Sonic Temple

Death Cult Interview – June 1983

Brave Tales From Brighton Rock

First there was Southern Death Cult, a group of brave punks from the North, but now they are no more. Instead it’s Death Cult, another band – with only singer Ian living through both. David Dorrell comes to terms with a new kind of cult.

There is always time for the past’s phantoms, especially when they belong to someone other than yourself.

Thus the nature of dreams, of gossip, of history, has never been totally pure. Who ever thought about asking the man who owned the closet that contained the bones about his yesterdays? Or the woman with the blemish on her soul and the blood on her palms about the past?

No one to be precise. No one ever bothers, basically because it’s a lot easier to circumscribe the truth. To be blunt, it’s easier to lie.

So, here we sit, five regally attired young men on a rough-hewn pebble beach in Brighton discussing our paths and others’ dreams. The sound is The Clash of ‘Hate and War’ and ‘Career opportunities’ against the shingle and surf. The talk is all cabbages and Kings; fools and Death Cults. And the dreams? They belonged to a handful scribes and a legion of young souls.

Ian Lindsay has also shared those dreams, dreams that were built around a young band, dreams that suffocated a young band, dreams that killed the Cult. Today is his 21st birthday and he is more mature than most; he has weathered worse storms. From today he will start to tackle the truth.

Would I lie? Moreover, would he lie? Do you lie, Ian?

“I think we did in Southern Death Cult. I haven’t lied to myself in quite awhile.I feel really good. I’ve been pretty honest with myself, I don’t think.I know.I am. That’s why I feel so good, cos’ I can’t believe it. It’s like being honest to myself and I’m getting a lot out of it. I don’t want to get on a soapbox and say, ‘Hey! We’re honest! Come and see us – we’re honest!.Like the Sex Pistols were honest’.”

As I said, he’s tackling the truth. And I’m sitting on a cold, stone shoreline.

This time last year Ian was the lead singer of Southern Death Cult; he didn’t drink, he was moody, he had a strange fascination with Amerindian values. In short, he was a mystery.

Meanwhile the Cult continued to shy away from the press and slowly, surely an image emerged of this youth that was half hero, half myth. Inexorably the press forced the creation of their ‘enigma’. It’s birth-pangs became its deathroes. Thus Southern Death Cult came to an untimely end sometime in March.

Now it is June and Ian had emerged with a new confidence and fresh band, whilst Aky, Barry and Buzz stand in some northern wing waiting for their chance. The vampiric press, as always, lurches sluggishly behind, seemingly content with the flat field, the fantasy and the pre-fabrication.

If they are Death Cult by name, they are quick by nature. Co-founded by 22-year old Billy Duffy – guitarist, ex-actor with Theatre of Hate and Mancunian Wag – and now augmented by Jamie Stewart, 19, bassist, ex-guitarist with Ritual, and Ray “The Reverend” Mondo, also from Ritual and now Cult drummer, they are waging an intense war with time and inspiration. In two months they have written ten songs, four of which – ‘Horse Nation’, ‘Ghost Dance’, ‘Christians’ and ‘Brothers Grimm’ – are due to be released as an EP. This time around all the urgency is coming from within.

Back in the flat field, the Goths and Vandals of punk’s dark aegis continue to sack the graves of a thousand dead ideals; the decay marches on. If they should be afraid of anything then it should be of the apocalypse that these four horsemen herald. This time the Death Cult comes not as a vanguard, but as a solitary soldier – alone. And primed.

On the beach in Brighton I’m asking the man about the skeletons in his closet. I enter only so far before I am accused by Ray of propagating the myth, of turning Ian into some ‘spiritual leader’. The truth, I explain, is that to cure cancer you must confront or prevent. With this, I intend to do both.

In a way it’s David versus Goliath – Goliath being an induced myth and David slightly pompous, often foolhardy but fairly true.

As they say, the truth will out, so why did Southern Death Cult split? “We split basically because we were working against each other,” Ian announces wearily. “When the band started off we didn’t know it was gonna go anywhere. As it was progressing we just kept the momentum going.but we never questioned it. When we started questioning what we were doing I felt I didn’t really want to be part of it.”

“I think we were working against each other. We were too individual to be in one group. We had to pursue our own thing.” Will the same spirit live on? “I don’t know. I can speak for myself and say: yeah, it will do on our part. I think I’ll be a lot stronger with what I’m doing now because I’ve got a better idea. I think I’m a bit more grown up.and I’ve got a better attitude towards doing things now.” “I want to take the Death Cult as far as we can take it.and still keep it intact.”

When I first met Ian I bought him oranges from the supermarket. Now he sucks on lager from the off-license. Is the south sucking you in? “No, no that’s not true. Before I went to the band I really went through a shit period. I didn’t have anywhere to live, I was really pissed off and I was very ill. When I went to Bradford I was just paranoid.I was shit scared of everything.I wanted something secure. Whilst this was happening I was very scared of having Southern Death Cult taken away from me. So stuff like drinking I really clamped down on. I’m not scared anymore. I feel really relaxed.”

Relaxed with Ian borders on insanity; a can of Pils dissolves the divide; funny faces, wild dialogues and insane poses are all evidence of a rarely glimpsed persona. It’s as if an undiscovered childhood is doing it’s best to catch up.

