HUGH Cornwell left The Stranglers in 1990 and has since released three solo albums. Ahead of his tour to promote his latest release Mayday, Nicola Mostyn talks to Cornwell about solo songs, The Stranglers and Robert Mitchum.

You did a book tour about 12 months ago for The Stranglers Song by Song. Is your time with the band still very much a part of your life?

Well, yeah. For the first and last time I sat down and went through the songs and it was a bit of a cathartic experience, a bit of a release, really. And it worked very well. It has renewed interest in the old catalogue and now when I come to play in Manchester I will be playing quite a few in the live set. It was all a long time ago and I can look back and enjoy the songs now.

Who are you working with now?

The band I am touring with is different to those you can hear on Mayday, because it was actually recorded about three years ago, and has been available on my website. Then a record label said that they wanted to release it properly. So none of the players on the record were able to tour with me, as musicians tend to be involved with loads of different projects. The bass player now is someone I played with six or seven years ago and the drummer is a 19-year-old stick insect, full of energy, from Glasgow. So it's a trio now and it works really well.

You have a song on Mayday called The Big Sleep, about Robert Mitchum. Do his films inspire you?

Yes, I took a title for one song from a Robert Mitchum film, Black Hair Black Eyes Black Suit. And when he died I thought it would be a good time to write an ode to him and so wrote The Big Sleep.

You've been in the business a long time. Have you seen it change?

To an incredible degree. I think live music is coming back, but for a long time, the dance thing happened and it removed live music from the equation. But now it's coming back again and people have had enough of this dreary dance music.

You recorded solo material when you were still with The Stranglers, was it something you needed to do?

When you are in a group, in order to move in one direction, you end up compromising a lot of your ideas, so you find people doing solo projects. But when you are in a group, you find that your solo creations aren't treated as seriously, because they are very much on the side of what you are doing. I found a big difference in the way my stuff was taken notice off once I left the Stranglers.

Now, when you perform live, what kind of fans do you get?

It will be a combination of people who know my solo work and some who know The Stranglers, and, because I intend to play some old Stranglers stuff and some of my new material, there will be a bit of something for everyone, a complete mixture.

Hugh Cornwell performs at Life Cafe, Manchester, on November 7