Kevin Haskins,
The TVD Interview

The post-punk band originally lasted only five years, but the work of Bauhaus continues to have an influence on a host of bands that would come after them. Drawing on the darker sounds of The Velvet Underground and glam, Bauhaus was credited with starting goth rock, possibly because its groundbreaking first single in 1979 was the nine-minute “Bela Lugosi’s Dead,” about the chap who played the most famous vampire.

Composed of singer Peter Murphy, guitarist Daniel Ash, and brothers Kevin Haskins on drums and bassist David J, Bauhaus reunited to great acclaim just twice—in 1998 and again at Coachella in 2005. 

Fitting for a band named after an art movement founded 60 years earlier, Bauhaus left behind a visual trove that included not only its striking logo, but various flyers, posters, and cover art along with a load of unseen sketches, photos, and set lists. Many of them are jammed into the new coffee table book, Bauhaus Undead: The Visual History and Legacy of Bauhaus. Its author is drummer Haskins, who would go on to join Ash in Tones on Tail, and with David J joining those two, the band Love and Rockets which lasted three times as long as Bauhaus. 

We talked to Haskins, 56, from his studio in Los Angeles, where he’s lived for 25 years about the book, Bela, his beats, and Bauhaus.

There have always been a lot of Bauhaus fans in L.A., right?

Yeah, there are. Actually, last Halloween, Daniel and I DJ’d at a bar in L.A. and there was a line around the block, people couldn’t get in. So we do have a good fan base here, yeah.

Halloween is the time for “Bela Lugosi’s Dead,” after all.

You always hear ‘Bela Lugosi’s Dead’ on the radio. And we get offers to perform and DJ around this time. So yeah, I guess people think about us around this time.

What’s the story behind that song? It may be your best known, but it was also your first. How did that come about.

Well, David had just joined the band and we hadn’t rehearsed with him at this point. He called up Daniel the night before the first rehearsal and told him he had this lyric about Bela Lugosi, you know, with a vampire theme. And Daniel said, well, that’s good because I came up with these haunting chords today, so maybe those two things will go together well. So we got to rehearsal, David gave Peter the lyrics sheet, Daniel started playing the haunting chords, and David started looking around for a bass line.

So they had something going, and I was thinking, what am I going to put to this? I learned three drum beats when I had drum lessons. One was a pop beat, one was a jazz beat, and one was a bossa nova. So I thought I’d play the bossa nova beat. So I just played that for 10 minutes and it worked really well. The song actually came together really fast. In fact it might have even been the first run-through where the form of it was as you heard it on the record. It was quite a magical moment. So that’s how it came together.

Did it set the course for the band after that as far as a sound or an approach?

The whole thing was very organic. We didn’t really plan anything out at all. It all just kind of happened. I think the only conscious thing we all had in mind was to try to be creative and unique and try not to sound like anybody else. I met some guy the other day, we were working on a project together, and he said, “All your drum beats were very different for each song, and very different as well as drum beats.”

There’s a basic rock beat, which is boom-tch, boom-boom-tch, boom-tch like that. And I just felt it be so boring for every song to have the same beat or similar rock beat to go to. So I did strive to come up with something different for every song. I don’t think there were many conscious decisions other than those.

Did you have other inspirations as a band as to what you were aiming for?

Our influences were many. The obvious ones were glam rock and punk rock, but when we were recording, when we finished each day, we’d usually record in a residential studio so we would all stay together at night time. So when we’d wind down, we’d always play either dub reggae or late Beatles, like Sgt. Pepper. When I mention that to people they’re kind of surprised. So we weren’t listening to dark music, there were many influences.

Was it your intent to create this whole new genre of goth rock, as you have been credited?

No, no. Not at all. We had no aspirations of that. Really, the media create these labels. I guess people want to profile you and they want to put you in a box, a category, so these labels are invented usually by the media I think. That’s why I think that came about.

Are you surprised there are so many bands who list you as their inspiration?

I think we became more aware of that when we reformed in 1998. Along the way we would hear occasionally, but there were many artists such as Radiohead, Bjork, Massive Attack, Smashing Pumpkins, it goes on and on. It’s very gratifying of course that artists that we like were influenced by us. I guess it’s like passing the baton along.

But it was surprising. And actually, for the book, I reached out to a lot of these artists. I wanted a forward for the book and I thought, who should I reach out to? I thought, why don’t I reach out to a lot and have several forwards.

