The bass player and biographer of the beloved post-punk band [Who Killed Mister Moonlight: Bauhaus, Black Magick, and Benediction] talks about his affinity for the Beats, friendships with William S. Burroughs, John Giorno and Jim Carroll, his time in Love and Rockets, collaborations with Duende and Alan Moore, the ghost of original producer Derek Tompkins, the release of a new single for Record Store Day and his reunion with Peter Murphy
David J., the impish bass player behind those Ray Bans and iconic grooves of such Bauhaus tracks as “Kick In The Eye” and “In Fear Of Fear,” has enjoyed a fruitful, multi-faceted career over the past forty years. It all started when he cancelled a German gig playing “Boogie Nights” on US air bases to join what would become one of the UK’s most beloved post-punk bands. With his dub disco bass grooves, David J, along with younger brother Kevin Haskins’ high-speed jazzy push-pulls, provided the funked-out ballast to the fiery tempest of Peter Murphy’s commanding roar and Daniel Ash’s shimmering, metallic guitar riffs
“Kick In The Eye (Live on Riverside)” – Bauhaus
After Bauhaus parted ways in 1983, David J. released his first two solo albums and began a recurring gig as bassist in The Jazz Butcher before forming Love And Rockets with Daniel Ash and Kevin Haskins in 1985. Four years later, the band scored a crossover hit with the single, “So Alive,” which spent 20 weeks at #3 on Billboard’s Hot 100. Along the way, David J. has collaborated with a host of talents ranging from Pat Fish and Perry Farrell to Alan Moore and even original student of the Bauhaus movement, the artist René Halkett (1900-1983), as chronicled in his 2016 memoir, Who Killed Mister Moonlight: Bauhaus, Black Magick, and Benediction.
“So Alive” – Love And Rockets
Though Bauhaus was just the beginning for David J., (along with the rest of the group), the band’s music continues to thrill audiences of all ages as I witnessed at last month’s sold-out “40 Years of Bauhaus Ruby Anniversary” show in Portland, Oregon. The successful Ruby Anniversary Tour has recently added more dates, prompting David J. to delay the release of his upcoming solo album until he is free to promote it, later this year.
“In The Flat Field” – Peter Murphy: 40 Years of Bauhaus Ruby Anniversary Tour, Featuring David J. – Portland, OR January 18, 2019
PKM: I hear you have a solo album coming up. Can you tell me a little more about that?
David J: I keep putting it back, but it’s done, it’s being mastered in Prague, at the moment. It’s a double album called Missive To An Angel From The Halls Of Infamy And Allure and I think it’s the best album I’ve done. And I think it might be my last one because of that fact.
David J: Partly because of that fact and partly because when I make these, every album I’ve made has been a labor of love. I’ve never made any money on any of my records apart from one, Songs From Another Season, because that sold 50,000 copies, it did quite well, but, I’m realistic enough to know that was a slip in the slipstream of Love And Rockets’ success, at that time in the late ’89-90. But since then, I’m lucky if I break even making a record and it’s such a lot of work and effort to make them. I love making them, but it’s expensive, especially if you’re dealing with vinyl, so that needs a solo component. Also, I want to do more solo collaborations and more production work, so I’m sort of diversifying, to a degree, but it’s a very strong record. I’m very pleased with it.
PKM: Speaking of your collaborations, I’ve been really digging that Duende album you just did, Oracle Of The Horizontal.
David J: Yeah, I love that record.
David J. first met the Detroit-based band Duende, by chance, on a bar crawl of that city’s underbelly, while in town to record the album Carpe Noctem with Detroit-based 13-piece jazz band Theatre Bizarre Orchestra at Tempermill Studio.
