The ‘80s are back, with many of the best bands of the Reagan era are still out there touring. But if you look closely, you may notice some things have changed: The hairlines are thinner and the waistlines bigger. And most of these groups now only feature one original member.
Such is the case for New Wave stalwarts Bow Wow Wow, who now tour under the guidance of original bass player Leigh Gorman. You may also recognize his name from past and recent stints with Adam Ant and from producing the Soho hit “Hippie Chick.” The young year sees Mr. Gorman on the road playing the hits of Bow Wow Wow, including “I Want Candy” with new twentysomething singer Chloe Demetria.
Mr. Gorman sat down backstage to discuss his recent reunion tour with Adam Ant, the history and future of Bow Wow Wow and the rigors of keeping it altogether.
Question: When did you choose to play the bass?
Answer: When I was about 10 or 11 and my dad got me a cheap guitar at Christmas. I learned how to play the James Bond theme. Older kids in my block of flats in East London used to just hang around and pretend to be in a band. Out of the blue Marc Bolan’s road manager, who lived on the next block, said, “You can use Marc’s spare gear.” I got the bass. I liked it because the strings were really thick. It was nice and heavy, low and deep.
Q: How did you end up joining Adam and The Ants originally?
A: Knox from The Vibrators told Adam [Ant] about me. I got a phone call about two weeks after the showcase. I went and auditioned for Adam. He said, “OK, you’re in.”
Q: Why did that only last a few months?
A: Two or three months later, [Adam and The Ants manager] Malcolm McLaren took me and [guitarist] Dave [Calhoun] to the pub. He said, “You can be an Ant, an employee, or you can have your own band. I’ll be your manager.” It wasn’t easy for me. I asked my dad about it. He said I should have stuck with Adam. He said if Malcolm messed with Adam, then he would surely mess with me later on. We made a decision — me, Matthew [Ashman] and David [Barbarossa] — to go for it ourselves. Adam was shocked. It was horrible.
Q: How did your 2015 reunion with Adam Ant come about?
A: I just got a call out of the blue from Adam’s manager two weeks before the shows asking, “Would you like to do some shows with Adam recreating the ‘Dirk Wears White Socks’ album, along with [original Ants and Bow Wow Wow drummer Dave Barbarossa]. I thought, “Yeah. Why not?” They made me an offer I couldn’t refuse. So I went for it. It was good fun, musically challenging. Lots of weird time signatures. I had about a week and a bit to learn 40 songs.
Q: Was there a planned set list?
A: Yeah, but then also he would just pick some [songs]. He would just call them out. So I had to learn all the other ones like “Kings of the Wild Frontier” and “Stand & Deliver,” which were great fun to play. Songs I had never played before.
Q: Was that the first time you and Dave played together since the original Bow WowWow broke up in the ‘80s?
A: I played at Dave’s book launch a a couple years ago. Just to show support.
Q: Previous to the reunion, when did you last see Adam?
A: In the ‘90s. Oh, no, actually 2011, I think. When we went back and did the [late Bow Wow Wow guitarist] Matthew [Ashman] tribute. But we didn’t speak, just played.
Q: Was there a warming-up period before you played again since things didn’t end so well with Adam back in the day?
A: I just showed up. We hung out at Adam’s house. Got to know his other band members. Had a cup of tea. Think we had a small drink, but nothing much, then we started rehearsing. It was very exacting and the musicianship was very high.
Q: Will you be playing more shows with Adam in 2016?
A: I dunno. I think he wanted Dave and me as a package, and Dave is off doing his other project. I think he wanted us to do “Dirk Wears White Sock” with us and that was it.
Q: Is it safe to assume you haven’t talked to Bow Wow Wow’s former lead singer Annabella Lwin since you two parted ways in 2012?
A: I’ve tried a couple times. I would rather things were on an even keel. Purely out of humanistic concern. I would rather not see her so distressed. It is not my intention to cause anyone distress. She left. That’s not a lie.
Then I was stuck holding the baby. So I got someone else to sing. Or else I would have gotten sued. There was no plotting or anything like that. I had to find someone. That’s it. It has worked out. So we just carried on.
Q: Annabella tours as “The Voice of Bow Wow Wow.” Are you OK with that?
A: I don’t want to stop her from making a living. I would like to talk to her to calm things down because there is no animosity from me.
Q: Do ever see a point in time where you could work with her again?
A: I would like to. I would like to just be normal. Have no drama. Show up at a gig and have a good time. Get paid and have a couple drinks after. That’s my agenda. I don’t know. She’ll see this.
Q: How did you find your new singer?
A: I just hit the phones. I had to find musicians over the years, and I learned from Malcolm that you have to be quick and not mess around. You just get a vibe.
Chloe is great. Great singer. No trouble. Shows up and does a great job. I would like to do new Bow Wow Wow music just for the fun of it.