Some people tried and couldn’t come up with anything. But I have forwards so far from Moby, Maynard James Keenan from Tool, Peter Hook from Joy Division, Eric Avery from Jane’s Addiction, Twiggy from Marilyn Manson, Billy Corgan of Smashing Pumpkins. It’s great. I just said what does Bauhaus mean to you if Bauhaus means anything to you and it’s interesting how different they all are. That’s part of the book I was really glad I did because it’s really interesting.

The book is mostly full of a lot of clips, fliers, notices, and set lists. Did you save all these things knowing you’d put it out some day?

I think it started when we first got written up in our local newspaper, the Northampton Chronicle & Echo, because we were in several bands before Bauhaus and this was the first time a band had been written about in a local newspaper. That was exciting for me. So I cut that out and I just carried on collecting things and keeping things with nothing in my mind as to what I was going to do with all this stuff. I literally have a huge container in my basement. A year and a half ago, a friend said you should put in a coffee table book, it’d be great. If he hadn’t suggested it, it’d still all be in a container.

I think there’s one in every band—a guy who collects all the stuff. Maybe it’s just me.

I remember when Bill Wyman wrote his autobiography Stone Alone. It seemed like he was the guy who kept the itinerary for every tour they did.

Yeah, I read that. It was surprising, the amount of detail.

You have a lot of interesting stuff in your book fans will want to see.

Yeah. There’s all the artwork from the albums and some photos and posters that people have seen before, but a lot of material that hasn’t been seen. My favorite stuff is, like I have a tour itinerary where I’d draw all these different pictures and doodles. And then we have hand-written lyrics, letters that David wrote, and a lot of letters and invoices. And when we bought the hearse, I didn’t realize how many photographs I took. I would do a lot of candid photography and I’d usually take photos where we were like of larking around and playing jokes and tricks on each other. All that has never been seen. So I think that’s the fascinating stuff for fans. And it also shows a different side of us. It shows that we do have a sense of humor and we weren’t all doom and gloom.

Were there things you found that you had forgotten about?

Well, a lot of these photographs. In fact, I thought I had found everything and there was one photograph that I took on our last gig back in the day, when we disbanded. It was at Hammersmith Palais and the curtains were drawn and I was sitting behind the drums and the guys were plugging their guitars in and we were just waiting to start the show and I took a photo of Danny and he was laughing about something. I always thought it odd, because it was quite an emotional show because we all knew we were breaking up at the end. It was our last show. And I was kind of surprised that he was laughing, that he wasn’t sad about things.

Anyway, I was looking for that photograph, and couldn’t find it and couldn’t find it, then I discovered all these boxes of photographs. It literally took me about five hours to go through them. The tips of my fingers were black with the print coming off the photos, that’s how many photos I was looking through. And then I found some that I had no idea I took and completely forgot about them. And I also found a bunch of photos I took of The Birthday Party, and if I may say so myself, they’re actually really good photos. I don’t know what we’ll do with those.

What was the reason for breaking up after that 1983 show?

I think it was just a clash of egos I think we were branching off in different directions. I know “musical differences” is a cliche, but I think it’s actually true in a lot of cases.

With the last Bauhaus album, Peter was really ill. He had pneumonia, but we had the studio booked. We said we’ll cancel, and he said no, no, go ahead and I’ll join you, because he was getting better. So we laid down music and we were like fiddling around, what are we going to do next? Peter was going to arrive in a couple of day’s time and David said let’s try putting vocals on some of these. I think that was the catalyst for Love and Rockets, actually.

Do you think you’d do a book like this covering Love and Rockets?

I don’t have much Love and Rockets material. But I really enjoyed making this book. it was a lot of hard work, it was very enjoyable. I liked writing the stories. I didn’t think I could recollect that much. But once you start writing, it’s surprising how much comes back to you.

So I would like to do a Love and Rockets book because when we were doing this book, a couple of fans in England heard I was doing it and they have big collections. They actually supplied some really great material. So anyway, with Love and Rockets, maybe the same thing could happen—I could reach out to fans and in that way it would also be a nice way of doing it, to have fans involved in the whole process and have them contribute to the book.

Do you ever anticipate another reunion for Bauhaus?

No, I can’t really visualize that happening. But you never know. I don’t think it’s very likely.

Did you have involvement from the other guys in the band in putting the book together?

I really wanted it to be very much my own thing. I did call Daniel a couple of times when I was trying to recollect the story to make sure I had all the points right about it. That was the only time really.

Where is the book available?

It’s on pre-sale right now, which is going to end on Halloween.

Visit bauhausbook.com for more information.
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