Marco Pirroni Interviewed by Johnny Normal

Marco Pirroni was, amongst other things, Adam Ant‘s co-writer for over 20 years. On 14th March Johnny Normal met and interviewed Marco at length. The following interview touches on such things as his time with the Ants, Sinead O’Connor, social media, tribute acts/covers, fans and his thoughts on the possibility of an Ants reunion.

Also included in the piece are some exclusive photo’s of Marco shot by Robert Minter

It was a crisp and sunny Wednesday in Piccadilly and I was on my way to meet with Marco Pirroni, Adam Ant’s double Ivor Novello-­”winning writing partner and guitarist for Adam and the Ants.The Ants were a really big part of my life growing up in Birmingham. It was such a fresh and raw sound that blew everything else musically out of my head. I had recently supported Adam Ant on ”˜The Good The Mad and The Lovely’ UK tour, which was one of the highlights of my life… and now I had the chance to meet and chat with Marco. Understandably I was looking forward to the day ahead.

Marco has been recording with The Wolfmen and also Sinead O’Connor in more recent weeks, and I was surprised that he had agreed to be interviewed by me at all… given that past press articles and social media sites have branded him with the tag of being a relative hermit these days, hiding out in his London mansion and far from being a sociable creature. This, combined with Marco’s reputation for directness, formidable stature, provocative attitude and his position in punk history… well, I must admit that I suddenly became quite nervous as I entered ”˜Temperance’, a bistro style public house quite close to Marylebone Station. This was Marco’s choice as we wanted somewhere where we could both be relaxed and somewhere where he felt chilled enough to open up a little about his life.

I wanted more of a conversation than an interview, and having done my research I was very much aware that Marco was capable of really screwing up an interview if he didn’t like the feel of it, or the interviewer. One word answers were what I was expecting, and I was hoping that he might be a little more expansive given the right ambience.

I ordered a pint from the bar and settled myself in the dining area. Just then, Marco entered… undoubtedly Marco Pirroni, every bit the stature of the man I expected to meet. What I wasn’t prepared for was how friendly and polite the man would be.

“Johnny Normal, I presume?” he said, as we met halfway across the room. “Marco, it’s great to meet you… and thank you for agreeing to do this” I replied. “I’m looking forward to it… well I think I am” he said with a smile.

We settled in and Marco ordered a coffee…

JN-­”Excuse me if I ask you stuff that you’ve already been asked before, but you’d probably expect that… So your family came over from Italy, or rather your mother came over from Italy and met your father in the UK?

MP-­”Yes

JN-­”How did they come to meet?

MP-­”I don’t know, I’ve never known how they came to meet.

JN-­”Didn’t you think to ask them? … at any point?

MP-­”No, I never thought to ask them…

JN-­”Do you think you should?

MP-­”Erm…

JN-­”… to get closure on it? … so you know where you came from?

MP-­”Er, no, why? … I mean it’s never really occurred to me.

JN-­”You don’t look back romantically on the Italian side of your family?

MP-­”No, I don’t actually, no… I’ve never felt particularly Italian really.

JN-­”No? Ok. That’s a shame really… with a name like Marco Pirroni.

MP-­”It is a shame yeah, but, no, I’ve never really felt Italian. Mainly because I think, well I grew up here … and also I didn’t speak English until I went to school. I only spoke Italian… and my dad obviously thought that it was a bad idea for me not to have to speak English, so he forbade everyone to talk Italian to me.

JN-­”Right… so was there any Italian spoken in your house at all?

MP-­”Well there was later on, when I had learned to speak English obviously.

JN-­”And can you speak Italian now?

Photo copyright Robert Minter

MP-­”No… even though I live there sometimes.

JN-­”Oh, so there is a connection over there? Do you keep in touch with your family then?

MP-­”Well, no, my girlfriend is Italian… she lives in Rome. So we have a place in Rome that I go to occasionally.

JN-­”Were you from a small family? A large family?

MP-­”I am an only child.

JN-­”That’s quite a small family then.

MP-­”As small as you can get.

JN-­”I suppose so. Were your family musical at all?

MP-­”No.

JN-­”So where did this come from then?

MP-­”I have no idea. My dad wanted to be musical, but he never had the opportunity. I mean if I asked him I know what he’d say, “Oh I ”˜d have loved to have been a musician but I had to go to work, up the f***ing chimney or down the mines” or whatever, you know, “woe is me and I never got to do what I wanted”. It’s because you didn’t want to do it, you know?

JN-­”I used to say to my mum “what did you listen to when you were young?” … and she’d always say “when I was young? I didn’t have time to listen to music”… which I’ve never quite understood, but there’s a lot of people saying a similar thing really.

MP-­”Yeah, what’s all that?

JN-­”Well, I’m going to make time today… today at 2’0’clock I’m going to listen to some music.

MP-­”My parents have always had this “Oh you’re so lucky” sort of b******t, and I hate all that. If I had kids I wouldn’t do that.

JN-­”You say that. I said I wouldn’t say that… and I say that now!

MP-­”Do you?

JN-­”And I hear myself saying it… and I try to change it as I’m saying it… and then they say “you’re saying what your dad said to you, aren’t you?” So it does go round, it’s a generation thing. You do become where you’ve come from, I think, unfortunately.

MP-­”Really? Hmm

JN-­”I think so… At the risk of sounding cynical. So, your school years, was it a bustling fantastic
school life or was it boring like mine was, with not a lot going on?

MP-­”No, it was boring. I really didn’t like my school.

JN-­”And girls didn’t look like girls then did they? Or was that just my school? They were like boys in dresses at my school… unless they were actually boys in dresses?

MP-­”There were girls at my school, but most of my school life I wasn’t really interested in girls… and then you became interested… and then you became terrified, you know.

JN-­”Girls or guitars? What came first?

MP-­”About the same time actually.

JN-­”Or was it guitars to get the girls? Did you find it had a bit of pulling power?

MP-­”Er, yeah.

JN-­”So is that why you went into music?

MP-­”No. Er, well, no. Anyone goes into music because they just want to play music… and they can’t not do it.

JN-­”So you weren’t made to play anything? … violin or anything, and you rebelled and took the guitar up?

MP-­”No I wasn’t made to play anything. I wasn’t encouraged nor discouraged.

JN-­”You didn’t get piano lessons for your tenth birthday?

MP-­”No, but I wish I’d had piano lessons. I wish I had, you know, it would have made learning guitar a lot easier if I’d had some rudimentary theory. But I didn’t, so I had to just sit there on my own and figure it out… which is what most people used to do.

JN-­”So if you had any theoretical training presumably that would have changed your music from that point would it, how you thought about composition, being less spur-­”of-­”the-­”moment maybe and more considered in your writing?

MP-­”You can use it or not use it as you see fit. I’d still just do it by ear, yeah, you can just use it or not use it… or decide to ignore it can’t you?

JN-­”Yeah, like that phone that’s ringing? (Marco’s mobile rings out)

MP-­”Yeah.

JN-­”Could be your mum?

MP-­”No it isn’t.

JN-­”Could be Adam.

MP-­”No it’s not Adam. Do you mind if I take that?

Marco answers the call.

JN-­”So your earliest encounters with punk… whenever I read anything about punk, or see anything on the television about punk, Marco Pirroni’s face pops up.

MP-­”Yes.

JN-­”Does that annoy you?

MP-­”Yes.

JN-­”I’m sensing that it does antagonise you a little bit.

MP-­”That’s why I stopped doing it. I always think “oh, go on, who else is doing it”, and then when somebody else is doing it I want to do it then. I don’t want to be left out. But I think I’ve said everything I can say, I didn’t have an encounter with punk. It sort of….

JN-­”It had an encounter with you?

MP-­”Mmm, yes.

JN-­”So did you see it coming? You didn’t just wake up and say “I’m going to be involved in punk today”. How did you even hear it? I mean when I was little, one of the first dramatic things I heard, one minute I was listening to Money, Money, Money by Abba… and the next minute I heard this stuff coming out from my brother’s bedroom (and he was trying to keep it quiet so my parents wouldn’t hear it) … and it was Dog Eat Dog. I remember that vividly, and that changed how I thought about music. I actually thought “you know what, guitars can actually play music”. Before I was always keyboards, and I actually listened to it. Was there a point you can remember when you thought “b****y hell that was good”? Because there was rock and roll around, loads of rock and roll… and a lot of it was quite the same wasn’t it?

MP-­”Yeah, I mean the specific year I think was 1972 or maybe 1973, which is when all my favourite albums come from… like Transformer and For Your Pleasure and Ziggy Stardust , Electric Warrior, all from around that time. Must have been my formative year.

JN-­”So did Electric Warrior have much of an impact on your sound?

MP-­”Yeah, yeah, massive… and I was actually a Slade fan. I think that was the first band I actually
liked.

