Oh, Adam Ant, you return to us.
For those tuned out of the Ant's recent antics, I'll catch you up quickly. After a few arrests and hospitalizations in the early Aughts, Adam chilled out, worked on a book (his autobiography) and decided to found a record label.
He's spent the last three years reactivating his long-dormant music career, beginning with a series of short tours and shows in his native England, progressing to a full-blown 2012 stateside tour with new album Adam Ant is the Blueblack Hussar in Marrying the Gunnar's Daughter
in tow. He returns to us now for a second U.S. tour as The Blueblack Hussar, his Kings of the Wild Frontier character "brought back from the dead." He explains it to me as this: the Hussar is a wandering soldier, walking back from war alone. We spoke briefly before his Friday date at Old National Centre.
NUVO: Adam, I love that blues guitar rip into "Cool Zombie" and I'm digging the Deep South blues infusion on the new album.
Adam Ant: Thinking back, when I first learned the guitar, I learned blues guitar. I bought a Teach Yourself Honky-Tonk Blues Guitar book by a guy called Stefan Grossman. The first music that I learned was blues and rock and roll really. I just really took respect to the basics. Most all these songs are written on guitar, so it had an autobiographical feel about it.
I really incorporated some of the time I spent living in Tennessee in '96 and '97. You can see that the album is a double-sided gatefold vinyl. It kinda had that feel to it since day one: quite simple and stripped down.
NUVO: How was your character, the Blueblack Hussar, conceived?
Adam Ant: It was really just looking back to my favorite album which is Kings [of the Wild Frontier] and wondering a scenario of what would that character, the young guy with the brocade jacket and the makeup, [that] look, like 35 years later. Perhaps he walked to Moscow and back in 1812 with Napoleon's troops, because that's something I've studied. And that was a sort of metaphor for some of the experiences that I've encountered in the music industry.
People can expect me to be in quite a flamboyant stage outfit: something that I think, right now sadly, has a place in the music scene [only with women]. If it wasn't for the Lady Gagas and Katy Perrys and Rihannas and Beyoncés, there'd be no attempt from the guys. I feel it's quite an apt time to come back with something a little bit special.
NUVO: You've always drawn on history as a major inspiration for your work. What are a few historical time periods or stories that you're drawn to?
Adam Ant: London's always been a fascination for me. I'm likely to live in a city where history's all around you, architecturally and in those [historic] stories. Being in London, I do tend to try and explore as much of that as possible. Historically, I'm attracted to the 18th century, the Regency period. I'm very interested in [Admiral] Nelson and the Navy; my grandfather was in the World Navy, so that was a big influence on me. I'm also quite intrigued by the famous, or infamous, charge of the Light Brigade in 1854: the Battle of Balaclava, which inspired the blockade jacket. In fact, the original jacket I wear was worn by David Hemmings in the 1968 Tony Richardson film [The Charge of the Light Brigade].
So it all stems from that period. I find the 18th century quite a fascinating period where so much was done, sort of an age of enlightenment. [That's] always something to incorporate into present day. Also, heroic elements for the characters. Sort of like piracy, those kind of flamboyant characters. During my career I've been interested also in the space missions, NASA, which I used to watch as a child on TV. So it's a bit of a mix of both.
NUVO: You've moved into a new position as a label boss where you're working very closely with artists. What are some surprises that have come along the way with this new venture?
Adam Ant: I think it's going to be an eye-opener in terms of getting involved in the actual manufacturing and making of a record. The mysteries of what seems to be quite boring stuff is actually quite interesting - how a record can be manufactured and distributed and how much it all cost. Not to mention getting involved in the reality of the industry as it is now. That's been a real learning curve for me. If anything, it gives me an appreciation of what the major record labels took care of, but it just isn't worth 90 percent of the profit.