By Jacob Katel
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Springtime and desert glare aren't the ideal conditions for resurrecting the undead. Yet it was in April of this year, at the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival in Indio, California, that the original four members of Bauhaus found themselves back in black for the first time since 1998.
Eldritch singer Peter Murphy in a bat costume complete with leathery-yet-gossamer wings spiraled headfirst from a lighting fixture and, while upside down and suspended by a bungee chord, launched into the epic dirge "Bela Lugosi's Dead." The rest of the legendary upstart set (of which Murphy said, "You can say now that you were here") upstaged the festival's nominal headliners a bland lineup that included Wilco, Keane, and Coldplay.
And suddenly Bauhaus, more or less contentedly moribund for the past two decades, was beset by offers to dust off its architecture-philosophy references and nihilism playbook and represent for the senior goths. "Yes, that's exactly what happened," agrees lead guitar player Daniel Ash during a phone interview from Ontario. "That's the whole reason we're doing this. We thought Coachella would be a one- or two-time resurrection, but that went so well we were offered gigs out of the blue, and right there, at the festival, on the spur of the moment, we agreed to do it and just sort of hit the road."
Ash makes light of what's come to officially be called the "Resurrection Tour," but Bauhaus baggage is heavy and heavily freighted. An enormous and obvious influence on everyone from The Faint to Interpol (not to mention Commes des Garons and John Galliano), Bauhaus's lifespan was short from 1979 to 1983 and consisted of a meager four albums and a handful of maxisingles.
Yet this quantitatively limited oeuvre would go on to define two decades of goth. Songs such as "She's in Parties," "Stigmata Martyr," and "Terror Couple Kills Colonel" brim with social disgust and shimmer with a simple yet orchestral arrangement of straight-ahead guitar, drums, bass, and Murphy's spitefully spritelike delivery.
"Our work is actually shockingly simple," says Ash. "And we haven't made any attempt to muck it up by modernizing our sets with loops, tracks, samples, dance mixes, or what have you."
In the years since, the four members have not left their inclinations to atrophy, though. By 1985, Murphy a onetime professional dancer with cheekbones that could carve ice sculptures had parlayed his stage presence into a persona, in turn becoming a significant and successful solo artist behind singles as varied as the moody "A Strange Kind of Love" to the cello-driven "Cuts You Up." Then the mercurial Murphy kind of dropped out for a while, converting to Islam and moving from his native England to Istanbul, Turkey.
Ash, meanwhile, formed Love and Rockets with remaining Bauhaus members David J., the keyboard player; and Kevin Haskins, the sturdy, stable drummer. Love and Rockets actually has been the most commercially viable of all the Bauhaus projects, hitting the pop charts with the eerily seductive 1989 single "So Alive." Subsequent singles "Kundalini Express," "All in My Mind," and "Motorcycle" also became club staples.
Despite their commercial success, which was never entirely the point, Love and Rockets splintered. David J. moved to Los Angeles to become an established DJ at clubs such as the Viper Room (a gig he still holds), while Ash indulged his love for experimentation in a 1991 collaboration with Tito Puente titled Walk This Way, as well as subsequent solo albums and soundtrack work.
But don't expect to hear anything non-Bauhaus during the reformed quartet's showcases. "No. No side project music. Those are other entities, and Bauhaus is Bauhaus," declares Ash. "We get back into character very easily. For this tour, we only rehearsed for about two weeks. We just listened to the old records and were easily able to reproduce the old feelings as well as the old sounds."
While the transformation was easy for Bauhaus, don't expect the group to commit to anything beyond this tour. "Don't ask me about what our plans for the future are," Ash adds nicely. "We've got some real, um, volatility issues. I don't know what's going to happen in two weeks, let alone looking ahead to new studio work or another tour though I personally would like to see both those things happen. But when you've got several very creative personalities ... let's just say I've given up predicting what's ahead."