JN-­”Ok. Now I’ve got a vision. Fantastic.

MP-­”But then I got fed up with them. I mean they had great songs, but when you listen to them now they are so badly produced. Then to me they sounded glorious.

JN-­”In the day, when you didn’t have crystal clear things to play it back on, you didn’t have mp3 and CDs and things, then it probably sounded quite good.

MP-­”Yeah. The strange thing is when you listen to them now I’m always thinking “God I could do a better job than this”.

JN-­”Well, you’ve got the guitar haven’t you? (Dave Hill’s Super Yob).

MP-­”Well, I just think I could make a better record than this any day of the week, you know.

JN-­”People used to go out and see bands then though didn’t they? There used to be a purpose, a point to it…

MP-­”Well they still do.

JN-­”Do they?

MP -­”Well, yeah.

JN-­”You see I’m from the Midlands, and trying to drag anyone out, unless it’s a Saturday night, is a really difficult thing to do.

MP-­”I think the problem is there are too many bands, I think there’s more bands than before and the market is being flooded. So there’s just not enough punters to see bands, you know?

JN-­”Did you ever get involved in this Pay-­”to-­”Play thing that they tend to be doing around London now?… so the band has to pay to perform.

MP-­”Er, we didn’t. I don’t think that actually existed then, but in those days you had to hire your own PA, and you had to pay for your transport and your costs.

JN-­”So you weren’t going to make any money anyway, were you?

MP-­”No, no… you’d lose money.

JN-­”So you just limited how much you lost?

MP-­”Yes, yes. Strangely enough it was better to support because you didn’t have to hire the PA, it was the main band who did that. So no, Pay-­”to-­”Play didn’t exist in the same way, but you still paid to play but you didn’t play the venue.

JN-­”It’s easy to Google you and find out about The Beastly Cads and The Models, but was there anything before that that got you interested in music? … or did you just pick up the guitar with the Beastly Cads and say “I’m gonna be in a band”, and just did it? You didn’t mess around with anything else before that?

MP-­”That was the thing about punk though, it sort of gave you an “in”. It would have been impossible to perform, you know, I wasn’t good enough. It was all bland rock and Bowie, which was not the main stream. Although it was chart stuff it wasn’t taken seriously.

JN-­”Nowadays I would consider Roxy Music quite mainstream, for me, but in those days it wasn’t was it? It was pretty out there really.

MP-­”Completely out there. And also it wasn’t respected really, I mean if you got the NME Book of Glam,
Although Roxy Music did get a lot of good reviews, it was like you know when that idiot did that thing on the Old Grey Whistle Test, when the Dolls played and he went “Ah yeah, Mock Rock”. Yeah, now run along then. This is a bit silly… this is for kiddies. I’m going to go off and listen to Gentle Giant… and that’s really what’s happening, man. So although it was chart, it was considered Kiddie-­”Pop really.

JN-­”So were you happy playing in the pubs and losing money and that kind of stuff?

MP-­”Of course I wasn’t b****y happy about it.

JN-­”So looking back romantically it wasn’t a nice time… formative years of getting on the circuit then?

MP-­”No, no… it was f*****g awful, I mean I don’t know how we managed to do it. It was b****y hard work, you know to get yourselves up to Birmingham and then no b******s ever turned up. Then when they did turn up it would be crowded or there’d be a fight. I think it’s better now for young bands. I think when they go on stage they’re given a chance.

JN-­”But the trouble is there is too much choice now isn’t here.

MP-­”Yeah… too many bands.

JN-­”And everyone is a musician now too, which is fantastic, because people have got things like the Mac and GarageBand etc, and even the cassette multitracks we used to have, but now you can record and publish your own stuff… downloads, albums, tshirts, and it’s absolutely flooding the market…

MP-­”Yeah, making it all worthless really. That’s the only thing I don’t like about the whole internet thing really, with the whole download thing, because you’re not buying the physical object, which years ago you used to cherish… this thing you used to love…. And it came with a lovely cover, but now you’re just buying an electronic impulse. It’s another file on your desktop.

JN-­”Yes, it’s not personal anymore is it?

MP-­”No.

JN-­”I remember buying the old gatefold albums… you’d open it and you’d have the gatefold thing with all the lyrics printed on it, you’d pull the record out either side with the sleeve, and then you’d have the poster, maybe a free single or a flexi disc or something… and God help your little brother if he came anywhere near it.

MP-­”Yes, but now you don’t seem to get anything really.

JN-­”I know you’ve got this liking of science fiction and cult TV.

MP-­”Mmm.

JN-­”I read an interview you did a while ago about this, and it stuck in my head.

MP-­”It wasn’t ”˜cult TV then!’

JN-­”No, it wasn’t. It was just TV. Randall and Hopkirk, The Avengers, The Prisoner, Danger Man… even stretching across to James Bond… the music in there has its links with your music, which I can hear.

MP-­”It certainly does, yeah.

Photo copyright Robert Minter

JN-­”Is that something you were aware of at the time?

MP-­”I think it was quite deliberate, yeah.

JN-­”Ok… straight copying of stuff that you liked.

MP-­”Well I mean I liked all that, I liked the tunes, I liked the moods. I don’t think I ever ripped them off.

JN-­”Oh come on. You must have done… a little bit? Were you ever into the Sweeney and that kind of thing?

MP-­”No, you see that’s too late, that would have been about 1977 or 78 wouldn’t it? You see I had already been formulated by that time. They didn’t seem to do that sort of tune. One of the only programmes I have actually liked in the last few years is the new version of Sherlock , which I thought was great, and it has that panoramic thing of London, and sort of does have that Randall and Hopkirk feel. It’s done by the guy that does the James Bond themes now…

JN-­”I switched off from James Bond about five or six years ago now.

MP-­”Well I saw Casino Royale, and I though that was great.

JN-­”I like the old black and white Bond, with the old DB’s…

MP-­”There never was a black and white Bond.

JN-­”There was in my head… We only had a black and white TV you see!

MP-­”Oh I see! So I mean where do you hear it specifically?

JN-­”When I read that you liked Randall and Hopkirk, I thought actually I can hear that sort of guitar and it’s probably not a harpsichord, but that sort of sound, the feel of that. The spacey, psychedelic almost sound.

MP-­”You’ve heard of the Ipcress File?

JN-­”Yes.

MP-­”I can’t remember what it’s called now, is it a Zither? It looks like a piano, an open piano and you hit it with hammers… it’s a Romanian or East European instrument or something.

JN-­”Are you going to buy one?

MP-­”No!

JN-­”Are you sure? You’re not scanning ebay for one?

MP-­”No, I wouldn’t know where to put it! I mean you could sample it.

JN-­”I bet you can. I bet you can get a sample of it.

MP-­”Sure. John Barry used it on The Ipcress File and it was great, it just evoked this Cold War mood obviously.

JN-­”Yeah, and there’s a bit of that in the Wolfmen stuff too. A bit of that. If you close your eyes you can feel a bit of Avengers, a bit of Randall and Hopkirk going around.

MP-­”Yeah.

JN-­”I’ll come back to this in a minute, but I was watching the Lawrence of Arabia film the other day,
and I heard something in there…what was that?

MP-­”Lawrence of Arabia?

JN-­”You’ve nicked that haven’t you?

MP-­”The solo on Feed me to The Lions.

JN-­”That’s what it is! It was going round in my head, thinking what is it, what is it? It’s definitely Adam and the Ants, definitely. Brilliant.

MP-­”I don’t know why I put that in. I just heard it.

JN-­”Well we’ve gone from Cult TV to science fiction… were you ever into The Thunderbirds and stuff like that?

MP-­”Yeah, totally.

JN-­”Gerry Anderson and all that?¬¬

MP-­”Yeah, all that stuff.

JN-­”Space 1999?

MP-­”No, you see that was all too late.

JN-­”You see I was into that, with the woman with the funny eyebrows, with the jewels in them.

MP-­”Yeah she had funny little things in them. I watched them but it didn’t really grab me, but by that time I had other interests.

JN-­”What was your favourite Thunderbird?

MP-­”Two.

JN-­”Two? Was that the squat one, with the little thing inside it?

MP-­”Yeah, that’s the one that seemed to do everything.

JN-­”Yeah, as a toy that was the one that had all the little bits, and was it Thunderbird Four it had inside.

MP-­”Thunderbird Four, yeah, the little yellow one…

JN-­”Yeah, it was crap that one really, wasn’t it?

MP-­”Yeah, I once said I wanted a yellow Lambourghini with a 4 on the thing, cos they sort of look like Thunderbird Four.

JN-­”Have you got quite a collection of comic books? Or did you?

MP-­”I used to have. I used to have loads, but like everybody else from that period, my mum
chucked them away.

JN-­”Doh! And was that DC Comics and Marvel?

