Return the Bat to the Belfry

Poster from Murphy's recent tour which ends in Wellington December 15 2013

Poster from Murphy’s recent tour which ended in Wellington December 15 2013

Published in Rip It Up, December 2013

“He lives there?”- exclaims ex-vocalist for seminal Goth band Bauhaus, Peter Murphy, upon leaning that Killing Joke Front man Jaz Coleman has an Island outside Auckland. “Tell him that he better well come and pay homage, if he’s in town.” Laughing out loud he talks fondly of his old mate from the trenches of the 80’s alt-music scene. Murphy is on Skype, beaming in from Istanbul, where he’s lived for over 20 years, to talk about his upcoming trip to Australia and New Zealand. He and his band will be performing Bauhaus originals, nearly 35 years after their initial release. “I’d just completed the tour of my album Nineth and was in LA. The promoter suggested doing a night of Bauhaus material. So we did and it completely sold out! Bauhaus fans, old and new, are completely loyal and I’m very grateful for that. A second show was suggested and I thought about making it a whole tour, instead. We’ve been going most of the year now.” Murphy doesn’t think it strange or unusual revisiting the material, which includes their singles “In a Flat Field”; “She’s in Parties”; and their ultimate signature “Bela Lagosi’s Dead.” “Well, if you’re Beethoven you wouldn’t think it strange to play your 9th Symphony 30 year’s on, now would it?”

When I ask him why he’s living in Turkey he’s gives me a short lesson on the history of dance in that country culminating in the explanation that his wife, Beyhan, was offered the challenge of setting up a contemporary arts company in Istanbul. “Despite all I’ve done, amongst these dancers and patrons, I’m just the ‘husband,” he jokes, “she’s the star, the boss! And I’m not allowed in the studio during rehearsals – my looks are too distracting! ”
Indeed, it was Murphy’s gaunt check bones, slick black hair and dark clothing that set Bauhaus apart from their peers. They started innocuously in 1979 in quiet Wellingbrough, Northampton but became the Godfathers of Goth. Their sparse angular, music was influenced by the Bauhaus modernist movement of pre-War Europe. “We were completely original. Unlike Bowie, who is a manipulator and magpie, we were completely original artists. I still am. There was absolutely nothing to do in Wellingbrough so we were very fortunate to all find each other, to make this music that reflected our feeling of isolation.”

Mates Daniel Ash and David Haskins and his brother Kevin had played together in bands since childhood, including The Craze, which performed a few times in Northampton in 1978. When they disbanded Ash convinced his old school friend Peter Murphy to join him, simply because he had the right look for a band. Murphy, who’d been working in a printing factory, decided to go for it, despite never having written any lyrics, sung professionally or made music. It was during their first rehearsal that he co-wrote the song “In the Flat Field”. The band went on to perfect their barren, modernist sound producing four albums of stunning, original and, as it happens, defining material. “Radiohead would not have formed if it wasn’t for us”, claims Murphy. ”Well, that’s exaggerating but it’s true! We were very inspirational. Joy Division and even Bowie, was at the time, happening but we weren’t entirely aware of them. We existed as well, but not because of them.”

Just prior to recording of their fourth album, Burning from the Inside (1983), Murphy contracted a serious bout of pneumonia leaving the rest of the band to take over the record, including some of the lead vocals. The lead single, “She’s in Parties”, reached number 26 and gained heavy rotation status on commercial radio. It meant international tours and big success in Europe and the Far East. However, the night before they were supposed to perform two shows at Hammersmith Palais in London the group decided to quit. The 5 July show became their swan song. The audience was not forewarned but after a long encore consisting of some of their early songs, David J left the stage with the words “rest in peace”. Burning from the Inside was released a week later. Bauhaus reunited for a tour in 1998 and again in 2005 but Murphy is adamant now that that was it. “We’ve done it, This tour of Bauhaus material is my tour. It’s for fans and that’s it. We won’t be getting back together.” Not that Murphy needs to. After Bauhaus he embarked on a long solo career that’s clocked up many albums, with his latest being collaboration with Youth, from Killing Joke, in the producers chair. The writing and production of his new work Lion, was very speedy. “We wrote these songs in 9 days. Prolific, yes! But he’s very inspirational. I don’t like to look at my work as chronological; I create work that can belong in any era but I do like to think of it (the new album) as the Bauhaus we promised.”

Lion will be released in early 2014.

Peter Murphy, performing Bauhaus material will tour NZ on

Sat, Dec 14 – Auckland @ Studio
Sun, Dec 15 – Wellington @ Bodega

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