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"I enjoy playing with what's at hand, almost like found ideas, something that's here and now. Most of my vocals are written in one take; they just need a bit of refining — I don't really want to mess around with the details! Working in music somehow allows you a liberation; it allows you to speak from a less-bound-up kind of perspective."
Speaking from his adopted home country of Turkey, Peter Murphy sounds simultaneously enthused, thoughtful, and joyous. The British singer has long explored those moods in his work, most famously (in America) in his chart hit "Cuts You Up." But some people also know him for probing darker, more emotionally fraught impulses with that band he used to be in.
After a series of reunion shows with Bauhaus, along with the studio sessions that became their final album release last year, Go Away White, Murphy has returned to his solo career. His concert this week at Respectable Street is part of a second series of American shows in a year's time. He'll be backed by a group he has worked with on and off since the release of his last solo album, 2004's Unshattered: Nick Lucero on drums, Mark G. Thwaite on guitar, and Jeff Shartoff on bass.
Murphy's keeping the exact details of his next full-length release under wraps for now, though the tour's title, Secret Cover, refers to the series of digital singles he's slated to begin, focusing on new interpretations of others' songs, the first being a take on John Lennon's "Instant Karma," as recently featured in an ad campaign for Chase Bank.
"I'll be previewing a lot of the new album," Murphy says, "but I'll mix it with work I haven't played from my own albums along with Bauhaus work. We're going out on a limb by playing songs on the album without releasing it — I don't want the effect of the album's actual release to be dissipated in any way!
"I want to keep a connection with the audience, to offer something fresh while I'm working out something fresh. I'll be including covers in the set, which is a tradition that both Bauhaus and I have always been interested in."
Not surprisingly for a performer who seems to thrive every time he steps onstage, Murphy speaks warmly of his audience in general, enthusiastically discussing the reactions he and his band received earlier this year in a first-time visit to South America and recalling Bauhaus' collective gratification at their ability to win over Nine Inch Nails' crowd while opening for that band in 2006. As he sees it, while he always works to make sure he puts on a strong show for all attendees, he does so knowing they're there for him in turn.
"I don't think I've ever been surprised by an audience at all — oddly, I'm almost overconfident about it," Murphy says. "I've always felt a certainty, even if you're playing healthy-capacity venues, and you just want to visit elsewhere and you strip it all down to you and the players and just one light and 150 people. Sometimes that's when I get a feeling of surprise — are they going to think I'm a loser for playing in this odd place? But you still see the same response or similar responses, and that provides gratification."
Following the American dates, Murphy will return to Europe with his band, whose newest member, second guitarist John Andrews, will make his touring debut there. Then they'll support the full album, released, like the digital singles, on his new Huuvola label. It's part of a new artistic and business independence that Murphy clearly relishes, leading him to cast a positive eye to the future.
"Now that I've got a good relationship with [producer] David Baron artistically, I can exercise creative aspects in production and working with bands I really like," he says. "I'm working on bringing acts with me on tour that I really want to encourage, but I've also got my eye on a studio I like a lot — I'd love to buy that. It will be a professional studio that others can work at, but it will be my own workplace, to support and garner support for other artists. I'm not finished yet!"
Read a full Q&A with Peter Murphy on CrossFade, New Times' music blog, at browardmusic.com.