I'm not trying to win you back after giving you the week away from my writing. Honestly, I'm not. It just worked out this way. During my "week off" I was lucky to speak to Ian Astbury from The Cult. The Cult play Auckland next Monday, May 3. I wish I could go. But I cannot. I have to think up ways to win back my audience after giving you the week away from my writing...so I'll be busy.
But, very kindly, the promoters of the show have given me one double pass and a copy of the Pure Cult greatest hits CD to give away.
So we'll do that today. One lucky reader - preferably someone who lives in the Auckland area, or who is prepared to pay for their own travel to get to the gig in Auckland from wherever they live - will score two tickets and a CD.
But first, we'd better hear a bit from Ian.
He was in New York when I spoke to him. And tells me straight off, when I ask why the band has chosen the Love album to play in its entirety for this tour, that "Billy [Duffy] had the idea to perform the album at the Royal Albert Hall. It had been a long-standing ambition. We just felt it was that sort of album - one that could stand up to a Royal Albert Hall show. And it's gone from there - taking that idea and we've been pleased with the shows. So they have continued."
Astbury, 47, a Merseysider who had been in Southern Death Cult and then, with Duffy, shortened that to Death Cult before becoming The Cult, speaks in clipped, short sentences. He is smart and appears to answer questions urgently - waiting for more; waiting for spaces to wax philosophical. Waiting for the gaps to plug his other ventures. Until he gets bored. Something that happens a lot.
"Oh god no - not at all. Billy and I are not married!" And then there's a break off for some laughter. The kind that is not altogether mocking but is certainly designed to give the feeling that any such comparisons are absurd; utterly, utterly absurd.
"I am able to go away and do my stuff and Billy is able to go away and do his stuff - and you don't get that if you feel like you're in a musical marriage. We know the songs together, we wrote so many of them together and that's the common bond. Beyond that we explore different avenues. I'm working a lot with film now - I've got a film in a festival at the moment and I'm exploring both documentary and short film making. And I'm looking at other music outside of The Cult too. But for right now I'm enjoying being in The Cult again."
There's a need for Astbury to prove things. It comes out many times in the space of our taut 15-minute chat.
"For a start, I play guitar as well, I've just not felt the need to play guitar on stage with The Cult. I mean, I wrote The Witch! But I have respect for this material; it is the work of the band The Cult. And I don't need to go off and play it when it's not me and Billy and the band."
He then goes on to detail that he did play a handful of songs from The Cult when on the tour with his first significant post-Cult band (during the first breakup), The Holy Barbarians.
"But again, they were the songs I wrote - so that's fair".
There will be new material from The Cult. Apparently an EP is being readied - part of a series. Just don't go calling it an EP. They have a fancy new name, you see...
"First of all," and it feels like David Brent in performance-review mode here, "check your calendar: it's 2010 mate. 'EP' is old technology that stands for 'elongated play', that's dated. So we're not releasing an EP. We're releasing 'a capsule'."
Astbury explains that this will take the form of new songs and will include "a film aspect, music videos that you can download or purchase on DVD and maybe a T-shirt".
They will also look to release the fancy new capsule on both vinyl - and cassette tape. Yes. Old technology though, isn't it?
"Well yes, but you see this is where the capsule idea comes from - it 'encapsulates' it all. Whatever we decide to release will be available in whatever format for download or over-the-counter purchase. Or to buy at gigs. We need to move with the times."
So, they'll be moving with the times and releasing material on tape?
Astbury chuckles, but only slightly. "Well, I'd like to". I tell him that I've read he has a recent fascination with tape, finding an old Walkman and using it to listen to playbacks of recordings.
But the awkward silence doesn't last too long - and when I ask about his involvement with The Doors (Astbury fronted The Doors of the 21st Century; tackling the Jim Morrison role, working with original Doors Ray Manzarek and Robby Krieger during a long hiatus from The Cult).
"Well I can honestly say that I was never much of a front man until I worked with those guys. They taught me so much - things that I have taken back with me and use now with The Cult. I just learned so much from working with those legends."
Of course they must have learnt a lot as they worked with one of rock music's ultimate performers back in the day, right?
"Well, yes of course and we could talk all day about that - but we don't have time. So let's go back to The Cult."
New material will be performed in the second half of the show - there'll be the Love album and then Astbury says there will be a few "brand new songs" as well as "all the hits". He believes the band has never sounded better.
But that is an obvious thing to say - and Astbury times it so that he can add, "I better press on. Good luck!"
I didn't really enjoy talking to Astbury. But I gave it a shot.
But I did enjoy seeing his band in 1995.
The Pure Cult CD is a staple for me - one of my favourite band compilations and one of the longest-serving CDs in my music collection.
So many of the simple riff-as-song tunes like Fire Woman, Lil' Devil and Wild Flower are favourites of mine. Of course there's the fuzzy grinding pulse behind The Witch which I dig too. And She Sells Sanctuary is a great way for the Best-Of CD to open. Just as Sun King, Sweet Soul Sister and Earth Mofo is a great three-song finale. But you pretty much can't put a step wrong with the Pure Cult CD.
So, are you going to The Cult? Or do you wish you were?
And if you'd like to win a CD and two tickets to Monday's show, just write in below telling me why I should give you the prize. You must also name your three favourite Cult songs and your favourite album - beyond Love.
I will announce the winner later on this post - in the comments section. The winner's capsule-answer (an answer that encapsulates Cult fandom) will be my choice to make. So go to it...
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