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Billy Duffy | Interview
An amazing in-depth interview with Billy!

The Cult to sell Love & sanctuary in Australia


The Cult will be spreading the Love down under as they play their landmark album in it’s entirety before pulling out a blockbusting set of their greatest hits.

Billy Duffy is widely regarded as one of the most influential rock guitarists going around, the Cult axeman spoke to us ahead of the bands Love Live world tour, which hits Australian shores in May.

yourGigs (yG): How has the reaction been to the tour this far?

Billy Duffy (BD): It’s been really positive, its so good that some promoter paid us a large amount of money to come down there, and bring it. The response had been very good, we’ve done US, Canada and Europe, Europe was really phenomenal, it was emotional as Mick Jones once said.

yG: You’ve been playing some atypical venues over there  - such as the Lisbon Coliseum and the Royal Albert Hall – what was  that experience been like?

BD: Well the whole idea of the tour started where I had this idea - The Cult weren’t playing together, Ian was singing with The Doors and I was doing something else – I ran into him playing football somewhere and I said ‘I’ve had this idea that we should play the Albert Hall and do the Love album – cause we’ve never played the Albert Hall – it’s the only venue in London we haven’t played – and I sort of floated the idea past him and it stuck in his mind, and it got stuck there. So we got back playing together in 2006 and we’d been going 25 years since the album came out so we floated the idea around promters about doing the Love album and everybody Bit. So [for the tour] we just basically worked back from doing the Love album at the Albert Hall. So when we finally did it we were so nervous, it was really trippy, all our old friends showed up it was a trippy time to play the Albert  Hall, some legendary footage has been taken there y’know Cream, Zeppelin and we just thought if we were ever going to play the Albert Hall this would be the one we would do it at. It was really special, really good.

yG: Did it take much preparation to put the show together – did you have to go really revisit the songs and get back into them?

BD: Yeah, I did, I had to practice a lot and the band did a great job of getting their heads around it and trying to serve the songs and trying to capture the spirit of it. We are never intending to totally recreate it, we were going to try our best and not bludgeon the songs to death and be true to them. Given it was 25 years ago and we were young men when we did it. We actually got Jamie Stuart and Mark Brzezicki up at the Albert Hall to play a special encore, and that was kind of cool. It was great to see Jamie back up there because he was a special part of the band and in it a long time. And Mark was on the whole album even though he was never in The Cult – he was in Big Country – but the two of them played such a big part to play in the creation of the sound of that record, y’know everybody played their bit.

yG: How does the passing of time affect the way you think of the songs?

BD: I like it – I still really like them, I always thought they captured a sort of honest organic – it was the spring time of The Cult and it really captured that. I can’t really put it any better than that, it just all came together – it just felt like spring when we came up with the songs and the sounds started coming together and we had to get rid of our old drummer and Mark Brezicki came and sung with us and he bought that dimension and his owns tyle to the cult and this kind of thing just happened. We bought in some backing vocalists and the producer – Steve Brown – it was a gamble using him. He was never supposed to produce it  - we thought we were  sending a CD to Steve Lillywhite – who was the hotshot rock producer – he still produces U2 – and when we did our first album Dreamtime we sent a copy of that to him and we didn’t end up sending it to the right management company. Steve Brown picked it up with instead! He was  another producer who hadn’t produced U2 – he produced Wham! We though he was completely out of his mind. I remember when we met him I looked over at Ian – cause we’ve got like a bit of a weird sense of humour in the Cult that nobody has ever really got – thinking we’re all deadly serious and po-faced or whatever – and we  though this is just too weird –he must be out of his mind, I mean we were called ‘The Death Cult’ and he’s come to produce us and the last album he did was Wham! and Hey Elasitca and all that. And we sat down with him and he said he grew up as an engineer and recorded all the 70s bands I liked in Phonogram in London  - like Sensational Alex Harvey band and Thin Lizzy  - a bunch of stuff I liked – so we gave him a  shot – that shot was ‘She Sells Sanctauary ‘ it went up the charts and while it was in the charts in England we recorded the Love album so we took a gamble and it sort of paid off. 

yG: It seems like it was a case of a bunch of things aligning that caused it to be such an important album – could you sense at the time what it would do for the band?

BD: At that point I thought we were at a crossroads before we released ‘She Sells Sanctuary’ which we recorded as a single before the album. ‘Sanctuary has our old drummer Nigel on it, and between the two we had to fire him because he got a drug habit and we had to let him go, he’d become a  bit of a liability. So we didn’t have a drummer and had to get Mark Breziki in – he was managed by our same mangers- and all these fluky things just came together to do it.

