For two decades with his majestic U.K. power trio Keane, cherub-faced frontman Tom Chaplin seemed to be the epitome of English propriety and the life of every party he attended.
But in private, he was on a highway to hell, a cocaine-fueled trip that nearly ended in the cemetery.
After several attempts, he finally got clean three yeas ago, and lived to tell the tale via his first solo album “The Wave,” which he’s promoting in The City this week.
The chronological diary of his addiction begins with despair on “Still Waiting,” “Hardened Heart” and “Worthless Words,” but clambers out of the abyss by the closing “Solid Gold” and “See It So Clear.”
“I think by the end of my using, I was really playing a game of Russian roulette,” says Chaplin, a boyish-looking 39. “And not just emotionally, but very much physically. There were definitely occasions where I could have wound up dead, because where (addiction) wants to take you ultimately is to oblivion.”
Out from under the influence, thanks to rehab and therapy sessions with a Jungian psychoanalyst, he adds, “I do feel like every day is something exciting and brilliant to look forward to — it’s almost a sense of living on borrowed time.”
Fans might think Chaplin innately understood the value of his gift as one of the most sweeping voices in modern rock, with Keane efforts including its hit 2004 debut “Hopes and Fears,” or 2012’s “Strangeland,” a masterpiece celebrating the boyhood bond he had with fellow band members Richard Hughes and Tim Rice-Oxley.
“But in an unconscious way, there was a part of me that wanted to destroy that voice,” he says. “It painted a picture of this happy-go-lucky person with this angelic, pure instrument, and I wanted to destroy that image of myself.”
Chapln may have thought he defeated his drug-abuse demons after being treated at London’s Priory Hospital clinic in 2006. But the coke crept back a few years ago, making him more and more reclusive, until he had set up a network of hotels, friends’ houses, even a hidden apartment, for his increasingly debilitating binges.
“It was a very solitary, very lonely kind of existence,” he says.
He came out of his tailspin upon considering the love of his daughter (now nearly 3) and the utter despair of his long-suffering wife, who said she still loved him, but felt she had run out of chances to tell him so. She truly believed he wouldn’t survive.
“Then I actually figured it out for myself,” he says. “That this cannot go on, because if it does? It’s the end.”
IF YOU GO
Where: Great American Music Hall, 859 O’Farrell St., S.F.
When: 8:30 p.m. Feb. 3
Tickets: $30.50 to $36
Contact: (415) 885-0750, www.slimspresents.com