Ian Astbury

Ian Astbury: She sells Sanctuary is esoteric and grounded

John Robb talks with the frontman of "The Cult", Ian Astbury in an enjoyable and... big interview.
Ian Astbury

Ian Astbury

Ian Astbury

Yes sir

How Boris came about?

I was pursuing them after seeing them play the Knitting Factory in New York in 2005. After Pink came out I approached their agency about playing with The Cult. They were with small booking agency in the States. Being Japanese there was a communication barrier in terms of language and we were never able to hook up together because we had different schedules. Eventually the booking agent spoke to Greg and Steven in Sunn O))) and they kind of facilitated an introduction, but that didn’t come about 3/4 years. Then I met Steven and Greg after playing in Pasadena in Los Angeles and I was talking to them about the whole movement, really, and my enthusiasm for it, and they eventually contacted Boris. The next thing I know I get an email from Boris' management saying 'Do you want to do a collaboration?', which was kind of a shock really. They were the ones behind it all, the ones who had the vision to match my voice with their music, and that’s loosely how is came about.

Were they fans of Cult?

The conversations we have had are through an interpreter and in broken English, so that’s not a question I've ever asked them. You will have to ask them that but they wanted to cover 'Rain' as a gesture of goodwill or as a thank you, homage, which was really beautiful. I love Wata’s singing on it.

By the way the guy who wrote the piece in “The Quietus” site… Ben [Graham]? In the review he got a name wrong, that’s where he lost his footing in the whole piece - when you get things like that wrong, it shows you don’t know your subject material.

You can’t get some of other things corrected like a washed up charlatan and turgid tripe monger Ian Astbury. You should read what he wrote because sadly pieces like this are written and then a music fan that doesn’t know anything about me or Boris thinks, 'What is this? Why should I be interested in this?' It starts off really negative and, as you well know if you know anything about me or my history, the perception has always been that I am some kind of bonkers performer two tepees short of a reservation who's completely up my own arse and lives in a fantasy realm and that perception has always been propagated by writers for well over 30-years, but not one of those writers has asked me any personal questions. It's always been an outside perception based upon an image.

Let's go back to Southern Death Cult times.

I know I have been an indie kid. It’s disappointing because I know the work with Boris is really good and I know the place where the work comes from. I know the subtext and I know the intention, and I know it's layered and textured. I know it’s completely sincere and I know it came from a very real and raw place. The last 3 years have been the worst in my life on a personal level so I know that emotive energy went into making decent music and its recording so to have some journalist who doesn’t know his subject material and can’t see past the end of his own nose sort of write it off, like the fact that I'm some actor who's bumbling through his lines, is... This has come from a very real place and that’s what is magical about this collaboration. That’s why Boris picked me and they didn’t pick a slew of other singers to work with from the West. They had their pick of whoever they want. Boris could pretty much knock on anyone's door and they would say yes, guaranteed - unless you’re a complete buffoon - and I know they have not extended that invitation to anyone else, even the American avant garde set. You know, they didn’t knock on Thurston Moore’s door. They see earnestness but then they are Japanese and they look for the emotive content, which we don’t do in the West.

In fact, if we see anything that has an emotive quality we tend to try and pull it down. Especially the British. The British are very uncomfortable with their feelings. I had something that was really sad because I’ve seen two reviews and please I‘ve had bad reviews and I don’t give a fuck about that. It’s about getting the context wrong and at this stage of the game, it just becomes irritating and it’s sad because this is a great piece of work. It’s one of the best things I've ever been involved in. Working with UNKLE was an amazing experience as well, but the Boris collaboration is something very special. I really hope it gets to see the light of day

People who run web sites like records.

Why do they put shit like this in there? Some of the stuff which is written about me is really going to go there and it is sad saying 'Magickal Child' is homage to Viking god and Tolkein so far removed from what song is about. It’s actually about a friend of mine who committed suicide so they got it wrong there, really wrong.

Frustrating people assume the Cult is a pastiche.

