Astbury on critics, music snobbery, and raspberry jam:
This whole generation of kids who pride themselves on their knowledge of the entire discography of a band, like the Pitchfork Media kids, their critique about a thing is like, ‘Artist X: 5.3’ or ‘Artist C: 7.1.’ But then you actually look at their gestation of music and the thing that they don’t have is a cultural reference of the time that those albums were made in. So with all respect to critics, there’s a lot of self-importance in critics who almost do this intellectual bullying, the assumption that everybody out there has a college education. Most people don’t. Most people just work by intuition. And to me intuition’s something you can’t teach; it’s something you evolve. And that taste and intuition are something you can’t really articulate. That perspective is a clear perspective so, instead of critiquing work based upon a more academic knowledge, whereby you are educated in an academic situation, the actual fieldwork is so different, the conditions are completely different.
To me the best critic has always been the individual. You’re your own critic. For the most part, in my life, the things I’ve been turned on to have usually been a picture of a musician that looks exciting or compelling or whatever, or a friend saying, ‘Hey, check this out.’ It’s always been word of mouth. You have to be present. You have to taste the raspberry jam, as John Lennon said. I can’t explain the taste of raspberry jam. You’ve got to eat it. So that’s what’s wonderful about the visual medium and film. There it is. Right in front of you. You can see it. There’s not this little guy inside your head saying, ‘Okay, this is how you’re supposed to look at this.’ Who are you to tell me how to look at this? That’s what’s nice about getting a little bit older and you sort of grow into it. I know what I like and I know what I don’t like. My experiences inform me. A critic doesn’t inform me on how to look at a piece of work or a piece of art. It’s a great time for culture and culture’s accessible, not just for the lofty educated, wealthy, who make their money by dark means [laughs]. Slave owners and fucking exploiters…
Astbury on hope for the future and avoiding the nostalgic trap:
If you trust nature, if you trust the higher laws of nature and the universe, nature will correct itself. And no matter what we did to ourselves, what we did to our planet, nature will balance that out. For example, if you’re completely dying out on white bread, white sugar, pastas, potatoes in your cultural food group and then you’re looking at material like all these Seth Rogen films, if that’s your cultural diet then obviously you’re going to end up with cancer, in a manner of speaking. But if you’re eating raw, organic foods and looking at material that’s more stimulating and has that level of insight—I have two teenagers—and it’s really interesting to see what they’ll ingest in the culture. They will love something like Pineapple Express, but then they hear the White album and they’re absolutely blown, destroyed by that. My 14-year-old is obsessed with The Beatles and Bob Marley. And because of the Mozarts, Van Goghs, because of the ability of the artist to articulate exactly every level and aspect of an experience in a way that communicates, in a way that is compelling, in a way that draws you in, there’s subtext in there. Let’s put it that way. That’s what we’re missing. The subtext isn’t there. We’ve refined our cultural products. We’ve done the same thing we’ve done with our foods. We’ve taken all the nutrients out. All the nutrients have been extracted and what is fed is the sugar, the high fructose, instant sugar on your tongue. But for those of us who are going around talking in nostalgic terms, we have to check ourselves. All that nostalgic talk doesn’t serve anything. When I sit down with people sometimes they go, ‘Well, it used to be this way and used to be that way.’ Get over it. Because right now is all we’ve got and this is what’s going on right now, so engage.
It’s your job as an artist or a cultural observer to engage in this right now. Yeah, 78 RPMs used to be fantastic; I like black and white films without dialogue in them. But that doesn’t serve anything. You’re not present. As an artist you’ve got to be present. Great artists are present. They define their times and reflect their times. Get out there and contribute. We need contributors in our culture now. The attitude should be, ‘Give me a shovel. Where do I start digging?’
The Cult will be performing on Friday, Sept.11 at Terminal 5. For more, visit thecult.us.