It's hard to believe the Ant Genn excitedly chatting about his forthcoming tour is the same, notorious Ant Genn who stumbled his way through the britpop scene of the mid 90s.

As a member of Pulp and Elastica and long term boyfriend of Catatonia's Cerys Matthews, he was a darling of the circuit - he knew everyone, was seen everywhere...and tried everything. After a spell with Joe Strummer's post-Clash band The Mescaleros, he checked himself into rehab and was given just six months to live. Now clean, he's channelled his passion for heroin back into his first love - music.

After years helping out friends - he worked on former flatmate Robbie Williams' Life Thru A Lens and co-produced Grace Jones' last album - he and fellow Mescalero Martin Slattery decided to grab a bit of the glory for themselves and formed The Hours in 2004. "It's mad innit - starting a band when you're in your 30s?" he asks. "I remember seeing Liam (Gallagher) when we first got the band together - I hadn't seen him for ages and I told him I'd started singing and he was like, 'ah, wicked...' I saw him about a year later and he said 'hey - I heard you on the radio the other day. That When You Were Good song's wicked.' People had never thought of me as a singer and I don't think I had either – not with the frontmen I've worked with. I was worried people would think I was a sad old ****."

At 38, age seems to hang over Ant - "God, when you were watching Dangermouse, I was out, off my face on E," he tells me. But he at the same time he seems to relish it. "You know, the problem with bands today is they're too young. They haven't paid their dues. Do you know what number REM album Losing My Religion was on? Their seventh! Pulp were going for 16 years before they had a hit. No record company would pay any attention to bands like that anymore. At my age, Francis Bacon was still smashing up paintings cause he thought they were crap.

"At 20-odd you've not lived through anything and it means half these bands can't play for **** . They're writing about stuff that just doesn't matter to me. Like The View - why do I care that they've been wearing the same jeans for a few days? And Scouting For Girls - yeah, they met a girl at the bus stop, she was what?

"Maybe I'm too open, but I write about what I'd want to hear about. I think cleaning up your dad's blood and sick when he's had a stroke and your mate hanging himself is far more interesting than how long you've been wearing your jeans for."

So does he still go and see bands? "Are you joking? Course I do - since I stopped shooting up I need something to keep me sane. I'll go and see owt...but it's not like it used to be. We had a great time in the 90s - that time when art, film and music just came was a brilliant scene. You don't get anything like that now - there's no scene at all. When I first went to Glastonbury in 94, on the Sunday on one stage, they had Pulp, Oasis, Radiohead, Blur and Spiritualised. What do you get now?"

The Hours' second album See The Light was released last month and the sleeve art, designed by Ant's mate, caused quite a storm. Probably because that mate was Damien Hirst. "People love to go on about my mates but you know, they're just my mates. We don't sit around talking about celebrities and art and stuff - we talk about birds and football. I'm just me - whether I'm with Bono or me Aunty Margaret. I'm a normal bloke, struggling to pay me mortgage, just getting on with it, but people are fascinated by it.

"Sienna Miller - we got her in our last video because she lives in Maida Vale and she was the only actress we had in our phone. I'm not name dropping - it's just how it is."

He might shrug it off but there's no denying his friends in high places have helped Ant out a bit over the years. Most recently, after getting into a ruck with their record company, Hirst put up the money for The Hours' last album and released it on a label he set up especially. "I'm dead happy with it," says Ant. "We recorded it all together, in one room. No headphones or anything, and think you can really feel the energy. A lot of my favourite music was made that way - David Bowie, The Beatles...but you just don't hear it anymore."

A solid, indie guitar record, See The Light echoes Ant and Martin's 90s roots, it's pleasant enough, but it's when they play live that it comes to life. Ant's sometimes uncomfortable, always devastatingly honest, lyrics make sense - it feels like a mate's spilling his heart out. "We're so unfashionable it's not true," he says. "But that's something I learnt from Joe (Strummer). He was a very, very calculated guy. He only got me in Martin in the Mescaleros because he knew we were good. I didn't really learn anything about music from him but I did learn to trust your instincts and go with your guts. If I wanna do something, I'll do it. And to engage with your audience - you've got to be able to do that. I saw Doves the other day - I really like them on record, I think they're great, but they've just got no connection with their audience. Joe was good at that - really good with people.

"I think I get on with it ok. At the end of the day I'm just a sociable, gobby northerner who likes a good time and a bit of a rant..." he laughs.

The Hours play at Cargo, Rivington Street, Shoreditch, on May 18. See The Light is out now on IsGood.