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Adam Ant returns with his first new music in 18 years

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Adam Ant returns with his first new music in 18 years  Adam Ant (photo courtesy Adam Ant)

If this were an episode of VH1's 'Behind the Music,' we would now be watching the jubilant career revival that typically follows the meteoric rise and devastating crash in the arc of that series's formula.   

Adam Ant (born Stuart Goddard) has returned with his first album of new material since 1995 actually, make that a double.  The new record, 'Adam Ant is the Blueblack Hussar in Marrying the Gunner's Daughter,' offers 17 bold and brash songs, each written or co-written by Ant.  

Issued on his own label, Blueblack Hussar, the new music is available in multiple formats, including Ant's preferred medium, vinyl. The autobiographical album's title includes an 18th-century nautical term for the lashing of a sailor splayed against a cannon (an allusion for the treatment he received at the hands of the music industry).  Ant is quick to add, 'It's also about my life in general.' 

As he looks back over the last 35 years, Ant sees a strangely contrasting blur of good and bad - adoring fans, horrendous contracts, non-stop work, record awards, darkness, tabloids and, finally, his proudest achievement, his 15-year old daughter who is the center of his life.

In America, he's still best known for top 40 hits like 1982's 'Goody Two Shoes' and stylish videos that were perfectly timed to coincide with the rise of MTV. At home in England, success was massive - 22 hits including 10 top 10 singles and eight songs in the British top 40 at the same time. After a time-out for several years of TV and film roles he returned briefly to music in the early '90s before the light started to dim.  

From the outside everything appeared dandy, but Ant was suffering from a problem he had quietly endured since his youth depression. Eventually diagnosed with bipolar disorder, the medication zapped Ant's creativity until he found the right doctors and the correct balance that finally brought him back into the light.

Ant excitedly discussed his return with me in a phone interview from his home in London last week. In July, he will return to the United States with his band to follow on the success of their 2012 tour.         

Dow: By the time success struck for you, you'd been making music for several years. What did it feel like when everyone seemed to finally 'get it' at the same time? 

Ant: There's an old saying - "The longer it takes you to get there, the longer you'll stay there" and I think that's true. When 1980 came along, I was a working musician - doing every concert - never late. I was a professional person and I think that was a great advantage for me, and it was actually kind of a blessing in disguise that the success didn't come until later. I was prepared for it by then.

Dow: When you were a kid, whose music did you first fall in love with?  

Ant: There were many strong influences. My mum listened to Tony Bennett and Frank Sinatra while my dad liked jazz, so I would also hear Miles Davis and Louis Armstrong. Then I would see The Rolling Stones on television and, of course, The Beatles. My mum actually worked for Paul McCartney.

Dow: What did she do for Paul?

Ant: She was what you'd call a 'daily.' We lived near him in St. John's Wood in London near Abbey Road studios. She would clean his house, iron his shirts and look after him, and I would go and walk his sheepdog, Martha. After school, I would take her out, fighting my way through hordes of Beatles fans outside his door. This would have been around the time of 'Magical Mystery Tour' (1967).  

Just today, I found an autograph that he had given me when I was about 11. It says "To Stuart, Paul McCartney" and then, in brackets, he wrote ('Beatles'). He was a very nice guy. I caught up with him again a couple of years ago and he's still the same down-to-earth guy.

That experience certainly influenced my decision to get involved with music because I quickly became a bass player in a college band called "Bazooka Joe" when I went to art school. To learn how to play bass, I learned the first three solo Paul McCartney albums. I still think he's probably the best bass player in the world. He definitely influenced me to learn the bass, become a musician and play rock and roll.  

I would say that, as a writer, it was the glam-era that had the biggest influence. Roxy Music, T. Rex, Alice Cooper, The New York Dolls, Iggy Pop, Velvet Underground - they were all a very strong influence on me. I still listen to a very diverse collection of music, and I tend to learn from it. I like to listen to music that I can learn from.  

Dow: You have some seriously diehard fans. What has been their reaction to the new music?

Ant: I was very pleasantly surprised. The response to the new songs has been very positive so far. 

In the show, I surround the new songs with the songs that people know and some quite unusual choices from my catalog in general. We do some early stuff from 'Dirk Wears White Sox' (1979) and even before that time. We've spent two and a half years getting this show together, modifying it and getting it right.  

We recently did a 35th show in London at the famous Roundhouse. It's a really interesting venue where I had played 1978. With the sort of 'under-produced' sound on the new album, it allows us to sort of beef it up a bit when we do the songs live, and the audience really seems to enjoy it.   

Dow: I've seen video of some of your recent shows. That's an amazing band you've got.  

Ant: I'm very lucky to have my band. They're a very supportive group of young guys. We did a 22-date US tour last year and that went very well, so we're doubling up this time to 44 shows in the USA and Canada. It's very exciting to come back, and I hope to keep it a bit more regular and not wait 17 years until the next album (laughs)

Mike Dow can be heard each morning on 'The Big Morning Show with Mike Dow' on Big 104 FM, airing on 104.7 (Bangor/Belfast) 104.3 (Augusta/Waterville) and 107.7 (Bar Harbor).  'The Biggest Hits of the 60s, 70s and 80s.' 

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