'I used to think every situation required an explosion, but now I'm more discerning'
Comic Russell Brand tells Hannah Stephenson why parents have nothing to fear as he publishes the first in a series of children's books
Russell Brand sweeps into the room half an hour late for our meeting, draped in a voluminous orange blanket, looking more like a Mexican bandit than an anarchic comedian with a penchant for politics and yoga.
Perhaps the cosy attire is a nod to his spiritual beliefs - this is the Brand who spends 100 minutes a day doing Transcendental Meditation and yoga, as well as praying. Either that, or he's following the latest season's "blankoat" trend.
The Essex-born 39-year-old has an immediate presence. He is striking to look at, with an intense stare which can be quite intimidating, especially when he starts to talk about the need for revolution using long, complicated sentences, filled with long, complicated words.
He's been drug-free for almost 12 years and has an aura of calm, which he says is partly to do with meditation and partly efficiency and circumstance.
"Every year's a landmark for me," he says. "Every December 13, I remember waking up in my flat having been up all night on crack and heroin, missing my train and then fare-dodging and being picked up by Chip Somers (founder of drug and alcohol charity Focus 12), him giving me a cuddle and then going into treatment.
"A regular and daily part of my recovery is to spend time with people with addiction issues. You feel grounded and connected and it's the most important part of my life."
So has the manic, supercharged Brand gone forever?
"There are still situations in my life that require an explosion, but I'm more discerning about what situations require it. Before, I just thought every situation required it."
The comedian, Hollywood actor, eco-warrior, former addict of drugs, booze and sex, broadcaster, writer of best-selling My Booky Wook memoirs and political activist has never sat still long enough to be pigeonholed.
He has now morphed into a children's author, having penned his version of The Pied Piper Of Hamelin, a cruder, ruder read than the original, in which the adults and the children - and the rats - are all as vile as each other, apart from one child.
"Someone told me, 'Forget the adults, they're all doomed, if you want to change the world you've got to influence young minds'," he says of his move into young fiction.
"Also, I have a very comfortable and natural rapport with young children. A lot of the work I've done (up to now) has been adult, because it's intellectually challenging or puerile and scatological and saucy. "I've not really had much access to children. I love kids and when I was a child I felt a bit lost and lonely, and I like the idea of being able to reach into that place of desolation and offer something hopeful and optimistic to children."
He would like to have children himself, he continues.
"I don't know if I want to settle down, though, but I certainly would like loads of children."
Brand's first attempt at writing for younger readers is edgier than, say, the writings of David Walliams, whose schoolboy humour is more controlled and perhaps more suitable for youngsters.
The problem is, where to place Brand's fairytale - on the teenage shelves or among an even younger readership? Given his former reputation as a cocaine-snorting, sex-mad comedian, are mothers who are concerned about their impressionable offspring going to be put off buying it because he's written it?
"Probably, but I don't know what goes on in other people's minds," he says. "I was just thinking of myself as a child. Kids are pretty smart.
"I thought, 'How do I talk to children?' I relax and feel free to be playful and imaginative.
"But how are they going to cope with having what an anarcho-egalitarian syndicate is explained to them, and what polygamy is and what bigamy is?"
"The Pied Piper is a folk tale that's been told to children for hundreds of years because there's something in that order of events that's an important message. It's not easy, but life isn't easy.
"When I was a kid, I questioned things. There were a lot of things I didn't trust. I want to talk to that feeling in young people if they are suspicious of authority or feel suspicious of the information that they're given, or that their potential is being limited.
"Folklore provides that code. It tells you: don't live in the illusion of the material because you will miss the real story. Be careful where you acquire your information, because the people that give you the information are limited and don't necessarily know what they are talking about."
Two more fairy tales are to be given the Brand treatment in his series of Trickster Tales, and he plans to do more adult books, documentaries and comedy, although he is vague about his work schedule.
"I don't have a plan. In me, there's something that's telling me the way to go and I just listen to it."
Last year, his Messiah Complex stand-up tour met with generally favourable reviews, as he turned his comedy towards hippie-lefty wisdom, taking a look at our insatiable craving for icons and divine wisdom. He also grabbed headlines when he was interviewed by Jeremy Paxman on Newsnight in what proved to be a battle of wills, Brand stating that he didn't vote and endorsing a system based on the "massive redistribution of wealth" to replace the status quo, encouraging a revolution. Paxman accused him of being facetious. More recently he addressed about 50,000 protestors of the People's Assembly Against Austerity in London, calling for a "peaceful, effortless, joyful revolution" that seizes power back from Westminster. He's also written Revolution, a rambling rant in which he calls for a global revolution involving radical wealth redistribution and spiritualism, squeezing all his meanderings about celebrity, politics and corruption in between.
"We've neglected what's important. We've prioritised and garlanded peculiar principles and ideas and have forgotten who we are, but it doesn't matter, because awakening is a momentary thing," he says today.
His activism may not be as headline-grabbing as his past personal life - including his 14-month marriage and quick divorce from pop star Katy Perry (far left) and his recent on-off relationship with Jemima Khan - but he's still famous.
It's been reported that Brand and Khan split in August after a year together and have "unfollowed" each other on Twitter, but he's remaining tight-lipped today.
"It's not beneficial to discuss it in interview situations, which is one of the lessons I've learned in life," he says firmly. "This is not a confession." He also refuses to talk about Perry.
So is he becoming more of a political activist than an entertainer?
"I hope everything is always entertaining," he reflects. "I think comedy is the most important thing I can give. My personal spiritual beliefs mean that a great deal of my time is spent just seeing what will happen, being awake and ready for spontaneity."
Brand will be 40 next year - no doubt there will be further headlines, further publicity, for whatever reason.
"I think by the time I reach 40, I'll be ready," he says. I don't think I've done the things that I'm here to do. I don't feel like I've really begun yet."
- Russell Brand's Trickster Tales: The Pied Piper Of Hamelin is out now, Canongate, £10. Revolution is out now, Century, £20