Q&A: Ian Hunter On His New Album, The Mott The Hoople Reunion, And Staying Angry In His 70s

ianhunter_2012.jpeg
You may have heard there's a new record coming out by a seventy-something rocker who gave voice to an angry, inarticulate audience decades ago. You know, the guy who sports dark shades and affects a corona of curly hair? Sings anthems in a raspy voice about all the inequities of life? You're right. Ian Hunter does have a new record: When I'm President (Slimstyle), recorded with his Rant Band, hits the streets today. And it may be the best thing Hunter has done since his storied work as leader of the legendary Mott The Hoople. Angry pub rockers like "What For" take turns with, uh, angry ballads about Chief Crazy Horse. We spoke to this 73-year-old dude on the eve of his new release.

So many people of your generation seem to be just going out and playing their hits. How do you account for this run of incredibly strong recent albums?

I just think that when I was growing up, nothing meant anything until I heard Elvis and Little Richard and Jerry Lee. And it gave me life. And to go and sit on a pier and play me greatest hits is not really repaying the debt. Repaying the debt is doin' the best you can with it before you pop off. That's repaying the debt. It happened for me at the right time. I was 15, 16, something like that when [rock and roll] all started.

There was a period there when I wasn't performing properly, I was just writin' songs like a songwriter would write songs. You know, a professional songwriter. And when Mick [Ronson, Hunter's bandmate] died, that went out the window. It was like, "Get back to business. You gotta do this."

Lots of good anger going on in your new songs ("Fatal Flaws," "What For"). Do you know how it is that you can be 70something and still be angry? Where does the pissed-offness come from?

It's a lotta things over the years. When I was doing (the 2007 album) Shrunken Heads, it would've been Bush, ya know. It's very hard to watch bad actors on television pretendin' they're something they're not. I've always had the underdog mentality and I'm very sympathetic to underdogs. That's where my area is. So, anything can piss me off. Just as anything can piss you off. I'm no different than anybody else. You sit and watch a bad actor long enough before, 'Shut up! We're supposed to vote for that?'

I noticed on the new record, there are three songs where you reference the James Brothers, Crazy Horse and The Wild Bunch. Were you aware there was some Western mythology going on, Ian?

I read a lot. I don't really listen to the radio. And where English history is vast, American history is recent. Some of these people died in the '20s. I was born in '39 and Wyatt Earp [died in] 1929; that's how recent this is. It's a rocker's romanticism. I've read a ton of books about The Civil War. I can't write about man and woman falling in love anymore. I'm 73. You're looking for lyrics and some of that is pretty inspirational stuff. Especially Crazy Horse. That's typical me. Rooting for the underdog.

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9 comments
bopcomm
bopcomm

Peter, EXCELLENT interview! Hard to believe how HARD this cat STILL rocks! Check out some of the vids from Brit reunion tour last year.....SEVENTY-TWO and he STILL kicks ASS!Ohhh.....and Stevefart.....BLOW ME!!!

bopcomm
bopcomm

Peter, EXCELLENT interview. Hard to believe how HARD this guy STILL rocks! Take a look at some of the vids from the reunion shows in Britain last year.......SEVENTY-TWO and still kickin' ASS!

Oh....and Stevefart........BLOW ME!

pzang7
pzang7

Why did you read this piece? These are clearly not the remarks of a Hunter fan or someone with an open mind. And if you are as unaware of Hunter's songbook as you evince, it's pointless even discussing this. Only a tourist would still cling to  'Young Dudes,' theory. You clearly don't know squat of this man's best work. Also, are you unaware that The Voice is, in essence, a Liberal publication? Your cluelessness is the only impressive part of your letter. Time to go listen to Hank Willians Jr. and Kid Rock. That's where you need to be my friend.

gooblegobble
gooblegobble

Saw Ian at the Bell House this year - it may have been one of the best shows he did. The new single is great, but to call the album 'the best since Mott' is a little dodgy; his first (Ian Hunter) and the recent Rant were just amazing, not to mention All American Alien Boy, to name a few. P.S. - WHY ISN'T IAN IN THE ROCK AND ROLL HALL OF FAME?!?

pzang7
pzang7

 @bopcomm PS: If you're on FB or Twitter Friend Me, Follow Me, whatever. Cheers, Peter G

pzang7
pzang7

 @bopcomm Thanks Bop: Nice to hear from an actual earthling. Blessings on thee. PG

pzang7
pzang7

 @Stevart Is the Bush remark really all you got from my interview? Just because I happen to agree with him doesn't mean it's the essence of the piece. That was one reference Hunter made out of about 30. How much of a fan could you be if this is what you fixated on? You might also mention Hunter's eloquence. And mine. And the man's remarkable contribution of rock and roll. Best, Peter G

Kevp
Kevp

 @Stevart Wow, you really misunderstood the whole of that interview didn`t you, he`s very pro America ( his wife is American and he lives there) he still makes a good living from it because he`s very good at what he does, regardless of ATYD he has had plenty of hits both with Mott and solo and sold out Broadway, hardly what you`d call MEDIOCRITY ( yep, that`s how you spell it!) from another Brit wanker!

pzang7
pzang7

 @Stevart If smart, well-informed people haven't, why would you think you have? Go and read my Tribute to Levon Helm from a March. 100 Comments, so many of them fascinating, smart and well-stated. Ian deserves better than this. You have nothing to do, you like to stir the pot, you're a Republican and you're trying to use this article as a platform. Start a blog. But don't flatter yourself and claim to be a rock fan. Your postings look like they were written by Paul Ryan. 

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