OVER the years Hugh Cornwell has got himself into plenty of rather strange situations, but not as bizarre as being a queue to meet Madonna.

“I was at a party a few years ago,” he begins, “which was basically being held for her.

“It was a really great party, but at some stage I had to use the bathroom, so I looked around and saw this queue. Thinking it was the queue for the loo, I joined it, but then was wondering why it was taking so long.

“I asked this guy next to me what was with this queue and he said: ‘well she is spending 15 minutes with each person’ and I discovered it was the queue to meet Madonna, like it was some royal audience or something.

“So I quickly left the queue, hoping no one had noticed me, and went to find the real bathroom.”

This story is one of the many which has inspired the songs on his most recent release, Totem and Taboo, from the former Stranglers frontman.

As original guitarist, singer and main songwriter of the new wave act that sprung out of the UK punk scene in the late Seventies, he had ten hit albums and 21 top 40 singles, including No More Heroes; Peaches and Golden Brown.

“We had some crazy times. I can’t remember much of it,” Hugh adds.

“The gigs were very raucous occasions, but I’m sure a lot of gigs would get like that now. I’m not one of those people who looks back with rose-tinted glasses and says everything was so much better then.”

Since he stepped off the stage after a sold-out Stranglers’ gig at Alexandra Palace in the summer of 1990, and announced it was the last time he would be fronting the group, he has revelled in his musical freedom.

Born in North London, Hugh started his musical career at the age of 14, appearing in several school bands.

It was during his time in Sweden, studying for a Phd in bio-chemistry, that he formed his first band, and on his return to London, that group transformed into the Stranglers.

“Between 1975 and 1976, we did two years touring,” he says, “which was pretty gruelling work. Then the hard work paid off with the signing of our record deal. It’s the same old story, you’ve got to go out and do the miles on the road.”

Something he’s still doing today.

“This year it will be about a hundred gigs,” Hugh tells me, “which actually is quite a quiet one for me. I’ve got some festivals coming up and then I’m off to America in the autumn.

“I’m looking forward to the Isle of Wight Festival this weekend. I’ve never played there before, but I have been. In fact, when I was very young, I went to see Bob Dylan play and my tent got burgled, so I kind of went back home with my tail between my legs.”

He’s also looking forward to his headline slot at Wivenhoe House Hotel’s inaugural Rock at the House at the end of the month.

“Yeah, I’ve got some really good friends who live in Wivenhoe,” he reveals, “so I’m down there a fair bit. It’s a nice place and they’re coming along to see me so I’m really looking forward to it.”

I’m sure Hugh fits in well with the boho residents of Wivenhoe town as a musician, a novelist and filmmaker.

Later this year, Hugh’s second novel, Arnold Drive, is being released, the story of a vicar made redundant by the closing down of his church.

“I wanted to investigate my feelings about religion,” he explains. “I was writing the book at the time I wrote the album so you can see similarities.

“The problem with me is I get bored really easily and that’s basically how I started writing. I broke up with a girlfriend and needed something to occupy my time.”

Rock at the House
Wivenhoe House Hotel,
Wivenhoe Park, Essex
June 22. 4pm to 11.30pm.
£27.50 adults, £22.50 students. 01206 863666.