The Cult

The Cult is an English hard-rock band that started in 1983 as the goth-inspired Death Cult, a name derived from singer Ian Astbury’s prior band the Southern Death Cult.

As Death Cult they released two singles on the London indie Situation Two, then signed with Beggars Banquet as The Cult. After their 1984 album Dreamtime, they achieved transatlantic cult status with their 1985 release Love and its singles “Rain” and “She Sells Sanctuary.” They embraced hard rock on the crossover hits “Love Removal Machine” and “Fire Woman” from their 1987–89 albums Electric and Sonic Temple.

Members: Ian Astbury (lead vocals), Billy Duffy (guitar), Jamie Stewart (bass, rhythm guitar, 1984-90), Nigel Preston (drums, 1984-85), Les Warner (drums, 1985-88), Kid Chaos [Stephen Harris] (bass, 1986-88)


Ian Asterbury (b. May 14, 1962) was born in Heswall on the Merseyside Wirral Peninsula. After spells in Canada and Glasgow, he settled in Bradford, West Yorkshire. As a teenager, he embraced the music of David Bowie, The Doors, Iggy Pop, and the New York Dolls.

Southern Death Cult

In late 1981, Asterbury co-founded Southern Death Cult with guitarist David “Buzz” Burrows and two members of local punks Violation: bassist Barry Jepson and drummer Haq Nawaz “Aky” Qureshi.

On May 21, 1982, SDC recorded a sessions for BBC Radio 1 DJ John Peel. The 6/10 broadcast aired four songs: “Fatman,” “Today.” “False Faces,” and “All Glory.”

Southern Death Cult toured for eighteen months and released the single “Moya” in December 1982 on Situation Two. Virgin Records soundman Mick Glossop (Magazine, Penetration, Public Image Ltd., Skids) produced the single amid 1982 titles by Gillan, The Passions, Hambi & The Dance, and Valérie Lagrange.

A. “Moya” (4:37)
B1. “Fatman” (3:41)
B2. “The Girl” (3:30)

Southern Death Cult cut a session for BBC DJ Kid Jenson and opened dates for Bauhaus and Theatre of Hate. They splintered in February 1983 when Astbury left the band, which hired singer Paul “Bee” Hampshire and morphed into Getting The Fear for the 1985 RCA single “Last Salute.” Beggars Banquet issued The Southern Death Cult, which compiles the single with live material, studio outtakes, and cuts from their Peel and Jenson broadcasts.

Death Cult

In April 1983, Asterbury formed Death Cult with Theatre of Hate guitarist Billy Duffy and the rhythm section of Harrow post-punks Ritual: bassist Jamie Stewart and drummer Raymond Taylor Smith.

Ritual cut the 1982 singles “Mind Disease” and “Kangaroo Court” on the London small-press Red Flame, an issuer of early titles by Anne Clark, Carmel, The Decorators, The Room, and the Australian acts Severed Heads and the Laughing Clowns.

Duffy (b. May 12, 1961, Hulme) grew up on the hard rock of Blue Oyster Cult, Led Zeppelin, Queen, Thin Lizzy, and The Who. As punk took hold in Manchester, he replaced (future Durutti Column) guitarist Vinnie Reilly in The Nosebleeds, the earliest band of local teenage music-goer (and future Smiths frontman) Steven Morrissey. In 1979, Duffy teamed with Slaughter & The Dogs alumni in Studio Sweethearts, which released the 1979 single “I Believe” (b/w “It Isn’t Me”) on DJM.

In mid-1981, Duffy joined Theatre of Hate between the completion and release of their one studio album, Westworld, which reached No. 17 on the UK Albums Chart. He appeared with the band on the BBC music program Top of the Pops, which showcased their (pre-recorded) hit “Do You Believe in the West World.” Duffy plays on their May 1982 single “The Hop” and its posthumous followup “Eastworld.” His departure prompted ToH frontman Kirk Brandon and bassist Stan Stammers to reconfigure as Spear of Destiny.

1983 Shortplayers

In July 1983, Death Cult released a self-titled EP on Situation Two.

A1. “Brothers Grimm” (3:31)
A2. “Ghost Dance” (3:58)
B1. “Horse Nation” (3:24)
B2. “Christians” (3:48)

In September, Smith got deported to his home country, Sierra Leone. Death Cult hired Theatre of Hate drummer Nigel Preston and cut their second single, released in October 1983 on Situation Two.

A. “God’s Zoo” (3:25)
B. “God’s Zoo (These Times)” (5:09)


  • Death Cult (EP, 1983)
  • Dreamtime (1984)
  • Love (1985)
  • Electric (1987)
  • Sonic Temple (1989)


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