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Adam Ant

Interview by Judith Petty

Adam Ant

digital effects © Joy Williams/Artist Publications

"In a way, I just want everybody in that room to belong to me," Adam Ant muses just before going on stage. "I want them. I want their attention, and I want them to watch and listen to me. I want them to go through every kind of emotion. I think music is intimate; or at least it should be intimate."

Besides his highly personal approach to music, another thing that Ant's fans have come to expect from him is the changes that take place with each tour. There's been a different concept each time out—from the early days of American Indian war paint and feathers combined with pseudo military garb, through a series of motifs capturing the flavor of pirates, highwaymen, turn of the century country gentlemen, United States astronauts, and the French revolutionary era—expressed not only in image (costume, stage effects and video), but in his music as well.

The first time out, it worked. But since then, Adam Ant has experienced difficulties in keeping the audience he had initially captured. "I think that's not a sensible approach to a long-term career in the music business; people like the same thing, they like consistency," Ant is talking from hindsight now. "Phil Collins is a good mate of mine, but his third album sounds very much like his first. There's a consistency to the way he is. That's the way with a lot of performers."

But he acknowledges a personal problem with this. "I have a very low boredom threshold. With an album, I promote it very hard; I discuss it a lot, do lots of interviews. I cover it from every angle, and by the time that's through I like to start with a new piece of paper. I mean, I could be doing Kings Of The Wild Frontier Version 5.... Adam and the Ants, I think, were certainly something that was deliberately provocative in a very competitive arena. But I quit things at the peak. But I believe that if you're successful, if you have recognition chart-wise and you have a big album, it makes the difference between the changes being seemingly self-indulgent and it being the 'right thing,' it's being acceptable."

Adam Ant c Mark Leialoha/Artist Publications

Adam Ant
Civic Auditorium, San Francisco, 4/20/84

photo © Mark Leialoha/Artist Publications
digital effect © Joy Williams/Artist Publications

One thing that has not changed with Adam Ant's latest album, Manners & Physique, is the long-time working relationship with Marco Pirroni. "It's been ten years now." When recording the new record, however, they functioned as a team. "André (producer André Cymone from The Time) did not just have me come in and sing and then six weeks later hand me the final mix. He, Marco and I really worked on the songs. It was a bit like 'The Buddy Holly Story,' the mattress up against the wall, us rehearsing the songs as a 3-piece, making lots of noise and annoying the neighbors," Adam reminisces. "I think the reason Marco and I have been able to work together so long is that we don't step on each other's toes or live in each other's back rooms. We have big distances between each other because we live completely different kinds of lifestyles."

Furthermore, Adam's lifestyle has changed over time as well, to the extent that he walked almost completely away from music for, all together, five years as he pursued an acting career. Although he has appeared in a number of plays, movies (World Gone Wild, Trust Me) and television roles, acting is a craft that he admits to not being as comfortable with as he would like to be. And although he has as yet to gain the opportunity of playing the type of role he would really choose if he had his druthers, he feels he has still given each gig his best shot.

"I think people think with someone who is a singer that you're going to immediately transfer that to films and dive straight into the top. It's not like that—at least it certainly hasn't been for me," Adam admits. "And I'm sort of glad it's taken so long to start getting a reputation as an actor instead of a rock'n'roll singer who wants to act. I've done ten roles now, and I know ten times as much as I did when I went in. But it is difficult because, on the whole, rock'n'roll singers are box office poison. And being British in Hollywood is quite hard; there are only certain roles you can get. They'll ask, 'Can you speak with an American accent?' And I say, 'Sure. Tell me what you want and I'll go learn it,' because the thing with American accents is, which one? Every part of the country sounds different.  But I know I can imitate sounds. I know I could do it, but very rarely do they give you the trust to allow you to. So, I haven't been anywhere near where I'd like to go with acting yet. Hopefully, some day I will.

But acting is on the back burner for now because the music has been on the back burner for five years, and I thought, 'Well, now it's time to get out there and straighten things out.'" To be able to jump back into the music scene as Adam has is an extraordinarily difficult feat. But this time around he's netted himself favorable reviews even in those publications that panned him before. Manners & Physique has made a rapid climb well into the Top 50 album charts, and his first single, "Room at the Top," shot into the upper reaches of the dance charts. People are welcoming the return of Adam Ant and his music in a way that lets him know that he has been missed.

His tour this time incorporates his favorite repertoire from his seven albums. "I always try to present what I would like to see if I were to see somebody else that I like. And I would want to see the hits," the returning star admits. "I play every night as if it's my last, never looking at two shows the same. It makes me feel good. I mean, that's the reason for doing everything, you know, that people want to see you and hear what you're doing. That quite compliments your performance when you have that."


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