INTERVIEW! Adam Ant speaks in depth on new Dirk tour, Kings reissue and new album
all tour dates and tickets from Adam Ant website
He will be doing another celebration of his classic Dirk Wears White Sox debut album. The smaller venues chosen specially for the tour are a reflection of the intense and in your face late seventies Dirk shows when Adam And The Ants were the ultimate underground band and their fierce and partisan following supported them in sold out club shows as they played their brilliantly twisted take on the punk template up and down the UK.
We caught up with Adam just before the tour and talked about Dirk, his planned remastering and repackaging of his breakthrough classic Kings Of The Wild Frontier, the upcoming new album he is currently working on, and the plan to release the brilliant early pre Dirk demos as a box set and Dirk itself.
How have you been Adam?
I’m just on the way back from being down in Tunbridge Wells where I have been editing the soon to be released film of the Dirk show. The guy that filmed it lives there and has a studio in his back yard so that’s where we have been doing the editing. It’s looking really good and it will be ready for the tour. It’s based on the Dirk live gig at the Apollo but there are lots of extras on it, like the sit down 100 club gig with the invited audience and there will be stuff where I am doing interesting covers. I’m going to do a nice booklet inside as well so there is a lot of work to do. I never make it easy for myself (laughs).
That’s true. You are working on the new album and a rerelease of the classic Kings Of The Wild Frontier as well…
For my new album I’ve done all the recording. I’m listening to it now and working out the running order and doing the touch ups here and there. I will then move on to the artwork and it should be ready for the new year. Meanwhile at the same time I’m preparing the next thing after Dirk which is revisiting Kings in gold vinyl.
I’m gonna do Kings like I did Dirk – an in-depth repackaging with plenty of extra things from my personal archive. We are also going to play it out live, performing it track for track. That will be a bit of a big project with that album as it was a big record to make and live it’s a different record with different theatrics than Dirk. It will be at least 6 or 7 months putting that together with the re-issue coming out in September with an autumn tour. There’s a lot of work to do on that as you can imagine. I’ve got a big archive to go though and I’m going to remaster it and make it sound louder and work really hard and bring it into the 21st century.
I’ve also looked at the archive and found some rare things. The album will be realised in a very nice format and will be very limited. Sony are doing the release and I’ve got a good relationship with them. They are being really supportive of this project and they want to do something very special and that’s very good and I’m really looking forward to doing it.
The Kings re-issue sounds like it will be a very hands on affair.
I’m going to try and make it personal. I’m doing the liner notes. They will be written by myself. Usually they get some wanker like Paul Morley to do them but it won’t be like that. It’s going to be written by myself. It’s like if the soldiers from D Day got to write about themselves as they tend to normally get someone else to write their story for them.
With these things we are trying to make it more special and it does take time but it’s worth it. There’s so much stuff mainly from the archive and I want to get lots of stuff on there that’s not been seen and heard before. This is such a vast kind of big project and the hardest thing to do is to keep it as distinct as can be. This will be the very best of the best stuff and also make it fit into the budget. The packaging will be very deluxe. It will feel very tactile. When you get one it will look and feel so great that you will want to keep it for ever.
The new release was when the Ants went from the amazing claustrophobic monochrome of their debut into a stunning 3D full colour production…
Dirk was a whole different kettle of fish really. This was more of a crossover record. There is a hell of a lot more kind going on with it. When it came out, well I wasn’t expecting what happened. No one can expect that kind of reaction. From my point of view I want to make this a special release because I was collecting it and I’ve got a full archive. Virtually everything that I did will be incorporated into the box set to satisfy people and take it beyond the pin up picture on the wall and into the whole experience.
There will be stuff on there that hopefully no one has seen before. I’m trying to do that at the moment by compiling everything and finding stuff that even I didn’t know that I had! I’m looking at different options and through a big archive . There’s stuff at my mum’s house. Rare stuff. I’ve searched for stuff that collectors haven’t got whether that’s in the form of recordings – because I’ve got recordings that no-one else has got like songs that were prior to working with Marco. And no-one has ever heard them before because they are under my bed!
