca­reers in other in­dus­tries. Record­ing the al­bum in New York, they would walk from Sting’s house to the stu­dio and talk about Shaggy’s ex­pe­ri­ences in the US Marines, Don­ald Trump and “all kinds of shit.” They say that even though 44/876 is a happy record, it deals with some se­ri­ous sub­jects. “We feel we’re en­ter­tain­ers first and teach­ers sec­ond,” says Sting, who was an English teacher for three years be­fore he was an en­ter­tainer. The oys­ters ar­rive. “This has my name on it,” says Sting, tuck­ing in. “That’s a lot of goo to put in your mouth though,” says Shaggy. When Shaggy went to the for­mer Po­lice front­man’s place for a full English be­fore record­ing one morn­ing, he was as­tounded by how much brown sauce Sting put on his break­fast. “Don’t tell him that!” says Sting. “I’m sup­posed to be so­phis­ti­cated!” “He had it on ev­ery­thing,” says Shaggy. A waiter brings over some com­pli­men­tary snails, whelks and win­kles. “This is the type of shit he brings me to,” says Shaggy, eval­u­at­ing the tray in front of him. The other night Sting took him to a fancy brasserie in Paris. “We’re in this posh restau­rant… and this is what we’re served,” he says, pulling up a shot on his iPhone of a tin of sar­dines on a plate. “Vin­tage sar­dines!” protests Sting. As Shaggy is talk­ing about what he’s learned from Sting, a wait­ress puts his fish stew down in front of him. “I learned how to pay real at­ten­tion to the in­strum… what is this thing on top, Sting?” he says, look­ing war­ily into the bowl. Sting tells him it’s a piece of bread with sauce on it. “It’s spicy and it’s great,” says Sting. “Yeah?” says Shaggy. “Yeah,” says Sting. Shaggy eats the bread. He likes it. Lunch fin­ished, they speak about the joint birth­day party they’re plan­ning in Oc­to­ber. What will you get each other? “I don’t need any­thing,” says Sting, calmly, “and Shaggy doesn’t need much.” He looks con­fi­dent in his an­swer, un­til Shaggy pipes up. “You know what I want,” says the Ja­maican. “I want one of those hands-free toi­lets that you have in your house. It just opens up and washes your ass, and it has a warm seat. I think I’ll get one of those.” Sting ex­hales slowly. “OK... Happy birth­day.” And then Shaggy lets out one of his gale force laughs again, a lit­tle bit of sun­shine in the mid­dle of the rain.

“The col­lec­tive name for us is ‘Shag­ging’. Which isn’t in­ap­pro­pri­ate.” Sting

“That’s a lot of goo to put in your mouth…” Sting and Shaggy pre­pare to tuck in, The Cow, Not­ting Hill, Lon­don, April 2018.

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