A&E

Chatting with Peter Murphy about the Olympics, Bauhaus and ‘Twilight’

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You know him. You love him. Peter Murphy is coming to Las Vegas.
Chris Bitonti

The Details

Peter Murphy
Featuring Ours
August 15, 9 p.m., $31.50
Las Vegas Country Saloon, 425 Fremont St., 382-3531

Writer’s note: Just before our interview, Peter instant-messaged me: “Just a moment, I’ll turn off the Olympics.”

So, you are watching the Olympics?

Yeah, I’m on the Olympics, yeah. I just spent a couple of weeks, well 10 days, down on the Aegean. I’ve got a little hamlet, a very lovely hamlet that we’ve used for years, we’ve been there every summer with the family. Now, the children are adults, so they’re long people, but I get it in Turkish here, so luckily I speak Turkish. But I’m gonna do LA tomorrow, so I’ll be picking it up in the morning, your time there.

Well, you’ll get the tape-delay feed out here. We get very little live coverage.

You’re kidding! Really? That is not good, is it? Why not? It’s America.

NBC airs it in the U.S., and they made a programming choice to show it that way. It feels like a highlight reel.

That is not on, is it? Someone should really tell them. So how is Las Vegas? You know, I did couple of shows over the past year or two, but I also did this special one-night show called Miracula Weekend, about six months ago. And it was a special, like 25 people maximum, and I offered them a full weekend with me. We put them up in a great hotel and we hired a world-class chef to cook and gave them a reception and basically I swarmed around looking marvelous and being very genial. And played a three-hour set in this amazing house we hired. I thought it might be a little bit too much to ask of my fans. It was just for a one-off special occasion. There are ways that we need to make money to keep our albums funded and all that stuff now. So I was persuaded that it was a really nice idea, and it did work out really well. It was actually quite amazing. So I’m gonna repeat that I think here and there. The next one is gonna be LA, but then I want to move it elsewhere, like London, Paris, who knows wherever. It was great to be there.

Why did you choose Vegas for the first one?

Well, my partner who really broke my teeth with the idea started this a couple of years ago on a very small scale, and he thought why not offer a weekend in Vegas. He called it Sin City All Access. And this was with a very mildly known person, and it sort of started to work. So he then offered it to Daniel Ash, and I just happened to, for the first time in ages since we split, went to Ojai, because I love it there just to have a couple of days off. And I know that Daniel lives there, and that’s where Bauhaus recorded their last album. So I popped a text to Daniel and said I’m going to be in town, you know there’s only one small high street there so we could easily bump into each other and he could get a bit of a shock. So I warned him I said, “Listen, if you don’t want to deal with me or whatever, or I’ll be in town, you might want to be aware of that.” So he texted me back, we had a great time, and I’m thinking, “Wow, he has like no idea what went down.” Well he does, but he’s kind of forgotten it, which is good.

During that time, his little devil horns come out, he’s says, “Hey Pete, there’s this guy who’s offering this extended weekend.” And I’m like, “Wait a minute, who is this guy?” And then, we were going to do it, I wanted him to do it. I said, “I’d love you to do it.” He doesn’t feel comfortable leading that, he’s not that lead man, if you will. So you know, the conversation went that way, and I’m thinking, “You know if you’re talking about Danny Ash and I, that’s like Jimmy Page, Robert Plant basically.” So we’re knocking around the idea and he comes back and Danny gets very tentative and sidesteps and takes forever to make up his mind. He was very uncomfortable about the expectancy of us or him having to play Bauhaus songs. I have no problem, but that’s because I play them anyway.

To me the value of us getting together as well, he’s that powerful of a lead guitarist. My thoughts with Danny are, “You should really value who you are. You are one of the iconic guitarists ever.” Which he can’t handle. And two, “Never mind the other members of that band, there were problems with it. So you and I should make a record. Just think on that.” So there we are, it was a nice meeting and suddenly he gets very worried about it and I understood. It was just about revisiting the Bauhaus songs in his head. So I went to him and got in contact with the guy and that’s how that came about. So we’ll be coming there soon again.

This is like a last little underplay, I just played to 6,000 people in Chile and 4,000 in Argentina, but I don’t care about having to play massive sizes. The reality of the industry is not a lot of people are going out to shows now, even in America. I’ve toured it three times in the last 18 months, and what I do love is to connect with the sure-fire hardcore audience. And it’s one last, little nod to the Ninth album, this little spat, which is like a West Coast run and one in New York. So I’m gonna take Ours out with me.

It’s gonna be close up, you can see my tits and all that. (Laughs) ’Cause I’m old now. I’ve got tits. (Laughs) I’ve got 50-year-old tits! It’s terrible. No, no, I’ll get them raised up a little bit. I’m just gonna start that awful macho thing where you have to lift sh*t, terrible really. I’m English! I shouldn’t have to do that. Somebody should lift them for me. (In proper British Accent) You come here, lift these, then have yourself washed, oiled, scented and brought to my room. (Laughs)

That’s hilarious.

Well, the English are completely bonkers so, just admit it.

Yeah, who isn’t?

We do everything f*cking brilliantly, in a really odd way.

