David Barbarossa is, undoubtedly, a man of many skins. He was part of the early punk scene as drummer in the original line-up of Adam and The Ants. As we all know, when Malcolm McLaren took the band’s managerial reins, he took the Ants and created the now-equally-famous Bow Wow Wow, for whom Dave drummed, with those famous tribal rhythms, until their split in 1983. He later played with Norman Cook’s Beats International, Republica and Chicane. Last year, he wrote and released his debut book (which was reviewed on Popdose). The semi-autobiographical novel, Mud Sharks, met with a great deal of acclaim and appreciation at the warmth of such a personal and powerful piece. Now, this seemingly tireless legend is back behind the drums with singer Eva Menon and synth programmer David Harman in the highly energetic, dance charged Cauldronated, who have just released their debut EP, the aptly titled Buy This Thing.
I recently had the good fortune of catching up with Dave for a few minutes and had the opportunity to ask him to ruminate on the past, present and the future. Many thanks go to Tony Pontious of Hottwerk Records for the music and connection and to Dave Barbarossa for his graciousness, time and good humor.
Is this your first original music since Bow Wow Wow? If so, how does that feel?
No, I was in a band called ‘Horse Brothers’ before ‘Cauldronated. I played with that tribal feel with them. I played that way with DATHE, a studio project, too. It feels great playing the drums in an interesting way. I feel musically alive with this style.
What made you do something as stripped down as Cauldronated? Or is that you want it to be minimal and more rhythmically oriented? How does it feel to be playing in a “band” scenario again? When and how did this project begin?
You can hear ‘straight’ kit drumming, played excellently, either programmed or live in hundreds of bands at any time you like. Kick/hat/snare drumming predominates in modern music. ‘Cauldronated’ was born out of the desire to make new music and to push the boundaries of what ability I have. I love playing gigs in this band. Takes me back to the late 70’s in spirit.
You wrote an absolutely stunning and wonderful novel last year, “Mud Sharks”. What made you sit down and write a book? How did you feel as you were writing it – did you know you were on to something special? Because it is a terrific read. Do you think you’d write another, being that you have this natural gift for it?
The desire I have to play new beats and patterns, is the same one that made me write a book. I wasn’t to push myself… see how much I can achieve that is original and interesting before inevitable oblivion. Everyone has a book in them; I simply decided to get mine on paper.
I am writing a second novel. Bleedin’ hard graft, mate!
For those who don’t know – you played in two seminal ’80’s bands – what’s known as the “original” Adam & The Ants and with Bow Wow Wow. Talk about those days – what are your fondest memories? How did it feel to revisit playing with Adam again?
This is by far the hardest question to answer. It was great, but it was a long fucking time ago.
Let’s say, for example, you try to remember a brilliant relationship you had 25/30 years ago (if you are as old as me); the actual details, what was said, how you felt and where you went have gone, but you know it was exhilarating, special, unique …how’s that for perspective?
As for playing those few shows with Adam earlier this year – it was as ever, an honour to work with one of the giants of British pop music.
You’re not a “standard” drummer – you’re a very musical drummer; one who colors in all the lines, rather than just keeping the beat. Where does it come from? Are you “taught” or did you just pick up the sticks naturally?
I’m self taught. Like most people, I was besotted with music as a kid. Loved ‘Glam rock’ with all the thuddy drums. Just picked it up as a means of self-expression. The inspiration of my style is a blend of the 70’s glam rock sound, the reggae and soul music I listened to growing up in Hackney and my dad’s love of the Latin American beat. All those elements.
What do you listen to when you’re not making and performing music? What are some of your recent and older favorites?
Everything and anything. I don’t have a favourite genre. I don’t want to be cut off from quality by drawing any lines.
Are you looking at touring with Cauldronated in the United States and other territories? What do you hope and/or foresee for Cauldronated – especially in such an even more fickle music market and listeners with shorter attention spans?
Like anyone who loves the band they are in, I want to take my band all over the world.
The most important thing in Cauldronated is to push our musical luck. We aren’t really a ‘crowd pleasing’ band. We have our own ideals (all very disparate) to play passionately at our best, is what we aim for.
Buy This Thing is available now