In the 25 years since their last album, the prospect of Bauhaus reuniting long enough to record new material always seemed unlikely. Now with Go Away White, the ‘godfathers of goth’ return with a final artistic statement, a swan song born out of necessity, rather than design. After rediscovering the same bitter turmoil that first led to their demise, lead singer Peter Murphy explains that this time, there will be no encore.
This isn’t the first time Bauhaus have reformed and quickly parted ways, so how did the album come about?
“It was really down to me being able to persuade the other chaps to reform at the time of the Coachella festival. It had been years since we played but realised: ‘this is well and truly alive and kicking’. The response from the audience was there and such was the success of the show that we decided to give it a proper go and make it a long-term reformation.”
I got the impression that this was intended as a poignant full-stop.
“I read something of that too but it’s not true at all. We basically broke up after touring hard and doing some really excellent work. We recorded the album just prior to going out on tour with Nine Inch Nails as their special guest and up until then we had just been playing the back catalogue. But there was a feeling that we needed to get the album out and play that live. We needed to generate something new within the whole set-up, as it were. We decided to split during that European tour. It was going to be the first album of many but it turned out to be the last. “
Was it obvious that your last show together would be the final performance?
“There was some tension within the band up until that point, but of course we’re very English about it. On the surface, we’re very courteous and polite to each other. Typically, when things go unspoken, they’ll tend to be expressed in emotional hotspots. When you’re on tour, it really can feel over-exaggerated to a point beyond any objectivity. After the last show, certain members of the band pulled out and jumped ship. By that time I had invested a lot of energy in the preparation and I found it too exhausting to argue the point. I willingly put my own solo career on hold because I felt this was really worth a shot and it was! If you look at the album, it proves my point, really. I thought that if I could just corner the rest of the guys to plug in, play and stop talking – it would happen. And it did. The chemistry was immediately there, it has its own sound and direction. But once you get talking to each other…we’re quite different, really. Always were. So there’s frustration when there’s that lack of communication.”
Was there any creative tension when you were recording?
“We’ve worked together for a long time and then of course Love and Rockets worked too. David, Kevin and Daniel have been together for 20 years, if you think about it. There was no tension at that point; there was such a release of positive energy that we were purely focused on the work. There was no need for recriminations of old. I think that was one of the most exciting moments of our time together.”
Was there any concern that you might risk tarnishing your legacy?
“Well I felt that we had to put it right rather than tarnish it. Our legacy has often been misconstrued by being mucked in with the latter-day gothic thing which we may have sparked off, but we never took part in that movement. It was enough to be ourselves. We’ve had such a dysfunctional, fractured career as a band that it was always left unfinished. Certainly back in 1983, we were nowhere near done. In a way the band never really split up. I always thought that we had to finish the job so there was never any sense in my mind that it was a retrospective reformation; it never felt dated. It will be interesting to see how that comes across once the album comes out and it can be compared to everything else.”
What will be the next move for you personally?
“Well I’ve got an album done and it’ll be recorded in the next month, which I’ll be touring in the summer. But I still feel that these songs on the Bauhaus album – because it’s all left unfinished – have to be played now. I know there’s a special core audience out there who would love to hear that stuff live and whether it’s with the other band members, I don’t know. That’s something I’m playing with. It would be a shame not to give those songs an airing.”
Is there still any uncertainty about whether Bauhaus will play again?
“No, the other members made it very clear to me even at my protestation that they didn’t want to carry on. So like I said earlier, I acquiesced to that and I said ‘okay, fine. No more’. I don’t need Bauhaus as such; I want it. Peter Murphy is quite different to Bauhaus as a solo artist and traditionally I’ve never played Bauhaus songs in order to keep them in their own special place. But now of course it really is over, I’m sure of that, so there’s going to have to be another approach. Bauhaus has its own clichés that go along with it. It’s kind of like a play. I feel that if you could put it on again as a sort of separate event, you can draw off a lot of Bauhaus’ theatrical qualities. But I wouldn’t want to commit myself at the moment.”
In a time of high profile rock reunions, do you think expectations are generally too high?
“Once the album comes out, the ownership goes to the listener. They’re responsive to the music within their own life and have their own personal associations. The myth is either regenerated or not. I think it’s out of the hands of the artist at that point. It’s none of my business now, really!”