Rolling Stone said that rock’n’roll peaked with Pere Ubu’s debut album. Now, after two near-death experiences, the ‘avant garage’ band are back – with an adaptation of Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales

‘I’ve been dead twice,” grins Pere Ubu’s David Thomas, over Zoom from his flat in Hove. “Death is very overrated. It was like being asleep. Once I was brought back by the ambulance crew. My wife said ‘Those guys worked like demons on you.’ The other time I woke up in ICU with all this stuff attached to me and it turned out I’d died again. I woke up and the doctor said, “You’re David Thomas!’’ It turned out that he’d been at the same Pere Ubu show that Ian Rankin had seen in the 70s, and was a lifelong fan.”

Now 68, seated in front of his computer in a furry hoody, the drily-humoured Ohioan cuts a more subdued figure than the “enigmatic giant of a singer” Rankin has subsequently remembered shouting requests at during that gig at Edinburgh University in 1978. Thomas needs kidney dialysis three times a week, and when he gets up to answer the door he needs a walker. But while he may no longer bark out lyrics while careering about the stage, his spirit is indefatigable. “I’m not in the best of health, but my singing voice is better than it’s ever been,” he insists, cheerily. “I’m sort of glad that I can’t jump around any more because I don’t have to worry about falling into the drums. All my concentration goes into singing.”

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