Holy Hell: The Cadavers 

Even when they’re not creating their consumptive clamor on stage, the Cadavers are busy raising their own particular brand of holy hell. You can call it punk, or you can call it goth, but I’ve often said I’d trust a punk or a freak more readily than I’d trust a man who always wears a suit and tie. For some, it’s a weekend gig: a chance to shed everyday colors, and like nefarious chameleons, personify the creatures that lurk within as they descend upon an otherworldly nightlife. Others run strong and hard with it for a while, before burning out or selling short. But, when a certain personage just happens to belong to a band called the Cadavers, it isn’t a macabre masquerade, and it’s not just Halloween: It’s a way of life.

I met my first Cadaver in the spring, on a sunny Sunday afternoon when I stopped by the bookstore to say hello to my husband. “I’d like you to meet Dru,” said one of his coworkers, and through the doors stepped an impish black-clad apparition, from the tips of his pointed boots to the top of his tussled head: Dru Cadaver. Held close to his side, in a sling just like mine, was a baby, just like mine: all light and life, perfect and blonde, dressed in pure white like a tiny, spotless angel.

As we talked, Dru’s pallid flesh made me feel ashamed of the sun that had browned my skin on warm spring days and I experienced a compelling urge to rush home and shed my Sunday best in favor of something more dark and ominous. And then there was the issue of the sling: Mine is batik. His was black.

To the untrained eye, the Cadavers may seem just like any other cool kids walking down the street. But, to the tutored and observant, it’s obvious that each has cultivated his own personal image. More devilish play than visual masturbation, they’re like a bunch of grown kids who haven’t forgotten how to play dress up.

There is no random slapping on of makeup or thoughtless spiking of hair going on here: Every stroke has meaning. And in this business, image is just as important as the music. “That’s what people remember us for,” says Dru, who defines his current manifestation as Edward Scissorhands mixed with Catwoman, or, as I perceive it, innocent freak meets sexy sinister villain.

After this first meeting, I was drawn to the Cadavers like an artless moth to a wicked flame. I needed to see all of them, to talk to them, to find out what makes their style clocks tick. So, I suggested meeting them to chat over cocktails at the Red Key and found myself amidst the bar regulars and the typical handful of white-collar smarty-pants who frequent the place on a recent Friday night. Choosing a large table in the rear of the dimly lit bar, I set about waiting for the darlings of darkness to make their entrance.

The first to arrive were vocalist Dru Cadaver and drummer Craig Chaos, causing a slight stir as they slid past the after-work crowd, toward me. Dru, full of apologies for their lateness, sat down and ordered a whisky sour, his clothes a complex jigsaw of cotton and safety pins and leather, salvaged from a variety of sources and seemingly stitched together by the hand of a wickedly crazed dollmaker hell-bent on creating something terrible from something good. In stark contrast, Chaos informed us that he’d been sitting in his van, drinking beer for the past half-hour. I sized him up, taking note of his heavily studded leather jacket and mohawk, tamed to submission and secreted discreetly beneath the crown of a baseball cap. Unlike the other band members, Chaos chooses a purely punk image, revisiting the roots of the music and the movement, holding strong to a 1980s hard-core look: no makeup on stage or off, just his leather jacket and, as Dru describes it, a “hugely dyed mohawk,” spiked to high heaven, a beacon of rebellion reaching out from behind his drums. “What you see is what you get,” he announced, then ordered a beer. When guitarist Scarecrow and bassist Corpse entered the bar, all heads turned. Instinctively, I was sorry to have pulled them out of their reality and into the raw glare of daylight and the smoke of the Red Key Tavern. “Who are those guys?” patrons murmured as the terrible twosome made their way to the safety of our table.

Stocky and menacing, with dreadlocks cascading down his back, Corpse clutched his glass of ice water between paws clad in a pair of black knit gloves printed with skeleton hands and glared at me across the table. Convinced he hated me, I pondered those gloves, so humorous, even sweet on the right person, but as menacing as Corpse himself in the dim light, the equivalent to the “Love” and “Hate” jailhouse tattoos carved into Robert Mitchum’s knuckles in The Night of the Hunter.

But Scarecrow was a Thing of Beauty, all jagged and angular like a collapsible ruler come to life. Above kohl-rimmed eyes, his hair poked out 8 inches in every direction, black tinged with Raggedy Ann red, reminding me of fireworks at some impious Independence Day. His look, he told me with a sense of irony, represents “All the villains from Batman rolled into one.” And it was true, I said. I could see The Joker and The Riddler and Mr. Freeze all having a glass of ice water beside me. Thus we sat, having drinks and sharing a cheeseburger, Miss Joni and the Cadavers at the Red Key, where there was solidarity in the end. As Nora, our waitress, handed us the bill, she asked the festering foursome if they were in a band. Then, slender and coy, dressed in a simple floral skirt, she turned our world upside down, informing us that she used to play typewriter with Dow Jones and the Industrials, “Back in the day,” as they say. She said she stood up for the Cadavers as they darkened the door. “You be quiet,” she scolded those who would be critical. “These are my people.” And the pretty girl tamed the savage beasts.

Carnal knowledge, Cadaverous considerations Source of name: final scene from Return of the Living Dead Favorite holiday: Halloween Music that turned their world upside down: The Misfits, Sloppy Seconds Favorite films: Edward Scissorhands and Tim Burton’s The Nightmare before Christmas Musical selections from the Red Key jukebox: Scarecrow: “I Fall to Pieces” by Patsy Cline; Corpse’s choice: “I Did It My Way” by Frank Sinatra Web site: www.thecadavers.net NOTE: Most difficult part of having drinks at the Red Key: not swearing for an entire evening.

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