Asked if he is close to his new bandmate, Mike Skinner, the creator of The Streets, laughs: “Well, we share the same psychiatrist....”
The bandmate in question is Rob Harvey, former frontman of Leeds band, The Music, once hailed by the NME as “the best unsigned band in Britain.”
Yet, following The Music’s demise in 2010 around the same time that Skinner announced his intention to kill off The Streets, Harvey and Skinner have created a brand new project, The D.O.T, which comes to 53 Degrees tonight.
Today, he’s trying to talk about his new musical baby on a train dashing from his Hampshire home where he lives with his wife and two young children, to London for meetings in Mayfair.
But he’s hampered by truly terrible reception and, with highly un-diva-like patience, calls back again and again, joking as he redials for about the 15th time: “You could successfully ring the police and get a restraining order on me.”
His perseverance may be down to the fact that, after his final disenchantment with The Streets, The D.O.T. seems to have given him a whole new lease of life.
Although they’ve known each other since the very early days - they have shared management throughout their mutual careers - his and Harvey’s friendship has clearly moved to a new level since they began working together.
Skinner agrees: “Yeah, definitely. We only really became very close since we’ve been doing the D.O.T. We started from the music really because we didn’t know each other that well when we started.
“But we’ve sort of lived out of each other’s pockets now for over a year. As I say, we share the same psychiatrist so we’ve definitely been through the same... though that’s more a product of our management really.
“I think everyone really has a similar thing if they’re sensitive types like what we are. It’s not the sort of thing many people go through and it’s not a bad thing but it has its unique elements that you can’t really just talk about it to a lot of people.”
Harvey spoke about his battles with drugs and then alcohol as The Music released what became their final album. And, though Skinner has cooled it considerably these days, thanks both to suffering chronic fatigue syndrome and becoming a married father of two, his lifestyle was once so wild that DJ Paul Oakenfold sent a joint to his dressing room with a note that said: “Calm the **** down.”
Skinner laughs and admits: “I was really drunk that night. You’re on tour and you’re really drunk. But parents get drunk as well, they just don’t get as drunk.
“But it’s very difficult to compare that to someone who, say, works in a bank because, before they had children, I guess they can go out in the evenings a lot. But when you’re on tour, it’s a bit like being a sailor. It’s a different thing. And, by that token, I guess that’s what makes having a family so much more valuable.”
The D.O.T. began when Skinner, in the post-Streets vaccuum, began recording video sessions with several different artists. Harvey was supposed to be just one of them but Skinner recalls: “We just happened to write two really good songs on the day that we did a session together and the two songs that we wrote were so good that we sort of decided to carry on.”
They proved a prolific pairing - despite releasing their debut album on download this week, they already have an entire new album ready for solid release, probably next year. And he insists this isn’t just a flash in the pan. Skinner says: “Most of the criticism at the moment is that people think it’s a sort of hobby.
“We’re not really reacting to that because we know it is going to go on for some time. So people will take it seriously but it will take some years, I think.”
With The Streets, he announced his intention to kill off the project after the five albums he was contracted for. But he says: “Give or take one or two albums, it would have gone on for that long anyway because that was the energy that was inside me. But it was also made convenient by the legality of the bit of paper that I signed.”
Skinner essentially WAS The Streets, You can’t effectively kill off yourself. He agrees: “No, but you can stop rapping and you can stop singing the songs that you wrote in your 20s.
“It’s worked really well actually because even though you can’t kill yourself off, it’s an easy way to draw a line under a period in my life. It was the rapping stuff that I wanted to stop. I wanted to be a producer really and that’s what I do now.
“So it’s a good thing being able to draw a line under that. I think if I’d have gone under Mike Skinner or whatever, my name, it would have been even more confusing because people wouldn’t have been able to understand the sort of radical changes I was making.”
When he quit The Streets, Skinner sounded like he’d had enough of the vagaries of fame. He agrees: “I had had enough. It became a sort of cycle, it was a job and The D.O.T. just happened by accident.
“I don’t think I ever said that I was retiring from music but I did say that I didn’t want to do The Streets anymore - and that’s still true.”
Although he had already left his wildest days behind before he met his now-wife, Claire Le Marquand, he says family life gives him a new stability. He says: “I think when you’re living such a transient lifestyle, it’s hard to really feel anything sometimes and actually children sort of brings all of that back, that sort of grounding that it’s quite easy to lose when you’re travelling all the time.”
And he’s an dab hand at nappies. “My brother in law, when we were having the first one, I remember saying, ‘Is it really annoying changing loads of nappies?’ And he said, ‘Changing nappies is easy. The difficult bit is the constant whining.’ And it’s true, you only have to change a nappy once or twice a day, don’t you?”
Now back on tour for the first time in ages, while Harvey is highly abstemious, Skinner cautiously admits he isn’t quite so monkish. He says: “Yeah, Rob is. I’m not as careful but I’m certainly, I guess, more careful.” Than you used to be? “Yeah.”
Sharing the limelight with Harvey has relieved the pressure. He says: “I feel a lot more bonded because, even though with The Streets, there was a big band behind us, I guess I did feel quite alone just generally on tour. I was in a different headspace to everyone else. I used to spend a lot of time in bed.
“And I think it wasn’t just about what I was doing, it was just the sort of show it was. It was on your mind all day whereas, with the D.O.T., it feels more of a group effort and so the pressure does feel divided. It definitely feels like there’s 50% less pressure.”
The D.O.T. play 53 Degrees tonight. Tickets are £15 from the box office on 01772 893000.