Well I don’t think most journalists have more experience than getting on a bus and seeing My Bloody Valentine once. That’s their extent of travel and probably their extent of life experience as well. You know, it’s very parochial, living in the same environment, day in and day out and having that limited perspective. That’s why musicians may come over as being eccentric. They have travelled and they’ve had other experiences. Maybe a broader perspective and so in that way, they have a different spin on things and with all respect, most writers don’t look further than the local pub. They stay in the same circle and in the same city and they don’t reach any of the world and they don’t make that same kind of internal exploration. Everything is about an outward response to an outward situation but never sitting quietly and listening to the inner voice.

That’s more of an Eastern philosophy and certainly that's something that a lot of artists who get the big hammer care. It’s interesting, a lot of musicians who reach a certain point and feel that this is not doing it for me anymore, and they go to India or wherever just to find peace and quiet, or a place to look more inwardly. That was what was wonderful about working with Boris because that is what their culture is all about. They are from a Shinto Buddhist culture where a lot of their processes are internal processes.

It’s an emotive process. It's about sentiment, feeling and emotionality, and it’s not about having to over intellectualise why they do it. Atsuo is a visionary and a genius - and again I don’t want to bash Ben, but he got it wrong. It’s not that there is a fine line between stupidity and…  He made a comment about Spinal Tap, came up and about walking a line between avant garde and silliness, there is nothing silly in there. Frank Sidebottom was silly. Boris are really serious about their intentions. They are not horribly serious. They have a wicked sense of humour but only when humour is appropriate and not when working in these kind of places. It’s an emotional performance and it’s got to be a safe place for an emotive performance and OK fine, there may be some bleeding heart on it, but it comes from a very real place and real experience. Ben certainly got it right in the sense that he's talking about a kind of pagan feel to it, which is definitely a trend or maybe not so much a trend but something that is coming up in the culture everywhere. You see more and more people walking away from the internet and the society of the spectacle and Lady Ga Ga and saying, “Really is that it?' Is that it! Is that where we have reached? Is that the cross roads that we have come to?”

Just rampant materialism. It’s not sustainable. People are fucking organic beings. I saw this thing on the BBC where they said that more and more people were going to Stonehenge every year - just regular families. They don’t know why they are going. They are just going. It’s the place to go. More and more people are going. It’s like they just want to get away from the materialism.

Ian AstburyThe machine

The machine yes thanks you.

SDC written out of post punk

I was 19. I hadn’t developed. I was reaching for myself. I hadn’t found myself, so it was really earnest. If there is a criticism for being young and earnest then yeah, I'm guilty. I was young and I was earnest and I was going for it. I was exploring everything and I wasn’t afraid to put it into my music, from the way I dressed and the way I looked, and everyone else was following the pack. I was a year younger than most of my peers. I didn’t see the Pistols. I saw the Clash in '78 so I was a year behind. I was in Canada in 1977 and I just missed out on that wave. Year zero for me was Crass and Joy Division, more than the Pistols. It was more like second album of Clash, Public Image, Joy Division. Coming from North America because I’d spent five years there - I also had this FM radio upbringing listening to the Doors, Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd and also there was David Bowie, Iggy Pop and Patti Smith because you would hear these albums on the radio played in beautiful stereophonic sound, so I would be very familiar with this music.

When I came back to England there was this horrible Thatcherite cynicism and dystopia, and I was coming out of a very optimistic culture in North America at a time when music had been very rich, like the Stones were at their height. Bands like Queen were touring - they were considered to be dinosaurs but they were still doing really good work. That’s why everyone now goes yeah, how many bands were influenced by Bruce Springsteen today like Killers.  It’s interesting now that we have gone away from punk rock and people can be really objective about that period. You put all that into the music and love affair with Doors and Jim Morrison and the psychedelics, and what people were doing in that period, ingesting psychedelics and exploring inward emotive space trying to get the meaning of it all. And then of course Spinal Tap comes along and they put up Stonehenge and everyone has a really good laugh. I was probably the only person who when Spinal Tap came along looked at everyone and said, 'You know what, we're fucked!’, because that film was funny but at the same token.

