WITH his high cheekbones, 17th-century garb and face paint, it’s not hard to see how Adam Ant became not only one of Britain’s biggest pop artists but a pin-up as well.
And now, 30 years later, he’s touring ahead of his sixth studio album, The Blue Black Hussar in Marrying the Gunner’s Daughter, which will be released in January next year. The album features 3 Colours Red guitarist Chris McCormack and – according to Adam Ant – is a record that will translate perfectly from record to live performance.
Clearly, inspiration is still flowing for the 57-year-old singer-songwriter. “Songs are a daily thing,” he says. “I always have an idea and I’m stuck if I don’t have a pen and a notepad with me. My songs are experiences I’ve had or stories that interest me. And when I get an idea I’ll think about it as a storyboard.”
But his albums aren’t just about music. As a former art student, his releases are a complete package – complete with Adam Ant artwork and detailed, carefully thought-out packaging. Adam Ant is vehemently against the faceless world of the digital download. “It all started with Prince and the Daily Mail,” he says.
“That free giveaway devalued the album and now people think they can have it for free. With Spotify you get loads of listens but you don’t get any money. Records are a physical, tactile thing and having them as an object gives you a sense of ownership.”
This belief in the integrity of his music releases spills over to live performances. Adam Ant may only be three years off a free bus pass, but he’s still keen to stand and deliver where the stage is concerned.
“I play Prince Charming a lot more differently than how I used to. There are no samples when I play it live and I play a lot more guitar.”
Adam Ant hit the headlines in 2003 when he was sectioned under the Mental Health Act for causing affray after smashing a pub window with a car alternator.
His action, he claims, followed threatening phone calls that were made to his daughter. He was given a suspended sentence and required to go into psychiatric care.
But it’s a part of his life he feels strongly about. “Everybody in rock and roll will either already be mad or go mad. But there is a lot of ignorance about mental health. I am not a political person but I became a political person after I was sectioned.
“Someone threatened my daughter and people said ‘go to the police’ but at the time there was no law to deal with stalkers. I had someone coming to the door 24 hours a day. Now there is a law to deal with it. Everyone has the right to live and not live like a prisoner.”
Mental health issues go beyond the trials of the rich and famous, according to Adam Ant. “Society is dealing with a stress overload. Lots of people are depressed but anti-depressants are not necessarily vitamin pills. But awareness is poor – we need to have a very open debate in this country on primetime TV to discuss mental health.”
And, according to Adam Ant, it’s easy to get sectioned. “All you have to do is be in a bad relationship and all it takes is your partner and a next of kin to build up a scenario in which your behaviour is seen as being out of line. But if you are put on the severe mental health register, you are there for life.”
While Adam Ant still campaigns for mental health charities, his past is behind him.
Now he’s looking ahead to his Sheffield show in two week’s time.
He has a fondness of Sheffield’s music heritage. “Dave Berry will be a star forever. He supported Adam Ant at the Lyceum in Sheffield before we split up – he went out here to a punk audience and played Memphis Tennessee. I really wanted to work with him then and want to do so now. I have a real affection for Dave Berry, as I do the Human League.”
It won’t be long until he’s back in Sheffield again, at the O2 Academy, Arundel Gate, on December 15.