Interview: Adam Ant

Eighties icon Adam Ant is back on the road. He talks to WAYNE SAVAGE about his first new album in nearly two decades, his health and what fans can expect when he comes to the UEA.

Ant fans have waited nearly 20 years for a new album from pop's prince charming. It's a record he's been waiting a long time to make too.

'I think people will be a bit surprised,' he says of Adam Ant is the Blueblack Hussar in Marrying the Gunner's Daughter, out next year.

'It's literally 17 stories dealing with things that interest me and with what's happened in my life. It's a bit more autobiographical than any other I've made. I think after nine albums it's quite an appropriate time to do that.'

On the topic of his life; much has been written about his very public mental health battles over the years. It's a war he seems to be winning.

'Be honest; work closely with your GP, seek your friends and family, don't be ashamed, get as much fresh air as possible and educate yourself about your condition, medication and the side effects,' he says when asked what advice he'd give to people facing similar struggles.

Adam's sounding very relaxed as we talk about everything from his famous dandy highwayman look to being at the forefront of the music video revolution; both the result of his Hornsey College of Art education.

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His graphic artist training there came in handy when it came to film-making; going from filming a couple in a friend's garden to storyboarding the more elaborate Stand and Deliver and Prince Charming videos.

'I felt punk, by that stage, had got very grey, very political, certainly to me it had lost all essence of danger or excitement and it was nice to go from the monotone to the colourful onslaught I was able to catch.

'Every now and again in the history of music there's a revolution. It [the birth of music videos] was almost like going from silent film to talkies; it was that dramatic. I was able to be in the right place at the right time, certainly with the birth of MTV; I was there at the start of that. That allowed you to be seen in the USA before you did the tour; it saved a lot of foot work.'

As a youngster I wished I could be in the videos. While hard work, filming them was as fun as it looked, says Adam.

'They had quite a British feel about them, they had the look of some of the Hammer Horror films; the stagecoach in Stand and Deliver was a prop from the Hammer studios, it'd been used in a number of films. There was always that elegance, that wink to them; they never really took themselves that seriously.'

He's clearly excited about the new double album and the tour.

'It's all about the next record really for me. I love playing my catalogue but it's nice to come up with something [new], otherwise after such a long period away people may think you just want to sit back and do your catalogue and nothing else. This is a record I've been waiting to make; hopefully the audience has been waiting for it as well.'

Most performers can pinpoint the moment their lives changed. For Adam, there were two.

The first came in November of 1975 while playing St Martin's College with Bazooka Joe. Making their live debut as the band's support act; the Sex Pistols.

'They were just so simple and direct, exciting and energetic. It was a catalyst for me, like a time bomb and you just knew this thing was going to explode and it was just a wonderful time to be involved in music.

'If you could play you could put a band together. There was no need to be a very accomplished musician you used to have four chords and you could get out there and do something. It was pretty much play first, ask questions later.'

The other defining moment was October 16, 1980, when he made his first national TV performance on Top of the Pops; changing the direction of British pop for years to come and marking the start of a rollercoaster two years.

'Overnight people saw it and after three years of slogging around in clubs and putting out an independent album, people made their own minds up. It was punk to pop overnight virtually.

'It was non-stop, just bang, bang, bang with no let up. I'd waited a long time to have the opportunity and I grasped it with both hands. I thought 'this isn't something you sit back and think oh wow this is going to last forever'. I just got my head down and worked as much as I could. That was a very exciting time.'

Adam could easily have traded on the success of records like Prince Charming and Kings of the Wild Frontier. Instead, he's set out to make each album completely different from the one before.

'It's quite a risky thing to do. I'm realising, playing this stuff live, just how diverse my catalogue is. It's a nightly challenge to try to get the songs right. Every time you do it, it's a bit like approaching a sort of very enjoyable battle with yourself.'

Giggoers can expect album tracks, a lot of early stuff, including tracks from Dirk Wears White Sox and before and a song or two from the new album when Adam Ant and The Good, The Mad and The Lovely Posse come to the UEA this week.

'If I went to see a band I'd grown up [with] and bought every album [I'd expect them] to play all the hits. I don't do medleys I don't abbreviate, I don't cut 'em up. Every time I do [a song] I'm looking to try to get it sounding as close to the record as I can.'

Audiences are in for a nearly two-hour set of non-stop action.

'Hopefully they'll enjoy it as much as I do and go away with a smile on their face and hopefully as exhausted as I get at the end,' he laughs.

t Adam Ant & The Good, The Mad and The Lovely Posse play the UEA on November 21.

t The single Cool Zombie is out now. The album Blueblack Hussar in Marrying the Gunner's Daughter will be released in January.

t Further listening: