INTERVIEW: Ian Hunter seminal Rock Star – Mott the Hoople

By admin on July 23, 2018

By Dr. Alan Carlos Hernandez
HOLLYWOOD (Herald de Paris) —  Whilst his achievements during his first decade as a recording artist would have been more than enough to ensure his iconic status, Ian Hunter has never been one to coast on past glories. Indeed, in the past dozen years, he’s made a series of riveting albums that stand with his best and most resonant work, while making a decisive return to touring, delivering incendiary live performances that show his fire to be burning as brightly as ever. He was already a veteran of theLondon music scene by the time he joined Mott The Hoople in1969.

With Mott, he recorded four iconoclastic albums –“Mott The Hoople”, “Mad Shadows”, “Wildlife” and “Brain Capers” – by the time they hit international stardom with the glam-rock anthem for a generation, the David Bowie penned, “All The Young Dudes”. The band’s artistic and commercial success continued with “Mott” and “The Hoople”, between them, containing the hits,“All The Way From Memphis”, “Honaloochie Boogie”,“Roll Away The Stone” and “The Golden Age Of Rock ‘n’ Roll”. On their final tour, they took out a then little known band, Queen, who would have a hit single witha song about their experiences, “Now I’m Here”. It would be the only time Queen would open for anyone and the band members would stay long term friends with Ian, contributing backing vocals to his “All American Alien Boy” album.

Mott have also been credited by John Lydon (Sex Pistols) and Mick Jones (The Clash) as being one of the pioneers and inspirations behind the burgeoning punk / new wave movement.

Later on, Ian would go on to produce Generation X’s “Valley Of The Dolls” album and The Clash would play on Ian’s “Short Back ‘n’ Sides” release. Not many, if any, other artists could claim to have influenced bands diverse as Queen and the Sex Pistols.

Mott disbanded in 1974 and Ian moved to New York, segueing into a celebrated solo career and quickly building a formidable body of solo work. The albums, “Ian Hunter”, “All American Alien Boy”, Overnight Angels”, “You’re Never Alone With A Schizophrenic”, “Short Back ‘n’ Sides” and “All Of The Good Ones Are Taken” between them featuring such diverse talents as the aforementioned Queen and The Clash, Mick Ronson, the then unknown jazz sensation, Jaco Pastorious and The E Street Band, of Bruce Springsteen fame.

Barry Manilow took one of Ian’s most personal songs, “Ships” into the charts and Great White had a international hit with their cover of, “Once Bitten, Twice Shy.” Ian took time out to produce in the ’80’s, returning in 1993, prompted by the death of his long time collaborator, Mick Ronson.

Since then, Ian has produced what many critics feel to be his best work to date, “The Artful Dodger,” “Rant,” “Shrunken Heads,” Man Overboard,” and “When I’m President.” There are now a new generation of artists name-checking Ian as an influence; Jeff Tweedy (Wilco), Bobby Gillespie (Primal Scream), Taylor Hawkins (Foo Fighters) to name but three.

Mott The Hoople have reformed twice and played two hugely successful tours. If anyone had any doubts as to the long lasting appeal and influence of Ian’s music, you would only have needed to peek at the scene’s in Mott The Hoople’s dressing room after their London show where they were joined by; Jimmy Page (Led Zeppelin), Mick Jones (The Clash), Chrissie Hynde (The Pretenders) and John Squire (The Stone Roses). But, as always, whilst proud of his past achievements, Ian would prefer to focus on the future. “To me, music is holy,” Hunter asserts, adding, “For the first fifteen years of my life, I had no idea what I was here for. But then Elvis came out and it was, ‘Oh, that’s what I am here for.’ Rock ‘n’ roll got me out and gave me a great life and I don’t know what I would have done without it. It’s all I know and my identity is all tied up with it.”

Ian Hunter’s latest studio album, Fingers Crossed unveils ten new, self-penned songs including his much-anticipated homage to David Bowie ‘Dandy’. Recorded at HOBO Studios in New Jersey, and co-produced by Hunter and Andy York, the record features his magnificent Rant Band and is the follow-up to 2012’s acclaimed “When I’m President.” Released on September 16th on JJM Records. Proper Records 30-Disc anthology box set, Stranded in Reality which was released on 2 September, 2016 is a strictly limited edition of 2,500 units for sale to worldwide customers from Proper Records.

Herald de Paris Consulting Editor Dr. Al Carlos Hernandez was honored to have a conversation with the seminal music legend, Ian Hunter.

AC: You were a part of the music scene in London before Mott, what kind of music were you playing, I understand you love the classic Rockers like Chuck Berry?

IH: I was in various semi-pro bands before Mott the Hoople. I played bass with Freddie Fingers Lee (the English Jerry Lee Lewis) Billy Fury and Mike Berry. My favorite artists were Little Richard, Jerry Lee Lewis and Chuck Berry.

AC: What does Mott the Hoople mean? What did you bring to the band?

IH: Mott the Hoople is the title of a book by Willard Manus. I guess I brought a rock‘n’ roll sensibility to the band.

AC: How did this whole Glam rock thing come about and what was your part in it?