That film was funny, but by the same token everybody is just going to look at the superficial elements of rock & roll and that’s just going to be it. It’s just going to be a big joke and sadly, it’s not a safe place any more to talk about those things. Some of those things that made rock music more interesting were in trouble and that’s what I love about Sunn O))), and that's what I love about Boris. That’s what I love about that new movement of drone and psych metal and hard rock. It’s not even hard rock; it’s avant garde and in many ways it’s a ritual space. It’s not one-dimensional. It’s not a band standing up there playing three chords for an hour and half, and there's no release like if you go to see Metallica - all due respect to Metallica - it’s very masculine and it’s very one dimensional. There’s no real sexual release. It’s all about sexual tension. It’s very aggressive. It’s very angry but when you go and see Boris it’s like an opera. It's operatic. It’s a compete spectrum of emotion and you go on a journey when you see Boris perform. When you walk out of their concert it feels like you’ve left the earth's plane in some ways [laughs].

Because that film was funny but at the same token everybody is just going to look at the superficial elements of rock n roll and that’s just going to be it. It’s just going to be a big joke and sadly it’s not a safe place any more to talk about those things. Some of those things made rock music more interesting, textured layered and deeper and that’s what I love about Sunn O))) and that's what I love about Boris. That’s what I love about that new movement of drone and psyche and metal and hard rock. It’s not even hard rock, it’s avante garde in many ways. It’s a ritual space, it’s not one dimensional. It’s not a band standing up there playing three chords for an hour and half and there's no release like if you go to see Metallica and with respect Metallica, its very masculine and it’s very one dimensional. There’s no real sexual release. It’s all about sexual tension. It’s very aggressive. It’s very angry but when you go and see Boris its like an opera, it's operatic. It’s a compete spectrum of emotion and you go on journey when you see Boris perform. When you walk out of their concert it feels like you’ve left the earth plane in some ways. Sure I like to be at the front at a three chord concert as well and have that kind of really urban, angst energy and we get plenty of that from hip hop, but I think it’s a real blessing that Greg is doing this with Southern lord and Boris are in the world. There’s a real place for them and it would be really nice if these college educated journalists could get off their fucking get out of their very small myopic environments like Brooklyn, or whatever small enclaves, and get out and experience more than some sort of hipster perspective which is very limited.

It’s not nature to be set in these ways. Nature evolves and something that is set in its ways is shown to be broken. It doesn’t serve the human spirit very well. In the critique, the guy put in there that I was like an aging old dear [laughs]. I mean really wow he’s not that far behind me.

The age is thin ice

It is thin ice because we all end up there. I love what Keith Richards said in some interview. He was asked what he thought of all these exciting new bands new music and haircuts and he just laughed, took drag on his cigarette and said “They will find out”. Then I’m still a major fan, Cult in Detroit and Bob Dylan playing down the road. And I went in to see him play and that night he was magnificent. I had seen shambolic, he was in the flesh and knocking it out, well past showbiz.

Ian AstburyThe Cult. Every now and then you make attempts to make it more experimental.

I'm working with a Mancunian for a start! So you can imagine you can imagine... (laughs)

Working with 3 chord structure

But that’s his thing, and he's honest about that. He's never had any air or graces about working with anything else. He's a working guitar player in that way he's very much from that Mick Ronson school of playing. That’s his mentor and Mick Ronson is the guy and Steve Jones. They are working class guys who picked up les Pauls and had an incredible natural gift for kind of like that street

An artful yobbishness.

Yes, that’s a good way of putting it. It’s not (puts on posh voice) “I'm reaching for this”. It’s more of “I'm feeling this, I'm going for it”. And there is something really endearing in that because it’s like the underdog reaching for the forbidden fruit and that’s really what are The Cult. We broke out of places like the North West, but then our background is not the pedigree of a normal band. I grew up in Glasgow, I grew up in Canada, I grew up in Birkenhead and Billy had stayed in Manchester and was very much in that world. I may have been more open to the esoteric but Billy is very much part of that stoic, bricklayer blue collar guy, the guy who goes to football, the guy who likes to wash his car on Sundays, whereas I'm more likely to be happy in the Himalayas. But you can put the two things together. Also you got to put into perspective that I walked away from The Cult for nine years, so out of that 25 years you have to realise that effectively The Cult has only been together for 16 years. We’re still working it out. This body of work we have just done with Chris Goss. I had to push for Chris Goss to come into the room because I thought he would be one of the few producers that would understand both aspects both the linear plain and the terrestrial plane, and understand those elements and how they work together and that’s what makes the music interesting.

