Bauhaus drummer Kevin Haskins was behind the kit for one of the most iconic groups of the late ’70s and early ’80s.
Now he’s got together with Cleopatra Records to document his life and times with the band in a glossy, coffee table art book.
Featuring largely unseen memorabilia, Bauhaus Undead is Haskins personal account of the goth rockers turbulent history, from their inception in 1978 to their successful comeback tours of 1998 and 2005.
Derided by some as pretentious David Bowie clones, Bauhaus nevertheless carved their own place in music history with a series of dark, moody records and provocative performances.
Named after a German art and design movement, they set out their stall with a monumental nine-minute debut single Bela Lugosi’s Dead, which stayed on the independent chart for two years following its release in 1979.
Fittingly, the band went on to perform the song in the vampire film The Hunger, starring Catherine Deneuve and Bowie, whose Ziggy Stardust the band would cover to memorable effect in 1982.
The quartet – Haskins, his bassist brother David J, guitarist/vocalist Daniel Ash and frontman Peter Murphy – parted company a year later, but remain a huge influence on a host of American artists including NIN, Marilyn Manson, Jane’s Addiction, Interpol and The Flaming Lips.
Nirvana‘s Kurt Cobain is also said to have a been a closet fan, his Bauhaus albums scratched up from over-use.
After the split Murphy, whose chiselled cheekbones saw him becoming the face of Maxell tape ads, formed Dalis Car with Japan‘s Mick Karn, before going solo, while the other three played together in Tones On Tail, before enjoying US success with Love and Rockets.
More recently Haskins has become a soundtrack composer with credits including The Crow III and What Lies Beneath.
Now based in L.A, he and daughter Diva Dompé united with Ash again last year to form Poptone – playing a set laden with Tones on Tail, Love and Rockets and Bauhaus tracks.
Matt Catchpole caught up with Haskins to reminisce about the stories behind Bauhaus – Undead, the band’s enduring legacy and the prospect of another resurrection tour.
Kevin please tell us about the book – why did you decide to put it together?
Well it was actually the suggestion of a good friend of mine Matt Green at Cleopatra, three years ago. I had no plan at all to do anything with my collection, so I’m very grateful to him for suggesting it. Cleopatra did offer me a standard book publishing deal at that time, but I chose to self publish instead. So I embarked on what would become a very eventful journey, and actually came full circle and ended up doing a better deal with Cleopatra!
Had you kept good records over the years or did it take a long time to assemble all the memorabilia and other material?
Early on in this journey, as I was researching how to self publish, I ran in to a chap by the name of Jeff Anderson following an Underworld show at The Hollywood Bowl. This proved to be very significant and synchronous. It happened that I would run in to him again and again at shows and on the third occasion I asked him what he did for a living. He informed me that he produced books and box sets for the likes of NIN, Sigur Ros, Pixies, Roger Waters, Beck and Fleetwood Mac. When I saw his work I immediately knew that we should work on the book together.
Did working on the book bring back any special memories for you?
Yes it brought back many, many special memories. Meeting Iggy Pop on our first US tour. Meeting Bowie when we filmed The Hunger. Purchasing a hearse and all that that entailed. Recording Bela Lugosi’s Dead. How we came to release Bela on Small Wonder Records. Performing I’m Waiting For My Man with Nico. Meeting John Peel and hearing Bela for the first time on a transistor radio. Playing to over 100,000 people on the main stage at Coachella. The list goes on and on and all the stories are in the book folks!
Were the other members of the band involved in the project?
No. I wanted this to be my project, produced and directed by myself. I had a vision for this to be a celebration of the band and our legacy, told from my point of view.
Why do you think Bauhaus has such an enduring popularity?
Because the music for a start is timeless and real. It has a purity with no contrivance, and although back in the day the UK music press could not see that, our audience did and the numerous bands who named us as a powerful influence obviously did. What we created was unique and groundbreaking, and I’m very proud of that.
Who were your influences starting out?
In terms of influences, I believe it’s every piece of music that one hears, every book one reads, every film ones sees, from birth to conception of the band. It’s every experience, good or bad that each member of the band had. That all goes into the blender and organically comes out.
Was it conscious decision to go for a gothic rock sound – had the term goth even been coined at that time?
The only conscious decisions we made in the early days were to wear black and use white light on stage. The first song we wrote, Bela Lugosi’s Dead; how you hear it on the record is pretty much how it sounded the first time we ran through it! We never sat down to synthetically create a sound, it just happened. I can tell bands from a mile off who do that, and for me it’s shallow and has no soul. The term Goth didn’t exist, probably until a year after we started.
You attended one of the early Sex Pistols gigs – was that a ‘Road to Damascus’ type moment?
To a certain degree, it definitely was a revelation. Several months before The Sex Pistols gig I went to see Led Zeppelin at a Earls Court, a huge venue in London. They were in their prime, and it was a marvellous rock show. John Bonham played a blistering half hour drum solo. I left the show with a mixture of elation and depression. I knew that I could never be as technically good as Bonham, and a feeling of dejection enveloped me! Fast forward to the 100 Club. I had just left high school, dressed in flared denims and long hair, and immediately felt very out of place amongst the punks who consisted of Siouxsie, Sue Catwoman and Sid Vicious. The Clash took to the stage and it was like being hit by an express train! Their style and sound blew me away, and I instantly thought, “I can do this!” – such a cliche. The Pistols followed and I was converted. The next day I went to the barbers and had my long locks cut short and took my pyjamas in to the garage and splattered them with emulsion paint, Jackson Pollock style. That show gave me the confidence to use what little chops I possessed to great effect.
