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Ian Brown

by David Hickey

‘Every time I do interviews, they ask me about the same things — poverty, war and the power of the church,” says 45-year-old Ian Brown by telephone from Manchester.

Tired of being quoted out of context, for his latest solo album, “The World is Yours,” which came out at the end of last year, Brown decided to talk politics on record, taking on the Vatican, U.S. presidents and the Israeli Air Force.

Musically, the former Stone Roses singer was inspired by his favorite New York rap records of the last 20 years (he mentions Biggie Smalls and Wu-Tang Clan), so he roped in New York-based hip-hop producer Emile Haynie, who’s previously worked with Mobb Deep.

“I came across this kid,” says Brown of Haynie, who crafted the album’s old-skool kicks. “He said I wasn’t hip-hop, but we were in the same lane.”

First single I ever bought: “Metal Guru,” T. Rex (1972)

It’s true! I was on it when I was 8 or 9. That’s when I first got into music. I also bought a couple of Gary Glitter singles too and “C’mon Feel the Noize” by Slade. When I was 9 I was into T. Rex, Gary Glitter and Alice Cooper. I knew The Beatles because my nan introduced me to them, but T. Rex was the first band I got into myself. I got “Metal Guru” a few months after hearing “Children of the Revolution,” in Pwllheli in North Wales at a market. I’ve still got it; it cost 29p.

Track that reminds me of my first joint: “Paid in Full” (Coldcut remix), Eric B. and Rakim (1987)

I was a late starter. I used to avoid it because I thought it turned people into old men and made them go all quiet.

Track that reminds me of Madchester: “Step On,” Happy Mondays (1990)

I was pleased when this got released. We were recording “One Love” at the same time. It still sounds great. Fresh. Do I rate Shaun Ryder as a lyricist? I rate Shaun Ryder in all ways.

Track I wish I’d written: “Sunny,” Stevie Wonder (1968)

It’s just beautiful. He’s singing to God. There’s a few different versions of this but nothing can touch Stevie. Yeah, there was a version (by Bobby Hebb) that was a hit on the northern soul scene too. Northern soul was huge in Manchester in the ’70s and ’80s; I went to a lot of all-nighters. How did I stay up? By the usual means they all did.

These days I don’t go clubbing. I’m scared I’m like the old fool that I used to see when I went clubbing when I was 21.

Favorite new reggae track: “Rastafari is the Ruler,” Fantan Mojah (2005)

Fantan Mojah sounds like an updated version of Lovers Rock, like Dennis Brown, and it’s got a proper Rastafari message. Guaranteed to stir you.

Track that makes me dance: Anything by The Isley Brothers

They’re soul power! They’re the best singers in the world. And they had the best haircuts — these 1950s-style quiffs, like Afro quiffs. Did they use gel? I don’t know. They used Brylcreem in them days.

Track that makes me cry: “I Was Made to Love Her,” Stevie Wonder (1967)

It’s the harmonica. I love harmonicas — old blues players like Sonny Boy Williamson. Harmonicas aren’t tuneless, what are you talking about? Bob Dylan? He’s hopeless. He just jumped on the bandwagon. I can’t tell a word he says.

Ian Brown plays March 4 at Osaka Big Cat (tel. [06] 6535-5569); March 6 at Shibuya O-East (tel. [03] 3444-6751); ¥6,500 (7 p.m. start).