Monday, December 5, 2011

Interview with Peter Murphy

courtesy Nettwerk Records
A version of my interview originally appeared at (see California concert dates below).

Vampires enjoy a resurgent popularity these days, thanks to the successful “Twilight” film saga and “Vampire Diaries” TV show.
Long before most actors portraying those cinematic bloodsuckers were born, David Bowie starred in 1983 cult horror fave “The Hunger.” That’s where Bauhaus performed enduring goth rock classic “Bela Lagosi’s Dead” amid the opening credits. Last year, former lead singer Peter Murphy made a cameo appearance in “Twilight: Eclipse.” 
“I wasn’t really a fan of the movies,” he acknowledged while en route to Woodstock , N.Y. , where new album “Ninth” (Nettwerk) was recorded. “I liked the first one and the idea of people resisting their carnal urges. Very interesting and lovely stuff.” 
A seminal U.K. post punk band, Bauhaus put out four studio records during its first incarnation (1978-83). Murphy subsequently collaborated with Japan’s Mick Karn for the short-lived art rock project Dali’s Car and lone album, “The Waking Hour” (the pair resumed their long-awaited partnership with a new EP, “In Glad Aloneness,” recorded before Karn succumbed to cancer last January; it should be out in the coming months).
After a couple well-received solo releases, the Englishman’s career kicked into high gear for 1990’s “Deep,” containing the No. 1 modern rock hit “Cuts You Up.” Follow-up “Holy Smoke” had another smash in “The Sweetest Drop.”
Having married a female dance choreographer from Turkey in the Nineties, Murphy relocated there, converted to Islam and added more Middle Eastern touches to his music (notably on “Dust”). 
Some Bauhaus reunion tours commenced in 1998 and 2005-06; the latter period included a memorable co-headlining appearance at Coachella (Murphy emerged upside down like a bat) and tour with Nine Inch Nails. The quartet recorded its underrated swan song “Go Away White” and quietly released it independently three years ago.
Though the tension-filled sessions were halted before final mixes were done, their creativity level started out prolifically. 
According to Murphy, “Go Away White” was “essentially left incomplete. Quite remarkably, it’s unrefined and unedited. I was left with a reminder of how I work well being spontaneous. Not live; but immediate, in the same room.” 
The momentum carried over to “Ninth.” A compelling electric guitar-driven collection, the tracks “Uneven & Brittle,” “The Prince & Old Lady Shade,” “Velocity Bird” and “Peace to Each” find Murphy utilizing The Mission axe man Mark Thwaite and others in his longtime live band to rock harder than in recent memory (outtakes EP “Secret Bees of Ninth” emerged in October via iTunes).
A string section enhances “The Prince,” “Never Fall Out” and gorgeous ballad “Crème de la Crème” (written about the untimely death of “Ninth” producer David Baron’s daughter). Meanwhile, the singer retains his trademark low croon and theatrical style. 
“We created a residential studio in a converted church, which was a great space,” Murphy explained. “We’d eat, live and work there for a week. It was important to get actual live takes without digitized [interference]. That really captured a raw energy from each of us. You can hear it in the songs. It sounds like people playing together in a room and responding as they’re playing - not old school, but real school.” 
Nautical themed lyrics on “I Spit Roses” (check out the visually stunning, hand-painted music video at about a captain and “an absurd mutiny” describe the final Bauhaus breakup. 
“People kept asking, ‘why does this keep happening?’ As we proved again and again, it was dysfunctional. I wanted to answer the question once and for all…It’s the story of meaningless aggression against an enemy that doesn’t exist. Even very intelligent people can fall into childlike resentment and cause psychological abuse, disrespect and outright foolishness.” 
Murphy enthusiasts have reveled at the chance to get up close and personal during several SoCal club shows in 2011. He even plays Bauhaus material – a rarity in years past. 
“I’m the only person who really plays those songs authentically. They are my songs and part of my body of work. So I’ll choose them randomly and integrate them into what’s happening now. It’s also a way to tip my hat to people in the audience who love that work and want to hear it.” 
Fans could also hear a revamped setlist, since bassist/violinist Emilio China just joined the tour. 
“We’re able to open up the musical palate and arrange more orchestrated elements. I can start to pull out things from ‘Dust’ or [accentuate the songs] ‘Marlene Dietrich’s Favorite Poem’ and ‘Subway.’ It’s great to have live strings.”
Upcoming shows
Dec. 6 Solana Beach, CA...Belly Up Tavern
Dec. 7 Los Angeles, CA...Club Nokia
Dec. 8 San Juan Capistrano, CA...Coach House
Dec. 9 Pomona, CA...Glass House

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