Ian Astbury: Now rock stars are accountants, kids and rappers
Ian Astbury has compared people who create music alone in home studios rather than live with a band to those who play video games instead of being active in real life.
And the Cult frontman says he’s not sure where the idea of a “rock star” fits into the modern world, insisting the title has been hijacked by “accountants and four-year-old girls.”
Astbury is gearing up to record new music with his band, which will start with a “discovery session” in a rehearsal room, after they completed a tour on which they played 1987 album Electric in full.
He tells Esquire: “With Electric, I like the songs because they’re rooted in three chords and blues-rock elements. They’re on a dark cycle and really come from an organic force.
“They may not be current in the sense of what’s popular, but in terms of human action they’re archetypal. They’ll always be fresh.
“These songs are very physical and demand a certain amount of physicality – and that’s the one thing about live music that you’re never going to get from a bedroom production that’s a digitally-manufactured piece.
“It’s the difference between playing a fighting video game and actually punching someone.”
Astbury believes a blues connection remains essential to making rock music, which influences his speculation on what a 21st century rock star might be.
“Even a hint of soul or blues music, derivative of African-American blues, folk, spiritual, or gospel,” says the vocalist. “The original rock’n’ roll came from that well. It was meant to be played from the waist down. It wasn’t supposed to be played from the neck up.”
Which means, he says, that hip-hop artists like Kanye West and Jay Z are closer to being rock musicians than people like Coldplay frontman Chris Martin.
He reflects: “Coldplay have made some wonderful records for the genre they’re involved in, but I would consider them to be more of a pop act. The music is much more cerebral than it is animalistic.
“I think hip-hop has more to do with rock’n'roll. Kanye West is, in many ways, a rock artist. Jay Z in many ways is a rock artist. In the sense that they’ve used hard rock, punk rock, psychedelic rock aesthetics and influences in their music. When you see Kanye West, he has a full band playing. Jay Z has a full band playing with Marshalls.”
He continues: “An accountant does something amazingly well on the stock exchange and his buddies high-five him – he’s a rock star. A four-year-old girl learned to ride a bicycle – she’s a rock star!
“What does that mean any more? What is the popular image of rock star? A rail-thin, overly-paid, narcissistic, average-talented individual who self-implodes in front of everybody, eternally having a party and who looks eternally youthful?
“I don’t know what it is. I do know that there is a difference between artists who are career-driven and artists who have a calling and are just compelled to make music, compelled to perform live, and the business isn’t the reason they’re doing it. In fact, there isn’t really a reason. You just do it.”
Meanwhile, the Cult have confirmed they’ll play an exclusive UK festival set at the inaugural Alt-Fest at Boughton Estate, Kettering, during August 15-17. The crowdfunded event will also be headlined by Marilyn Manson and Gary Numan, with tickets on sale now at an earlybird price of £85.