This one takes me back a long way, back to the days when music was fresh and exciting and meant something more than digital noise and instant delivery. Back in the day we listened to vinyl and we had to with patiently for new albums. One of those albums that had a huge impact on my early pre-teenage years was Bauhaus ‘In the Flat Field’ and this year Peter Murphy is back in Australia along with original Bauhaus bassist David J in tow. It could well be on the of the ‘must see’ shows of the year. We caught up with Peter to talk all about the tour and his early memories of music with an interesting retelling of the story of his formative years that led to the creation of Bauhaus, the influence of Bowie and some amusing childhood memories…
Peter: Hi Mark
Mark: Hi Peter, thank you so much for taking the time out of your day to talk to The Rockpit tonight.
Peter: You’re welcome.
Mark: It has been a while, last time you were over to see us was back in 2013. I remember the day well and I remember the show clearly, most of all I remember you were in very good humour.
Peter: Sometimes I go to this iconic place and give out a little religious cult humour (laughs)
Mark: You did a wonderful cover of ‘Severance’ that night too, which I loved.
Peter: Yes that will be on the setlist. This tour, which marks the 40th Anniversary or Ruby Anniversary of the Bauhaus stuff, the main set will be the entire ‘In the Flat Field’ album in order and then we’ll come on and do an extended encore of other Bauhaus stuff. I might scare David J by putting a few of my own in too, I don’t know yet. But definitely ‘Severance’ is really something, and it’s great as the outro of that becomes really tribal and almost terrifying, but almost beautiful, you know.
Mark: It’s great that you’re coming over with that album, back in the day that was a record that opened up whole new worlds of music to me, I’d been listening to my Dad’s record collection and when I heard that as a very young kid it was more than eye-opening. I remember forcing my Dad to buy a copy for me.
Peter: Did you! (laughs)
Mark: Can you take us back to those days if you can, where did it all begin, ’In the Flat Field is a long time go now’?
Peter: Well I was like the bookbinder printer-skilled chap, and Danny (Ash) had left school and he went to Art School four years or five years later and I got onto a course there with just one week’s worth of work that I’d just scraped together, but I didn’t want to go I felt very introverted and didn’t want that, it was more about going into that environment. So I internalised and listened to my music. After school everyone had split and gone their own ways, all the friends I had were artists but I was a kid who was interested in a multitude of things, I loved literature, all kinds of things, anything I turned my hand to, but there was no outlet for it. Which is typical because in that fertile earth of Britain where nothing happens a lot comes out you know. So I’d really been listening to music from being a baby, from 1st World War and 2nd World War songs through to Doris Day, then Simon and Garfunkel, Rolling Stones, The Beatles, to all the early Reggae stuff. It was a very musical family in terms of listening and singing, there was lots of music in the house and then in 1966 The Beatles explode and the radio is everywhere. Everywhere you go there’s music but on reflection now what’s happening is that there’s just this generic mush everywhere, you know what I mean?
Mark: I certainly do.
Peter: No point of contact, no identities, its bollocks really. You can hear Bauhaus next to Doris Day or anything! Who knows! (laughs) but I digress. So blah, blah, blah (laughs). But I love to listen to vocal harmonies so there’s The Beatles and the Every Brothers, and voices… Plus there was a very strong influence from Mass, you know the Catholic Mass at school where hymns were always really choral, and that was inspiring even from the first day when I was five. School itself was in this lovely little old building with this high ambient ceiling, a very ‘reverb’ place a where we sang ‘Ave Maria’ with this Spanish Teacher who was so inspired to get us to sing. So all this was going on in my head and I didn’t have any other context other than loving it, and I would sing all the time. And in fact when I left school when I was listening to The Stones, The Beatles, this that and the other and anything that was on the radio suddenly I found in my brother’s record collection Tyrannosaurus Rex – the early acoustic Marc Bolan with Mickey Finn…
Peter: And that was very curious because the lyrics were wistful almost mystical, but there was this beautiful effete voice where (Peter sings a snatch of Bolan) that had this wobble and this kind of beautiful narcissism, you know. It wasn’t Rock and Roll yet, but then it turned into the electric stuff and then ‘Electric Warrior’ and all this stuff comes out and it’s like “This is awesome!” Then at school on the school bus somebody shows me this black and white photograph. And I said ‘Who’s that’ and he said it’s someone called David Bowie, and this is way early before Ziggy Stardust came out. And it was this creature, and he was kind of wearing this fawn beautiful costume, which showed a bit of his bollocks you know, slightly. It was so erotic. And it was like “what is it?” not “who is it?” It’s a creature, it wasn’t some bloke, you know what I mean? And I didn’t know what that was so I said who’s that? It was a beautiful thing. So there were three friends: Joseph Pearlman (?), Daniel Ash and I, we lived somewhere else in Wellingborough, but Danny was brought up amongst the rabble, the ‘hard nuts’, the poor kid. His mum was a French teacher, our French teacher, Madame Ash, I was at the front of that class every bloody class and he was at the back hiding because she’d pour cologne over his head before he went to school so all these ‘meatheads’ you know what it’s like, there was ‘A’ class, ‘B’ class and ‘C’ class and ‘C’ class were saying words like ‘wank’ and ‘shit’ and ‘fuck’ at the age of eleven and I thought “What’s that?” (puts on a posh accent) “What are they talking about?” (laughs) “Darling I have no idea, I’m from Wellingborough we don’t even know what swearing is, we sing hymns, what are you talking about? Why are you holding that leather rope end in the air and saying ‘wank it’?” Back in Britain honestly! What a bunch of Anglo Saxon cunts! If you’ll excuse me! So anyway… “Pete there are some sixth-formers in the art room playing records let’s go up and listen ‘cause they’re really cool.” So we walk up and they’re playing ‘Hunky Dory’ and I thought – “That… That’s it! Oh My God Fuck! That’s IT!”
Peter: So I was this lovely gorgeous little thing but very much a loner, not at all into hanging around with anybody. I learnt of course later darling that all the girls liked Peter, but I didn’t have an idea then. So I went out straight away to the record shop and got ‘The Man Who Sold the World’ which as brilliant and then ‘Ziggy’ came around and I went to Pete’s to get a haircut, Pete’s was the barbers in my local town. I said “I want that haircut!” And I swear I was the first person to have had the haircut (laughs) and it was the cover of ‘Ziggy Stardust’ the yellow hair, not the Ziggy yet. So I turn up the next Monday at school and suddenly I’m really noticed. Danny loved it, but I wasn’t loud or anything, it was just marvelous really and Danny was like “Pete that’s brilliant” but he already had a good haircut because his hair’s like that (laughs)
Peter: He did! It looked brilliant (laughs). So Danny was the one to get a guitar, a Les Paul and he started learning it. He said “Pete come home for lunch” To Madame Ash’s house? Yes please! So I went over there hoping that she would be there (laughs) big knockers, gorgeous, loads of cologne, honestly it was an oedipal complex! I was the best French student! But meanwhile Danny was like ”Pete we’re gonna make a band” this was when we were like 12 or 13, “You be like Micky Finnegan, play anything, you just look brilliant!” So that all went on and then 16, left school and Danny’s going in all these rubbish bands but he’s doing it because he wants to play guitar. Then 5 years later he’s in this white boiler suit, he comes to my house and says “Pete I’m in a band, come on and I’ll play you what we’re doing, we’ve made a demo I’ll play you it in the car. So we go out and he plays me the tape of this band he’s in called ‘Jack Plug and The Sockets’ and it has this singer but they have David J and Kevin Haskins in it. And he says “Pete I think you should come and learn a song, what song do you want to do? Tell me? You learn it, we’ll practice it and I’ll get them to give you the guest vocalist slot.” I thought “I’ll do that” So I turned up and Danny looks brilliant, he’s really got something, the rest of the band is rubbish, but there’s this kid 14 years old playing drums and David is really getting off on trying to be the Beatle. But Danny was great and after he said “Peter what do you think?” and I said “Nah, I don’t think I could but you, you’ve really got something.” So three months later he calls me and says “Pete I can’t stand this band, I’m going to do my own stuff. Can you sing and write lyrics?” And I said “Yeah” so I go over and we in one weekend write half, and here’s where I actually come round to your question, I’m sorry (laughs) we did seem to go the long way round!
