The curious and curiouser thing about goth, is how many of its musical progenitors have felt the need to distance themselves from its lugubrious tenets…even as they mostly clung steadfastly to its aesthetic and stylistic codes (let’s be honest, has Robert Smith ever not looked goth?)
The members of Bauhaus, arguably goth’s cradle of civilization, have generally gone along with it through the years, rewarding the unshakeable loyalty of their dark-hearted minions with dada-esque reunion performances and a steady flow of caliginously packaged re-issues. And now a striking new coffee table book by drummer Kevin Haskins, titled (what else?) Bauhaus Undead: The Visual History and Legacy (out March 16 through Cleopatra), gloriously celebrates the band’s exalted place at the throne of the most steadfast subculture in all of modern history.
A deliciously decadent collection of anecdotes and images, it strikingly serves to remind of Bauhaus’ conceptual and confrontational pretension/brilliance, as well as the visual and intellectual depth of their oeuvre. It all makes for an appropriate sensory overload, a sublimely arranged cataloging of a their unimaginably influential manifesto of the macabre.
Before springtime sunshine arrives and chases the undead back underground, we asked Haskins (who last year formed POPTONE with former bandmate Daniel Ash) to choose ten of the most Bauhaus-y – in other words, “goth” – moments and images from the book.
“The bats have left the bell tower…”
“Bela Lugosi’s Dead”
One of my favorite posters (pictured above) announcing the release of our first single, “Bela Lugosi’s Dead.” This was screen printed by guitarist Daniel Ash and his father, Arthur Ash. Arthur was a sign writer and had a workshop in a shed at the bottom of his garden. I recall driving around in my Morris Minor in the dead of night, surreptitiously plastering up the posters with glue made of flour and water.
We were recording our third LP, The Sky’s Gone Out, at the legendary Rockfield Studios in Monmouthshire, Wales. One day, venturing into the nearby village of Monmouth to stock up on supplies, Daniel and Peter happened upon a hearse that was for sale. This would make a very fine means of convenience for touring, they both thought, and after consulting with David and I, the next day the sale was made. Following the deal, we drove it with great excitement back to the studio and showed it off to the studio owner’s teenage daughters, who immediately asked us to take them for a spin. The girls took up their positions in the back, where normally the coffin would be placed. With Peter at the wheel we all set off with gusto around the narrow country lanes of Wales. Peter decided to test the capacity of the engine for speed and endurance, and as our lives flashed before our eyes, we went careering around the narrow bends and curves, over humpbacked bridges, and on several occasions, ironically, almost meeting our keeper. The poor ladies were being thrown from side to side of the rear compartment, screaming with both fear and delight! Fortunately, we eventually made it back in one piece.
Plan K is an intriguing venue. Housed in an old sugar refinery in Brussels, at six stories high, one had to navigate a maze of floors, rooms and narrow foot bridges to explore its industrial interior. The night that we played there on April 5th, 1980, they named it “Soirée Vampires!” Before we took to the stage, they screened several films from a 16mm projector including: La Fiancée Du Vampire, Le Masque Du Demon and Mensch Und Kunstfigur, the latter being a documentary about Oskar Schlemmer, an artist and teacher associated with the Bauhaus art movement.
Pressure & Strain
Drawing on blank page of our 1983 UK tour itinerary. This was drawn by me only days before Bauhaus first disbanded. One can clearly see that the pressure and strain was finally getting to me.
‘Mask’ Photo Shoot
Picture taken of me during the filming of the video for Mask. After shooting the bulk of the video in an abandoned Victorian shoe factory in our home town, we drove to the middle of the countryside. We each daubed on makeshift makeup and, lit only by car headlights, we completed the filming. It was mid winter and about four degrees below freezing point. This is me adorned with a scarf of brambles after I had just crawled through an icy stagnant pond.
