Ian Astbury can hardly describe the Cult's breakthrough album, "Electric," without pointing to the moment the British rockers shed their post-punk gloominess, slapped on some rocking leather pants and hired visionary hip-hop producer Rick Rubin.
After hearing the Beastie Boys' "Cookie Puss" in a Toronto nightclub, Astbury, then 24, realized the too-polished, darkly romantic goth rock that make up the Cult's earlier catalog no longer matched the harder, harsher touring schedule they lived. Rubin, who came to produce the Cult's platinum-winning "Electric" and its hard-rock single "Love Removal Machine" believed the same.
"The Cult had become an animal. A raw, live, touring … animal," says Astbury, the band's singer, punctuating the last two words with a deep breath. Speaking by phone from a tour bus in Seattle, Astbury, whose band will perform "Electric" in its entirely Tuesday night at Revolution Live, characterized the band that began as Southern Death Cult in 1981 as being "forced" into London's predominant post-punk scene.
"It was a taboo to acknowledge the fact that you liked Led Zeppelin or the Doors in 1981. The Bible was the NME [magazine], and if you said, 'Robert Plant,' you mentioned the unholy!" recalls Astbury, 51, with a laugh. "At first, I identified with our contemporaries, who were hiding behind fringe haircuts and dark imagery, weeping in their bedrooms reading Oscar Wilde. We wanted to stop being that one-dimensional band and be what we wanted."
If "Electric" were to become the savage rock record Astbury and his brood wanted , reaching that transformative sound would require scrapping the just-mastered album they already had: "Peace." Those sessions, re-released in July as part of an expanded set titled "Electric Peace," contains all the Cult's post-punk leanings but none of the hard-rock gravitas they envisioned. (Their current tour, Electric 13, supports the re-release.)
" 'Peace' didn't feel like a complete vision. It felt too textured, too polished, and it was almost like the textures were more important than the songs themselves," he says.
Following the release of "Electric," which also produced the singles "Wild Flower" and "Aphrodisiac Jacket," Astbury says the Cult never looked back. Long influenced by the 1960s psychedelia of the Doors ("the greatest American rock band that was or will be"), Astbury in 2002 toured the world singing with the Doors of the 21st Century, composed of the band's aging members: guitarist Robby Krieger, drummer John Densmore and keyboardist Ray Manzarek, who died in May. Filling a role once occupied by Jim Morrison, Astbury says, came with immediate backlash from Doors die-hards.
"I knew the heavy knives would come out straight away. Nobody could fill Jim Morrison's shoes," he says. "At no point was I trying to emulate or create a pastiche. Ray and Robby and John initially wanted to play their music before they got too old, so there was a sense of urgency. Ray became like my mentor, an important patriarch to me, and when he passed away, it was like losing a family member."
When: 7 p.m. Tuesday
Where: Revolution Live, 100 SW Third Ave, Fort Lauderdale
Contact: 954-449-1025 or JoinTheRevolution.netCopyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun