Named after a little-known song from Bowie's Space Oddity album, Cygnet Committee were formed in January 1987 to introduce a new face to what they believed was "Hamilton's dying music scene". The original line-up was Sean Lynch (vocals, acoustic guitar), Patrick Belami (bass), Tony Mephisto a.k.a Tony Davys (guitar, effects) and Daniel Allen (drums).
Belami was replaced on bass by Adrian Scott (a.k.a Adrian Webclaw), and after that all but Allen remained in the group throughout, with several changes behind the drumkit. Allen became the drummer for Requiem, and was replaced by Tara Watt; Paul Tregilgas was reputedly rejected only to go on to become a well respected Hamilton drummer. Finally, Rik O'Kane became the most permanent drummer to play with the group.
With their swapping of various members and playing live together often, Cygnet Committee and Requiem formed the collective known as Terror Couple. In 1989 Terror Couple produced what was tauted at the time as Hamilton's first compilation, TC1 (although see Suicide City 86-87). The band had the song Starvation and Hitler Dances included on the compilation. The name Terror Couple was derived from a song by early UK gothic band Bauhaus, and was also a reference to the love of Horror (Terror) exhibited by the Two Bands (Couple).
With these "schlock horror" overtones culled from the genres of gothic, punk, glam, metal and deathrock, both Cygnet Committee and Requiem were soon seen to be the spear-head of a "dark" movement in Hamilton music, which also later included Book of Martyrs and The Haunting, among others.
Cygnet Committee had a theatrical element to their performances. Front-man Sean Lynch was heavily involved in drama at the time and his stage performances and melodramatic vocal style were often compared to the camp histrionics of Ziggy-period Bowie, and Bauhaus front-man Peter Murphy.
A friend of the band was a theatrical lighting technician which was utilised to good effect in the band's shows, and they often favoured performances in theatres rather than conventional pubs and music venues. Other performances at Auckland's Gluepot are well-remembered; one such event involved an actor as a "zombie" who wandered on stage, peeled back his scalp and proceeded to eat his brains with a spoon during the song Brain Music. A young woman in the audience (thought to have been tripping) was so convinced by the horrific sight that she ran on stage and hysterically assaulted him with her stiletto.
Cygnet Committee disbanded around 1990/'91. Their last performance was at the "Market Place" in Hood St, which also featured "The Lils" from Auckland and Calamari Bushmen from Rotorua. The power supply was not big enough to handle the PA so sound guy Hugh Magill replaced the fuse with a nail. The next day the organiser of the gig was presented with 40 sound complaints and banned from having a liquor license for one year.
From the now-defunct Auckland 'zine Monitor:
26/07/89 at The Gluepot (Auckland), with Book of Martyrs and Watershed
"..the Cygnet Committee experience was like stepping into a weird dream where Peter Murphy meets Ziggy, they tango a while (great tangoing - can that guy move or what?) and it all gets very arty. Ten out of ten for consistent stage act..."
- Sasha Diamond
Members post-Cygnet Committee
- Sean Lynch played trumpet in Hand of Glory, and later went to Melbourne and focused primarily on theatre. He has more recently returned to Hamilton and is a member of Conway.
- Co-founder/songwriter and bassist Adrian Scott (Webclaw) later played in and collaborated with many bands, projects and artists including Swamp Goblin, Wendyhouse, Raleigh 20, Emit Snake Beings, The Webclaw Four/For/Flaw and solo project Frottage. He died in September 2005 of leukemia.
- Tony Davys (Mephisto) ran Highlights, the only Hamilton "alternative" venue in the early 1990s. He passed away in 2008.
- Rik O'Kane played alongside Adrian Scott in both Swamp Goblin and Raleigh 20.
- Dave Whitehead and Dave Lowndes transformed Terror Couple into Theta Productions (early-mid '90s), and co-founded Gas.