As opening interview gambits go it's an unconventional one, but then Jean-Jacques 'JJ' Burnel and The Stranglers always were rather outré.

"You look a bit like me… I wonder if I f****d your mum?”

Though they're known as pioneers of punk they defied many of the genre's conventions with looping basslines, flashy keyboard licks inspired by psychedelia and dark, literary lyrics.

They've also, unlike most of their contemporaries, achieved longevity - the band celebrate their 50th anniversary this year.

Burnel is the only original Strangler remaining in the group - two dead, one irrevocably estranged - but the Meninblack are still going strong and will celebrate the milestone with an extensive UK tour.

The bassist says: "It feels like a sort of vindication. In the early days we were dismissed – we’ve been dismissed loads of times actually – and there was quite a vociferous antagonism toward The Stranglers. So it’s two fingers up.

“We weren’t part of the London set with Malcolm McLaren and all that, plus we put a few noses out of joint when we were asked to be the first band ever to play with Patti Smith when she came over to Europe. We were also asked to represent London for the American bicentenary when The Ramones came over for the first time.

“For some reason, I don’t know why, we were chosen over the other bands and they were a bit pissed off by that.

“There was a slight altercation between myself and the bass player of The Clash (Paul Simonon) which was witnessed by a lot of people, but especially the press, so the music press was down on us for a while.

Read More: The Stranglers on Scottish crowds, 50 years and the ultimate T in the Park moment

"The fact that we had a keyboard pissed off a lot of people, but also we weren’t following the new orthodoxy. Who makes up these rules anyway? We didn’t follow any of those conventions we just wanted to write music and fortunately it touched a lot of other people.

“Also, we didn’t have such fancy clothes – we just had genuine holes in our jeans, not the ones you pay extra for."

If The Stranglers never fit comfortably into the stylistic norms of punk they were certainly on the frontlines of the movement, which meant battling the attendant moral panic.

Following a gig by the group at the City Halls in 1977, punk acts were effectively barred from Glasgow by the council.

Burnel says: "In the early days I kind of embraced the whole punk thing, the others maybe not so much.

“A lot of the bands you’re talking about – The Clash, The Sex Pistols, The Damned – were coming to see us way before they’d formed their own bands.

The Herald:

"We were also one of the few bands to be playing outside of the metropolis at the time. There were bands like Johnny and the Self-Abusers, who later became Simple Minds, but these bands saw us live because we were playing live in their towns.

“We suffered at the hands of people who were very anti-punk because of the bad publicity in the national news, so we were the ones getting attacked, bottled, and having tyres slashed rather than the posers in London.

“It even happened in Glasgow. At Strathclyde University we had to lock ourselves in the dressing room because they were trying to get in and beat the shit out of us.

“I think the point Glasgow embraced us was when we had the whole of Glasgow City Council come to a gig to ascertain whether or not bands of 'our ilk' would be allowed into the town.

“We made a point of saying ‘every band’s different, we’re not on any bandwagon, you have to judge everyone individually’.

“We also spent nights in the cells in Glasgow, but I think the city embraced the rebellious spirit we had.”

Despite the controversy The Stranglers became one of Britain's most successful bands, with 'No More Heroes', 'Peaches', and 'Something Better Change' reaching the top 10 while 'Golden Brown' was kept off top spot only by The Jam's 'A Town Called Malice'.

Then, in 1990, frontman Hugh Cornwell abruptly decided the band had gone as far as it could and departed.

Read More: 'I'm more Stranglers than them' - Hugh Cornwell on film, lasagne and the band he left

"I thought that was it," Burnel says. "I thought we’d had our time. But Jet (Black) and Dave (Greenfield) disagreed, and since I’d started to write the majority of the material they said ‘we must persist’ - just to stick the finger up to Hugh, who we felt had betrayed us.

"It’s not the happiest time of my time with The Stranglers because I was very close to him… or I thought I was. Obviously he didn’t think the same."

Did the announcement come out of the blue?

