The terrorist attacks that happened during the Eagles of Death Metal concert in Paris this past November struck a chord with the Cult singer Ian Astbury.
“I have performed at Le Bataclan on four occasions and was deeply shocked by what occurred on the evening of November 13th,” the veteran vocalist wrote in a press release.
Shaken by the events, Astbury decided to create a lyric video for “Deeply Ordered Chaos,” a track from the band’s latest album, Hidden City
, which took its initial inspiration from a Francis Bacon quotation.
“In the video, we chose to depict scenes of wildlife and outer space to create a counterpoint to the wave of violent images we are constantly bombarded with,” Astbury explains in a recent phone interview. “[We wanted to] acknowledge the profoundness of being.”
He admits that the incident and the risks that can be part of the current concert climate do give him a bit of pause when it comes to what he does for a living. But he does his best to approach things positively.
“I put my faith in humanity in a positive way that, we’re in an environment that celebrates ultimately love and coming together, compassion,” he says. “Even though some of the subject material can be about isolation or discontent. It can be, to say that the subject material of a perceived positive nature, introspection, dark romanticism, whatever. [But] we promote diversity and cultural conversation: we're inclusive of everyone — we don't reject. We don't represent a certain sector of society or anything like that. We're constantly redefining ourselves. New information comes in. We throw out the old information. We retain the new information.”
Astbury says he’s experienced “malevolence” at concerts, and he's not a fan of it.
“I've seen guns at shows in various parts of the world,” he says. “I've had a gun pulled on me at a show. It occurs. And we do live in a world where this is a concern and definitely security is a concern at concerts. I think that's a part of the industry where people are really beginning to question their security going out for an evening. The things, like in Russia when they were having the Chechen bombers at the concerts, it was like a suicide bomber blew himself up at a concert in Russia. We don't [always] hear about these things but it does happen. It brings it home, I mean, especially Eagles of Death Metal and Le Bataclan. You know, I'm acquainted with Eagles of Death Metal. Le Bataclan, I'm very familiar with. It could've easily been the Cult, it could've easily been any other band that has played that venue. Many bands have played that venue; it could've easily been somebody else. But [the band], Jesse and Dave. I thought they handled that with incredible eloquence and real dignity.”
, the band’s 10th studio album — and the first in almost four years, completes a trilogy of work that began in 2007 with the release of Born Into This
“The idea of the trilogy really kind of came towards the end of the album,” Astbury says. “I'm not sure who was the one that kind of made an observation that we’ve had certain periods throughout seasons of the Cult, obviously there’s Love
and Sonic Temple
that fit together a certain narrative. In some ways, these three records, Born into This
, Choice of Weapon
and Hidden City
also form a certain narrative. I think in this instance it's to do with post 9/11, post decline of the music industry, 21st century, the rise of digital, the rise of environmental disasters, global conflict and economic uncertainties, etc. I'm not going to be CNN about this, we all kind of know what we've been looking at and experiencing.”
Legendary producer Bob Rock, a longtime associate who produced the band’s landmark Sonic Temple release in 1989, returned in the closing moments of the recording sessions of Choice of Weapon
and he was back behind the boards to shepherd the band through the process of making the new album, marking the fifth time that he’s worked with the group.
“Bob's a family member,” says Astbury. “You know, he’s like our Icelandic….he's a patriarch. Bob's an incredible [mediator]. His shoulders are broad enough to take me and [guitarist] Billy [Duffy] in the studio because we're hellions, I mean, we have at it in there.”
His presence was a helpful one, as Astbury points out, when it came to keeping the two sides in harmony.
“Billy's more likely to turn up, to get a certain volume, a certain weight, a certain tonality,” Astbury says. “It's kind of like dealing with a wild animal that you have to harness and subject to your will to get it to go somewhere which is we're working with wild, untamed energy. That's something about rock music, rock and roll music, the guitar player that is so unique and that's a developed skill, it's a human being who is manipulating this sound and this energy. The hands turn the dials, the ability to become one with an instrument. That's a very unique and devolving skill set, something we're not seeing.”
There has been an evolutionary spirit within the band since its earliest days and even now, members remain keen to explore new avenues.
“The Cult is definitely a certain animal. We typically are not part of the mainstream conversation although we have influenced the mainstream,” says Astbury. “We’ve influenced the cultural conversation in many ways. We've been architects of where we find ourselves now in many ways. We've embraced genres of music and philosophies very early on, you know, whether it be something like being a part of the Tibetan Freedom concert or being a part of Gathering of the Tribes, pre-dating Lollapalooza.”
Astbury says that the experience of putting together the Gathering of the Tribes festival with legendary concert promoter Bill Graham in 1990 was an incredible one. Held at Shoreline Amphitheatre in Mountain View, Calif., over two days, the event presented a genre-bending menu of musical entertainment, featuring acts like Indigo Girls, Soundgarden, Public Enemy, the Cramps and many others.
“These people [Graham and his associates] were actually able to actualize my vision and my vision was to put hip-hop and rock on the same stage because MTV, I got a whiff of it,” he recalls. “It was like a sort of Life Magazine
article and it kind of defined the way that youth culture was going to look moving into the 21th century. Already the media and MTV were beginning to define who we are, what we're going to look like and give it back to us and I was like ‘No! No, you're not.' You're definitely not going to tell us who we are and what we look like. No, thank you. And hip-hop at the time, I was madly in love with N.W.A. We used to play N.W.A. through the PA [system] every night before we went on stage. I loved N.W.A. and then I was in love with Guns N’ Roses at the same time as well. They were like a band that I felt that the Cult was part of their story and had that kind of spiritual connection to hip hop and had that spiritual connection to rock.”
With Gathering of the Tribes, Astbury sought to explore those connections and bring them to the concert stage.
“At that time rock and hip-hop were almost symbiotic; you couldn't separate the two,” he says. “It was like two tribes that were really united in vision. Like N.W.A, Ice-T, Public Enemy, we all were like the same age, railing against the same things. Obviously, [we were in] different social economic environments and that kind of thing but essentially, we had a lot in common and my idea is to put those two bands on the same [bill]. I didn't even think about the Cult — it was like, [let’s] put N.W.A. and Guns N Roses on the stage and then bring an indigenous [element into it as well] because the indigenous weren’t being represented.”
And the festival had an element of altruism to it too.
“We had everybody from Greenpeace to Rock the Vote's first public outing was Gathering of the Tribes,” Astbury says. “Then there was observers on the outside in the mainstream that were like, ‘Hey we can monetize this’ and they did, and it became Lollapalooza. They monetized it, took the blueprint. They monetized it.”
The Cult, Holy White Hounds, 7 p.m. Tuesday, March 29, Hard Rock Live, 10777 Northfield Rd., Northfield. Tickets: $32.50-$50, hrrrocksinonorthfieldpark.com.