Breaking away from the normal cycle of releasing an album and touring for years at a time, The Cult is blazing out into uncharted territories with the new capsule format, and no record label.
The new Capsule format has the band recording a few songs at a time and releasing them with extra live track, videos and film montages into what Ian calls “a true art”, and then releasing them with coinciding tours .
TST talked to Ian Astbury of The Cult about this new venture and what he feels is the rebirth of the Cult.
TST: You’ve been on tour since mid-September, how’s the tour going so far?
Ian: We hit Europe earlier and we are on our second leg of our American tour, it’s been incredibly long.
TST: Last year was the Love Live tour where you played the entire Love album. Are you doing anything special with this tour?
Ian: We’re doing a lot revolving around the Capsule format of how we release new music. So far we’ve released two new songs. “Everyman” and “Woman is a Star”, which came out on the first Capsule, which was also accompanied by a film Prelude to Ruins and two live tracks. And we’re about to release our second Capsule, which is “Embers”, “Until the Light Takes Us”, some live tracks and another film. The idea is that anybody can release music once they record it but we’re releasing it, we’re filming it in a more instantaneous way and we’re engaging our audience a lot more intimately. So, that’s kind of the intentions behind what we’re doing right now.
TST: I read that you were involved in the films that accompanied Capsule 1 . Is that some of your work?
Ian: Yeah, I directed on the first Capsule. Prelude to Ruins is actually a montage of a longer film that is being edited right now. We actually picked up a Canon 5D camera, which is just a base DSLR, but it’s quite diverse and by using different lenses you can have a pretty incredible tool for filmmaking. So, I’ve been fascinated by that process, and the fact that filmmaking and visual elements are really important, along with the culture behind it. Embracing that is really moving forward as an artist in the 21st century.
TST: With the popularity of sites like Youtube, everything is really going visual.
Ian: Oh, it has been for quite a while, absolutely.
TST: With this new format you’re delaying your releases. Is this so the release coincides with the tour, or is there a specific reason for releasing the Capsules?
Ian: Well, you know, it’s a new way of delivering music for us, so we’re pretty much doing it ourselves. There’s some stuff in the works. The first Capsule, after it was released, we certainly found out very quickly from our audience what they didn’t like in terms of the delivery system, regional coded DVDs and that sort of thing. But we very quickly got up to speed with that for the second Capsule.
For touring, it’s something that we constantly do. It’s something that’s continuous. We started out as a live band. We’re a live rock and roll band. We’re already booked through 2012. I mean, there’s a whole planet out there. We’ve booked dates all across Europe. We’re constantly working; it’s just the nature of what we do. We can’t take to much time off. It’s a lot of being on the road and in the studio working on projects.
The second Capsule will come out on this tour, while we’re out performing these songs. We’re performing “Embers” right now, which is the lead song off of the second Capsule, and we’re also performing “Everyman” and “Woman is a Star”, which is from the first Capsule. It’s interesting, because as we’re performing them live they’re kind of taking on different forms, and are actually growing during the live performances, it is very interesting. They’re as fresh as you can get.
TST: Was there any trepidation switching over to the Capsule format, instead of adhering to the norm of album tour, album tour?”
Ian: Oh yeah, we feel like albums have become cannibalized. Touring, it feels like the audience has entitlement because most artists come through often, and there are special artists who don’t come through ever. Now, there are so many artists on the road, so the actual idea of going to a concert is commonplace. So, engaging the audience based on the content you’re putting out as you tour, it forces the artist to work harder. You get to show them what you’re actually creating. We aren’t looking for a hand out from any record label or benefactor to sort this out for me, we’re doing it ourselves. We’re open to the idea of perhaps making another studio album, if it arises. Right now, we’re really focused on the Capsule format and the film elements.
TST: I do believe that the Cult has the fan base to work with the Capsule format. And the extra things about the Capsules is the live songs and the remixes. Do you see this catching on with Cult fans?
Ian: One thing is formatting, but the quality of what goes into the Capsules is what matters. I mean, some of our fans have been complaining about the live tracks, like why are there live tracks? Well, those live songs have been performed with the full integrity that goes into recorded works; they’re not put there for padding. It is put there because we believe in this music; it gives you an opportunity to see the different live performances and the different interpretations of the music.
In regards of the value of our music; we value our music. We don’t think that music should be given away for free. You don’t go to McDonald’s and be given a free hamburger, you know? Can’t walk into a gas station and get free gas. A lot blood, sweat and tears goes into the creativity of the music, and I don’t subscribe to this current desperate industry panic mode of giving away music for free, nobody asked the artist, and I feel that is incredibly irresponsible.
It’s not just about the artists, there’s an entire community that the entertainment industry supports. So, we’re living in a type of society where we expel more music. I understand ripping some things, maybe sharing them with your friends, but the industry is in a freefall, and in a way it’s a very dangerous place. The middle ground and marketing man is more interested in marketing pop. The arts are not supported the United States, so you’ve got to roll up your sleeves and come up with your own solutions, and part of our solution is the capsule format.
