What’s been keeping Justin Currie occupied since his Scottish blues-rock combo Del Amitri disbanded in 2002?
“I’ll be quite honest with you — I haven’t been doing anything,” he says. “I’ve been going to the pub and getting drunk and watching a lot of TV. And what pays the bills is our old hit “Roll to Me” still being played on American radio. So I haven’t had to get a job or anything — I’ve been living on royalties for years.”
The singer became so relaxed that he worried his songwriting skills might atrophy. But there was an unusual upside to all that down time: “It also gives you the space to do what you want to do, so you don’t have to be beholden to somebody who’s holding the purse strings,” the Glaswegian explains.
He spent two years and $80,000 home-recording a Gothic-grim solo set, “What Is Love For” (on Ryko), that questions the very nature of romance. “And when you’re putting your own money into your work, you’re free to do whatever you want. Otherwise, I don’t think I would’ve made an album this bleak.”
“Where these songs resemble the living or the dead, rest assured, it is entirely deliberate,” the artist — who plays Café Du Nord Monday — warns in his CD booklet. He’s not kidding. The collection skewers so many relationships, it feels like the ultimate breakup disc.
But the 42-year-old Currie has been with his same girlfriend of six years. “And she likes the album, although I have to say that it’s mainly not about her. I just wanted to make a bunch of songs that were brutally honest and not at all romantic.”
The man deserves some leeway. For 20 years, Del Amitri churned out brilliant soulful efforts such as 1989’s “Waking Hours” and 1997’s “Some Other Sucker’s Parade,” with Currie’s voice getting richer with time.
Yet it cracked the U.S. Top 10 just once, with the 1995 single “Roll to Me.” So pardon Currie if his outlook now is realistic to the point where he no longer thinks it’s possible to pen sunny songs in such dark times.
“Everything is pointing toward the idea that the West is driving the world to premature extinction,” he says. “And I’m not uncomfortable with that.”
Currie isn’t praying for salvation, either. Echoing recent bestsellers by Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens, he finds organized religion “fascinating, intellectually, but completely redundant. So I’m an extreme atheist who also believes in human rights.”
Does he have any bright thoughts at all? He answers, “Hey — humanity will fight to survive, and if we don’t survive, we don’t. But I just hope that ‘Highway 61’ will survive somewhere in the universe. Uh, the album, not the route!”
IF YOU GO
Where: Café Du Nord, 2170 Market St., San Francisco
When: 7:30 p.m. April 21
Tickets: $18 to $20
Contact: (415) 861-5016 or www.cafedunord.com