Keith Ryan Cartwright of The Post and Courier's Preview recently conducted an interview with THE CULT frontman Ian Astbury. A few excerpts from the chat follow:
Preview: What is it about now that lent itself to making this record [“Born into This”]?
Astbury: Oh, maybe experience. I think having gone through every single permeation possible in a rock 'n' roll band — from the proverbial broken family childhood, traveling in a band, homeless, going through punk rock, touring America, selling platinum records, going through psychotherapy, going through the crash and burn, going to the Himalayas — the whole cycle is a very rounded experience of life, right? I think having done all of that you sort of find yourself back at the beginning point again where you go it's still me, it's still my life, it's still THE CULT, it's still Billy and me and here we are. We're still standing as a group and as a body of work. I think that gives you a great sense of confidence. … I think our songwriting has evolved since “Beyond Good and Evil“. I think that was a record we tried to make like a comeback record, so to speak, but when we got in the studio we all had different opinions about what we should be doing; from the record company level to even Billy and myself had different opinions. Now with this record it just became evident that the most important thing for us to do was to be as present as possible and as truthful as possible. My whole thing was if we got entrenched in the studio for a long period of time then we were going to get into the same situation as in the past. I said, “You know what? We need to run in, grab this and get out quick.”
Preview: That's exactly what allows you to capture the emotion much like a live show captures the emotion of that particular evening.
Astbury: Precisely. This record isn't a refined record. It's interesting because I think it's a body of work that really works as a record. Those 10 songs tell the story of “Born into This”. The other songs didn't connect and weren't as much a part of the collective story. … I think performing with Ray Manzarek and Robbie Krieger for the last three and a half years really helped me to elevate my performance abilities. We've never been great self-promoters. You've never seen THE CULT at celebrity functions — very rarely. Occasionally, yeah, I might go to an event. We never whored ourselves out like that whereby you're better known than your art. Whereas now we're like … why not us?
Preview: You made a conscious effort to get in and out of the studio, but was it a lot of work on your part to make sure you didn't get bogged down with the machinery and the mechanics of being in a studio?
Astbury: There was absolutely no time. It was 21 days in Los Angeles over maybe a seven-week period. I was in Vancouver, at the time, so I was going from Vancouver to L.A. for a four to five day session. The sessions were from 2 p.m. until 9 p.m. You keep it tight like that because when you're in the studio you're there to work, not to screw around. You're not calling your buddies on the phone. You're not ordering food or hanging out. You're not looking at somebody's new car, goofing around or playing video games — pretty much what every other band does. It was probably six solid hours of work a day and out of that we walked out with 18 pieces of music. So we didn't really have time to (get caught up in) the recording process. … We pretty much stayed in the groove. Then we came over to London to work with Youth, who's someone we've wanted to work with for a long time, and he said, 'I've only got 15 days' and we were like, 'we'll take it.' We just rolled tape and in that studio we were there for like 10-hour, 12-hour days.
Preview: And that's the way it should be done.
Astbury: You can't lose your head. It's a busy place and it's not a place many people go to. Once you've recorded it, then it's none of your business how other people perceive it. Then it takes on a life of its own. Then you have a responsibility to those songs to go out and perform them and to communicate to anybody who is interested in what it's about. Life is full of contradictions and so you just go out and do the best you can with what you've got at the time.