Peter: We meet in a school class room that Danny’s organised, he is the organiser, he really is, he’s brilliant. So he says look there’s a copycat, there’s a mic, that’s the reverb, you can make it do this, let’s just do something” And we wrote half of ‘In the Flat Field.’
Peter: Isn’t that brilliant.
Mark: And here we are nearly 40 years later. That’s amazing.
Peter: That really sums it up. It doesn’t matter. I’m a one off and we’re dysfunctional. I’m like all the singers that have ever been in my head. But because I believe it, it is like that. It’s brilliant narcissism but it’s not at the same time, do you know what I mean?
Mark: I do and you were inspired by one of the biggest icons that ever walked the face of the earth and who we will never see the like of again.
Peter: I think so and it wasn’t just simple. The whole thing was that every album was completely different, very engaging and completely esoteric. There was a very, very ‘who is this’ feeling constantly, it wasn’t like ‘oh it’s David Bowie.’ So that alone is inspiring.
Mark: And over the years I’ve always found echoes in Bowie in your work which is part of the appeal to me too I guess.
Peter: Oh yes, definitely.
Mark: One question I always wanted to ask and I know you did the series of covers back in 2009 as well, but you of course famously covered Bowie’s ‘Ziggy Stardust’ and Bolan’s ‘Telegram Sam’ if you’d done another cover from that era and that genre of music what would it have been?
Peter: That was the double killer, but the third cover would have been ‘Third Uncle’ you see. We did ‘Third Uncle’ in that patch.
Mark: Of course, Brian Eno.
Peter: Brian Eno and Roxy Music definitely. I want to tell you and your audience, this week I’ve been flipping through stuff and I came across ‘Love Is the Drug’ by Roxy, alright. And with Brian Ferry and Roxy he introduced a true glamour, it wasn’t ‘Glam’ it was glamour. You now – Is this a cocktail party or is this a recording session? And he’d have beautiful glamourous women, and it wasn’t at all sexist it was celebrating this beauty, this thing. You just check out the ‘Love is the Drug’ TV show, I don’t know what show it was, you’ll find it on YouTube and it features two girls, and man they fucking wipe the face off any bullshit that’s going on now. It’s beautiful, it’s glamour and it’s just fantastic. Never mind Brian Ferry you know stomping around at the front! That’s true glamour, you know what I mean? And I’m that in this band. So is Danny, or was, you know what I’m saying. It wasn’t about male or female notions of beauty, I was more beautiful than any guy, and I was, I was harder than most too, I’d jump in and have fights (laughs). They didn’t know what the fuck I was! And that’s the extension of Bowie do you understand?
Mark: I do, I get it completely.
Peter: Though Bowie of course could never have had a fight he’d never have done that.
Mark: He would have had someone to do that for him.
Peter: Yes! And of course no he shouldn’t do it. The point is that we were from him, we were his casualties, Bowie casualties, but inspired too. That was very alterative wat he did, truly alternative. Now what’s that last easy question?
Mark: (laughs) what is the meaning of life?
Peter: Oooh! You are! True.
Mark: ow that is an interesting answer. Thank you so much Peter it’s been wonderful talking to you this evening. I’ve a million other questions and I feel like we’ve only scratched the surface but it’s been a joy for me.
Peter: You’re welcome come over to the show and ask me! I’ve got too more interviews but if it’s about sex you can call me later! (laughs)
Mark: (laughs) I’ll see you on tour Sir!
PETER MURPHY PLAYS AUSTRALIA IN OCTOBER
Thursday 18th October – Wellington, Meow
Friday 19th October – Christchurch, Club Tavern
Saturday 20th October – Auckland, Powerstation
Monday 22nd October – Adelaide, The Gov
Thursday 25th October – Brisbane, the zoo
Friday 26th October – Melbourne, Max Watts
Saturday 27th October – Sydney, The Factory Theatre
Sunday 28th October – Perth, Amplifier Capitol
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