Peter Murphy: "Bauhaus Was the Seminal Moment in That Time; Joy Division Was Not"
As Peter Murphy prepares for a solo tour featuring only songs from his career as Bauhaus' frontman, he seems compelled to contemplate the late-'70s U.K. postpunk scene.
Speaking via phone, riding a bus headed to the first night of his Mr. Moonlight Tour, the 55-year-old Murphy and Crossfade discuss the diverse and exciting (if sometimes confusing) music scene that sprang up when punk rock quickly flamed out.
At the time, despite pulling from influences as diverse as ambient music, Krautrock, prog, and glam rock, Bauhaus was lumped in with all the other DIY music culture out of England: punk rock.
However, Murphy feels being labeled as punk was the result of rash, shallow interpretations of the group and its work.
"It was not kicking against anything," Murphy says of Bauhaus' music. "It was being magnificent. That was beyond cool then, in terms of the adolescent thing of punk, where, after a year, they ran out of things to be angry at. We were the dawn of something."
He will admit Bauhaus had one thing in common with punk: lashing out against the status quo. "So the inspirations were narcissistic," Murphy says. "The inspirations were also to escape the working-class crap, Dante's Inferno of what you might call a class system. Not that it was more important or less important, but that was something we had to resist.
"Punks may have done it. Postpunks were part of that wave, part of the impulse, or at least I was. I was not a person looking to be famous, looking to be important, looking to be in a band. I just knew that I was a creator."
Soon after Bauhaus' arrival on the scene, Murphy and his band mates were compared to Joy Division, the group out of Manchester that would become New Order after the band's frontman, Ian Curtis, hanged himself in 1980.
"We were not like Joy Division," notes Murphy. "We were and are the seminal moment in that time. Joy Division is not that. It's OK, but it's actually really trashy. It's not that well-done. It's all right, good songs."
Lest he be accused of sacrilege for calling out Joy Division's flaws, Murphy continues, "There's all this myth: the sacrosanct Joy Division. Why? Because he killed himself. He was our friend. Of course, it's good music. I'm just saying we were nothing like them. We were nothing like anybody. That was a very British thing at the time. Joy Division didn't want to identify with anybody else either. Neither did the early Human League."
Since Bauhaus first disbanded in 1983, Murphy has produced nine solo albums. And his solo work spawned singles in the '90s like "Cuts You Up" that rival the popularity of any Bauhaus song. However, he remains indebted to the creativity of Bauhaus and embraces titles like "The Godfather of Goth" despite an aversion to labels.
"On one hand, I love it because I say, 'Well, of course. Thank you very much. At last. Well, thank goodness. It's about time you realize who I was.' And then I think about goth now, and I say, 'I'm sorry, kids. I'm not a monster goth. I'm not Lux... whatever his name was [Interior of the Cramps?]. I'm not like some Jagger wannabe, Iggy Pop. I'm not Bowie, who's just past it. I'm more what they could have been.
"Ignore these names, and I'm just me, thank you very much, and we're just goth. That's why we didn't talk much about it... I am a performer."
Ultimately, though, Murphy still goes back to Bauhaus' music. And he is performing this tour of Bauhaus music, he says, because it's a part of him that continues to inform his creative process as a solo artist. Over the years, the band had enjoyed several reunion tours from the end of the '90s and into 2006, with the studio album Go Away White, which would prove the end of the band for good.
"We traveled different universes, them as Love and Rockets and me as me, for 12, 15 years," he says of his mates. "So we didn't have that new vitality.
"Once the other members of Bauhaus had made it clear they couldn't keep up with me, they were past it, it was untenable to keep the band together. It was the final death gasp as us four individuals. That left me carrying the flag for the first time, in my heart, in my soul."
Peter Murphy's Mr. Moonlight Tour. Performing the music of Bauhaus. With My Jerusalem. Tuesday, April 30. Grand Central, 697 N. Miami Ave., Miami. The show starts at 7 p.m., and tickets cost $28 to $60 plus fees via ticketfly.com. Call 305-377-2277, or visit grandcentralmiami.com.
Follow Hans Morgenstern on Twitter @indieethos.
Get the Music Newsletter
Keep your thumb on the local music scene each week with music news, trends, artist interviews and concert listings. We'll also send you special ticket offers and music deals.