The Cult's eleventh album, Under The Midnight Sun, found Ian Astbury and Billy Duffy investing the primal energies of their mid-80s peak with the wisdom of age. Both reaffirming old glories and giving The Cult one of their best albums in years. Billy Duffy talks to MOJO's Keith Cameron about the making of the album and the creative bond between him and Astbury...
There seems a mood-shift on this album after Hidden City and Choice Of Weapon.
“There was definitely a team decision to not make another record like those two, which were similar in a lot of ways, and to me had a North American flavour. Quite raw, a bit rock’n’roll. This one is definitely more… European?”
Does that decision open up certain areas to explore?
“Well, it closes some off. Anything a bit bluesy rock didn’t fit. So I just stopped putting forward those kinds of riffs. It did open up ways to achieve excitement and drama without using certain rock elements.”
Talking of which, you began work during 2019’s Sonic Temple 30th anniversary tour?
“That was the plan, touring in parallel with the creative process. It takes me and Ian a while, to put it mildly, to get stuff together. So we started, and Tom Dalgety kept showing up at gigs, especially around dinner time, funnily enough. He’s such a nice chap and his CV’s incredible. Me and Ian definitely need a producer. We need that other voice, a bit of sanity. Somebody, like a marriage guidance counsellor, who can see that me and Ian probably want the same things, but our vocabulary is different.”
Give Me Mercy feels like a Pure Cult moment.
“Ironically, it’s the first single and the last song Ian sang on the session. I knew that that was gonna be a good ’un, from the moment I came up with the riff. The issue, musically, was to get the right nuance from the guitar, make it not too ’80s rock. In the end I tried to channel Mike Campbell from The Heartbreakers. I always look to guys like him who are not ‘show-off’ guitar players, they play the song. But Ian kept me waiting, consciously put that one off. I was ringing Dalgety – ‘Has he sung it yet? What’s he got?’”
After almost 40 years and 11 albums, you’re clearly doing something right.
“They don’t get any easier! But I trust Ian as a human being. He’s very honest. And I think there’s a lot of personal stuff that has gone into this record. We’re just at that place where we realise we have something to offer together, that’s greater than what we could do individually.”
Under The Midnight Sun is out now via Black Hill. Read MOJO's verdict HERE!