"We really enjoy these trips down memory lane, we just don't want to live there..." The Cult talk reissuing their 1989 LP Sonic Temple
2019 marks the 30th anniversary of Sonic Temple, the seminal fourth album from British rock stalwarts The Cult.
The band, led as they always have been, by singer Ian Ashbury and guitarist Billy Duffy, were coming out of a period of transition. Their 1987 album Electric had seen them working with super-producer Rick Rubin and stripping back the glammed up sounds of their earlier work to make a raw, raucous record.
Now, they were looking for something different and something much more ambitious.
Aided by Bob Rock, who would go on to shepherd Metallica's transition from thrashy upstarts to stadium fillers on The Black Album as well as overseeing Motley Crue's finest hours, the band pushed the boat out, recording 10 tracks, six of which broke the five-minute barrier.
The LP delivered four hit singles, including live staples 'Fire Woman' and 'Edie (Ciao Baby)', and even saw Iggy Pop coming in to lend a hand on a track named 'New York City'.
The album will be re-issued in September, with a CD box set, a set featuring vinyl and cassette and a full vinyl box set available. Included on these new re-issues are alternate edits, rare mixes, extended versions, acoustic versions, limited-release demos as well as a collection of tracks named 'Live at Wembley', which the band recorded at the BBC.
With the reissue locked, we spoke to Duffy about the band's memory of making the LP, working with producer Bob Rock, taking the album out live in 2019 and their plans for new material...
You’re celebrating the 30th anniversary of Sonic Temple, how do you look back on the recording of that album? Was it a happy time for the band?
"Yeah, we were still having a great time of it when we went in to record that album."
After the brevity of Electric, the songs on Sonic Temple mostly clock in at over five minutes, was that the sign of you guys letting loose in the studio?
"I'd say so, we wanted to explore the idea of a fully realised, no restriction rock album..."
You did the album with Bob Rock after working with Rick Rubin on Electric, why did you decide on him for this record?
"It was instinct. Pure and simple. Once we met him we were sure he was the real deal. We knew he was the man to take us forward..."
Rock went on to produce Metallica’s Black Album and Motley Crue’s Dr Feelgood, but he was still reasonably unknown at the time, why did you decide to take a chance on him?
"In retrospect, it was very much a gamble. But it didn't feel like that at the time. That was due to Bob's confidence and his pragmatism. We knew he was destined for great things, after us..."
You had two drummers in for the demo stages, including KISS's Eric Singer, before Mickey Curry recorded the album, how did those changes come about?
"Bob had a specific style of rock drumming in mind once he had heard our songs. He knew Mickey Curry was the man for this particular job. I suspect that came from the Vancouver and Bryan Adams connection through his management."
Iggy Pop sings backing vocals on ‘New York City’, what was it like to work with him? He’d just made Instinct, was he in a strange place?
"Well, it was somewhat random, actually. We had toured Europe with Iggy in 1987 and become friends with him to a certain extent. He invited me to play on stage with him and his band in Vancouver while we were up there recording which I did."
"He was in fine form and full of beans and decided he wanted to contribute to the album. So, and I'm not kidding here, Ian (Ashbury, The Cult frontman) rode with him to the studio after the show on the back of his bike and they came up with the spoken word idea for the middle 8 of 'New York City'."
You’ve dusted off a fair few rarities for the new reissue, did you enjoy going through that old material?
"To be honest, enjoy is putting it a bit strong, but it wasn't too bad. Sometimes unfinished ideas should stay private, however, as this release is totally for the hardcore The Cult fan we felt as close to full disclosure of the process was the way to go..."
Were there any tracks you were surprised didn’t make the cut the first time around?
"No, I don't think we missed any gems. Not on this album. It's happened before and after, but Bob is thorough and diligent. He made sure the cream rose to the top..."
You’re playing the album in full on tour, as you did with Love...
"In the end, we decided not to play all the album this time. We felt that format has gotten a little bit stale so we play the best tunes in an order that works live. As they are fairly lengthy, it's enough. As well as that, we also play several other tunes from different eras. It's a full show."
Finally, you’ve said that you’re working on new music, how’s the process going? Is an album in the works or are you still in the early stages?
"Always trying to go to the well and bring up something new fresh and worthwhile. I can't see us ever not doing that. We love the challenge as writers and feel its a vital part of keeping The Cult relevant and forwards facing."
"We really enjoy these trips down memory lane, we just don't want to live there..."