WILD HEARTED SONS: The Cult, from left, guitarist Billy Duffy, bassist Chris Wyse, singer Ian Astbury and drummer John Tempesta make their 2012 concert debut at SXSW (photo by Michael Lavine)

NOTE: This article originally published in the Austin American-Statesman, March 6, 2012


By David Glessner
Special to the American-Statesman

CHOICE OF WEAPON: The Cult's latest album is a mix of hard rockers and more 'pastoral' moments, according to singer Ian Astbury.

When you run with wolves and jackals, you get wise to the ways of survival. Just ask Ian Astbury, singer for the Cult. Reached at his Los Angeles home, Astbury obliges a question about taking an unknown Guns N’ Roses on tour as the Cult’s opening act in 1987.

“They were the understudies,” Astbury says. “We’d already been through several tours with bands that had junkie tour managers (pulling) revolvers after midnight. On that tour, I was the guy getting chased by the cops.”

Back on the run and armed with the new “Choice of Weapon” album due May 22, the Cult makes its 2012 performance debut with South by Southwest gigs March 16 at Waterloo Records at 6 p.m. and March 17 at Auditorium Shores at 8 p.m. Both shows are free and open to the public. A third show, midnight on March 16 at Klub Krucial, admits SXSW badge holders only.

“I think we went back to a place of instinct,” Astbury says of the new album. “There were no predetermined agendas. We’ve had periods of stagnation and being stale and repeating ourselves, but I think that’s common. With ‘Choice of Weapon,’ we just said, ‘(Screw) it! We’re going to grab every jewel we can find. We’re going to play the ace and go as deep as we can.’ There’s definitely hard rock moments on this record, but then again, there’s moments that are kind of pastoral.”

Formed by Astbury and guitarist Billy Duffy in Britain’s late-1970s punk scene, the Cult made its first real ripple with the 1985 album, “Love,” and its post-modern singles “Rain” and “She Sells Sanctuary.” By 1986, the group was recording in New York City with emerging hip-hop producer Rick Rubin. The resulting “Electric” album hit bigger and harder with tracks like “Love Removal Machine,” “Wildflower” and “Lil Devil.”

ELECTRIC: The album that broke the Cult in America was a harder-rocking effort that was heavily influenced by the grit of New York City.

“Our sound became very direct,” Astbury says. “There’s no room for ambiguity in New York City. You were either straight-up or you were thrown out with the trash. We were only 25 years old when we made that record.”

Young and hungry, Astbury handpicked Guns N’ Roses as the Cult’s opening act on the “Electric” tour. The pairing proved pivotal for both bands as they began building bigger audiences.

“There’s a camaraderie that we’ll have (with GNR) that nobody else will ever experience,” Astbury says. “My girlfriend at the time straightened (GNR singer) Axl Rose’s hair, put one of my bandanas on his head, and that became his look. That was my look!”

SONIC TEMPLE: The Cult's million-selling commercial breakthrough garnered heavy airplay and MTV rotation with the hits 'Fire Woman,' 'Sun King,' 'Sweet Soul Sister' and 'Edie (Ciao Baby).'

In 1989, the Cult soared to greater heights with the million-selling “Sonic Temple” album and its radio mainstays, “Fire Woman,” “Sweet Soul Sister,” “Sun King” and “Edie (Ciao Baby).” The following decade was far less kind because of uneven albums and infighting.

By 2001, frustration reached a new high when the comeback album, “Beyond Good and Evil,” fell victim to record company neglect. Disenchanted, Astbury and Duffy parted ways leaving the singer free to replace the late Jim Morrison in a reprised version of the Doors.

“Initially, I approached it with so much reverence that I was almost not able to connect” with the audience, Astbury says. “I think it was (music critic) Jon Pareles from The New York Times who butchered our eighth performance. I looked at that and went, ‘The gloves are off.’ We went on to do 150 shows. The demand was there.”

Reconciled with Duffy since 2007’s “Born Into This” album, Astbury is hopeful “Choice of Weapon” will start the Cult’s mojo rising again.

“We’re still growing and still developing,” he says. “We’re still students; we’re still inquisitive; we’re still passionate. I still think what we’re doing is relevant. We still have an awareness of what’s going on around us. It’s not like I live in a cave.”
Interested in an expanded version of this interview with Ian Astbury? Let us know!
Post comments below by clicking the red numeral in the upper right corner

To hear the Cult’s latest single, “Lucifer,” click below. For more Cult info, including tour dates, go here
To see the original Austin American-Statesman article, go here

  1. PatIdle says:

    Good stuff Dave. Not a bad tune looking forward to hearing the whole thing.

    • admin says:

      Thanks, Pat. There’s some good stuff on the album. I’ve got an advance copy with 4 bonus tracks that are pretty good. One actually reminds me of a Samhain song. This new album is pretty good, but for me, I think their best moment is “Beyond Good and Evil.” Thanks for reading and posting

  2. Steven Blackmore says:

    Great interview with Ian, I like were he say’s Axl took his bandana look, i like the first single.
    Am sure the free SXSW should be great…

  3. Steven Blackmore says:

    Great interview with Ian, I like were he say’s Axl took his bandana look!! i like the first single.
    Am sure the free SXSW show’s should be great…

    • admin says:

      Thanks Steven. He gave me a lot of other great info that I hope to share with the expanded edition of this interview. Stay tuned

  4. Chris Didear says:

    Good piece bro. I’ve always thought highly of your work. This band are personal heroes of mine and ex-bandmates 50 Mission Crush, but pretty sure you know that. The Cult is just one of those epic bands that are revered. They have influenced a lot of musicians. Saw them at Stubb’s few years ago and they still kill. Effing rockstars. For me “Electric” is hard to top, but I hope this record gives them a big push so more people (young-in’s) will discover their mojo. Peace…. dog.

  5. Will says:

    Dave, great interview! I am bummed that I will miss all those shows
    they are playing. Maybe, just maybe they’ll come back to Maui. Anyway
    hope you have a great time this year as you always seem to do.
    Hoping to be there this summer so it would be cool to hook up while
    there. Take care and love getting the 2fast2die updates. Will P.S. Did you know they recorded Beyond Good and Evil here on Maui? Also I found this great interview with Ian. I knew there was a reason I liked this guy besides him being a rock star. Here is the link http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XKxRNsG2If4