The Hunger Lives On
By Arrissia Owen Turner
Peter Murphy always knew he would live forever. Not in an undead, Twilight sort of way, but through song.
The former Bauhaus frontman’s career spans more than four decades, kicked off with the unlikely hit, 1979’s “Bela Lugosi’s Dead.” The single cemented Murphy’s role as the godfather of Goth subculture. The song is not dying off anytime soon.
“I was completely certain from the moment I started writing songs that it was meant to be,” Murphy says, putting all English humility aside. “I heard Bob Dylan say once that there was no use in working toward anything unless you believed in it. It’s almost like when you have a sense of destiny. It’s a journey where you are discovering that.”
Now in his 50s, Murphy shows no signs of slowing down with a new generation discovering his influential role in the genre. From 2006 through 2009, Murphy toured and recorded with Trent Reznor often. TV on the Radio and others joined Murphy and Reznor to record the cultish 2006 Radio Sessions, reinterpreting one another’s songs as well as those by bands that influenced the superstars.
Murphy’s journey began in Northhampton, England, with Bauhaus bandmates Daniel Ash, David J and Kevin Haskins. The four friends cultivated a new sound that gave life to an inspired gloomy groove.
The band performed “Bela Lugosi’s Dead” during the opening scene of the 1983 vampire film The Hunger, starring David Bowie and Catherine Deneuve, raising the band’s profile exponentially. But that same year, the group imploded due to infighting, launching Murphy’s solo career.
After a brief project with Mick Karn of the band Japan, Murphy recorded a string of albums, including Deep, which produced probably his most recognizable alt-rock solo single, “Cuts You Up.”
But even with an impressive catalog of solo work, fans continually yearned for Bauhaus reunions. The band gave in a few times over the years, most famously at Coachella in 2005 and during a tour with Nine Inch Nails in 2006.
That Bauhaus reunion resulted in the 2008 release Go Away White, but also the band’s second acrimonious demise. On Murphy’s most recent album, Ninth, “I Spit Roses” responds to the kerfuffle.
“The song recognizes an end, but it’s not sad,” Murphy says. “It’s like, ‘Thank God for that.’ I’m free of it.” Murphy says it’s a joyous song, no mourning going on at all about the Bauhaus split. “Why would you mourn something that was such a miserable collective experience after all? It’s my version of the Elton John song ‘I’m Still Standing.’ It’s like saying, ‘I’m fine, darling, come and see me.’”
These days, Murphy is more than OK, fresh off a European tour, skipping around America performing new songs off the David Baron produced album. Murphy recorded solely in the artist-enriched Woodstock, N.Y. area.
While writing and recording Ninth, he made a clear distinction between two types of compositions emerging. Ninth became home to the more radio-friendly single types.
Murphy held onto the others, resulting in the new EP Secret Bees of Ninth. “I wanted them to have a more direct, sledgehammer-like effect,” Murphy says. “For Ninth, I didn’t want to trail off into opus, more esoteric pieces.”
The release harkens back to the baritone’s Bauhaus days, as does an auspicious reminder of the singer’s reach. Murphy had a blink-and-you miss it moment in 2010’s The Twilight Saga: Eclipse as the vampire named The Cold One.
“That was me playing myself really,” Murphy jokes. But the quick cameo didn’t quite catapult him into tween notoriety. “It was really a wry, kind of wink to those who know . . . It’s sort of a bookend to The Hunger.” As well as proof that Murphy’s career is very much alive.
Peter Murphy with She Wants Revenge and Hussie Club at The Glass House, 200 W. Second St., Pomona, (909) 865-3802. Fri, Dec. 9. 7PM. $25.