Dayton, Tenn., may seem like the least likely place one would expect British rocker Adam Ant to live in the U.S., compared to New York or Los Angeles. But years after he took the U.K. by storm with such '80s hits as "Stand and Deliver, "Prince Charming" and "Antmusic" as leader of Adam and the Ants, Ant and his then-fiancee were planning to travel to Las Vegas by car to get married. It was during a stopover at a little town that he came across a local ad for a house, he says.
"I just thought, 'I really want to have a look at this,' Ant told CBSNews.com. "There was something dreamy to it. I went up and it was kind of love at first sight. I've never seen such a beautiful view in my entire life. At that point, with that newlywed vibe in the air, it just seemed the right move to put down roots there."
His experiences in Tennessee provided the inspiration for his new song, "Cool Zombie," off of "Adam Ant is the BlueBlack Hussar in Marrying the Gunner's Daughter," his first new album in 17 years. "By the time I got out of music," he said, "and I pursued some acting and wrote a book and had a family, I kind of exhausted it for myself. I always felt if I wasn't enjoying it, it was best to move out of it. The good thing about coming back to it now is I appreciate how lucky I am to be able to make music, and write music and perform to audiences. It never goes away. It was always something that was always underneath anything I did. You don't get the thrill from anything else than you do playing rock and roll live, or producing an album."
The music on "BlueBlack Hussar" is very eclectic with elements of rock ("Vince Taylor," "Hardmentoughblokes"), industrial ("Shrink") and folk ("Valentines"). "I always set myself a task with every album that I make to start with a blank page both visually and musically from album to album," said Ant. "I don't think any two albums kind of sound the same because I was kind of a bit scared of getting into a formula and the record sounding very same-y. I think the thing the ties my work together would be the vocal sound. I think the vocal sound is pretty consistent and the harmonies and kind of using the voice as an instrument with a bulk of harmonies on certain songs. So I think that stayed pretty constant throughout my entire career."
There's a personal element to the album as indicated on the aforementioned "Cool Zombie" and the song, "Marrying the Gunner's Daughter." "That song is a bit of an autobiographical thing," he said of the latter track, "about growing up and experiencing two years of no success at all -- and getting all this success and dealing with that, traveling around, and the whole kind of roundabout of being involved in the pop industry, which I really did enjoy, and there were some great things about it. But I also think there's another side to it you gotta be a bit careful about. So I like to put it in a song and let the audience interpret it."
The new album also includes "Who's A Goofy Bunny, Then?" -- a tribute to Ant's former mentor, the late Malcolm McLaren, who was the manager of the Sex Pistols. (Several members of the original Adam and the Ants later went to McLaren's group Bow Wow Wow). "Malcolm was a highly intelligent individual, probably the most intelligent person I've ever met in the music industry,"Ant says now. "He was very much an artist in his own right, very knowledgeable about music, which I think is kind of opposite in the way he portrayed himself, the fact that he was very anti-music. In my way, I'm just sort of trying to make a tender kind of tribute to someone that played a very critical part in my life."
While Ant (born Stuart Leslie Goddard) is considered an early '80s star known for his hits and trademark pirate look, he came out of the mid-'70s punk era. He acknowledged that his sound and look was a reaction to that scene. "It was almost like the change from monotone to color," he recalled. "I just decided to draw upon quite heroic characters and quite some larger than life characters: buccaneers, pirates, highwaymen, and I've always been very influenced and very interested in Native American philosophy, which is something that I first studied at school. It was just like an amalgamation of everything -- it came off both musically and visually."
Not only did he have hits first as the leader of Adam and the Ants, and then later as a solo artist with "Goody Two Shoes" and "Strip," Ant also directed his own videos. He credits his art school education for that. "It was almost like, 'You've done the record, now you can make a film with the record.' So I was able to sit down, do the storyboard and kind of co-direct the video," Ant said. "And I've been doing that all the way through. And it was the same for "Cool Zombie." It just seemed like this wonderful opportunity to show another side of the song, to visualize the song."
Around the mid-'80s, Ant pursued a career in acting, appearing on the TV shows "The Equalizer" and "Northern Exposure." In the early 2000s, Ant faced matters concerning his own mental well-being, something that he has spoken about in the press. Since then, Ant had released a memoir, "Stand and Deliver," and returned to performing live.
Last year, Ant toured the U.S., an experience he calls "phenomenal." "It was an absolute pleasure to do," he said. "It was nice to meet up with old friends. I had a little bit more of an opportunity to do a bit more sightseeing this time because having your own label does give you that luxury of saying 'I want to take a bit of time to see the city.' I've toured with every album I've done in the U.S.A. and I'm glad to be doing the same with [the new record]."
Now with the new album, Ant says it's a relief to be back. "I'm just relieved there's another [album] in the shelf as it were. It's a great relief to have it out there for people [who've] been asking for so long."