Talking to softly-spoken The Hold Steady guitarist and co-founder Tad Kubler, it’s hard to imagine that he pushed himself to the verge of self-destruction.
In 2008 the New York band were forced to cancel a UK tour – including a date in Portsmouth – due to Kubler’s pancreatitis.
This ultimately forced him to quit drinking, but he replaced this with other poisons.
Fortunately he is now sober, and with their sixth album, Teeth Dreams, to promote, the band are all back on the same page.
Formed in 2003 in Brooklyn, with a vibrant mixture of punk and classic rock, they are defined by frontman Craig Finn’s lyrically dense storytelling combined with heady guitar riffs.
And this time out, guitarist Steve Selvidge, who joined the band for the previous album’s tour, has become a full-time member for the first time.
Tad says: ‘The big difference this time was having Steve be a part of the record making process.
‘Steve’s level as a guitar player and a musician in general – I knew he would raise the bar for everybody, particularly myself.’
Looking back at the last album, Heaven is Whenever, Tad says ‘I love that record,’ but adds: ‘The recording of that was a less than ideal situation in a lot of different ways.
‘But musically some of the ideas on that album... on this new album, the ideas are fully realised.
‘Because of what I was going through at the time, and my relationship with Craig at the time, there was no communication happening. It doesn’t feel like a consistent vision.’
When Tad speaks, he is very considered in his answers – backtracking to correct certain words and phrases, and very concerned about causing offence to previous band members or fans of earlier albums. But he doesn’t spare himself in where things were lacking last time around: ‘It was less health problems – that’s a really polite way of saying it. I was kind of a mess, my life was falling apart. It’s rock’n’roll for Chrissakes.’
But Tad hasn’t asked, or expected, the rest of the band to change around him: ‘Everybody still parties, which is fine, I wouldn’t expect that to change. I want everyone to have a good time, whatever their version of that is.
‘There was a time where I physically couldn’t do it any more, and emotionally it wasn’t fun any more.
‘I’ve been living this way most of my adult life and been doing this for a long time.’
‘It’s all a journey. There isn’t anything that’s more right or righteous, and everyone does what they’ve got to do to get through it or get by.’
Catch them at the Wedgewood Rooms on Sunday, doors 8pm, tickets cost £16 from wedgewood-rooms.co.uk