TST: Are you making the Capsules available on tour?
Ian: Yeah, we sell them on tour. It’s available for download on the Capsule store. It’s also available on iTunes. We release the single for two weeks, and after that the entire capsule should be available.
TST: I saw a lot of live shows available in the Capsule store. Are you recording every live show?
Ian: Not every show is available, but the USB are available for certain ones. To be honest with you, it’s really only there for the people that want it. It’s a format that we’re working with Aderra. We are in a partnership with Aderra with the running of Capsule store without any label. Our music department is Aderra and they have been kind enough to step in and help with production and administration of this work. They’re responsible for passing the vinyl, the jewel discs, the packaging, and helping with those elements. So it’s an experimental relationship right now, and so far it’s been really positive.
TST: You collaborated with Masters of Reality‘s Chris Goss on the Capsules. What did he bring to the table?
Ian: Well Chris doesn’t come in with agenda, kind of like; his whole thing is to set up the song. Find the real truth of the story to the song, with no real agenda other than to take it to its own natural conclusion. It seems to appear there was a commercial awareness around certain material and maybe the studio seem to become a bit of a factory after a while. They have higher expectations, commercial expectations. You have benefactors at major labels, they want to sell product, and they don’t care if you are an artist, so they put their hands in there and there are a lot of conflicting elements.
So, working with a producer, especially Chris Goss, the agenda was making art. The agenda is taking songs and taking them to a natural conclusion. Goss has been incredibly industrious and incredibly influential. I think, in many ways, we’re growing into the band that we always wanted to be. We are finally arriving at a real band. We have played with John, Chris and Mike for the past four years and it feels like a real band. Now, I think the Cult is much more integrated and together, and there’s more of a stage to explore things, without the pressure of trying to come up with the top 40 smash.
That’s another planet, that’s just another world. We’ve had success. We’ve had pop success, but we’ve also had success in the post-modern community and the hard rock community, but with this new format we’re just trying to be the best songwriters we can and attempting to really engage the creative process.
TST: Having recently seen Boris here at the Masquerade in Atlanta, the sonic aura they resonated was amazing. How did the BXI project come about? (BXI E.P. is Ian’s Collaboration with Boris)
Ian: I’ve had a long term love affair with of Boris, since actually about five years ago around the Pink release. I fell in love with them and initially tried to get them to open for the Cult through their agent, but our schedules never coincided. Eventually I got to meet Stephen O’Malley and Greg Anderson from Sunn O))) and Southern Lord and they put me in touch with Boris.
I had communication with their manager. They actually proposed collaboration late last year and sent me 10 tracks. Instead of getting involved in an album, I thought it would be cool if we just pick out three tracks and make those happen. So we recorded those songs in May in Tokyo, and it was out by august, and September we preformed with BXI, Sunn O))) and Boris at the Masonic Temple in Brooklyn.
I’m going to perform with them in Tokyo on November 28th. It’s been an incredible experience working with Boris in their studio in Japan. Again, it’s just a way to learn through artist collaborations, and I’ll bring it back to The Cult. It all comes back to The Cult, because it makes a better Cult and stronger Cult. It was a very gratifying experience with Boris. It all comes back to, I just want to be better at my craft, and I’m really grateful for the opportunity.
TST: With all your collaborations, Messiah, Tony Iommi, Unkle, Slash and Boris, which has been your favorite?
Ian: They’re all different. The work with Unkle was very gratifying because I introduced James to Chris Goss, who produced the whole War Stories album. So I feel like I had a hand in that particular project and recorded and wrote two of the songs, one being Burn My Shadow. Obviously, the Boris material (Magikal Child) is very fresh. I think Magikal Child and Burn My Shadow are very important songs for me.
It’s like trying to pick your favorite kid, you know. I have affection for all of them, Slash as well. I have known Slash for twenty years, and when Slash picks up the phone and ask you to come in the studio, you don’t say no. You don’t say no to Slash, you know?
TST: You’ll be here in Atlanta at the Tabernacle on November 12th. Are there any last words for the fans?
Ian: I think we’ve played the Tabernacle three times now, and it’s one of our favorite venues in the United States. I think it is one of the most beautiful venues, and I love coming Atlanta.
The show right now, the band’s on fire. It’s really high energy. I think it’s a really exciting time. We are playing some deeper songs like White, Gone, NYC, Spiritwalker and the newer songs, Every Man, Woman Is A Star and Embers, and classics like Wild Flower, Sanctuary, Rain and Firewoman .
We have been changing it up. We are getting ready to do a major British tour, something we haven’t done in a decade. So I think our American fans are going to benefit from us digging deeper in to our catalog.
It is a real transitional time for the band and I think it is really an exciting time because we are creating these new songs and we are playing them as we go. We were in the studio last week working on two new songs for soundtracks and we have studio time booked in December.We’re touring in January, more studio time in February , and a major tour of Canada in May. There is a lot coming.
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