Astbury's career began in 1981, with the gothic rock band Southern Death Cult. At that time, he was going by the name "Ian Lindsay." Southern Death Cult gigged to support its "Moya" single, and secured a slot as an opening act for Bauhaus in 1983. Shortly after that tour, the band split up. Along with guitarist Billy Duffy bassist Jamie Stewart and drummer Ray Mondo, Ian (now going by the surname "Astbury"), formed a new band, The Death Cult and later dropped Death from the name.