Peter Murphy: "Bauhaus Was the Seminal Moment in That Time; Joy Division Was Not"
As Peter Murphy prepares for a solo tour featuring only songs from his career as Bauhaus' frontman, he seems compelled to contemplate the late-'70s U.K. postpunk scene.
Speaking via phone, riding a bus headed to the first night of his Mr. Moonlight Tour, the 55-year-old Murphy and Crossfade discuss the diverse and exciting (if sometimes confusing) music scene that sprang up when punk rock quickly flamed out.
At the time, despite pulling from influences as diverse as ambient music, Krautrock, prog, and glam rock, Bauhaus was lumped in with all the other DIY music culture out of England: punk rock.
However, Murphy feels being labeled as punk was the result of rash, shallow interpretations of the group and its work.
"It was not kicking against anything," Murphy says of Bauhaus' music. "It was being magnificent. That was beyond cool then, in terms of the adolescent thing of punk, where, after a year, they ran out of things to be angry at. We were the dawn of something."
He will admit Bauhaus had one thing in common with punk: lashing out against the status quo. "So the inspirations were narcissistic," Murphy says. "The inspirations were also to escape the working-class crap, Dante's Inferno of what you might call a class system. Not that it was more important or less important, but that was something we had to resist.
"Punks may have done it. Postpunks were part of that wave, part of the impulse, or at least I was. I was not a person looking to be famous, looking to be important, looking to be in a band. I just knew that I was a creator."
Soon after Bauhaus' arrival on the scene, Murphy and his band mates were compared to Joy Division, the group out of Manchester that would become New Order after the band's frontman, Ian Curtis, hanged himself in 1980.
"We were not like Joy Division," notes Murphy. "We were and are the seminal moment in that time. Joy Division is not that. It's OK, but it's actually really trashy. It's not that well-done. It's all right, good songs."
Lest he be accused of sacrilege for calling out Joy Division's flaws, Murphy continues, "There's all this myth: the sacrosanct Joy Division. Why? Because he killed himself. He was our friend. Of course, it's good music. I'm just saying we were nothing like them. We were nothing like anybody. That was a very British thing at the time. Joy Division didn't want to identify with anybody else either. Neither did the early Human League."