Adam Ant: interview
Do you remember writing that letter to Time Out in 2002?
Yeah, I do. I’ve been a regular Time Out reader since the ’60s – I’ve always read the film and gig previews. I remember that particular week some guy wrote a letter in to the magazine having a go at Heather Graham, and that really infuriated me. So I wrote a long letter and sent it off. It wasn’t a good idea; I wasn’t in a good state of mind at the time and probably overreacted. And then it all blew up…
You say in the book that it felt like you were ‘in a film but had no script’. Do you remember much about that period?
Well I was suffering from hypomania. It’s all a bit of a dream state. I really didn’t know what I was doing at the time. I was very unwell, and I’ve been working on my health ever since then. When a trauma like that happens, it takes you a long time to absorb it and come to terms with it, which is what I’ve been doing ever since.
You had been diagnosed as suffering from bi-polar disorder. Were you aware of this?
Not for years. I was dimly aware of mental illness – my stepmother, my father’s second wife, had schizophrenia – but most people in my condition are unaware of what exactly is wrong with them. I would just be feeling really up one minute and down the next. You tend to withdraw into yourself and become paranoid – you build up things in your mind that aren’t there but you think they are. I was okay when I was busy; when I wasn’t working I’d get pretty bad. That’s when you’re most vulnerable.
You seem to describe punk as a dramatisation of your mental illness…
Definitely. In a way, punk could drive you mad, what with all that gobbing while you were on stage – I don’t miss that at all! But punk was also very liberating in that sense. There were no boundaries. Punk celebrated a lot of things that are associated with mental illness – self-harm, violence, identity confusion – and turned them into positive attributes. If you didn’t like your own name – if it wasn’t dramatic or glamorous enough – you could change it and become a different person. That was very liberating. After an overdose in 1976, a name change made perfect sense. It didn’t make sense to call myself Stuart any more.
Why Adam Ant?
I wasn’t shaped like David Bowie or Alice Cooper, who were my heroes. I wasn’t skinny, I was more muscular. I felt more like a Renaissance painting of Adam in the Garden of Eden. ‘The Ants’ was from The Beatles, of course. ‘Adam And The Ants’ seemed to roll off the tongue well.
You grew up on a council estate in St John’s Wood, a pretty well-off part of London…
I became aware of this class divide when I went to grammar school – suddenly you’re mixing with affluent people who live in huge houses. I wasn’t envious of them – it showed me that these worlds existed and it made me work hard to get some of what they had. And punk definitely broke down a lot of those class barriers. When I worked on Derek Jarman’s film ‘Jubilee’ I suddenly started meeting really rich people who wanted a piece of punk energy.
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