CHANCES ARE you're not one of the people who knows that Adam Ant put out a new record in 2013. Or that it's called Adam Ant Is the Blueblack Hussar in Marrying the Gunner's Daughter. Or that it's actually pretty good.
It's a much different world now than the one Ant—born Stuart Goddard in Marylebone, England—inhabited at the height of Antmania and early-'80s MTV. But the 58-year-old has once again reinvented himself, as he's done many times throughout his career. Blueblack Hussar—his first album since 1995's altern-adult Wonderful—is brimming with 17 songs that touch on the tribal drum-heavy glam found on classics like Kings of the Wild Frontier and Friend or Foe as well as stripped-down American roots.
It's a scattered, less than cohesive piece of work—perhaps reflective of Ant's life and career—which is also what makes it intriguing. "It's certainly the most personal record I've ever made," Ant says from his office in London. "It wasn't necessarily conscious. It was an organic record; I wrote the songs at different times in my life."
If anyone deserves to make this type of record, it's Ant. He got his start in the UK punk underground as a member of Bazooka Joe, a band that famously headlined the Sex Pistols' first show at Saint Martin's School of Art on November 6, 1975. From there he formed his own band Adam and the Ants, and they released their debut Dirk Wears White Sox in 1979.
It was the follow-up, Kings of the Wild Frontier, which pushed Ant onto the British charts, establishing a sleeker, sexed-up sound and his image as a swashbuckling lothario. Ant gives late producer/manager Malcolm McLaren credit for the revamp ("Who's a Goofy Bunny," off the new record, is a tribute to McLaren, who died in 2010). "He was pretty much a mentor," says Ant. "He asked me, 'What kind of records do you want? Do you want to make hit records, or do you want to make cult albums?'"
Hit records it was—along with hit singles and elaborate music videos that showcased the all-important visual aspect to America's MTV generation. He rubbed elbows with everyone from Michael Jackson to Darby Crash. But it wasn't necessarily happy times for Ant, who was diagnosed as bipolar at a young age, and whose work schedule was only adding to his stress. Eventually the hits stopped coming, and Ant was making more news for his personal life than his music.
"I just felt quite happy to get out," Ant says. "I think I had exhausted all of the possibilities at that time. I had made a number of albums, and I was having the same kind of claustrophobic feelings business-wise and creatively."
From 1995 to 2010 Ant all but disappeared, spending those first five years living in rural Tennessee and raising a daughter, eventually dealing with divorce as well as battling his own demons.
He has essentially started over. New record. New label. New look. It would be easy to view him as a nostalgia act. And there may be an element of that. But listening to Ant's new material shows that he still has a few tricks up those puffy sleeves. "Record sales is coffee money, really," says Ant. "What matters now is getting out on the road. And it's kind of gone back to that—which is okay with me because I've always done that."