Spiritualized's Jason Pierce tells Andy Welch how a brush with death brought new life to his music.
Jason Pierce is in a joyous mood. Such a thing shouldn't be a big deal, but considering the man's reputation as an evasive, contrary interviewee, it's pleasing to see he's on such good form.
He's cracking jokes a lot and laughs at himself, a far cry from the overly earnest, deadpan image painted of him in some corners of the music press.
Cliche or otherwise, it's true to say that the man behind Spiritualized is happy for his sumptuous, dense music to do most of his talking, and often makes references to it being the only thing he cares about.
Such a view is certainly at odds with his current position, sitting behind a desk at his record label's head office.
Pierce has just received the first finished copies of new album Songs In A&E, a record four or five years in the making, but before we get onto the album's contents, the packaging is driving its creator to distraction.
"Beautiful, isn't it?" he says, examining the CD in front of him. "There are about 50,000 of these special copies, so it's not limited, really. It just adds a value to the whole thing," he continues. "Not a money value, but it looks like the music inside is really important."
True, the package - a hardback almost A5 sized book with Songs In A&E printed starkly on the front cover - is a delightful object, and the interior photography by Anton Corbijn, world renowned snapper and director of last year's Joy Division biopic Control, is startling.
The photos depict various pieces of medical paraphernalia laid out on plain backgrounds, a reference to Jason's brush with death in 2005.
After having trouble breathing, the Rugby-born musician was hospitalised and later diagnosed with double pneumonia, technically called advanced periorbital cellulitis with bilateral pneumonia.
He was treated for type one respiratory failure - where too much carbon dioxide gets into the blood - and during his time in hospital, was revived twice by doctors.
It was no small illness, and Jason's family were offered bereavement counselling by hospital staff who feared the worst. Quite miraculously, he pulled through - but the trauma did take its toll, and not just in the large amounts of weight he lost.
Sitting here today in jeans and t-shirt, back up to his normal weight, it's difficult to imagine where Pierce could have lost two or three stones from. But it was his confidence, however, that took an even bigger knock.
"I still don't have it back now," he says. "I've never been that confident, really, but that definitely took the biggest hit when I was ill. I don't know why, maybe that's just what happens to some people."
Considering his latest album's puntastic title, you might think Songs In A&E is a collection of songs written since and informed by Jason's life-threatening incident. Listening to most of the tracks on the record, Spiritualized's sixth studio offering, you'd be convinced of the fact.
One song is called Death Take Your Fiddle, while others that follow are titled Don't Hold Me Close and Goodnight Goodnight.
Remarkably though, the vast majority of songs on A&E were written before Pierce's illness.
"You make things fit into your own environment," says Jason, referring to any attempt to find links between real-life and music.
So Pierce wrote an album about death, and then nearly died himself. Talk about life imitating art.
"You're the first person who's said that," he says. "I didn't want to say it myself, I thought people would think I was over-dramatising it all, but that's what happened. I didn't prophesy my illness though.
"Death Take Your Fiddle, for example, you might think is about being near to death, but it wasn't written about near-death, it was written more from the point of 'life really isn't worth living unless you get close to death.'
"Death is what makes life and this thing we all do so special. Look at Ladies And Gentlemen, We Are Floating In Space [the band's seminal 1997 album], that title. We really are everybody, we really are floating in space and I wanted to celebrate that.
"There's this thing with us all where we want to close down and not deal with things because it's too big an issue," he continues, more animated than he's been all afternoon.
"You know the attitude, 'I can't bear to think about it,' but Death Take Your Fiddle is about taking it to the other edge, realising that death's in the room with us all.
"It definitely wasn't written about what people are now trying to read into the lyrics."
Writing from personal experience is something that often crops up in Jason's interviews.
There are constant themes within Spiritualized albums - love, death, God and drug addiction - but when pressed on each, Jason, who has battled heroin addiction in the past, is typically evasive. He does offer up some explanations, though.
"It's important that there's a truth in music, and that you're not writing about things that you know nothing about, but I don't write from personal experience.
"With A&E I specifically tried to write about characters like in a novel. If I can write using characters then I can write about things that are greater than just myself.
"I can just touch on so much more, but the thing that's weird is that it sounds so much more deeply personal than if I'd started with me as the central character."
But what about the people who link the fact Jason was in hospital with an album about being in hospital and dying?
"It doesn't matter. I don't really care," he says bluntly. "Essentially, they're ideas I had two years before I was ill, so there's a huge time lag.
"I love The Stooges' Search And Destroy, which is apparently about the Vietnam war. How could it mean anything to me, Vietnam? I was born in a small town in the middle of England, and I'm not a historian.
"Stories behind songs diminish with time, but the music lasts forever."