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Billy Duffy | Interview in Abu Dhabi

'The Cult' is here to stay

It's just like a marriage, says guitarist Billy Duffy of being in the rock band.
So will The Cult go on and on?

By Orlando Crowcroft Business News Editor


Photo///Ahmed Kutty/Gulf News


The dressing room backstage at Yas Arena smells like scented candles, which The Cult singer Ian Astbury is quick to point out are not his. On a table by the door is a box of Frosties, various bags of crisps and mineral water. USA Today lies on the coffee table. It's slightly tense, but all very civilised, until we realise we're in the wrong room.

tabloid!'s pre-show date is not with The Cult's controversial frontman, but with guitarist Billy Duffy, who greets us just next door with a firm handshake and a disarming Manchester charm. Same room, same snacks, no candles. So this is what backstage at a Cult concert looks like. Not massively rock n' roll.

"We're pretty straight-laced," explains Duffy.

"I can still get in the same sized jeans I wore 10 years ago, just about. It's a bit of work, I have to avoid the cheese plates, get in the gym a bit. But that's what keeps you vital, actually.

"I learnt that from going out with Aerosmith in '89 when I was still partying. We opened for Aerosmith and they'd just cleaned up, we're in the dressing room and it's all, like, healthy."

The Cult, of course, have played with pretty much everybody since they started out back in 1983. And, while they have had their issues, they've aged well. While some of the bands who stated out supporting them, such as Guns N' Roses, have long since risen and descended into farce, The Cult are still here. It can't only be healthy living that has led to that longevity.

"We're the tortoise, aren't we? The tortoise wins, doesn't it?" Duffy says.

"No, it's just like a marriage, being in a band. I honestly believe it is almost like a dumb love for doing what we do.

"Not everybody in a band wants to do it. Guys end up in bands by accident, and then they grow up and think, I don't really like the lifestyle, and if the band isn't successful, they're like, you know what? I think I'm going to get a real job. Not everybody can spend the time, make the sacrifices.

"Nowadays it's different. We're middle-aged guys, kids, wives and all that, but when you're in your 20s and 30s, family and life took a back seat. That's why Jamie Stewart, our original bass player, went after 10 years. He just couldn't do the touring. He said, ‘I love playing in The Cult but the lifestyle, I can't do it. I want to have a home life, I want to live, I can't live out of a suitcase any more.'"

The partnership between Astbury and Duffy has often been a tumultuous one. A typical guitarist vs lead singer set-up, really. It's often appeared from the outside that Duffy is left to deal with many of Astbury's very public decisions — such as his decision to join the Doors revival some years back — or, more recently, his very public comments that The Cult would stop writing albums.


"That was Ian's quote, not mine, but I think what he meant was that he felt that the whole concept of an album as we understood it had pretty much died, because of technology. That process of going into a shop and buying a CD is just on its way out," says Duffy.

"It was kind of taken as we'll never make a new album, but it wasn't that at all. You can't qualify at the time, so we have to qualify it now. He loves doing new music, probably more than I do. It can be a bit of a struggle after 27, 28 years."

It's ironic, really, because nowadays making new music is what The Cult is all about. Duffy says that while they enjoy shows like the one at Yas Arena, the band's main focus now is writing. Straight after the show they will head back to the studio. So will The Cult go on and on?

"I don't really see an end to it. I don't project too far forward but as long as me and Ian can get in, and most importantly that we get off on writing new music... that's what we're doing. I mean, these gigs, we're delighted to be here but we're in the middle of making a record.

"The record ain't gonna sell a lot because nobody sells a lot of records any more, but it's like a commercial for your band. It breathes fresh blood into it. It re-energises the fans," Duffy says.

The relationship between The Cult today, which is celebrating a five-year unchanged line-up, is something that Duffy is proud of. The band have had plenty of ups and downs, a period of stability is something that everybody can now enjoy.

"We've had the typical retinue of dead drummers and all the things you have to have to be in a rock n' roll band, dead guys, drug habits, arrests. We've had all kinds of phases," he says.

"We're pretty good though, we manage to have a frank exchange of views without anybody taking the ball home. I think you get a bit more tolerant, and that might just be a sign of being more middle-aged, or whatever.

"We're just happy that we've still all got our own hair."


Review: Incubus Vs The Cult
The line-up for the second of the F1 shows had raised eyebrows long before The Cult took to the stage last night at Yas Arena.

What, for example, was The Cult doing playing on the same bill as Incubus? Indeed, what was Incubus, a band that have been off the radar for years, doing playing at the F1 show at all, occupying the same slot as Britney Spears and, lest we forget, Sir Paul McCartney.

It was a problem that was immediately obvious as The Cult took to the stage. The band put on a tight, energetic greatest hits set, with guitarist Billy Duffy's relentless shredding as virtousic as ever. The fact that The Cult have now had the same line-up for almost five years was obvious in the ease with which they played together.

But two songs in you could tell something was wrong. The smattering of raised fists in the VIP area didn't feel convincing, and vocalist Ian Astbury's calls for an obviously tired, mainly neutral — and fairly intoxicated after a full day at the F1 — crowd, to "let go, man", made it obvious that the lack of atmosphere hadn't escaped the post-punk veterans.

There were a few high points. The Cult 's newest song, Embers, was a powerful nod to the band's heavier side, with riffs reminiscient of Iron Maiden and hints of Sabbath in Astbury's vocals. It is tracks like these that make us all glad that The Cult have gone back on Astbury's original pledge to stop making albums.

Sanctuary, the band's closer, also seemed to raise spirits, but by then — as the vocalist himself noted — the Cult were ready to hand over to Incubus. The old guys do all the work, he said, and seemed to be only half joking.

Ah, to Incubus, which this writer calculated that he saw almost exactly 10 years ago to the day as a fresh-faced young rocker in Manchester. That was then, when Incubus were riding high after hits like Drive, and with a back-stop of solid heavy material from Science currying them favour with nu-metal crowds.


And this is now. Incubus started well, with crowd-pleasers Nice to Know You and Pardon Me, as well as some of their more proggy, post-rock material, seeming to wake Yas Arena up. Say what you like about Incubus, but they always were and still are a tight band musically.

Unfortunately, it was short-lived. Incubus followed a solid opening with two frankly awful slow ballads, with Brandon Boyd's oh-so-important Counting Crows-esque crooning becoming increasingly intolerable. Then there was the bands habit of huddling together with the lights off in between songs, which prompted some of us to speculate whether they were having problems with the sound.

If the crowd was tired during The Cult , it felt almost entirely static for Incubus, and the distinct lack of screaming teenage girls —- a staple of the Incubus shows of old — didn't do much to lighten the atmosphere. Neither Incubus or The Cult are bands for neutrals — they're bands for people who know their songs and go to their gigs through choice, not because they are tacked on to the end of an F1 package. The Cult , with 30 years of touring behind them, were winning over neutrals when many of the crowd last night were in nappies — few can blame them if they didn't have the heart for another round.

As for Incubus, the band would probably be likely to admit that it wasn't their night. The crowd needed rousing after a long day, and for all the deck-scratching, jumping and riffing, Incubus didn't have it in them.



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Happy Birthday Billy Duffy! PDF Print E-mail
Saturday, 12 May 2012

Happy Birthday Billy! Thanks for all these years of great music! CFFC



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thanos said:

  Happy Birthday Billy!!!!smilies/smiley.gifLove you man!!
May 12, 2012

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