David J: I went into this one bar and Duende were playing and it was a friend of theirs’ 50th birthday party and he was going to do a song with them. It’s quite uncanny this because there was a jukebox there and the band said to him, “So, what song do you want to do?” And he said, “Well, I love Love And Rockets.” And they said, “Well, let’s do a Love And Rockets song.” And they played “No New Tale To Tell” on the jukebox, so they worked it up and they’d heard that I was in town and they knew the guy I was staying with, [Theater Bizarre organizer] Matt Pomroy. So, they were sort of jokingly saying, “It would be great if David J. walked in and joined us on this song.” And Jeff Howitt from Duende called Matt with this proposition but unbeknown to him, I was actually on my way to that bar anyway. Matt contacted me saying they just had Jeff call and told me the conversation. I said, “I’m actually here, I’m here, as it happens.” I didn’t even know Duende or anything and they went on and did their set and sure enough, they go into “No New Tale To Tell” and halfway through, I just hopped onstage and joined them. So, it was like unreal, and the guy, the birthday boy’s face was priceless as you’d imagine!
“No New Tale To Tell” – Love And Rockets
So, that’s how we first met and then I really liked them as a band, so the next time I was in Detroit, I saw them again and then loved them, and then I got to be friends with them. Jeff [Howitt] was the next-door neighbor of Matt Pomroy, who I was staying with, so I would see him gardening and just got talking about like collaborating on something and they asked me if I would collaborate on two tracks on an EP and I said, “Yes, sure, I’d love to. Let’s do that!” So, we went in and recorded these tracks which were pretty much sort of spontaneous. They sent me some demos and I picked two instrumental tracks that I liked and I had some vocal ideas and I was writing the lyric with Jeff, just texting each other and we’d trade lines and that’s the track “Out Of My Dreams”.
David J played the tracks for his friend Damien Youth while staying at the songwriter’s home in New Orleans.
David J: [Damien] was really blown away and he said, “This can’t be two tracks, you’ve got to do a whole album with this band!” and he had this whole vision for it that he was seeing me as this kind of surrealistic interloper into people’s dreams in the context of this band. I would be this character and I would go in and sort of be shamanic and take on the dreams like the character in the song “Out Of My Dreams” and he said, “You’ve got to do more!” I went to the band and said, “How ‘bout making this an album?” So they said, “Yeah!” So, I went back to Detroit, just for a week, and then finished it.
“Out Of My Dreams” – Duende with David J.
PKM: Wow, cool! Let’s talk about Carpe Noctem, because that sounds awesome.
David J: How that came about, again, was very spontaneous. There’s an amazing Halloween event that happens every year in Detroit called The Theater Bizarre and it now takes place in this incredible Gothic building which is the old Masonic Temple. It’s enormous, it’s like a whole city block, it’s an amazing building and the band were playing at the event.
Upon hearing the news of David J.’s DJ set on the night of Theatre Bizarre Orchestra’s performance, bandleader Joshua James invited David J. to sing a song with the band.
David J: I thought they were great and I said, “I’d be onto that!” So, we decided to do a version of “Bela Lugosi’s Dead” but kind of after the style of Cab Calloway because that’s them, that’s their thing. Although they also play Sun Ra music and this band has actually been entrusted with the original scores from Sun Ra’s estate. So they do that and they’ve got this weird side, as well. They worked up this great version of “Bela” and we just rehearsed it one time on the day of the gig and pulled it off and we did “St. James Infirmary” as well.
“Bela Lugosi’s Dead” – David J. and the Theatre Bizarre Orchestra
It just clicked and three of the guys from the orchestra ran over. They said, “This cannot end, here, we have to do more!” And I said, “Okay, let’s do more!” So, that became the album Carpe Noctem and I started writing with Joshua and we wrote some original numbers. We also do some covers, like Nick Cave’s “The Carny” which turned out really well, so yeah, the Beck song, “We All Wear Cloaks”… yeah, it’s a very strong record.
PKM: Sounds like it, I can’t wait to hear it.
David J: Yeah, I’m very proud of that one.
