Appropriately, the man in black laughs at the idea of Russian Roulette.

Hugh Cornwell, godfather of punk and ex-frontman of The Stranglers has just explained that when he’s onstage in Carlisle he and the two members of his band will take it in turns to shout out which Stranglers track they will play next.

There’s no warning. No rehearsal.

“We have no idea what the set will be, so every night will be different,” he says.

“It makes it a bit more exciting for us.”

A bit like Russian roulette?

He gives a throaty laugh: “Yeah, like Stranglers roulette.”

He’s just turned 70 and is in good form and feeling well.

He comes to Carlisle next week at the start of his latest tour which sees him playing some hand-picked solo tracks and then a growl down Memory Lane with some of the classic tracks from one of the key bands of the punk age.

He explains: “The first half of the show is from my solo albums and then we run out a few Stranglers songs.”

He quit the band in 1990 after 16 years - and hasn’t spoken to any of them since.

He isn’t bothered. He’s far too busy with his own career to pay any attention.

His solo set majors on tracks from last year’s album Monster, probably his most personal record to date.

Cornwell is a storyteller and many of his songs are autobiographical, particularly on Monster where he sings about his mother, almost meeting Lou Reed and his childhood hero, the monster film maker Ray Harryhausen.

He admits he has to self-edit to make sure he doesn’t reveal too much of himself, but says: “As one gets more adroit at writing songs, you can put more into them. It is a form of self-expression.

“If you are getting better at it, you put more into it.”

As he gets older and his songs more autobiographical, he draws comparisons with that other man in black, Johnny Cash who carried on writing and recording upto his death in 2003.

Cornwell shows no signs of slowing down.

His third novel, a sci-fi thriller called Future Tense is due out in the next few weeks and he’s already planning more songs.

“That has taken a year to get sorted and now that is out of the way, I feel lighter and I’m thinking about music again. I can feel some things bubbling under the surface and as soon as the tour is over, I will write again.

As for playing live, he points to the fact that John Cale, founding member of the great Velvet Underground, is still performing at the age of 77 and says: “I’m still able to write, I’m still healthy, the voice is still there and I have no reason to stop.

“If I turned up at a gig and no-one was there, I would get the message.

“But my bass player and my drummer are young kids and they keep me fired up.”

n Hugh Cornwell, Electric, The Brickyard, Carlisle, November 13. For Tickets, go to