Today, May 15th, is the release date for Shrunken Heads, the latest solo album from former Mott the Hoople frontman and all around rock legend Ian Hunter. The singer and songwriter, who now lives in Connecticut with his family, took the time to talk to us about the album, his collaboration with Jeff Tweedy, and his advice for young bands navigating the rock star life. Check it out.
Rolling Stone: The state of the world, especially politics, has become a major theme in your writing.
Ian Hunter: Yeah, without a doubt. That’s what Shrunken Heads is all about — small heads voting for small heads and then you get this.
RS: Jeff Tweedy sang on three songs off Shrunken Heads (“Words (Big Mouth),” “Fuss About Nothing,” and “Guiding Light.”) How did that collaboration come about?
IH: I met him five or six years ago in Chicago, at a gig. There is a vulnerability in his voice that I would die for — he’s got a great natural voice. He thinks inside himself — lives inside his head most of the time. I think a lot of writers are like that — the real writers, not the ones who cop off other people (laughs).
RS: Mott the Hoople were affiliated with Glam rock, but for some that’s a forced association.
IH: I remember that we stopped on the European tour — the hair came off, the heels came off and we were a rock band. It’s a psychological thing. They’re like props and then of course, you’re sort of lumped in with that thing for the rest of your life, which takes away from some of the music we were making.
RS: You were in bands for ten years before finally making it big with Mott the Hoople. How do you think that informed your perspective on rock stardom?
IH: I think 26 or 27 is the minimal age to get involved [in rock] because before then I don’t think you can handle it. If you actually get lucky enough to happen as a band, the pressure is so tremendous and it’s coming from all angles and all levels. I’ve got kids and they’re in bands and I told them, “I don’t want this to happen to you anywhere south of 25. You need to be kicked around and learn a little about the world before you get involved in all that.”
RS: What is your secret to successfully navigating this business for so many years?
IH: I just got along the side (of fame). That’s how I look at it. I don’t want to be in the middle of that storm. I tried it once and I didn’t even like myself. The first thing that happens is the plan and before you know it you’ve got two years sitting in front of you and you can’t get ill, it’s just like a job. And then you’ve got crew and they’ve got families and you start being responsible for people and it’s totally alien to the idea you had when you first started, which was just lets go mad down the pub, you know?
I wanted it (fame) so bad, everybody does, but there’s nothing there once you get there, it’s just this myth. The only thing that’s important to me is what comes next. You’re only as good as what you do next. The rest of it is irrelevant. Can you imagine a heard of cows in a field and you’re the only cow left? That’s success. It’s hanging in, no matter how many people tell you you’re crap.