Russell Brand's got issues

The comic once called 'a vile predator' gives his own, measured, account of a dispute that delighted the tabloids

He is wickedly funny and devilishly handsome, with a sly charm that makes women and men go giggly. Five days ago he was declared the "most stylish man of the year". But Russell Brand, notorious comedy lothario, is lonely.

"Even with things going this well, I ain't that happy. I am a bit sad," admits the lavishly-dressed 31-year-old who is suddenly everywhere, selling the Brand brand on television, on tour and on magazine covers. And getting into nasty spats with ageing pop legends.

"My life lacks a proper nucleus," Brand said in his first interview since a highly public on-stage confrontation with Rod Stewart on Tuesday.

The row was about Stewart's daughter, which will be no surprise to those who see Brand as a womaniser - or worse. Dannii Minogue reportedly called him a "vile predator", which still upsets him. "That's out of order," he said. "I'm just a man. I'm a bit chatty. I like girls, you know. 'Vile predator'? If that's the language you're going to use about someone who really ought to be described as 'having a bit of an eye for the ladies', then what sort of language are you left with for Peter Sutcliffe and Ian Huntley?" His voice pitches somewhere between Kenneth Williams and Mick Jagger. "You know, I'd like to get a girlfriend," said Brand.

On Tuesday he launches a new live comedy show for the digital channel E4, Russell Brand's Got Issues. Days later he will start a stand-up tour. That is on top of hosting shows for BBC radio and MTV, and preparations for a Radio 2 sitcom. None of this is enough. Having beaten heroin, the former addict is now fighting a different set of cravings. "I'd like to feel a bit more settled and at ease and not feel constantly driven towards achievement - devoured, consumed and discarded as a husk the moment it touches my lips."

On stage at the Royal Opera House on Tuesday for the GQ Awards, Brand tossed a casual barb at a singer in the audience. "Here's to Rod Stewart, who had a go at me earlier this year for too much womanising. But then again, I did have a go at his daughter."

Stewart, apparently furious, went up to collect an award moments later and hit back. "You went with my daughter, did you? Russell stand up."

Brand did as he was told by the 61-year-old star, who has his own reputation for womanising, and mumbled "I took her out for one evening." He and Kimberley Stewart, 27, dined at the Cuckoo Club in Londonthis summer. "I never touched that girl," he said. "Fucking right you didn't," responded Stewart from the stage. "You musn't come up here and boast. I speak as a father."

The tabloids loved this apparent slanging match. But after the ceremony the two posed together for pictures, and Brand told the IoS: "That thing with Rod was made to look like a feud and it annoyed me. After that initial fascination with seeing myself in the tabloids, it has become scary because they extract you from yourself."

What the tabloids did not say is that the men have the same publicist. "I said what I said as a joke. He responded as a joke."

Some famous girlfriends, such as Kate Moss, have raised his profile, but he insisted they have been a double-edged sword. "Being in the tabloids gets a bit boring. It's not what I'm about. It's a tiny fraction of who I am. I'm not just some bloke going around being lecherous. I like being charming but I've not got a sexual motivation."

Unpredictable and reckless behaviour did not help his rise. Brand was sacked as an MTV host in 2001 after dressing as Osama bin Laden the day after the attacks on New York and Washingon. But his manager John Noel had faith and forced him into rehab. "Without that," he said, "I would have died."

In the past Brand was diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and bipolar disorder. But the camped-up, live-wire performer an audience sees is not necessarily replicated in private, he says. "Outside of performing I'm not a particularly confident person. I'm shy, awkward, nervous, gauche."

Really? "Yeah, really. My confidence is for what I know that I'm good at. I've been sculpted by failure and by time. You see me doing my job. You know, obviously I am different when I am chatting to my mum. Or playing with my cat. People are multi-faceted, aren't they?"

Despite appearances, he insists that his style is not a carefully constructed conceit.

"I didn't emerge from the womb with this ludicrous haircut wearing pointy boots, talking all Victorian," he said. "But neither did I sit plotting in an attic and thinking, 'ooh, it would be good if I suddenly spoke like that, if I mangled grammar a bit and started to wear tight clothes'. These things are accumulative, like anybody's identity is accumulative."

Brand trained as an actor for three years and has been doing stand-up comedy for more than a decade. "I've had a few lucky things, but then I have had the momentum of years of toil, pain, agony and humiliation, which I have endured and single-mindedly continued, when all about me were telling me I was insane. I think that is why all this is happening now."

His next ambition is to become a film actor. "I'll work in television for a year or so and then I'll make the transition to films. If there is this level of interest from newspapers now I'd be intrigued to know what will happen when I'm making $100m."

And he will continue to read his own cuttings. "I really do care what people think about me. It really, really hurts my feelings when I read some things. I think: 'Why would someone say that? And why would people believe that?' It makes me very sad that they're so judgmental."

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