Seems like the many available early days demos are just the tip of the iceberg…
There is so much there. Of course it’s got be in good condition. I transferred everything onto digital a couple of years ago as a safeguard and to make sure and of course you have to negotiate with the majors to make it work on that level. I’ve been thinking about this project for a year or so now and now I’ve got deadline I can make it happen.
I want to do all the albums like this. Work through them chronologically. The object is that once I have done these I won’t have to do them again. Once this has been done then nothing else can be done on them. From my point of view there is nothing else to say on them after this. That’s the object of making it a definitive commitment to that album then move to the next one. It’s a bit like the director’s cut of a film – that’s it. That’s the document and there is no more to say about that. That’s all I can say about about that, after that it’s for you the listener to interpret it but this is how it’s like for me. From a creative point view this is how it should look and sound like. I’m lucky to be able to dot that fortunately I’ve got the time the label who are being very helpful to realise this.
Is it difficult to do the new album at the same time
No, I have been working on the new album for a year and a bit on a very consistent level. I’ve been doing it non stop. I started the new album in January last year and I have been plugging away at that all the while. Meanwhile I have been thinking about what to do after Dirk and the London shows. I thought I had such a laugh with doing it and it went down so well that I should do some more gigs. The second show in Islington was different to the first one at the Apollo and there was stuff like doing the Dave Berry songs and the covers like I did in the Ants in 77 and the whole sit down bit and I really enjoyed that and it felt right to do a few more dates.
I then thought it was only fair to take the whole set around to the areas of the UK that kind of made Dirk because we were playing the songs all around the country in the early days. Places in the midlands and up north. I thought that rather than sitting around and waiting to do the new Kings project, it would be good to blast Dirk out for the last time. I thought that it suited the smaller shows that we have booked as well. The Apollo was more of a statement really whilst the smaller shows and the Islington have an intimacy that is key to that music. I thought the feedback on doing certain songs was really interesting, songs like Picasso which have not been revisited for a long time and some songs I have never played live before.
These shows will be more of a time capsule because I am doing stuff from that era and some of the stuff I have not done ever onstage and I will be going back as far back as pre punk with Bazooka Joe and pulling songs out of the Bazooka Joe set and a few covers as well because I enjoy that.
I want the small gigs to be hot and sweaty as I can make it for the Dirk performance. Dirk is very challenging to play. Those songs – I didn’t realise how demanding it would be to play some of them. It was really like doing a play with the intensity of it. It’s so demanding. Sitting down looking at the DVD when we have been editing it, you can see the good stuff and the bad stuff you can see and hear the range in the singing and having to have the low voice and then up to the falsetto which takes some doing!. The Day I Met God is crazy whilst Animals And Men is round the twist and making some sense of it all was a real challenge. I think Dirk is the most demanding album of all of them although I am yet to discover that for sure but so far that was definitely, vocally, the most demanding by far.
The songs complexity on Dirk make them so fascinating- every time I hear them I hear things that I have not heard before.
Yes and live a lot of them were never performed. I think that’s the beauty and challenge of revisiting the albums almost like re-activating them and taking them and bringing them into the 21st century. With making the albums we now have the technology to re-enhance andf not change them, to improve them. Give them a 21st century feel which is quite a challenge to do when other people to do it instead of yourself – like if the labels do it, they don’t have the personal touch. Having your own label and making the vinyl and doing your own singles and getting a little hardcore and caring about the right kind of paper of the packaging is important.
That’s a real eye opener and you really have to be really ready to commit to it. When you do the live show it’s the same and you really have to have the stamina to pull it off. The Dirk gigs really took it out of me and for this show I’m really getting into shape for it. It’s like going in for a boxing match. It fucking really is. The 40 minutes of Dirk is as demanding as the normal show and it was really a very big challenge getting ready for that.
Are all the pre Dirk demos going to get released?
