Adam Ant: interview

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  • What’s the best present you’ve ever been given?

    I was on tour in America and some kid came up and gave me a blue nylon scarf that Elvis had once worn. Signed by Elvis, with his sweat on it. Everyone in the crew wanted to hold it, as if it was a relic of the true Cross.

    What kind of books have you been reading lately?

    There’s a novel called ‘A Feast Of Snakes’ by a Southern gothic writer called Harry Crews who I absolutely love. He writes beautifully. I’ve also been reading his autobiography, ‘A Childhood: The Biography Of A Place’.

    When you met Michael Jackson in 1983, what did you talk about with him?

    He was fascinated by my pirate jacket. He’d seen it on a video and I told him where he could hire one. And I think he did. He was also interested in the drum sounds that we used on ‘Kings Of The Wild Frontier’ – he’d get into real detail about how we miked up the tom toms. We spoke on the phone a bit. The first time he called me I thought it was one of my bandmates taking the piss. I told him to fuck off twice. It was only when Quincy Jones rang me up a minute later that I realised it really was Michael! He eventually invited me to his place near LA for the day. He was just a very charming and gracious host, but very shy. He showed me around his animals – there was no monkey at the time – and we watched the movie ‘White Heat’ in his private cinema. That was before it all went a bit crazy for him…

    You seem continually starstruck by celebrities…

    Always. I never lost that thrill, the sense that it was such a huge privilege to meet your heroes. I never got blasé about it.

    Did you have any artistic influence from relatives?

    Not really. My mother was a seamstress for Norman Hartnell, she’s very creative with embroidery. And I had a great uncle who used to paint in his old age – he used to send me his paintings and drawings, which was nice. But there were no relatives around me who influenced me to get into art. That came from school.

    When did you realise you’d made it?

    I woke up one morning and heard a window cleaner outside my flat singing ‘Stand And Deliver’ and changing the lyrics to something vulgar. ‘I’m the dandy highwayman that you’re too scared to mention/I’ll fill your arse with broken glass and give you a detention.’ I thought it was quite an impressive lyric.

    You talk in the book about buying a Picasso to cheer yourself up after reading a bad NME review…

    I bought a very small engraving by Picasso. It wasn’t that extravagant– the most extravagant piece of art I bought was a set of six screenprints by Allen Jones called ‘The Magician’s Suite’, which I bought with my first royalty cheque.

    As a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up?

    Strangely, a dentist. I used to go to the dentist so much that it fascinated me. I think I would have made a terrible dentist, though.

    ‘Adam Ant – Stand and Deliver: The Autobiography’ is published by Sidgwick & Jackson at £18.99. An accompanying greatest hits album, ‘Stand and Deliver: The Very Best of Adam And The Ants’ (Sony BMG), is out now.

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