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INTERVIEW – Adam Ant, February 2012

| 12 September 2012 | Reply

Thursday 16 Feb 2012

By Shane Pinnegar

I’ll wager that even the longest haired, tattooedest of bikers knows the words to at least a couple of Adam & The Ants songs – Ant Music, Stand & Deliver, Prince Charming, perhaps, or his solo work such as Goody Two Shoes, Puss N’ Boots, Vive Le Rock or many others spanning 9 albums.

Despite emerging at the time of the New Romantic movement, Ant – Stuart Goddard to his Mum – never seemed to have much in common with the Spandau Ballets and Duran Durans of the era, apart from some natty threads – an avenue he explored with a pantomime-like theatrical flourish and flair, and continues to do, with his current stage costume based on a Napoleonic Hussar in a Jack Sparrow meets Zodiac Mindwarp kind of way.

After a hiatus from the music business to focus on acting, and some erratic behaviour in the early 2000’s, Ant was diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder and in this interview opens up about ways to help others suffering from the same ailment. He also speaks frankly about his battle with the disease in his 2007 book “Stand and Deliver – The Autobiography” [Pan Books. ISBN 978-0-330-44012-7]

In 2010 Ant formed his new band – The Good, The Mad & The Lovely Posse – and started touring to rave reviews after almost two decades away from the live stage.

This week he was in Australia to promote his upcoming March tour, and I was lucky enough to get a phone call from him this morning.

Hey Adam, thanks for taking time out of your schedule, and welcome to Australia…

Thankyou – I’ve had a very nice week

It’s been many years since you’ve hit the road in such a big way – why now?

Well I’ve had a kind of 17 year break from it, and I did a lot of other things – acting, wrote a book, had a child – so now seems like a really good opportunity. I’ve put together a very good band, got a new record coming out… and I’ve missed it, to be honest. I think that’s the main reason!

Whilst trawling around on YouTube last night I saw some live footage of you from last year and the band sounds great…

Thankyou, yeah they’re very tight. The Good, The Mad & The Lovely Posse, they’re great – we have two girls in the band, they’re a really solid band, they’ve really shaken up good and play the stuff well

And you’re really rockin’ it out too, man – is there ever a problem reconciling the punk and hard rock edginess to your music with the fans who come expecting an 80’s revival night?

Well I think I’ve addressed that all along – this is my tenth album, the new one, so out of the nine others we’ve got a load of songs to choose from. If I go and see Roxy Music I wanna see all the hits, but I also wanna see ‘In Every Dream Home A Heartache’ which is an album track… so I do quite a lot of stuff from the early part of the catalogue – ‘Dirk Wears White Sox’, a lot of b-sides, a lot of punk stuff, the singles, and a few album tracks… and a couple of covers. So it’s quite a broad spectrum there and hopefully it will satisfy anybody who has been into my work at any one time or another

And in addition to the track listing, I’m also interested in that raw, punky edge to the sound. The band sound really rocked up, really vibrant and alive – certainly when I saw Duran Duran a few years ago their music was very sanitised, middle of the road, whereas you’re out there rockin’…

Yeah I think when you’ve got a band that play that hard and that tough, it’s quite interesting to [rock the songs up]. If you take the single ‘Puss n’ Boots’, or ‘Desperate But Not Serious’, you know, when this band play ‘em you get something that wasn’t even on the original. I think it’s nice to take a song and develop it – it still sounds like the song structurally, we don’t mess around with the arrangement, but it gets a whole different energy with a whole [different] bunch of kids playing it, and you get a spark to it, and that’s what’s happening now with this band.

Absolutely my point – that the band are really sounding good and rock n’ roll, and I think perhaps a lot of people would have expected something a little less edgy from you at this stage of your career

Well the temptation – you mentioned Duran Duran – you see a lot of songs in the studio, there’s a lot of sampling these days, and there’s a lot of tricks used to present the actual song. The temptation when you play live is to – like my drum sound, a lot of bands would sample those beats, put ‘em on loops, but I don’t – we play 100% live, so when you do that you may lose the kind of gimmick of the song, the trickery that was produced in the studio which really can’t be produced outside of the studio because it was done with a machine. When you’ve got a human being playing it, it rocks it up, strips it right down – and in some cases it works! And I think in this case, it’s been a real eye opener for me because I had a lot of trouble [playing] those songs before, and with this band we’ve really just gone for it. And there’s a lot more singing going on too, ‘cos four of the five players sing as well, and that’s made a big difference.

