NOTHING for more than a decade and then two gigs in one year.
In the summer Adam Ant had a second wind – make that a third. Now he has aspirations of it becoming a full-blown gale as a fresh UK tour animates his latest character incarnation.
Having reminded the nation of past glories such as Stand & Deliver and Ant Music on a spring tour, one of this nation’s most iconic pop stars returns next Thursday with a different agenda.
“Every record I tried to make sound different, look different, be different and I’m still doing that. I don’t look back,” says the outspoken star as he tours as the Blue Black Hussar.
When the original Prince Charming of pop unveiled his The Good The Mad And The Lovely Posse line-up in March, on stage was a man arguably as playful and sharp as he’s ever been but coloured by a life which has seen the word ‘troubled’ figure in too many headlines.
“We’re a punk band, let’s get it straight,” he says when asked where he fits into the 2011 musical landscape.
“We were called new romantic, which doesn’t mean anything. I’m not a new romantic, never have been, but that’s what you get collared with.
“We were the one per cent that don’t care and won’t do what they’re told and I survived. The Pistols made one album, I’m on my ninth. Success, survival, longevity, consistency – consistency is the hard one.
“Paul Weller has been consistent. Who else? Me. I had 15 years out. Half was out of choice – I had my daughter, wrote a book and then I got locked up for no reason, in my view.
“I’m back, but it’s just the next record. I want to be judged on my new stuff but people have to be reminded of what I did.
“I want to get the best out of the songs because I’m always looking for more for myself and this band – they care. They were little kids when I was doing it before.”
Ant returns with his own record label and a muscular-sounding band that includes guitarist Chris McCormack, formerly of 3 Colours Red, and backing singers Twinkle and Georgie Girl – you may recognise the latter as the girl at the centre of the Jonathan Ross and Russell Brand prank calls saga.
As ever Adam, now in his mid 50s but with cheek bones that defy his age, has equipped his latest project with a sense of theatre and drama.
Adam Ant Is The Blue Black Hussar in Marrying The Gunner’s Daughter is the unwieldy title of the Boz Boorer, Ant and McCormack co-written album due in 2012. The Hussar started in 1980 with a stripe across his nose.
“He’s been to Moscow. He’s come back, he’s like the terminator and he’s now older and wiser and angrier and marrying the gunner’s daughter, a naval term for getting a beating. I was with a major record label for a long time so I know about that.
“The Hussar’s lost his innocence but not his sensitivity. He’s delicate but he’s strong. He knows how to fight. All he knows is war because business is war. You have to fight to hang on to any form of artistic integrity otherwise you are just a can of beans.”
As many of his prime era fellow chart dwellers plough the revue show circuit, Ant remains determined to present something new rather than resting on the laurels of a purple patch that made him one of the most distinctive artists of a generation.
“If I wanted to do another hits tour I’d do Here & Now. I’m fine with that but I’ve got a new record coming,” he says, vowing to turn fresh heads.
“You always get into that zone where you think it was better in my day. That’s a bit boring but I do genuinely think punk rock was the last great effort to do something a bit dangerous.
“It’s got a bit neat, safe, and the 1980s was a golden age of the single, Don’t You Want Me by Human League, Stray Cats, Madness, us lot, the art of the single.
“They’ve got to bring Top Of The Pops back, it’s only a matter of time. They need to, there’s no weekly tournament. Jools Holland’s all right but it’s up its own jacksy. I don’t need a keyboard player on my records. If he tried I’d smash his piano up because I don’t like people jamming with me. But he’s a nice fella.”
There are times when chatting to Adam is unsettling, thoughts churning as he anticipates flak that might be around the corner. The line between defiance and arrogance is blurred as he makes valid points, some not repeatable here through fear of offending or raising legal eyebrows.
And he’s practical rather than nostalgic as he further carpets the BBC for failing to stick with the likes of Old Grey Whistle Test and shows that served his visually-powerful music well.
“The BBC’s got great franchises and they’re blowing it,” he says with a shake of his black-hatted head.
“In the ’90s you had these dodgy characters taking over radio stations saying ‘We’re not playing Status Quo’. They have no right. That’s like fascism. That was terrifying. I was glad to be out of that.
“I will always play what people want to hear. It’s traditional; tease them, they buy the album, come and see you.”
Ant’s career has seen him set light to the world’s charts and someone set light to his equipment.
He has sparked fashion debates and flitted from hero to villain and back, all the while reinventing himself to confound those who wrap pop music up into neat bundles.
Now in an industry increasingly reliant on live performance over physical record sales, he seems well positioned to deliver with the youngest of them.
“I’m lucky to be alive to do it and keen enough to do it well. I know why I’m doing it and I’ve got a great band. It’s what I do.
“I’ve never tried to jump on any bandwagon. Labels jump on bandwagons, are on to the next cheap buck. Hopefully people will just listen to the music and enjoy.
“I wrote them the way I play them. When you hear me start off Car Trouble, I wrote it that way. When it’s 100 per cent I want to rock it, a harder edge.”
Among the things Adam did during his years out of music is return to acting, theatre and film.
Not surprisingly for a singer who enjoys costume with his music he readily draws comparisons between the two stage disciplines.
“If I can take people out of reality for two hours I’ve done my job,” he concludes. “Olivier said ‘Acting is a nursery game, I pretend I’m Hamlet’.
“An actor has to jump through hoops. I won’t and that’s why I prefer rock ‘n’ roll.
“Stage acting, that’s a baptism of fire. But not many have had their PAs burned down when they’ve been on stage. I have, but it’s all a little bit easier now.”