Did you feel any sense of kinship with other proto goth acts like Sisters of Mercy, Killing Joke and Siouxsie and the Banshees?
Well the first Banshees drummer, Kenny Morris was a big influence, as was Stephen Morris of Joy Division. Sisters Of Mercy didn’t connect with me but I loved The Banshees and Killing Joke. We played a few shows with the latter and struck up a friendship with them.
I spoke to Colin Moulding recently and he said XTC were initially banned from mentioning they came from Swindon – did you encounter similar issues coming from Northampton?
No. I think we took a certain delight in mentioning that we came from a town that had not really produced anything that significant musically before. Des O’Connor being an exception.
Bela Lugosi’s Dead stayed in the Independent charts for two years – were you surprised by its success?
When we recorded it we knew that it was very special. It really came out of nowhere and shone above the few other songs that we had written. Still, I think that we were surprised by its longevity on the charts.
Did record companies baulk at the idea of releasing a nine-minute single?
Daniel hawked Bela Lugosi’s Dead around to every major label in London. Actually one of my favourite pieces in the book is his chaotic hand written notes referring to each company, their comments, and his opinions of them. It’s funny as Beggars Banquet who we eventually signed with a couple of years later were not that impressed. Each one turned us down citing its length and that, “It’s the sort of thing that I love listening to at home, but it’s not commercial”. Eventually, the acetate ended up in the hands of Pete Stennett at Small Wonder and he got it! He had no issue with the length. In fact he probably loved the audacity of it!
Covering Ziggy Stardust was a bold move – were you worried about how it would be received?
Yes! Very much so. We used to play it in soundchecks just because we all loved Bowie and it’s fun to play! When we were recording Mask, on the first day, the engineer, Mike Hedges asked us to warm up so we played Ziggy. At the end he very enthusiastically exclaimed, “We have to record this!” We all collapsed with laughter and explained why the press would rake us over the coals if we were to release it. (We were constantly derided for being Bowie knock offs). He understood but persuaded us to record it anyway. When our label Beggars heard it they persuaded us to re record it and release it.
You made up the rhythm section of the band along with your brother David J – did it help having your brother in the band?
When Daniel formed Bauhaus he didn’t want David in the band as he had been in David’s bands before and felt he would be too controlling. It took me several weeks to persuade him to give David a chance. I instinctively knew that he was the missing piece of the puzzle. On the first rehearsal David brought along the lyrics to Bela Lugosi’s Dead. I rest my case.
What were Peter and Daniel like to work with? Was there a clashing of egos?
There were clashes of egos, literally left right and centre. But I feel that’s important in a band.
Why did Bauhaus break up in the first place?
Clashes of egos!
Peter Murphy toured Bauhaus songs on your 35th anniversary year with a different line-up – did that rankle with you at all?
Only when he exclaimed on stage, “This band is better than Bauhaus!” But he was obviously joking.
Bauhaus famously reformed in 1998 and 2005 – do you think you’ll ever play together again?
I’ve learned to say, “never say never”.
You played with Daniel in Tones On Tail – a side project to Bauhaus – what was the thinking behind forming a second band and what did Peter make of it?
Tones On Tail was Daniel’s side project with Glenn Campling while Bauhaus was still going. I didn’t join until after Bauhaus disbanded. I suppose Daniel wanted to have another band where he could have more control and be more experimental, which it definitely was. Daniel, my daughter Diva and I have been playing Tones On Tail songs again with our new band Poptone. Revisiting those songs, it really struck me how eclectic Tones On Tail music is. You would have to ask Peter what he thought of it as I have no recollection of that.
Then of course you formed Love and Rockets with Daniel and David – do you think fans understood your need to move away from your goth roots?
Well we never felt that we were intrinsically part of that scene. Each band felt like a natural progression from the other. Stylistically and aesthetically. I would imagine that there were some fans of Bauhaus that would possibly resent the change.
You’ve composed numerous film and TV scores along with writing partner Doug DeAngelis under the name Messy – how did you get into that? And how does it compare to working with a band?
I always loved experimenting with synths and samples and providing atmospheric beds to songs such as Hollow Hills for example. So I felt as far back as the early ’80s that composing might be a natural evolution. I scored my first film in the early ’90s on an Atari with one synth and a sampler, but it was several years later I really applied myself. Once The Resurrection tour was over in 2000 I decided to really have a go at composing and teamed up with Doug who produced the final Love And Rockets LP, Lift. My history opened up doors to the top agencies and provided a good calling card to music supervisors. Still. it was not easy breaking in and took a couple of years before we got our first break. The main difference with composing compared to song writing is that one has to support the action on the screen and be almost invisible. The other difference is that you can’t do what ever the hell you want to! One has to follow direction from the director and producers, so there’s not as much freedom. It really is very different from being in a band.
What’s your favourite Bauhaus track and which album would you recommend as a starting point for new listeners?
Thats a very tough question! All We Ever Wanted Was Everything springs to mind but it would have to be Bela Lugosi’s Dead. A good starting point for new listeners would be to buy everything!
- Bauhaus – Undead “The Visual History and Legacy of Bauhaus” is out now through Cleopatra Records
- For more about Kevin Haskins visit his Twitter page here