MP-­”Marvel I wasn’t really into, because Marvel had the continuing story, and when I was growing up in the 60’s it was hard to get comics. You couldn’t get them from a comic store, you had to go to a sweet shop and hope that they were there, you know? So you couldn’t guarantee that you
would get all the parts of the story… and I must say that at the time Marvel was a bit too advanced for me… a bit too grown up.

JN-­”Right, so what was the earliest comic book you can remember that stuck in your mind?

MP-­”Actually I could date it… would it have been 1964, an issue of Batman… Batman versus the
Cluemaster …or something. So I would have been five.

JN-­”Have you still got it?

MP-­”No.

JN-­”Ahhh.

MP-­”Yeah, but I found it and bought it again.

JN-­”I’m sorry to nick another interview but this one stuck in my mind… where you were talking
about Batmobiles and stuff and how flawed Batman was… which made me laugh.

MP-­”Well, you know, the original audience for this stuff was eleven-­”year-­”old boys, and so there was a certain amount of leeway you could take, you know…

JN-­”Yes, well the utility belt for instance…

MP-­”Yes, well….

JN-­”I remember him dangling from a helicopter and there was a shark about to attack him…

MP-­”Yeah…

JN-­”And he had shark repellant in his utility belt. In real life he probably wouldn’t have.

MP-­”If a shark bit your leg it’d bite it off wouldn’t it?

JN-­”Yeah I would imagine so… Ok, so were you ever into Superman and that kind of stuff?

MP-­”Yes. All of it. Everything in DC comics, absolutely.

JN-­”Did you have the costumes?

MP-­”No I didn’t have the costumes.

JN-­”Did you want the costumes?

MP-­”Erm…

JN-­”You did, didn’t you? You wanted to be Spiderman or the Green Hornet or something.

MP-­”I didn’t, no… I never wanted to be Spiderman… I wanted to be Batman.

JN-­”Yeah, and did you have a best friend who wanted to be Robin at the time?

MP-­”No. No-­”one wants to be Robin do they?

JN-­”No, they don’t. But you quite like the fantasy side… I mean with Adam and the Ants, maybe more so with Adam and his solo career, but the fantasy side was certainly there wasn’t it?… you know with Prince Charming, the Warrior look and … well I was never quite sure if it was warrior or pirate or what… I never quite understood the boundaries of the Kings thing… but it didn’t matter at the time.

MP-­”No, it didn’t matter. It wasn’t a literal translation of anything, you know. It wasn’t meant to be.

JN-­”So when you first joined Adam, well I’ve heard a story that you met him in an ice cream shop or something and said do you want to be in a band, yes I do, and that was it. Is that basically how it went?

MP-­”Yeah. Basically.

JN-­”And did you know Adam from art school or college or did you meet on a bus?

MP-­”No, I was a friend of Andy Warren’s, who was the bass player… because the drummer lived with Andy Warren so therefore I met Andy. But it was a small scene, a small town really, and the whole punk thing… it was around the Kings Road. Everything seemed to radiate around the Kings Road and Kensington. I mean I don’t know what happening in the provinces, cos I didn’t live there…

JN-­”No, well not a lot was happening in the provinces really! So do you remember, from the times you were trekking up to Birmingham and playing the gigs and no-­”one turning up to watch you… and losing money… providing your own PA, etc… and then suddenly you were on Top of the Pops?

MP-­”It wasn’t suddenly, it took about 18 months or something to get on Top of the Pops, or maybe two years.

JN-­”So was that a lot of gigs before you got to that point then?

MP-­”I think we did about thirty, yeah… well we were in the middle of a tour when we got the call.

JN-­”I keep bumping into people that say “Oh I knew Adam and the Ants before they were on Top of the Pops, and I used to follow them around”, and they sort of wear it like a badge now… because they’re the true fans, as they knew you then. And of course you were better then!

MP-­”Of course, that’ll always happen.

JN-­”That’s the way that it goes?

MP-­”Yeah, better now I’m not in it?

JN-­”So do you remember when you got the call? Did you get the call or did Adam ring you and say “We’re on b****y TOTP this week”?

MP-­”He didn’t call me actually… he left a note. Yeah, he left a note.

JN-­”He left a note saying you’re on national telly this week?

MP-­”Oh, no, let me think, we were actually rehearsing and someone came and said “right, you’re doing TOTP tomorrow”.

JN-­”So you must have charted then… I presume?

MP-­”I think we were in at 19, yeah. That was the first time I’d ever got anywhere near the chart.

JN-­”So how did that sit with you then, going from this presumably rebellious, very close-­”knit music scene and then suddenly TOTP?

MP-­”It sat very well indeed!

JN-­”Did you think “Way-­”hey here we go!”…?

MP-­”Yeh, I did. I thought “Way-­”hey here we go!”

JN-­”You thought you were that good at that time?

MP-­”Well, yeah, well you would, do wouldn’t you?

JN-­”Well, I don’t know… just asking the question really.

MP-­”You wouldn’t be in a band if you thought it was crap would you?

JN-­”I don’t know… I’ve been in a few crap bands in my time.

MP-­”Well, we all have, but, you know… you don’t join them because they are crap do you?

JN-­”Well I did… because they made me look good!

MP-­”Maybe that’s where you’ve been going wrong?

JN-­”Hmm, it could be. Did you find it odd when you had that first TOTP performance that you were instantly recognisable… although the band were quite striking to look at… (I’ve got the feeling that even without the clothing that you had on TOTP, if that group of people were walking through the Coop, you would instantly be recognised)…

MP-­”Do you think?

JN-­”Oh, I think so. You were all very different characters weren’t you? Very iconic even in the early
times.

MP-­”Well, that was partly deliberate, I mean, certainly what we wanted… and certainly what I wanted. What I really, really, really wanted was for people to go into school and go “Did you see that mad band, they were completely mad and I can’t believe what I was watching“ … which was the effect that Roxy Music and Bowie had on me. You couldn’t wait to get to school the next day and sort of tell them.

JN-­”Which is what happened to me. I think I saw you on the Whistle Test, I’m sure it was the Whistle Test and you were playing Killer in the Home…

MP-­”Yeah, I think we did Killer in the Home…

JN-­”And I remember going to school and going “I don’t know what it is, they were dressed like this and they played this stuff and…” and cos we didn’t have the internet I couldn’t b****y find you again… they thought I was making this up… but when you were on TOTP it was suddenly “oh yeah, yeah, good taste”

MP-­”One of the first things Adam said to me when we first met was “my favourite band is Roxy Music” and I said “yeah, so’s mine” … and there was a silence. Obviously we were heavily influenced by Roxy and Bowie but I don’t think we did a literal copy.

JN-­”No, I certainly didn’t see that. I saw it as something totally fresh…

MP-­”Something else.

JN-­”Yeah, although when you break it down there are bits of other things I there as well obviously. With the Kings album, I remember it getting to the top of the charts and it seemed like it stayed there for a while…

MP-­”For about a year…

JN-­”When you’re into that and you’re at school… and it’s ”˜your’ band, and they’re all into the electronic stuff… (I was into Numan and also now Adam and the Ants) … and it stayed there for what seemed like all my school life… it wasn’t but…

MP-­”It was sort of like the Dark Side of the Moon of it’s time.

JN-­”It didn’t go away.

MP-­”It was something like 18 months, that Dark Side of the Moon was at number one… like Bohemian b****y Rhapsody, which I hated. It would not stop being number one.

JN-­”Were there any songs on the Kings album that you thought shouldn’t have been on the album?

MP-­”Well, with the benefit of hindsight… erm… no.

JN-­”Were there any that slipped the net and should have been on there, or did you just decide you were going to write just that amount of tracks and so that’s what you did?

MP-­”We just wrote that amount of tracks and that’s what we did. I mean we had no concept of making an album. Adam had made an album before but I never had. It was my first ever album. So what do you do? Do you write fifteen songs or just write how many you need? Generally we just wrote as many as we needed. They all sounded quite natural, naturally fitting in with one and other.

JN-­”The recording and the writing, I mean, that’s what you like doing isn’t it?

MP-­”Yeah.

JN-­”Obviously there’s the inevitable touring, and you had been gigging for a few years before…

MP-­”Mmm, yeah…

JN-­”But suddenly it’s on a different scale isn’t it? With all the pressures of the contract and of having to be at certain places at certain times…

MP-­”But other people do all that for you though… and actually a lot of the pressure is relieved because of…

JN-­”You don’t have to hire your own PA for a start…

MP-­”Yeah, you don’t have to hire your own PA, you don’t have to get yourself up in the morning, you don’t have to make sure you are there on time… somebody else does it. Your job is just to play that two hours on stage or whatever it is.

JN-­”It seems to be well documented that you got fed up with touring at some point, was that after a period of you really enjoying the touring?

