Ali Campbell tells Andrew Cowen about his struggle with the bottle and how he's moved on from UB40 and looking forward to a new phase of his career.
For a singer whose signature tune is Red Red Wine, it's ironic that Ali Campbell has been told he can never drink again.
"On the last British tour I didn't get to see much as I had to do a runner straight after the shows.
"That was doctor's orders. I'm an alcky with only a sliver of liver," he tells me.
"Backstage after gigs are notorious places. The booze flows freely in the dressing room and there are many temptations.
"I know if I'd been there I would have had a drink.
"That's what I'm like. I can't afford to do that. I can't just have one."
Campbell's honesty is disarming. His recent acrimonious departure from UB40 made worldwide news. After all, the band, almost 40 years old, have sold millions of records and appeared on every continent.
A very public spat between Ali and the band saw the whole saga being played out in the public eye.
When Campbell boarded a plane to join the group for his final commitments in the Antipodes at the end of January, it was hard to imagine how the two camps would be able to share a stage.
As a matter of fact, the gigs were a triumph and Campbell left the band on a high note.
"If there's one thing that sums up the band, it's professionalism," he explained.
"Of course there were tensions and I didn't have anything to do with them off-stage.
"We played to 35,000 people and there were lots of mixed emotions.
" Actually, that little bit of tension helped and we played as well as I can ever remember.
"Personally, it was great for me to go out on a high."
It's still very difficult to unravel the actual events surrounding the last few weeks of the Campbell-era UB40. Both camps have very different interpretations of the circumstances leading up to the split.
Campbell has consistently claimed that he was not given full financial disclosure about the group's business dealings.
The other seven members insist that they have always operated as a democracy and nothing was ever hidden.
They do both agree that matters came to a head when Campbell issued an ultimatum: "Back me and sack them or I'll walk."
When it came to the crunch, the band chose to stay with the staff who they don't consider to be managers but rather part of the same close-knit team that has been with the group since almost the start.
Campbell told me that he felt "betrayed" by this allegiance and at that point he had no choice but to leave.
The rest of UB40 put the split down to Campbell's wish to go solo and say that they have always accommodated this side of his career, agreeing to postpone the release of their new album, 24/7, originally due in December to coincide with the band's last tour.
Campbell told me that he believed that by releasing his album first, it would serve to raise the band's profile, making 24/7 a bigger hit.
The set is believed to be a return to the band's radical roots.
"My album, Running Free, was meant to reignite interest in the band for the release of 24/7," he explains.
Campbell is upbeat about his current situation. When I spoke to him he was in a hotel in Chiswick, London, halfway through rehearsals with his new group, the Dep Band.
"I was sh*tting myself this time last week," he confesses.
"I've never been in another band before but this lot are f*cking great.
"Rehearsals are going so well that I actually took half a day off yesterday. Me and Lemar [who guests on the album] went to the boxing.
"My biggest worry was whether it would sound wrong and there's been a lot of tweaking. Now I can't wait, although I know I'll be nervous."
Rather than choose big names for the band, Campbell employed established Jamaican session musicians. These artists, who often form pick-up bands for visiting reggae singers, are legendary for their musical chops and dexterity.
"I've got Don Chandler on bass, Paul Slowly on drums, Mikey on keys and Winston on guitar," he tells me, as if surnames don't matter to the true connoisseur.
There's also a full brass section and backing vocals to fill out the sound.
All the guest vocalists who duet with Campbell on Running Free will be at the Royal Albert Hall, apart from Mick Hucknall who has other commitments.
That means such legends as Smokey Robinson, Katie Melua and Pato Banton, who left Birmingham a few years ago for a new life in America.
Legendary Jamaican drum and bass duo, Sly and Robbie, are also flying in.
"It's going to be quite a night, a historic one," declares Campbell.
"Sly and Robbie are such lovely people, I've known them for 15 years and I love them dearly.
"I still have to watch my Ps and Qs though.
Robbie said he wants to be billed as Robert Shakespeare, which doesn't sound right.
"I told him 'you want to be careful, people will be calling you Bertie next'.
"He told me not to be cheeky. That put me in my place."
It's hard to imagine relations breaking down completely between Campbell and the rest of the band but it's clear that emotions are still raw. Campbell will have many eyes on the next phase of his career.
"I'm gonna prove that I can carry on," he says defiantly. "I've got good material and a good voice.
"For now it's finished. The situation has resolved itself. They're doing their thing and I'm doing mine.
"They're all brothers though. We're all married to each others' sisters so we'll obviously talk again.
"I've actually left several messages on their answerphone, but nobody's got back to me yet."