Adam Ant, the charismatic post-punk British pop star responsible for a generation of pirate shirts, returns to the U.S. after a long absence. Now 57, he's picked up more tattoos and a smoking habit since we saw him last; despite being battle scarred from years in the music business and recent bouts with bipolar disorder, he has kept his cool. The current Ant persona, a black-clad, wisely edited version of his MTV teen idol past, shows Ant (aka Mr. Stuart Goddard) to be a darker, grittier performer. His flamboyantly-titled, guitar-driven new album Adam Ant Is the Blueblack Hussar in Marrying the Gunner's Daughter, is due out on his own label this month. Speaking from London, he tells us about how an '80s icon goes about aging gracefully. If you want to see for yourself, check him out at the City National Grove of Anaheim this weekend.
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So, you're touring off your upcoming album already?
We've been in Europe, England and Australia. In the States, I'll be playing stuff from previous albums with one new song. I wanted to put on a show that if I went to see it, I would hear something that I liked. It's gone very well. We're nearly sold out on the entire U.S. tour, and that's a lovely feeling.
Do you have a favorite song that you love to perform?
The new show is really a nod back to Kings of the Wild Frontier (Adam and the Ants' breakout 1981 hit album), and the idea of what [the ant warrior character] would look like 30 years later. Perhaps he'd been a hussar in Napoleon's army and he'd walked to Moscow and back and survived! The idea of aging with grace and what he'd be like as a more mature kind of guy, having seen a bit of life. That's the concept. It reflects back to my favorite record, which is Kings.
So that's how the new album title came about?
Yeah, very filmic in its approach, and you'll remember it!
How was making this new record different from the others?
Lyrically, it's more personal than the others, and its got a bluesy, swampy feel to some of the tracks. I worked on it with Boz Boorer (The Polecats, Morrissey). Seventeen songs in total, and it's a bit of a journey.
We hear you've taken up smoking. Does that mean "goody two shoes" doesn't apply any longer?
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Yeah, probably that and many other things (laughs). When I did "Goody Two Shoes," I was approaching life as an athlete would. I had never been interested in smoking or drinking and I've never ever been interested in drugs taken out of choice. I thought to myself one day, 'Why not [smoke tobacco]? This is my body, I'll do what I want with it.' I think people read more into that [song] than I did.
You used to live in Los Angeles. Anything you miss?
I had a house in Los Feliz for about eight years and enjoyed myself enormously. Hugo's restaurant on Melrose was my favorite hangout. They do a chicken pasta that I used to love.