This feature appeared in Amplifier Magazine Online, July 2009
"Various lunatics!" proclaims Ian Hunter when asked how he went from being an All American Alien Boy in 1976 to a Man Overboard in 2009. "I’m kind of sad, in a way, that old George (Bush) has left the building—there were plenty of 'words' coming when he was in! I just feel so much more optimistic now. The political thing just doesn’t seem to have the same appeal as last year."
Ian Hunter still has plenty of vitriol (and sentiment) left in him as evidenced on his latest, luckiest 13th solo album since his long lamented departure from rock's greatest underdog ensemble, Mott The Hoople, in early 1975.
Akin to his distinguished rock poet peers - you can count Bob Dylan, Leonard Cohen, Lou Reed, Bruce Springsteen and Patti Smith among them, Ian is rendering his best work both live and on record. Ever a man of the people, Ian affords props to his veteran road ensemble for MO's aural sense of urgency: producer/guitarist Andy York (John Mellancamp), drummer Steve Holley (Paul McCartney & Wings, Joe Cocker), bassist Paul Page (Dion), guitarist Jack Petruzzelli (Rufus Wainwright, Joan Osbourne), guitarist James Maestro (Patti Smith, John Cale), and keyboardist Andy Burton (The Db's). For the record (pun intended) Man Overboard only took a week to record and a week to mix.
"Andy was so committed that he should be" jokes Hunter. "It’s very 50-50 with me and Andy – it’s kind of like a marriage in a way, I’ve got my weak spots, and he’s extremely good in those spots. It’s not like I’m over here and the band is over there." Continuing the momentum of the highly acclaimed Shrunken Heads (2007) album boiled down to one simple tenet. "Commitment!" says Hunter once again. "Not only with me, but with anyone my band has worked with. It spreads…like good seeds."
And like good seeds, Ian Hunter songs will grow on you. For fans of "Irene Wilde," "Ships In The Night," and "I Wish I Was Your Mother" - you have a new romantic epic to cherish "Girl From The Office." Ruminates Ian "she was pretty gorgeous at the time. Most of my songs have an element of truth in it - I just employ a little poetic license." "The Great Escape" which kicks off the album, is a classic Ian rocker worthy of his old Mott mates. "The thing with that song is it’s kind of like the odds are always against ya' – and if you think about it and you analyze any situation you’re in – there always seems to be a way out even if you’re on your own and that’s a good sort of thing to know in life!"
In age of Tweets, Facebook, MySpace, file-sharing, pod-casts, and other digital foolery (and thievery), the long-player format remains sacred to Hunter. "My business is to make albums – I like a complete album whether it’s in date or out of date. I don’t care what anyone else is doing –that’s my way. I love making music! I’m not really concerned about the 'music business." The appeal is obvious to Ian and his dedicated following, though it may be lost on the current generation: how foolish would a dramatic video of "All The Young Dudes" or "Crash Street Kids" appear in modern times? Ian elaborates: "Use your imagination – that, to me, was the big attraction of it. That’s a wonderful thing for a kid – to just imagine. When I started out and listened to American acts – Jerry Lee Lewis and Elvis and all those people - my imagination ran rampant."
And thankfully, Ian gives no concession to age. "I think there’s a place for anybody who wants to connect" he opines on the most taboo subject in our youth obsessed culture: longevity. "People are wide open to it, as long as you deliver in some way, shape or form. On the ‘pop’ side of things you wouldn’t get away with it, but in the rock field – yeah! The blues guys are still going at it. When we were pop artists and we had hits and stuff and I could see that 'longevity' could be detrimental – getting old and doing pop stuff." Ian begins to measure his words. "But the kind of thing I’m heading for…and it’s okay because there’s an element of….the thing you have to watch out for is…." He pauses, then finds the perfect word to describe his modus operandi: "Dignity!
In addition to Man Overboard, 2009 will mark the most improbable reunion of all for Ian - Mott The Hoople. Five 40th Anniversary shows are slated for the first week of October at the HMV Hammersmith Apollo in London with all the original members on stage- Ian, Mick Ralphs, Dale "Buffin" Griffin, Verden Allen - and a man who hasn't been seen by the general public in eons, the charismatic guru of glam, bassist Pete "Overend" Watts. Says Ian of Overend "I talk to him on the phone all the time, but I haven't seen him. He must be fit, he walks all over Britain - twenty five miles per day - though not in those platforms I'm sure." No word from Ian on Overend's retention of his signature metallic hair, we'll have to wait for the gigs.
Ian Hunter's Man Overboard is out on New West Records on July 21, 2009