MP-­”No.

JN-­”Or you never really liked the touring side of it?

MP-­”No, I never really liked the touring side of it. For a young man, I don’t know if it’s like this nowadays, but one of the greatest things about it is that you got to see the world. You actually got taken to all these countries… and first class… and you got treated well… and somebody else paid, well you paid for it indirectly. There’s no way that I would have gone to Japan on my own. I wouldn’t have had the money for a start.

JN-­”The thing is that when you went to Japan, you were really well received weren’t you?

MP-­”Yes.

JN-­”So what was that like going to another continent and finding all these people, all very different,
knowing exactly who you are and what you do?

MP-­”It was odd, really odd… the Japanese had this funny thing where they used to follow you down the street, gangs of girls following you down the street…

JN-­”Terrible…

MP-­”Yeah, and when you turned round they would hide.

JN-­”How very polite. Very polite stalkers.

MP-­”Mmm… very polite stalkers. Quite giggly stalkers. It is odd that people know who you are on the other side of the world and I don’t know who they are.

JN-­”That’s probably a good thing though?

MP-­”Well you couldn’t possibly know all of them could you?

JN-­”I know all my fans!

MP-­”Well I was in Forbidden Planet once and walked around a corner and bumped into Mister Chekov out of Star Trek, and I went “oh, hello”, because I thought it was someone I knew.

JN-­”So you recognized him, but didn’t realise who he really was?

MP-­”Yeah, I said hello and he said hi and sort of walked off… and then I realised who it was, and I
didn’t actually know him at all.

JN-­”Well I was in an airport once and bumped into this guy, and I said “you know you don’t half look like Angus Deayton”. And he replied “I am Angus Deayton, you t**t”…

MP-­”Oh, did he really say that?

JN-­”He did. Nice guy. Erm, the difference between the Kings album and the Prince Charming album
was dramatic…

;

MP-­”Do you think so?

JN-­”I think so. Don’t you think so? What I mean is in terms of the brass sections and the strings, and the very diverse songs…

MP-­”Well, it was more… wasn’t it?

Photo copyright Robert Minter

JN-­”Yeah, very ”˜more’… of everything really. It was massive. The sound was less raw and more, erm, more produced I suppose. More massive.

MP-­”Yeah.

JN-­”Did that bother you? Was that a transition that you took to readily? Or did you say let’s have a
go and see what comes out?

MP-­”Well it was a transition, a step to move on. It’s what we wanted, we wanted it produced… sounding good and all that, I’m not one of those people who like it “hey man let’s have it raw”.
I keep hearing that one, now days I hear it more and more and more, well it can be… and to each his own. I don’t like listening to s****y produced records.

JN-­”Prince Charming was very well produced, as I say, with a massive sound. How did you find doing that live? Was it difficult to reproduce?

MP-­”Yes.

JN-­”Did you just decide not to try to reproduce it as it is…

MP-­”There was no way, there were so many guitar parts there was no way that we could do it. That’s the thing about being live, it limits you. I had all these ideas, but I couldn’t play them live because there’s only me.

JN-­”But if you toured now with Prince Charming, it would be a totally different ballgame I assume, with technology now, you could things a lot differently.

MP-­”Yeah, but I dunno if we would do it like that now, maybe we’d do it like we used to do it. Or we’d just get another guitarist I suppose.

JN-­”With Adam going into his solo projects… well I say solo projects, you stayed with him as a co-­” writer I suppose,?

MP-­”Yes…

JN-­”How was that? … yourself and Adam writing without the rest of the band around you? It must
have seemed odd.

MP-­”Erm, no. It was great.

JN-­”Were you freed up from… obviously taking into account Adam’s strong personality as well… you could just have an idea and bash it out go with it rather than being dragged down with…

MP-­”Band frustrations?

JN-­”Yeah, I don’t mean anything in a disrespectful way…

MP-­”No, no, no… but the thing that struck terror into my heart was the band meeting. I don’t know what to say and we used to just rush through them, you know, any other business, blah blah blah, goodbye then off we go… and I don’t think I Iiked being in a band. It just got in the way.

JN-­”I can see it edging towards locking yourself in a studio rather than playing live.

MP-­”Oh, definitely, I’d lock myself in a studio… and I also don’t like too many people being in the
studio.

JN-­”No, Ok. And now of course, if we’d have had Facebook in those days, Christ knows what would have happened, so it’s probably a good thing that technology wasn’t quite so fast in advancing, for you. I suppose you must look at Facebook and, maybe not so much MySpace, but some of these social sites and you must think “Christ almighty, what have we done? Where are these people from?” If, at Adam and the Ants’ peak you’d have had Facebook, Facebook would’ve gone down wouldn’t it? You certainly wouldn’t have been able to respond to comments on there because there would have been zillions of them.

MP-­”There would be zillions, yes. I don’t know how big bands can do this… well I do know, they pay someone else to do it for them because it’s just impossible for them to do it. You would be spending all day doing it.

JN-­”How do you find that, because I know you’re not the most, erm… overtly social person in the public eye… can I put it like that?

MP-­”What do you mean by that? … overtly social?

JN-­”Erm… hermit? That’s probably a bit strong… but you keep away from the public gaze, I would imagine… you don’t court press attention.

MP-­”No, no, no.

JN-­”Which is quite refreshing, but at the same time you are obviously aware of Facebook and the
other social sites.

MP-­”Of course, yes.

JN-­”Have you got any feelings on it? Do you just sit and titter to yourself and think “let them get on with it”? Cos they’ve all got an opinion haven’t they? They all bought the records.

MP-­”That’s the funny thing though… before, our only contact with fans was actually meeting them… and they do all have an opinion…

JN-­”And it is difficult to retract things when they are out there, because they do find themselves in the ether and they come back round to haunt you as well.

MP-­”Yes, they do. I don’t think that I should have responded to a lot of the things I have responded to. I find it best not to respond at all… I find it best not to read it actually. There’s a lot of like, well I think “just f**k off, what do you know”, you know…

JN-­”Do you find it odd when people who don’t know you and have never met you, write things about you?

MP-­”Yes.

JN-­”Telling other people who also have never met you, what you are doing and what you feel and
what you think about things?

MP-­”Well, yes.

JN-­”And why Adam and the Ants split up… and why you’re not best friends with Adam anymore, do you find that really annoying?

MP-­”Yeah, really annoying.

JN-­”Because you’re not in control?

MP-­”Well I don’t know them, and so I can’t get back at them… I can’t spread s**t about them.

JN-­”I suppose the same people crop up… I mean you know who they are don’t you? You see the same faces. Does that make you want to stalk them and see what else they are doing… and does that then drive you even more mad?

MP-­”Yeah.

JN-­”Do you feel like you want to put a statement out, saying “look, I never did this… I don’t want to do this, I’m never doing this again, we’re not doing this… now leave me alone”?

MP-­”Yes.

JN-­”Or do you quite like it?

MP-­”No, no, no.

JN-­”The notoriorty.

MP-­”No, I don’t like it. It’s annoying and… its that thing where you don’t have control. The funny thing about the internet is there doesn’t seem to be repercussions or consequences to what you say.

JN-­”There are no rules at all.

MP-­”No, and you can start something and it can go on and on and on and on… for years, literally for
years. Two people can be arguing rubbish forever.

JN-­”And they forget what they were arguing about.

MP-­”Yeah they forget. But in real life it would end with a punch in the face, a conclusion to it.

JN-­”Oh, the good old days! That’s where punk came about, to sort all this out. We need the new punk to come in and unplug all the computers.

MP-­”Well, you know, I can’t send an electric shock through to someone…

JN-­”If you were a superhero you could.

MP-­”If I was a superhero I would probably be above all this. I mean the internet is a wonderful thing, and I’m glad it exists. I just can’t imagine not having it anymore. I mean, like, how do I get to New York, Stone Island or somewhere… now you can just look it up.

JN-­”In the old days you would have to go somewhere… put your coat on and go on a bus to a library to find out one fact wouldn’t you? And we don’t have to now… we take it for granted.

MP-­”Also it manages to get people together with very niche interests. For instance, I remember there was this film, starring Glen Ford… and in it there was a guy that wins this fantastic car in a competition… and what it is, is the Batmobile… or the car they turned into the Batmobile… a Lincoln Futura. And when I saw that I thought “look everybody, it’s the Batmobile”, but how did this happen? How? What? Where did it come from and who built it? Now you can find it out. And there are thousand of other people who are now fascinated by this car.

JN-­”I can’t say I have met anyone else? But I’m sure they are out there.

MP-­”They are, I promise you. It’s not just me, honest.

JN-­”You get invited to lots of things, like Ant conventions for instance. That must be the weirdest
feeling when you walk into a room and you’ve got loads of people?

MP-­”Yeah, I find it really weird.

