The Cult have begun a lengthy tour to promote their brilliant new album ‘Hidden City’. The bands longtime guitarist Billy Duffy took time out to speak to Mark Millar, the next day after playing their smallest show ever.
How was last night’s show at the Scotch of St. James?
BD: It was great; it was the smallest gig I think I have ever done. It literally is tiny, I have been in bigger hotel rooms but it did sound good and the fans had a great time. It was good to keep the bands hand in. We played a new song that we had been rehearsing, so all in all it was good times and it was good for the vibes and the general team spirit and created a bit of a buzz.
What was the new song you played?
BD: It was Birds of Paradise from the new album. Nobody ever plays a brand new song live because otherwise it’ll be on YouTube and it won’t be new anymore. You can’t play a new song live, that’s all dead with the internet, but it was the first time we had played that song live ever.
There have been some legends that have played in that venue over the years.
BD: Yeah there has. It did seem like the appropriate place. It was just a random idea of mine to do something a bit different while we were in London doing press before the tour. I thought it would be more fun. The gig had to be cool, I heard it was small and they weren’t lying, but it just works, it’s a fun little place. It couldn’t have gone better so I was dead happy with that.
I really like the new album ‘Hidden City’. How long did it take to record from the last album?
BD: It’s basically a continuation of the last record. Ian has gone on record and said it was a trilogy and that might have come from our manager but it’s one of those things that everyone has locked into. I think it’s more connected to Choice of Weapon really. I think Born Into This in 2007 was done really quickly. The whole thing was done in 36 days, so that was a whole different vibe. This one was a bit more like experiences we had with Choice of Weapon, with what we did wrong and what we did right. We fine tuned that and I think as a result we have a more balanced album. I think the songs are stronger and more diverse and they were allowed because we did more frequent but small sessions culminating in the album all under the control of Bob Rock. It was a cohesive focussed thing and we were in control of it and we all feel pretty good that it was as good as could be. Choice of Weapon was a great record and people liked it, it could have been better, whereas with Hidden City it was as good as it was going to get.
Was it a given that Bob Rock would produce again?
BD: I think it was the fact that Bob Rock was involved from the ground up, even when me and Ian got together for song writing sessions. Bob was guiding the creative process and me and Ian had a referee to help get the material because you have got 2 song writers. It’s not Ian’s songs and Billy’s songs. We have to pull our resources and write together and that requires a certain amount of curation. You have to get the vibes right. You can’t rush it, I think that was the problem with Choice of Weapon, we ran out of time and money because we were doing it in an old fashioned sense of – We will go into the studio with some songs and it’ll be alright.
We had some songs and it kind of stalled creatively. For a minute us and the very talented producer Chris Goss just ran out of gas collectively and Bob Rock came in to bail us out and finish it off, and that worked to a certain degree. So we thought it was fair to give Bob the next album from the beginning. He’s done four or five albums with us now, he’s like family.
Did you ever think the Cult would still be around ten albums later?
BD: I thought what me and Ian had was very enduring when we got together. It was kind of a pragmatic pooling of resources. When we got together to do the Death Cult in 1983, Ian searched me out and found me for a reason. We are both Taureans our birthdays are a day apart. There’s a strong underlying bond to it, so I never thought in those terms because you don’t when you’re in your twenties. Initially we were just desperate to make it then we did make it we were desperate to have fun and enjoy it and see how far we could push it without it all exploding, and that lasted us until about 1994 and then Ian exploded and we broke up. We rode out Grunge and went through all the ‘hair metal’ period having been supposedly a post-punk band, whatever that was, so we have ridden out a lot of stuff. We just do albums now when we’ve got enough good songs.
We could definitely churn out stuff. Could I write an album in a couple of weeks? Probably, but I’m pretty sure it would be rubbish. I’m proud that in certain quarters people are comparing the new record to what are considered our classic albums of the 80s and that great, it’s the best compliment I can get. I’m proud of it, I’m proud of Ian and the effort we put in, we definitely don’t phone it in. Were not the most perfect of bands, we are a gut band, we go on feelings and emotions and gut. We are not really too calculating. Sometimes you get stuff wrong but I think we have got more stuff right than we have ever got wrong.
Would you rather be in the studio or out playing live?
BD: I’m more of a live guy although I do enjoy the studio when I’ve got a guy like Bob Rock to lean on who’s just a very alpha male organised focussed man. I respond to organisation and a bit of discipline and a bit of focussed tasking. I’m not into sitting around and waiting for the muse to take over and something magical to happen, because when it doesn’t its depressing. So I like to feel like I’m working when I’m in the studio. I’ve never considered the studio a playground apart from when we did the Electric album in England and the results of that was an enormous bill and an album we had to re-record in New York, we learned when the lifestyle takes over from the work, and the work suffers. We got back on the horse with Rick Rubin in New York and re-did Electric really quickly. Somewhat frugally because Rick is the Pol Pott of record production but it was what it was and historically I think everybody could see that we were ahead of the curve in terms of the way music was going and rock was coming back. The history is there for all to see and that album and Appetite for Destruction came out and things changed.
You have a big tour ahead of you. Are you looking forward to getting stuck in and playing the tunes?
BD: Yeah, I would say that it was our insistence that we play as many as the far flung corners of the UK as we could. We didn’t want to just play 4 shows and bugger off, I’m proud of the new album and I want to play it everywhere I can. I think a live experience is really important for the fans. I think live experiences where people have gone to a Cult gig and had a really good time, cements them as lifelong fans. They might come and go to certain gigs but once they’re in they are devoted to the band and I think it’s important to go and honour that and get on a boat to Ireland or wherever.
We can’t do it all the time but when we can and particularly with the new album it’s not a coincidence that we are doing 13 shows in the UK and Ireland this time. Realistically that’s a pretty good tour for the UK. I’m in a good space, the band are dead happy we have a slightly new line up, we’ve got a keyboard player, we have changed things around. I think people need to come and see the show; it’s a good time to come and see the Cult. If your ever scratching your head thinking “I really should go and the Cult” you should come on this tour, it’s going to be a good one.
Check out The Cult 2016 tour dates HERE
Fav Band(s): U2, R.E.M, The Stone Roses, Oasis, The Verve, The Charlatans, Happy Mondays, Mansun + loads more
Fav Album: Achtung Baby – U2
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