Ricky Gervais has resurrected his comedy persona and now David Brent has a triple-threat of a new film, songbook and album Life On The Road coming out.

The 55-year-old actor, director and producer who was seen filming his new film in Watford has not only recently splashed out on a £2.75 million home overlooking the Thames at Marlow, but recorded the album at Abbey Road and will perform it live at Hammersmith Apollo this September.

We caught up with him on the eve of the film’s release.

Watford Observer:

When you decided to bring back the David Brent character did you always have this album in mind?

No, it was all an evolution, I didn’t sit down one day and go, ‘Bing! I’ve got a great idea: I’m going to do David Brent: The Movie’.

And also an album. I think people think The Office finished for me in 2003 but it didn’t really because I was always managing the estate of The Office and David Brent.

I was one of the executive producers of the American Office, and not a day went by when I didn’t have to clear a clip for a quiz machine, or okay something for a chat show that someone from The Office was on, so it never really went away.

But I did say I’d never bring back The Office and I never will bring back The Office because it would be bizarre that the same people would be behind the same desks in Slough, and this was always a fake documentary steeped in realism that always tried to reflect the world then. So this (film) is the same, but different.

I deliberately made it about Brent because I think that is the person you would follow; that is the character in this fake documentary back at the turn of the century that craved fame.

And The Office was about fame. Apart from me working in an office for ten years, which was the biggest influence on The Office, I’d watched a lot of those docusoaps back in the ‘90s which were quite quaint.

They’d be about a normal guy or woman who’d got their 15 minutes and now they’d got a DVD to show the grandkids or whatever. But now fame is different, it’s insatiable.

people do live their lives like an open wound to be famous for another 15 minutes.

They don’t think they’re alive unless they’re in the papers or in a reality show or letting the cameras in their life 24/7.

There’s also a difference now between fame and infamy. People have learned that they can do something terrible just to keep this dream alive. People would rather be famous for being awful than not be famous, and that’s got worse and worse.

When people see this film they’ll probably feel that David Brent’s a bit nicer. But he isn’t really. He was always alright, but it was just that back in The Office he was the boss and he should have known better.

He was 39 and there was still some hope for him and he worked with basically nice people. Now the world has changed behind his back.

So he’s the same – maybe slightly different because we all change in 15 years, maybe he’s slightly subdued and slightly more desperate, but he’s now in an office full of alpha males and now the world is crueller so he seems a bit nicer.

We like him more because we feel sorry for him: he’s 55, he’s more tragic, he’s more desperate, he’s spent his life savings on this folly, this vanity project (of going out on the road), this desperate need to be loved.

And since The Office we’ve had The Apprentice where people get on it by saying, “I will destroy anyone who stands in my way” and you’ve got a potential President saying things like, “Get him out, I’d like to punch him in the face!” When did that happen?!

So the film still reflects society and the workplace, it’s just a workplace that is 15 years later than when people first saw The Office.

You did some live David Brent gigs a few years ago, but at what point did you decide to focus on his songs and music?

Yes, the thing that started it all off was in 2012 when Richard Curtis asked me to do something for Comic Relief. I think he always hoped I’d do something with David Brent, and I just thought, ‘Well now it’s been long enough, now I can do Brent’.

It was ten years after we’d seen him and I thought it might be nice to take a glimpse just for five minutes into his life.

And that sketch was all about him working as a salesman still, in Slough, but he’d taken a young rapper (Dom Johnson) under his wing because he thought he was the local Simon Cowell, and you saw the first inkling of him worming his way in to the person he’s managing, which happens quite a lot in the industry.

You know, studio bosses suddenly wanting to be a producer, the producer suddenly popping up in the album – it happens quite a lot.

People never let the dream go when they’re meant to be behind the scenes. So there was a bit of a social comment there, but the fun was in the fact that he was ruining it.

He was spending his money on this demo for this rapper, and of course he popped up himself and ruined it.

Watford Observer:

So I sort of got re-hooked on Brent, and then the video (of Equality Street) we did got a life of its own. Equality Street was a throwaway line in The Office, an ad lib.

Brent said, ‘I’ve got a political reggae song called Equality Street’! Which was just the gag. Then I thought, ‘I could write that song’. So I did, and that happened a few times.

On the album, there are 16 tracks and most of them are new but you do get to hear the old ones like Freelove Freeway and the second verses of Paris Nights and Spaceman, and of course I wrote those in retrospect, but I wrote them how David Brent would have written them at the end of the ‘80s, or the middle of the ‘90s, and so I’ve sort of created this whole world around him.

In the film you see his original band Foregone Conclusion and what they’re doing now, you see what he’s done since The Office, what he went through. You catch up from when he left to the present day and then you go on the journey with him. So it was all an evolution really and then you piece it together.

But the moment I thought I could do a movie was probably only a year before I did. It suddenly all fitted and felt like a great idea. And you get so excited because it has to be the same but different. When people who love The Office say they want to see more, they mean they want to see an episode of The Office they haven’t seen before.

