April 29, 2013
When Peter Murphy talks about his experience with music, a small part of him fears he is over-intellectualizing. Over the course of our 45-minute chat he occasionally seems to have the tiniest inkling he might be stating things that might go over the heads of readers or may be misunderstood. Toward the end of our conversation, after a rare laugh he says, “It might go over people’s heads, but so what? They’ll get it later, like a hundred years later.”
I spoke with Murphy last Sunday afternoon, as he rode on a tour bus toward the first date of his Mr. Moonlight Tour, which features a set list comprised of only Bauhaus music. After talking about the start and end of the pioneering Gothic rock band and lots in between … much of which you will find noted in my in-depth article on his decision to tour with solely Bauhaus music in the “Crossfade” music blog from the “Miami New Times (jump through the logo below):”
Up-date: the interview was so long, it was broken up into two parts. Here’s is part 2 (that’s a hotlink).
Our conversation also included the subjective experience of art, specifically music. It came from a mutual appreciation of Brian Eno’s 1974 solo album Taking Tiger Mountain (By Strategy). Bauhaus famously recorded a quite literal cover of that album’s “Third Uncle” during a BBC session, which they released as a single and also used as the opener on its 1982 album the Sky’s Gone Out.
“Those lyrics, they take you with them. Don’t they?” Murphy says of the songs on Eno’s second solo album. “They’re not didactic. They’re not literal in that sense. They open up the creative imagination within the listeners. So it isn’t actually selfish. In a way, the audience is the reason. For music there has to be the listener. Otherwise, the singer or the musician doesn’t matter. It’s a shared experience in a very natural way. That’s not an over-arching idea. But that is art.”
He agrees that some of David Bowie’s most interesting songs come from a decoupage technique popularized by William Burroughs but pioneered by the Dadaists from the turn of the 20th century. “They leave the creativity to the listener, as well,” Murphy notes, who transitioned from solitary poetry composition to Bauhaus frontman in late 1978 when guitarist Daniel Ash introduced him to brothers David J (bass) and Kevin Haskins (drums).
The A-side of the “Third Uncle” track was Bowie’s “Ziggy Stardust.” Murphy notes something very interesting happens when he inhabits that song live, which he plans on playing on this tour. “Songs evoke very personal associations,” he says. “So I have my own experience with Bowie. You could have called me a Bowie fan or whatever, but when I met him I realized it was me creating my own inner world with that music. I was Ziggy Stardust. He’s just some bloke creating some theatrical thing, doing his own thing. It’s not him really. It is, but it’s beyond. It’s me really, hence the idea of doing ‘Ziggy Stardust.’ He just wrote it. We did our version, and we did it how it’s supposed to be done in our minds, and it was brilliant.” He pauses for a chuckle. “That was not a statement against him at all. It’s just the ultimate Bowie fan casualty that was sold. So I still become Ziggy Stardust in that three minutes, that seminal character in music culture, and I’m it.”
Watch the official video:
There was so much more we went over. It was a revelatory conversation. Bauhaus worked from a very primal pool of creativity, relying on their chemistry as musicians. He indulged me in an explanation of how they came up with the brilliant collage track that closes the Sky’s Gone Out: “Exquisite Corpse.” He said it comes from a surrealist game for children. Using a folded piece of paper a group sets out to draw a body but only a small bit of the end of the last drawing is visible to the next illustrator. The result is one exquisite corpse.
The band did something similar during the recording of the song that closes the album on a brilliantly abstract note. After programming a rhythm track, Murphy explained, “We each went in, and we gave ourselves a minute each to write whatever we wanted individually without any of the other members, and then the next person would play from the last five seconds, hearing the last five seconds of the previous person and continue, and then we’d all come in and gathered … and that was the result. So the title, ‘Exquisite Corpse,’ is exquisite. It’s the exercise in letting itself create its own venture.” You can hear the result right here:
Considering, backwards effects, the coughing, the snoring section and other bits, it will certainly make for a difficult, odd song to perform live, so I would not expect to hear it on the tour (did Bauhaus even ever perform this genius little oddity live?).
Only one day until the show (I had tons to transcribe and illness to battle) in Miami at Grand Central. Tuesday, April 30. Doors: 8 p.m. Tickets cost $26 / $60 (VIP) – VIP ticket includes a 7 p.m. pre-show, access to soundcheck, meet-and-greet with Murphy, exclusive edition T-shirt and a signed poster. All ages. There will also be a second post on the Crossfade music blog tomorrow morning, so be sure to check back there tomorrow.
