'We're like a great football partnership'

FOR Ant Genn, early musical success was quickly followed by excess. Born in Sheffield in 1971, Genn was playing guitar for Pulp by the time he was 16. Music soon took him further afield, touring the world with one-time Britpop darlings Elastica and eventually to London, where he had a lost summer sleeping on Robbie Williams's floor. He went on to produce records for UNKLE and Joe Strummer.

This whirlwind youth had a price or, as Genn puts it, "the angle of incidence is equal to the angle of reflection - if you go that high you've got to go that low".

He had developed serious crack-cocaine and heroin habits that cost him some teeth and almost his life. "It all started when I took acid when I was 14," he says. "My brother gave me some when I got back from a party at Jarvis Cocker's house. I suppose I was trying to get out of the world I was actually in, and in some way experience something different to my own reality. I went through all the drugs until I got to the big two and was basically a hardcore addict for a very long time."

Genn did eventually manage to wean himself off drugs and, in a chance encounter, met multi-instrumentalist Martin Slattery, once of Shaun Ryder's Black Grape and Strummer's Mescaleros. Both being wounded veterans of British music, the pair recognised each other as kindred spirits. So they formed a band together, The Hours. Two years on, the band are being tipped by none other than Cocker himself, who recently enthused: "They understand what music is for. Let them into your life - you won't regret it."

Unsurprisingly, with such a glittering CV, Genn is feeling the pressure of expectation. "It definitely raises the bar and makes you work that bit harder," he says. "You really want to make something that means something to people." Yet while running the risk of attracting more attention for the stature of their former band mates than their music, he acknowledges the benefits of The Hours' vast experience. "Martin and I have been very lucky to work with some amazingly talented people," he says. "When you collaborate with someone like Robbie Shakespeare [from reggae production team Sly and Robbie], who has worked on over 100,000 songs, you can only learn from it. You've just got to hope some of it rubs of on you, don't you?"

Working with a songwriter of Cocker's calibre also led Genn to place great emphasis on his lyrics. "Unless your lyrics are going to be good and mean something, then don't even approach the microphone," he says. "It also made me more intolerant of bad lyrics, lyrics that people don't really think about, of which there are obviously a lot."

In 1996, Genn also found himself living and collaborating with Robbie Williams - he was with Williams the first night he met Slattery at London's Metropolis Studios. "I was fresh in London, bumming around on different people's floors like you do, and Robbie just said I could stay at his. We just hung out at his for a summer and wrote some songs together. He's really into Biggie Smalls and Tupac and we introduced each other to some good music."

Now Genn's life has entered a new phase, and he sees his work with Slattery as his best. "We're a bit like one of the great football partnerships, Dalglish and Rush," he laughs. "Martin is just an incredible natural musician. It's the music we have made that is telling us we're a big band and we will just have to wait and see what plans the music has for us." After his battle with addiction, Genn has every reason to be optimistic. The Hours' current single, Ali in the Jungle, has him sing: "It's the greatest comeback since Lazarus." One would be hard-pressed not to agree.

• The Hours play the Capitol, Glasgow, tomorrow.

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