Who Killed Mister Moonlight?: Bauhaus, Black Magick, And Benediction (Trailer)
PKM: Can you give me a little background about how Who Killed Mister Moonlight: Bauhaus, Black Magick, And Benediction came about?
David J: Yeah, I felt it gestating toward the end of the last tour that we did in 2006 and it was evident that we weren’t going to carry on and it was such a story to tell and it was also cathartic and I was just really compelled to write that book. It’s like I could not not write it, I just had to get it out.
PKM: It was begging to be written.
David J: Yeah, it was. And so, I thought, “Okay, so if I want to do this properly, I’ll have to be serious about it and impose a regimen of writing,” which I hadn’t done before. So, I would start at noon, write for two hours and stop and then go back and write another hour and then finish about 5 o’clock. And I did that about five days a week, like a job. And that’s actually the only way I could do it and that process worked. And once I started writing it, memories bubbled up. I always wrote journals, like on and off and also had day books, diaries going back to 1980, so they were great source material. And I had a timeline that was put together by a Bauhaus aficionado extraordinaire, Andrew Brooksbank, who knows everything about the band, more than I know, which is kind of scary, sometimes, but he put together this very detailed timeline. So, with all these little building blocks, I was able to put together the whole story. I was also, at the time, writing screenplays with a guy named Don C. Tyler, so, I was in the sort of mode of writing for film and I applied that to writing the memoir and I was imagining it as a movie. And that really helped to give it a very visual quality.
PKM: So, since this is Please Kill Me, I wanted to ask you a little bit about the part in the book where you and Alex Green go to the William S. Burroughs’ 70th Birthday Event with Jim Carroll and John Giorno.
David J: Yeah, I was really into the Beats since I was at school, like my last school year and I loved Burroughs and I was fascinated by him as a man. I was reading lots of interviews by him and I was just really intrigued.
David J. was also reading up on magick at the time and came across a particularly useful article in V. Vale’s RE/Search #4/5 book featuring interviews with William S. Burroughs, Brion Gysin, and Throbbing Gristle’s Genesis P-Orridge.
David J: Genesis is interviewed and he talks extensively about sigil magick, where you have a desire and you write it out very simplistically. Then, any letters that occur in that scripted sentence, if they occur more than once, you take them out and what you’re left with, make a graphic image that signifies the desire. You memorize it and then you set fire to it, you let it go out into the universe and that is sigil magick. So, I thought I’d apply this to my desire to meet William Burroughs. I wanted to meet William Burroughs and I made this sigil, first one I ever made and about six months later, I got an invitation just out of the blue to appear in Toronto at the old theater. They were celebrating Burroughs’ 70th birthday and he was going to read along with Jim Carroll and John Giorno, so the magick worked.
PKM: Whoa, you got it right on the first try!
David J: Yeah, so that was kind of surreal to me, actually, to meet him. And when we first met him at the hotel room—he was staying was rather posh hotel—I was super nervous, I’m only like 25, but he was really friendly and he took a shine to Alex and to me, to a degree, but more to Alex (laughs) ‘cos we were like 25-year-old boys, which was his proclivity. Yeah, so, he was very nice, he came into our dressing room with a joint and offered it and we shared a joint.
That was fucking cool! (Laughs) And then, what I was doing, basically, was I had just come out with my first album, Etiquette Of Violence, so I was playing a couple tracks from that. One in particular was appropriate because it’s called “With The Indians Permanent” and it’s all about Kerouac and (Neal) Cassady. It’s a cut-up poem and it’s just with the sax, so we did that and when I finished with that, Burroughs said,“Thaat’s… really… good!” (laughs) So, that made my day! I wish I’d gotten a photo of him, I wanted somebody to take a photo but I was too shy and also like, too, I dunno, weird? Now, I’d say, “Get yourself a photo” but I never did get one.