Sanctuary has both parts… Esoteric and grounded how to make it work.

You need awareness that you need both those elements to make it work. It’s like male and female within nature. There is negative and positive, there is male and female. It’s about a balance. I don’t want to talk about it in conservative terms because it is a profound thing. It’s an emotive form. I remember being in the studio once having an argument and I said dude, what we do is an emotive form and what we do is about emotionality and the braver you get the more you get closer to your emotional truth. It is fragile and it is dangerous and emotionally you are going into places that are really emotionally scary. That’s why it kills musicians. There is a high fatality rate in music. A super high fatality rate. A lot of wounds. A lot of people come in to this emotionally damaged and the wounds are kept open. Working with Ray and Robbie from the Doors, whatever anyone may think about it, I learned a lot from that and we had some magnificent moments and it was done for the right reasons from me. But it’s easy to throw stones at that. Those guys work constantly in that space and because they had Morrison, who was a wounded kid, they were able to go into the most magnificent places and it’s evident in the body of work. That’s why the work is so good. They were fearless in that way.

Learn about creativity of the Doors by being in the Doors communal mind etc

That came because they were players and they would get in the room and play and play and that comes up in the language, which is no longer about talking, but about playing. And we communicate through playing. It’s an emotive thing, your head turns off and you start to feel what’s going on and you start to pick up on rhythms and melodies and tempos and it comes from this space. They are just suck masters. Manzareck (Ray, keyboardist) is like the master of the ship. He's able to guide the energy to wherever he wants it to go. He can bring it up, take it down, make it more effective, make it more right in your face and even without Jon Densmore (drummer) there, who is a critical part of that, a crucial element. There was a level they got to performing together. That was transcendent the rpodd eas in a way audience responding.

There were long sections like in “When the music’s over” that were 10 to 11 minutes long, when there was a lot of improvisation in it, so that space that came into the music, came from spontaneous moment. It came from me working with Ray and Robbie and Phil, and ty and myself different groups of musicians playing in that framework. But I can kind of get an idea of what Morrison people talk about Morrison being really out there on the frontier, on the boundary, on the barricade and going beyond that. But really the music took him there. Ray is the master, the band are the masters. John and Ray were into transcendental mediation. It was a rally, an introspective thing. Ray was in the army in the early sixties. He was in Thailand. He probably smoked opium and was dropping acid before Vietnam. These guys were heads. They knew exactly what they were doing. They were working in a psychedelic space.
In fact I was talking to a friend yesterday and we were talking about the difference between bands driven by organics and psychedelics and bands driven by alcohol and powders, it’s a very materialistic, narcissistic thing. Whereas the organic bands, I think they are better.

They weather better. dunno wahy Like Led Zeppelin, Punk Floyd and the Doors have stood up, I think are in many ways a lot better than the Stones. That’s a tough one to get into because I love the Rolling Stones but then again you look at Keef well maybe he held all that down. Some of my favourite moments are when Brian Jones was in there and he was always experimenting. Like on “Paint it black” when he got a sitar. It’s an interesting thing, we need the balance. There is always this argument that it’s got to be the new face with the new idea and the new sound. But how about the new emotionality? How about holding that up? And that’s what I love about Sonn. When you go to a Sonn performance you can’t hum a piece of music by them. You can’t. It’s more of a ritual space. There is room for that. I kind of felt at some point, with all respect to journalists that they started to easier support the bands that were goofy. It’s like when sports fans picked up guitars, jock rock.

They picked up tennis rackets and started playing them. Let’s rock dude. Yeah! The incarnation of Wolfchild! I was drinking beer and I was in New York City in 1986. I was a kid and I was drunk in New York City, for God’s sake. I was running around with the Beastie Boys, Run DMC, Rick Rubin, Murphys Law, the whole posse. AC/DC was as relevant as Grandmaster Flash. It was a strange brew and we were part of it. It was real Americana and it was different thing. There was also “Aphrodisiac jacket”, but then again I was a kid! I didn’t have the college education. I was self taught. I've missed points on basic spelling at school, so sometimes the politics are a bit convoluted in some ways.

