Peter Murphy has been a pin-up monster for the goth nation for almost 40 years now, ever since he croaked “the bats have left the bell tower” with Bauhaus, on their classic 1979 debut single “Bela Lugosi’s Dead.” Bauhaus were a band of pasty art students from Northampton, England, mixing up Bowie, punk, Catholic angst and horror flicks into creepshows like “Dark Entries” and “God in an Alcove.” Now goth elder Murphy is up to his old tricks on Lion, his tenth solo album. The album drops on June 3rd via Nettwerk, but is available to stream exclusively below (pre-order it here).
“I live under a very beautiful rock,” says the 56-year-old Murphy, on the line from Istanbul, where he’s lived for years. “I divorce myself entirely from the current music scene. People ask me about the gothic scene and I have no idea what they’re talking about. I never identified with that. Sometimes — once or twice — I’ve even gone onstage wearing non-black.”
Although Bauhaus broke up in 1983, their spell lingers on, especially for people who never wear non-black. They reunited in the 2000s, playing a Coachella gig where Murphy made his grand entrance hanging upside down like a bat. As Murphy says, “It was a band that didn’t have a lot of musical knowledge, so we were learning on our feet. Kevin [Haskins] was a trained jazz drummer, but Danny [Ash] would play guitar parts that were unusual, almost atonal, making an orchestral sound out of very little.”
Generations of fans discovered them in the opening scene of the 1982 David Bowie vampire movie The Hunger, where Murphy wails “Bela Lugosi’s Dead” as Bowie and Catherine Denueve prowl a New York goth club for fresh blood. “I think that helped the band a lot,” Murphy says. “But it seemed to cement a kind of culture that was not what we were all about. It became a bit of a ball and chain around our necks.”
Ball and chain or not, he spent 2013 on the road with his “35 Years of Bauhaus” tour, doing the catalog without the rest of the band. “There is an audience out there who want to hear it,” he says. “But I think that’s exhausted now. For us all, really. I don’t think any of us truly want to play a whole set of that music again.”
The past couple of years have been eventful for Murphy. In March 2013 he was arrested in Los Angeles after an alleged DUI hit-and-run; he pleaded guilty to methamphetamine possession and was sentenced to three years’ probation. Lion, produced by Killing Joke bassist Martin “Youth” Glover, came together under rushed circumstances. “It was a very fast process,” Murphy admits. “It’s mostly due to the producer. I had nothing on the table except a sketch or two. So the producer, to coin a phrase, pushed me off the edge of the hill and I had to fly.”
Having put the album together so quickly, now the challenge for Murphy is learning to perform the songs live. “It was all improvised on the spot and I’m still learning what I did,” Murphy says. “I’m practicing my head off at the moment. The songs are all in a high register — so now I have to learn to sing that way. I keep asking, ‘My God, how did I get that high? How do I get that high again, and how do I sustain it for an hour?'”