When the band broke-up for the first time in 1983, the singer set off on a solo career that found him challenging his audiences at every turn. During an astonishingly fertile three decades, he eviscerated expectations and pin-balled a sprawling wasteland of musical styles: from carrying the mantle of 70’s Bowie to rivaling New York’s No Wave generation for seductively grainy, punishing grooves; from theatrical, gothic pop to 2011’s anthemic yet intimate and esoteric Ninth.
Few musicians of his stature seem as suited – nor as poetically inclined – to fulfill T. S. Eliot’s meditation on the path from life to death, that the “end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time.” And, sure enough, Murphy has turned things inside-out once more and returned to the prone theatrics and masochism-flecked cool of the original Bauhaus. This time, to realize the particulars of his somewhat fanatical auteur’s vision, he is taking it on the road alone, after the last full-band Bauhaus outing demonstrated that his was not a perspective that everyone could accommodate.
After a tumultuous 18 days in an Ojai, California studio in 2006, the group had come away with Go Away White, a record displaying both the personal chemistry, as well as the incendiary aspects of the group dynamic. “It was typically Bauhaus,” says Murphy, who actively embraced the razor-wire tensions within the band. “The tension [on that album] is palpable, isn’t it? I loved it. People hear about that record retrospectively. Danny [Ash, Bauhaus guitarist] would say, ‘We couldn’t stand to be in the same room together.’ But that’s not my experience. I was always the biggest advocate for that band. We were warming up when it ended. I was still raring to go to complete that album.”
Though one suspects he’s not one to calculate when it comes to his art, he couldn’t have picked a better moment. While his records throughout the last decade were reaching out to a broader audience, conversely, the supposedly niche sound of early Bauhaus was finding him a whole new generation of fans. In 2010, you couldn’t go into a bar worth its salt in East London without hearing the likes of Bauhaus, Joy Division, and Einsturzende Neubauten, or pressing up against some nostalgic black denim and leather. Their influence can be heard seeping into countless contemporary bands, such as The Horrors, and notably in electronic music projects and on the industrial scene.
“I think younger audiences are just as aware that they don’t have any identity in the music they follow,” he says, commenting from a place of aesthetic analysis than any kind of bitterness. “Once they start listening to older music or music that isn’t generically issued, they start to hold onto things more. That’s why it’s more important for people like myself to connect with an audience. I’m not talking about Facebook—I’m talking about a live show. People can really start to form a congealed idea in their relationship with an artist. That kind of connection is missing in the digital world: You experience things more in a tangible realm than in a virtual existence. I don’t deny or get anxious about being labeled; I can’t really describe what I do, but it does have an outside effect on an audience.”
“People remember those things,” the singer says, laughing at memories of his onstage audacity. “They don’t remember some digital file they downloaded from the Internet that gets lost among the other 3,000 ones they already have.”
Those younger audiences discovering Bauhaus are connecting to Murphy’s artistic identity, the constellation of impressions he makes that he can’t quite pinpoint, inextricably bound up in the new and daring atmospheres he was seminal in bringing to pop music. The new legions of Bauhaus devotees aren’t exclusively black-clad hipsters and eccentrics; they’re anyone who has identified with Murphy’s rallying cry from the margins. Anyone stifled by the unrelenting saccharine of chart hegemony will be pleased to know that Peter, far from leaving his solo career behind, is - in tandem to preparing his Bauhaus tour - already putting the finishing touches on his next album. Produced by Youth (Killing Joke, The Verve, Paul McCartney) it looks to be his most accomplished work to date, and one that channels the artistic chicanery of 35 years, bringing the destination of that mortifying loop into clearer focus and searing it into our minds with more intensity than ever.
Bauhaus Bio from Discogs
Originally named "Bauhaus 1919" after the school of the same name, but dropped 1919 before being together for one year.
Bauhaus disbanded in 1983, but reunited for a tour in 1998.
The band reformed and toured again in 2005, but ultimately broke up in 2008, after releasing the final studio album "Go Away White".