“I like the word defiance,” says Ian Hunter in a YouTube video, barely decoding the meaning of his single “Defiance.”
Videos by American Songwriter
“It’s a great word,” he continues. “Is an 83-year-old supposed to be playing rock and roll and wearing a leather jacket? Who knows? I make records. That’s what I do.”
The title track of Hunter’s 13th album, Defiance Part I could be construed as an “F”-you to all the authoritative figures of his past and some perceived “mistakes” with a recounting I got an F for givin’ em too much lip / I got an F for being tragically hip / I got an F for squanderin’ all them golden years / But why would I wanna be engineered?
“My experience of school was authoritarian,” Hunter tells American Songwriter. “You were supposed to be good at everything, which makes you average. I passed my 11+ [standardized school test in the U.K.], and I was placed in a grammar school. Had I gone to an art-inclined school, it would have been a lot better.”
Hunter continues, “Some kids are clever at math. Some kids are clever in science, and some are better at languages. Schools institutionalize people.”
The animated lyric video for “Defiance” also harkens back to earlier days and is centered around a rebellious curly-haired character reminiscent of a young Hunter acting up in class.
Joining Hunter on “Defiance” are Metallica’s Rob Trujillo on bass and Slash on rhythm and lead guitars. “Defiance” also features drummer Dane Clark (John Mellencamp), Dennis DiBrizzi of Hunter’s Rant Band, and Andy York on background vocals. Hunter also plays guitar on the track.
“Robert Trujillo had interviewed me in San Francisco for a movie he was making about [late jazz bassist] Jaco Pastorius,” shares Hunter. “He was returning the favor, using Jaco’s original fretless bass that [Pastorius] used on my album All American Alien Boy back in 1975.”
Slash also joined through Hunter’s good friend, photographer Ross Halfin. “Ross mentioned I was making an album,” adds Hunter, “and Slash said he was up for a track—wonderful surprise.”
Defiance Part I also features the late Jeff Beck and Foo Fighters drummer Taylor Hawkins, along with Johnny Depp, ZZ Top’s Billy F Gibbons, Joe Elliott of Def Leppard, Guns N’ Roses’ Duff McKagan, Todd Rundgren, Wilco’s Jeff Tweedy, Stone Temple Pilots’ Dean DeLeo, Robert DeLeo, and Eric Kretz, Waddy Wachtel (Stevie Nicks, Keith Richards), Brad Whitford of Aerosmith, and Billy Bob Thornton and J.D. Andrew of The Boxmasters.
Still defiantly making music as an octogenarian, Hunter is well into working on Defiance Part II and still has no plans to decrypt too many of his lyrics.
“I’m not keen on explaining songs,” says Hunter. “They are for people to figure out for themselves. That’s part of the fun.”
Photo by Ross Halfin / Fran DeFeo PR