JN-­”Is that flattery? … or really freaky?… or both?

MP-­”Hmm, it’s both.

JN-­”But I suppose it’s great in a way, because people actually think as much of you and your music as they do of Adam as the face of the band and leading the band… they do actually know who you are… and they still remember you.

MP-­”I don’t know about that… they don’t know who I am , or they don’t actually care… because it’s just about mostly women, and it’s about how lovely Adam is… which is a bit off-­”putting, and they’re a bit like “oh, you’re just jealous because we don’t love you”. In no way am I jealous… I don’t want them to love me, you know.

JN-­”So do you have to force yourself to go into these things, because it must be daunting. When you know there’s an Ant convention on you must think “brilliant, they’re all going to like me”, but the you’ve got to go in through the door, and they’re there.

MP-­”Yeah, yeah. Well it’s better now because all our fans are probably about 40 or 45, and so generally, once you’ve got inside the door, and over the embarrassment on both sides, they look at you and don’t know what to say and I look at them and say well, who am I gonna talk to… and all that, I mean once you’re over that, it’s great, because I really like meeting people. And it isn’t because they love me or anything like that…

JN-­”Well maybe they do? We’ve (my band) been to a few of these and luckily they’re very nice, friendly people who won’t pull your head off…

MP-­”Well, no they don’t. But also it’s at a manageable level, I don’t know how many people go to these conventions… 100?

JN-­”100/150… maybe, yeah.

MP-­”It’s not if it’s like thousands, you know. If it was thousands I’d be forced to sit in the VIP room
in the back and I wouldn’t want to go out in the first place.

JN-­”So in the old days how did you deal with your new ”˜friends’? … the hangers on… the liggers… the plastic people? Did you have much to do with these kind of people or did you manage to keep your own circle of friends quite tight. When you became wealthy and famous and in the public eye, did your friends disappear? How did that go?

MP-­”You know that old cliché of “you’ve really changed”, well I don’t think that’s true. I don’t think people do change.

JN-­”Are you just perceived differently?

MP-­”Hmm, just perceived differently, yeah. Strange jealousies come out.

JN-­” “I knew him when he had nothing”.

MP-­”Yeah, there’s always those conversations like “yeah, I used to know Bowie, used to go to school with him. He may think he’s a big millionaire rock star, but I know who he really is.”

JN-­” “Yeah, my dad laid his carpet, you know”.

MP-­”Oh yeah, but he actually is a big millionaire rock star. He’s not pretending to be one, he really is one. A lot of people do become hermit-­”like. I didn’t. I don’t know why you think I am so anti-­” social.

JN-­”I thought you were! Meeting you today, that’s not coming across at all, but I think I just picked it up, probably from all the Ant forums, saying “he doesn’t come out, he doesn’t leave his house and come to these things”.

MP-­”Doesn’t leave his house? Why?

JN-­”I don’t know? You’re putting me on the spot.

MP-­”John Robb said that to me the other day. He was talking to me and someone had said where’s Marco, and he said “oh, he never leaves his house now”. What the f**k do you know?

JN-­”But it goes back to your ”˜friends’ again, who have never met you.

MP-­”Yeah, exactly, there’s a lot of that.

JN-­”How do you feel about cover versions of your songs, I mean famously you ”˜ve got Robbie Williams with Antmusic, which was an interesting thing to do…

MP-­”Oh, I love it, love it.

JN-­”And it earns a bit of money I presume?

MP-­”Yeah, it earns a bit of money too, but I love it, I really do. I’m still baffled about Sugar Ray’s version of Stand and Deliver. I remember hearing it and Adam saying “They’ve just sampled it, that’s just our track and they just put it on their album.“ It really did just sound like it, but they couldn’t have done. They couldn’t get away with it, but I have listened to it a few times and it really sounds exactly like it. When you sample a track you’ve sampled someone else’s property and that’s it.
You are allowed, there isn’t a legal limit. But it’s not yours.

JN-­”Theft then?

MP-­”Theft, yes. I once had therapy because I wasn’t happy, and then I realised that my therapist’s other clients were… one of the Spice Girls, a racing driver, a couple of actresses, Sean Connery’s son, and I thought, other people don’t have the time or the money to come and spend an hour and talk about themselves… all it seems to be is a bunch of f*****g celebrities, and aren’t you making yourself more self-­”absorbed? And also there is that saying that a mind that turns in on itself starts to eat itself.,. which s actually completely true.

JN-­”We’re getting deep now aren’t we?

MP-­”Yeah.

JN-­”Well, post-­”Ants activity… The Ants have gone now…

MP-­”Yeah…

JN-­”They’ve gone, and Adam is doing his solo stuff… And you… well, what did you do… you became involved with the Wolfmen…

MP-­”That was after b****y twenty years later!

JN-­”What did you do in between? You must have done something! In the nicest way… what were
you doing? Don’t tell me, you didn’t come out your house did you? … apparently…

MP-­”I didn’t come out my house, no… no, what happened was, after the Ants thing there was the Friend or Foe tour, and I wasn’t gonna do it. There was this other guitarist and I thought “great, I can sit at home” and do my own thing… they can sod off on the road”. And you guessed it, what did he do? Second gig, he broke his f*****g arm, didn’t he… and I get the call and I said I’d do it… and I had to rejoin the band.

JN-­”Did you enjoy it?

MP-­”No.

JN-­”Any of it?

MP-­”No.

JN-­”You hated it?

MP-­”Yeah.

JN-­”And it was quite a big tour?

MP-­”Yeah, it went on for ages.

JN-­”So you were stood on stage thinking what am I doing here? Or did you just shut your eyes and get through it?

MP-­”I just shut my eyes and got through it. Although I didn’t hate it as much then as I do now. Somebody said, and I may be blowing smoke up my own a**e, but somebody said you don’t like it because you find it so easy. I suppose it’s true, I do find it easy.

JN-­”Is that because you’re playing the same thing over and over again?

MP-­”Yes. It is.

JN-­”And I suppose you can’t vary it too much either, because fans don’t want to hear it varied too much. It used to annoy me, and it probably still does now, when I go to a concert and I want to hear them playing the songs that I know. I don’t want to hear them going off down this b****y solo for two and a half hours.

MP-­”No, that’s a lot of w*****g.

JN-­”Yeah… very succinctly put. So you got involved with other things, apart from the Wolfmen, such as TV and film soundtrack production. Were you involved in any of that whilst you were with the Ants, or did that follow after?

MP-­”Oh, it followed after.

JN-­”Was that a very recent thing?

MP-­”Yes.

JN-­”When you discovered you could make money out of it?

MP-­”And also when I discovered I could record at home, which you couldn’t do before.

JN-­”So was technology something that you found you could get on with pretty quickly? Or when the tapedeck went out the window and the computer came out did you have to force yourself to record on computer?

MP-­”No. It’s horses for courses. I’m neither a Luddite or a super high-­”tech whatever, there’s lots of things I miss about recording on tape… the sound of it for a start. But also what I miss about it is, before you would have to invent a part and actually learn it, you know, because you had to play it all through the song. Now you can just sort of invent a part and basically just get one right… and then they can just place it… and I don’t like that.

JN-­”Yeah, just copy and paste…

MP-­”Also, I can hear it… on some records. There was a record by the Foo-­”Fighters called I Wanna Be Your Monkeywrench or Monkey Spanner, or something like that, which I really like… I really like the record… but it’s the same part repeated over and over again…

JN-­”It’s a bit like touring again isn’t it!

MP-­”Yeah, if the band plays it, and they’re playing the same part, it’s going to sound different. It’s
impossible to play the same… even the frequencies are gonna be different.

JN-­”It’s like drum machines and drummers isn’t it? If I use drum machines I offset the drum machine and put errors into it, because it annoys me when I know that what is coming up is exactly the same.

MP-­”I mean not that I would want to go back and do it the old way… or maybe I would want to go back and do it the old way… hmmm, I’d probably go back to doing it the old way but record to digital… or mix digitally anyway.

JN-­”It makes me laugh when you see people doing everything ”˜analogue’, but then they record it on their laptop! You’ve sort of broken the rule from the beginning, you know?

MP-­”What fascinated me about The White Stripes was, you know they went down to record at Toe Rag, and they were excited that they were recording to only 8-­”track… and that was all we could get in those days. And there’s a lot to be said for 8-­”track and 16-­”track isn’t there? A really great instant sound.

JN-­”Yeah, I remember buying a Steve Winwood album and he’d done it all in his bedroom on a 4-­” track , or an 8-­”track, all done on his little system… and he was pretty much a superstar by then anyway, and it didn’t mean anything to me at the time… but I play it back now and I think “b****y hell”. Do you remember the days when we had tape decks?

MP-­”Yeah, well PJ Harvey hates studios, she won’t go to the studio… so she just only wants to record in her bedroom or garage, or wherever she does it…

JN-­”How did you get involved with Sinead (O’Connor)?

