Legendary band The Cult are back with a powerful
new album, Choice Of Weapon. The band have announced that they will
be headlining a spectacular UK arena tour this coming autumn and will
be joined by The Mission and Killing Joke. Clearly not to be missed.
I spoke with vocalist Ian Astbury and guitarist Billy Duffy about hitting
the road again.
How does it feel to be headlining arenas again?
Billy Duffy: "We've been very conscious and mindful as a band to keep it fresh. If someone pays money to see Cult, we're not going to pander to them but we're not going to insult them by not playing the hits, but what excites me and Ian, and keeps us going, is the same thing that got us going in my bedsit in 1983 and that was sitting down and writing songs. We still have that childlike enthusiasm for the creative process. It's absolutely vital for Ian. I enjoy it, but I'm a bit like a boxer who needs to get fit and back in the ring again. Ian has an absolute childlike wonderment for it, and I think that's what's kept The Cult going. We've made more good decisions than bad ones. We've always gone with our gut and our instincts and tried to be as honest as possible."
Ian Astbury: "One thing I've steered clear of is looking in the rear-view mirror. We don't do that it still feels fresh. I guess what you get after all this time is wisdom. When you're a kid you're definitely more impulsive. When you're older, you hone your skills and you get to the place you wanted to be when you were a kid, as a writer and a performer."
Have you got anything special planned for this tour?
Ian: "We're putting a lot of time and care into our production and choosing the set list. It's not like we're imaging this as some kind of 80s revival show. I always watched Bowie and thought 'How does he do it? How does he constantly redefine himself?' and that always inspired me. He was my guiding star and I learned that it's possible to be relevant and virile and powerful into your forties, fifties and sixties. In many ways you can use the cliché that this is the beginning of a new chapter. It shows our intention, of where we want to be and where we belong. I think we're reclaiming territory. I think we have a little bit more of an intention to make an impact, a connection"
Billy: "In practical terms, we'd like to go deeper and play more obscure tracks, and we try every tour to dig up something that we haven't played live before or for 20 years. This tour's very much about the new material. When I go and see a band I definitely want to hear a couple of new songs and I don't want to hear a band that's just static and living in the past, but I also don't want to hear an entire new album. I can enjoy that in the privacy of my own home! It's about finding the right balance but it is a challenge. It's instinctive. You take the emotional temperature of the year you're in and feel that certain songs don't feel right.
The current line-up has been together for six years now. How would you define the chemistry between the four of you?
Billy: "We've had a stable line-up with Chris Wyse and John Tempesta, and it feels like a band. It's the most stable line-up we've ever had. Finding the right drummer has been an issue in the past, but it's great with John. Me and Ian have got to survive and protect our baby, and our baby's The Cult. It's rare to find a songwriting partner and keep that thing going, so you have to be a little ruthless and protect that, unfortunately. But with Tempesta and Chris Wyse playing it feels right."
...this is now
Ian: "We never really had the luxury of having the perfect line-up before or recording with the line-up that we had on the road, where you get that special chemistry. You get that sixth sense when you play with people and we have that with Jon and Chris, that understanding. That's what enabled us to go into the studio and make this new record. We've learned so much about each other. We're in a similar psychic space to where we were on those early EPs, the Dreamtime album and the Love album. The world's a similar place to how it was in 1984, so we're picking up on that."
The new album, Choice Of Weapon, sounds like a Cult album but with new ideas and diversity within your sound too. You sound energised. Is that a fair summary of where you guys are in 2012?
Ian: "This record is fresh. We're a 21st century band. There's a core in the culture where everyone's focusing and we're pushing our way back into that place. The only way you can do that, unless you've got a pretty face, is to have skill and talent and the ability to offer something as a performer. We've got something that's worth fighting back into the room with."
Billy: "I don't have that objectivity about the record yet, but we feel great about it. It's like a kid and you raise it and kick it out into the world and it ends up being either a good one or a bad one! Cult records are very seldom easy to make but I do feel that this one has a few great moments. It feels timely but it's not at all contrived."