Friday, 2 November 2018

In 1988 Ian Hunter & Mick Ronson Teamed Up For A US Tour & This Interview! Liz London Is Still Recuperating.

Ian Hunter and Mick Ronson
Photo: Devorah Ostrov
Originally published in Rave-Up #16 (1989)

Interview by Devorah Ostrov & Liz London

Like peanut butter and jelly, MTV and Bon Jovi, baseball and Sunday afternoons — Ian Hunter and Mick Ronson simply belong together. After assisting with Mott the Hoople's breakthrough album All the Young Dudes, Mick teamed up with Ian in the final weeks of the band's career.

Since then, whenever they've hit a stage together it's been magical (although it's always far too long between their joint projects). During a short US tour late last year, we were blessed with two back-to-back shows in the Bay Area: the first was at the Oasis in San Francisco on October 5, followed by New George's in San Rafael the next night — which is where our interview took place.

Ian Hunter
Photo: Devorah Ostrov
Mick was busy soundchecking, so we began by chatting with Ian...

Rave-Up: I'm so happy that you and Mick are back together again! I saw some of the shows you did with Mick in... I guess it was 1980/81. What brought you back together again?

Ian: I hadn't really done anything since then, and I was getting rather desperate. I'd been living in the country for about five years, with me own studio, and it was no good at all. So, in '86 I moved back into Manhattan. And then I just started working again. It seems as if that's all it was. So, I wrote some songs and I thought I should ring Mick. He liked the songs, and we decided to go out on the road again.

Rave-Up: Did you just jump right back into touring, or was it a gradual process?

Ian: We started out by doing a couple of weeks in Canada, just to see, y'know. And it wasn't really there for the first few days. But then, all of a sudden, the x-factor started kicking in.

Rave-Up: Do you mean as far as audience response?

My backstage pass for San Rafael
Ian: I mean the thing that me and him have between us. That's what was important to us. We weren't really concerned about who turned up to see us. We were more concerned about how we wanted to do it.

Rave-Up: Judging from last night's show at the Oasis, the magic between you and Mick is definitely still there.

Ian: Well, whatever it is, it wasn't there. And then it came, and I was real relieved. I don't know what it is, but I know when it ain't there!

Rave-Up: You said that you had written all this new material, and then called Mick. Has he been able to collaborate with you at all? Or is the live set mostly up to you?

Ian: I don't know... We never really collaborate that much anyway. Usually how it works is, I'll bring the song in and he'll change it around. That's how we collaborate.

Rave-Up: You do quite a lot of Mott the Hoople songs in the set, but Mick only gets one song. Why aren't you doing more of his stuff?

Mick Ronson (left) and Ian Hunter (right)
Photos: Devorah Ostrov
Ian: Because... I'm aware of that and so is he. But for a start, he hates singing. People should know this: it's not my fault. It's not like I say, "We're going to do all my stuff." It's just the opposite. He just doesn't want to do it. But I consider this a 50/50 partnership, and the more he gets involved the happier I'll be.

Rave-Up: How do you feel about playing Mott the Hoople songs after all these years?

Poster for the 1990 Hunter/Ronson concert
at the L'Elysee Montmartre, featuring the
cover art for the Y U I Orta album.
Ian: I don't like it. I don't like doing "Memphis," but I do it 'cause people wanna hear it. It's as simple as that. "Memphis" is one of those songs... you can't really do much with it. It's done that way and you can't mess with it. "Dudes," we've messed with that over the years, and now it's basically back to where it was in the beginning. But that's a song you can mess with!

Rave-Up: You still get emotional when you perform "All the Young Dudes." The song still seems to mean a lot to you.

Ian: Well, if it wasn't for "All the Young Dudes" I wouldn't be sitting here. I'd probably be working in a factory or digging holes in the road. I'm very grateful for that song.

Mick Ronson enters the room and makes himself comfy on the couch — a very small couch — on which Liz is also seated. It was at this point that we lost Liz for the rest of the interview, as she became catatonic.

Rave-Up: I was really impressed by the show last night. A lot of times people just want to hear the old songs, but your new material is every bit as good as anything Mott the Hoople did. In fact, sometimes it was hard to tell where Mott's left off and the new songs came in!

Mick Ronson
Photo: Devorah Ostrov
Mick: You couldn't tell? Good! Our new songs do have a sound to them, and a style. And I do think that the old stuff sounds like the new stuff, and the new stuff sounds like... It's not that different.