Yeah, and as you know they have already got bootlegged up the wazzoo from the cassettes that I made for rest of band to learn because I recorded the songs for the band to play on a Akai four track and I did various demos in Muswell hill and Notting Hill and they have all ended up as bootlegs. The quality is so shit on the bootlegs but I got the masters and I transferred the actual amateur recordings I did as well to preserve them and to get them ready for a box set presentation of some sort. They will be released on vinyl like time capsules. I have waited this long to release them and I’m looking forward to bringing them out at the appropriate time. The demos will be more of a musical document rather than here is another album. There will be probably be released in very limited editions. What you hear out there now don’t sound so good because they bootlegged them so much they kind of lost their sparkle and also there is a lot of stuff that no one has ever heard and certainly lyrically there’s lots of stuff out there that’s not right with incorrect lyrics- some of the lyrics are so inaccurate that they are borderline stupid! so it would be great to get good sounding correct versions out there.
Are there any unreleased gems ?
I was on a real creative burst at the time and there is a lot more stuff that I recorded as demos that never got out there which is good. There are also the journals that I wrote at the time, a visual journal and written journals. I kept everything from each phase from that time so there is not just photographic things and the usual stuff.
Lyrically ideas wise the original workings of the songs that eventually developed into mark one Ants are pretty interesting. And there is other stuff, like whole period I was in the B Sides with the Monochrome Set guys. That period to me is quite fascinating and led directly to the early spiky sound of the Ants. Bid was quite a Lou Reed character in the way that he plays and that line up with Andy Warren and Tom Hardy who became Lester Square is really good.
Going way back I find that period a golden era because it was an age of innocence and there was no money, no responsibility. It was big mouth and sharp pencils, like I say, a golden period really and I want to do that as a box set and bring out that particular phase because it’s more interesting than just a box set and that makes it more special than that.
The archive sounds golden!
It’s weird having an archive. You have to be careful that it doesn’t stay there for ever and if you are not careful you can be dead before it ever comes out! A lot of people think ‘I will write my autobiography one day’ but as they get older their eyes go and their ears go and they can’t sit up properly.
There’s got to be a point when they say I can do this now! I’m glad I got my autobiography even that it was done under a lot of influence from the publishers and I wasn’t in the full bout of health when I did it. I want to do next volume of that which will be the diaries and the journals that I kept from 1977 through to the Top Of The Pops days. That covers that period and that’s the only real punk journal there is, so that will be something I will do. It will be a proper autobiography, a punk autobiography. There is loads to do in my dotage! I’m glad I got the first book out of the way- so people can say ‘write your proper autobiography granddad!’ (laughs)
What does the new album sound like?
Well, it’s called Bravest Of The Brave and the single is called the The Rokka. Musically, it’s hard to describe. It’s pretty much all the band on it and I have done it with a guy called Peter Olive – he is my keyboard player and I’ve never worked with keyboard before. He’s brilliant, genius – the guy is like a young Eno and just having said that the sound is very different from anything I’ve done before. I’m very pleased with it. I’m quite confident with this one and I’m in no rush to bring it out to until a) I get the Dirk thing and the Kings project out of the way and it will come out early next year and I will take the time to put together properly.
So is this a return to the great pop Adam plus a twist of your beloved Eno?
It’s, like I say, the first time that there will be a measure of electronic and keyboards involved. It’s even quite classical in parts. The rulebook has gone out of the window. I have kept certain mainstays of the style – with my vocal and the writing style. It’s as different as Dirk was when that came out. It’s really quite experimental on that level but there is a lot more singles on it this time. I tried to get thinking in terms of singles from the start. Not to make the tracks too long. There are 13 tracks so far. It’s a nice thing to have the chance to listen to it and getting the running order right that’s quite important. There is only a certain amount of time on vinyl so you have to have x amount of tracks in the right order and then there are the visuals to work on and I want to do that very different from the last one …
I see you have the wonderful Faerground Accidents supporting you in manchester- LTW faves and released on our label.
The recommendation came from Zodiac Mindwarp who is a really good friend of mine. We see each-other a lot and I collect his paintings. He is a fantastic, underrated, genius that guy. Anyway he phoned me up one day and said come and see this band they are fucking brilliant. Zodiac never goes out so I knew he was onto something if he was this excited. He said the singer wears a dress and my immediate reaction was that sounds interesting so I checked them out on the internet and heard their song We Hate The Same Things and I thought it was great! their whole approach and the lyrics were really good and I really liked them and I tracked them down and I got them up to play the soon to come Manchester gig .