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NIGHT LIFE / THE CLUB SCENE

Acting Out : After a long absence from the music scene, Adam Ant revs the tour bus and hits the road.

February 18, 1993|BILL LOCEY | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Formicary fans face front because your main man is wriggling his way back onto the tour trail.

He used to travel as a pirate, an Indian, a prince and all sorts of other fun, dress-up stuff as he gyrated like a Jell-O jumping jack on stages around the world. Named for the picnic party-enders, Adam Ant will take the big stage at the Ventura Theatre Wednesday night.

Ten years ago, there was no escaping Adam Ant, Antmania, Antmusic and all that. His mug was all over MTV, his tunes were all over New Wave radio stations, and he had a string of five hit albums from 1979 to 1985. Tribal rhythms combined with guitar work by collaborator Marco Pirroni resulting in a parade of hits for the mall mice, which included "Dog Eat Dog," "Stand & Deliver," "Goody Two Shoes" and "Friend Or Foe."

Then in 1985, Ant switched gears and turned to acting instead of acting like a rock star, a part he had mastered. Since then, he has changed his address (if not his accent) from London to L.A. and has appeared in a number of films. Soon to be released will be "Midnight Heat" with Dennis Hopper, and "The Reluctant Vampire" with Ant as the lead sucker.

Ant's last album of new music was released in 1990, but a couple of compilation albums since then have been well-received. Plus, Ant's live appearance at a KROQ Christmas show was a hit--thus, a new tour. The new album is in the can.

Ant spoke from his publicist's office recently.

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So the two recent greatest hits packages convinced you to tour again?

Yeah, that and the KROQ Christmas thing was very encouraging to get me off my (butt). My last full tour was in 1986 although I did a brief promotional tour in 1990.

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Will Marco be touring with you?

Yeah, he will, plus I get to play with some other guys I've wanted to play with for a long time.

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In the old days of rock 'n' roll, it seemed like the artists put out an album or more a year. It's been three years since your last effort, which seems about average these days. Does slower mean better?

I think between 1979 and 1984 I made about four or five albums, about one a year. My last one, "Manners & Physique" in 1990, I promoted for a year, so my new one is really only 18 months old, and that's due to different producers. I've been in London, New York, Miami and Los Angeles.

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What was it like being a New Wave rock star back in 1982?

There was a guilt element from the start. There was a political element like the Clash saying "We care about you," but then signing a big deal with CBS. It was all very confusing.

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All those 14-year-old girls that were screaming then are 24 now.

Most of them are journalists, I think. I have yet to meet one of them that didn't see me back when.

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So you were besieged by groupies?

Absolutely not. Who told you that? I don't know when that started, but you'd probably have to go back and talk to the ancient Greeks. Recently during an excavation in England, they dug up an ancient Roman coliseum. They have identified Roman graffiti, apparently from young girls on the ruins. Even the gladiators had groupies. It's a bit sad, really.

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Obviously, every musician wants to get on the radio. KROQ has really helped you out.

KROQ has been great with me from the start. There can be situations that do last. They know what they like and they do it.

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Did music make the transition from the stage to the screen easier?

Being a musician is not a very easy introduction to acting. It took me two years to live down the impression they had of me as a performer. I just study; I have a coach; I have a class. I work hard. In film, there can be one take, then maybe 15 more takes--it requires an enormous amount of discipline. Jack Nicholson makes it look effortless. Spencer Tracy made it look effortless. You have people to look up to. But music, I've been doing it for 15 years. I work hard at it. I've toured the U.S. five times. I get paid now for something I did for free for seven years.

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Aside from the obvious, what's the difference between acting and singing?

As a musician, you get to be really tyrannical on stage. I tell 'em to clap their hands; I mean, they've already paid. When you're up there, it's like boxing--"OK, let's see what you got." Theater is exciting. There's a lot of rehearsals; you analyze things. For television, there's no time for anything. I do my homework. I read. I get parts. If it's a good story, I want to be in it.

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You seem to play in a lot of sci-fi/action/thriller movies, and now you're going to be a vampire?

Actually, that one is going to be something of a comedy. It's not at all like the recent Gary Oldham movie. I remember seeing the Dracula movie with Bela Lugosi for the first time--scared the hell out of me. My favorites were always the old Hammer Films. Peter Cushing is still around drawing vast royalties from "Star Wars." Can you imagine what one of those Hammer Films would've been like if they had a $30-million budget?

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What was your strangest musical gig?

I think when I played for the royal family. I wore a suit. The Queen was very hip. She leaned over and whispered in my ear, "I almost didn't recognize you without your make-up." She made me feel like Sir Walter Raleigh. I'm a royalist. I wish the press would just leave them alone.

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Why is it that singers from the U.K. sing in American and speak in British?

Probably because we were raised on American music. I grew up listening to Gene Vincent, Perry Como, Frank Sinatra.

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You've been in California three years now; what do you think of the L.A. scene?

My message to anyone who doesn't like it in L.A. is "bleep" off. It's the entertainment capital of the world. If you want scenery, move to London, Paris or Rome, not L.A. There's really a lot of opportunity here that's not available in Europe.

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