Bauhaus drummer Kevin Haskins’ new book celebrates the career of his post-punk band, which influenced the likes of Björk, Smashing Pumpkins, Radiohead, and Jane’s Addiction, among many others
Although their initial time together lasted only from 1978 until 1983, the post-punk band Bauhaus created a legacy that has spanned multiple generations of fans and proven highly influential. Their music was dark, atmospheric and often abrasive, but also had reggae and dub influences. Bauhaus inspired the emergence of countless gothic rock bands; beyond that genre, such acts as Smashing Pumpkins and Jane’s Addiction have cited them as influences.
Bauhaus recorded one of their best-known songs, “Bela Lugosi’s Dead,” after only six weeks together. They went on to release four albums before disbanding. Guitarist Daniel Ash and drummer Kevin Haskins continued working together in Tones on Tail before re-teaming with bassist David J to form Love & Rockets. Vocalist Peter Murphy briefly worked with Japan’s Mick Karn as Dalies Car before launching a solo career. The foursome reunited as Bauhaus in 1998 but broke up again just as their 2008 Go Away White album was released. Haskins and Ash are currently working together as Poptone, while Murphy and David J continue with their solo work.
Haskins has now documented the career of Bauhaus with a high-end coffee table book, Bauhaus Undead. The 315-page book contains stories about the band by Haskins, as well as such memorabilia as handmade flyers, photos, band artwork and handwritten lyrics. Initially, Haskins intended to self-publish Bauhaus Undead, but the financial realities of producing and distributing a book of this nature led him to have it published through Cleopatra. Pre-ordered copies are scheduled to ship in January, and the book’s general release is set for March 16.
PKM: What inspired you to create the Bauhaus Undead book?
Kevin Haskins: There’s a chap named Matt Green who played quite a big role in this. He’s a good friend of mine who works at Cleopatra Records. It was his idea, around this time three years ago. He suggested that I put all my memorabilia into a coffee table book. I have this huge container that I collected over the years, and I had no real rhyme or reason for collecting it. It probably started when Bauhaus began to get some local success and were in our local newspaper, which was the Northampton Chronicle. I cut out that clipping, and it went on from there. I just kept so much stuff. I had no inclination or ideas to do anything with it until Matt suggested it. He put in an offer because Cleopatra had just started publishing books, but I kind of felt that I wanted to do it on my own, and he gave me his blessings and off I went on this crazy journey.
PKM: What was the “crazy journey” like?
KevinHaskins: I decided to self-publish and did a lot of research about it. I kept running into this guy named Jeff Anderson at shows, and we struck up a friendship. After our 3rd or 4th time of running into each other, I asked him what he did for a living. He said that he puts out these boxed sets and books. And I thought oh, that’s interesting because I’m putting out a book myself. So, he said to come around and see his work. He had these amazing, beautiful, very creative box sets and books, on Nine Inch Nails, Sigur Ros, Pixies, Fleetwood Mac, and Pink Floyd. Just beautiful stuff. I said, ‘Jeff, I think we were meant to meet, and I’d love for you to be involved.’ So, we went off on this artistic journey together with the book, but not really taking notice of the business side of it! He brought in his designers Donny Phillips and Kaylee Carrington. I wanted it to be more of an art book than typical rock n roll. I wanted to present handmade flyers as if they were pieces of high art, which in a way you could argue that they were.
He went with it, and I just loved the background colors he used, and I loved the flow of the book. He did a really good job. So, I had this beautiful book, and we were going to do it as 13 inches by 21 inches or something ridiculous. We hadn’t figured out how much this was going to cost to make and how much it was going to cost to ship, and it was really shocking when we got those figures. By now, we were just a few weeks away from the pre-sale and I’d done all this promotion; I had a publicist working for me. It was a bit of a mess, but I went ahead with the sale. I’d have to get a lot of sales to be able to afford to go and get the book made, but it was a failure. It was crushing, and I was really disappointed and felt bad for everybody and had a little bit of a mini breakdown.
