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The Cult's Ian Astbury Looks Towards a Post-Album Future

"The old way just isn't working," he says

Ian Astbury performs with The Cult.
Dana Distortion
December 20, 2013 10:40 AM ET

The Cult are on the verge of wrapping up an exhausting five-month world tour where they played their landmark 1987 album Electric every night, and they're already thinking about their next move. "We're playing around with the idea of putting new music out as capsules," says Cult frontman Ian Astbury. "That means we'd release two new songs every three months grouped with a live recording of songs from our catalog plus visual elements. We'd do it in all formats: vinyl, digital downloads, CDs…Everything available. It'll be dropped for a limited time in a quick strike and then it's gone."

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The only problem is that the group owes an album to UK indie label Cooking Vinyl. "They aren't interested in the capsule idea," says Astbury with a sigh. "They want to put CDs on shelves. I'm like, 'What shelves?' Even the shelf space at Best Buy is shrinking; I was in Whole Foods the other day and they were selling vinyl…But I'm amazed at the resistance to my idea. We've even tried the self-funding route, but when you're pioneering something you constantly have to go around and educate people about what this is. This a fresh perspective. The old way just isn't working." 

Even though they don't know exactly how their new music will reach fans, Astbury and Cult guitarist Billy Duffy are busy writing songs together. "Something is going to come out in 2014 or 2015," says Astbury. "We haven't locked in a producer and right now we're going to let the music dictate where we go. We're not tied into breaking onto the Billboard Hot 100 and getting on television and all that stuff."

The group was in a very different position in 1989 after the release of their commercial breakthrough Sonic Temple. Their singles "Sweet Soul Sister," "Sun King" and "Fire Woman" were all over rock radio and MTV. They were invited onto the MTV Video Music Awards to perform the latter song. "We did certain things back then that left us out in the cold though," says Astbury. "We didn't do certain things to secure our seat the $20,000 a table Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, middle-age white guy back-slap fest. I came out of post-punk. That ethos stayed with us, even when we were signed to Warner Bros. There was a certain cynicism about palling up with record company executives. I was so reluctant to toe the party line."

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The Cult broke up for brief periods in the Nineties and mid-2000s, but have been working very steadily since 2006. Ticket sales surged four years ago when they began playing their 1985 album Love at their concerts, and this year's Electric tour has been another big success. "We don't just do the album, an encore and then split," says Astbury. "We come out after the album and do another ten or twelve songs. Also, we'll do this one Electric tour and that's it. We're not big nostalgists. We want to use our body of work in a creative way that's not cynical. This is about maintaining our momentum our profile and our connection with our audience and it's not like we're using Twitter and Instagram every five minutes."

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Dana Distortion
Ian Astbury performs with The Cult.
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