Rock lyrics are not written down.

The lyrics without the music can seem like the most ludicrous thing. It’s like the text without the emotionality sometimes. I mean you see Shakespeare done badly and you see Shakespeare done really well, the emotionality is just phenomenal. It can reduce you to tears or exalt you to the highest place and that’s the best art. When you look at it, it makes you feel something when you experience it. It makes you feel something whether it’s music or photography or film. You transcend and you walk into a space, you walk into a gig and leave two hours later and you are speechless sometimes, really. Ask any fan of music the lyrics of their favourite song and they will get it wrong. “I though he was saying.. Or she was saying..”

And look at the lyrics and say they were saying that! We are so limited by language. British people are so used to hearing their language, but go in another culture and hear another music, like when you are in the far east or in India and you hear the music and you think, “I don’t care what they are singing about, it sounds amazing”. I feel what they are performing.

So again to go back to Boris I felt that they gave me the piece of music and I had to find that part of myself.

How much freedom did you have? Inspiration they speak to you collaborate.

The way he works, he drives the ship. He's brilliant. You can tell by his facial expressions what he is thinking, whether smiling or nodding head or it’s tilted to one side and you just know. I know at this stage believe me. I police myself like no one else does. When I walk in a room and I don’t think let’s do something wacky, witty and ironic so that people can guffaw at me. It’s not the space I'm clearing my head of clutter so I can let the feelings come up, so the emotionality can come up. Sometimes there is no certainty because when you are in a recording environment, you are hearing music for first time or it’s the first time you are performing it. So I was not prepared for what would come out of my mouth. So sometimes you are not prepared for that space which you are given. given an opportunity music is afrmnsmeowrk every moment is different and you try and keep it fresh so that when you walk in the room it’s the freshest perception of that piece that you have got. Not just written down before and do same every time. I mean I sang “Magical child” with Boris once and that was already different from the recording. For the same reason people say how can you sing “She sells sanctuary” every time you play. But that’s because every time I walk up to the mic I'm in a different headspace, a different environment, a different headspace a different internal experience.
Sometimes I will let the music wash over me. The other musicians there have a similar experience so collectively, everyone has their heads turned off and let the music take over collectively. It’s very interesting, that’s why people keep coming back to live concerts.

The truth.

You get a truth when watching your favourite band. It’s just you and them. There is no filter.

BorisWhen I studio with Boris difficult you on own…

I'm used to that space. It’s about being comfortable in that space. It’s about being emotionally bomb proof. I think when you get to that space as a performer, that’s when the best work happens. When you allow yourself to go for things and be really ridiculous, this is when the best work comes from. You really reach into yourself. At this stage of the game I will go for it because you can always re trace. You can always say that it doesn’t work. Sometimes when you try something you get a different result than you expected so you get kind of accident and surprise which is pretty profound. Having said that I recorded in a vocal booth that was behind the console not in front of the console, so I was looking at a wall and I didn’t have any contact with anybody. I was in my own space and I learnt how to do it in my own space. When I was a kid I used to think you had to put a carpet up on the wall and candles and create an environment and that did help me a lot when I was younger. Now I can just close my eyes and go there. I don’t need anything. I don’t need incense candles or special little mojo. My special little totem that I rub before singing.

Boris influence the Cult?

Everything I work on outside The Cult, I bring back to The Cult. Whether it's my work with UNΚLE or even Tony Iommi. There are so many things I'm losing count, because I've been involved in, because I love collaborations. I love working outside of the band. I did another song with UNΚLE, that hasn’t come out yet but I always bring these things back and put them in front of my partner and see what he thinks of this or what he thinks of that and being a very working kind of guy, like he is, it takes him a while to come round to things but eventually he does. It was like when I introduced Chris Goff to him. He wasn’t sure about him at first, but eventually Chris comes in and completely wins him over when he picks up the guitar, being a gifted guitar player. It’s amazing when you are in a room with a master. You think “Ok, I'm listening”. Billy's wise in that way. He knows he's a smart kid.

