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The Cult Seek New Followers

After Doors of the 21st Century, Ian Astbury reforms his rock crew

February 27, 2006 3:29 PM ET

British rockers Ian Astbury and Billy Duffy have reformed the Cult for A Return to Wild, a nineteen-date cross-country tour kicking off March 1st in San Francisco. Three years down the line, Astbury claims that he put the band on hold, after the release of 2001's Beyond Good and Evil, to save it from imploding.

"We were one of the first bands to experience the whole sinking-of-the-Titanic which is the music industry. People were doing horrendous things to friends and co-workers," he says during a break from tour rehearsals in Los Angeles. "So the Cult was put on ice because I didn't want to destroy it."

In the years following, Duffy threw himself into projects, making music as Siddons with Alice in Chains guitarist Jerry Cantrell, as well as acting: He co-stars alongside Korn frontman Jonathan Davis in the upcoming horror film Sin-Jin Smyth. Meanwhile, Astbury took on the duties of the late Jim Morrison, touring with the Doors keyboardist Ray Manzarek and Robbie Krieger as the Doors of the 21st Century. His time with the legendary Sixties rockers -- who were recently forced to disassociate themselves from the "Doors" name after a legal battle with their former drummer, John Densmore -- inspired Astbury to reconsider his creative relationships.

"Working with those guys really helped me to finesse myself as a human being," he says. "Because all of a sudden, I wasn't 'Ian Astbury of the Cult' -- but I'm definitely not 'Ian Astbury of the Doors,' I had no delusions of that. I had to look at myself and my own shortcomings and strengths and deal with a lot of internal issues."

Astbury realized "the futility" of putting off a reconciliation with Duffy, and the two began talking again last fall. They went on to re-recruit bassist Chris Wyse, who played on Beyond, and drummer John Tempesta (White Zombie) for this spring's trek. The group, in production for just over a week, already has an eighteen-song set down, including "Wild Flower," "Wonderland" and their classic "She Sells Sanctuary."

"It's very exciting right now, because the rehearsals have been going so well and it's authentic," says the singer. "I'm playing the music, and I'm feeling the music. I've definitely been onstage with the Cult and not felt it -- and that's the worst feeling in the world. So this is very gratifying. These songs feel fresh."

Astbury insists, however, that we not call it a comeback. "This run of dates is called A Return to Wild -- not Resurrection, Insurrection, Sonic Interjection, Revival. It's fucking authentically real," he says. The name may be in response to Astbury's recent read of Jack London's Call of the Wild.

"I like the idea that we're men with guitars, and it is rock but it's not rawwwkkk. It's strong and it's virile and it's kind of like big boys playing with big-boy toys."

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Song Stories

“San Francisco Mabel Joy”

Mickey Newbury | 1969

A country-folk song of epic proportions, "San Francisco Mabel Joy" tells the tale of a poor Georgia farmboy who wound up in prison after a move to the Bay Area found love turning into tragedy. First released by Mickey Newbury in 1969, it might be more familiar through covers by Waylon Jennings, Joan Baez and Kenny Rogers. "It was a five-minute song written in a two-minute world," Newbury said. "I was told it would never be cut by any artist ... I was told you could not use the term 'redneck' in a song and get it recorded."

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