Page last updated at 08:50 GMT, Tuesday, 29 September 2009 09:50 UK

Ian Brown: Doing things his way

By Ian Youngs
Music reporter, BBC News

Ian Brown
Ian Brown describes his sixth solo album is his "musical autobiography"

With hollow cheeks, straggly hair and greying stubble, Ian Brown is now easier to imagine as a dotty old man than as the insouciant singer who changed British music at the helm of the Stone Roses.

When the Roses rose up, Brown's piercing stare, stubborn self-belief and simian swagger were frozen as the immortal image of the intense, aloof and triumphantly cool frontman.

As such, he has inspired a dynasty of indie descendents, from Oasis's Liam Gallagher to the Arctic Monkeys' Alex Turner.

But as the face has weathered, the stare has softened and the mood has mellowed. Rather than being Liam's surly uncle, Brown, now 46, is warm and chatty.

A cafe in Holland Park, west London, is his headquarters for interviews. He has a house around the corner, from where he embarks on a five-mile walk every morning to Hyde Park and back.

The inhabitants of this genteel suburb are more likely to toss loose change at this scruffy chap's feet than shake his hand, but he seems at home.

He prefers the cafe to a pub as he has not had a drink for 11 years, and he only ventures into nightclubs when he is performing.

"I'm scared that if I walk through the door, everyone's 20 years old in there and I'll be that old fool that I didn't want to be when I was 20," he smiles.

Stone Roses in 1989
Brown denies that he agreed to a Stone Roses reunion tour

But Brown has not lost the unflinching self-confidence.

His sixth solo album is named My Way, partly out of satisfaction for having carved out a career on his own terms, and partly as a cheeky comparison with Frank Sinatra.

As Brown's musical autobiography, My Way sees him sing proudly about his life and two-decade career.

"I thought it would be more interesting to make a musical autobiography than an actual autobiography," he says.

The songs include Stellify, which could be about his mother, he says, before adding that it could also be about a lover or a child.

The title is a real word that means to transform a person or thing into a star or a constellation.

"I suppose it's that feeling of loving somebody, the immediate vibe that you get so you just feel alive and alight, burning as if you were a star, and so do they," he says.

That song was originally written for R&B star Rihanna, a connection that arose via his songwriting partner Dave McCracken, who is signed to Jay-Z's Roc Nation.

"After a couple of days I was really loving Stellify," Brown says. "You know what, let's write another tune for Rihanna."

Ian Brown
I believe I went through the Roses so I could become a solo music-maker - that's what I believe

Another track, Just Like You, assures fans: "Just because I'm a successful singer who's loved and has been loved for years doesn't mean I'm sitting behind electric gates in my own fantasy land."

Always Remember Me is directed at his old Stone Roses bandmate John Squire, who left the band shortly before it broke up in 1996 and has now turned his back on music for art.

Brown says the song looks at their time in the Roses "as if it was a day trip and then we came home and the tangerine sun suddenly went blood red, splashed upon the horizon".

"He walked himself into the wilderness, John. I'm still here doing music and he isn't doing music. Did he know he was going to be walking into the wilderness? No matter that, he's going to remember me."

It does not take long for Brown to get on to the subject of his old band.

Earlier this year, reports suggested that the singer had signed up to an imminent reunion tour.

"I never ever did," Brown retorts. "Never a grain of truth in any of it, never has been. I've maintained from day one that I'm not interested.

"I'm solo and I love being solo. I believe I went through the Roses so I could become a solo music-maker. That's what I believe."

The reunion stories coincided with the release of a 20th anniversary edition of their seminal debut album.

"It sounded fresh," he says. "Especially the drums. I used to say what sets us apart from other bands is we've got a groove.

Ian Brown
They call me an indie icon, yet I don't listen to what you'd call indie music

"All them other bands sound awkward and jangly but we've got an undercarriage groove and that was from the drums. They just sounded really lean and warm."

Since the Stone Roses, Brown says no guitar bands have excited him, he no longer listens to guitar music and guitars are largely absent from the new album.

"We wanted to try to be bold and see if we could make an album that still works without guitars," he says. "I don't actually personally get off on guitar music.

"Since the [Sex] Pistols, I liked the Roses' first album but I honestly don't listen to any guitar bands, whoever they are.

"They call me an indie icon and all that, yet I don't listen to what you'd call indie music. I just don't."

If not indie, then Brown has certainly held his own as an alternative hero.

The song My Way famously includes the line: "Regrets, I've had a few." So has Brown?

"Actually I have no regrets," he says. "Everything I've done, I've done it on my own terms. No-one's ever told me what to do."

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