Building a career that is blessed with longevity in the music industry is far too often an elusive goal and so often do we look at bands that had beginnings (and endings) in the 1980s as “that band with that one song”. While rock band The Cult has never had a slew of hit singles, their popularity has maintained and is now back on the rise upon the release of their ninth studio album Choice of Weapon. Speaking with guitarist Billy Duffy, he discussed the changes in the music industry in the last twenty years, the sound of the new record and the band’s involvement in a legendary filmmaker’s upcoming project.
“I don’t really know what a record coming out means anymore,” tells Duffy. “I would not even know where to go to buy my own album in Los Angeles. I know one record store and the rest would be places that sold televisions and books. It seems to be a little bit like the album just slides out there, really. It just gets released out into the ether.”
When asked about whether he prefers this process to how an album would have been released a decade ago, his response was, “We used to do some kind of big release thing, and there would be a signing and a party. It was a whole different thing back in the day, which was fun. But you could still only be in one place. You could not do it in America and England… I think it has changed a little bit. I do not necessarily know if it is worse, just different.’
The new album Choice of Weapon, a balls-to-the-wall rock album which mixes a classic sound with a contemporary feel, is out now in Australia and has been getting glowing reviews globally. “We did not want it to be all middle aged and self-indulgent and over-polished,” says Duffy.
“We wanted to find that right balance of the great rock and roll records. Like [The Stooges’] Raw Power,” he offers. ‘You can spend too long polishing records and lose the soul of it. We wanted to keep that. But we also did not want to make throwaway garbage, so it is a challenge with an album that drags on over a period of time, keeping the energy levels up.”
“I think that is one of the greatest attributes to the records,” he says, “it sounds almost spontaneous. We did not deliberate each song, we went through it and did the best we could and other than ‘The Wolf’ which took a while to get sorted out, the songs laid themselves down pretty quickly.’
“In the U.S. the band has been pretty stable, as we have been based out of here. We have lived here on and off for quite a while now, we have toured America pretty consistently. So if anything there has been a bit of an upswing [in popularity] in the U.K.” Tells Duffy. “I feel like we are going to have another swing [in popularity] here [in the United States] with this record and if there is any truth to the rumours of us doing an Electric tour next year, which would be the 30th Anniversary of the band.”
“ Well, certainly in my mind it is the 30th because I was there when it started and it started in spring of 1983. That is when me and Ian [Astbury] sat down and wrote our first song ever, ‘Brothers Grimm.’ It is exciting. We have played the new songs; we do not normally play five new songs in a set because it is what bands do when they really piss off their audiences.”
Contravening his own advice, Duffy and The Cult recently introduced cuts from Choice of Weapon, including ‘Honey from a Knife’, ‘For the Animals’, ‘The Wolf’ and ‘Embers’, into their festival set for Austin Texas’ SXSW, to winning results. “We were just feeling so good about [them],” he remarks of their decision, “we just played them and they went down brilliant. I was quite shocked. There was no palpable change in reaction.”
“The fan base,” Duffy continues, “we are kind of spreading out the demographic. A lot of young people are searching out older music of quality because… music around these days lacks a little bit in terms of depth and star-quality. So people go back in time because they have a desire to be satisfied. A lot of bands these days are very corporate or kind of shallow or one-trick ponies.”
Duffy also dropped information regarding The Cult’s involvement in the current project from elusive filmmaker Terrence Malick. The film, titled Lawless, will be set in the music scene of Austin, Texas, and is set to star big names such as Christian Bale, Ryan Gosling, Rooney Mara, Natalie Portman and Australia’s own Cate Blanchett. “[Malick] is using four songs off of the new album for the soundtrack and he has already filmed at SXSW with Rooney Mara, me and Ian backstage,” reveals Duffy. “We are apparently supposed to do some more shooting with Christian Bale, who is the other dude in it. So that is a little bit of interesting film trivia… we are pretty honoured to be involved; it is a pretty classy project.”
Having last toured Australia in 2010, Duffy hints that it’s more than likely we can expect a visit from them again within the next twelve months – possibly during next year’s festival season. Or as Duffy suggests, ‘my best guess, using my 30-odd years in the music business, is that if you were to see us in Australia it would be on one of the tours that go out in your summer.”
Care to name names? “There is also a possibility of doing that Electric tour and we know that that would probably resonate pretty well in Australia, too.” Duffy was even nice enough to drop a festival name for us to keep an eye out for, “I know that the Soundwave festival keeps asking us to come and play.” Cult for Soundwave? You heard it hear first.
– Marcus Roberts