Into his eighth decade and still fighting fit – even fighting – the remarkable Ian Hunter is back on the road with The Rant Band. We caught up with the Mott The Hoople main man.

rushonrock: Some of the UK shows feature a string quartet – tell us more?

Ian Hunter: We’re doing the Union Chapel in London [on Sunday October 10] and that’s hallowed ground. It’s more geared to an acoustic show and because we’re doing that I have to come up with a different set for that show. It’s a whole different approach. I was in London doing a festival appearance and I was walking around Covent Garden with my daughter. We saw this amazing string quartet and I loved what I saw so much that I asked them to play with me at the Union Chapel.

rushonrock: How easy it that to incorporate into an Ian Hunter show?

IH: I did a gig in Oslo in 2001 or 2002 and that was with an orchestra but it worked well and I loved it. This is only a string quartet but it still needs to be done properly. I’m sure it will be fine though. They have the music and we’re well prepared. But it’s like most things in my life: pretty chaotic.

rushonrock: Apart from the handful of acoustic gigs what can the rest of us expect this month?

IH: The bulk of the tour will be the full show with the Rant Band. It will be a third old stuff, a third new stuff and a third stuff we decide nearer the time. I’m still promoting the Man Overboard record – we played a couple of shows earlier this year but it’s still pretty new to most of the fans over here. We’ll be picking tracks from that record and other bits and pieces that we haven’t played for some time. As musicians we have to keep mixing things up and keep it interesting – for us and the fans. It’s a drain doing the same things all the time and so we do try hard to mix it up a bit.

rushonrock: At 71 you still seem to be having the time of your life…

IH: For me these are exciting times. It’s still good fun making and playing music so why should I stop? I seem to be heading in the right direction after all of these years and a lot of good things are happening.

rushonrock: A year ago we were gearing up for the Mott The Hoople reunion and the whole thing went crazy didn’t it?

IH: Last year’s Mott The Hoople reunion was more successful than any of us imagined it would be. The audiences were fantastic over the five nights we played in London and the band was in great form. The guys played like they’d never been away and I came away from those gigs thinking that the band’s better now than it ever was. Unfortunately there are business-related issues which mean we can’t do anything else right now but that’s the plan. I suppose the only downside to the success of the Mott reunion was that it completely overshadowed Man Overboard – even I forgot about that record!

rushonrock: Joe Elliott and his Quireboys-dominated Down N Outz played a big part in making the final night a huge success and that band’s now taken on a life of its own – how do you feel about your own personal tribute band?

IH: The Down N Outz thing has been another great success but Joe [Elliott] is great when he puts his mind to things. He’s an extremely energetic bloke. He does more work in a week than I do in a year and he just can’t stand still. When you think he’s supposed to be enjoying a year off from Def Leppard and he’s busier than ever! We’re so fortunate that he likes us and he does what he does – which is great.

rushonrock: You played together at High Voltage but do you have good or bad memories of that festival?

IH: Doing High Voltage with Joe should have been great and for two songs it was. Sometimes at these big outdoor festivals the sound is horrible and it sounded great in Victoria Park. As soon as I stepped on stage I thought this is going to be fun. Of course it didn’t turn out that way when they pulled the plug on me. In the end I travelled 3,000 miles to do two songs and everyone knows what happened next. I got more press than I have done for years. You punch somebody and suddenly the media are all over you. That’s how pathetic it is. I work hard all these years and never get so much as a word in the papers and then I was involved in a little scrap and suddenly it made Page Three of the Sun!

rushonrock: Will you play live with the Down N Outz again?

IH: We want to do something properly on the back of Down N Outz’ success. Joe definitely wants to do something but it’s a case of working out when we’ll actually have the time. Leppard will be working again next year and so I don’t really know what’s going to happen as far as me and Joe performing again is concerned.

rushonrock: After the UK dates you do a few in America but what’s next?

IH: After the live dates I can go back to getting on with writing. When it comes to touring I love the time on stage but as far as life on the road is concerned I can’t really say I like it – it just gets too boring. In fact you can get bored out of your mind sitting on buses and in hotel rooms for days on end if it came down to it I’d prefer to write.

rushonrock: Most men your age are enjoying the odd round of golf and a well-earned retirement – when are you going to call it a day?

IH: I’ll only give up when the crowds start to tell me to get off and they haven’t done that yet. I’m a lucky guy. I’m still doing what I love and even though I’m old nothing is wrong health-wise so why should I think about calling it a day? That luck could change but I’ve had a great run so far. If my luck ran out tomorrow I’d be a happy man because I’ve led an amazing life.