"To the rest of us, yeah. But obviously he’d been preparing his move. Before he left the band, about a year or half a year before, he was playing with the guy who wrote I’d Like To Teach The World to Sing, and I think he wanted to act a bit – because what the world needs is another lead singer who thinks he can act.

“We felt a sense of betrayal.

"We had a few years of ever-decreasing circles, and I was kind of losing interest but then Baz (Warne) joined the band and something clicked.

The Herald: Jean-Jacques Burnel and Baz Warne of The Stranglers

“The thing is… loyalty… you have to earn loyalty.

“I think, in respect to The Stranglers certainly, we’ve earnt it.

“Baz joined the band and things started going from bad to better, to the point that now worldwide it doesn’t really matter that I’m the only original.

“The Stranglers have proven themselves time and time again live – we can cut it.

“I don’t know, are The Stranglers now a brand? One thing I know is that we do justice to the material live.”

The group will play Edinburgh's Usher Hall and Glasgow's Clyde Auditorium on their 50th anniversary tour and - give or take the odd night in the cells - have a deep connection to Scotland.

Singer Warne is married to a Scot, and used to holiday north of the border. Burnel has his own Caledonian connections - and some thoughts on the independence movement.

Read More: Tony Blackburn on dealing with depression, divorce...and John Peel

He says: "Some of the best memories are the people – they are exceptional. To the point I’ve been living with a Scots girl for 20 years.

“Scotland has a very special place in my heart, for various reasons, and thank God for the Scots that’s all I can say.

"Years ago I was at a party and I met Billy Connolly. I’d just released an album called Euroman Cometh, which was about the United States of Europe essentially.

“I said to him, ‘one day the Scots will seek independence’ and he said ‘no, no we won’t’.

“I know it’s quite a contentious subject nowadays in Scotland, but I think the Scots have proven for centuries that they’re Scottish – everyone knows they’re Scottish they don’t necessarily need to destroy a union which has been quite successful.

“I’ll get criticised for it, but I think there’s more that binds Scotland to the island than doesn’t.

“I think it’s a bit unnatural. For instance, Ireland will eventually be one country, one state, because it’s not natural for an island to be split up, you know? It’s kind of an unnatural thing.”

While they may be celebrating a milestone, the upcoming tour won't be a nostalgia trip. The Stranglers will play two sets, spanning all five decades of their career.

The Herald: The Stranglers

The bassist says: "Because it is 50 years, and because that’s relatively rare – when we started out we never knew we’d exist for more than four or five years – I want to make the point of playing some stuff that we haven’t ever played live.

“It has to be a celebration of 50 years, I don’t want to just do the hits. We will probably sing quite a few hits, because we’ve had a few, but I wanted to split the first set into stuff that we don’t do too often, have a half hour break and then a longer second set.

"Over the years there have been times where I really didn’t want to play ‘Golden Brown’, or I didn’t want to play ‘Something Better Change’ because I didn’t feel for them anymore – what’s the point of just going through the motions playing something could play blindfold if you don’t feel for it?

“So there have been times where we’ve dropped songs, because I don’t want The Stranglers to be a cabaret band."

As well as the tour, the 50th anniversary may also finally see the release of Death + Night + Blood, Scots director David Boni's documentary about the history of the band.

The film has been screened once in Brixton but never given a wider release as Cornwell hasn't agreed to the use of the Stranglers' music. The former frontman says there's a financial deal to be done, but isn't involved with the project and says it "focuses on the wrong things".

Asked if it could finally see the light of day Burnel says: "I think so. There have been a few legal things that have happened, for instance the Sex Pistols series (directed by Danny Boyle and released on Disney+). The court decided that the band could have it even though (John) Lydon objected.

“The film was actually directed by a Scots guy. We’re hoping that we might have a release at the end of this year, but the issue was that Hugh didn’t want it to be released.

“I think there’s a better chance than there has been for five or six years.”

The Stranglers will play Glasgow's Clyde Auditorium on March 8, 2024 and Edinburgh's Usher Hall the following day - tickets are available here