Tim Burgess: ‘My life before was sky high. These days it’s real’

The Charlatans musician, 48, on sobriety, eating only crisps, and being more of a dad than a rock star

Records hold memories. The best-smelling record is the Stations of the Crass LP, which came with a fold-out black and white poster. I bought it again recently, and it still smelt as inky as I remembered.

In Los Angeles the drugs were great, so were the food and sunshine. I saw the Brian Jonestown Massacre perform there in 1997, and moved out a year later. It felt as far away as I could get from life in England, from the Tim that was boring in Salford.

My parents approved of my career. They knew I knew where it was at. They were around the table when the label Beggars Banquet signed the Charlatans. I wouldn’t say they were cool, though.

I used to post cocaine to myself, taped to the inside sleeve of records like Chicago or a Jamiroquai album. If I did get caught I could say I would never listen to a Jamiroquai record, so how could it possibly be mine?

I’ve always been compulsive. I eat nothing but crisps at the moment. And only one flavour – I can’t get past cheese and onion. But I’ve got to stop chomping down on them, because I’ve just broken a tooth.

Steve Coogan is the funniest person in the world. And he keeps getting funnier. I was backstage with him at a Paul Weller concert, and he was pissed, but so was I. Michael Douglas was also there, and I went over and just started talking to him. He told me the history of the Los Angeles Theatre.

I had to stop taking drugs when I started running low on money. I spent a lot on cocaine and alcohol and, after that, prescription pills. When I tried to stop, my wife [Michelle] took more. She was probably trying to make me jealous. We did talk about it, but there was no one listening, really. So I left her, and everything apart from my records.

Sex is the last thing on the agenda when you’re taking drugs. It was for me, anyway, and definitely for my wife. Sober and with my new partner, Nik, of five years, it’s a pure thing.

It took me about 10 years to get over the death of my bandmate Rob [Collins, who was killed in a car crash in 1996]. It was so sudden and I blurred a lot of it out on purpose. When John [Brookes, the Charlatans drummer] passed away in 2013, my little boy had just been born, so I had something brand new and small to concentrate on. It’s still raw, but I don’t think of him as gone.

I’m more of a dad than a rock star. Richard Ashcroft [of the Verve] is a real “rock star”. I like playing with my son and his Paw Patrol figures. Chase and Rubble are my favourites.

You can feel the fibres of your body sewing back together again when you meditate. I very much recommend it. I do it for 20 minutes in the morning and 20 in the afternoon. My life before was sky high, and these days it’s as real and natural as the extreme of what it used to be.

The best hairdressers wouldn’t do my hair the way I want it. I use the platinum stuff from Boots. I do the front myself, and cut my fringe, then Nik does the back. Blondes definitely have more fun.

The Charlatans are headlining Electric Fields (26-27 August) and Kendal Calling (28-31 July) this summer. Tim Book Two: Vinyl Adventures From Istanbul to San Francisco is published by Faber on 21 July


Katie Forster

The GuardianTramp

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