From his days back in the 60s when he was in bands such as The Apex Group and The Scenery, as well as backing Freddie ‘Fingers’ Lee, to joining, and ultimately fronting, Mott the Hoople in the late 60s and into the early 70s, singer and songwriter Ian Hunter has been one of those musicians who has managed to maintain his footing in the constantly shifting hinterland between commercial success and critical acclaim, while maintaining his dignity.
Hunter’s last album was 2012’s well received When I’m President, and on 1st September, a live album of his 2010 tour with The Rant Band and a string quartet is released. A completely independent release, Ian Hunter and The Rant Band, Live in the UK 2010, features renditions of tunes from his solo career, as well as material from his Mott the Hoople days. It’s honest too – No over-dubs or fixes!
In the middle of September Ian Hunter and The Rant Band start a twelve date tour of the UK and despite preparations for that, and the release of the new live album, he still had time to answer a few questions for us.
Your reunion gigs with Mott the Hoople were very well received, there was the recent Ballad of Mott the Hoople documentary and your solo albums in the last few years have had some of the best reviews of your career. How does it feel to have the highest media profile you’ve had since the mid 70s?
I don’t like the idea of not being relevant.
This is quite an extensive tour of the UK for you, coming straight off the back of dates in the States, then on to Scandinavia straight after and then back to the States for a few more gigs. How have you found touring has changed through the years?
It’s easier from the hotel point of view, but much harder from the ‘getting there’ aspect. The roads are a mess- too much traffic – and the airports a nightmare.
Your Diary of a Rock’n’Roll Star reflected on the realities of touring in the 70s. Have you ever been tempted to write a follow up to reflect how much (or indeed, how little) touring has changed since that time?
The difficulty with writing a follow up is that it doesn’t have an Elvis ending!
The Rant Band have been a great backing band for you through the years and they’ve got co-billing on your latest studio and live albums. Have you found that having a regular backing band helps you write to the band’s strengths?
Sure, the more you know about the guys the more I guess the music gets twisted towards their strengths.
A wide variety of punk and hard rock acts have pointed to both you and Mott the Hoople as an influence down the years. Who does Ian Hunter listen to? Whose music influences you?
I don’t listen to anything. I was driving down the freeway with the radio on in the 80’s and I got so bored I thought I’d turn the radio on. I’m not influenced by anybody; I was – back in the day when I was learning my trade – but really – in the final analysis – all you have is you.
Over the years you’ve worked with the likes of your great friend Mick Ronson, various members of The E Street Band, Mick Jones of The Clash, Queen, Ringo Starr, Generation X and Jeff Tweedy of Wilco. Are there any artists (or bands) that you would love to work with, that you’ve just not had the opportunity to yet?
There’s some amazing people out there, but geography gets in the way. I should move to Nashville!
You have an obvious zeal and enthusiasm for recording and performing new music, do you feel that this is one of the reasons behind your most recent work being among the best received of your career?
My life is composed of what comes next, and what’s after that.
You have an ability to blend raucous rocking, relatable pathos and a thread of humour in your music. Do you feel that this something that has ensured that your career has continued to endure?
I’m a big fan of humour and I’m a big fan of feel and I love groove.
You always seem to have had a reputation for being straight talking and being relatively easy to relate to. Do you find that the internet and social media has given you increased opportunities to communicate with your fan base, or do you feel that it’s had more of a negative effect on the music industry in general?
I think the music ‘biz’ stinks in general, so the web was a breath of fresh air. Unfortunately, the same sort of people that stunk the ‘biz’ up are now busy stinking up the web. Some folk are never happy unless we’re miserable.
Given how extensive your career has been, which is your personal favourite of all the albums you have recorded and why?
They’re all my babies – good , bad and average.
Many of the acts that Backseat Mafia writes about are acts finding their way at the start of their career – given your fifty five years in the music industry, and your experience of its highs and lows, what are the best pieces of advice you can give these youngsters?
1) The desire has to be there
2) The business end of it has to be taken care of
3) Reviews mean nothing – queues mean everything.
4) Stay off the hard stuff
5) Stay out of the premiership
Your new release with The Rant Band is a live album recorded in 2010 and what with your tour schedule, you show no sign of slowing your work rate down. What is next for Ian Hunter over the next couple of years?
In January we go to Japan – I’m excited about that. And I have ideas for a new record and I can’t wait to get to it.
Ian Hunter is on tour in the UK from the 19th September.
19th Sep, Portsmouth Pyramids, Portsmouth
20th Sep, Leamington Spa Assembly, Leamington Spa
21st Sep, Drill Hall, Lincoln
23rd Sep, Lemon Tree, Aberdeen
24th Sep, The Garage, Glasgow
26th Sep, The Picturedome, Holmfirth
27th Sep, RCNM, Manchester
28th Sep, The Sage 2, Gateshead
30th Sep, The Stables, Milton Keynes
2nd Oct, Sheffield City Hall, Sheffield
3rd Oct, Concorde 2, Brighton
4th Oct, O2 Shepherds Bush Empire, London
Further information regarding tickets for these gigs and details of his tours of the USA, Scandinavia and Japan can be found on Ian Hunter’s official website; http://ianhunter.com.
Ian Hunter and The Rant Band, Live in the UK 2010 is released on 1st September and can be pre-ordered from his website.