THERE once was a time when writers would live in fear of talking to Jean-Jacques 'JJ' Burnel – and with good reason.

The Stranglers bassist famously beat up punk journalist Jon Savage in 1977 for giving the band's hit, No More Heroes, a bad review.

Other dissenting reviewers were often kidnapped and abandoned in the wild while another French writer was gaffer-taped to a girder at the top of the Eiffel Tower — without his trousers.

But how things change because fast forward a few decades and JJ is a Daily Telegraph-reading advocate for the Queen. He is also utterly charming and affable.

He said: "If the monarch ‘plays the game’ and stays above politics, countries with a constitutional monarchy are more satisfied.

"That is providing the Queen doesn’t go elephant hunting in Africa during a recession like Juan Carlos did.

"Constitutional monarchs don’t have to be ex-politicians promising such and such to be elected as head of state.

"If they’re not very popular the morale of the country goes down. So in the UK there’s a continuity which doesn’t exist elsewhere."

It might be strange to be chatting about the merits of the royal family with a man that was was jailed in France for allegedly inciting a riot, arrested in Australia for swearing on primetime TV and escorted out of Sweden under armed guard during his riotous youth.

But JJ has always liked to surprise people – and what will surprise many, especially their detractors, is that The Stranglers marked their 40th anniversary in September.

The band, who wrote Golden Brown and Peaches, are one of the few to survive the tumultuous 70s punk scene.

"We always knew we would outlive everyone," added JJ.

"They’re either dead or have self-destructed. We still get on well and I suppose that eliminates a lot of the problems.

"When you don’t have the same vision or if you’re not pulling in the same direction you can get tired of it all or disillusioned.

"We haven’t had that. We’ve supported each other so that’s been an immense help.

"I think the most important for me has been to avoid any cynicism or world weariness and try and hear or see things as I did before when I was much younger.

"I’m also interested in what’s happening in the world so that feeds my curiosity and allows me to try and write about things as you write about the world in which you live in."

So what has been the secret to remaining in the public eye for 40 years?

JJ, aged 62, said: "We’ve challenged people musically and so we've stimulated their interest and we haven’t become clichés of what we once were. We reflect our age a bit more.

"Also all the troubles we got involved in earlier are now seen as a badge of honour because everything’s pretty sterile now and any shock horror headlines seem fabricated in this age of X Factor and Pop Idol."

But it has not been the music so much as his interest in karate that has kept JJ standing.

He is a black-belt sixth dan karate master who has been training for 43 years and he said the discipline was just what he was needed when he was trying to go clean.

"It helped focus my life in so many different ways," JJ told Weekend in October.

"Actually I’m off to Japan tomorrow for a month to train with my masters.

"It brings you back down to earth. A lot of musicians and artists live in an unreal world and the more successful you are the more cocooned you are from reality

"You start losing touch from normal people and just normal life and that’s not healthy and you can come back to earth with a big bang if it goes

"I’ve had some extremes with my habits and my life and karate has helped steer me back on course."

The Stranglers have covered every musical genre from pop to prog and metal to jazz so does JJ still think of himself as a 'punk'

"The word meant something to me a long time ago," said the bassist, who once brawled with the Sex Pistols and The Clash.

"I always thought the word had a very broad definition to describe a whole spontaneous thing which wasn’t really musically identifiable. It was about attitude.

"But then it got sort of hijacked by fundamentalists who narrowed it down so suddenly I felt excluded from that.

"I don’t like anything that restricts you musically. But I think the spirit remains with The Stranglers. It’s the can-do spirit.

"It’s the vibe and the party atmosphere. In the 70s we were having punch-ups every night and just trying to survive.

"Those days are over. People are coming to see us. They don’t want to smash up the gig, they want a good time.

- The Stranglers play at Manchester Academy on Saturday, March 21. Visit or call 0844 811 0051 for tickets.