Ian Hunter is excited to dig into his eclectic new album with the Rant Band, “When I’m President,” on his current tour, which hits the Paradise Saturday night. But the former Mott the Hoople frontman promises the show will also include all of his classic hits, including that British band’s enduring David Bowie-penned anthem “All The Young Dudes” and solo favorites like “Cleveland Rocks” and “Once Bitten, Twice Shy,” which both enjoyed second lives thanks to popular covers in the ’80s and ’90s.
The affable, shaggy-haired septuagenarian, who has lived in the US for 38 years, recently told us on the phone from his Connecticut home that he feels like he’s just coming into his voice and is still enjoying the road. “I like the camaraderie,” he said. “I’ve always liked being in a band.”
Ian Hunter and the Rant Band
Q. You’ve been making records for over 40 years. Does your inspiration spring from the same wells?
Ian Hunter and the Rant Band
A. I think it’s changed. When you’re young, it’s a more of a boy-girl thing. The older you get, the more you get into other things. I’ve gone through politics, religion, civil war, a lot of different areas. It’s just sort of what inspires you at the time.
Q. Was “When I’m President” inspired by the presidential election?
A. I was going to call it “When I’m Superman” but then [the election] looked like it was going to be close, so I just changed it to “President” because I kind of like Barack Obama. I think he’s decent.
Q. You go to a lot of places lyrically on this album, from the randy bar band rave-up “Comfortable (Flyin’ Scotsman)” to the more political, insistent rocker that is the title track to ruminations on Native American history on “Ta Shunka Witco (Crazy Horse).”
A. I don’t know, it’s just me. It’s hard to talk about. The guy that writes this stuff is not me. You’re talking to the guy who’s doing an interview now. (Laughs.) You understand what I’m saying?
Q. That the songwriter and the interviewee are two separate entities within you.
A. Yeah, I find myself to be very shallow when I’m out selling. (Laughs.)
Q. But very deep when you’re writing the music?
A. Well, yeah, I’d like to kid myself I am. (Laughs.) Yeah, that would be nice. I don’t know. I just get lucky now and again writing a song. It’s in the DNA. I find if you work at it — “Oh God, I need some songs” — I’ve done that, it doesn’t work. It just seems like you have to care not enough to care. It’s a weird one. If there was any kind of logic to it, everybody would do it.
Q. At the end of the fun ranter “What For,” you quote “Great Balls of Fire” by Jerry Lee Lewis. What’s that about?
A. I guess it’s just a nod. I always try to nod back because they’re the people that really inspired me at the beginning Little Richard, Jerry Lee, Chuck Berry. A lot of those people hit me when I was 15-16 and I thought, “Whoa, this is where I want to be.”
Q. Speaking of inspiring people, Joe Elliott of Def Leppard is a vocal Mott the Hoople fan.
A. He’s stuck. We got him when he was 14 and that’s it. I saw him when I was in Europe. We did 15 dates in the UK and he turns up and he’s got this great jacket on. And I’m looking at this jacket. And all of sudden I’m like, “Joe, that’s a great jacket.” And he knows he’s going to have to give it to me. (Laughs.) And I see the defeat in his eyes. I walk back up to my room and it’s sitting outside the door. He’s lovely and he has the energy of 10 men.
Q. You mentioned not loving your own voice. Is it something you’ve grown to appreciate?
A. I never liked my voice up until relatively recently, the last 10 years maybe.
Q. What was the change?
A. It just sort of burnished with age. It got a bit of rasp with it that I never seemed to have before. I was never really keen on my vocals, I just felt an overwhelming urge to show off more than anything. (Laughs.)
Q. Did you find that after “The Drew Carey Show” used the Presidents of the United States of America’s version of “Cleveland Rocks” as a theme song that you actually gained new fans?
A. That was great. I didn’t have to go out and flog the record, that just came to me, it was lovely. (Laughs.) I actually then put it in the set and people were accusing me of copying the Presidents. That very often happens with “Once Bitten.” “Why are you doing that one?” (Laughs.) It’s my own fault. I don’t get out enough. (Laughs.)