By Christina Fuoco-Karasinski
The Cult guitarist Billy Duffy admits not every song on “Sonic Temple” is all that great.
So even though he and singer Ian Astbury are celebrating the collection’s 30th anniversary with a show at the State Fair on Saturday, October 5, fans shouldn’t expect the album in its entirety.
“We just made a group decision not to play all of it,” Duffy says. “We made a group decision that we didn’t think all of it was that good. I’m sure somebody will complain and I won’t listen. So far nobody’s walked out.
“We’ve done tours where we’ve played the whole album before. It’s not a new concept. People have been doing it for ages. But I’m enjoying it because it’s a guitar-dominated album. It’s fun for me to play that stuff.”
Among the songs left out are “Wake Up Time for Freedom” and “Medicine Train.” Sticking with a one-album-heavy setlist allows Duffy to focus better.
“It’s kind of nice for me, as a musician, writer and player, to stay in one zone for eight songs from the same era,” Duffy says. “I can get into it. I notice if I play a greatest hits set, I’m chopping and changing between songs from about 1985 to 2016. You have to mentally bridge that gap instantly on stage and make it all seem to fit.
“Nobody was the same person they were 30 years ago. I’m one of those who does enjoy staying in the zone of ‘Sonic Temple’ and exploring the experience again. It’s good fun and I think the songs were very strong.”
Known for playing his Gretsch White Falcon, Duffy admits it’s “nostalgic.”
“It’s big-time nostalgia—with a lower-case N,” he says. “If we hadn’t played for a while and we came out bald and fat with potbellies waddling on stage in Spandex—not that we ever wore Spandex—it would be different.”
One consistency with The Cult is its rock foundation. Duffy, 58, grew up on mid-1970s glam and punk, with classic rock mixed in.
“I listened to Bowie, Mott the Hoople, Iggy. I used to like, though, too, Free and Bad Company, and Jimi Hendrix. I liked The Doors. I had The Doors album, ironically. I had ‘L.A. Woman’ on vinyl. I remember the sleeves’ corners were cut off. I had ‘School’s Out’ by Alice Cooper that had disposable panties in it.
“That’s what’s passed for entertainment in the 1970s. Punk happened when I left high school in Manchester (England) and it was a very vibrant, exciting, new thing that people of my age group experienced. Anyone who’s 58 to, say, 64, and grew up in England, punk was our thing. That leaves such an indelible mark. That’s in the DNA of The Cult.”
Other bands like The Cure, Killing Joke, Bauhaus and Depeche Mode all experienced punk first-hand in England, he says.
“It just affected some people more than others,” he says.
As for his music, Duffy stresses The Cult’s music is just as much for him as it is for the fans. After all, he doesn’t consider The Cult the owners of its songs.
“We’re just serving up the songs. They’re not our property,” Duffy says. “Once me and Ian have written the song and put it on an album, it goes out into the public domain. A lot of bands—not just The Cult—are the soundtrack to certain people’s lives. I know music was a soundtrack to my life.
“We were of the moment in 1989, 1990. The band stays current, though, and we live in the decade we’re in. We haven’t lost our hair. That’s a win.”
The Cult, Arizona State Fair, 1826 W. McDowell Road, Phoenix, 602.252.6771, azstatefair.com, 7 p.m. Saturday, October 5, $40-$100.