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With fifth solo album Natural Rebel out now and a UK tour underway, Richard Ashcroft’s star is once again in the ascendant. John Earls meets him in the studio for a personal rendition…

Long before Long Live Vinyl turns the dictaphone on to formally speak to Richard Ashcroft, he’s already offered more entertainment than most singers’ full interviews. We meet at State Of The Ark Studios in Richmond, where Ashcroft has recorded since The Verve. He’s chosen the venue so he can play two of excellent new album Natural Rebel’s songs at full volume on the studio speakers: unabashed love song That’s How Strong and the album’s swaggering closer, Money Money.

Although he merely mouths the words to That’s How Strong while sat next to LLV at the huge mixing desk, by the time the riff from Money Money kicks in, Ashcroft is on his feet, pacing around the console and giving the familiar ‘Come on!’ outstretchedarms gesture as he yells the song’s words to the studio wall. He looks every bit as happy as he does facing an arena audience. Not only is your startled reporter here, but so is Ashcroft’s producer Jon Kelly, his publicist Katie… and his friendly wife Kate, the subject of That’s How Strong.

Just as Katie and Kate discuss where our interview should take place, Ashcroft strides off down a side room, grabs a pair of swivelstools; and that’s when the fun begins. You don’t so much interview Richard Ashcroft as play pinball, hoping any words you manage to get in will lead him down a route that may occasionally resemble the question you asked. Which isn’t to say Ashcroft isn’t engaged – he’s just got more life going on in his head than even someone with his rapidfire mouth knows what to do with.

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