NEW YORK (Billboard) - Ian Astbury has circled the globe while touring as frontman for the Cult as well as on his own time.
His experiences colored the conversation he had with Billboard about “Born Into This” (October 2, Roadrunner), the first album of new material his revered rock band has delivered since 2001’s “Beyond Good and Evil.”
In highly charged sonic essays like “Sound of Destruction” and “Citizens,” Astbury weighs in on such topics as how Western culture touches far-off places like Nepal.
Before the Cult regrouped, Astbury stepped into the sizable shoes of Jim Morrison to front Riders on the Storm, which included original Doors members Ray Manzarek and Robbie Krieger. He approached the task with great reverence.
Q: For people who will hear the Cult for the first time with this record, what would you like them to get out of it?
A: “A life-changing experience. Spiritual upliftment. Some kind of an awakening, hopefully. I think one thing about this record is, it has all the ingredients in it. The teeth and claws haven’t been taken out of it. It’s not a nice little domesticated indie house pet. A lot of stuff was written in wild places: (while) denizens of Paris, (while) stuck in lodges in the Himalayas and (during) white-out snow storms.”
Q: How does your extensive traveling inform your creative process?
A: “It keeps my perspective fresh, keeps experience fresh, and it really makes me appreciate places that I’m in when I return to them. It’s like, Los Angeles can become quite lethargic, the same tone, the same weather. You go, ‘Well, I’ll do it tomorrow.’ But you come to New York, it sort of forces you to get things done ... to be productive.”
Q: What songs came together especially well on “Born Into This?”
A: “‘Holy Mountain’ is probably the pinnacle for me ... it involves my girlfriend and (a time) in life where I felt kind of like, I won’t say washed up, but I definitely felt drained. I felt frustrated and I felt undynamic and went on this journey and ended up at Everest. So that song is literally the zenith, the high point, and everything sort of flows down from that song.”
Q: You organized 1990’s Gathering of the Tribes festival, which was the blueprint for Lollapalooza. What would it take to attempt such an event again?
A: “I wouldn’t. (Laughs) I’m terrible at dropping ideas and leaving ideas around, and I have so many ideas that I don’t execute that other people are quite happy to. If you’re in a position to help people, if your house is in order, then you’re really in a position to help people. If your house isn’t in order, then you can’t really help anybody because you can’t even help yourself.”
Q: Why re-form the Cult?
A: “I learned so much with (Riders on the Storm) ... I learned a lot about performance from these guys. I learned about space, holding the space, being in the space (and) improvisations. And that really led me to think, ‘Wait a minute. I thought I knew everything about performance. I know squat about performance.’ I just really felt I had something to say, really had some strong material, and I felt the best possible place for this was the Cult.”
Q: You described one of the high points of performing with Riders on the Storm. Were there any low points?
A: “The political battle between John (Densmore) and Ray (Manzarek) and Robbie (Krieger) was really sad and unfortunate, that sort of split in the fraternal set. Some of the media reaction ... like Jon Pareles from the New York Times saw me on the eighth show and he wrote this review basically saying Dionysus was not present. That one really made me go, ‘Wait a minute. I’m going to take a step back here and really assess what it is I’m doing.”‘