But he’s not quite the three chord kid. He's grown up a lot. Also we are not the same people as when we made “Love”, “Electric” and “Sonic temple”. They were records of their time. I think that nobody was prepared about the way that the music industry was going to turn. The lawyers came and created a music industry that was more about controlling talent and picking talent that was easily manageable, not nurturing new talent. That’s what rock music is where it is today. Traditionally rock musicians have been very difficult to deal with, bad lifestyles, so it’s a lot easier to work with things that are pop or with an lighter, indie kind of feel and that’s why we are where we are with a weaker gene pool. But there is an underground, especially in the Pacific north west of the United States because it’s such a remote part. And places like Australia where they are unaffected, unlike London and Paris, New York the metropolis. They have their own organic optimism and natural environment that influences the music. The mountains of the North West and the trees and the forest really affect the music. There’s something in the water in Seattle and Portland that relay affects the music whole movement in that part of the world.

Same in UK cult Bradford

I think in many ways you are forced to create something far more of a polar opposite of your surroundings and there’s certainly no exotic quality to Merseyside and West Yorkshire [laughs].

Pete Burns

Ian AstburyI think Pete Burns is from Birkenhead or from Port Sunlight, strangely enough, but then saying that, most of the punk kids were from the suburbs of London. The punk bands came from the suburbs. It took someone like McLaren who was an art student and he was educated to have a cultivated eye to see that there was a shift in the culture and be smart enough to define it in some way. Guide it or chorale it in the way that these wild animals running around. There was this shift in the energy, a shift in the culture and it was not like he tamed it, but he harnessed it. He gave it an identity and he coalled it. He finessed it.

He gave it a space

Precisely and it's that space and energy that I work in a lot and so does someone like James Lavelle. He is always working for a sentiment or a feeling and trying to give it some kind of framework for presentation, because we are always trying to present it in a way that engages an audience. Those elements are very important. People are returning to a ritual space and people are returning to organic environments. Guys are growing their hair a little bit more and getting away from “Let’s get down Carnaby Street and buy a pair of Beatle boots”. I mean really, are we still doing that? Has that not been done? The organic is where I feel the energy is moving towards. In many ways if Lady Ga Ga is as far as you can go with the manufactured machine, then obviously there is going to be a balance of nature. It’s always the way to look out for where the light takes us.

I saw a film in cinema in Manhattan and all these hipsters came in. 16 hipsters from Manhattan in their skinny jeans and their little beards, laughing all the way through the film. I was five rows behind them and they were totally missing the point. These kids were completely earnest. These kids were talking about being alienated from Norwegian culture the Christianity and the conservatism. All of a sudden it’s MacDonald’s and American culture and this globalised culture being thrust upon them and they were like “No we don’t accept this, we don’t feel this, we feel something else”. “Look at were we live, we live with fjords and mountains”. This is who we are and we react against it this way and a load of city kids are not surrounded by this. And how can they understand this? What reference do they have? And it would look ridiculous if you lived in a city, I would guess. They are actually really thick. They have a very blinkered perspective. We are all very organic, we depend on the sun. Cut off the water and they would get it pretty quick!

City’s self styled elite is out of touch

Like catch 22. It’s like the serpent catching its tail. It’s personified with people like Anna Wintour at Vogue magazine, who observed that celebrity culture was going to happen and she put celebrity on the cover and everybody followed suit, everybody from the bank manager to the T editors. Everybody follows suit to be part of it. There is this amazing book about New York called “The Warhol Economy” written by …. Who was an art professor and she talks about how New York became New York because of the abstract impressionists like Pollock, Rothko and then Warhol, CBGBs, then Basquiat and Lower East Side, that modern New York and that’s why everyone went there.

