Eighties music star Adam Ant speaks out ahead of gig at High Kelling, near Holt

He took the music world by storm in the 1980s with hits including Prince Charming and Stand and Deliver. Now he is set to deliver at a gig at a secluded house in rural North Norfolk. Steve Downes spoke to Adam Ant.

For some music heroes, the early rage and rebellion quickly calms to safe and somewhat dull when life becomes comfortable.

But Adam Ant is not one of them.

His band Adam and the Ants exploded into life during the Punk era - and 30-plus years later the feisty former frontman is still railing against injustice and exuding expletive-enhanced anger.


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For those who have seen The Rolling Stones become a corporate money-machine and Sex Pistols vocalist Johnny Rotten advertising Country Life butter, the barely-suppressed rage is strangely heart-warming.

For, although your granny might not agree, that's how our rock stars should be.

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Not that Ant is angry for the sake of it. His ire is carefully targeted and deeply thought out, and takes in the internet, record companies and the quality of care for people with mental illness.

But before we get on to the subjects that get his goat, we ought to know why he is sitting in the garden of Voewood, a beautiful early-20th century house in High Kelling, which is hosting the Voewood Festival - a literary festival on August 27-29 that has attracted a remarkable range of writers and performers.

Ant is one of the star turns of the festival, and the night before the interview he played an eight-song set at a private party at Voewood to publicise the event.

With a fistful of fearsome silver rings, fingernails painted in different colours, a guitar slung over his shoulder and a cigarette lounging from his lips, he looked every inch the rock star - if you ignored the mug of tea in his hand.

He heard about Voewood Festival when being interviewed by his friend Mandana from the Soho Clarion.

He said: 'I feel that something is happening in the literary and music business. People are running for cover and have a defeatist attitude. It is a great time for artists to get together for a festival with a twist.

'Most of the punk movement and major rock groups came from art schools. It's no surprise that there's an affinity between some of the most provocative and rebellious rock and rollers and writers.'

He added: 'The pen is still mightier than the sword. I've got it in for the internet, which is taking over pen and paper. Children should do one hour a week on the internet and get out and climb trees.

'I will be offering my wholehearted support to the festival.'

He said he wasn't a 'Luddite', but said he did not need the latest iPad or mobile phone. He said: 'The people behind them are just Trekkies. I don't want my kids to look like them.'

Despite having more than 35 years of performing behind him, Ant said he still enjoyed it, adding: 'I'm playing the guitar more than I used to and I like the challenge of trying to do good songs right.

'If people come to the gig later this month, they will get an intimate, stripped-down idea of music. People will be able to see how my songs were originally written.'

Despite a host of top-10 hits and numerous acting credits, for some people Ant is known best for the public incidents that resulted in him twice being sectioned - most recently in 2010.

The issues spring from the fact that he is bipolar. And, having effectively lost seven years of his life while on anti-depressants, he saves his fiercest anger for the mental health care system in the UK.

He said: 'I didn't pick up a guitar for seven years. The pills were a chemical cosh. Unfortunately, people are still ashamed of mental health issues. You can be in the poorhouse, but if you are in the nuthouse, you are stuffed. People don't want to know. The stigma and taboo are enormous.'

He added: 'It's not glamorous, and the NHS doesn't spend money on it. The brain is the big mystery: it has a million rooms.'

He said if money was spent on the issue, 'breakthroughs' would follow. But he said: 'Care has just got worse.'

The good new for his fans is that he is back in the studio and back on stage, in the midst of a 30-date UK tour.

He said: 'I have my own record label called Blueblack Hussar and a new album due out in January - my first since 1995. It's called Adam Ant is the Blueblack Hussar in Marrying the Gunner's Daughter.

'It won't be available to download. I'm trying to make a point to Coldplay, who download for free, and Prince, who gave away his album with the Daily Mail.

'If you want my stuff, pay for it. I don't want people to hear my records until I want them to hear them. I'm not going to compromise. Nobody tells me what to do, and I don't care what people think.'

He said he was now 'older and wiser', and added: 'I get more pleasure from writing, but I'm enjoying performing more now because I'm doing it 100pc for me, not giving 91pc to the record company.'

His anger at record companies and A&R executives is tangible, and he said there should be a law that independent lawyers should be present at all record deal negotiations.

He added: 'My advice to young bands is to not sign the contract. They are being robbed.'

Ant's record label is nurturing acts including Krakatoa, Poussez Possee, Dressing for Pleasure (his twins nieces) and Twinkle Twinkle - putting them all through a 'boot-camp' regime of writing, rehearsing and playing.

He said he hoped to do 'revue' gigs, with him performing for an hour-and-a-half and each of his acts coming on for half an hour.

And he returned once more to his punk rock roots by calling for a 'bunch of punk rockers' to rise up and challenge convention once more.

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