By Ashley Zimmerman
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Peter Murphy's career fronting Bauhaus in the late '70s and early '80s jump-started a movement toward darkness and beautiful pain in rock music. Bauhaus' hit single "Bela Lugosi's Dead" is the template for much modern goth, while the band's cameo in the 1983 vampire film The Hunger cemented the subculture's creatures-of-the-night image.
When Bauhaus broke up, the pale, skeletal baritone Murphy began releasing solo albums; "Cuts You Up," from 1990's Deep, spent seven weeks at number one on Billboard's modern-rock chart.
The singer is currently finishing his ninth studio album, appropriately called Ninth. Due for release in June, the album was produced and cowritten by David Baron and recorded at Baron's studio in Woodstock, New York. Also, in a nod to his Hunger cameo, Murphy briefly appeared as a vampire called the Cold One in last year's The Twilight Saga: Eclipse.
"The Twilight appearance was purely on the whim and wish of the director, David Slade, who contacted me by email," Murphy says. "He thought that it would be an interesting cameo that would somehow echo the appearance in The Hunger. I was neither a fan of the books nor had read any until then. I had watched the first film mainly because my daughter was a fan."
Though the main cast was not on set when Murphy filmed his part, he did meet Billy Burke, who plays Bella's father, Charlie, in the hotel lobby and was invited to dinner. Murphy describes him as kind and gracious.
Combing through the godfather of goth's extensive discography for weeks to prepare for his performance, we realized we somehow missed 2004's Unshattered. A grand departure from 2002's distinctly psychedelic Dust, the album reaffirms Murphy's role as a dynamic, forward-thinking artist who belongs in the same tier as Trent Reznor and David Bowie. All are musicians who continue to grow, evolve, and, most important, release material that illustrates they understand this need for self-exploration.
Speaking of Reznor, the Nine Inch Nails founder and recent Oscar winner has been a powerful influence on Murphy's career in the past several years. In 2008, a former bandmate gave us a bootleg recording of some radio sessions the duo had performed together. Included was a cover of the Normal's "Warm Leatherette," as well as a version of Murphy's "Strange Kind of Love."
Murphy himself chooses that song from Deep as the piece he wishes to define his musical legacy.
"Trent and I are very good friends," Murphy says. "We both feel that those impromptu backstage recordings constituted a significant amount of work together. Those radio recordings were kind of off-the-cuff and were great to do. Trent is very skilled and has a level of concentration with technology that is mixed with creativity that is actually quite amazing to me."
Murphy occasionally pops up at Reznor's shows — Bauhaus opened for Nine Inch Nails on a 2005 tour — but says he feels Reznor has rightly moved on from traditional album recording into his award-winning soundtrack work, so unfortunately the two have no current plans to collaborate on a full album together.
As for Ninth, Murphy says he feels his new songs stand toe-to-toe with both his commercial successes and more esoteric work such as Dust's "Your Face." He mentions two in particular he's dying to release, "Velocity Bird" and "Peace to Each."
Of course, many fans are looking forward to Murphy's show as an opportunity to hear him perform Bauhaus tunes. In the past, Murphy has declined to do much of this, holding out hopes of a reunion. Poor sales of 2008 LP, Go Away White, and guitarist Daniel Ash's decision to stop touring, though, have pretty much sealed their fate.
"Sometimes I may perform a Bauhaus song or two simply because I think the audience [is] owed it, and of course it is very different to playing it with the original members," says Murphy.
"And yet, my band plays the songs just as well as Bauhaus," he adds. "There isn't that much difference in reality, except naturally there is a different kind of energy with the original members, because we have been together for so long during a very intense period."