BBC Radio 2 Adam Ant Interview
with Steve Wright. Wednesday, September 13th 2006
Time: Wednesday, September 13th 2006
Intro: Steve Wright plays Stand And Deliver and 'Antmusic'.
Steve Wright: Adam Ant is here now, Adam Ant, and I'm just talking to Adam because some of these songs are like the soundtrack to our lives. They're great songs, aren't they? What is your favourite song that you either like to perform or you remember well and you love?
Adam Ant: My favourite is Dog Eat Dog cos that was the one that we tried to get everything working on and we were experimenting the most with and it was the first time that we got the sound right. We used drum cases to get the sound.
SW: When it started to go off, when you started on Top Of The Pops every other week and the hits started to come, did you feel that that veered away from your vision of what Adam & The Ants were gonna be, but you went with it anyway? Or, was that what you always wanted to do?
AA: That was pretty much what I always wanted to do. I mean we'd started out in clubs working really hard and didn't really have a record company so for me it was really just working as hard as I could and hoping some of it would work. And when we got on TV it was just really doing Dog Eat Dog on Top Of The Pops that did it.
SW: And what about the characters that you came up with, and the costumes and the theatrics? Was that always gonna be part of it for you?
AA: Yeah, well I'm a big fan of history so all those characters came from historical backgrounds and I was able to integrate them in with the lyrics and in with the ideas and the videos in particular, cos it was the video boom as well and I thought it would be a very good opportunity to have costumes as well as just the music and the sound.
Janey Lee Grace: How much did Malcolm McLaren get involved in all that kind of working out your image and stuff?
AA: Well, I worked with Malcolm - prior to it going off kinda big - for about two weeks, and during that time he spoke to me a lot about the structure of pop music and listening to certain sounds that would help me to write good songs. I think I owe him an awful lot but the actual ideas, the actual imagery was taken from books about Apaches and pirates and integrating them into the look.
SW: It was very strong wasn't it? Your images were always very strong and with your voice and a kinda feeling of 'what's he gonna do next?' We always had that feeling. What are they up to now? Whenever I hosted Top Of The Pops and you were appearing I'd see a little glint in your eye as if to say 'Well, this is what we're up to now' and you'd do it and it'd go straight to number one.
AA: I think the idea was that if the audience know what you're gonna look like and dress like then you're not doing your job. So every time I went out and did a single I really made an effort to have a new look and a new sound and a fresh outlook from every angle.
SW: You got any advice for somebody like Pete Doherty? As a stalwart - as somebody who's been there, done it. What would your advice be to somebody like that?
AA: I saw him interviewed on TV and I thought he came across as a very intelligent young man. I think it's just a tragic thing when someone gets involved in drugs like that, but I think from what I could see, that he seems to have his head screwed on the right way. I think once he gets all the court cases out of the way and gets that sorted out it'll be a lot easier for him to address the problems that he has.
SW: What mistakes, if any, do you feel that you made? Because I know you've suffered from depression for a good part of your life, haven't you?
SW: And that's something that rarely goes away. I mean you can modify it, you can keep it under control but it comes back sometimes, doesn't it?
AA: Yeah, it comes back in certain periods of time and you have to work very closely with the doctors and with the psychiatrists and take your medication correctly and just believe that you're gonna get through it.
SW: What's your kind of depression that you have and that you've been suffering over the past few years? Is it a certain type of depression?
AA: Yeah, it's called bipolar and it takes you from highs to low and it has to do with the serotonin levels in your brain - which is the pleasure levels in your brain. That's restricted, so you tend to get down and feel a bit more down than regular folk.
Tim Smith: Was it made worse by the career that you choose and the levels of success that you achieved?
AA: No, during the periods of working, the work kept me very occupied and kept it at bay and that was something that, while I was working very hard, I never really noticed it. As I stopped working in music it got worse and worse and worse. Work is a good combatant for it.
SW: Adam and his band, The Ants, had phenomenal success in the 1980s. This included 13 top twenty hits. They had three number one hits; Stand And Deliver, Prince Charming and Goody Two Shoes. Goody Two Shoes - fantastic! Adam was groundbreaking in both musical style and in his use of lavishly-staged videos to accompany the singles. Trail blazer really, his image was of a white stripe across his nose - but his nose is better now. In 1980, Malcolm McLaren convinced the band to leave Adam and form Bow Wow Wow. Oh yeah, Bow Wow Wow, of course. Adam's Prince Charming suits are now on display in the V&A (Victoria and Albert) Museum. The greatest hits CD, Stand & Deliver, released on Monday, 11th of September, and the autobiography is also out; Stand & Deliver, published on Friday, 15th of September. When we come back I wanna ask Adam what he's been doing recently, I'm gonna play some more hits and also the L.A years. Adam Ant is here. We'll be right back, don't go away - we'll be right back.
