Baker's Dozen

Artists discuss the 13 records that shaped their lives

Love Approval Thirteen: Ian Astbury Of The Cult’s Favourite Albums

Julian Marszalek speaks to the Wolf Child about esoteric drone doom, witch house, krautrock and, of course, The Doors

Say what you like about Ian Astbury – and, indeed, many people do – but first and foremost The Cult frontman is a serious music fan. For him, music isn’t something that’s simply played in the background; it’s an art form that’s at the very centre of our culture. At its best, it has the ability to not only reflect the culture that spawned it but also alter it. For Astbury, this is some serious shit and the task of discussing his 13 favourite albums is one that the singer approaches with no small degree of seriousness. That’s probably why it’s taken him nearly two weeks to get a list together that he’s relatively happy with.

“Doing this list was virtually impossible for me,” he tells The Quietus from his Californian home. “You’re wanting just 13 albums and I’m like, ‘Are you fucking kidding me?’ So I just looked at what records I’ve been listening to recently and tried not to over-think it. You know, don’t try to be fucking clever or try to impress or whatever.”

Musing over his final choices, Astbury is at pains to point out that they could, and probably will, change tomorrow: “And of course, my favourites change from day to day; you go through a break up and you end up listening to Harry Nilsson or you have a nostalgic moment so you go and listen to the Sex Pistols. And that’s one of the beautiful things about music. Everyone has a soundtrack for their life. At least, I know I do. I have certain songs that go with a certain sentiment. It’s not one-size-fits-all.”

For the two hours or so that Astbury spends enthusing about his favourite recordings and taking conversational detours for some further off-roading, The Quietus is struck by Astbury’s passion and sincere love for the music that inspires him.

This love of his favourite music and the seriousness with which he approaches it is in evidence on The Cult’s latest album, Choice Of Weapon. While other artists of a similar vintage pray for a “best album since [insert name of last solid gold classic here]” tag to be associated with that release, The Cult can take pride that their ninth studio album is their finest record to date. Lean and muscular, Choice Of Weapon goes straight for the jugular and refuses to loosen its grip throughout. With Astbury in fine voice throughout, guitarist Billy Duffy has summoned up a veritable arsenal of riffs and more hooks than a mountaineer’s tool bag.

Astbury thinks so too but is only too aware of the suspicion cast in his direction: “I think it’s the best thing we’ve ever done. I understand that people might be reticent about it. They’re like, ‘What are we going to get here? Cowboy hats and leather trousers? Wolfchild barking-mad-one-teepee-short-of-a reservation’ and all that.

“This time round we got [producer] Chris Goss in the room and by doing that I knew immediately that he’d be our conscience. He would help us to get rid of all our bad habits or whatever stuff we’ve got going on and immediately get into the material.”

Not carrying an ounce of flab, Choice Of Weapon does its job and refuses to hang around like a bad smell. “I fucking hate records that go on for more than nine tracks because a trip can only be a certain length,” Astbury states. “There’s no need for the additional add-ons and less is more. It’s about quality not quantity. Somehow we all got caught up in formatting – here’s 60, 70 minutes on a CD, let’s fill it up. No, let’s go in there and put down our story.”

He concludes: “I’m a fucking music fan. I’m really into and we’re going to go out and tour it. We have no expectations and we have no entitlement.”

Choice Of Weapon is out now. Click on the photograph below to start reading Ian’s choices

First Record

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