Cool – well it’s sounding really good. You must get this a lot, but one of the first albums I ever bought was “Kings Of The Wild Frontier”, which I went halves in with my little brother Scott – you must get that SO OFTEN… does it ever get boring?

Oh right! [laughs] No, no – it’s actually really gratifying. It makes me feel good, it’s good that that album impacted so well, and it also makes me want to make more albums! You know, when “Kings…” came out it was a massive shock to me, having put out one album before that – “Dirk Wears White Sox”, which was kind of an indie record, and didn’t get that [hugely popular] response. So when you DO get that response, I’m really gratified, that’s what it’s all about really!

I saw you on TV last night on Adam Hills show…

Oh right, yeah…

…and I have to ask you – do you always get such a fanatical reaction from nervous girls and excited fan boys?

Ahhhh… well yeah! It does happen – I’ve never had it on a TV show before so that was quite extraordinary, though the show itself was quite extraordinary as well! I really enjoyed myself and, it’s a nice feeling. And if someone can see someone they really like at a distance and who were part of their childhood, and can get a kiss and a cuddle then that’s pretty cool. You know it’d be like Frank Sinatra, but you wouldn’t run up and give him a big kiss would ya [Laughs]. You know I did have the chance to meet Frank Sinatra – I went to see him once in L.A., and I had the chance to go back and see him but I didn’t – I couldn’t do it, it was just too much! I didn’t wanna spoil it… But it was nice giving the girl [on Adam Hills TV show] a little cuddle…

She was beside herself – it was hilarious! You had some style rocking as well – lots of leather, lots of bling, perhaps not so very different to how many fans may remember you from 30 years ago. How would you describe your style nowadays?

I’ve changed so many times, ‘cos I gave myself the task of changing the look and the sound with every album, which is kind of suicidal in pop music. Bands that have lasted like U2, their sound hasn’t really changed that much. So now coming back again I set myself the task and said “Well which [period] was your favourite?” And that would be “Kings…”, so that 21 year old young buck, what would he look like 30 years later, if he had been in Napoleons’ Hussars going to Moscow on a horse, and walking back he’d have to eat the horse – what would his clothes be like, what would he be wearing? He’d now be an officer, you know, and the Blueback Hussar is that character, so that’s developing all the time. The clothes I’m wearing on stage I actually designed for myself now, and [the character has] actually broadened out a bit. I do like to make a bit of effort on stage, I don’t think it’s as theatrical as it was before, but it’s certainly an out there kind of rock n’ roll show, which is quite nice to do. I do like to get ready for a show, take that hour before the show to get prepared and get into the mindset of the show and character, you know.

You were very punk early in your career, and in some ways it’s perhaps very surprising you hit it so big on the charts, when you really didn’t compromise at all. How are you planning your new music will fit into that trajectory?

Well I think in my heart, punk will always be the sensibility that guides me – that 1% that says “NO”… I think that the challenge for me was going from the underground to suddenly being on Top Of The Pops – or, it would be Countdown over here – and overnight you have this chance, this opportunity, to kind of, rather than moan about the mainstream, to try and make the effort to change it a little bit, ruffle it up a bit. So I had a go at that, I didn’t back away from that – I never made records to be misses, I made records to be hits, in all honesty, but that doesn’t mean I wanted to do something generic, pretty much what we have got now with the X Factor generation, which to me is pretty bland… the main thing is trying to negotiate with a major record company, and trying to keep them as far away from the creative process as possible – while financing it! Which fortunately I did… that’s the challenge!

So what can you tell us about the new album?