They want it to be just the same, but different. It’s like I wish I’d never seen The Godfather so I could watch it tonight. So it’s got to be the same but different.

If it’s the same, they say, ‘Well I’ve seen that’. If it’s different, they say, ‘Well that’s not what I liked’. So you can’t win and you have to make it a different thing.

So this film is not The Office, this is the guy from The Office and what he’s doing now. And also it’s worth saying that documentaries have changed. I had to reflect what a modern-day documentary team would do: they’d have more access, it would be more confessional, a bit glitzier: vistas, scope... proper interviews about his life, which you would have never seen in 2001 in those docusoaps.

Back then people didn’t tell you everything in their first interview. Now the trailer for an interview with a reality star is just the breakdown... the screaming and crying! It’s all so different now.

Yes now documentaries have to have a teaser in the first few seconds to show how exciting it’s going to be...

Oh yes it’s all filmed like a proper movie, it’s all exciting and sharper and faster. I couldn’t get away just doing 90 minutes of awkward silences. But it is the same person and it is still about excruciating social faux pas and a man in freefall, near breakdown and desperation. And it is worse in many ways, because he’s a bit older and sadder.

But it is also about his music and if people think they’re going to get Glee or something particularly glamorous, they’re not! The victories here are small.

The film is much more than just David Brent doing his music and songs isn’t it?

Yes it has to be much more than that. If it was just a string of ten funny songs with bits in between it would be like a sketch show. You need a lot more for a movie; a lot more than you’d have in a half-hour sitcom, too. There has to be a much bigger and deeper trajectory, and it has to be more emotional. You have to go through as much as the characters do, in a way.

So you do see his normal life. He is still working in a very boring job – he’s working for a cleaning products firm in Slough called Lavichem. And he’s a bit of an old ghost who’s never let go of this dream and everyone thinks he’s an idiot for wasting his hard-earned cash and cashing in his pensions. But it is a dream and he means it and he tries his hardest and I admire him for that.

He’s looking for something, and he finds bits and pieces of it. But it is a case of ‘be careful what you wish for’, and even though it’s more tragic it’s also funny and slightly bigger I suppose, but it has to be because it’s a movie.

It’s always difficult to know what people are expecting and you mustn’t worry about what people are expecting. I think you’ve got to see the film to really understand it. You cannot imagine what this film is like without seeing it – it goes from emotion to pathos to caper to tragedy. It’s a real movie, not an episode of The Office or a tie-in special. I wanted to make something that demanded a cinema release, and I think it does. I hope it does.

In terms of creating the music and the album, how did you go about putting Brent’s band together?

Well behind the scenes I got a fantastic band together, with Andy Burrows from Razorlight, and within the narrative of the film this is justified by Brent hemorrhaging cash to pay for a bunch of mercenary session musicians and they are the best session musicians around. But it does him no good because no one is going to sign a 55-year-old rep dancing round singing daft songs. And that’s part of it: he doesn’t quite get it. He seems to do everything right.

The songs aren’t bad, though. They’re not comedy songs as such. It’s the back-story that makes them funny. Take Freelove Freeway – that’s not a bad tune. Same with all the songs. They’re not ludicrous comedy songs. David Brent takes all the songs deadly seriously. He’s not a bad songwriter, he’s not a bad singer, he’s got a great band but it’s never going to work - because of who and what he is.

Watford Observer:

And again, he’s been sold a lie because when he was trying at 28 it might just have happened, but now he thinks it’s alright because he’s seen The X Factor and Britain’s Got Talent where people think, ‘I can be Paul Potts or Susan Boyle’, and you sort of can but you’re never going to be Bruce Springsteen. And that’s what he wants to be. He wants success and credibility and he can’t have it.

Did you ever think of having him audition for one of those talent shows like X Factor or The Voice?

Yeah, but I just think that’s just a sketch. And a film has to be a little bit deeper. But we did have to work at the backstory. You’ve seen David Brent And Foregone Conclusion live so you know this fictional act in real life does sell out the Hammersmith Apollo and they cheer and laugh and they’re in on the joke.

But in the movie, the audiences had to be 15 people who didn’t know what was going on, and were wondering - why was this old guy singing songs about Native Americans? But I think people know this is a fictional character that exists but they can treat him like a real person and go and see him live as if he’s stepped out of the TV or movie theatre.

So it does spill into the real world. A bit like how the winner of X Factor spills in to the real world. We’re watching a reality game show and that’s what Simon Cowell is selling in the single that gets released: the last two minutes of that show. He’s got to be fast because if that single is released six months later he’s missed the boat.

David Brent & Foregone Conclusion: Life On The Road is released on CD, LP (12 inch vinyl), and digital download on August 19 on Caroline International

The original motion picture David Brent: Life On The Road is released in cinemas by Entertainment One on August 19/ David Brent Songbook by David Brent out now RRP £12.99 (Blink Publishing)