MP-­”Erm, I knew her manager, an old friend of mine from punk days… and he’d managed the Boomtown Rats, although he didn’t want to talk about that very much. He also managed Bananarama for a while. So he phoned me up and said I’ve got this girl, and do you wanna Come and do some guitar… and so I did.

JN-­”And when was that? How many years ago?

MP-­”1989, or 87… The Lion and The Cobra album…

JN-­”So you’ve known her quite a while then?

MP-­”Yes, and then it sort of branched from there, and we wrote some songs, one of which she used… and funnily enough the song that we wrote for The Lion and The Cobra, I don’t play on! Why oh why I don’t know, but I do play on other things.

JN-­”Well you probably wouldn’t come out your house would you? That’s what it was…

MP-­”Well, no, I said “no darling, I’m not coming out, get someone else to play it”…

JN-­”So did you play live with Sinead?

MP-­”Hmmm, yes. We did a whole tour. That was the only tour I ever really liked. Well for one it was the biggest tour of the year, so it was just stadiums and arenas and things, also it wasn’t my band and she wasn’t my artist… and you know, she threw a tantrum and didn’t want to go on stage, it was like, “ok, it’s up to you isn’t it?” I didn’t have to get involved, although it was always “you go and talk to her, she listens to you.” But she doesn’t listen to me, she doesn’t listen to anybody.

JN-­”Do you like that? Do you like working with people like that though?

MP-­”No… Well, I’m like that, so…

JN-­”Yeah, well, when you come out your house that is! With the Wolfmen, you obviously know Chris from before? Did you just say “let’s do something and see what happens?”

MP-­”Well, yeah.

JN-­”It is an interesting sound, and again it’s Randall and Hopkirk again and James Bond and…

MP-­”…And Glam Rock.

JN-­”…And The Persuaders and everything else in there when I shut my eyes. There’s a few videos on Youtube. Did you enjoy getting involved in those?

MP-­”No, I didn’t.

JN-­”And you don’t play live, with anybody now?

MP-­”No… not with anybody, no. I think the Wolfmen did three gigs or something with me, and absolutely the God’s honest truth, when they said we should do an album I said “yes, but Chris, I don’t want to do any gigs.”

JN-­”And you meant it?

MP-­”Oh yes, I meant it. But Chris is very optimistic and it was like “oh, he’ll change his mind”.

JN-­”And you didn’t? Although you did a handful of gigs… and you hated them?

MP-­”Three or four of them… f*****g awful! So uncomfortable and boring…

JN-­”So you don’t think you’ll play live again?

MP-­”No.

JN-­”You’re not interested?

MP-­”No.

JN-­”It doesn’t float your boat?

MP-­”No. No. I hate it.

JN-­”I did read somewhere that you had about 400 guitars. Have you whittled them down? Because that’s just mad isn’t it?

MP-­”I don’t have 400 guitars.

JN-­”And you stay in your house all day long playing your 400 guitars.

MP-­”And they’re not at my house. I think there’s about forty now. I don’t have 400. I think I had about 100 and I just got rid of them. Forty now.

JN-­”Oh, forty is fine then!

MP-­”Yeah. Well it got a bit stupid and I started buying them… every time I saw a Les Paul Junior I
had to buy one, you know, I’d end up buying eight or nine of them, you know?

JN-­”No, not really.

MP-­”Well none of them are exactly the same, but basically to the unschooled eye it looks exactly the same thing.

JN-­”To me that sounds like a lot of guitars, but to my guitarist he’d probably never come out of the house again if he saw them…

MP-­”Not all guitarists are actually really into guitars, strangely enough. Obviously, they are into their guitar but not really the history of every musical instrument… It is a blokey thing isn’t it? One of those ”˜men and their sheds”˜ things. This just happens to be my one… my blokey interest. I’m not that interested in sport or cars.

JN-­”You said that you were interested in Slade when you were formulating your musical ideas, but how did you get hold of Dave Hill’s (Super Yob) guitar then?

MP-­”I bought it in a shop!

Photo copyright Robert Minter

JN-­”What was it doing in a shop? Had he part-­”exchanged it or something? It would be on ebay now.

MP-­”I dunno. It would have been on ebay now, but no… we were doing like 25 million nights in Birmingham on the Prince Charming Tour and I just went out for a walk and there’s a guitar shop and… I went in and I said to the bloke “how much do you want for SuperYob?” and he said “you can’t afford it!”.

JN-­”So you said “Actually I can”?

MP-­”He just took the p**s. He said like, “look sonny, go away” or something. I said “so how much for SuperYob?” and he said “well, um, 500 quid”. I was like “Done”… “you have been” and I bought it.

JN-­”And do you play it?

MP-­”No, it’s in the Millennium Rock and Pop Museum.

JN-­”Oh, ok, you can’t break the glass and sneak in there then?

MP-­”No, no, but I’d rather it be there than sitting in a lock-­”up somewhere, you know.

JN-­”So this thing with guitars then…have you got any other examples of this obsessive behaviour? Comic books… guitars… any other collections you want to tell me about?

MP-­”Erm, clothes. I used to have tons and tons of clothes… I whittled them down as well. There was nowhere to put them.

JN-­”Tell me they weren’t all the same, like your guitars!

MP-­”Well, the 80’s was like, the black suit wasn’t it…

JN-­”So how many black suits did you have?

MP-­”Oh God, probably ten.

JN-­”Ten?

MP-­”They were all probably different though.

JN-­”Well yeah… different tones?

MP-­”Different tones, different fabrics .

JN-­”What do you think you would be like to live with? Tolerant? Tidy? Noisy? Forgiving? Would you be hell to live with, do you think?

MP-­”I don’t think I’d be hell to live with… I mean my girlfriend might disagree! Erm, she says I never listen to anybody. Hmm.

JN-­”Have you got any particularly annoying habits? If you had a flat mate, at the end of the week would they be going up the wall?

MP-­”I do things like, I don’t put the tops back on bottles… I leave cigars smouldering and stuff like that.

JN-­”Nothing too bad though?

MP-­”I don’t think so. Not like a junkie or anything… or coming home drunk and violent…

JN-­”You never come home drunk and violent?

MP-­”No, I don’t.

JN-­” You normally stay out when you’re drunk then?

MP-­”Yeah. Well there’s little point being drunk and violent on your own.

JN-­”Well it doesn’t get you anywhere does it? There’s only one winner.

MP-­”Yes, there is only one winner. Is it true that when you’re out of it, in an altered state as in being on drugs or drunk… is it true that you’re never bored?

JN-­”Not sure.

MP-­”No, I’m not sure.

JN-­”The last time I drank alone to any excessive degree, I was about twenty, and managed an entire bottle of Southern Comfort… probably the worst thing I could’ve got drunk on.

MP-­”I don’t do it as entertainment… I mean obviously to drown your sorrows or something…

JN-­”Does it though? It just accentuates the mood you ”˜re in, and then you fall over. Or if you’re
really p****d off it make s you even more miserable doesn’t it?

MP-­”Yeah, well I’ve known some really bad drunks…

JN-­”I know some really good drunks!

MP-­”Yes, well I know some really good drunks as well! I think I’m one. I make a good drunk, you know. I think I’m happy and gregarious, you know… not that I get very drunk really..

JN-­”Totally at a tangent… the Only Lovers Left Alive label….

MP-­”Yes.

JN-­”Is that running along? Is there anything on it? Are you doing anything with it?

MP-­”No. It costs too much b****y money! Everything is too expensive and you can’t sell anything these days… like the Wolfmen. I mean I never thought that the Wolfmen would make my fortune or anything, but I can’t afford to keep losing money on it.

JN-­”I suppose at 79p per download you ”˜ve got to shift a lot.

MP-­”You have got to shift a lot, yeah.

JN-­”You have got a studio at home have you? What sort of stuff have you got? You record on Mac don’t you, so… you use ProTools?

MP-­”Yeah. I’ve got an old G5… soon to be updated to… something…

JN-­”You won’t throw it out though? You had 400 guitars so you can’t throw one guitar out!

MP-­”What’s the point of keeping it? I could use it as a spare I suppose? There’s always that thing when someone has flown over from America to do some wok with you, and it’s that day that the f*****g thing won’t work. Well, if I keep it I’ll never need it, it’ like having an umbrella isn’t it?

JN-­”Yeah, I have a G4 that I bought in 2000 and I still use it even though I have the new i7 MacBook. I just can’t bring myself to get rid of it, I can’t. You don’t strike me as a sort of Gizmo geek.

MP-­”No, no.

JN-­”But you’re not a technophobe either.

MP-­”No.

JN-­”And you don’t buy a piece of equipment and then think “right I’m going to write something using this bit of equipment and push it to it’s enth degree”. You just use it because it has a sound on it, and then you can put it away?

