After time away, Adam Ant finds new wild frontier
When Adam Ant, the 1980s British new wave singer of “Antmusic” and “Goody Two Shoes” fame, decided in 2011 that it was time to make a comeback after 18 years, he says he was unsure how he would be received.
So even though Ant — real name, Stuart Goddard — says his desire to write and record music returned, instead of putting out a new album, he put on his familiar soldier costume with the Napolean hat last year and did a tour of small halls to reintroduce himself.
What Ant found was that the fans who so rabidly followed him and his band, The Ants, apparently still had love for the musician's high-energy, theatrical music. With a set of 30-year-old songs, he played to an enthusiastic sold out crowd at Philadelphia's Trocadero Theatre in October.
Ant, 58, says that response gave him the green light for his new album, “Adam Ant is The BlueBlack Hussar Marrying The Gunner's Daughter,” a sprawling, 17-song disc that is autobiographical, based on characters in his life. It was released Jan. 21.
Now he's back on a tour of more than 40 cities, which stops Aug. 23 at Stage AE on the North Shore.
“Coming back to the States is a different ballgame,” Ant says in a phone call from his London office. “You have to think completely differently and I had no idea what the response would be, and I was pleasantly surprised.
“The response has enabled us to come back and hopefully I'll be coming back on a regular basis, now that I've put my toe back in the water.”
Ant's original run of popularity resulted in three albums in Billboard's Top 100 1980-83. With his band Adam & The Ants, he bridged punk and new wave. The group's debut, “Kings of the Wild Frontier,” produced the Top 15 songs “Antmusic” and “Dog Eat Dog.”
Then his solo album “Friend or Foe” in 1982 had the hit “Goody Two Shoes,” and another solo album, “Strip,” in 1983 produced a Top 40 hit with the title track.
Ant says that after “Strip,” he was bitten by the acting bug while doing a play in Britain that led him on a 23-year detour.
“I'd been wanting to explore acting and explore that side of performance, and I think it started there,” he says. “I realized (with acting) it was really you and a script and a director, and a very small cast, as opposed to going out with tour buses and there could be 30 people on a tour.
“And actually you're focused on a piece of work that you haven't written — you're focused on something that you're not necessarily responsible for the creation of it. And that was something that piqued me there.”
In the 1990s, Ant moved to Los Angeles, where he studied acting and “did a number of things in television. I had a good experience with that.” After that, Ant says, he was ready to start a family and ended up living in Tennessee, where he married and had a daughter.
During those years, Ant released just one disc, 1995's “Wonderful,” which went Top 25 in Britain but barely made a blip in the United States. He says he also unwound himself from all of his record company contractual obligations so that, when he was ready to resume his career, he could do it on his terms.
“So all in all, it was something that I thought would last maybe three to five years,” he says. “But these things take years rather than months, and 17 years had actually swum by. And I thought, ‘Well, now's the time to put out another record.'”
The timing was good, Ant says, “because by that time, the actual love of it had returned, and I really was excited about the idea of writing songs again, and excited even more so about the idea of performing.”
In addition to reintroducing him, the first tour back let him learn “what the audience was, and I knew kind of the changes in the industry.” Both things persuaded him to form his own label, meaning “pretty much I had carte blanch on this record,” Ant says.
“I had the time away from it, I'd had time to think about what kind of record I wanted to make.”
“Shrink” addresses his public struggles with bipolar disorder. In the early 2000s, he was arrested for several public disturbances and was committed to in-patient psychiatric care.
Ant says he thought it was important to address his disorder on the record because “it would have been pretty cowardly not to.”
Ant says that after he addressed his illness in several media interviews, a UK television special and his 2006 autobiography “Stand & Deliver,” he found public response “was so overwhelming, that it was something that was absolutely integral to the album — to actually deal with it. And I'm glad I did. The feedback has been amazing.”
John J. Moser is a staff writer for the the Morning Call (Allentown, Pa.).