I think what needs to be said is that we have to start looking inward. Our spiritual lives are almost bankrupt. The material systems are not going to fix where we are. Moving the furniture around, metaphorically moving the furniture around – getting a new president, or putting a new, fresh coat of paint on something – isn’t necessarily going to change the root causes. We’re human beings, we’re organic, we’re dependent upon the environment, we’re dependent upon this living planet. It’s a fact. And it’s a fact that we cannot fight. But all our fighting is more about semantics, political systems, languages, structures, charts, graphs. It’s almost like we want to be right, but we don’t want to win.
…Now I think if people were fair, when they make their opinion, they have to make their credentials available. If you’re critiquing something, if you’re a critic, you have to make your credentials available.
What do you mean by credentials?
Your life experiences. Not your education, not just like, “I went to this college or traveled.” What have you experienced? What were the major events of your life that give you this kind of unique perspective? Give us some insight into who is sharing this critique with us. It’d be more likely to see an authenticity in that critique.
…Even Feist’s Metals record intimates what I’m talking about, and PJ Harvey’s record. I think they intimate something not quite right in the zeitgeist, and it’s not in a material place, it’s in a spiritual place. And the word spiritual has almost become almost tired. You think Barnes and Noble, books on the Dalai Lama and crystals. It’s become hokey. And I think that that again is a smear campaign from those who want to perpetuate this ego-driven, “I am right, I am right, I’m first, I’m right, look at me, here I am, I know everything, I’ve got all the knowledge, I know everything about krautrock, I know everything about obscure art forms, it’s me, I’m the one, put me on, flog me, here I am.” We’re lost.
I still have a RIP magazine interview from 1991 when he was preoccupied with the exact same things:
The images represent a longtime Cult fascination with a human spirit that’s become extinct because of its passion for power in a world it methodically destroys. Pretty heavy shit if you stop and think about it, and Astbury often does. “Human philosophy is that the earth belongs to man. But here we are, with all this pestilence, famine and diseases, because of these stupid ideas we have about the world and our place in it,” he said earlier in our conversation. “Everything’s become retarded. Our spiritual growth is definitely retarded. In fact, there’s a spiritual decline that’s been happening over the past 2,000 years, since the advent of organized religion. If we want to cleanse ourselves, then we should get in touch with the indigenous people of this world (i.e. the Indians), because they’re the ones with the answers. They have observed the way the world has evolved. Their sense of order and harmony with the universe is greater than we could achieve with modern science or philosophies. But instead people are looking to outer space for answers. You think the big shit’s going to stop if we get to outer space?”
…While some [critics] regale him as the second coming of Morrison, others dismiss the band’s viewpoints as some useless hippie trip revisited. “They’re very hard on me,” Astbury admits. “When I was 24 in England, they did this cartoon of me in a paper that was like Frankenstein’s monster. They had bits of Mick Jagger, Jim Morrison, Jimi Hendrix and Janis Joplin put all together. I looked at this, and it really choked me up. I thought about my life previous to that, and I was really upset, because they didn’t know me, or know what I had been through growing up. They didn’t know the experiences that made me an individual, and I felt they had no right to judge me.”
When I was an aspiring teenage rocker, he was one of my role models for being the kind of contradictory, charismatic figure — “a biker with a poet’s passion”, as RIP also called him — who addressed issues like that within the lowbrow medium of rock music. But there’s something a little poignant about seeing him still stuck on the same, yes, useless hippie trip, repeating the same romantic clichés about nature worship and noble savages, convinced that anyone who dislikes or dismisses him must be mired in inauthenticity.
And while in his time he may have been a hero,
he is a leaf that, when we grow, falls away.
I do still admire him for his unbridled zest for new music, new art in general, for the way he’s always been enthusiastically open to new influences while avoiding artistic ossification. This is the guy whose “Gathering of the Tribes” created the template that Perry Farrell would turn into the far more lucrative Lollapalooza, after all, and he was hyping the Seattle scene long before it smashed like an asteroid into the L.A. hair metal environment to the bewilderment of his stupidly-blinking dinosaur peers. But still, you’d think by now a life of world travel and constant exposure to new people and ideas should have disabused him of such tired old fables.