Patrick Prince of Powerline magazine recently conducted an interview with THE CULT guitarist Billy Duffy. A couple of excertps from the chat follow below.
Powerline: The [new THE CULT] album [“Choice Of Weapon”] seems so spontaneous and raw. I mean, there’s no fucking around. It’s right to the point.
Duffy: Yeah, it kind of came out that way. It just sort of what turned out. The selection of tracks were written over different periods, so they kind of reflect different feels. They had been written in different places: New York, some were in the desert in California, some were right in West Hollywood. That was the initial phase and then it just started escalating from there, you know.
Powerline: With some bands, you hear five years off and you think there’s gonna be a lot of tinkering, there’s gonna be a lot of creative indecision on the album.
Duffy: Yeah, if you think that musicians, all they do is music. But if you think that we have lives and families and interests as well as music and the band … I think that’s one of the changes that happens when you become a little older — you sort of generate a life that has more facets than music. The actual trick is to keep music as important and vital to you as it was, so you don’t get distracted by stuff. You know, it wasn’t like we were lollygagging. I mean, we toured every year since 2006. Not heavy like we used to. We tour more when we have an album but we’ve certainly done dates — 60-70 shows a year, maybe more. So the band’s been … I wouldn’t say inactive but I think we were just responding to the way the music business is now, and the fact that you don’t really sell records. Nobody really buys them in sufficient quantities to make them cost-effective. I’m sure you talk to loads of guys who say the same thing, but the music’s kind of vibrant and it’s the lifeblood of a band, and certainly with HE CULT, that’s really our main reason.
Powerline: THE CULT never fit into any particular genre, which is a good thing.
Duffy: It certainly gives you longevity and that’s really the most important thing. Because we do it ’cause we enjoy it, and always have done. But, on the other end, you might say that if you don’t particularly dominate one genre, you fall between two stools, and people don’t quite now what you are. So there can be a little bit of possible confusion on how to market the band, if you will, when those things matter.
Powerline: And how has your relationship with Ian [Astbury, vocals] changed as far as songwriting?
Dufy: We just show up and get on with it. We’re at a point in our relationship where we see each other for a few months and once we get down to business, it’s business as usual. The only difference is, I say, is that me and Ian forensically go through all the guitar riffs that I write. Ian writes his own stuff. He writes his own songs and stuff. But the vast majority of THE CULT‘s music is guitar riff-orientated and it has been since day one in 1983. It’s like the music suggests a certain feel, mood and emotion and Ian kind of goes into his lyric stuff and starts ramping on it, and luckily for me, we got a certain chemistry that works. We don’t have to try too hard. And I know this because I tried working with other singers who are great friends of mine and very talented guys but … There’s one song on the album, “The Wolf”, where it took a long time to get that song together. I had that riff for a number of years. And it really took Ian to come in and nail it. He just proved to me that he has a special relationship to the music that I do. And no disrespect to the guys that I work with. It’s just that that chemistry is very unique. Very hard to find. Anybody that knows anything about music history knows that. I’ve been blessed. But, yeah, since grunge, they don’t want to do a lot of solos, and there’s always that ’90s kind of cookie-monster stuff where the guitar would be very clean and very linear and almost robotic and then they drop into the chorus and it’s really like a heavy metal hip-hop vibe and then they go back to the clean. You know, the originator was “Smells Like Teen Spirit”, really. But that stuff had a lot of real emotion, NIRVANA. What followed that was a little antiseptic and soulless, So, for me, I couldn’t sense any of the blues in there. In any way, shape or form. It was all just from the head, and not from the heart. It was as it came across to me as a consumer. It didn’t really resonate with me. I’m thankful that people have gotten back to possibly a more organic way of playing, and hopefully young guitar players won’t be afraid to express themselves. There’s a lot of savants that do meaningless guitar solos for hours. That really doesn’t do anything that hasn’t been done. But when people take the spirit of that [solos] and move forward with it, I think that’s what’s really exciting.
Powerline: You see a lot of kids today wearing the old-school t-shirts and really getting into the older stuff.
Duffy: I think people will always be drawn to quality and I think if people have to work a little bit harder to find some cool stuff it’s all the better. I think everything’s a little too instant, a little too easy right now. And I’m all for convenience and like my iThis and my iThat — I’m totally aboard — but I think in order to create a healthy musical environments going forward , it’s great that people want to work a bit harder. I think they get the deeper rewards. And I am all for it. They [kids] go for those iconic images and I’m thankful once in a while I see a CULT shirt that’s worn in the same way. And it either makes me feel great, or old. Or both.
Read the entire interview from Powerline.