HIT CHANNEL EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW: September 2016. We had the great honour to talk with a legendary musician: Ian Hunter. He is best known as the lead singer of Mott the Hoople. Since 1975 he has a very successful solo career and has collaborated with Mick Ronson, Queen, Ringo Starr, Todd Rundgren, Jaco Pastorius and others. On 16 September, Ian Hunter & the Rant Band released “Fingers Crossed”, an amazing new studio album, through Proper Records. Read below the very interesting things he told us:
Are you satisfied with the response you got so far from fans and press for “Fingers Crossed” album?
Yes, the response has been great so far.
How emotional was it to write “Dandy”, a song about David Bowie? The lyrics are excellent.
I was writing a song called “Lady” but I had some problems with the lyrics. All of a sudden, David passed away in January. I thought the word “dandy” and eventually “Lady” became “Dandy”. From that point it didn’t take me a lot of time to finish it. It was ready in just a few days.
Did you do a lot of reading before writing “Bow Street Runners”, which was London’s first police service?
I just liked the title. I think it’s a good title and for some time, we though to call the album “Bow Street Runners”. Then, I had to read some books about the “Bow Street Runners”. In 18th century, 500.000 people lived in London but there was no police.
What influenced you to write “Ghosts”?
My band, The Rant Band, was invited to play at Sun Studio, in Memphis in November 2014. You know, the Sam Phillips studio… In the walls there were photos of Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Carl Perkins and others. You could feel their presence there. The place was like haunted. It was a great experience. That was my inspiration for this song.
How did you come up with the idea to write a song the Ancient Greek god, “Morpheus”? It’s a fantastic song!
The Mott the Hoople guitarist, Mick Ralphs, one day was late for the rehearsal and when we asked him why he was late, he said: “I was in the arms of Morpheus”. Then, we asked him what did he mean and he said: “I was sleeping”. So, the idea came from Mick Ralphs. I wanted to write a song about Morpheus for a long time and I finally did it now.
We are rehearsing right now. We are starting next Friday. In November, we will be in the UK and Europe. So, we will be on the road for a long time. The setlist will be a third new stuff, a third songs from my solo career and a third Mott the Hoople songs. Hopefully, we will have a good time.
Do you believe that as years go by, you become a better songwriter?
Anything you do, you become better and better as time goes by. When you write songs, as time goes by, you become a better writer. As far as lyrics, it’s a different thing. I have written lyrics for 300 songs, so sometimes you run out of subjects.
Did you enjoy the 2009 and 2013 Mott the Hoople reunion concerts?
Yes, we had a good time and it was a lot of fun. Fans liked it very much, but from the business part it was a difficult thing to do.
Do you miss the chemistry you had on stage with Mick Ronson (David Bowie & Spiders from Mars guitarist/arranger)?
Of course, I miss the chemistry I had on stage with Mick Ronson. We played together in and out for twenty years. Twenty years it’s a long time. We were more than just collaborators. We were close friends, our wives hung out together, etc. Mick wasn’t only a good guitarist, he was also a great arranger.
What was your reaction when David Bowie played you “All the Young Dudes” (1972)?
First of all, I was happy because we were the only ones who listened to the next hit. There was nobody else in the room, where he played it to us. The second thing was that I wondered if I could sing it. Later, I saw that I could sing it. We knew that it would be a smash. Previously, we had released three singles, the BBC played them, but they were going nowhere. The BBC wouldn’t play us again, but now with “All the Young Dudes”, they had to play us.
Queen opened for Mott the Hoople in 1974 and did backing vocals on your song “You Nearly Did Me In” from “All American Alien Boy” (1976) album. Can you tell us a few words about your friendship with Queen?
Not only Queen, many bands started their career opening for Mott the Hoople. We were friends, they were very nice guys and we stayed friends after they got famous. I was good friends with Freddie. He wasn’t the person that people watched on stage. It’s sad that he died so young. After he died, I played in his tribute concert at Wembley Stadium.
Jaco Pastorius recorded with you before he become a legend. What memories do you have of Jaco?
I met Jaco through Bobby Colomby (ed: Blood, Sweat & Tears –drums) before I do “All American Alien Boy”. He lived in New York and I lived near New Jersey at the time. So, we lived quite close to each other. A lot of jazzers came to see Jaco playing, including Joe Zawinul (Weather Report –keyboards). Later, he stayed in my house for about two months. He has an ego, but we got on well. He was telling jokes all the time and we had a lot of laughs. Jaco was a big Stones fan too. His ego was in a good way then. When he went to Los Angeles, his ego went the wrong way.
Is it true that Mott the Hoople recorded “Walkin’ with a Mountain” (from “Mad Shadows” -1970) in front of Mick Jagger?