“With Indians Permanent” – David J.– Etiquette Of Violence
David J: And I did the same thing, again, I did a sigil, years later in ’88, I wanted to have another meeting with “Wild Bill”. And we were on tour with Love And Rockets and this was ’89 and they were very successful, they were adding dates and they added a day in Kansas while we were on tour. So, I thought, “Wow, we’re going to be in Kansas!” He was living in Lawrence, Kansas at the time and he had given me his card, so I just called up the card and said I was going to be in town. I actually got a day off in the day hours after the gig. “Can I come over?” And he said, “Yeah.” So, I spent the day with him in Lawrence, which was amazing!
PKM: God, yeah, I bet.
David J: And I’ve stayed in touch with John Giorno. He became a friend and I’d go and visit him whenever I was in New York. He had his place in the Bowery for years, just down the road from where CBGB used to be.
PKM: Very cool.
David J: Yeah, he’s a lovely man. Jim Carroll was very shy and awkward. I remember meeting him and he was actually staring at his shoes. Very powerful poet, of course. We went to New York after that event with Burroughs. I’d just managed to hustle a gig at the Pyramid Club on Avenue A, when it was still really happening. That was great, I just did this gig with Alex. Alex got awfully drunk and turned up late. I was about to leave without him. I thought, “Fuck him, I’m just gonna do it on me own!” but he appears four sheets to the wind at the foot of the stairs at the apartment where I’m staying. “Are you going to be able to play?” “Suuure, I’ll play better than ever!” And he did and I got drunk, as well. I remember at the end of that night, packing up our gear, almost pitch black, and I felt my hands wet and I looked down and feel some broken glass on the stage and I cut my hand really badly. But, I didn’t feel it because I was so plastered.
So, I had this big bandage on my hand and we went back to the place where I had been staying. We were both also really ill with this horrible East Coast flu and in a bad state. We were sharing a bed! We were staying with these two girls and they were sleeping in the bunk up top, we were sleeping below them. And then Alex was chain-smoking, though he was that sick, in the bed! We were there for about a week and we existed on vodka and hamburger meat because the girls knew this guy who would deliver hamburger meat to them from one of the places who do the hamburgers.
David J: Yeah, it was rich!
PKM: You played Danceteria out there, too, from what I understand, right?
David J: That’s right! We had a gig at Danceteria, that’s why we were in New York in the first place. Yeah, they didn’t know what to make of it, they were expecting something like Bauhaus, or more like Bauhaus. It was just me with a sax player. I had a semi-acoustic guitar and I did all these very stripped-down kind of Dylan things, Lou Reed-type songs. They didn’t know what to make of it.
PKM: They were confused.
David J: Yeah, but I kind of enjoyed that.
“Crocodile Tears And The Velvet Cosh” – David J. – Crocodile Tears And The Velvet Cosh
PKM: So, I understand you played Beck Studios, recently. How did that go? I understand you filmed a Q&A with Andrew Brooksbank.
David J: Yeah, that’s right. It went great. Yeah, it’s funny, I hadn’t been there since recording the Crocodile Tears album. And basically, I’m in the same room, it’s been done up, but it’s basically the same and the guy who runs it, Dave Smith, has done a really good job. He’s very respectful of the history of the place, you know, and of Derek Tompkins who was the original owner and engineer and co-producer and it’s very vibe-y in there. And the audience, of course, were really attentive. Yeah, we did a Q&A and I played solo. Then, my friend, Dave Stretton, who was in my original band as a teenager came up and joined me for a song.
Bauhaus recorded their first session, which yielded the iconic single “Bela Lugosi’s Dead,” at Beck Studios and enjoyed a hands-off production style of the late Derek Tompkins. Bauhaus recruited Tompkins to co-produce The Sky’s Gone Out and Burning From The Inside. Derek Tompkins also produced the Love And Rockets’ album Earth, Sun, Moon.