MP-­”Yeah, I mean I don’t write like that… I was watching a thing about The Edge, who by the way I do think is a really good guitar player, in a completely different way to me. I think it’s only recently in the last few years that I have heard that he can actually really play… I think it was on Vertigo there was this rhythm track and some really, really amazing playing… although it’s not complicated, and
anybody could probably do it…

JN-­”Although that’s the thing with all hit music really, anybody could do it…

MP-­”A lot of his stuff was based around effects, you know, and he writes around the effect. I don’t…
I write around tunes and songs and melodies. If I played live I would only use about three effects.
I was watching Rig Rundown or something about people using all these effects and then there was this guitarist called John who plays with Marilyn Manson, and I was gladdened to see that that he uses less effects than me.

JN-­”Are there any collaborations or solo projects you’re working on at the moment?

MP-­”There are things in the pipeline, I’m just trying to get things together. We’ve just done some songs with Sinead, so there may be some chance of more writing with her after she’s finished this tour…
Really at the moment I am resting as they say…

JN-­”You don’t fancy revisiting your old stuff? There must be stuff you’ve written, even with Adam, over the years that has been dumped…

MP-­”Well yeah, over the years there is tons of stuff.

JN-­”Is that what you use for your film and TV theme projects?

MP-­”Well, yeah. Chris is actually really good with that, because I just record stuff and forget about it… When someone comes to me with a tune and can’t finish it, I can generally finish it… unless it’s really rubbish, and then it’s just not worth it. I generally know what they need to do to finish it. But I don’t know what to do with my own stuff… how to finish it or what it should be like. I’m terrible at finishing my own stuff. The thing that I did start to finish is actually “The Wolf is Getting Married” for Sinead. Start to finish. Then it was up to Chis and Sinead to put the vocals around it. I don’t like sending people backing tracks and then they sing on them… but that’s how she works… and she is good at it.

JN-­”I have to ask you this… and people have been asking for a number of years now, about the possibility of the Ants reforming… and you can refuse to answer, but…

MP-­”No, no… it’s alright.

JN-­”Do you think there is any possibility at all?

MP-­”I tell you what, when I went to do that thing, the AntLib thing… I hadn’t seen Terry (Lee Miall) for years. I got carried away with the spirit of the thing…

JN-­”The spontaneity of it all?

MP-­”Yeah, yeah… and he said “come on let’s do it”… and I said “f*****g alright, yeah”. And you know it was alright… Terry was going “Oh, I haven’t played in years”, and I said “for f***’s sake if we can’t win this audience over, you know!” They love you before you even go on stage… and it was alright. People seemed to really like it. I do read lots of threads, which I know I shouldn’t… There was one bloke who said some things…he’s a nice bloke, I’ve met him…

JN-­”Oh. a real bloke?

MP-­”Yeah, a real bloke, an Ant fan… and he was saying I kinda like Adam’s new stuff because it’s kind of rough and spontaneous, and I don’t think I would like to see the Ants doing a rehearsed show. But that’s just what it would be. We would do a rehearsed show. If we did the Ants again we would probably be charging higher prices… or maybe it wouldn’t make any f*****g difference at all… maybe most of them wouldn’t actually care. I have a strong feeling that most of them wouldn’t actually care… and it’s really Adam that they’ve all come to see… and that’s fine.

JN-­”I think the audience is split.

MP-­”Well, there was another stupid comment. One woman said “Do the Ants matter?” And it was like “well, if you watch the Ants in Japan and took Adam away, then you wouldn’t watch the other Ants would you?” But we’d have another singer and be a different band, you stupid woman. Do you think we would stand on stage and just play instrumental? Unless we were the Shadows or something…

JN-­”You could do the dance.

MP-­”We’d have to do something wouldn’t we? But that doesn’t even make any sense.

JN-­”So, I don’t know if you answered the question or not really, now. Do you think there could be a possibility, in your mind, of an Ants reformation? Even as a one off?

MP-­”It’s not my mind that’s the problem, is it? When we did that AntLib thing I thought “yeah, maybe… maybe we should do it”. I think at the moment there are too many problems that can’t be surmounted…. Hmmm.

JN-­”But you’re not writing it off then?

MP-­”No… Well I can’t tell the future can I? So who knows… I didn’t think the way it went would be the way it went, so it doesn’t mean that it can’t go another way.

JN-­”Do you feel that it’s unfinished though?

MP-­”Sort of, in a way…

JN-­”You need a bit of closure?

MP-­”Yeah… yeah, I think so… yeah.

JN-­”Whatever that may be.

MP-­”Yeah, whatever that may be. Is there any mileage in it? Does anyone want to see it?

JN-­”I think there’s quite a lot of people who would want to see it. I mean, people go to see Adam’s
shows and they go to see ten or twelve shows on the trot.

MP-­”Why do they do that? I understand when we were the Ants and the Ant Crew used to follow us around, as with a lot of bands… the Anti-­”Nowhere League fans used to follow them all around…

JN-­”Yeah, Numan had the Numanoids that used to follow him round on the bus…

MP-­”Yeah, I mean the Numanoids were much more bizarre than the Ant fans… I was in a restaurant once and I got up to go to the toilet… and I opened the door and there was a room and it was full of f*****g Numanoids… and I saw Gary Numan, you know with his sort of black plastic suit and the red belts and stuff, and I thought “why’s he dressed like that?”. It was an after show party.

JN-­”Oh, it was him then?

MP-­”No… it wasn’t him! Or was it? They were mental, in a good way. Are they still around?

JN-­”They are still around. I’m a bit of a Numan fan. They don’t tend to all go on the same bus now. They all come in their cars or spacecraft or whatever they’re in now, but they used to come in the coaches… I remember them with their white faces and blue hair.

MP-­”I find it really odd. I mean Bowie had the fans with the red hair and stuff, and I don’t know if Bowie will ever play again, but if he does (and I hope he does) I don’t think it’s gonna be full of 50 year old guys with red hair. I used to go and see Bowie and there’d be people dressed as all the different Bowies.

JN-­”There’d be too many now.

MP-­”God, yes.

JN-­”I hope this doesn’t happen, but, if you were to be struck by a bus on the way home (without the Numanoids on it), how would you like to be remembered?

MP-­”I don’t know.

JN-­”Would you like to be remembered?

MP-­”Yes, of course I’d like to be remembered. I tell you what, I went to Malcolm (McLaren)’s funeral and there was a sort of non-­”denominal thingy, everyone said their words, Vivienne had an argument with The Clash’s manager… and it was the first time I heard her make sense… and smile… and they played ”˜My Way’ as they took the coffin down, and everyone stood up. It was the first time that I had been to a funeral where everyone was cheering and clapping, like the end of a gig…

JN-­”And you thought “that’s a gig to do”.

MP-­”Yeah, that’s the way to go. If you gotta go, that’ s the way to go.

JN-­”No encore though.

MP-­”Yeah, that’s it.

JN-­”This might be a difficult question. If you had to think of four words to describe yourself, what would they be?

MP-­”My therapist once said I was fiercely individual.

JN-­”Would you say provocative?

MP-­”I like annoying people.

JN-­”Do you? But it’s meant in the right way isn’t it? Or is it?

MP-­”I dunnno. This is a good theme. Can I get a drink? …but don’t forget this thread.
Marco leads the way to the bar and asks for a Scotch and Soda. We chat ”˜off the record’ for a few minutes. He’s opening up now. I get the feeling that he’s a genuinely nice guy and passionate about music. After a while we return to the interview…

JN-­”Welcome back.

MP-­”When we put the Sinead video up on Youtube we had all these comments about the music and great song, great voice etc, blah, blah, blah… but you go on an Adam one and the comments on the performance , it’s all “he’s so lovely and oh so sexy and gorgeous, and ooh look at his cheekbones, and ooh, ooh, ooh”…

JN-­”Well, I suppose he is!

MP-­”Yeah, I know! But it really pisses me off. And also, reading another one of the Facebook pages, it was about the tour, “he’s so lovely so lovely”, about this gig, “so lovely so lovely”, that was a great gig “he really looked lovely, looked lovely”… I could not work out from that anything about the band, who was in the band, there was never like “the drummer is great’ or “the guitarist was s**t” or whatever it is, there was no mention of the band. No mention at all of the other musicians.
JN-­”Have you been to any of the shows?

MP-­”No.

JN-­”Why not?

MP-­”Didn’t want to.

JN-­”Miserable b*****d!

MP-­”No I’m not.

JN-­”Well I think you should.

MP-­”They wouldn’t let me in.

JN-­”I could get you a ticket you know. I’ve got people in the know I have. I got contacts!

MP-­”Honestly, I don’t know. I mean do I want to go back to that?

