CIGARETTE perched out of the corner of his mouth, he has wowed stadiums with his guitar playing for years.
But Rolling Stone Keith Richards reckons most of his life has been lost in a haze of smoke.
And the rock ’n’ roll survivor admits he still likes to get stoned out of his mind on cannabis.
“Keef”, whose career has been awash with drugs, confesses: “I smoke my head off. I smoke weed all the damn time. There, you’ve got it.
“But that’s my benign weed. That’s all I take, that’s all I do.
“But I do smoke and I’ve got some really good hash.”
Keith and Stones singer Mick Jagger were famously arrested in 1967 when police raided Richards’ country home in Sussex.
‘ The drugs? They were great. Drugs now? I'm on medication. Drugs . . . wonderful things, I don't see anything . . . it's a very dodgy subject ’
The former heroin addict was criticised when he breached the newly imposed smoking ban by lighting up a cigarette on stage during a gig at London’s O2 Arena last August.
He responded by EATING a fag on stage at a Stones show a few days later.
Hitting out at the controversial ban, he said: “It’s a drag because you’ve got to freeze your balls off to light a cigarette, you’ve got to go outside.
“It’s draconian – socially, politically-correct bulls***. That’s what it is. They’ll get over it.
“It’s like prohibition, they tried to stop booze once. Ha, look what happened. It ruined America.”
Keith goes on to reveal he SPITS at Stones drummer Charlie Watts on stage if he can’t keep up his interest on the show. And Charlie has confirmed: “He does – so it’s good for him not to get bored!”
Keith is writing his life story – but unsurprisingly finds racking his brain difficult.
And maybe it’s not just the drugs. He underwent brain surgery in 2006 after he suffered head injuries falling out of a tree on the island of Fiji.
Mick Jagger is said to have had memory problems too. He once handed back a seven-figure advance for his autobiography, claiming he couldn’t remember much of significance.
Keith admits: “I can’t even remember yesterday. I’m trying to put together an autobiography and it’s coming along.
“You have to drag things out of your memory. Some of it you don’t even want to remember and others you’ve totally forgotten, so you end up trying to put your life together again.
“And since I didn’t keep a diary it’s a bit difficult.
“It’s a little bit like life, really. Some of it’s a little bit painful and some of it you go, ‘Yeah, I forgot about that, or that was great’.
“But it’s reviewing yourself and that’s not my habit.”
So do the Stones talk when they’re not on the road?
Hellraiser Keith says: “Not a lot really, probably once a year.
“A few faxes, notes here and there. If you’re stuck on the road for two and a half years together you’ve said just about everything you’ve got to say to each other.
“Faxes are as far as I get, then you can do drawings – you can express yourself. It’s like getting a letter.
“I never need to be in touch with people that immediately. I really despise gossip.
‘ I hate phones. I have nothing to do with them. I don't even have a mobile phone. ’
When the band are not on tour or recording Keith admits he does very little.
He says: “I tell you what I do when I’m not working with The Stones, I kick back, baby.
“Go get a tan, lie on the beach. Wait for the tour to wear off. I’ve read every book ever written. I’m running out. Somebody please write one!”
Keith was speaking just days before Wednesday’s London premiere of the new Stones movie.
Shine A Light is directed by Oscar-winning film legend Martin Scorsese, who recorded the band over a two-day period at the Beacon Theatre in New York in 2006.
Footage from the shows is intercut with backstage shots, archive material and new interviews.
Keith says of the old footage: “It’s kind of strange when you go back – you know, Mick with that cute little smile.
“It’s a strange thing in a way because it’s like your history and the strange thing is that we’ve grown up with everything being recorded. I mean, our whole life is basically either on film or on tape and you kind of get used to it.”
Of the movie with Goodfellas and Raging Bull director Scorsese, he said: “When they first said they wanted to shoot another movie of the Stones on stage I said forget about it.
“How many have we done? But then they said ‘by Martin Scorsese’ and of course the whole thing changed because this man makes movies.
“Once Martin was involved with it I just wanted him to do whatever it is he does.
“I wanted to stay out of the way and give him what he wanted, which was a Stones show.”
Asked if he was comfortable watching himself on screen, Keith adds: “By now, yeah. I got used to it. I liked me when I was younger.
“When you’re on stage we’re basically, as we say, in our office.
“We started off playing clubs. In fact, it took us a while to get out of them but small rooms have a different ambience to outdoors, and especially when there’s two million people you can’t quite see the end of.”
As he looks forward to his 65th birthday in December, the rocker insists the band have no thoughts of retiring.
“Give us a gig and we’ll play it,” he says.
“It’s what we do – it’s as natural as that.
“If I was a plumber I’d come around and fix your toilet. Sometimes if I can’t sleep I take the guitar to bed. We’re stuck. We’re melded.”