David J: There was a weird event happened. Of course, I had to play “Bela Lugosi’s Dead.” For this one, I was joined by a friend, he’s based in Bristol, his name is Tim Newman, very brilliant musician. He came up with like not playing instruments but having all these effects boxes with cables going out but just being suspended from the ceiling and just picking up whatever was in the atmosphere, so that no instruments were going through the boxes, just the cables. And I loved his idea. I said, “Let’s have a ghost speak and sing!” It generated a sound like early electronic experimental music like Musique Concréte, sort of like Pierre Henri. I let him just sort of generate this atmosphere and I went off and into the control room and at one point, the door behind Tim, opened and closed, slammed on its own! Everybody thought I was coming out but I was in the other room! I can’t explain it, you know? Then, we did the performance and I was talking to Dave (Smith) and he said, “Yeah, it’s strange, the other day, we had a band in there rehearsing and they saw this semi-transparent figure of a man walk through that door when it’s closed right past them and right through to the middle of them and then disappear right through the other closed door on the other side of the studio!
PKM: Whoa, it’s haunted!
David J: Yeah, in my opinion. I think it might’ve been Derek (Tompkins). It didn’t feel negative at all, mostly positive, very strange.
“Bela Lugosi’s Dead (Live at Beck Studios)” – David J. and Tim Newman
A mini documentary on David J.’s return to Beck Studios will also be released to coincide with the release of Missive To An Angel From The Halls Of Infamy And Allure. Both the film and the album will feature a track David J. recorded the day after his performance, his first solo Beck session since 1984.
David J: It’s a song I wrote a few days before recording it on the road and it ties in with the whole story of the album, it’s sort of like the missing piece of the jigsaw. It’s so nice to actually have this track recorded at Beck on the album. And I’ve also done a new version of the first track that was on Etiquette Of Violence, my first solo album was recorded at Beck’s which was “I Hear Only Silence Now” and that will be the last track on this album, so it’s very cyclic so it’s like, I’ve made all these albums and the first track on the first album is now the last track on the last album.
PKM: Full circle.
David J: Yeah.
“I Only Hear Silence Now” – David J.– Etiquette Of Violence
PKM: That’s really cool.
David J: And it’s a collaboration with Emily Jane White, she’s very talented.
PKM: Is there a release date? Is it still up in the air?
David J: It’s either going to be September or October, right after I’m done playing with Peter.
PKM: Oh yeah, right, you have this whole tour going on!
David J: And that keeps being extended, which is great because, I mean, we are playing really well! I’m loving playing with this band and we’ve been getting an amazing response and the gigs have been selling out to such a degree that they’ve been bumping up the venues to bigger places and then we sell them out! You know, we’re like playing to 2,000 people in Europe and also just did the same in Mexico! We played to 3,000 down there in Mexico City! And we’re selling out real quick!
PKM: That’s really exciting!
David J: Yeah, there’s interest now to play big festivals.
PKM: I’m glad the Ruby Anniversary is going well! Peter Murphy was cracking me up about the Northampton show. I guess he was dreading Northampton.
David J: Yeah, (laughs) well it is depressing there and that all sort of fed into, you know, our motivation to get out of it (laughs). Although we never did. There’s kind of this love/hate because there’s something in the atmosphere of the place that’s sort of dank, gloomy, melancholia, so that’s very good for creativity. I mean my friend, Alan Moore, has documented this so beautifully in his books, Voice Of The Fire and the new one, Jerusalem, it’s set in Northampton, although, like everything with Alan, it’s the microcosm and the macrocosm existing simultaneously. Alan’s writing is very evocative of that atmosphere that’s in Northampton, as is the Bauhaus music, especially the first album (In The Flat Field) which is what we’re playing, at the moment.
The Watchmen and V for Vendetta writer recently wrapped production on his film The Show with director, friend, and early Bauhaus/Love And Rockets photographer, Mitch Jenkins. Glass Modern Records will reissue David J. and Alan Moore’s original 1984 V for Vendetta soundtrack EP which will feature the four remastered tracks along with two new tracks from David J. and Tim Newman on Record Store Day in April.
