You’re Never Alone With… Ian Hunter
by Ken Sharp
Originally posted on April 15, 2001.
After a long hiatus from recording, ex-Mott The Hoople frontman Ian Hunter is back, all guns blazing, with one of the best records of his career, Rant. We spoke with Ian Hunter about thirty years of rock and roll service.
Rant is one of this year’s best albums.
We’re getting a bit of play on Triple A radio but it’s just not enough. And where it is getting played on radio, it sells. It translates.
How long did it take for you to finish all the songs for the record?
Three years. Usually the first year or so I’ll think I’ve written great stuff but two weeks later I don’t like it. It’s a quality control thing. You just keep writing and writing and discarding and discarding. But all the time you’re writing the writing muscle improves. After a couple of years all of a sudden it starts kicking in and you start getting things that you really don’t want to get rid of. The first song I felt was too good to not go on the record was “Morons.” That was recorded in my basement apart from the drums. A guy called Robbie Alter was stating with me, he plays on a couple of tracks. He said, “Why don’t you write one of those things that you used to write in Mott?” And I said, ‘What’s the point to that?” And he said, ‘Well, you’re the only person that can do that.” So when he left, I hadn’t touched a piano in about ten years, the album before I did all on guitar. So I started playing piano and that was the first one that came out. The first line, ‘We were morons the day we were before.’ That was ii right there. I knew I’d captured something that was running around in my head for a long time.
“Dead Man Walkin”‘ is a standout…
It came about because there’s a song on Rant called “No One”, it’s the last track on the record. It’s a four-chord song in B flat. I was playing “No One,” when I came to the fourth chord of the sequence, instead of going to the F chord, I went to E flat by mistake. That’s how “Dead Man Walkin'” was born. It just developed from that. The sound of those four chords is so eerie to me that I ditched “No One” and carried on writing that. Andy York had heard “No One” on a cassette and he said we should do that one as well. “Dead Man Walkin’ is my favorite track on the album. It falls together real nice. I’m not that great a singer. So you’re not only trying to write lyrics but something that suits your voice. Live, that song is fantastic. I love doing it, it’s just perfect for me.
Tell me about the line, “What am I supposed to do now, sink to the bottom of obscurity?”
It’s brutal self-assessment. If I cast myself back to when I wrote it, I had no label. I had no musicians, I had no access.