Ian: I think the new songs are better than what I was writing with Mott the Hoople. I'll tell you how I know... It's because we have a weird feeling that we're on to something. I haven't had that feeling in a long, long time. It's horrible when you lose that feeling, and there's nothing you can do about it.
   I was watching the MTV Music Awards and I thought, "Fuck me, nothing's happening." These kids are going to gigs thinking that they're seeing rock 'n' roll bands. They're not rock 'n' roll bands! It's not exciting. It's boring. All these clean little people, going to their clean little gigs, doing their clean little encores.

Rave-Up: It doesn't sound like you're intimidated by all the new flashy bands.

Ian leans back in his chair, smiles and shakes his head, "No."

Ian: The only time I felt intimidated in me life was the first time I worked with Mick [during the recording of All the Young Dudes]. I was fucking terrified!

Rave-Up: Why?

Ian Hunter
Photo: Devorah Ostrov
Ian: 'Cause he'd worked with David [Bowie, author of the album's title track and hit single], and now it was me. And I just thought, "I'm a fucking rock 'n' roller. And now I'm gonna get all this shit thrown at me!" It wasn't that bad, but I used to be very aware of that.

Rave-Up: Mick, I've heard that you've been producing some albums in Nashville over the last few years. But I haven't heard anything about your own musical projects. Have you been doing much playing?

Poster for the Hunter/Ronson gig at
Manchester's Free Trade Hall
March 21, 1975
Mick: I was doing a bit of playing in England, but not that much. I wanted people in the industry to know me as more than just a guitar player, to know that I can do other things — like producing.
   Also, I'm not a very flashy player, or particularly fast either. So, when I saw all these flash guitar players around I thought, "I can't do this." I didn't even like it, y'know. I just didn't want to play it anymore, and I hung it up for several years.

Rave-Up: Until Ian asked you to join up with him again?

Mick: Yeah! And it's been great! For the first time in years, I really wanted to play guitar again. I love playing the guitar now. I never thought I would like playing the guitar again.

Rave-Up: Did it come back to you easily?

Mick: It didn't take too long.

Ian: It's like riding a bike.

Rave-Up: Mick, I interviewed you in 1982 when you were out here with T-Bone Burnett, and you said that you had been unhappy working with Ian because you didn't have any say as to what was played. Are you happier this time?

Ian Hunter
Photo: Devorah Ostrov
Mick glances at Ian and laughs.


Mick: Yes, I am.

Ian: Have you been slagging me off?! Where is this fucking interview?

Mick: I wasn't slagging you off. We were together for quite a while, and it was time to move on.

Ian grabs Rave-Up #6 out of Mick's hand and reads through some of the interview.

Ian: Ah... I see it all now. Actually, I think that was pretty nice.

Mick: Well, the main thing with me, and I think with all of us, is I never wanted it to be like a job — where you go along and do your job and get your weekly pay. And when it ends up like that, you might as well get a regular job! It's got to mean a bit more than that to me.

Ian: It's just a question of keeping people occupied with new material all the time. If they're not occupied, if they're playing the same set night after night, that's what happens. And that's what happened to us before. And I'm not that prolific a songwriter either, which makes it difficult.

Rave-Up: What?!

Poster for the Ian Hunter Band featuring
Mick Ronson at the Capitol Theatre
October 21, 1979
Ian: I'm lucky if I can do five or six songs a year that I like. I write a lot of 'em, but I give 'em up halfway through 'cause they're not what I want. There were also a lot of people in that previous band [including a second guitarist], so doing anything seemed to be real difficult. I think it's easier with a smaller outfit.

Mick: Last time a lot of people would say to me that they couldn't hear me play. They came to see me play guitar, and they would go away disappointed 'cause they couldn't hear it. That's why I didn't want another guitarist again. I feel better when it's just my guitar.

Rave-Up: It's not like you need another guitarist!

Ian: We didn't need one then. We just had one for some reason.

Rave-Up: As veterans of the '70s glam era, what do you guys think about the resurgence of interest in that scene?

Ian: I don't know if that's relevant to Mick and meself. I just write what I write and I'll do that till the day I die, whether it's hip or it ain't. The only difference between what we did then and what we're doing now is that we're doing it for the right reason. Before it was like... We knew we'd be digging holes in the road if we didn't make it!


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Follow this link to read my previous interview with Mick Ronson: devorahostrov.blogspot.com/2017/12/mick-ronson

4 comments:

  1. Great! Behind those shades the vision fades.....

    ReplyDelete
  2. ...as I've learned a thing or two..
    Very cool little interview - Thank you ! I saw them tour this album ( YUIORTA) in Santa Clara around this time. Really good record that doesn't get enough credit.

    ReplyDelete