Plays Dog Eat Dog and Goody Two Shoes.
SW: We're back here with Adam Ant. There was a few more hits, Adam Ant hits. So, you went to L.A. at, as I remember, here's the way I remember it - the late 80s? Maybe early 90s?
AA: Early 90s.
SW: Early 90s. Okay. You went to L.A. and I remember being there and watching television and seeing you in some stuff. You were in some TV things, you were in a couple of movies here and there, so you became a fully-fledged actor didn't you?
AA: Yeah, I went over there and decided to pursue a career as an actor and I enrolled in an acting class with a guy called Harry Mastrogeorge which helped me enormously and I just went round and - I didn't have an entourage - I just went round to all the readings and meetings and just got pretty steady work.
SW: What were you in?
AA: Northern Exposure, that was probably my favourite role. And I did Amazing Stories for Steven Spielberg. And a film called Trust Me - I just really, you know, got into working on cult films really.
SW: Yeah. Where would you see yourself at today? Are you an actor? Are you a performer? Are you a singer? Are you a writer? If you had to say - if somebody says 'Adam, well, what are you?' what would you say in return?
AA: I'd say pretty much a performer. I think that encompasses everything and allows you to do all the other things at the same time. I think if you bracket yourself too much you tend to just neglect the other things and I'd never neglect music that much. I always like to come back to music; it's always very dear in my heart and always very close to me, so I never forget where I come from - or my roots.
SW: And do you still gig around - do you still gig?
AA: No, I haven't gigged recently but I am working on some new material and I hope to gig when that comes out.
SW: Do you ever forget that you're Adam Ant? Are you Adam Ant or are you this person in front of us? That's a good question ain't it? Do that one.
AA: Pretty much the person sitting in front of you. I mean I chose the name Adam Ant for myself, so it just seemed more exciting than Stuart And The Ants (creates much laughter) so I just decided to come up with something else and I chose Adam because I wasn't shaped, at the time, like Mick Jagger and David Bowie. I wasn't sort of skinny and thin - I was more muscular so I decided to base myself on the classical paintings of Adam and Eve in the garden of Eden. So that's where the Adam came from.
SW: Do you still have the ability to become him?
AA: Yeah, I just go into a telephone box somewhere and just, you know, zip, zip, zip, and then I'm there (more laughter).
SW: No, but you said you haven't been well and the last time we spoke you certainly weren't well. You'll probably remember - or maybe you don't, I don't know. I was thinking, would you have the energy levels? I mean, clearly to be Adam Ant you have to have that energy don't you?
AA: Yeah, I think when you go onstage, when you walk onstage, the transformation comes and you get the energy boost and the adrenalin goes up and you're able to produce that special quality that allows you to become who you wanna become.
Janey Lee Grace: What about writing the book though? Was that easy for you or was that stressful? Was it quite cathartic actually getting all that stuff down?
AA: I think it was a labour of love and I was able to interview my grandmother before she died and it started there just talking to her about her upbringing and her work when she was young and I started to write that down and then I found I had quite a lot of stuff about my family so I thought 'this is good, this is something I'd like to work on.' And then someone asked me if I'd be interested in writing a book and I said 'Yes, perhaps I would.'
Tim Smith: Just coming back to what Steve was saying, do you miss Adam Ant? Might we get to see Adam Ant on stage again at some point?
AA: Yeah, I think you will. Yeah, I miss it. It's about time I brushed off my best clothes and got onstage again and did some work.
SW: You know, we call my mum Adam Ant because she buys those things that she puts over her nose - it's to stop her snoring, you've probably seen these things.
AA: Oh, right, yeah.
SW: And people put them on their nose to stop snoring and they say 'Well, there's Adam Ant asleep in there.'
TS: I thought you called her Adam Ant cos she was a dandy highwayman.
SW: Well listen, brilliant to see you and I think you're looking great. You're certainly looking better than you looked last time we saw you which was, what - about four or five years ago? Something like that?
AA: Yeah. I think so.
SW: Yeah. The CD, Stand & Deliver, is out now and Stand & Deliver, the autobiography, published by Sidgwick & Jackson is available now. See you next time. Adam Ant everybody. Thank you very much Adam.
Although transcribed for this site by Stuart Barker (thank you!) in 2006, this interview remains the copyright of the BBC and Steve Wright.