Adam Ant is often associated with the seminal, late-’70s, U.K. punk scene, partly because of his association with Sex Pistols manager Malcolm McLaren. The truth is more complicated: McLaren famously stole the original lineup of Adam and the Ants to form Bow Wow Wow—and, today, the man born Stuart Goddard views Adam and the Ants’ debut LP, 1979’s Dirk Wears White Sox, separate from that roiling musical rebellion.
“Historically, Adam and the Ants was there at the start, but didn’t get to make an album until the initial rush was all over, really,” Ant, 62, says, calling from his office in London. “And Dirk is certainly not a punk record, I don’t think. It’s got some very, very challenging musical structures to try and perform. … [It] was an album done in monotone that was very black-and-white.”
In contrast, 1980’s Kings of the Wild Frontier—which Ant will perform front-to-back February 10 at Brooklyn Bowl—was meant to have “the color and the excitement that I felt punk rock had lost,” he explains. “[Punk] got very gray and very political and very violent. I didn’t like it very much anymore. And Kings was very heroic. That is reflected in the compositions and in the music. We were like little gangs, stating what we were all about. It was laying our cards on the table.”
Kings of the Wild Frontier is indeed a Technicolor record with a triumphant bent, courtesy of its slice-and-dice rhythms (see: the “Burundi Beat” drumming), jumpy tempos and a warrior-like stance. The LP defies simple categorization as it veers from New Wave (“Antmusic”) and twangy post-punk (“Los Rancheros”) to glammy garage (“Feed Me to the Lions”) and bratty punk (“Press Darlings”).
To promote the album’s singles, Adam and the Ants made elaborate videos. “Antmusic” found the band performing in a futuristic disco, where they were tasked with winning over an indifferent crowd. Ant embraced the new visual medium; he says he even contributed his own money toward videos, to assure more than a “banal, standing in front of a wall” approach.
“I always wanted to make them like miniature movies,” he says. “With MTV, being on the cusp of it was great. You could’ve been seen on TV in the town that formerly wouldn’t have seen you until you came in to tour. It’s not as important as the music, but it definitely was a great promotional thing.”
These days, Ant is at work on a follow-up to 2013’s wildly titled Adam Ant Is the Blueblack Hussar in Marrying the Gunner’s Daughter. “Even today, I like to do something fresh each time out when I’m making a record,” he says. “I think that’s what punk left me with.”
Still, when it comes to playing Kings of the Wild Frontier in full, he respects the spirit—and the sequencing—of the original. “It’s a bit like doing a play,” he says. “And the audience know it, because obviously back then they were listening to the whole thing—you know, Side 1 and Side 2. I know I did. I know every word of the albums I like.
“So we’re meeting that challenge, and that’s quite an experience. Having done plays, you know how important it is to get it absolutely as the author provides, and not mess with it. That’s my attitude.”
Adam Ant with Glam Skanks, February 10, 8 p.m., $30-$130. Brooklyn Bowl, 702-862-2695.