Well, it’s got a very long title – “Adam Ant Is The Blueback Hussar in Marrying The Gunners Daughter”, it’s a double, I’m doing a vinyl deluxe edition, a double CD, as well as all the usual download stuff. It’s a traditional record – I want people to be able to read the lyrics clearly, it’s 18 tracks, dealing with the topics that are obviously gonna come up – things that have happened to me in the past, ideas and stories, there’s a song about Marvin Gaye, dedicated to him, a song dedicated to Malcolm McLaren, friends that have sadly passed on during the course of time. So it’s a bit of an eclectic mix and hopefully one of those records where you’ll put the headphones on and take a little while to decide which is your favourite track, which is kind of what it’s all about with an album!

[According to Wikipedia, “Ant has explained that the idea behind the album’s title is that the Blueblack Hussar is his classic Kings of the Wild Frontier-era persona, back from the dead, while the phrase “marrying the gunner’s daughter” (an old naval term for a form of corporal punishment in which sailors were tied to a ship’s cannon and flogged) is intended by Ant to serve as a metaphor for how he believes artists are treated by the music industry.”]

Is it hard to live up to the fact that 30-odd years ago you virtually defined a sub culture?

Hmmm… [pause] I think at that point you’re kind of working too hard to actually realise it, which is probably a good thing! I think if you set yourself standards – pretty much the only standard I’ve got is my own to try and make a record sound distinctive, and the way I work is 10% inspiration and 90% perspiration, then I move on to the next one and it’s filed away in the catalogue, you know… so I think if you start thinking of yourself as some kind of leader in something you take on all kinds of responsibilities that partly retard your progress, ‘cos you’re too worried about what other people think – the standards you’re trying to live up to aren’t your own… I just wanna make records and perform, that’s it really, you know…

You had a widely publicised run in with bipolar disorder a decade or so ago – what advice would you give to someone going through a similar thing now?

I think that the main advice is not to feel shame, and not to feel useless – it’s a disease, it’s a mental illness. You really need to work very closely with your doctor, and to find a balance between the medication and other alternative ways to get yourself straight and get your mind and your body fit again, you know… of which there are many! Music is a great help… you find out who your friends are, and you may find new friends – sometimes talking to a complete stranger about it is good. There are many other alternative ways, but it’s a very tough call, and I think pretty much every family I’ve ever met, and my friends who have someone in their family [with bipolar disorder], are suffering in silence, you know – and it’s not good. If it’s swept under the carpet it’s just not going to go away, so [believe that] there is hope, and there is a great lot of work to go on to destroy the taboo of it because it is an illness, you know…

We have friends in America very disappointed that your tour which was due to be running around now, was postponed until later this year – why was that necessary?

Ahh there was a few problems with that – I think the promotion was a little too hasty for that and they had to sort out a few technicalities, so we had to postpone it. We’ll iron it out in the end! It’s out of my hands at this point – there’s things that need to be done by the powers that be prior to going, but I’ll sort that out and [the tour] will be at the end of the year…

Cool, well I know a lot of people over there are looking forward to seeing you, as are we… if there was any one song or album you could have been involved in the creation of, what would it be?

Ooh… [pauses] Oh I wouldn’t mind being involved in one of Elvis’ early records, or Gene Vincent’s – one of the old Sun recordings would have been nice!

That would’ve been cool!


Yeah nice and raw, hearing them play like that…

Or one of Johnny Cash’s first sessions…

Oh yeah! I wouldn’t mind doing some handclaps, or just being in the room would’ve been good! I’d loved to see that [laughs]

Finally – what for you, Adam Ant, is the meaning of life?

The meaning of life? Ummmm… open up and fly right, I suppose!

Great answer – I like that! Thankyou so much for your time, man!

Thanks – well do come to the show if you can.

We’re looking forward to seeing what you’ve got!

Okay well I’ll try and deliver!

Stand & Deliver, perhaps? Sorry – couldn’t resist! Don’t miss Adam Ant & The Good, The Bad And The Lovely Posse’s Australian tour – this could just be the surprise comeback of the decade!

23 March 2012 – Sydney – Enmore Theatre

27 March 2012 – Perth – Metro City

30 March 2012 – Melbourne – Palace Theatre

5 April 2012 – Adelaide – Thebarton Theatre

8 April 2012 – Brisbane – The Tivoli

Category: Interviews

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Editor, 100% ROCK MAGAZINE

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