‘Exquisite Corpse’ Game
Exquisite Corpse drawing. A parlour game invented by the Surrealists was one of our favorite ways of dealing with the boredom of life on the road. It’s a method by which a collection of words or images is collectively assembled. Each collaborator adds to a composition in sequence, without viewing what the previous person has written or drawn. Once the last person has finished, then the piece is revealed.
This was it… After all the telephone calls, meetings, rehearsals, and the huge anticipation, we were about to take the stage again almost two decades after our “final show,” for the first date on The Resurrection Tour. As the opening chords of our first song “Double Dare” rang out, I can clearly remember a great feeling of confidence and invincibility! Bauhaus were back! The passion, vitality and the energy of the band was still intact and, coupled with the fact that three of us had been performing together for the past fifteen years, we could all actually play much better.
Coffin shaped poster by artist Allen Jaeger for The Resurrection Tour.
Hanging Upside Down at Coachella
In 2005 we were asked to play The Coachella Music Festival, and the promoter Paul Tollet asked us to create a spectacular show. Having always had a leaning towards the theatrical, we set about brainstorming our grand entrance. One of the first ideas we had was to release thousands of bats from the stage. On inquiring as to where to obtain said bats, we learned that it would actually be illegal to release them at the time when we would be on stage. A little dismayed we set about brainstorming again. Eventually Peter came up with the brilliant idea of the inverted hanging man, based on the Greek archetype Hermes in connection to alchemy. Peter would be the hanging man, or vampire bat as it was also naturally interpreted.
Eins, Zwei, Drei, Vier!!!!
The SO36 Club is situated in Kreuzberg, Berlin, in the heart of the Turkish Quarter. During the 70s, it was a squat which morphed into a legendary punk rock venue. David Bowie and Iggy Pop were often seen there during the time they were living in Berlin. Today it has been renovated, but back then it was cold, bare bones, rough and ready. The first time we played there was on the second gig of our first European tour on March 29th, 1980, and it was quite a memorable experience.
Unfortunately, there was a certain element in the crowd who had come only to listen to one of the local support bands, The Giants, who were a Rockabilly band. The Teddy Boys were yelling profanities and threatening the kids who had come to see us.
The dressing room was situated half way down the hall, so to access it one had to walk, or in our case, run through the audience. Well the Teddy Boys knew this, and on our way back there, they attempted to attack us! We managed to arrive relatively intact, along with the promoter and our two-man crew. At the rear of the dressing room was a big stack of wooden chairs. To our surprise, the promoter suddenly began smashing them to bits! Had he gone mad? We soon learned the reason for his bizarre behavior when he gave each of us a chair leg to use as a defensive weapon.
Grabbing the door handle he struck a rather dramatic commando like pose, yelled, “Eins, Zwei, Drei, Vier”…and boom! We were now running through the audience towards the exit, wielding our makeshift clubs! Thankfully, the Teds were too alarmed to engage and we made it safely to a waiting mini bus. We endured a rather frigid journey back to our lodgings though, as they had smashed every window on our bus.
During January and February, 1980, we landed a five night residency at a club called Billy’s in Soho, London. The club stands on the site where King Charles II would visit his mistress, Nell Gwynne, and in the 30s it housed the radical Gargoyle Club, which attracted the likes of Noel Coward, Francis Bacon and Tallulah Bankhead. I guess you could say that we were in good company. As each night progressed at Billy’s, we attracted more and more followers clad in black leather and lace, witnessing the seeds of the Gothic movement beginning to germinate. There we were, standing at the beach head, unwittingly inventing an entirely new genre of music.
On one particular night, as we stormed through our set, I was convinced that I spied Tony Wilson and Ian Curtis at the bar. It transpired that Joy Division were in London recording their second album Closer at Britannia Row in Islington. After our set, we approached Ian who told us that Tony had left early because of his dislike of bands that wear makeup. Ian went on to tell us that he enjoyed our set and was inspired to see us play live after hearing our records.
It came as quite a shock, just three months later, when we learned, with great sadness, that he had taken his own life.