But I thought, “Ok, Plan B, I’m going to go back to publishers.” I reached out and got a lot of interest, mainly from the UK. What I wanted was a publisher who had really good distribution, rather than just selling it on their websites, because that’s what I was doing, and I knew that shipping around the world costs a lot. I wanted it to be available. But unfortunately, none of the publishers could offer that [distribution]. So I was back to square one, but I had the book all ready to go. This was 2 years to the day that I started. I was at my friend Matt’s house and he was showing me a book that Cleopatra had just put out on Hanoi Rocks. I was looking at it and he said, ‘Yeah, he did a really good deal with them.’ He told me the figures and I asked if he could do that for me. And he said, ‘Yeah, I think we can.’ So, it was this whole circle that happened. I did a deal with Cleopatra, I’m really happy with it, and their printer did a wonderful job with it.
“I’ve always felt though that the Banshees who came before us, were more of an influence on the Goth movement. We chose to wear black, and our first single was vampire themed and the press tagged us. I can relate to it to a certain degree, but I feel that Bauhaus were more three dimensional, more art rock.”
PKM: What was it like going through all the material you’d collected?
Kevin Haskins: It was great. Some people asked me if it was kind of harrowing, but not really, no. It was really enjoyable, actually. I hadn’t looked at it for years. I was surprised at some of the pieces I had. I’d forgotten all about some of them. Most of us went to art school, and on tours, we’d use the surrealist game of the ‘exquisite corpse’ where we’d fold a piece of paper into four, somebody would draw a head or something and then hide that from the next person, and the next person would draw a torso, and then at the end, we’d open up this piece of paper and have this sometimes comical, sometimes grotesque figure. We did a lot of those on tours, just to take up the hours of boredom when you’re traveling. So, I had a lot of those, which was great. And I also delved into a big box of photographs, a huge cardboard box from the days when we use to print photos onto photo paper. This was great material because all this was never seen before and very personal to the band and to myself. Some of the other more unique contents in the book include two comic strips, various letters, several pages of doodles and caricatures found in tour itineraries, handwritten lyrics and the invoice for appearing in The Hunger.
PKM: Did everything end up coming from your personal collection, or did you reach out to others to fill in gaps?
Kevin Haskins: There are 3 people who I should name. Andrew Brooksbank, Vincent Forest and a chap who goes by the name Gabor. They are really true fans who have vast collections themselves, and once they heard I was making this book, they wanted to help. They would send me stuff, and then if I had a story that I’d written but didn’t have a visual for, I’d ask if they had anything. They were very helpful, and they put a lot of hours in searching through their archives. Andrew also made a timeline of Bauhaus right from the beginning, which lists every show we did, video dates, interviews …. There’s a lot of information in this timeline and he’s very protective of it. He shared it with me but said, ‘It’s for your eyes only,’ so that was extremely helpful when I was writing stories, to make sure I had the dates right and that sort of thing.
PKM: At this point, there are several generations of Bauhaus fans. Did you have a target audience in mind?
Kevin Haskins: No, I didn’t at all. Also, we were debating whether to do it in a chronological way, but I felt that I would rather not. I felt it would restrict us in the flow of the book possibly. It just happened in an organic way. The way we chose things and the way we laid it out was very organic; it reminds me of the way we actually make music. With all the bands I’ve been in, we never really put a lot of intellect into it; we would just let things happen. I think that’s how this book came together, too.
PKM: Does the book cover just the years you were originally together, or the reunion as well?
Kevin Haskins: It goes right from the beginning until Coachella [the final live show], which was 2005. So, almost to the end.
PKM: Did you get feedback or need approval from the other members as you put the book together?
Kevin Haskins: No. Peter [Murphy] wanted to OK any photographs, but other than that, I was given free rein. I told everyone what I was proposing to do, and they all gave their blessings.
PKM: At what point in your career did you realize what a big influence Bauhaus has been?
Kevin Haskins: We reformed in 1998, and it was really around that time when we started to do press and get a publicist, that we really became aware of how many people had name-dropped us. Radiohead and Bjork and Smashing Pumpkins—I can’t remember them all, it was such a long list. We were very pleasantly surprised. A lot of people who were influenced by us we happen to be fans of ourselves. We didn’t realize how influential we had been. It was a very pleasant surprise.
PKM: Bauhaus were strongly embraced by gothic audiences and were a huge influence emerging bands in that genre. What are your thoughts on that scene and being associated with it?
