In one form or another, Dustyn Astbury grew up training for a life in music. From age 13, he spent many of his summers attending Rock & Roll Camp in his hometown of Pendleton, Ore., where he went from learning guitar to teaching other kids how to play. When he wasn’t there, he was in a different, more immersive kind of rock camp: living with his father, Ian Astbury of the Cult. That’s where he heard the likes of David Bowie and Primal Scream for the first time, and where he first picked up a guitar. Those vacations taught him other life lessons as well—like the time he was staying with his dad in New York, where he gave a stranger he met skateboarding in Union Square money to buy him pot, and the guy never came back.
“I’m from Pendleton, I trust everybody,” says Astbury from a table at World Cup Coffee inside Powell’s. “I started to realize you can’t trust everyone in the world.”
Now 20, Astbury knows better. But, as he’s transitioned from his formative years into trying to establish himself as an artist, he’s finding he still has more to learn. In the two years since dropping out of high school and moving to Portland, Astbury has run into an almost comical series of impasses. He and his then-bandmates got evicted from their house, and the landlord threw away his guitar and amp. Then the band broke up, and an album half-recorded with Victor Nash of Point Juncture, WA went unfinished. Another record, a collaboration with omnipresent local drummer Papi Fimbres, got lost when his computer crashed. Astbury refers to this period as a “downfall,” though sitting across from him, he doesn’t seem particularly troubled. Part of him knows these setbacks will end up being essential to his development. After all, while struggling to get what would become the Cult off the ground, his dad—who’ll be in town with his band this week, playing its seminal 1987 record, Electric, in full—begged on the streets of London and lived in squats. So the younger Astbury can hardly complain.
Not that he’s trying to follow in his father’s hard-rock footsteps, anyway. Although he dabbled in punk and metal as a teenager—including a group called Stalin, which he describes as “psychedelic surf music,” even though everyone else called them “power violence,” and Wizard, a synth-driven party-punk band—Astbury has more recently gotten into the electronic beat scene, producing various EDM styles under the name DVST. He hooked up with the Portland-based STYLSS label last year, and has plans to start his own spinoff collective. He speaks excitedly about the near future, though his “downfall” period hasn’t quite alleviated: Just a few weeks ago, he lost all his music when his hard drive crashed for a second time. In February, he started experiencing intermittent panic attacks, in part over the pressure he’s put on himself to succeed in the family business. But, as his dad learned through his own crawl from street punk to thunder-bearing rock-star frontman, good things come to those who don’t wait for them to happen.
“Don’t wait for the applause,” Ian told him recently, “just keep on going.”Like father…
SEE IT: The Cult plays Roseland Theater, 8 NW 6th Ave., with White Hills, on Monday, July 29. 8 pm. $30-$45. 21+.