Ian Astbury Writes For Clash

Dispatches from a Heathen Child

Ramble, rant or reminisce, this is an artist’s opportunity to pen their own Clash article. This issue, The Cult’s Ian Astbury presents a piece entitled ‘The Never Ending Road: Dispatches From A Heathen Child’.

“While driving back from New Orleans after another night of sweat-drenched guitar violence and amplifier worship, it’s Monday 4th October, about 6am. I’m at the wheel of The Black Ryder’s trusty 1996 heathen dodge van, resplendent with captain’s seats, fairy lights and voodoo talisman. The passengers like children sleeping.

I began to contemplate a subject to share with Clash dreamers, usually I am full of ideas to write about. On this occasion I was stumped. I thought of sharing my experience of seeing The Clash in ‘the day’ and meeting the band after the show, being offered my first “hit” on a Jazz Cigarette by Simo, to later going on to open for The Clash but that all seemed nostalgic. Then I considered what I’m doing now: making films, recording and performing with BXI (Boris) in Tokyo, the recent Cult ‘Capsules’ and L’America dates, as well as The Cult’s upcoming UK tour, but no, that seemed too conventional.

FLASHBACK: I recently read in a Nick Cave biography that I was unceremoniously thrown out of The Birthday Party’s dressing room for being wasted. I remember screaming like a banshee and having the arms ripped off my favourite nineteenth century Salvation Army coat, feathers in my Huron savage hair, while The Birthday Party mesmerized the Camden faithful. Taken backstage by a label rep after the performance (we were label mates of sorts), I remember bowing or laying at Nick Cave’s feet and paying an inebriated homage to an absolute demon of a performer. Old Nick himself could not have entertained us more. I was a drunk and earnest nineteen-year-old and my head was spinning from Suicide Death Cult’s meteoric rise as the new indie darlings, harshly critiqued as naïve (I was nineteen for fuck’s sake).

Struck by a sudden reflective glare from an animal’s eyes I am back in my body – one moment I was contemplating this article, the next keeping an eye out for deer, who love to jump in front of vehicles racing through the night. Many unfortunates lay silent beside the road.

It’s amazing what begins to flash through the mind while you’re tired and fixed on the highway. Reciting a mantra for the white tara – she who forgives before you even ask – then an echoing thunder and lightning, the original heathens. Howlin’ Wolf and Muddy Waters fast-forward through the doors, Patti Smith, The Sex Pistols, Joy Division and PIL, to David Bowie’s ‘Electric Heathen’ and the true wizards that are Sunn O))) and Boris. Savages running wild and untamed; no masters, no gods. The long hairs revealing their barbarian hearts, poetry in action.

It takes courage and a calm to channel the wilderness. A balance, as you go at it with knives. I am a green-eyed heathen child still laying waste to hearts and minds… these are the sounds that vibrate and vistas I view in my crazy monkey mind at the wheel. Then there is the road weaving through swamps, fields and desert back to Cali and my nomadic encampment. A place to strike out from and destroy the night.”

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