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Adam Ant on His Upcoming Tour, His Health, and the Power of Live Music

'I love work. It's very fortunate to enjoy enough to want to do it every day. You know, I'll keep doing it as long as I can.'

qadamantfred kulman
Source: Fred Kulman

Adam Ant will be on tour throughout the U.S. from later this week through May.

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Adam Ant has long been a force of nature. From his punk rock roots to the glitzy glam of his mainstream peak, he redefined '80s pop with infectious melodies ("Stand & Deliver," "Prince Charming," "Goody Two Shoes") and a flamboyant signature style.

Ant has always been drawn to the left-of-center, whether it was his choice of makeup and naval motif blended with John Lydon-like delivery and Burundi drums in "Kings of the Wild Frontier" or his ability to embrace balladry on "Wonderful" or go full-on swampy rock with his last full-length release, 2013's Adam Ant Is the Blueblack Hussar in Marrying the Gunner's Daughter.

The 2008 Q Icon honoree has, in recent years, found himself in a newly appreciative era (witness the cover of "Antmusic" from OK Go in 2002, all the way to this year's cover of "Wonderful by The Vindys), having bounced back from everything including his famous onstage knee dislocation and mental health challenges. With a signature pirate vibe intact, he's gearing up for the North American Antmusic 2024 Tour with the English Beat in support. (The tour starts this Thursday in St. Louis, and continues into May.)

He recently sat down for an interview via Zoom from his residence in the U.K.

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Source: Gary Mather

Vive Le Rock!

How are you doing? How's your knee?

My knee's been thankfully okay for the last decade or so. It's kept itself in. I have to do quite a lot of build-up to a tour which I'm doing at the moment. Doing a lot of walking long distances longer and longer each day and getting ready for it. I'm quite excited at the moment getting into that preparatory stage.

It's like, “Hey, I'm 30 in my head. But I know I'm not.”

I take quite a long time, building up to it. And then during the tour, you sort of get into a good routine and you're able to move as much as you need to move and do the sort of the movements that need to be done. And it's quite exciting, actually working it all out. But you don't really know that till you get on the road. Not until you're absolutely live. You can rehearse as much as you want, but it doesn't really come together until you are live on stage.

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Is that what gets you excited?

From my point of view, it's my favorite part of being involved in the music profession. The actual live side of things have always been the most exciting time. It's always the most unpredictable. Every night’s completely different. And when I'm singing the songs, I'm trying to get them to sound like the records. They're never perfect, because you’re always comparing them with the actual sound that's in your mind. It never gets to a point of me thinking, “Oh, yeah, now that's the definitive performance of that song. That'll do.” Because it won't. So, every night I'm pushing myself to make it better.

Source: ℗ © EMI Music Pub. Ltd/IRS Music/Adam Ant/YouTube

Adam Ant - Goody Two Shoes [Official Music Video], Full HD (Remastered and Upscaled)

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It's very intimate, you know. You see the audience, so you can sort of feel them and their response. It's surprising how quiet it can get. When you're singing a slower song, you can hear a pin drop almost. You see the look in people's eyes and the expressions. It's very, very exciting. It's a very personal relationship between performer and the audience that I think is unique to the live stage. And long may it be so! Really, I think that's what people go to see and to feel and hear. So, hopefully, that'll go on forever. You can't duplicate that.

When you talk about some of the slow, quiet songs, I recently went back and watched the video for “Wonderful.” Is that still a standout for you?

It's certainly one of those songs that I was quite surprised how the video turned out. I'd made the album for EMI. It was a new label, all new people. It was quite a lonely situation at that time. But I just decided that it'd be nice to show another side, to be quite honest with you, and that the whole thing was so completely divorced from anything I tried before. It was an experiment to see how people would respond to it, and even now, when I play it live, there is a reaction to that song that is so unique. I don't play it a great deal, but when I do play it, I really notice the effect it has on people. So, it certainly has an effect on me when I sing it.

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Source: ℗ © EMI Music Pub. Ltd/IRS Music/Adam Ant/YouTube

Adam Ant - Wonderful (Official Music Video), Full HD (Digitally Remastered and Upscaled)

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I also went back and listened to Adam Ant Is the Blueblack Hussar in Marrying the Gunner's Daughter. I love that!

Oh, great! Thank you.

How much of this are you playing live?

I pretty much went out and played the album quite a lot live. It didn't really fit in as well as the other live stuff that I do. But I enjoyed playing it at the time. It was one of those ones like a project and I sort of focused on it as a project. Some of the fastest songs worked, but some of them were a bit too slow and a bit too complicated to play live. I got everything out of it that I could at the time.

Was it more a concept that you would have liked people to concentrate on, rather than try and pick out songs?

Yeah, I think it was. I think it was being a double vinyl, and it was a load of songs on there. It was kind of the extreme opposite end of what everyone else was doing at the time. I was coming back after a long period away, so I just wanted to make a bit of a mark there. It was more or less like a circus thing. It was a crazy sort of compendium of songs, really, and going through different sorts of melodies and different timing, different. I got a lot of experimental stuff out of my system, and then got back in with focusing on at that point. Went back and redid some of the earlier albums like Dirk [Wears White Socks] and Kings [of the Wild Frontier] and Friend or Foe. We went out and played them in their entirety, and we remastered those with the various record labels I've made them with. So, you know it was a job I felt had to be done. I'm a bit like that, as you probably noticed. If I think something needs doing, I'll do it.

Source: © Blueblack Hussar

Adam Ant Is the Blueblack Hussar in Marrying the Gunner's Daughter

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Does that pretty much describe you? “I happen to be Adam Ant, but I work all the time.”

Yeah, I love work. It's very fortunate to enjoy enough to want to do it every day. You know, I'll keep doing it as long as I can. Might be focused on the songs, and getting them absolutely as spic and span as well as I can live. You can always get them sounding better, which is what I try to, from whichever album it's from. I choose a set that is interesting to the audience and gives them some of their favorite songs, as well as some rare songs they may not have heard for a while. And really pick up on getting the vocals outstanding. There's so many vocal overdubs on those [early] records, that to split that between just three or four voices is a real hard task. To strip them down and arrange them so they sound like the record is very difficult, without bringing in hundreds of session people which I don't like to do.

Source: ℗ © Tamadan Ltd./Adam Ant/YouTube

Adam Ant - Antmusic live Sheffield City Hall 15 July 2022

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You’re gonna be back here in the U.S. doing deep dives. You're not gonna be doing stage dives.

Yeah, just playing live. I don't usually dive inadvertently into anything. It's only if I miss my footing or can't see, that tends to be interpreted as a dive. But it's not. It's actually a fall. But I'm okay, pretty much, so I'm just looking forward to getting on stage and playing live again.

Are you wearing contacts on stage? Because you don't obviously wear your glasses.

No, I can see as much as I need to. I've trained it down to really focusing my eyes down to what I really need to see. I can see well enough to not fall off the stage!


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