The comedian once hooked on drugs, fame and romping has been reborn as a self-help guru, writing a guide to enlightenment. Oh, and he’s loving being a new father.
It is surprising to be meeting the hippie hero of an anti-capitalist revolution amid the grand oak-panelled surroundings of a five-star English country hotel. But then nothing about Russell Brand is as I expected. Gone are the jeggings, the nest of hair and kohl-eyed Jack Sparrow look. Today he is wearing a scruffy tracksuit pushed up at the elbows to reveal scribbled tattoos, a T-shirt and man bun. He looks older than I’d expected, with wisps of grey in his hair and beard. And he’s still attractive at 42.
Perhaps I had Brand imprinted on my brain as he was when he first appeared, a frenzied MTV presenter and stand-up comedian who took drugs onstage. He has had more than a decade since then to upcycle through Hollywood star, to Mr Katy Perry, to activist with his book Revolution and online politics show The Trews. Now with his new book, Recovery, he has been reincarnated. This time as a spiritual self-help guru, which explains the man bun.
His manner is calmer. He’s lost the frenetic, rapid-fire speech and verbose, saucy, Victoriana babble that once characterised how he spoke. Though, thankfully, not the Essex accent. Perhaps he is exhausted. He has a 10-month-old daughter, Mabel, and when we meet he has been married (again) for just two days.
Shouldn’t you be on honeymoon?
I hope I’m not getting you in trouble?
Compared with his six-day wedding to Perry at a tiger sanctuary in Rajasthan featuring elephants, horses and 21 camels this was a quiet affair. Guests floated down the Thames on a Mississippi-style-steamer called New Orleans. Brand got a nose wax especially for the day.
He has known his wife, Laura Gallacher, for more than 10 years. She is the sister of Sky Sports host Kirsty Gallacher, and daughter of golfer Bernard Gallacher. Can Brand play golf? “No, I can’t, but blessedly it’s not expected of me.”
Does being married a second time feel different? “Every moment is different,” he says philosophically.
Brand’s latest transformation is the culmination of an addict’s journey. Having been dry and off drugs for more than 14 years, he’s undergone the process of tackling his other addictions (to food, sex, money, love, fame) on a path to enlightenment.
His qualification for writing is “not that I am better than you. It is that I am worse,” he writes. “I am more addicted, more narcissistic, more driven by lust and the need for power and recognition. Every single pleasure-giving thing that’s come my way from the cradle in Grays to the Hollywood chaise longue has been grabbed and guzzled and fondled and f*****, smoked and sucked and for what? Ashes.”
Image: STEVE SCHOFIELD / GROOMING: NICOLA SCHULLER