"No jaded shock star... A seeking searcher, a shifting shape, a spirit lifter."
Those are the words of postpunk icon Peter Murphy, as crooned and howled on "I Am My Own Name," a seemingly semiautobiographical musical musing off his latest solo record, Lion.
Once the frontman of proto-goth band Bauhaus, he has long been lauded for his brooding baritone, darkly glam lyrics, and horror-movie sex appeal — even earning a reputation as the Godfather of Goth. However, "That's not," Murphy insists, "what I'm about."
We recently spoke to the rock legend about the new album, his legacy, and that lamentable nickname.
New Times: How do you feel about being considered the Godfather of Goth?
Peter Murphy: Oh, I don't know. I am exhausted with it. I can't think of myself as the Godfather of Goth at all. I don't identify with that. And really, I think that came after us, after Bauhaus.
Because your music has been and will always be regarded as goth, were you ever inspired by that aesthetic?
No, not from anything you might call gothic culture. I don't feed off that force. I really don't identify with that at all. I have a very personal way of making music. When you're making the song, it leads itself.
What was the driving force behind your new album, Lion?
The inspiration for the album came from pure improvisation. It came from working very much on the spot with Youth, the producer. A lot of the pull came from him, and we were chasing each other. There was not a lot of overplanning with this album.
When Youth and I first met, we were just there to toss each other ideas, and Youth's ideas were new to me; they excited me. To work through them, Youth assembled the instrumental tracks and I would compose over them vocally. Then we edited as it came along. The album was formed almost instantly in a two-week session, when I was on break from the 35 Years of Bauhaus tour.
How does Lion manifest itself in concert?
The album is quite dense and full of orchestration, so it's a matter of what can be played live with the band that I've got. We have six of the new songs down, and then it's about the flow of the set and keeping it going without dropping any energy. I mix the Lion stuff with my old solo material and maybe a couple of Bauhaus cuts.
Over the course of four decades in music, what kind of legacy do you hope to have established?
Well, I don't think of my legacy too much. I just continue on. I am a very simple man who loves to make songs, really. And I'm not after anything that brings a lot of distraction. I am not looking for legacy in that sense.
What has been your proudest moment?
My proudest moment as a solo artist is when I meet people, like a couple of soldiers who have been in battle, and they say my music has kept them going through it. That is the greatest recognition, personally.
When all is said and done, what do you want to contribute to music and the world?
Joy, love, and a sense of upliftingness. I would like people to see light as opposed to this emphasis on dark, because that's not what I'm about.