The clothes have changed now as well; he is now a scruffy ‘bod’ with a beret. Before he was always the serious brave with the Mohican and moccasins. His belief in the Indian way is still very personal to him and, if anything, he treats it with more respect now; the shock imagery has been replaced by a subdued, lyrical appreciation. And although they will continue to play ‘Moya’ there seem to be no direct parallels with the old group.

So what line do they intend to follow? “I don’t know,” he fumbles, “it’s hard to rationalise what you’re doing. This is one thing – the more you rationalise it – I just do it. You find people that get into the concepts of what they’re doing and at the end they’re contradicting themselves.”

“You get disillusioned with what you’re doing, you start questioning what you’re doing and you’re ability to do it. So I don’t want to do it. I’d rather people make an interpretation than me explain it.”

“We’ve got to keep the momentum going of what was in Southern Death Cult for me personally. There’s a big gap – there’s fuck all.bands or anything – that have got any real meat.that really make you shit yourself. The Birthday Party really makes me shit myself.”

“I’ve got so much venom for things. That motivates me. I feel really strong about it.” But what of last year’s claims? Could the Death Cult be the “.fulfilment of the energy The Sex Pistols unleashed.”? Again the answer is edged with confusion and underlayed with anger. “Oh fucking hell . I don’t know.”

“All that stuff is really stupid cos people force you into a position, they make you into what they want you to be. With people saying, The Sex Pistols and that, they kinda want you to do it because they know they can’t do it themselves. They just put that thing there to express their feelings – for everybody.”

“It’s a lot easier for people to take a back seat and say, ‘Yeah! They’re doing it, it’s really great, we’re really into it!’ As soon as they start falling apart they go, ‘Fuck off, what a load of shit.they’re selling out’. If I don’t live up to my expectations then they can fuck off – cos I know I’ve tried.”

In what is an attempt to qualify all that has gone before, he sighs, “If you strip yourself down to what you’re about then there’s not much point in continuing really.”

It would be rash to try and strip away this man’s pride; rash and greedy. And yet the last year has seen the press and the fans constantly peeling away his skin to discover his motivation.

He is intensely private, attacking purely out of necessity – protecting all that he owns: himself.

Disturbed, he continues: “Now were starting to get into a conversation where I’m actually rationalising what I’m doing.it’s like a mind fuck really. It’s when you start getting into the nitty gritty and see what it’s about.it’s like in the sixties where you could get away with so much because your bottom line was, ‘Hey baby!’. Now your bottom line is, ‘what’s fucking happening in Nicaragua’?”

“It gets right down to politics, subversion and whether they’re going to send some fucking guy with electrodes for your head, cos you’re saying the same thing. That’s the sort of thing you shy away from.”

“When I start thinking of them and about ‘The Scheme’ of things.I feel shit. I think it’s better to block that part out and do something positive.”

Then where has the confrontation gone?

Ian: “there was a rumour going round that the band split because I couldn’t handle large stages. That was shit! It wasn’t so much the large stages I couldn’t handle, it was being pressured into the foreground by people around me. I couldn’t handle people wanting me to be their standard wearer when they couldn’t be bothered to move with me.”

“They’re all standing back and letting me go off on my own.like letting a soldier walk through a minefield while the NCO’s stand back and go, ‘Fuckin hell, he’s blowing up! We’d better not take that path’. That’s what happens – you always get the pioneers.and you always get the dickheads who come out afterwards.”

The sentient soul of the fight is still intact though. He is adamant that the band are out “on the edge”, whilst others (including The Clash and The Jam) are “Establishment rebellion bands”.

The sentiment is all important; as he says, “I just don’t want to hear the words ‘cop-out’ in my head.”

Thankfully, the cores of Ian’s lyrics are riddled with the need to incite; the need to inspire others. How then does he inspire himself?

“One of the only emotions I get off on is hate,” he replies with a twist of that selfsame spirit. “It’s like something that people like to cover up all the time. Sex has gone out of the window you can’t write about that.It’s all artificial now. All experiences seem to be becoming artificial now.with more TV, films and video’s.it’s all progressing, like you don’t even have to sense anything for yourself. The only one left is hate cos people feel that they have to hit out from the corner they’ve been put in. What I write about.it’s a reflection.”

Are you still proud?

“This isn’t it, I’ve never felt so proud, so confident. I don’t feel arrogant.I just really feel strong.”

It is, as Billy Duffy states so appositely, “like embarking on an adventure”.

Or more delicately: “It’s like the Holy Grail or something,” adds Ian. “There’s got to be an element of Romance in there.like marking everybody part of the adventure. Why watch a film when you can experience it for real life”?

“Maybe yourself and other journalists don’t realise that there is another group of 14, 15, 16 year-olds that haven’t got a fucking clue about anything. Really. We’ve been through a period of music that has made us what we are now; where we listened to Thin Lizzy and Queen, they’re getting Kajagoogoo and Bow Wow Wow.and that’s what they’re into. That’s something that has been forced upon them.”

“What we’re doing is something that you go out and discover and it’s that much more exciting, cos you can go out and discover.”

“People are being pessimistic saying, Yeah, there’s a void because Theatre of Hate have gone and Killing Joke have not moved on. But fucking Hell! For the kids! There’s no void for them cos they haven’t gone on their little discovery trip yet.and they certainly will.”

And then? Death Cult? “Yeah!”.

Source: New Musical Express, June 1983
Author: David Dorrell