It has always been difficult to categorize The Cult. This band has cemented themselves in rock history with their transcended combination of goth, metal and mysticism, completed by Ian Astbury’s brilliant vocals and anchored with Billy Duffy’s guitar riffs. Last year AXS had the opportunity to talk guitars in an interview with Billy Duffy, Friday we chatted with Ian Astbury about vocals.
Ian Astbury: We are about to start rehearsals now, so we are about to get into all of that. Next week. We haven’t started to put together a setlist yet.
AXS: That has to be hard to put together.
I.A.: Haha, yeah…it always is. It always is. Certain songs you just can’t get rid of, although we have done tours without “She Sells Sanctuary” in the set. We are probably going to rotate the sets because we are playing at different times. The headliners are revolving on this tour. I really thought 2018 was going to be more of a writing year because we had been touring a lot the previous years.
AXS: Robert Plant once said he had one voice for the studio, one for a stadium and another for clubs. Do you find this as well?
I.A.: That is interesting. I feel that as songwriters we have evolved over the years to write songs for different environments. Perhaps the voice changes, the sentiments of what you are putting over. Robert is a master, one of the greatest singer-songwriters of all time. I would definitely bend to his wisdom.
AXS: Often after decades of use, singers blow out their vocal chords or the quality of their tone diminishes, yet you seem to have managed to retain your pipes quite well. What is your secret? Any advice for up and coming vocalists as far as a regimen goes?
I.A.: It is pretty basic, sleep. Water. Dehydration is the number one killer to voice so staying hydrated is really important. Living a lifestyle that respects the voice, especially on the road. The last few tours I got sick with bronchitis. We were in South America and I had bronchitis on the road, it was pretty rough. I was pretty much in bed or recuperating up until about a half hour before stage time. At that point, I just sort of flipped into dream mode.
AXS: You have to rally somehow.
I.A.: Exactly! That’s when hydration is real important. Hydration and diet. I am mindful of what I eat, like milk. Dairy is the enemy of singers. Well, it is for me. When you are young and rippin’ it up it is one thing, but then it isn’t really about quality of the voice then is it? It is about the performance. It is sort of a different band I guess then in a way. We are focused on putting a song over in the best possible way we can. Sometimes we cross over into a different space and the moment takes over. It is not always calculated. There is an element that comes to the show that is completely unexpected. A lot of times it is about the environment because that always changes. If we feel good in a room and it is ambient and acoustic there is the potential for magic. Where the audience is at obviously. You know, if you are working in the middle of winter and it is a Tuesday night, it is a big enough task for people to get to the show. Plus they are soaking wet. So we have to work extra hard those nights, but in the height of summer outdoors. I love playing outdoors. Like Red Rocks for example, it is magical on its own you don’t even have to put a band in there. The environment is there, it is just up to you to do the rest.
AXS: What continues to inspire you?
I.A.: Well as we travel we have new experiences. Going to new environments kind of shakes off your domestic situation. While traveling you are allowed to open up to new experiences. Travel is a very important part of it. I am not great on social media. I know a lot of people that are but I don’t do a lot of it. I do really enjoy looking at what people are looking at and observing. For the most part, it is just experiences. I have my own experiences, it is the only thing I really know. I can only write what I know.
AXS: Have you and Billy been doing any writing?
I.A.: Over the past six months we have been kind of going our separate ways and getting back into our lives. The past couple of years have taken up a lot. There were a few albums and quite a bit of touring, which is about right for The Cult. We both go away for a while and work on our own things. Then we meet at some point and share ideas that we’ve got. See if we want to continue making another album. I don’t know, albums are really interesting now. It is a very different time for releasing music. We will see. We are not tied to any label right now so we can pretty much do anything we want.
AXS: The Cult have revisited albums for tours in the past. 2009 was Love and in 2013 Electric. A lot of the fans are dreaming of a Sonic Temple tour. Next year is 30 years since its release. Any thoughts for a Sonic tour?
I.A.: I don’t know, we will see. I’d love to see how the summer rolls. When it comes to setlists it is really what we just naturally gravitate towards. With Love and Electric, playing those albums in 2009 and 2013 just kind of felt right. With each of them we had made and album and then toured and then made an album and then toured. There was a cycle we had been in for about 8 years, playing an iconic record we had already recorded. So we will see. You know though that The Cult never celebrate anniversaries. I always thought that was an industry devise to sell records or whatever. Some label came up with that idea. 10th anniversaries, 20th anniversaries. How about people just put out a good record right now.
Visit The Cult webpage for more information on the band. Follow The Cult on Facebook and Twitter to stay up-to-date on all band happenings. The Cult will be performing at Red Rocks Amphitheatre in Morrison, CO on August 19, 2018, purchase AXS tickets here.