The bank managers just wanted to put a Warhol on the wall and that turned it into Zurich and all the real artists have basically left. They have gone back to where they have come from. In fact they are more likely to stay there, instead of going to New York. They are more likely to stay
in Portland or Poughkeepsie. It’s not happening in these urban environments, in fact it’s more likely to be pastiche. I have just spent three years living in New York and explored it thoroughly. I lived in Manhattan and I didn’t go to Brooklyn very often. I went always in galleries and art shows. It’s very similar to London in that way. You pay for your bohemian experience like in Starbucks, there’s a sort of Norah Jones record in the background and it’s kind of a bit Bohemian. You go up to the rider and you can have an exotic drink from South America. It’s surface not depth. I'm more for revamping the Stonehenge festival. That would be amazing!

Penny from Crass

Ian AstburyPenny is like Arthur, Arthur from Ritter [laughs]!  I saw those guys 36 times. I used to follow them and I was a devotee of Crass and it had a huge, huge influence on me. I remember being at Dial house and being given sacred rights by the ifwagal suois by black helt reinheart and I remember being given that by John D reinheart to read and I sat there and flicked through, like an 18 year old kid with a Mohawk, sitting in their house. Steve Ignorant was sitting in the tepee outside. How can that not have an effect on you. It’s only now people understand Crass, big piece in Vice magazine. 

Maybe you have to go through a few life cycles to understand that it’s not just shouting, a superficial explosion of something really exciting. People always said that if you went there for those three months then you weren’t there for the summer of love in 1988 then you weren't there for the summer of 77 if you were not there then you went experiencing the real thing People always said that if you weren’t there for the summer of love in 1988 or you weren’t there for the summer of ’77, then you weren’t experiencing the real thing. To me that’s a “just get in the door moment” that leads to a moment.

The energy is always there. We are made of atoms and if you split the atom the energy is always there, of course the energy is always there. The culture has been appropriated by college educated people who put themselves up as the custodians of culture. They set themselves up with the blogs, they say “I am now a cultural critic, here’s my bog. I am an authority and the format is right in front of you”. It’s got some nice black and white graphics it looks as if it’s all copied and cut and pasted. Basically that’s where the experience stops and starts. I mean, the people who are out there really doing it, are not reporting it, they are just getting on with it. I mean, there are exceptions to the rule

I think it’s about getting out there and getting amongst it and that’s why I've really hunted down Boris and hunted down Greg and Steven at Southern Lord. When I hunted them down it wasn’t like I was saying I'm a big fan, it was like I was saying I absolutely admire what you are doing and I want to know more and I want to have a discourse about it. I want to get deeper into it and I've immersed myself into their world now. Southern Lord is one of the most important labels right now. So important and influencing generations of musicians and artists like Jim Jarmusch, who has used Boris on his last film… limits of control its fasttci look atb hat permeating the culture he's curate of ATP festival with Boris and soges and Sonn and that that says something for the culture very important cultural evened, great time for those bands and that’s sentiment and I'm saying don’t miss out…

The quest. You are still on…

I'm still a fan or a seeker? Seeker is the best word.


Not for 3 years. There's been another crash at airport, the gateway to Everest, and the second one in 2 years. It’s hairy up there [laughs]. The Himalayas are unforgiving and the weather systems up there chop and change. You have to have your wits about you and I love that and I feel really grounded there. I just moved back to California because I was missing the mountains and the desert and the ocean. The desert is going to be a very important part of the next part of the story for myself and my music and creativity. I'm excited about that and I couldn't access that in New York.

I had a HD projector and I would project films against the wall by Jodorowky and Auosky. A lot of very kind of languid, organic films and a lot of Kenneth Anger films and I thought “Why don’t you just go back to the mountains?” Because I’m not getting it in New York. In New York, you are in canyons. The city is an amorphous thing and it has its own energy. In fact the city is part of everybody’s daily conversation. It’s a living, breathing entity but having said that, it’s this machinery of culture and commerce. You ask these artists who they are and where they come from and Warhol came from Pittsburgh and from Poland before that and Jackson Pollock from Wyoming. Patti Smith came from deep in New Jersey. The people who made New York - Jean-Michel Basquiet came from Haiti - they were refugees and New York was were the refuges came into.

