The man behind the scruffy donkey jacket, the unshaven face and skewed spectacles is pulling no punches - but it never was Mark-Anthony Turnage's style to be mild. Within minutes of settling into the civilised peace of London's Dover Street Arts Club, Turnage is on the rampage. Classical critics who characterise his jazz-infused music as smoochy are "superficial". Contemporary music festivals that focus exclusively on the avant-garde "must be pretty boring. They think my stuff shouldn't exist". Writing The Silver Tassie , his grand opera about the first world war, was a "chore" that he "hated". And he would "never" give one of his pieces a title such as symphony or concerto. "I'd be considered a conservative. It doesn't sit well with me."
Is this the 47-year-old whom colleagues describe as "much mellowed" since his marriage to cellist Gabriella Swallow, his third wife? Shooting from the hip was more a trait of the 1980s Turnage, who burst on to the international scene with Greek , his opera about an uncaring urban society. But after a dip in creative energy during the composition of Tassie and a slough of despond following the break-up of his second marriage, Turnage has rediscovered his edge. He is collaborating with Richard Thomas, of Jerry Springer - The Opera fame, on a tragi-comedy for Covent Garden about the cult of celebrity, for which he says the audience will need advance "warnings" - presumably a reference to bad language and blasphemy, both part of the Turnage lexicon despite (or perhaps because of) his upbringing in a strictly religious Essex family.