Kevin Haskins: I think it’s marvelous! As time has moved on, it has been taken to a whole new level of creativity and I feel the world would be a much duller place without it. I’ve always felt though that the Banshees, who came before us, were more of an influence on the Goth movement. We chose to wear black, and our first single was vampire themed and the press tagged us. I can relate to it to a certain degree, but I feel that Bauhaus were more three dimensional, more art rock.
PKM: I’ve always liked the “Ziggy Stardust” cover and thought it was interesting that you stayed fairly close to the original. How did that come about?
Kevin Haskins: One story of interest in the book is how “Ziggy Stardust” came about and it was almost by accident. When we were recording the Mask LP, to warm up for the day, we ran through Ziggy. Being huge Bowie fans, it was a song that we would play for fun during sound checks, that’s how we knew it. After we had run through it, the engineer Mike Hedges thought it sounded great and suggested that we should record it. We replied that there’s no way we could do that…we had received so much flak from the press about being Bowie copyists, we felt that we would get raked over the coals! Mike persisted and so we thought that it wouldn’t hurt to lay it down and so we did. However, this was not the version eventually released, but the catalyst. A few months later we recorded it again for a BBC radio session and when our record label heard it they were very excited to release it. Again, we resisted but eventually thought that it would be sort of outrageous and a poke in the eye to all those journalists, so we finally gave the OK.
“A lot of people who were influenced by us we happen to be fans of ourselves. We didn’t realize how influential we had been. It was a very pleasant surprise.”
PKM: Having reunited but then breaking up again, I’m sure you’re asked about and perhaps receive offers to get Bauhaus back together again. Do you see this ever happening?
Kevin Haskins: Well, I’ve learnt to never say never, but I doubt this will ever happen.
PKM: To what degree do you feel the challenges are logistical (such as members involved in other things and unable to commit to the time) versus creative/personal differences?
Kevin Haskins: There is an element of logistical, but I feel that it’s better laid to rest.
PKM: What are your thoughts on the musical climate at the time Bauhaus emerged and the group’s place in it?
Kevin Haskins: We came along at the time of post-punk, but we never felt attached to any particular musical movement. I guess that one could draw certain parallels with bands such as Joy Division and The Banshees, but if you listen closely to all the bands at that time, each one has its own very distinctive personality. I do feel that it was a great time for music; there were a lot of strong creative bands. I recall that we were wary of listening to other contemporary bands in fear that we might end up sounding the same as them! Bauhaus gradually evolved from various musical and cultural influences from the previous decade, and it happened in a very organic way. There was never any master plan or intellectual thought behind it; it simply happened! For example, our first single “Bela Lugosi’s Dead” was conceived and written in a 24-hour period. When we met in our rehearsal room, David gave the lyrics to Peter. I began playing the drum beat, David and Daniel joined in and what we played for the next ten minutes is what you hear on the recording. It was instant! That didn’t happen every time, but it was more often than not.
PKM: The group disbanded for the second time just as your first new album since reuniting was coming out [Go Away White]. What do you think of that album? Was it a disappointment not to tour in support of it?
Kevin Haskins: I feel that it was a good record although a bit rushed. I do wish we had more time. We purposely went in with hardly anything written and wrote it on the fly. This was the way we worked at times back in the day. After mixing it, we went straight on tour with NIN and played a few songs off the record, but we didn’t manage to tour properly to support it.
PKM: You said how the music of Bauhaus, like this book, came together very organically. Do you feel you were able to maintain this organic approach throughout the career of Bauhaus? For example, did things like record label expectations ever get in the way of that?
Kevin Haskins: The only time I can recall that we veered away from our usual spontaneous approach was when the label asked us to have Hugh Jones produce the song “Spirit”. I think that they wanted a ‘hit single’ in a hurry and I recall staying up all night with Hugh playing and programming drums. It was a very heavily produced and crafted single and I think he did a stellar job.
PKM: Do you think there is anything in Bauhaus Undead that will come as a surprise to fans?
Kevin Haskins: I set out for the book to be a celebration of the band. I didn’t want to get dragged down into the drama and back-stabbing that one finds in most books written by band members. So consequently, I feel that it has a lighter feel to it. Fans might be surprised to discover that we were not all gloom and doom, and I feel that our humorous side was well represented. I hope that as the reader turns the last page, they may have a pleasant smile on their face!