Extended Interview with Ian Astbury of The Cult

I agree with you, but it seems like what you’re saying contradicts heavy metal’s whole stereotype. Meaning, women in videos are overly sexualized, and then groupies of course…

Absolutely. I think it’s just people looking for a father or a mother, recognition. Look at me aren’t I beautiful? Aren’t I important? Some people go to extremes to do that, which is why we have the pornography industry. It’s the same archetype, looking for mothers and fathers for recognition. If you’ve got real love in your life, you don’t need to do stuff like that. A real recognition, real connection with another human being. I mean, there’s always going to be that part of society that does it’s stuff behind closed doors and documents it and shares it with other people, but we’ve always had that. Prostitution is probably one of the oldest professions, along with soldiering, right? I’m not naïve enough to think that we can eradicate all of human behavioral traits, but I do know that we can really start to readdress the balance, in terms of basic day-to-day because, definitely, life’s out of balance. I see it affecting my own life, coming into my life, and I don’t like it, but I address it wherever I see it. It’s not like I’m on some sort of righteous crusade or that I’m pretending that I’m more clever than anyone or shaming people, embarrassing people. I don’t want to do that. Well, sometimes I do [laughs]. Sometimes I’ll open my mouth and say something and it’s just like, ‘Oh! Did I really say that?’

I did want to make a point of asking about The Cult’s September 11th show at Terminal 5. Was that intentional or coincidence?

It was chance. We didn’t set out to do that. It’s interesting because we were opening for Aerosmith one month after 9/11. We played Madison Square Garden and went down to Ground Zero. There was such a somber mood in the city. New York was definitely on its knees. It just brought a lot of reality home, and not in terms of being exposed to terrorist threat or violence, but just the fragility of human life and how an event can so quickly turn things on their head. How exposed we are and how vulnerable and the fact that the father really isn’t in the house to protect us. Mommy and Daddy aren’t there. The next show we did after New York was in DC so we drove by The Pentagon. In three days we saw Ground Zero and The Pentagon, only a month in because we played November 11th, which is Armistice Day, strangely enough. All the debris was still there. Trucks were still bringing it all out and the shards of the second tower were still there. It’s definitely a modern benchmark or symbol, especially in North America where people all know where they were when that moment occurred. Everybody has an emotional response to it from Howard Stern saying ‘Bomb all the ragheads’ to people with more philosophical responses saying, ‘Well, we kind of exposed ourselves and that’s what we’re going to get.’ There’s all different points of view. I think we can use days like that to draw people in and sell them on something like an alternative way of being, maybe open their minds up. We examine days like that. Like the idea of the city being silent for even one minute on September 11th would be a lovely thing. People would have a chance for reflection, not just about the event but about their own life and family, about what being a human being really means and the gravity of that, the profoundness of that.

AS: I guess I’m surprised that something as simple as a moment of silence isn’t practiced in the city on that day.

IA: No, it’s not, but it’s something I tend to practice in my own life. It’s not something that really comes into The Cult’s performance but it is something that permeates through my entire body of work, everything I’m involved in has that consciousness. I constantly advocate being quiet. Like studying Tibetan Buddhism. A friend of mine gave me Chogyam Trungpa’s Cutting Through Spiritual Materialism which talks about attachments to philosophies and ideologies and religious doctrines as almost an excuse for a certain behavior when, really what you should do, is drop all of the dogma. Attachment to this dogma. In reality it’s about being quiet, truly, without any robes or shaved heads or beads or crystals or iconic images of worship. Just sit and be quiet and listen to that internal voice and then you will hear the true sound of the universe. I advocate that. I advocate it in my songs and I advocate it from time to time on stage. I’ll be quiet. I won’t say anything. Between the time that we’re changing a set, like between songs, I won’t address the audience, I’ll just stand there. I think last night I just stood there. The audience is just staring at me and I think, about after a minute, I pretended to look at my watch and said, ‘I can do this all night long. Isn’t this kind of cool?’ People get uncomfortable with that. When I was with Ray and Robby doing The Doors’ body of work, there are some wonderful moments, like in the song ‘When the Music’s Over’ the singer calls all of the cues so I can keep sections going as long as I wanted. I’ll keep it going and going in complete silence. People would shout out. When they did that, I just kept it going on longer. And if it went on for an uncomfortable amount of time I might say something like, ‘Until you’re quiet we’re not going on.’ Isn’t silence terrifying?


It is. I think we’re not – now, wait a minute. You were just silent and I started talking. See?

It’s terrifying. We have to fill up every space, every moment. Just to be quiet is such an incredible thing and it’s free. It’s such an incredible resource and that’s part of the thing about our culture missing out on all of these real simple solutions. Common sense. Be quiet for a minute of the day and put women in positions of power. Simple. Make it so. Let it go and see what happens. What have you got to lose? It’s free.