“This Vicious Cabaret” – David J.– V For Vendetta
Also due out on Record Store Day is the release of David J.’s single, “Thoughts And Prayers”.
David J: This is a song I wrote after yet another mass shooting. Every time I’d hear the news of a mass shooting in America, it just makes my heart sink, you know! It just hit me again and I spontaneously wrote this song “Thoughts And Prayers” because that’s been the usual placatory thing that the politicians come out with, “Our thoughts and prayers are with you.” Yeah, sure! They’re being funded by the NRA now and it’s just bullshit. So, it just like poured out of me. I wrote the thing in the morning, recorded it on my iPhone, and just sent it out onto the internet just to get it out there. I was amazed at the response, like hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of likes from people, commenting.
“Thoughts And Prayers” soon caught the ear of Record Store Day ambassador, Rick Johnson who approached David J. about re-recording the song with a full band to release as a charity single for RSD.
David J: So, I went into the studio and the studio gave me free time and everybody just came and played free because it’s going to be a charity record, now, and the money’s going to help survivors of mass shootings for what little drop in the ocean that is, but maybe to get the message out. This is insanity, the gun laws in America are insane, so it’s all about that. And the B-side is tied in with Emily Jane White, it’s a cover of one of her songs called “Hole In The Middle” that she wrote about the Bush years and it’s about people, maybe in the middle of America, being duped and just feeling hollow inside and just going along with a con, really, and now, it’s like even more applicable because of what it’s about, you apply it to this time with fucking Trump. So, it’s very pertinent and it’s also a perfect B-side.
PKM: Excellent! I talked to Peter Murphy a little bit about his residency and I understand you’re going to do a few Mr. Moonlight evenings with him.
David J: That’s how this whole thing started. I mean originally when he was going to do that, he asked, if I would play on all the albums. I said, “Uh, no. (laughs) I would love to play on the Bauhaus nights, I know those songs” but it was really nice to hear from him because it was very acrimonious the way we parted, all of us. And then I’d written the book, so to hear from him out of the blue like that was very pleasing and I thought, “This is an opportunity for reconciliation,” because I don’t wanna be his enemy. He wanted to Skype before we took the tour, before we embarked on anything, so I addressed the issues that bothered me. He stepped up and we had a real heart-to-heart talk about it and it was very healing and without having that conversation, I would’ve never been able to go back with him and that’s continued and the healing process is really the music. It’s engendered by the music. And we’re on better terms now, better than ever, so that’s been really great.
PKM: Can we talk a little about your Patreon page?
David J: When you say Patreon page, the first thing that comes immediately to mind is that I have not gotten paid for the last two things that they put out there (laughs) because they changed the format. The basic format of having me putting these things out there very simple and graphic, they changed it and now I’m putting these things out and now there’s no option to charge my patrons.
David J: Anyway, I’m in discussion with Patreon to sort this out but it’s been a great format. A really good way of getting exclusive material out there. I have an archive, especially of demos being mastered from the original cassettes and I’ve had a really great response from people interested to hear the original song when it’s first written in a back room with an acoustic guitar, so it’s mainly that. Sometimes, it’s more studio, because I use the money to make recordings and pay musicians. So, sometimes, I can go in and record in a studio, put out a fully fleshed release just to my patrons. It’s a very exclusive little club. I’ve become friends with them, as well, and they turn up at the gigs, you know. I’m very appreciative of them. Of that support.
Record Store Day (V for Vendetta expanded reissue) UK: https://recordstoreday.co.uk/
Record Store Day USA (Thoughts and Prayers): https://recordstoreday.com/
Catch David J. in NYC at Rough Trade Brooklyn on April 13th where he will be signing autographs.
And tune into David J.’s official Facebook page today at 12 PM PST for a special video announcement about his upcoming single, “Thoughts and Prayers”