Words by Lisa Marks
Eighties post-punk legend Adam Ant has sold more than 40 million records worldwide but he's also spent the last 18 years living out of the limelight. Now back with a new album, “Adam Ant Is The Blueblack Hussar In Marrying The Gunner’s Daughter” and a north American tour, the singer talks about playing his old hits live, his acting days in LA and why he's a fan of Gwen Stefani.
Adam, you're just about to start on a 44 date tour of the US. Do you enjoy gigging?
I've been touring for the past two years. I like to write the songs and record but the best part is going out and playing live. I played all over Europe and it took about a year to put the band together. I wanted to see who would come to the shows before I released the album.
Some artists won't play old hits but your set list contains a lot of yours, including “Prince Charming” “Stand And Deliver” and “Antmusic”.
I constantly play my back catalogue and that's what I'd like if I went to see someone that I'd grown up with. If I was at a Roxy Music show, I'd want to hear “The Strand” or “Virginia Plain”. I don't understand why you wouldn't do that. To me songs are like your children. You put a lot of care into their production and putting them out there but the challenge is making them sound like the record. I've never really played “Prince Charming” live in the States but this version is pared right down. I love seeing the audiences faces when you play those first chords. People go mad, it's a wonderful kind of energy, an indescribable warmth.
How did you end up living in Tennessee?
It was purely by chance. The idea was that me and my missus were were going to drive from Miami to Vegas to get married in the Elvis chapel (he was married to fashion PR Lorraine Gibson from 1997-1998). We rented a 4x4 and en route stopped off in Tennessee at a small diner for lunch. I always look at the local magazines and saw an A-frame wooden house for sale. We had a little time to spare so we went to have a look. It was very remote and had incredible views over the valley. We thought, “Sod it, we'll get married here”, and we did, by the sheriff in the town hall.
And you stayed!
Yes, it was a pioneer thing. You see things there that you don't see in real life. The local rodeo comes to town, and they grow a lot of apples in that part of the States, so you'd be driving behind an Amish wagon. It's a really stunning place. I didn't write any music while I was there but all the country stars play the circuit, people like Merle Haggard, so I think subconsciously I absorbed all the country and blues, and that came out on the album.
You've described the new album, “The Blueblack Hussar In Marrying The Gunner’s Daughter”, as a 'musical autobiography'. Is that what you originally set out to do?
I'd put out a lot of records and stopped to take a break. I took the opportunity to appreciate the music. I think if you put lots of records out you take them for granted but I had an opportunity to miss it. I knew there'd be questions about where I'd been, and so this is the most personal record (Adam has famous battled bipolar disorder). It covers 17 years and because I've released it on my own label, it's been a lot more work. You've got to get involved in distribution, manufacturing and PR as well as all the artwork. It's been a learning curve definitely.
You moved to LA in 1990 to act. What do you remember of those days?
My first job as an actor was in a Joe Orton play in Manchester, and I kept getting offers but wanted to learn the ropes. I went over to LA, enrolled in acting class and was there for about five years. I started as a beginner and auditioned like everyone else. I didn't go 'Hey, here I am!' I had a little house in Silverlake but when I first got there I rented an apartment in Hollywood, right in the middle of everything. It's a working town so I'd go to bed early and then get up and go on auditions. I had a good experience in LA.
You were the self-proclaimed Dandy Highwayman, and the leader of a post-punk generation. What do you think of music today?
There aren't a great deal of bands that I listen to, and I think these days, most of the visual work is being done by the girls. You know, people like Lady Gaga, Katy Perry and Gwen Stefani. The women are paving the way and having a go. I was very happy when Gwen Stefani covered “ Stand and Deliver”. It was rock and roll.
Adam Ant plays Club Nokia on .
No Doubt performing Stand & Deliver