Peter Murphy on his former Bauhaus bandmates and how he's a pain in the ass sometimes
You're not doing one Bauhaus album in its entirety or anything like that for this tour?
No, but I might actually be able to do that. In the future, that would be a good Bauhaus outing. I could do a residence and do four nights and do a different album each night. Actually I'm designing each set to be its own journey. I'm also playing some stuff Bauhaus never played live.
It's very good because people already know it all. I go to some place like Norway, and there's loads of people, and I stop and say, "Do you know this music? Do you know what I'm doing here?" They say, "Yeah!" I'm never sure. I never am. There's a bit of a stand-up in my show. You wouldn't believe it.
For that Bauhaus Gotham tour...
"Double Dare" it was.
You were doing something where it looked like you were doing make-up, and it was really funny.
That's right. They get it now. I stop the show and say, "Now what? Now what? What do you want? Stop waving. Hang on a minute. Hi, how are you doing? What's your name?" Then I just launch into this thing equal to Robin Williams, who I love. It's also self-effacing and self-satirizing. It's so great to do that. I help people relax, and then I hit them with the music. I open them up, and then I go right inside with the music. Do you know what I mean?
Definitely. There's a label that's been put on you, too: "Godfather of Goth." Is that something you've embraced.
I don't know what that means, really, darling. Goth happened after Bauhaus, didn't it? So if they want me to be their father, I'll be happy to be. I don't mind, if they behave themselves. Trent has really behaved himself. He's a good boy. There are some others where I think, "Stop that stupid monster rock rubbish," thinking that it's all evil and dark and stuff like that. I don't want to mention names. You know? Come on. Stop it. Silly boy.
It always seemed like Bauhaus was more steeped in literature and glam rock.
Exactly, sir. Thank you very much for saying that. I don't want to have to keep saying it. It's exhausting to have to keep saying that. The label is fine. If anybody calls you a legend or a "Godfather," you've got to be on it. I'm very grateful for that. I'm not going to worry about being called the "Godfather of Goth."
In actual fact, Goths are actually much more refined than the average rock and roll blockhead. They really are. They're very interested in literature, and they're not all into monster, dark rock. It's also become a wider genre almost reminiscent of the post-punk thing. I think it's wonderful to be so respected. That's an honor, isn't it?
As long as people don't not come to my show. There are people who come to my show, who are friends, who wear black, and I say, "What are you wearing black for? You've never worn black in your life." I'm on stage and I'm wearing blue. Or there are people that will come and bring their friends because you have to be a certain tribe, but you don't have to be part of a tribe at all and they'll come away and go, "What was that? That was amazing!"
So as long as it doesn't put people off, that would be my only resistance against that kind of labeling. I don't think people know what that means anyway now. I think it's become a cliché. When the press uses it, I don't think they know what they mean. It's much wider now.
I think they should call me the new Bowie. I'm what Bowie should have been. He's put out seventy albums. Not one of my albums is bad. What does that mean? I mean, I love him. He's my teacher. He's Bowie. Come on! But he has done some shit work for ages. We want him to be him. We want him back. I'm sorry. I took over. That last album, the first single, was the smell of Bowie coming back there. Love him to death.
Have you been in contact with him during the course of your career?
Yeah! We worked together on a film called The Hunger back in '83. Later I went to one of his shows. I think he was playing London, and I called back stage, and I didn't know if I could get back stage at all. I didn't know if they'd remember me. This was the first time I used my name and said, "Hello, this is Peter Murphy, can you put me through to backstage?" They said, "Sure!" I went, "Oh my god!"
This was '83, remember. I spoke to Coco, and she said, "Hello, Peter." "Have you got spare tickets?" She said yeah, and my wife and I got back stage. He's the nicest man in the world, such a lovely guy. Of course he's Bowie, and he's complex, but he's British, so he doesn't come out with all of these trips hanging out. You know what I mean? He's very sober, actually.
