Geek Chat: Adam & The Ants’ Marco Pirroni

Ex-Adam and The Ants guitarist Marco Pirroni kicks off a new round of geeky musings by laying into Heroes and Batman...

Marco Pirroni: he has problems with Heroes

Marco Pirroni first shot to the giddiest heights of UK fame in the early 1980s with punky pirates Adam And The Ants, going on to help Adam Ant with his solo career. He’s getting a new record ready for release next year, but found time to talk with Martin about the things that matter. Like old theme tunes and toy cars…

DoG’s Martin: Have you been watching Heroes at all?

Marco: There’s something about Heroes I can’t get into. I just don’t like where it’s coming from. I respect that it’s very comic-book influenced, and I’m a big comic book reader. I’m probably more traditional, I just want them to have costumes!

DoG: It’s very post-modern. Like the lengths they went to in the new Batman film to make it all ‘possible’…Make it possible? It’s still impossible!DoG: I think they’re trying to do the same thing in Heroes – bridge the ‘spandex’ credibility gap…

Ad – content continues below

The thing about Batman is that it’s a fantasy and yes, obviously you have to ground it in elements of reality, but you’ve gotta make people buy it. For a start, he’s got no insurance, so if he’s arrested…there’s not even any way to get insurance on the Batmobile. Also he’d be done for assault.DoG: Commissioner Gordon overlooks many civic violations.

He does, actually. If people found out that he was colluding with this looney dressed as a bat, they’d have his job.DoG: Did you have the costume as a kid?

No, but I had a batmobile, of course.DoG: I wrote into Jim’ll Fix It asking to drive the Batmobile.

Did you drive it in the end?

DoG: No, someone else got it.I can tell the scars are deep.DoG: These things take time.

When was that, then?

Ad – content continues below

DoG: Nineteen seventy-seven, I think.

I do look on Batmobile sites, with people making these replica batmobiles. Eighty thousand dollars. I don’t know if I’m quite that geeky. If I had the money to waste, I would.DoG: What other childhood sci-fi and cult stuff did you like?I was kind of obsessed with all of them. All the British ones really seemed to have something, like The Avengers, The Prisoner…all the ITC stuff like Randall and Hopkirk. They always had great theme tunes, John Barry…

DoG: John Barry – my hero.My hero too. I once read this article about John Barry and it was like ‘It’s 1965 – you’ve got an e-type Jag, you’re going out with Shirley Bassey and you are John Barry’. How cool is that?

DoG: I did an article running down my favourite top ten theme tunes and I put Barry Gray’s UFO at the top.No, I like the harpsichord kind of thing in Randall and Hopkirk. The Prisoner is another gem. The second version of Danger Man, that’s fantastic. I’ve just got this thing about harpsichords. Groovy synths, electric guitars and minor chord patterns.

DoG: They had such strong melodic structure, and they just seem to knock them out these days.

It’s true, to an extent. I remember that I-Spy had that great title sequence, where he was playing tennis and he’d turn round and there was the gun. There was another one I loved, so old even I can barely remember it, called T.H.E. Cat. He was a cat-burglar or something, an animated series and it always started with him climbing up the side of a building or something, and h turns round and blinks with these cat’s eyes. But they had great sixties graphics, very, err….DoG: Minimalist.And I just admire the sheer craft they put into them back then. Saul Bass, extraordinary title sequences.

Ad – content continues below

DoG: Don’t know if he’s still working or even still alive, but he did a fantastic job on Casino.

Man’s a genius.

DoG: I heard you’re a fan of the new Galactica, but not the 1970s one…?

No. Were you a fan of it?DoG: I enjoyed it in as much as there’s always so little science-fiction about that you take whatever you can get.

How old were you?DoG: I would have been about twelve.There’s the difference, I would have been about twenty, so I was already more interested in trying to go out with girls. It looked a bit shit.

DoG: Actually, it was a bit shit.I remember Star Wars coming out in 1977 and it was a huge punk year, and it seemed an uncool thing to like, from the punk perspective, but I liked it. I was about seventeen, so I was already a punk rocker and into other things.DoG: I always believed the New Romantic look was pretty science-fiction inspired.

Ad – content continues below

Yeah that’s true, with the futurist, Gary Numan/Kraftwerk thing. Well it all came from that Berlin 1980 floor show. Adam and The Ants didn’t actually come from that area. Not that I disliked it, I actually liked it a lot, but we chose something different.

DoG: What’s the stand-out sci-fi or horror film, in your opinion?

Very hard to say. I was thinking about this last night, ‘cos I knew I was going to come and see you. I still think the best science-fiction film ever made is 2001. In terms of art direction and, well, everything, it still stands up and it’s like forty years old. It’s still influencing, and if you hold much of what’s made now up against it, it seems a bit crap. Like that film, Sunshine.DoG: True. Sunshine is probably the nearest visual imitator to 2001, which is quite an achievement. And then it turns into a bad monster movie.That’s right. And that new version of Solaris had elements of 2001 as well, but it was so boring.

DoG: I love it. One thing I loved about it was that it’s pure science-fiction – it told a story that couldn’t be told in any other medium.

2001 passes that test as well. My two favourite sci-fi films are 2001 and Blade Runner, which is certainly the most influential film that’s been around since I’ve, you know, been around.

DoG: It certainly [Blade Runner] has the best score of any science-fiction film.

Ad – content continues below

Definitely. I love the Eastern influences Vangelis put into it.