JN-­”I think you should. I think you should go back and revisit it.

MP-­”Why?

JN-­”To decide whether you want it or not, I think you should go back and have a look at the front row, and think “I could have a bit of that”.

MP-­”Jesus Christ!

JN-­”You don’t go to many gigs?

MP-­”I don’t go to any… unless I know the people or there’s a possible working thing… Business or friends.

JN-­”Don’t you like today’s music or something?

MP-­”Of course I like today’s music. I just don’t find it interesting. I’ve seen and done enough gigs. It’s the same f*****g b******s year in, year out.

Photo copyright Robert Minter

JN-­”The 80’s were explosive, but a lot of people who weren’t around in the 80’s think the 80’s happened all of a sudden and there were about forty bands like Culture Club, Duran Duran, Human League, Adam and the Ants… a lot of people think it just happened and they were all there at the same time… but it all evolved didn’t it, over time…? But then at the end of the 80’s there was just this void of … it seemed to be very sanitised… and there wasn’t a lot going on.

MP-­”No, but then there was the rise of Take That.

JN-­”Well there was a rise of ”˜boy next door’ … ”˜bloke down the pub with a guitar’ …

MP-­”But with the reintroduction of the boy band, that was the music dream… because we don’t leave the important stuff, like writing the song, and producing the records, to the b****y artists. What they’ve got to do is look pretty and be dreamy… and we’ll do everything else. We don’t have to pay them very much and we get to keep all the publishing money, and they’re told what to do and they’re not pains in the a**e.

JN-­”But that’s when the music ”˜formula’ came in then isn’t it… like the Boyzone thing of verse, chorus, verse, chorus, all stand up off your stools and walk toward the camera…

MP-­”Yeah… I read this thing about some pop band, anyway they were auditioning for new members… but none of the band were there. But aren’t you the ones who choose? I was watching a documentary about Steps and there was this argument about who was going to sing lead, because they all sing don’t they… obviously there’s never that… who’s going to play drums or guitar in a rock band because everyone has their designated role.

JN-­”There have been a few rumours over the years that there might be a movie about Adam and the Ants.

MP-­”Yes, I’ve heard it a few times.

JN-­”I know that Adam has been filming the tour and I don’t know what’s going to happen with that, but a movie about the band that was, especially around the Kings (of the Wild Frontier) era… would you welcome that if it came about?

MP-­”The thing is that I couldn’t stop it. You don’t, I mean not ”˜you’ but, ”˜one’ doesn’t own the rights to their own lives. I could write a book about you, and, unless I slandered you, there’s nothing you could do about it.

JN-­”It would be a comic book though wouldn’t it, if you wrote it?

MP-­”No. but I could do it.

JN-­”And I’d be in tights. Like a superhero.

MP-­”But I could do the Johnny Normal story… and there’s nothing you could do to stop me.

JN-­”That’s actually a verbal contract now, that you’re committed to writing a book about me.

MP-­”The Johnny Normal story?

JN-­”The Johnny Normal story.

MP-­”Equally I could make a film about you if I wanted to, and there’s nothing you can do. But, if I really didn’t like it, what are they going to do if I say you can’t use my songs? What are you going to do then, eh?

JN-­”But would you welcome the idea of a movie, almost to document Adam and the Ants?

MP-­”Well that depends on who’s f*****g writing the script and who’s version of events it is.

JN-­”Hmmm… probably wouldn’t be yours.

MP-­”Probably wouldn’t be mine. But I do have that power, as such, to say don’t change it or you can’t have the songs… and then you’re stuck with Boil in the Bag Man or something.

JN-­”The thing with yourself and Adam… is there an olive branch somewhere?

MP-­”I don’t know… I don’t know. Well, I don’t think I’ve done anything wrong, so why should I sort
of…

JN-­”I wasn’t suggesting who owns the olive branch… I was just wondering if there was one somewhere.

MP-­”I’d like there to be one because life is too short… and we’re both old… particularly him…

JN-­”Well that’s done it then!

MP-­”How old is Adam? Four years older than me…

JN-­”He’s about thirty five.

MP-­”Is he?

JN-­”Yep.

MP-­”How come I’m fifty three then?

JN-­”It’s decimal now though.

MP-­”Oh.

JN-­”It’s an unfair question, and I’m glad I asked it really.

MP-­”Well it’s very hard. It’s not a usual situation. Although it’s the same with everybody… it’s the guitarist and the singer you know… Morrissey and Marr… they’ve all got whatever f*****g problem they’ve got… and they all say it’s not an ordinary situation, you know.

JN-­”Well why don’t you just have a reunion fight?

MP-­”A reunion fight?

JN-­”Yeah, just get together on a stage and… fight. It’ll be on Youtube and stuff…

MP-­”What, like that Monty Python thing where the women hit each other with handbags?

JN-­”That’s it, yeah, something like that. I won’t push you any more on that one. But I’d like to come back to the four words to describe yourself… You’re allowed four words…

MP-­”Erm… fiercely independent…

JN-­”You’re going back to fiercely independent?

MP-­”Well, I wish I wasn’t independent… I wish people would look after me. ..

JN-­”You don’t stop and think about yourself very much do you?

MP-­”I’m not self-­”obsessed, although I’m sure there are people who might disagree… I did have a terrible argument with an ex-­”girlfriend once… it was at the time when we had just done Top of the Pops. A bloke came up and asked for my autograph… and she was all p****d off and like, “why don’t you ask me for my autograph?”… and I said “cos you’re not f*****g famous!”. But she couldn’t quite grasp it, or perhaps she could grasp it but wanted to make a scene or something…

JN-­”So do you ever say “Don’t you know who I am?”

MP-­”Er, no… I don’t say “Don’t you know who I am”. I’ve never said that in my life.

JN-­”I think you should.

MP-­”I probably need to go on those Ant forums on Facebook and say “Don’t you know who I am”, cos they don’t know who I am!

JN-­”They might say “no!”

MP-­”Yeah, they might say “who the f**k are you?” I mean if I played them ”˜Antmusic’ without any vocals on it they wouldn’t have a clue what it is would they? If I took the sticks off and the vocals off, would they know what it is?

JN-­”I dunno, I mean I think you’d know that solo anywhere wouldn’t you?

MP-­”But does anyone hear it, you know?

JN-­”I think you’re underestimating it… there’s the two sides aren’t there… there’s the Adam side and the girls and stuff… and there’s the other side, you know as we said earlier, there’s the hardcore there that know exactly who you are and what you did as part of Adam and the Ants.

MP-­”It was never anything that anyone planned, this was never anything that Adam wanted, it’s just the way it happened… it’s just the way it is, you know. You couldn’t give him plastic surgery to make him any more pretty, you know, its just the way it happened.

JN-­”Yeah, it’s a bugger isn’t it?

MP-­”Well, I was never sort of… I didn’t care if women loved me or not… well I care if certain women love me, but not all of them. It wasn’t something I was gonna argue about, cos I just didn’t care. It’s not something I want… in the same way that Adam doesn’t want to do an interview with Guitarist magazine, you know?

JN-­”Maybe he does?

MP-­”Maybe he does… but what’s he going to say?

JN opens a pack of Wine gums.

JN-­”Well I’ve asked all the questions that I wanted to ask you, and so I guess that is really it. Thank you very much for meeting up with me…

MP-­”That’s alright…

JN-­”It’s been an absolute pleasure and an eye-­”opener.

MP-­”Can I have a wine gum?

JN-­”Help yourself… Marco Pirroni, thank you very much. It’s alright… thank you Johnny Normal.

 

After the interview was over, Marco was happy to stay and chat about all kinds of things over a coffee and polished off my packet of soft mints before signing a couple of albums for me. We shook hands and I made my way back to the railway station.
Sometimes when you meet your idols the reality just doesn’t live up to the image… but today I was leaving with a feeling of accomplishment and content that this guy’s hero stature was still intact. Marco wasn’t at all the text-­”book hermit that the press had portrayed. He was a very socially aware and sociable man… a charming and friendly character. Although a little shy at times… the provocative edge that I was expecting was certainly there and he had toyed with me during the interview, like a cat with a mouse at times. He was kind enough to answer pretty much all of the questions I had posed and it was a real honour to spend a few hour in the company of The Man called Marco.


Copyright Johnny Normal, March 2012 All rights reserved.
Photo’s Copyright Robert Minter

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13 comments on “Marco Pirroni Interviewed by Johnny Normal”

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  1. very incisive interview with mr p the hermit….coulda paxmanned him a bit more about the fued with stuart…..and finally wheres my furkin casio gone yer bastard….lol

  2. facebook_kabinrock

    What a great interview , I did,nt want it to end, not the usual bullshit for once , real people talking over a drink . Marco comes over as a real nice guy , I would love to see him play live as many would. Thanks to JN for getting MP to open up a bit.

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