"Jane Preston talks to the very grown-up Richard Ashcroft, frontman of chart-toppers The Verve"
HOW DID YOU FEEL WHEN THE DRUG'S DON'T WORK WENT TO #1 IN THE CHARTS?
I suppose I was thrilled, which I was, but it worried me because I never wanted to appeal to young kids. Our music isn't innocent or superficial and I don't like to think of all those kids listening to some of our darker tracks.
HAVE YOU ALWAYS DREAMT OF TOPPING THE CHARTS?
Since I was a kid, I've wanted to be in the best rock 'n' roll band in the world. But I wouldn't be here now if my father hadn't died. Death makes you re-evaluate life. I was 11 and while the other kids played with Action Man, I was questioning life. I deceided I was never going to be locked into a predictable existence. From that moment, I felt it was set in stone that when I left school, I'd be in a band and would make it.
YOU WERE A CHILD FOOTBALL PRODIGY. HOW COME YOU DIDN'T FOLLOW IT UP?
I played for the school team and went to Bobby Charlton's Soccer School. I lived for football and Manchester United, but I lost interest. They wanted us to play the grid system, but I just wanted to be George Best.
HOW DID THE BAND GET TOGETHER?
Peter Salisbury, Simon Jones, Simon Tong and I went to Upholland High School in Wigan. We met Nick McCabe at Winstanley Sixth Form College and we used to play in the college practice room. We played some gigs in London and signed to Hut Records.
WHAT HAPPENED WHEN THE VERVE SPLIT UP IN 1995?
It just all got too mad. The major dispute was between me and Nick. Quite often in bands you have a duel going on - look at Liam and Noel. Nick and I were as volatile as you can be without violence.
IT TOOK TWO YEARS TO GET BACK TOGETHER. DID YOU MISS IT?
Once you're not happy with something in your life, there's no point in living it any more. Splitting up the band felt awful, because it could have been the best time of our life. But it wasn't. I know today that I did the right thing. We wouldn't be here now if we hadn't split.
THE VERVE AND OASIS TOURED TOGETHER - HOW DID YOU GET ON?
We had some great times, some mad times. In Sweden, Noel and I got caught breaking into a church in the middle of the night. We'd run out of booze and we thought we might find some communion wine. It was really stupid.
HOW MUCH OF A DEBT DO YOU OWE TO NOEL GALLAGHER FOR GIVING YOU CONSTANT PLUGS?
It was great Noel supported us. He's a good mate. But I don't owe him anything - I'd do the same if I'd been in his position.
WHY DO YOU DANCE BAREFOOT ON A PERSIAN RUG WHEN ON STAGE?
I got a fancy for it when we were on tour supporting The Black Crowes. Their lead singer Chris Robinson inspired me to do it.
WHAT'S NEXT FOR THE VERVE?
We've put in a proposal to the Ministry Of Defence to use some abandoned airfields and drydocks to put on some massive shows later this year.