Interview: Peter Murphy is not your goth spokesman
Vanyaland caught up with Murphy via phone from his home for nearly a quarter century, Istanbul, as he was preparing to tour his latest album, the Youth-produced Lion, which includes a stop at The Paradise Rock Club tomorrow night. Living in Turkey has provided a comfortable respite from not just the spotlight for the singer, but it also provides a blissful amount of ignorance which Murphy embraces. When asked what he thought of his former Bauhaus bandmate David J reworking the outfit’s classic “Bela Lugosi’s Dead” this past Halloween, he responded dryly, “I wasn’t even aware he had done that… it sounds like a very David thing to do.”
Michael Christopher: I know that much of the material from your last album, Ninth, was inspired by the final tour with Bauhaus, “I Spit Roses” for instance.
Peter Murphy: It was driven by the momentum of [Bauhaus’ 2008 album] Go Away White, and the tour that followed which was cut short, so yes, you are right about that.
Where were you drawing inspiration for Lion?
Lion was very much improvised and on the spot. It was really due to hooking up with Youth who was an old friend from back in the early-’80s. I brought some ideas in, but all the ideas he had were very strong and very interesting in going in a new direction to work with. It was very quickly done and very improvised; looking back at what I did and learning those high range vocals, I’m going to have to do a lot of work on that for the live version.
What was it like working with Youth on the album, not just as producer, but also as a multi-instrumentalist integral to the sound?
Youth really brought most of the sounds and I was content to let him lead and do what I do best and that is to come up with vocal melodies. It was done very quickly in breaks between the tour, so it was done in two batches. We worked at a very quick pace; he was pushing me off the cliff half the time and I would have to come up with something.
Was there any particular work in his catalog that particularly drew you to him?
I heard the Fireman stuff, but it was mostly just getting together with him individually. I am basically divorced from the music scene, so it was really just about Youth and I really.
The song that sticks out to me most on Lion is “I Am My Own Name,” particularly because before you’ve told me how you were able to inhabit characters in the past; for instance, when you performed “Ziggy Stardust,” you said you “became Ziggy Stardust.”
I think I’ve sort’ve exhausted that sound. I know I did it on the Bauhaus tour last year and that was really for the fans — it was a demand thing really, but I wanted to get that done and out of the way.
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So when you say “I Am My Own Name”…
Yeah, it’s a statement for myself, “This is me,” whatever it is, putting aside those identifications with those old, tired identifications – which I know I probably encouraged doing the Bauhaus tour, but it became that I was itching to get off it toward the end. It was eight years of a very hard schedule.
And do you now fully inhabit Peter Murphy?
It’s just looking for my own… identity, so yes, it is that — that’s exactly what it is.
I wanted to ask you about the current state of goth; it seems like the popularity —
I’m afraid I can’t… I know this sounds redundant in a way, but I can’t be a spokesman — I don’t really identify with that moniker at all. I’m aware that it’s become very significant in culture and in style, but I’ve never identified with it. I think it belongs to another set of… we’ll kind of stop with that. I wouldn’t want to comment on anything like that, no.
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