IH: I’ve no idea how glam started. It’s just a label. I guess everybody decided the gigs were drab, so we decided to dress up a bit.

AC: I am aware that your album “Brain Capers” is credited with birthing the Punk Music movement?

IH: ‘Brain Capers’ was a work of frustration and desperation with an added dab of lunacy. People say it heralded punk, but there were punks in the 1950’s. Gene Vincent was a punk – and he was good.

AC: Clash founding members would go to every Mott gig, can you tell us about Mick Jones and John Lydon of The Sex Pistols as to how you inspired them?

IH: It’s true certain people went to gigs that later became famous in their own right. I remember Mick Jones because he was a sharp dresser. You’d have to ask them how we
inspired them.

AC: You produced Generation X?

IH: Yes, I produced ‘Generation X’. Not easy. I liked Der (the guitarist). They had a couple of hits, so that was OK.

AC: I understand you met David Bowie though your bass player at a time when Mott was breaking up? Bowie was an up and comer who encouraged you to stay together?

IH: Mott’s bass player, Pete Watts approached David for a gig when Mott split, but it turned out that David was a Mott the Hoople fan – so that’s how that all started.

AC: Tell us about your tune, “All The Young dudes” that made you superstars? What is the song about?

IH: We all went down to an office off Regent Street in London and David sat on the floor with an acoustic guitar and played us ‘Dudes’. My first thought was – ‘I can sing this’ and my second thought was ‘why is he giving this away?’ It turns out he had tried it with his band already and it hadn’t worked out. It had been in a different key and he’d put a lot of alto sax on it.

AC: What was the whole “Glam” scene about, how do you think History will remember it?

IH: We were never really part of the ‘glam’ movement as you put it. Sure we dressed up, but we were more in the Stones camp (who dressed up!) I couldn’t care less if history remembers ‘glam’. I just hope they remember our music, most of which is still available, so Iguess they do.

AC: On the last Mott tour you took out Queen as an opening act, the first and only time they ever opened for anyone. What did you see in the band that no one else did yet?

IH: Queen wrote good songs – that was the difference.

AC: You have said the Mott was oftentimes, before and occasionally after music trends, what does that mean?

IH: Mott missed the big time because they made poor choices in the management area – we were too flaky.

AC: After Mott disbanded in 1974 you came to New York and started a very successful solo career, you worked with cats like Jaco Pastorious, Mick Ronson and the E Street band, it seems you have an uncanny ability to discern future superstars?

IH: It’s true I played with a lot of great people over the years. I don’t know how or why it happened – it just did.

AC: Who else did you work with during those years on The East Coast what was the sound you were going after?

IH: I wasn’t going after any particular sound. I wrote the songs and we played ‘em.

AC: Tell us about Barry Manilow and your song “Ships”

IH: I wrote ‘Ships’ for an album called ‘Your Never Alone with a Schizophrenic’ and Clive Davis liked it and played it to Barry Manilow. It was his last top ten hit.

AC: How about your tune done by the band Great White, “Once bittern twice shy?”

IH: ‘Once Bitten’ was written in ten hours in Mick Ronson’s flat at the back of the Albert Hall in London. Mick had a little drum machine with rumba – samba – rock sounds on it. I pressed them all and out came the groove I worked with. Great White took it to number 5 in Billboard. I took it to number 9 in the UK.

AC: Who else has performed some of your songs?

IH: I’ve had hundreds of covers. Some chap in France actually found them all – too many to list here.

AC: Mott has regrouped a couple of times what were some of the most memorable gigs? Will you ever tour again as Mott?

IH: Mott reformed twice – the first time was amazing the second time anticlimactic. Never again.

AC: Over the years you have performed and recorded with an astounding amount of artists, who are some of the people that you wished you could have worked with?

IH: I’d have liked to have worked with Leon Russell , Bob Dylan and The Band (in their heyday).

AC: Tell us about “The Hollywood Vampires” your work with them is all over You Tube? How did that come about?

IH: Ross Halfin is a famous British photographer who was photographing the Vipers and said Johnny Depp liked a book I had written. JD rang me up and asked me to the New York show. Johnny was extremely gracious as were the band.

AC: Tell us about Proper Records 30-Disc anthology box set, Stranded in Reality released on September, 2016 is a strictly limited edition of 2,500 units from Proper Records?

IH: I sort of knew about the box set for a while, but I didn’t participate until they were well on the way. They needed unreleased material, so Campbell Devine came and stayed with me for a while and we fished around the archives. I think there are over 350 tracks on it – plus a book and a newspaper and DVDs. I was in two minds about it.

On the one hand it was flattering they would do all this and on the other hand it was like – well that’ it then – game over! Fortunately, I had a new album ‘Fingers Crossed’ come out at the same time and that’s been well received.

AC: What kinds of things are you working on now?

IH: Right now we are gearing up for the next tour which stats in the spring.

AC: Anything left on the Bucket list?

IH: Never really had a bucket list in the first place. Some people would call it a
career – I would call it a life. I don’t like planning – I like surprises.

AC: When its all said and done what would you like your legacy to be how would you like history to remember you?

IH: Legacies are in the eyes of the beholders. It ain’t gonna bother me much.

Edited By, Mariam Salarian

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