When I was in New York in 2005, I said, "Fuck this, I'm not going to leave this life without meeting him." No agendas, just say, "Thank you." A big thank you for what he did for me when I was a kid. I called his management company, again, offhand. I said, "Hello, this is Peter." They said, "Hello, Peter. Is this Peter Murphy from Bauhaus?" I said, "No, this is Peter Murphy from Peter Murphy," and she laughed. She said, "Oh, I'm sorry." "Don't worry; you're fine darling."
I told her, I knew Bowie was in the Catskills, which is where I was staying, and that if he was around, I have no agenda -- I don't want to pitch him anything -- I just want to meet him to express my respect. She said, "Oh, that's lovely. I'll tell him. Can I take your number?" I thought, "What have I done here?" The bloody phone rings, and I almost faint. I'm like a big girl still. I say, "Hello," and I forget her name, but she's part of management, and she said David had my number, and he would call back.
So I was working in the Catskills and staying with a friend. I had to come back home to Tokyo, and I was on IM with my friends, and he wrote one word, "David Bowie." I said, "So what?" My friend Sarah said, "Oh god. David Bowie just called me." "What are you talking about? Stop being silly." He thought she was my daughter, "Is your daddy there?" type of vibe. They weren't joking. I changed my numbers when I moved out of there, and I don't think he's called again. That's the last bit that I heard.
I did hear something fantastic he said to one of the producers that I know, he said, "That guy, Peter Murphy, can sing better than me, man. He's a real singer." That made me so happy. I still want to meet him and hand him a handful of stardust and say, "There you are. Have it back. I took it off you. You can have it back. You retired him and I've become Ziggy Stardust for three minutes every night, and it's the real deal."
He really deserves that. Great, beautiful guy. Brilliant, brilliant. Even though we can allow him to go off for ten years. That's totally okay with me. Have a rest. I've only heard little bits of his latest album. I'm very wary of going there. I'll go back to listening to Bowie again, but there's a part where the child leaves the parent and has to be alone. It's a very competitive musician thing, but it's love, too, you know?
When I met him during The Hunger, he was really gracious and the poor thing had to deal with me being very respectful and British. He was on set and hanging out, and the rest of the band were hanging out with him and talking to him. I didn't want to do that. I didn't want to do that. I didn't want to be a sycophant. So I just stayed in my room.
David J, he recounts that, "Peter was so overwrought, he couldn't come out." That's rubbish. I was actually respectful. As it turned out, Danny told me he turned around and said, "Where's Peter?" "He's in the dressing room." Knock, knock, knock. I open the door, and there he is come to visit me. "Come in! Come in!" What the fuck am I going to do here? So I had a bottle of brandy, and I said, "Do you want some brandy?" And he said, "No thanks."
I must have looked like a complete schlep, drunk. I'm not at all. But I had a few shots just to numb me. He was lovely, and he made an effort to find out who I was and give me himself. I remember that. That's so important and so lovely. I was looking at him, "Those are the teeth. That's the eye and that's the hair." It was odd.
I realized that the construct I had made of him was my own, which is as creative as anything. He was the impulse of what one creates and aspires to as an artist in another person as their own. That's why I bring those motives into my songs and my lyrics. "Be yourself if you want to be me."
That's one catchphrase in all those types of things. You know, "Be yourself and I'm me and you see yourself in me." That's from a song called "Disappearing." If you're searching, I'll tell you this, if you're looking for the truth, you're in it. You're like a fish swimming in the sea looking for the water, don't look for it. Isn't that a great image?
That is a great image. It also resonates what we were talking about earlier about mysticism and spirituality.
Definitely. There is a definite form of how we can deal with the control of the ego and this, that and another. The practice is really just about shining the heart. So they say that the work we do as devotees, let's say, is just really just shining he heart. The aim is that once it shines, you are the perfect reflection of god, as it were, or the real.
So the effort is important, but it isn't the end. It isn't the aim. This is what is taught by the Sufi masters, basically. They come from the Islamic tradition but it is safe to say that so-called "Sufism" has been ever present because there's only one religion, as it were.