Death Rock outfit CAUDA PAVONIS were the subject of the first band profile here on Rock Out Stand Out. Steph Warren spoke to lead vocalist/synth player Su Wainwright and drummer/backing vocalist Dave Wainwright where they spoke about their music, fans and their words of wisdom.
How would you like to introduce yourself and your band
Su: I’m Su and that’s Dave but you know that bit already.
How did you chose the name Cauda Pavonis
Su: ‘Cauda Pavonis’ (COW-da Pav-OH-niss). I found it in a reproduction of a 14th century alchemical textbook. Ancient alchemy determines the physical states of matter by colour but these can also be applied to the soul.
Base matter is lead and black, transcended matter is gold. The Cauda Pavonis is the Peacocks Tail, the many colours (like petrol on water) that denotes the transformation from the mundane to the wondrous. I liked the idea that we are pretty ordinary people doing something extraordinary and also that given its quite a feat to get into full on Goth it seemed pretty appropriate.
You been labelled as Death Rock and I wanted to know if you agreed with that
Su: Blimey, shall we start with the origin story?
Dave: OK, we can do the origin story. To start I suppose if you had to label us, we’re probably death rock, post punk. When we started, we weren’t planning to have a type of music. We liked the goth aesthetic, and we were in the goth seen at that point, so we kind of took that forward
Su: I think our subject matter was quite dark, I think its differently a gothic aesthetic. It definitely has one foot in punk, half a foot in folk and a significant foot in rock. It’s very difficult, I loathe pigeonholes personally and I loathe capital letters. The minute we get into Goth, into the thought that ‘Women do this’ or ‘Goths do that’ it doesn’t work. But in the European sense that is actually what Death Rock means, essentially, it’s a gothic punk band. We have that kind of punk music aspect, its quite melodic punk but dark. European Death Rock rather than American death rock which is called bat cave.
Dave: But we’ve been called bat cave
Su: We been called Goth, Punk, Synth Goth, Synth Punk, Steam Goth, Goth Rock, Bat Cave. We even called ourselves Dark Romantic for a bit, like the flamboyancy of new romantic movement of the 70’s because we had taken that kind of aesthetic. But it’s my music, we both feel that we cannot get this wrong.
Your music videos that you use a wide range of people and identities, I feel you are a very inclusive. I find that this can sometimes be forgotten in the music culture. Is this an important point for you?
Su: We’ve got fans who are right away across the gender spectrum, fans who are right across the age range and fans across from normal to fully enthusiastic goth. We seem to have got a lot of people who are of varying persuasions. That works both for us, in the sense that there are a lot of people outside of goth who are quite into what we do, and they quite enjoy the flamboyancy as well as the music, but we have a lot of people who think we should be more goth and more exclusive. But I don’t care if you like you like it and you don’t you don’t.
Music is funny. You do it and you throw it at people. It’s not up to you to say which kind of listener is more acceptable. If you’re a classical singer and you stand in front of an audience, you do not say ‘would all the people with blond hair please leave the room’, that would be a nonsense. You just do music, give it to people, if people like it great, if people don’t like it, well come on the people who do. I don’t know whether we’re deliberately inclusive, I think it’s fair to say were not deliberately exclusive.
Dave: The videos are often filmed with fans and friends; a lot of our fans are friends as they have been with us a long time. What we normally do is put a call out to do a video. We always start in the fan channel and say who wants to come and do a video?
Su: We get a lot of what you might call unlikely people. But I like unlikely people.
Dave: Like carnival noir.
Su: That was filmed in the local pub
Dave: A story video we work up and we take time to, not story board, but it’s about kind of creating an atmosphere that kind of carries the song.
Su: Saturnalia. That is where we get weirdly inclusive. I play with a recorder group at the local church, and that was filmed in the church hall. Which they let us have for the cost of the heating. Inside is pale yellow with gingham curtains before we got in there. We had the hall for the whole weekend. On Friday, we hung the whole thing with black, with the church next door and with the makeup lady in the kitchen. We now have the hall filled up with the people and big horses skull. However, there is no toilet in the church, they need to come into the hall. I think at one point we had the whole congregation in. I think we are very luck in our friends
That sounds amazing
Dave: I think the thing that music can be about, that we don’t subscribe to, is that people will use other people to get to where they want to go. We are not for using people. We are for bringing people aboard and if they are doing a service, we will pay them as much as we can afford. Feed them, sort them out, rather than there can be a kind of…..
Su: ‘I am a rock star, pay me homage’
Dave: Which we kind of fail at. Because that’s not what it’s about for us.
What songs are your personal favourites and which ones you enjoy performing?
Su: We have 54 pieces of material and my favourite changes on a daily basis. Sometimes it the things that you do the most frequently, sometimes it’s the things that you might have forgotten about. I might have my phone on shuffle, and it might throw up something that I’ve not heard us do for a long time.
So personal favourite, I have a really soft spot for Peace Through Superior Fire Power because it was my personal moto when I was younger. The equivalent to ‘tread softly and carry a big stick’. So that song, when you were saying about inclusivity, is really about how people need to shut up about what you look like or who you like or what you do. It essentiality says, if people don’t shut up, we’ll have you. It does contain the immortal lines ‘if you don’t like what we do, it just a problem for you’.
Dave: Favourite and enjoy playing are two different things. One of the ones I enjoy playing the most is probably Dusk Till Dawn but it is surprising hard work as a track, because it’s got quite a speed to it and its nearly 5 minutes long. If I had to have a favourite track, I enjoyed recording Forgotten Heroes which is a charity single we did a while ago. I think it ended up Peace Through Superior Fire Power
Su: A charity called Forgotten Heroes which supports the wives and families of injured service men. The charity is now defunct, but was founded by a badly injured service man who said, he was not a hero, his wife who had to constantly do everything for him (such as help with using the bathroom) was. We were asked if we could give them a single to help raise funds, so we wrote them Forgotten Heroes. It was an amazing thing to be involved in. There is also Love Like Broken Glass which is one of our most famous songs. It’s got us a long way.
Dave: I think one of the best things we’ve been told about that song, is when we went and played Germany, around 2008, and one of the DJs said ‘it has not been a good night until we have played Love Like Broken Glass. It’s the kind of thing that lives with you forever.
Do you have any plans for future events?
Dave: Yes, we looking at future events, but nothing has been confirmed so far. We’re also being careful what we sign up to. For an age we had a rolling support slot last year, that the pandemic moved it further, until it got to the point that it’s been dropped now. But we’ve got some promoters we enjoy working with, but they are just waiting for us to say, ‘yes we’re back into it, yes we want to do it’. We’re currently taking a bit of a step back. We are writing at the moment; we’ve got some new material ideas that we’ve been pushing around.
Su: As we are coming out of lockdown, I feel that I am becoming more creative.
Do you have any words of wisdom for our readers
Dave: Don’t forget to duck. The kind of thing you should always do is, when you feel down talk to yourself as though you are the best friend you ever had. Another thing: take it one step at a time. Sue: If you feel, in any way, that you would like to have a go, musically, for f**k sake, have ago. There is no point in waiting until you are the right age, thin enough, grown your hair out. Today is now, if you want to do it, do it now. It does not matter if you fail, it does not matter if people like what you do. It us much better to have tried it than to get old and wish you had.
Thank you Su and Dave for taking time out to speak with Rock Out Stand Out today and hope to catch you again soon.