We were at a bit of a crossroads because all these bands around in England us were having hits – Killing Joke and all these bands you could loosely call post-punk, were charting, and we hadn’t and I remember feeling some pressure. So I came up with ‘Sanctuary’ – I came up with the music and Ian came up with the vocals for it and a few things aligned and that was it we were up and running. Once  ‘Sanctuary’ was in the charts, the record company just said ‘whatever you’re doing, keep doing it – here’s a load of money to make the album – see you later’’. It was around the time of Live Aid – to put it in context, there were a lot of dodgy mullets and all that going on, there were only two songs in the charts that had guitars on them, Howard Jones and fucking Haircut 100 – right at that point there was a bit of a lull in 1985, and we came right through it. Adam and the Ants were kind of cool, they had a really good album, but he was still like a bit of a cartoon character and all that kind of stuff. But it didn’t feel super special but it felt super pure and good and right.

yG: Even the success of that song along – did that bring with it expectation of further success for the band?

BD: Well we had three hits and I don’t know what we did with the rest of the world with it – but we had three hit singles when it mattered – I the eighties. We had ‘Rain’ and ‘Revolution’ were also hits and we probably could have kept going – it was quite a commercial album, it was quite poppy. I said to Ian many times The Cult is more of a pop/rock band, I mean that’s what we are better at. Everyone like Goths and we have played with and done tours with Metallica but I always thought we were more a rock/pop kind of band at our core.

yG: Do you still have a notion of what The Cult stands for as you play now?

BD: We’ve always been a bit of an outsider thing. We’ve never really had any recognition or awards or that kind of thing, we’ve never fitted in with the mainstream. Even if our music and a band as an entity that kind of thing.

 The Cult has always been– what the name says on the box – we’ve always been an outsider band. We never quite fit even when were really, really big and playing arenas – it was always a bit odd., it has always been a bit of a weird fit. But we’ve always had is loyal from the fans and people that get it really get it, I never really picked up a guitar to get a pat on the back from the music business. So it really doesn’t matter to me. Once in a while it does irk me when bands get Grammy nominations and stuff and we’ve never really had any of that recognition. But that’s just our story man, you’ve just got to deal, it’s a small negative in a big ocean of positives.

YG: Do you feel flattered when people mention you as influences on their music?

BD: Yeah, It’s part of the food chain we’ve been influence by – me and Ian were massive fans of other bands – and it’s never bad to hear that. No matter how bad the other bands suck, it’s always nice to be part of that food chain and pass it on and watch what things are doing.

YG: Your partnership with Ian is pretty much the crux of the band, what do you attribute to why you work so well and how its been so successful and how you are still going?

BD: You know I really don’t know how, there’s obviously some sort of heathen chemistry between the two of us. In it’s basic simplest form – when he sings what he sings over the music that I write there’s a certain chemical reaction takes place that people – globally – like. And it might not be the most massive band in the world ever, but certainly we’ve done incredibly, incredibly well and sold millions of records and touched a lot of people. Certainly at this point you feel a lot of warmth from that, influencing other bands and being a part of that positive handing the torch down. Just from a fan point of view, that is what this tour is about, giving back to the fans, people wanted it and they’ll show up.

YG: Do you notice musically, all the side projects you guys have been involved with, does that effect the sounds when you come back to The Cult?

BD: I think Ian’s experience with the Doors made him a little bit more inclined to stand still on stage and hold that space. I’ve noticed that about him. I learnt a lot from playing with Jerry from Alice in Chains earlier this decade. I never used to jam with people, I never wanted to do a lot of stuff, I just wanted to keep myself pure, almost like a monk, Like I like my music and I’d just write what came into my head. And eventually I did and I learnt a lot from it and it probably just gave me a few more tools to keep the songwriting going. We’ve just recorded four songs with Chris Gossamer – the guy who produced Queens of the Stoneage – and we’re going to do a bunch more – and that’s important. It’s not just about old songs, it’s about that and the contiuance.

YG: Have you yourself –even with the technology that’s become available become a better musician and songwriter as you’ve been going?

BD: I don’t even know about that, I’ve always been going along as an untrained musician, I’ve always just picked it up as I went along and similarly Ian did. Technology is an interesting resource, you are sitting in the studio and everybody is sitting there with a laptop – so you may say ‘Hey what was that’ or reference a piece of music and immediately within two seconds someone’s got a clip of it from YouTube. So you can have a visual reference to someone playing a lick from 1967 . So in some respects it’s good, I just kind of take it as it comes.



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