New York was where people came in the first place, but then the people like the Rothschild’s and the Vanderbilt’s, the Guggenheims and all the families, they would capture these immigrants and these visions of the future and they take it and stick it in a gallery and sell it. And the next thing the artist is dead and they are sitting on top of a lot of expensive art that they didn’t create themselves. It’s a machine, it just absorbs humans. It’s amazing, you see people just getting spat out by New York. If you’re looking for spiritual awakening then New York is not the place to go. Well maybe it is, I had a spiritual awakening in New York and it made me want to go back to mountains. [Laughs] I went to New York because I was looking for a more intellectually stimulating climate than California and I came to New York and I thought “This is too much!” It was really about what laces you have in your sneakers and how your hair is cut.

Do you ever want to come back to the UK?

I have actually spent more time in North America than in the UK. It breaks my heart to see so much cynicism and self loathing. I think the Brits are hard on us and that really breaks my heart when I come back and see that. It’s difficult to come with a very open heart and a very earnest intention. Whatever we did with The Cult has never been embraced by the British music industry. We have never been asked to an award show and never been asked to The Queen Tribute or the Mojo awards or the NME awards or any of that. We have never been embraced by the British music community ever, so in that way I feel like an exile. The only people I go back for are our fans and the barren places like Cornwall, Wales and Scotland.

The Celtic fringes

Yes, the Celtic fringes. Actually that’s what I'm drawn towards and that quality in the island is still apparent and can be tapped into at any moment. That’s something that is really exciting and perhaps if we can start a movement to get Stonehenge going again. Billy was really funny, he said to me “You want to start doing these folk festivals now don’t you?”. And I'm like, “Ah uh”! Reading and Leeds and T in the park. Really, come on, please. No, enough. No more crap hamburgers, crap toilets, people pissing all over each other in the rain. Come on! [Laughs]. Coked up no ugh! I need a more different festival now. I need to find a different culture for us. The right place, not the conveyer belt, where people don’t even know what band is playing. They don’t even care I've watched it…

Ian AstburyYour own festival?

I attempted that once gathering of the tribes. It was an altruistic, heartfelt vibe. I thought the musical community had to represent itself. It was getting very corporate at the time and labels were ecopsiaring to sell c Geffen records the super companies the super signature using the leverage of Michael Jackson's contract which affected everybody. So my reaction was, because I was a big fan of hip hop at the time, my idea was to see Guns N’ Roses and then NWA on the same bill. And the journalist’s response was “I don’t really understand this, we don’t get it”. And I was saying, “You don’t have to get it, just experience it”. It could be a good experience or a bad experience, it depends on how you feel. Then it became Lollapalooza and other people got trophies of mine that end up in their trophy cabinets. But again that’s just the way it rolls. I have to get beyond that or be a bitter old man. [laughs]


He’s a good guy and he is starting to realise it. I've met him a couple of times and found him a really good guy. A lot of them got caught up in facades. The sad thing is that the majority of people out there are not even watching anymore. There’s a massive video game industry, worth 80 billion dollar a year. I read that in Financial Times that is my latest banding about figure. My other one is when people asked what happened to the music industry and I say “The bottom came up”. Everybody and their dog is now an artist, people who really want to do it, if you can hang in past three albums. It’s not a boy having haircut and being cute or being son and daughter of a celebrity. There seems to be lot of celebrity kids out there now. That period from ‘68 to ’73, there was so much music getting made, so eclectic music. Pink Floyd, Can, Stooges, Doors, Bowie, Parliament, Sly Stone. So much going on wow! I was lucky to go to Detroit for Rob Tyner's benefit. A lot of these people came out, like Fred Sonic Smith. An Incredible evening. Things like that few and far. I don’t want to sound like the old boy.

Tell Ben I will chin him when I see get tomahawk in his skull laughs…

Japan's not afraid of collaborations, which we don’t do in rock nor celeb mates singing on a record. Even if Rolling Stones always work with other musicians when doing best work exile kef on bass Jagger on guitar Mick Taylor gram Parsons it was like loose jam, its when make sonic temple and have to make sonic temple 2 and you don’t want to and have  a big fight with your partner and when it becomes a business that  have mouths to feed that gets in the way those communal band work great but as soon as have success falls apart…

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