THINGS have been weird for Ali Campbell since he announced his split from UB40, the massively successful British reggae band he formed with his brother Robin and six schoolfriends nearly 30 years ago.

The Dorset-based vocalist has experienced the pain of being shunned by his former band-mates and the joy of launching a new band in which he can play what he wants without having to put every decision to an eight man vote.

But he says breaking from the group of musicians who have been his life for more than 28 years was far from easy. First there was the public slanging match in the press with Ali saying he'd walked out because of "management issues" but the band claiming that there had been no problems.

Then, amid dark mutterings that the 49-year-old singer was really more interested in promoting his solo career, there was the ordeal of his final gigs with UB40. Not just a couple of dates but a full scale tour of Australia and New Zealand followed by concerts in Hong Kong, Dubai, Kampala and Entebbe.

Ali, who has a luxury cliff-top home just outside Bournemouth, admits there have been some harsh words, but says: "There's nothing I can do about it."

And referring not just to his brother Robin but also the rest of his long-time UB40 colleagues, he told me: "We were brothers before and we'll be brothers again. Just not for the moment."

During his final UB40 concerts earlier this year he would regularly travel in a separate car and leave the theatre immediately after coming off stage but the former hard-living rock star says that this was for health reasons.

"I've been doing runners from shows on doctor orders. I was doing that on the British tour long before I said I was leaving the band. It's just to avoid parties and look after the sliver of liver I've got left."

Acutely aware of the price of his past excesses, Ali says he doesn't drink anymore and does his best to take care of himself, although he remains a steadfast devotee of ganja.

"I still smoke weed but then I don't consider that to be very harmful. It's good for MS glaucoma, Alzheimer's..."

I gently remind him that he doesn't have MS, glaucoma or Alzheimer's. Ali laughs. He laughs: "Maybe, but I reckon it's preventative."

He says that after former manager Bill Curbishley - the man who masterminded The Who - was "got rid of" his own departure from UB40 gradually became an inevitability.

"I'd been kinda gritting my teeth for four years. It was strictly a management thing. If there was different management there I would still be with the band."

It is clear that Ali found himself at odds with his fellow musicians. "I moaned so much over the past couple of years but every time I brought it up the rest of the band were saying Just shut up.' It wasn't getting seriously dealt with. I thought: I can't carry on like this.' "I was disappointed that the band wanted to stick with the situation as it was. I just thought OK you go your way, I'll go mine.' I was perplexed by the situation but something had to happen."

Looking on the bright side, Ali's new outfit The Dep Band - "made up of some hard core reggae session musicians that I've known for a while" - has been rehearsing hard and is preparing for its first UK tour this summer including a hometown date for Ali at the Bournemouth International Centre in June.

He admits its been a bit of a learning curve: "It's really fun but it was quite a scary step to take. I've never been in another band. I know nothing but UB40. We sort of left school and took our social circle on the road. Those who weren't in the band worked as road crew. So I've never had the chance to experience anything like this before."

With Dougie, his personal roadie for the past 28 years, on board, he admits that he at least has "a comfort blanket".

"In some ways things are exactly as they've always been. It's just that the guys in the band are different."

They're playing familiar music too with a repertoire that includes all the big UB40 hits plus Ali Campbell's solo material and, perhaps more significantly, a selection of long admired personal favourites that he's never had the chance to perform live on stage before.

As far as Ali's concerned it's all turned out well in the end. "Anyone who liked UB40 will benefit because there's twice as much of it out there," he tells me. "Listen I'd been with the band for 28 years. I could have killed every one of them and got out sooner than that. It's had its time. Now it's time for Ali Campbell and The Dep Band.

  • Ali Campbell and The Dep Band play the Bournemouth International Centre on Wednesday, June 4.