You’ve lived in Turkey for years. Do you root for Britain or Turkey in the Olympics?

Well, England if they’ve got a shot at it. But I root for—for instance Michael Phelps is brilliant, or was. Eight medals last time, come on, he’s brilliant. And then there’s China, they’ve got the demographic of like Mars, so why wouldn’t they win a medal? It’s ridiculous. They’re kind of automatons anyway, aren’t they? They’re all one person. It’s kind of boring. “Alright, another Chinese, well done.” They just seem to be the inscrutable Chinese. But it’s cool. The Americans are bastards again, they keep winning sh*t and the Brits are like “Uh, we invented everything and we’re third at the most.” It's like f*ck off. The Americans are brilliant though, it’s like swimming is brilliant. I mean, basketball, yes, you’re on. Boring. But things like women’s handball, it's brilliant, and then volleyball. Anyway … Yes, I’m still marvelous, really good looking. I was in that band once, but I’m much better. I’ve outsold the band multiple times, but they still keep calling me Peter Murphy of Bauhaus. And I keep saying Bauhaus of Peter Murphy. I’m a really good singer, I can make really good music and I’m up for it still. So that’s basically the short and tall of it. (Laughs)

What do you think of being known as the “Godfather of Goth”?

Well, you say it. But anybody who comes fresh to the show, and if they break through the barrier of this label, they think, “Oh my god, I don’t want to go to a Goth show.” They come, they go, “What the f*ck? This is amazing.” This is nothing to do with what they thought it was. So that’s the only thing, which is a bit of a lead weight, this moniker, although on the other hand if somebody is paying attention, very good. Because once I get them in the door or under the headphones, they’re fine, they’re cool, they’re all good. But then, it’s just the persistent math of myth, isn’t it? And labeling. I’m sure everybody has a kind of “tag,” actors, all sorts of people. So I am very philosophical about it and I must say, I’m very honored to be considered a legend. Which is kind of like, I can’t really see that. If you’re gorgeous and look in the mirror, you don’t really say, “Wow, that’s f*cking awesome.” Well, maybe you do, if you’re Marilyn Manson. But the English are very modest really, you wouldn’t guess it with the way I’m talking. We’re quite understated, we like to be understated. So, I don’t get angry about it. I just say “Well, thank you. You’re quite kind.”

Do you think the music you are making now, like Ninth, do you consider that Goth?

I never considered Bauhaus Goth. Remember, the culture was germinated after by such bands who were kind of copyists almost. Sisters of Mercy, that stuff and Alien Sex Fiend and all those kids, they kind of spawned out of a spark that I think we kicked ass at. But it was only one element of what I do, I’m more of a theatrical. I’m one of those one-off’s I think. I’m like a Mick Jagger. I’m more like a Doors, Morrison or Jagger, Sinatra, those people. But I do think that I can make a dance record and it’ll be good, hopefully, I mean if I make it well, of course. I think what I’ve got is very rare, and it’s a great voice and lyricism. And I am one of those people who tend to be overlooked. They called me the new Bowie in 1980 and I’m like, “F*ck that.” I thought, “No way.” Ya know? Great respect. But actually it’s true in a way, but I don’t think I’ve reached that point of mass recognition, in the way you might have expected to.

I actually think I’m quite avant-garde in a way. Sort of artful music, which is also quite eclectic. It can be beautifully symphonic, it can be beautifully atmospheric, charismatic classic ballads. It can also be hard as f*ck, it can be hard as Metallica or even harder because it’s more spikier. It’s hard for people to place me except to say “Oh, he’s got high cheek bones, he’s the father of Goth.” Ya know? But I’m working on it and I’m patient to it. Everything has its own reason and we can never see the four-dimensional aspects of any situation, we can only ever see it front on. So I’m not one to moan really. I work bloody hard. I’ve done over 150-160 shows since Ninth.

I think if I were a fan, I would really want to be at a Peter Murphy gig, because there’s not many like it. It’s not about grandiose, massive hits. Although, I’ve got my own amongst my audience. Of course, many people really know my work and my name, so much that I’m amazed by it really. Outside of what one might imagine. And I think my early music was like a seed for later things like Radiohead, that British independent thing. I think we were closer to Joy Division than Siouxsie and the Banshees. We took that and introduced intelligent art surrealism and in our case f*cking mind-blowing theatrics, and I don’t think anybody’s really matched it. So I am a bit mad, so I thought I’d be perfect as an actor, because I’ve acted all my life on stage. So I’ve been going to LA a lot, meeting people who are these major players and are like, “Peter Murphy? Wow.” And I’m like, “Well thank you. Give me a part.” And they say, “Alright then.”

Is that how you landed a part in Twilight: Eclipse?

Well, I was trying to pitch my music to New Moon ... A couple of months later I get this email ... from David Slade, who’s been brought in, English director, to do Eclipse. I knew his work from Hard Candy. And he said, “Would you please consider a cameo role?” He was a great fan, he said of my work in the ’80s and in his formative years. He listened to Bauhaus up in Leeds and da da da da. And I said, “Well, yes please.” He said himself that it’s like a bookend to my appearance in Hunger, which is where I opened the Tony Scott film starring David Bowie and Susan Sarandon. So that was great.

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