Update 2: Show happened! To read my review click on the picture below by “Miami New Times” photographer Ian Witlen:
For those outside Miami, the tour will proceed as follows across the U.S., into Mexico, then Europe and back to North America:
Wed, May 1 – Tampa FL @ Orpheum Theater
Thu, May 2 – Atlanta GA @ Terminal West
Fri, May 3 – Charlotte NC @ Tremont Music Hall
Sat, May 4 – Washington DC @ U-Music Hall
Sun, May 5 – Boston MA @ Paradise Rock Club
Tue, May 7 – New York City NY @ Webster Hall
Thu, May 9 – Philadelphia PA @ Trocadero
Fri, May 10 – Toronto ON @ Lee’s Palace
Sat, May 11 – Buffalo NY @ Town Ballroom
Sun, May 12 – Pittsburgh PA @ Mr Smalls
Mon, May 13 – Detroit MI @ Magic Stick
Wed, May 15 – Indianapolis IN @ Deluxe at Old National Centre
Thu, May 16 – Chicago IL @ House of Blues
Sun, May 19 – Mexico City, MX @ Museo Diego Rivera Anahuacalli (to include Peter Murphy solo material, as well!)
Wed, May 22 – Bochum, DE @ Christuskirche
Thu, May 23 – Karlsruhe, DE @ Substage
Fri, May 24 – Zurich, CH @ Komplex Klub
Sun, May 26 – Rome, IT @ Orion
Mon, May 27 – Milan, IT @ Magazzini Generali
Wed, May 29 – Madrid, ES @ Sala Arena
Thu, May 30 – Lisbon, PT @ Coliseum
Sat, June 1 – Barcelona, ES @ Bikini Barcelona
Mon, June 3 – Brussels, BE @ AB
Wed, June 5 – Paris, FR @ Trabendo
Thu, June 6 – Eindhoven, NL @ Effenaar
Fri, June 7 – Hamburg, DE @ Knust
Sat, June 8 – Copenhagen, DK @ Loppen
Mon, June 10 – Stockholm, SE @ Debaser Medis
Wed, June 12 – Helsinki, FI @ Tavastia
Fri, June 14 – Nottingham, UK @ Rescue Rooms
Sat, June 15 – Glasgow, UK @ Oran Mor
Mon, June 17 – Birmingham, UK @ Academy 2
Tue, June 18 – Bristol, UK @ Academy
Wed, June 19 – London, UK @ Islington Academy
NORTH AMERICA II
Sat, July 13 – Phoenix AZ @ Crescent Ballroom
Sun, July 14 – El Paso TX @ Tricky Falls
Tue, July 16 – Denver CO @ Summit Music Hall
Wed, July 17 – Salt Lake City UT @ Urban Lounge
Thu, July 18 – Boise ID @ Visual Arts Collective
Fri, July 19 – Seattle WA @ Showbox Theater
Sat, July 20 – Vancouver BC @ TBA
Sun, July 21 – Portland OR @ Hawthorne Theater
Tue, July 23 – San Francisco CA @ Fillmore Theater
Wed, July 24 – Las Vegas @ LVCS
Sat, July 27 – Los Angeles CA @ Henry Fonda Theatre
Fri, July 28 – San Diego CA @ Belly-up
Little did I know everyone else would too.
You can stream the full 14-track album now. You’ll have to have iTunes installed on your computer, however. Read the news and see the link to the stream here (that’s a hotlink). The live stream will remain available on iTunes until the album’s official release (in the U.S. that’s March 12 [Support Independent Ethos, purchase on Amazon]; the vinyl sees release March 26).
That surprising stream for all meant I had to hustle to write up a review so my voice as a longtime Bowie fan is not left out of the mix among other critics. I promised the piece to the “Miami New Times.” After four listens, I produced a review verging on a 1,000 words. I hope my 30-plus years as a hardcore Bowie fan and chronicler provides something as insightful.
You can read the resulting review after jumping into the Miami New times Logo below (the image is a hotlink):
February 26, 2013
This morning, David Bowie’s official website pointed visitors to a second preview track from his first album in 10 years, the Next Day (Support the Independent Ethos, purchase direct through Amazon via this link). “The Stars (Are Out Tonight)” makes its official debut on the web in the form of a more conceptual music video than the first preview track almost two months ago (David Bowie returns to music with new song on his 66th birthday). Like the first teaser track, “Where Are We Now?”, I cannot help put notice the self-referencing in this new Bowie song.
