Jamiroquai's Jason Kay is more worried about an asteroid strike than the success of his long-awaited new album. He tells Craig McLean why a road trip to his Scots bothy is cooler than cocaine
If you want to get ahead: Jason Kay is about to release his seventh album, Rock Dust Light Star, and embark on another world tour, but says he is at his happiest on a road trip from Oban to Tobermory in one of his classic cars, left. Photographs: Getty Images
Jason Kay is annoyed. "Oh, did I not bring the single malt? F***sake." Never mind. A bottle of Becks - or two - and a fistful of fags will have to suffice for post-luncheon dessert.
It's midway through a drizzly autumn afternoon, and the singer/songwriter who is to all intents and purposes Jamiroquai is, forgotten Glenfiddich notwithstanding, a happy bunny. We are sitting in a cabin by one of his trout lakes, deep in his 80 acres of Buckinghamshire countryside.
Twenty years into his 25 million-album-selling career, the Cat In The Hat (yes, he still wears elaborate headgear on stage) might be about to release his seventh album, Rock Dust Light Star, and embark on another world tour. For sure he remains proud of his classic car collection. His Robinson R44 helicopter - he has qualified as a pilot in the hiatus since the release of 2006's greatest hits - is his pride and joy. But he's happiest here, now, watching nature, in the drizzle, with no one to bother him.
"I've always been a loner," he says in his mile-a-minute London accent. He dates his preference for his own company back to childhood, when he "banged around with my mum", the 1970s cabaret singer Karen Kay. It was an itinerant lifestyle for a single parent and only child. "Back of the car, now we're living here, now we're living there, now we're in digs. You didn't really get time to get too settled. So yeah, I've always been a bit of a loner, but that's doubled in intensity because I was an identical twin."
His twin brother died a few weeks after birth. "When you lose a twin like that you always think there's something missing. In my whole life, there's definitely a missing link. Don't have any brothers or sisters to talk about the problems."
Does he still feel the shadow of his missing twin? "I do, absolutely," he fires back with the full-force honesty that is the 41-year-old's default setting. "And I just feel there's nobody to talk to about your problems that really understands what your thing is. But you'd never see me go to a psychiatrist. I just work it out, get on with it. And if I can't deal with it, I don't deal with it. To be honest, it's such a nutty f***ing business, the music business, I don't think I'm doing too badly really."
This self-belief has helped Kay build a self-sufficient business - he has his own recording studio here at his manor house and runs all his affairs from offices in converted outbuildings. And it's helped him become one of the UK's biggest stars internationally - last month he headlined a 65,000-capacity in Colombia, and he's already hit No 1 in Italy with zippy pop-funk track White Knuckle Ride, the first single from the infectious, club- and radio-friendly Rock Dust Light Star.
Throw it all together - the international success, the DIY ethic, the seclusion in his country estate - and it helps insulate him from the contemporary celebrity, pop and media worlds. He has, he states repeatedly, no interest in any of that "crap".
That strength of character was also fundamental to Kay giving up the cocaine that had come to overshadow his life. All those infamous bust-ups with tabloids and paparazzi may have been partly a function of his relationship with Denise van Outen. But his volatile moods were hardly helped by his addiction.
He's been clean for almost seven years. "I just thought, this has got to stop. This is gonna kill me. You start hammering that gear, you start drinking like a fish - then the next minute you've f***ed up somehow. You're face down in that pond," he says, gesturing out of the cabin window. "Or even worse - you've gone out for the night and something's gone on… somebody else is face down in that pond. It's just aggro.
"Oh, look!" he suddenly exclaims. "A kingfisher…" Kay is up out of his seat and peering across the water at the bird perched in a branch. "Magnificent. This is his domain, up and down here. Watch him, he'll zip off there like a bullet. Watch that blue on his back, it's a most majestic colour. It's why he is the king fisher - that is his game. You will not see that on some of the biggest country estates in this country.
"That's the trouble with the world," he says, lapsing into an entertaining curmudgeonly grumble. "We don't take time to see. You sit here for five minutes and you see one of the rarest birds in the country. But people want their five-minute iPod life. And I just can't deal with that. 'Hey look at this, it's really funny…' - what, a clip of somebody doing something stupid on the internet? Do you think I've got all day to sit and look at shit like that? I'd rather sit and contemplate what's gonna happen to the planet, to people…
"And can I just say," he adds, slumping back into his seat, "seeing that kingfisher gives me more of a buzz than finding out that David Beckham's got something in his underpants."
Kay has long been agitated at the state of the world. His interest in environmental issues combines with an enthusiasm for the scientific wonders of space on his new album. The title, Rock Dust Light Star, refers in part to his conviction that an apocalyptic asteroid collision is on the cards.
Lager and nicotine coursing through his system, he rants and frets about the lot of the "bipedal hominid" floundering around on an earth that's being poisoned and depleted, fighting wars over "things no one's ever seen", meaning religion. Sanctuary on a foreign planet? No chance, says this armchair buff. "You're not gonna be able to break the barrier that is light speed. It cannot be done. And we've got such a lovely planet here. And what do we see on the front of the newspaper? George Michael goes to jail for eight weeks! No sense of how to solve the problems. And the main problem people want to concentrate their dumb minds on at the moment is water. Fresh water!" he shouts, thumping the little fold-down table between us. "How we're gonna get it." Thump thump. "If there's no fresh water, there's no food, there's no green, there's nothing. The world would quickly start to become a desert. I tell you what," he adds, warming to his theme. "If I was the Scots, I'd quickly get on with this independence thing and get it sorted out. With all that water they'd be earning a f***ing fortune! I can't wait. I hope they bring a f***ing passport system in."
Jay Kay loves Scotland. He's less keen on the traffic cops who often "cause me gyp as I bomb up the A9", but he loves the bothy he owns near Gairloch. Give him a roaring fire, a chair and a view of the Isle of Skye and he couldn't be happier. He and the younger of his two German Shepherds are heading there for a revivifying break three days after our meeting. It'll be his last chance for peace and quiet before the year-long promotional and touring campaign for Rock Dust Light Star kicks in.
"More than anything else - more than anything," he repeats, "I love organising my little road trips. Getting my sleeping bag, my binoculars, iPod… I love being equipped for anything. I love it. That's my real buzz. And in Scotland, I don't need much: my Scottish cardi," he beams, pointing to an item of ragged knitwear on the seat, "Puffa jacket, bits'n'bobs, dog's got his bowl and food and water and that's it, I'm off, gone, bye. I love road journeys. A real long one though, through the night. Love it."
This - the solitude, the nature, the Highlands - are what floats his boat these days. Yes, he'll work his way through a Glenfiddich or three. And for sure, he wouldn't say no to the company of a steady girlfriend (he admits to a current relationship that is "under review").
"Being good's difficult, make no mistake," grins the erstwhile committed ladies' man. "Those hormones don't down easily. But at the end of the day I'm at my happiest on a road trip from Oban to Tobermory. Stopping by lochs, Tennent's sign outside a little pub, having a chat with older people. I like that. 'Ooh, you've got some prawn and smoked mussels on today? Ooh, a smoked mackerel fillet?'"
Jay Kay, millionaire playboy turned countryside-loving foodie, sighs and smiles. "That is lovely."
• Rock Dust Light Star is released on 1 November on Mercury