|photo by Shela Palkoski|
Q: On the new album, "Adam Ant is the Blueblack Hussar in Marrying the Gunners Daughter," does the second part of the title, a flogging reference, refer to your relationship with Sony Music in the ‘80s?
I think it’s a commonplace thing with most groups of that era or even the one before. From what I've read, some of the earlier [record] deals were even worse. It seemed to me to be a nod towards that and the fact that it’s unbelievable really: if it’s explained to you, that for every $1 [on any record sold], you’ll be getting 10 cents and you’re [supposed] to be quite happy with that. And everything you spend will be coming out of your 10 cents. There was no advice or lawyers around [back then].
I don’t think there’s anybody really too concerned with some of these contracts where you literally sign your life away. Having said that and formed my own label, I now appreciate the great deal of work that actually goes into putting a record on the market and the expense. This is an independent label and I deal with the manufacturing, putting the album cover together, designing it and the clearances, distribution, etc. I don’t think the grass is always greener, but I don’t think it’s worth 90 cents of the profit. The hint in the title is quite valid.
Q: Some of the new songs found you revisiting demos from 1997 and "Who's a Goofy Bunny," about Malcolm McLaren, dates back to the early ‘80s. Did you stockpile a bunch of songs during the hiatus?
The Malcolm one was one I redressed. I re-recorded it because it was a song I’d written a while ago when I actually worked with Malcolm in 1979-80. Then I had become very close friends with Malcolm’s sons Ben and Joe. I still have a great deal of affection for them and I know Vivien [Westwood, subject of Vivien's Tears"] still. I was actually with Ben and Joe about the time of Malcolm’s passing. Joe sent me a text immediately when Malcolm passed.
That song was merely a gesture of appreciation to Malcolm for being such an important mentor in my life and for helping me to sit down and look at the structure and construction of songs, which no one else had bothered to offer. I probably wouldn’t have listened to them anyway. Again, it was nice to put that on this record. It’s the luxury of having the years behind you and the outlet of your own label, where you don’t have any censorship in any way shape or form.
Q: For “Cool Zombie,” you make lyrical references to the few years you spent living in Tennessee. Did living close to the country music capital affect your music in any way?
It did. My next door neighbor is actually mentioned in the song. He was retired from a U.S. Navy submarine fleet. He had a Harley-Davidson and was like a Willie Nelson type [guy]. Once, I jumped on his bike and he took me to meet some of his friends way down in the woods. En route, we’d see little venues where the big music stars like Merle Haggard were still doing the basic [club] route.
Q: Back in '80s, you gigged everywhere here, including my hometown of Riverside, Calif. That really helped your public profile.
When I first came to the States as a solo artist, the reason Adam and the Ants didn’t come and tour extensively in the USA was simply because we were signed to a UK label and they wanted to keep us here because we were paying their quarterly bill. They consciously kept us in Europe. For instance, when we had a No.1 with “Stand & Deliver,” we were in Switzerland in a hotel eating chocolate. We should’ve been in the USA. They literally let us stay for two weeks and then we got out. When the band split, I made an absolute beeline to get over there and do some real work.
Personally, meeting Bolan was not only something that was very memorable for me, but I think whenever I meet someone I respect, I notice the bigger they are, the nicer they tend to be. So I don’t think they feel threatened. I think the situation now is fame is very global and quick on the internet. So I think it maybe goes to [young stars] heads a little bit. Everybody does know them and they really don’t. The decision to sign fans’ autographs is a personal one. I’ve tended to always do it, so I don’t think twice about it. Some people feel differently, which I quite understand in some circumstances. I think the fame thing is almost part of the profession. The more famous or notorious you become, it’s part of the ritual of meeting people. I quite enjoy it and find it a pleasant experience.