The Good, the Mad and the Wild Frontier Revisited

Dave Woodhall talks to eighties icon Adam Ant ahead of his upcoming UK tour.

Adam Ant

Adam Ant

It’s fair to say that life hasn’t been consistent for Adam Ant. Part of the early punk movement, then there was a time when he was the biggest pop star in the country, and after that came the lean years. Long-standing mental illness led to court appearances and a regular place in the Where Are They Now? columns. But like all good men you can’t keep Adam down and he’s busier than ever, breaking off from rehearsals to speak to the Birmingham Press.

“I’m currently rehearsing the next leg of the UK tour. That’ll be from November to January. Then the new album comes out and after that I’m off to America.”

The first Adam Ant album for years, Adam Ant is the Black Hussar in Marrying the Gunner’s Daughter, is due out in January and early listens suggest a return to the old days.

“It’ll be out on vinyl with a double gatefold sleeve. It’s been recorded with Boz Boorer from Morrissey’s band and Chris McCormack who was with Three Colours Red. I produced it myself, and it was recorded on analogue. It’s very much the kind of thing I want to make.”

That whole back to basics thing is a real throwback to the original punk days and a reaction to overproduced modern trends.

“Definitely. I’m still a punk rocker at heart; the 1% who don’t fit and don’t care. If you don’t have that attitude life is too easy.”

From the punk days though, you went to stardom very quickly. One minute you were playing clubs, the next you were selling out the big venues and a teen idol.

“We’d played everywhere. We’d toured all over Europe, then I did Top of the Pops and 3½ minutes later I was an overnight success. It was like a comedian who does the clubs all his life, goes on TV and suddenly he’s a star.”

Adam split from his band shortly afterwards, then went on an even more successful solo career when for a while he was the most flamboyant, as well as the biggest, name on the pop scene. He was also the first star of the video age – the dandy highwayman, Prince Charming and the rest. But the brightest stars always burn out quickest…

“Nothing lasts forever – it would be boring if it did. I split the Ants up because we were exhausted. We’d been tied to an archaic record contract which said we had to produce four singles and an album every year, and there were also problems with drugs in the band, which is something I’ve always been dead against. So suddenly I was on my own, and it got lonely.”

The period which followed Antmania has been well documented; Adam’s personal problems saw him sectioned and made headlines which obscured the fact that he was still a talented performer.

“Yes, it has been a bit up and down, but life has to be like that. You need dark and light, otherwise everything’s like The Sound of Music. In the same way, I like my shows to make the audience sweat, to be scared one minute and laughing the next. Great albums take their listeners on a journey as well – the only consistency should be style. Stop that and you may as well be churning them out.”

You’ve got the album out soon, and the tour’s starting again. What does the future hold?

“Working. I’ll be directing videos from the album, which I’m financing myself. I’ve also set up my own label, which has got three acts signed, including Dressing for Pleasure from Birmingham. There’s a real feel of a new Motown to the label; that comes from when I worked with Berry Gordy in 1983.

“Then in 2013 I’ll be working with the Ants again. It’s my band, I own the name and I want to work with them. The band will be made up of former Ants but one thing’s for certain – it won’t be a ker-chiiing cash-in.”

“People talk about the future, but if we rely on the internet we’re in trouble. There’s no physical presence there – that’s why I don’t do downloads. It’s just thin air, if you download music you can’t hold it. But vinyl sales are up, people in their forties, fifties, who were around for punk, they want albums and CDs. Every husband has a record player somewhere in the garage and you never get rid of your record collection. Get them out, get playing them.”

The upcoming leg of the tour features two local dates, in Leamington and Wolverhampton. What’s in store for us?

“It’s the return of the Blueblack Hussar character from the old days – the guy with the stripe across his face, 35 years on. He’s one of those Napoleonic characters who walked to Moscow and back, a real hard bastard. It’s a whole evening’s entertainment. You’ll see this show and think ‘Christ, that was good,’ then see someone else a week later and think ‘That was poor.’

“We’ll be doing some new songs but there will be a lot of the old ones in there. On the dates we’ve done so far we’ve thrown in some of the really obscure stuff going way back. That’s what the people want, and they pay the rent.”

We’ve joked about how it’s 1981 re-visited – Tory government, cuts, royal wedding and now riots. That might have been a grey time, but from it emerged the colour and glamour of the new romantics. Will we be seeing something similar emerge from these times?”

“Definitely. We’ve had fifteen years of Oasis, Jam copyists, Beatles impersonators. Hopefully kids will start to dress differently and make an effort, get a style of their own again. It seems as though the clock stopped with Blur and Suede, nobody does anything original anymore. And you get arseholes like Bono and Bob Geldof claiming to speak for us. Save the world – more like save your career. Save your accountant.”

“A song is like a chemical reaction to the brain. It takes you back. If I listen to Perry Como singing Catch a Falling Star it reminds me of my childhood. Great songs take you back to your youth. That shouldn’t end when you grow up.”

And what does the grown-up Adam Ant, musician and survivor, want to be remembered for?

“For making good records. The sort people want to keep.”

Adam Ant and the Good, the Mad & the Lovely Posse is appearing at the Leamington Assembly on 12th November ( and Wolverhampton Wulfrun Hall on 9th December (

The album Adam Ant is the Blueblack Hussar in Marrying the Gunner’s Daughter is out in January.