DoG: He broke away from the Theremin influence that seemed to stretch right across from Forbidden Planet to Logan’s Run, and avoided the John Williams ‘grand theme’ temptation too.

Actually the Forbidden Planet score was entirely synthesisers. It’s weird, because they invented the synthesiser as a sound generator but no-one had actually figured out what kind of sound it was, what, if anything, it was trying to represent. Because, like with the Moog, they put a keyboard to it, there was an assumption that ‘it’s a keyboard sound’, but that really wasn’t it – they had no actual way of manipulating notes. The term ’synthesiser’ was also misleading – when it came out, it looked like they were gonna put orchestras out of business, but it was a bit of a misnomer. Synthesisers weren’t simulating other sounds, they were creating new ones.

DoG: Unlike the Fairlight in the 1980s, which played sampled notes back. That would be a synthesiser, really.Well, no, it’s a sampler.

DoG: What do you like about the new Galactica, by the way?

Well, I kind of like the fact that no-one’s likeable except Baltar – and he’s the villain.DoG: They’re a rather hard lot, aren’t they?

Ad – content continues below

Especially that bloke with one eye, who’s a right bastard. Adama just gets on your nerves, the president, you just want to hit. The female Starbuck is very annoying too. Stroppy. DoG: She’s also Jaime Somers’s nemesis in the new Bionic Woman. There seem to be a lot of very aggressive women in the current crop of sci-fi.

Yes, it’s ‘Ripley’, isn’t it? They have to have big guns. I don’t know why for a woman to be powerful, she has to be like a man.DoG: They seem to actually be more powerful than the men.

Well that’s why the men need really big guns. But I find the internal logic doesn’t seem to make much sense. This is a real geeky thing to say, but how come they have faster-than-light drives but cords on the end of their telephones? I mean I’ve got a cordless phone.

DoG: Perhaps it’s a retro comfort-zone, like the low-resolution monitors on the Nostromo.

Yeah, like ‘available technology’. It’s obvious they’ve tried very hard to be anti-Star Trek.DoG: You a Star Trek fan?

Not the original. It’s something that for me has kind of had its day when I see it now. I actually quite liked Enterprise, and I don’t know why it wasn’t more popular. The new film, where they’re going to recreate the original roles is going to be strange…this kind of ‘retro future’ thing…making the Enterprise not look twee. I mean I assume it’ll have to look kind of the same as it did in the TV series, to some extent. They’ll have to wear those shirts that I never really liked, too.

Ad – content continues below

DoG: Which is the ‘certain death’ shirt on away missions, I forget…?

The red one.

DoG: Right…

But no-one has ever been sufficiently able to explain the trousers. What is that little fecking cuff round the base?

DoG: I think it’s part of the naval metaphor.

Is it? But also the trousers are too short, it’s not terribly flattering. But it does show off the boots, which are really nice.

Ad – content continues below

DoG: That was about the last time short trouser-lengths were fashionable, like in The Man From Uncle and so on; then in about 1969 they begin to drop. As it were.

There was an area of sock that had to be seen, for some reason. I guess that followed on from fifties trousers, which had to fall tastefully over the front of your shoe.

DoG: Do you miss the kind of show where we follow just one person rather than a zoo of characters? Even a show like Dexter…

I really like Dexter. A completely creepy idea.

DoG: Were you bothered by some of the credibility gaps in the first series?

Yeah.

Ad – content continues below

DoG: Cos – and I speak as a fan – you do have to get out and push sometimes with Dexter.

Yeah, it’s a bit of a leap, the origin story of Dexter and his brother, and how they both become serial killers. I don’t think it’s that easy to turn someone into a serial killer, and with two, you’re pushing it.DoG: Are you a horror fan in general?

I’m a huge fan of 1930s horror – Universal films. I grew up with them and I just absolutely love them. The last horror film I really liked was Nightmare On Elm Street. The first couple.DoG: What about the current wave of torture films?

It’s a naff thing to say, but I find them very disturbing actually.

DoG: It’s a popular sentiment.

Not that I think that people shouldn’t make them.

Ad – content continues below

DoG: Why do you think it’s happening?

I think it’ s just – I don’t know why it’s happening. Perhaps because people are growing up more desensitised to violence.

DoG: One theory is that it’s a way for the culture to express concern about Iraq and Rendition and so on.

Art has always got more and more extreme, and it will continue to get more and more extreme. I mean look at the Sex Pistols – who cares now? A black Colonel Tigh in the 1970s Galactica – who cares now? There will be public executions on TV.DoG: Is that the logical progression from reality TV?

Definitely. I think lots of people would want to see public executions on TV. It’d be like a car-crash, where you wouldn’t be able to not look.

DoG: That Channel Four live dissection, some years back now…

Ad – content continues below

Right. I didn’t want to see that, but I watched it.DoG: I couldn’t face it. Was it hard to watch?

Yeah, it was horrible! But it’s done now, and if you did it again, no-one would be interested. Society’s getting more cruel. Now we’re making do with fake cruelty and vicarious sadism…but look at the Romans, the guillotine, public hangings…there were queues round the block.DoG: What’s the last thing that truly shocked you?

Nothing. I’m hard to shock. Perhaps the only thing that shocks me is public interest in people who shouldn’t be interesting at all, like Jade Goody. We’ve gone past Andy Warhol and all those clever, arty and witty things that were done and said in the sixties…the fifteen minutes, and so on. Now your celebrities don’t have to do anything, they’re just voted in. And that shocks me.

Marco Pirroni and his group can be found at www.thewolfmen.net