Directed by Floria Sigismondi, who began making music videos for Bowie in the mid-1990s, the video features actress Tilda Swinton. In the video, Swinton, long considered by some as a sort of female doppelgänger of Bowie, plays house with Bowie, grocery shopping and cuddling on their couch at home. The couple is stalked and terrorized by a younger couple who could also be considered another mirror image layer of Bowie. The “female” is played by none other than Andrej Pejic and the “male” Saskia De Brauw, a pair of models known for their androgynous looks who have posed as Bowie clones in many a fashion magazine. The short reeks of dualities that have long obsessed Bowie since he adopted characters to perform on stage, very early in his career. The near 6-minute clip is smart, funny and just a little twisted, as can be expected by rock’s great alternative artiste.
As far as the song’s tone… Indeed, as promised by Bowie’s longtime producer Tony Visconti, the song “rocks out” (read the “Rolling Stone” interview). So stream it above, as we continue to anticipate an early listen o Bowie’s March 8 release of the Next Day. His US rep has promised me preview by March 1, so stay tuned. In the meantime, please share any thoughts and feelings in the comments below. Is this a stronger return for Bowie since the Jan. 8 preview?
January 8, 2013
Well, consider my cynicism of David Bowie ever releasing a record again squashed. Early this morning (on his 66th birthday), David Bowie’s official website debuted his new song “Where Are We Now?” accompanied with a lyric-video (watch it here). Bowie seems in fine form. Working once again with producer Tony Visconti, the new song fits right into the stream of albums he released in the early 2000s, Heathen and Reality. It’s hard to believe his last album, Reality, was 10 years ago.
The new song has all the autumnal elements of Bowie. Again, his obsession with creeping mortality juxtaposed with naiveté has cropped up. The first lines:
Had to get the train
From Potzdamer Platz
You never knew that
That I could do that
Just walking the dead
Potzdamer Platz is an acknowledgement of Berlin, where Bowie famously worked with Visconti and Brian Eno on some his the greatest albums of his career: Low and “Heroes.” He clearly is in nostalgia mode referencing Böse Brücke, a checkpoint separating the once divided city. He also sings “Sitting in the Dschungel/On Nurnberger Strasse,” a reference to a club he used to frequent in the city in the late 1970s.
Another element recognizable to the Bowie obsessive is the mark of video artist Tony Oursler, who Bowie began working with during 1997’s Earthling. The projected faces on oval objects is his hallmark. It reveals Bowie’s typical self-deprecating humor. He knows he’s no longer some pretty pop star.
Finally, the music seems low-key with a key dynamic and powerful moment halfway through when he offers a beautiful building string of lines that also shows how accepting he is about mortality:
As long as there’s sun
As long as there’s sun
As long as there’s rain
As long as there’s rain
As long as there’s fire
As long as there’s fire
As long as there’s me
There are dreamy guitars and a sporadic, soft piano with a quietly tapped drum kit, until the soaring midpoint and the guitar climbs a high-pitched scale and the piano starts soloing with restraint (could it be Mike Garson?*), and the drums receive a delicate pounding. Bowie is clearly on acoustic getting emphatic along with the other instruments. It’s a beautiful return to form. It seems Reality was only yesterday, and Bowie was never gone.
Details (including full track listing) about the new album, titled the Next Day, can be found here. It will be released in the US on March 12 (Australia will get it first on
March 8) via Columbia Records. Edit: revised release dates:
March 8: Germany
March 11: UK
March 12: USA
March 15: Australia
*Up-date: Garson confirmed via email that is not him playing but added that he thinks “it’s a cool song.”
Last year I celebrated a variety of bands performing in Miami in September. I offered nary a follow-up because I wound up in the ER with a slipped disc in my back. I could hardly walk, much less stand at a rock show. Some tickets went in the trash and guest list invites went to waste. One of the bands I did not even mention as performing around that time was rumored to have had put on a good show. Glad to see Modern English will make a repeat appearance at Miami’s Grand Central at the end of this September.
