Adam Ant talks to What's On about being back in the spotlight - win tickets to see him at Hall for Cornwall
THE one way of getting a pop star onside is to tell them the handwritten letter they sent you three decades ago is still a cherished possession.
For that is what Adam Ant sent me when I was 11 and, as he revealed, what one of his musical heroes did for him.
I'll admit to being slightly anxious as I dialled Adam's number – they say never talk to your heroes and he was my first. It's fair to say, no Adam And The Ants, no lifelong passion for music.
Thankfully, he proved to be a complete gentleman and sounded relaxed and on the money.
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I'm obviously alluding to his bipolar disorder, which has been splashed all over the tabloids in recent years. A little bird told me he's sick of talking about it and I had no intention of bringing it up – it was the music I was interested in.
For a man who has had such a colourful past, his opening gambit was a bit of a surprise: "How's the weather down there?" To give him his due, he did giggle at the mundanity of his question.
He also laughed when I told him about the letter: "You're lucky you got it, loads of letters I sent got lost in the post!
"I actively began writing to fans in the early days of punk and although it became increasingly difficult when I became very successful I always wrote back when I could."
Didn't Marc Bolan write to you once?
"No, I saw him in the street when I was young and was mesmerised. He personified Top Of The Pops and that whole other world. It was Bryan Ferry who wrote to me. I contacted him when the third Roxy Music album came out; I requested to paint his portrait or something, and he wrote back, very politely, to decline."
Adam Ant and his excellent band The Good, The Mad And The Lovely Posse come to Truro's Hall for Cornwall on Saturday, April 27, two years after he played an astonishing gig in Falmouth.
He told me: "Since I've been back in the live arena, I thought it was important to play as many places as possible – it's not all about London, Manchester and Birmingham. We're spoilt in London – there are a lot of places that are never visited by bands.
"There is a tendency with a major company to get their acts in the major cities and that's it. Now I'm running my totally independent label, I decide where I want to play.
"We have a map in the office and mark where we've played. There are now pins going from Land's End to John o'Groats. The response from people all over the country has been lovely. It has been very rewarding and given me a lot of encouragement."
He's no stranger to Cornwall, of course. At the height of his fame, the Ants played stunning concerts at the Cornwall Coliseum, on the Stand And Deliver and Prince Charming tours in 1981. Those who were there still remember them fondly.
Those were the days of pirate ships careering on to the stage and Maasai warriors dancing alongside the band. It's a different story these days.
"My shows aren't reliant on stage tricks; the theatricality comes in the performance and what we're wearing on stage, the couture stuff, the brocade waistcoat.
"I present something that's got its roots in punk but is dressed up. Younger bands tend to downplay everything now and are happy to go on in their jeans. That's not what I do."
With an excellent new album out – Adam Ant Is The Blueblack Hussar In Marrying The Gunner's Daughter – his first for 18 years, will we be hearing its raw 1956-meets-1976 songs at the HfC?
"There will be a few from the album, but I don't believe in artists going out and playing a concert full of new stuff.
"I'll play the songs I'd want to hear. It's like if I see Roxy Music or Alice Cooper – I want to hear the songs I grew up with. If you don't hear the hits you feel shortchanged. A good example of how it should be done is the Rolling Stones' recent concerts.
"There's no shame in keeping the catalogue alive as long as you update it."
And what a catalogue – from the out and out punk of Deutscher Girls and Plastic Surgery to the dark post punk of Zerox to mega hits like Antmusic, Kings Of The Wild Frontier, Dog Eat Dog and Prince Charming right up to 1995's plaintive Wonderful, they've all been played live at recent concerts.
"At the Shepherds Bush Empire recently we opened with Press Darlings, which we hadn't played for a while. Physical is the one song that probably means the most to me and I'll play at every show.
"Songs are like your children, you have affection for them all. There will definitely be some tracks we haven't played live yet."
I asked him if he was surprised how affectionately people respond to the pre-fame Dirk Wears White Sox album?
"Well, I hadn't played any Dirk tracks for many years, hardly at all during the solo period, so I had no idea how they'd be received. I only play a song that I love, though I discuss everything with the band and sometimes they'll suggest a song from the back catalogue."
Adam told me that he has a "cupboard" full of unreleased tracks going back to the mid-1970s that no one's ever heard, which he may release some day.
With recent high-profile TV interviews and glowing live and album reviews, how does it feel to be back in the public eye?
"I had no expectations. I took it very steadily at first, around 2011; it was a bit chaotic finding the right band, but since then we've toured the US, Australia and Europe with two major tours of Britain.
"There are whole areas of the world that have opened up since I first played live with the Ants – Eastern Europe, the Far East so we plan to explore them too."
The Hall for Cornwall gig on April 27 is almost sold out – I suggest you buy a ticket now to see one of British pop music's greatest performers in the flesh.
Contact 01872 262466 or see www.hallforcornwall.co.uk for ticket details.
The Hall for Cornwall has kindly donated a pair of standing tickets to see Adam Ant and his band on April 27.
To win, tell us which of these actresses hasn't been his girlfriend:
Jamie Lee Curtis
Answers, marked Antmusic, to firstname.lastname@example.org by Thursday, March 28. See Notices for terms and conditions.