I WANT to ask Peter Capaldi about his debut album but first he wants to know what the weather is like in Glasgow. He’s planning a trip up for a few days and we spend a moment discussing sensible clothing to pack.

An instantly recognisable actor, there’s not much time spent in pubs these days while he is here but he does like to have a wander around. “I like going around the old parts of the city, where Glasgow emerges, then I will often find myself up around the art school,” he explains.

One crisp December evening a few years ago I was charging through shoppers on Buchanan Street when I was suddenly confronted by the elongated figure and tousled locks of Capaldi as he took a photograph of the police box that sits outside of The Ivy restaurant in the city centre. I relate this momentary, unexpected encounter to him, describing the blue box as “his old office”, an oblique reference to the TARDIS, and his role as the twelfth incarnation of Doctor Who.

He breaks into a cackle, then volunteers: “Sometimes I pass those – Glasgow’s one of the few places with police boxes – so if I see one I send a picture on to a friend of mine who is also in the same mode, shall we say,” giving an intriguing hint at a Time Lord WhatsApp group.

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For some people, Capaldi will always be Malcolm Tucker in The Thick Of It – a bombastic performance characterised by a hail of Scottish invective, creating a political satire monolith that continues to cast a shadow nine years after the show went off air. Being cast in Bill Forsyth’s Local Hero in 1983 was a breakthrough. Ten years later he would win an Oscar for Best Live Action Short Film as writer and director of a film about Franz Kafka that starred Richard E Grant. Then there was a memorable turn as Uncle Rory, a significant but infrequent presence in the television adaptation of The Crow Road. More recently, he starred as The Thinker in James Gunn’s The Suicide Squad. There’s a lot in the back-catalogue.

The Herald: Peter Capaldi as Cardinal Richelieu, right, in The Musketeers; and with Jenna Colman in Doctor Who

Before all that Peter started his performing career in music. While studying at The Glasgow School of Art, he put together a band, The Dreamboys, (future comedian Craig Ferguson was the drummer) and enjoyed a small part of the thriving music scene in the city at the time.

While his life went down a different road, he retains his love of music and has recorded a 10-track release called St Christopher. His relationship with music is more to do with storytelling and creating something new. “I’m not that guy who brings a guitar along to every party,” he says.

The story of the album started with an invitation from a friend, Robert Howard, the Scottish singer of The Blow Monkeys, to come along to a few recording sessions at his studio.

“Robert, who’s great and a wonderful musician, does this thing called the Monks Road Social, which is a conglomerate of musicians who put out an album every year, and they’re just happenings. I’d be encouraged to vaguely join in.” At one of these get-togethers Peter was asked if he had anything to record.

“I quickly put together a song, which they recorded in the space of a day, and it was so much fun. I thought: ‘Oh, I really want to do this again.’

“Over a period eight or nine months, I did that. I wrote stuff and sent it to Robert and we would ditch certain ones, and on then other ones he’d say: ‘Let’s hang onto that.’ ”

Did that first song that he wrote make it onto the album? “That was song called If I could Pray, which was released as a single to no acclaim last year. It got about two plays on the radio. That’s showbiz.”

When Peter was in Atlanta in the US to shoot The Suicide Squad he found he had time on his hands. He travelled to Nashville and started writing new songs. A band was assembled and a studio booked in London. Then lockdown intervened. They persevered.

“We just sent it back and forth over the digital ether and then sent it to the percussionist or some other musician who would add something wonderful to it. Because we had the option to do it, we thought: ‘Let’s just put this out and in a very low-key way, just start doing music.’ ”

The Herald: Peter Capaldi as Malcolm Tucker Peter Capaldi as Malcolm Tucker

There’s a lot of Glasgow in this record: echoes of Scotland set against a canvas of Americana guitar and retro synths. “I kept going back to a Glaswegian art school ‘80s vibe,” Peter says.

“The city itself, how it has such a power about it. Glasgow is a wonderful, noirish, synthy setting for things. Robert is very different and his musical experiences takes it in another direction occasionally, which is interesting.”

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The American elements enter via those Nashville trips. “When I went there it felt like the spiritual home of any Glaswegian. You feel so at home, the music is elemental and we’ve been fed it already.

“The melodrama and the sadness and the darkness and the joy that’s very present in country music: the west of Scotland is a cauldron of that stuff and we reach for it all the time.

“There’s always a wish among Glaswegian musicians to mythologise the place in music and I think I’m trying to do that as well.”

Peter is open to the idea of taking some of the songs out onto a stage but there’s no tour planned. “Maybe a theatre piece, I don’t know”. He won’t be signing up for a musical. “This isn’t a new career or anything. This is an exploration of my own interest, an expression of who I am, being a performer and an actor and a director. That inevitably leads me to conjure up things, I think, as opposed to making hit singles.”

There’s already one Capaldi in that game. “He’s fantastic and I’m so knocked out by Lewis and I’m so proud of him and he’s just incredible. This is not an attempt to be a pop star.”

If this record, then, picks up where he left off in music, revisiting a time and place, what does he remember of his art school days?

“That was a golden period. In the sense that the government did pay for kids to go into further education and it was an ideology that was respected and it allowed so many of us who came from humble backgrounds to come into these various professions because we were allowed to go and explore.

“Art school was a great melting pot of ideas. There was just a general ethos that you could do anything in that building off the top of the hill there and that you were part of the city. It was the late 70s moving into the 1980s.

“We’d hang out in Nico’s, the first place you could buy a cappuccino or go to The Griffin pub opposite The King’s Theatre. Maestro’s was a nightclub we all use to end up and there was always some piece of nonsense being planned there. We’d do gigs that were not organised or you’d be asked to join other bands to play.

“When we arrived at the art school, we were all dressed as Neil Young with long hair and great coats. Then in the summer the punk thing happened. So we all came back with plastic trousers and peroxide hair. It was very open to all the ideas in the zeitgeist. I didn’t realise it at the time, but it was the perfect place to be.”

St Christopher by Peter Capaldi is released by Monks Road Records on November 19. 

This interview was featured in Best of Scotland magazine, published monthly in The Herald on Sunday and Sunday National newspapers. You can read the November edition here