WITH the band Fine Young Cannibals, Roland Gift was one of the most instantly recognisable pop stars of the late Eighties and early Nineties.

Further fame came along when he starred in critically acclaimed movies such as Sammy And Rosie Get Laid and Scandal.

The original band drifted apart in 1996 but Roland continued both making music - he had the solo album Roland Gift out in 2002 - and with his acting career.

Now, he’s back with some new songs, a stage musical and a series of live shows including one at Manchester Academy on Saturday.

“People say it’s nice to have me back,” he said, “But for me I’ve never been away – I’ve always been with myself.”

For someone who was such a charismatic figure, Roland displays no trappings of showbiz. He’s very quietly spoken, almost reserved, and every question is given full consideration before he responds.

And yet, you get the distinct impression that he’s hugely looking forward to taking his music out on the road.

“About two or three years ago, I did tour with Jools Holland and his Rhythm and Blues Orchestra as a guest singer and that got me interested in doing a lot more live work,” said Roland.

“It was a relatively easy job. I didn’t have to think about anything other than myself. All I had to do was turn up but I really enjoyed it. I suppose it sowed the seeds for me getting out there with a band.”

The current tour will see Roland play new material mixed in with classic Fine Young Cannibals’ songs such as She Drives Me Crazy and Johnny Come Home.

“It’s funny, you get people in the audience much younger than me (he’s now a remarkably youthful looking 56) who know all the Cannibals songs,” he said. “They tell me it’s because their parents used to play them all the time.

“But having said that, I will play some of the new songs and people will swear they were Cannibals’ songs too.”

Much of Roland’s new material will, he hopes, feature in a musical Return to Vegas which he has worked on with Bob Carlton who created the hit show Return to the Forbidden Planet.

“None of the songs were written specifically for the play; they were written independently but I think that’s why they work,” he said.

“I’ve always liked the process of writing songs but perhaps now I’m more conscious about what I’m doing so I have no problem mixing music and drama. I used to feel I had to keep them separate.

“That was the prevailing attitude over 20 years ago, especially in England. In America you could sing, dance and act but in this country it was almost implied that you should keep them apart.

“Actors were resentful of singers who were acting and singers were getting resentful towards actors who were singing. Looking back it seems an odd one.”

Although he has got older and wiser, Roland believes his songwriting has never really changed.

“I think the influences I had then I still have now,” he said. “Maybe it’s done in a different way but at the heart of it are simple pop songs. That’s what I like doing.”

He’s hoping that Return to Vegas - which also features some Cannibals’ songs - will tour.

“I want to start off playing small places just like you would in a band,” he said. “That’s how you get feedback and how you can grow something.”

But before then come the live shows with his own band.

Roland Gift, Manchester Academy, Saturday, December 9. Details from 0161 832 1111 or www.manchesteracademy.net