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Rock/Pop

Gothic revival

Bela Lugosi’s dead, not Bauhaus

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Published 11/16/2005

If post-punk goth can be traced back to one brooding monolith, it’s Northampton, England’s Bauhaus.
A quick history lesson: Formed in 1978, Bauhaus appealed to those left tragically long-faced after the collapse of punk and glam, but also gave a faction of misjudged, often literate, cellar-dwelling U.K. kids a subculture all their own. Bauhaus’ debut single, 1979’s now-classic “Bela Lugosi’s Dead,” was a 10-minute, minimalist ode to Transylvania’s most famous vampire as played by a drug-addled Hungarian-born Hollywood actor. The song at once made an underworld scene comfy for droopy outcasts; it also signaled the mainstreaming of goth. Bauhaus’ experimentation with linear din broke ground for a new breed of English mopes and kohl-eyed sulkers while popularizing an entire genre of sound. By the time of the band’s breakup in 1983, gothmania was full-on and it had many American kids (mis)interpreting Brecht and seedy Berlin cabaret.

Twenty-seven years later, the band is reunited and touring North America. Frontman Peter Murphy’s theatrical antics survived the short-lived Dali’s Car (with Japan’s Mick Karn) and a commercially so-so solo career. (Murphy still has the grace of a trapeze artist — his upside-down suspension from the Coachella Festival stage earlier this year was Iggy-esque.) The other Bauhaus guys — Daniel Ash, David J and Kevin Haskins — had a good run in Love & Rockets, which peaked in 1989 with “So Alive.” After success with 1998’s “Resurrection Tour,” Bauhaus is together again to, perhaps, reclaim their perch atop goth’s lofty pop cathedral. And where would My Chemical Romance, Interpol or the Bravery be without Bauhaus?

Metro Times talked to Bauhaus drummer Kevin Haskins about band egos, bills and making Benjamins from a 22-year-old cadaver.

Metro Times: What was the best moment for you in Bauhaus?

Kevin Haskins: I think recording “Bela Lugosi’s Dead.” We had written it a few days before we went into the studio, and it was one of those kind of magical moments that happens when everything falls into place. Sometimes I think there’s some kind of divine intervention when you are making music, when you make good music. It seems to happen very fast and come together. With those kinds of moments, it’s hard to go back and almost impossible to go back and reproduce that kind of thing again.

MT: Any other worthy moments?

Haskins: We played a show in Manchester back in the early ’80s. The promoter told us that Nico from the Velvet Underground was in the audience and she wanted to see us. We let her come back immediately and somebody had the idea of doing “I’m Waiting for the Man” with her; she agreed. It was very spontaneous and we just ran on the stage and didn’t really know how to play it, but just played it anyway.

MT: And your lowest moment in Bauhaus history?

Haskins: I guess when it broke up. I didn’t see that coming.

MT: What led to the breakup?

Haskins: When we went in to do the last album, Peter Murphy was sick. We had the studio time booked and he said, “Go ahead and I’ll catch up with you guys.” So, we recorded a bunch of music, and he still wasn’t well. Then Danny and David felt like putting a vocal on some of the tracks. That was kind of the start of Love & Rockets. They really started to feel a pull and desire to sing as well. Then, Peter showed up and I think we were a little bit insensitive as to how he would feel. Now I can think about it, and if it had been the other way around, it would be like me showing up and somebody has done all of the drum parts. I would be a bit bent out of shape. He was a little bent out of shape by it, but he actually did take it pretty well. He put some backing vocals on some of those tracks. But I guess it was just all kind of naturally about to fall apart.

MT: When the band broke up in ’83, did you think Bauhaus would ever exist again?

Haskins: That feeling was completely gone. If I looked into a crystal ball and saw myself today doing this tour, I would have been completely in shock.

MT: You must’ve had real financial success with Love & Rockets, and maybe Bauhaus. What’s your life like now? Are you enjoying the life of an English country gentlemen?

Haskins: Well, we actually had a comfortable lifestyle in the late ’80s, very comfortable. I think we fell afoul of signing really bad contracts. But we didn’t make a lot of money. I think some people either would put us in the same category as, I imagine, Duran Duran. [They] made a lot of money, and U2 obviously made a lot of money. We don’t come anywhere near the amount of records they sold. We turned away all of our publishing, which is pretty much disastrous. But we did, so ... I feel very blessed because there have been times when I was getting really worried about paying my mortgage, and something would come up and I’d get through. I’ve continued to just have a life in making music in one way or another.

MT: Bauhaus didn’t peak until after the breakup. Are you touring now to reap the success the band should have had in the ’80s?

Haskins: There is that feeling amongst us, yeah. When we did the “Resurrection Tour” it was a very exciting prospect to play again, literally. I think because Daniel, Dave and I played with Love & Rockets for such a long time, we play better as well. There are a lot of pluses to it. We’re really, actually, having a lot of fun doing it.

MT: It seems the band in America is drawing fans from all age groups and not just SUV-driving ones who were right there in the band’s heyday. Does that surprise you?

Haskins: Kids can come along and go, “Oh, I see where this band got that idea from.” So there’s a real mix. This time around we are seeing a lot more younger people. I think, with these bands like Interpol and the Bravery, you can see our influence along with the Gang of Four and Joy Division. And in a lot of young contemporary bands now. In that way, when we did Coachella, the Gang of Four was playing, as well, and it feels kind of timely to be doing this again. It’s, in a way, educational.

MT: Do you feel those bands are simply reworking your sound along with some of the others from the ’80s?

Haskins: Well, we did. The Rolling Stones copied the blues players. It goes back and back and back and it will go forward and forward and forward. I feel honored that we’ve influenced these people.

MT: The rumor is Bauhaus is considering a new album.

Haskins: Yeah, we are. I think it would probably not be enough just to simply tour again. We have the intention to record a new record, and that will probably happen about this time next year.

 

Friday, Nov. 18, Royal Oak Music Theatre, 318 W. Fourth St., Royal Oak; 248-399-2980.

Dustin Walsh is a Metro Times editorial intern. Send comments to letters@metrotimes.com.

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