We were at Olympic Studios in London. We were in the small studio and the Rolling Stones were in the big studio next door. We were in the studio on the clock. We weren’t successful then, so we played clubs for living. Keith (ed: Richards) was usually absent because he went to feed his son, Marlon. The Rolling Stones were in the studio for months really doing nothing. For example, they would be there for four hours and Keith would stay for one hour. Without Keith, nothing was working. I think Mick was fed up with Keith. He came to our studio to see us and he was dancing in the control room, that’s why we launched into “Jumpin’ Jack Flash” at the end. So yes, we recorded “Walkin’ with a Mountain” in front of Mick Jagger.
Did you have a good time doing the “John Anderson for President Tour” in 1980 with Mick Ronson, Todd Rundgren and Michael Shrieve (Santana –drums)? Todd told me it was a lot of fun and that you have a really great English sense of humour.
Oh Todd? Mr Busy! I did the “John Anderson for President Tour” with Todd Rundgren, Michael Shrieve, Mick Ronson was sometimes in, sometimes out. I don’t remember who the bass player was (ed: Stephen Dees from Shrieve’s band, Novo Combo). We all agreed to play on stage the music we played on the bus. We had fun and a lot of laughs. I really enjoyed doing that tour.
In 2001 you toured with Ringo Starr & His All-Starr Band. What was it like to be in the same band with Ringo?
You mean, what was it like to play with a Beatle? One day I came back home and Ringo was on my answering machine. It was weird. He asked me to do that tour. Actually, I was asked twice. The first time I said: “No”, but the second time, I said “Yes”. There were all kinds of different people in this band, and we played their songs too. It was interesting. It was a good tour for the most part.
Did you have an opportunity to join Bob Dylan’s band when Mick Ronson did?
One night, I was in a club drinking with Mick Ronson and suddenly Bob Dylan and Bob Neuwirth came in. There was nobody else there. Dylan took an acoustic guitar and he played us the whole “Desire” (1976) album, but in comical way. He was laughing as he played. Dylan would get on the road. Mick’s wife, Suzi, later talked to Bob Neuwirth and then she called me and said: “Come next Wednesday to rehearse”. I said: “No, nobody asked me”. It wasn’t a formal thing. I couldn’t do it, I was busy doing other things then. That’s what really happened.
Were you frustrated when Karen Carpenter (The Carpenters –vocals, drums) said that Mott the Hoople “aren’t human”?
No, I was laughing! Everybody else was mad at her. It was the best thing that could have happened. We got a lot of publicity because of this. She had a beautiful voice. I loved her work with The Carpenters.
Do you think the collapse of the major recording labels is a kind of justice for their corporate greed all these years?
There are some good people in big companies, but big companies are like beasts. I live in the United States, because I can make a deal with a recording label here without having to listen to my music. They do not interfere with my music. They listen to the music when the album is finished. Me and Mick Ronson, took that decision many years ago. If I had made a deal with an English label, they would have to fly here to listen to the music. So, they can fuck off! That’s why I live here.
Do you think social media like Youtube and Facebook have helped listeners to learn about your music?
Mott the Hoople had pockets of fans here and there, all over the world. If there was no Internet, we would have disappeared. There would be no reunion. We still exist because of the Internet. All those fans connected with each other, because of the Internet. So, I think social media are a good thing for us.
You worked for years in factories. Do you feel lucky that you made a living as a musician?
If you have worked in factories, the only thing you think is that you don’t want to come back to factories. It’s easier to play in front of people than working in factories. So, you have to keep playing, to entertain people, in order not to come back to factories.
You performed “All the Young Dudes” with David Bowie and Mick Ronson at the Freddie Mercury Tribute Concert at Wembley Stadium in 1992. Was it an emotional night for you?
Yes, it was emotional. Backstage there were 4000 people crew. It was like a city. Roger Taylor (ed: drums) was responsible for the concert. Brian May wasn’t really involved in it. It was the first time I had to sing in a green box. It was a big crowd. There were 72.000 fans and great musicians on stage. Roger Taylor put together a great concert. It was a difficult thing to do. It was fantastic.
Mick Jones from The Clash was a huge Mott the Hoople fan. How did you get to know him?
Mick Jones and other fans never paid for a ticket to watch a Mott the Hoople concert. They never paid because they didn’t have the money to buy a ticket. They lived in squats etc. We would let them in to watch us during the soundcheck or let them in through the back door or they would sneak in the end of the shows. Somehow, they would always sneak in. I remember him because he was a well-dressed guy. He’s a good looking man (laughs).
How did “The Diary of A Rock N’ Roll Star” (1975) come about?
I kept a diary about what is like to be in a band. The DJ Charlie Gillet had a deal with Panther. I showed it to him, he liked it and Panther published it.
A huge “THANK YOU” to Mr Ian Hunter for his time and to Trudi for her valuable help.
Official Ian Hunter website: www.ianhunter.com
Official Ian Hunter Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/Ian-Hunter-318506480573