Sept. 05--Adam Ant swashbuckled through MTV's early days, a randy pirate/dandy highwayman who brought cheek and great cheekbones to videos for songs such as "Stand and Deliver" and "Goody Two Shoes."
There at punk's start (he played in the headlining band at the Sex Pistols' first gig), Ant was a sex symbol with enough musical cred not to be considered a lightweight.
He looked New Romantic, but his best songs, with Adam and the Ants ("Stand," "Antmusic") and as a solo artist ("Two Shoes") hit harder on drums than synth. Even his most overtly commercial hit, the 1995 ballad "Wonderful," maintained an alternative-rock edge.
On Wednesday, Ant will perform at Sacramento's Ace of Spades in support of "Adam Ant is the Blueblack Hussar in Marrying the Gunner's Daughter," his first new album since his 1995 disc "Wonderful."
Disillusioned with his record label, Ant stopped recording and performing post-"Wonderful." He acted in film and on television instead, having started in Hollywood with guest appearances on shows such as "The Equalizer" and "Tales From the Crypt."
Married briefly in the 1990s, Ant (real name Stuart Goddard) fathered a daughter (Lily, now 15) and lived in a small Tennessee town for a few years before returning to London.
He also has struggled with bipolar disorder. He was arrested in 2002 after throwing a carburetor through the window of a British pub -- an incident Ant attributed to mental illness.
Ant began writing music again a few years ago. He put together a band, touring in the United Kingdom before coming back last year to the United States, where he performed for the first time since 1995.
The sprawling double album "Gunner's Daughter" joins Ant's longtime fascination with all that's maritime and old-timey ("marrying the gunner's daughter" is historical slang for being flogged atop a cannon) with his punk origins, adding a touch of twang in tribute to his Tennessee days.
At Ace of Spades, Ant will play material from "Gunner's Daughter" along with hits and B-sides from his heyday. The four-piece outfit backing him includes two drummers.
Reached at his London office, the 58-year-old singer discussed his influences, challenges and long-overdue return to the stage.
What's it like touring in the United States after having been gone so long?
Well, the whole industry has changed. It is very important to be able to pull it off live, with the demise of record sales. Fortunately for me, that's always been second nature.
I have toured with every album I have made in the U.S. Last year, we came in and did 22 concerts there, and this time we are doing 44, including Canada. That to me is the normal kind of U.S. tour I would have undertaken before.
How is being on the road at this stage of your life?
In terms of the physical side of things, it has been great. I have been working live for 2 1/2 years. I've been with this band for about two years -- they are a great, supportive band.
I have been enjoying myself enormously live. ... Every night's like a marathon -- if you enjoy doing a marathon. I am not a long-distance person. Now after about three-quarters (of a show), I am wrung out. But the feeling is a natural kind of high you get.
You were close to the epicenter, in late 1970s England, of one of the greatest musical and cultural movements in history. Living in London today, do you feel any of that kind of energy or drive?
On the music scene, quite frankly, no. I am not seeing any kids walking down the street with any kind of new style, at least in the way they present themselves.
I think at this point in England, sadly, the TV variety show is predicting the course of music. So every single song in the top 40 is "so-and-so, featuring so-and-so" -- it seems to be kind of an R&B world. I think it will blow over eventually. The kids ... really need something of their own to come along. I am sure it will.
You have acknowledged your struggles with bipolar disorder, and there have been a few public incidents related to that. Do you have an approach to treatment that's working now?
Yeah, I think that's an ongoing thing. The most recently terminology would be bipolar disorder, but before that, it was referred to as manic depression or "black dog," or whatever. I think it's been a learning curve.
I think the main difference now is I have learned to say no. I think a lot of my personal problems came from overwork and allowing myself to become overstressed with it all, and just not taking any breaks. ... That's one of the major differences now. I don't do anything now that I don't quite frankly feel is right, or that I don't think I physically or emotionally want to do.
The feedback from discussing it -- which I have done from the start -- has been overwhelming. It (previously) has been so surrounded by taboo and fear and shame. Opening up avenues where people can talk about it, and can actually not be afraid (is important).
Johnny Depp's look in "Pirates of the Caribbean" always seemed Adam Ant-like. Do you think he took style cues from you?
He obviously didn't do (all his) styling on the "Pirates of the Caribbean" films. But I was kind of doing the pirate thing in 1980.
I am a big fan of those films, and I actually am quite good friends with Johnny's (former) wife, Lori. The last show I did in L.A., Johnny sent a message saying "Good luck with the show." So hopefully we will catch up. Two pirates together. I could play his older brother. (laughs)
Is it true you have Romany ancestry?
Yeah, my grandfather was born in a caravan in Oxford in 1898. ... quite a romantic birth. Very tough for him, but he was a hero of mine. ... Growing up, he was my inspiration. He was in the Royal Navy in World War I, and was a great, very wise guy.
Did he inspire your style?
Certainly, yes, he inspired my interest in the Royal Navy. I am a big fan of (Admiral) Nelson. I'm lucky because my hobby is actually incorporated into my work. I enjoy naval history. ... It's certainly in the metaphor of the album's title, "marrying the gunner's daughter" -- that's the punishment. Which reflects some of the business things I have experienced in music. (laughs)
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