Although point of origin shouldn’t be an issue, The Cult actually is a British band. For a group seemingly entrenched in the Los Angeles music scene and tied to so many others in the immediate area, it’d be easy to forget its origins.
But it wasn’t until 1984 this quartet would release their first record on the Beggars Banquet boutique label. Similarly, they would find themselves surrounded by a slow-burning fire which soon followed them into the states. Their first record, “Dreamtime,” debuted at No. 21 inspired by shamanism and all things spiritual which greatly juxtaposed their then-gothic rock sound.
Of course, it didn’t take long until the group found success in the states on a major scale with “Love” (1985). Propelled by numerous singles including the catchy “She Sells Sanctuary,” “Rain” and “Revolution,” the Cult became a headliner in the United States.
The group quickly yielded another successful record in “Electric” (1987), but with producer Rick Rubin (Beastie Boys, Slayer, Black Crowes, Johnny Cash, etc.) at the helm after not finding favorable results from the band’s previous producer, Steve Brown. The resulting record found the band now playing blues and hard rock fare, the band’s trademark sound, with great effect.
Still, the core of the band was the songwriting team of guitarist Billy Duffy and singer Ian Astbury. Moreover, the pressure to deliver wildly successful follow-up records worked against the band’s initial slow and steady pace.
Just before the massive United States marketing campaign for Sonic Temple (1989), the two relocated to Los Angeles which would inevitably later signal the exit of keyboardist/second guitarist/bassist Jamie Stewart’s departure in 1990 just after the tour for the aforementioned record.
The ceremony is about to begin
By 1991, the Cult was a household name whose music spanned continents and found the band’s music playing on both video outlets and hard rock radio. And while “Fire Woman” from the band’s successful “Sonic Temple” release reached only No. 46 on the Hot 100 Billboard chart, MTV picked up the slack and seemed to play the video every hour on the hour.
“Edie (Ciao Baby),” “Sun King” and “Sweet Soul Sister” were great songs in the their own right but, sadly, didn’t catch perform nearly as well.
The resulting “Ceremony” (1991) showed the band’s love and reverence for Native American culture yet again, and sold very well spawning several singles.
It wasn’t until the band’s awkwardly-timed and stylistically-challenged self-titled record (1994), however, that an extended break was just what this cult needed to properly regroup.
No rear-view mirror required
Best Bets caught up with vocalist Ian Astbury in Los Angeles to learn about the new album and, more importantly, to not look back at the band’s most challenging years. The band is playing June 4 at the Grand Theatre at the Grand Sierra Resort and Casino.
Astbury’s disdain for social media and distracted listeners is evident on the new record and akin to that of a man who’d like the push the reset button on technology.
“What we see on the internet is really kind of existential chatter, isn’t it? Our band needs to very focused on the present and tend to not live constantly looking in the rear-view mirror. I don’t need to objectify myself with a diary, either,” Astbury said.
“I feel like we’re getting in a space to make better and better music. You will only hear from me about the present moment as we’re not in a history class. The dramatically sad aspect of today’s thinking is, unfortunately, so linear,” he said. “We worked on and off on this new record and I think that was to our advantage. I think we fleshed out a real body of work.”
At present, the live band is held together by the rhythm section of 10-year-veteran drummer John Tempesta, bassist Grant Fitzpatrick and keyboardist Damon Fox.
“Hidden City,” released in February, already has been performing well peaking at No. 19 in the U.K., charts and the ensuing shows have been selling out or have been at capacity without much ado.
“We didn’t pull the car over in 1995 and just stop. We’ve always been busy in one way or another. Today, people help determine when something is going to be a brand. However, I’m not looking for external validation, nor have I ever,” Astbury said. “I really think it’s inconsequential to where we are now.”
Those wondering if the band still delivers on all fronts need only see the band’s latest video for “Hinterland,” one of the newer singles.
“The concept of the video is quite simple. Myself and director Juan Azulay tried to make an area in Los Angeles look somewhat like a metropolis. It really could have been any city as the whole idea was to use the visuals as a spiritual awakening for everyone. It’s very symbolic of people beginning to wake up and realize the world around them,” he said.
Additionally, the band just completed a successful show with the recently reunited Guns N’ Roses in Mexico City.
“That show was great and, of course, we would love to play with them more. It’s really up to them if they want to have us back,” Astbury said.
“People may not realize it, but we have a relationship with them that goes back and are one of the few bands from that era that have good ties with them.”
We know, Ian. We know.