Returning to 2006, and Ian Brown is still bouncing off the walls, raving about the healing properties of weed, mapping out future voyages across the musical cosmos. After four albums of heat-haze funkadelia and sun-bronzed stoner mysticism, the Scally Superstar stands at a career crossroads. Last year’s hits collection marked the end of a first phase, he says, backed up by some of his most electrifying festival shows ever. It’s time to shift up a gear.
Every album so far has been a step forward musically. So what happens next?
“I might make a reggae LP. I’ve always said I wouldn’t, as I love reggae too much – I wouldn’t want to mess it up, it wouldn’t be respectful. But I’ve been listening to it for 30 years and it still moves me as much as it always did. The time may be right to make a big shift. When I sing for my own amusement, I sing good, I sing in a different voice. I want to try and write songs in that voice.”
Your voice still gets criticised. Does that bother you?
“It does, because I’m a singer and most singers are sensitive fuck-ups. I’m not a fuck-up, but I am sensitive. Especially if you do a show and you know you sounded great, then somebody says you sounded like you were shouting into a bucket. I’m more consistent – I don’t think I’ve sung badly in the last year. I know when I am out of tune. But who’s a great singer? James Brown’s great, but put him next to Pavarotti and he’s hopeless.”
You played with Mani last year, and you began playing Roses songs live again recently. Have you ever seriously discussed reforming with the others?
“No. Mani once asked me and I said I wouldn’t do it. That was about three years ago.”
Have you had offers from promoters?
“Yeah, there’s been serious offers. I got told, for 40 shows last year, five million pounds on the table. I’ve got three kids so that’s a serious thing to me, but then I look at it and think: every band reforms for the money… we weren’t ever in it for the money. It wouldn’t make me happier. I can only eat a meal a day. I’m not into flash cars; I’ve got a nice house.”
John said he was planning to reform the Roses in an interview last year…
“That’s right. I don’t know how he can say that without phoning me up; it seems a bit crazy. Why would he say that to the papers and not me? And remember, I was the last man standing – I never walked out.”
Do you still love John?
“I don’t love him. I used to love him. I think his decisions were made with a coked-up head so I don’t hold any bitterness ’cos I know, inside, he’s a nice guy.”
Why not just forgive him, Ian?
“I don’t think it’s up to me to forgive him, ’cos I’ve still got the knife in my back. He stabbed me in the back, but it was 10 years ago and I’ve had a right laugh since. I feel like I’ve been smiled upon. In the last nine years I’ve had total artistic freedom. I’ve worked with about 15 class musicians since the Roses and I love the freedom of that. This is my best way of doing it now.”