Though popularly known as a one-hit wonder for the song “I’ll Melt With You,” Modern English emerged from the final breaths of the pioneering post-punk indie rock scene of pre-1980 UK. For me, I feel the strongest song in their catalog is one of their first. “Gathering Dust” was released as a 7-inch by 4AD Records in 1980:
It’s a far cry from the group’s 1983 New Wave pop hit “I’ll Melt With You.” The song includes the best characteristics of post punk, revealing influences from Joy Division to David Bowie, but also escalating them to more dramatic heights of noisy, layered fuzz that pre-dates the noise pop of My Bloody Valentine. The high-pitched bass line owes an obvious debt to Joy Division, as the processed sound of a ticking cymbal and what sounds like the pulse of a dial tone fizz and hum in the background. The ebb and flow of a wispy, gleaming synthetic wind fades in, adding a luscious metallic quality lifted from the B-side of David Bowie’s 1977 album “Heroes,” as the rhythm section shifts to double time with a bouncier bass and the more percussive sound of toms.
The song breaks through another wall, reaching layers of pre-dream pop din as layers of roaring guitars and brawny synths pile up. Singer Robbie Grey’s thick English accent is barely intelligible throughout, terse and emphatic, sounding more like Colin Newman of Wire. I do not care, after all these years, that I do not know or understand what he is singing. His voice is folded deep into the cacophony of wrestling instruments featuring driving pseudo horns and piercing guitars, adding to the song’s enigmatic dreamy quality.
When the song appeared as the opener to their debut 1981 album Mesh and Lace, nothing on that album felt as dynamic or atmospheric. Not that the album’s bad. It actually has a dark edge that betrays the character of that other single the mainstream so easily defines the band with. However, for me, “Gathering Dust,” is the one hit Modern English should be celebrated for.
Modern English performs at Grand Central, 697 North Miami Ave Miami, FL 33136, Friday, Sept. 28 with Axe and the Oak supporting. Doors open at 10 p.m. The show is for those 18 and over. For tickets, jump through this link.
Today David Bowie turned 65, and celebrities and fans are off Tweeting for him to do a comeback tour. I could offer a long essay on how important he is to contemporary music, but I present the montage above accompanied with some of the most stark music he ever created in his later period. This is “The Mysteries” from the 1993 soundtrack for the Buddha of Suburbia, an album he once called a personal favorite (Support the Independent Ethos, purchase on Amazon).
He is practically solo on the album. The only other musicians present are multi-instrumentalist Erdal Kizilcay, a Bowie collaborator since the mid-80s, and his long-time keyboardist Mike Garson (If you really want to go in-depth on Bowie, read my 5-part interview with Garson: From the Archives: Mike Garson on working with David Bowie (Part 1 of 5)). Some of the best work Bowie did in his career was when he was at his most singularly creative. He also recorded most of 1974′s Diamond Dogs on his own, including drums and guitars and began a series of his greatest albums with 1977′s Low, while defying the pleadings of his record label to go back and record Young Americans Part 2.
The man is a creative genius well worth something more than aping his greatest hits on stage (again? He did it in 1990 already). It’s time for him to come out with something original and new, damn the celebrities and fans and their Tweets (Bowie isn’t even on Twitter).
One more taste of the creative high-point that was Buddha of Suburbia, shows that the soundtrack also offers the opposite of stark and atmospheric. Here’s the driving and catchy “Dead Against It”:
This stuff could have been outtakes from Low!
December 19, 2011
Seeing as I was just celebrating the acquisition of some rare David Bowie records just yesterday, how appropriate is today’s news from BowieNet? It seems that the Music on Vinyl label is re-issuing David Bowie’s Heathen album on heavyweight 180 gram vinyl. The 2002 album was one of the rare late-era Bowie albums I never reviewed. Probably because I was so traumatized by the weakest album of that period, 1999′s …hours, which I gave a 2-and-half-star review for in “Goldmine” magazine (that “Goldmine” review was re-printed on the Bowie fansite Teenage Wildlife at the bottom of this post).
Heathen was Bowie’s second to last album before his unofficial retirement (is it actually real?), and one of my all-time favorite Bowie albums, post-Scary Monsters (1980). I’ve had the vinyl version on my Amazon wishlist for years and have not seen one appear for less than $90, so the current pe-order price of this new version for $38.43 is a welcome sight (Support the Independent Ethos, purchase on Amazon). I would hope dealers will soon appear offering it at lower prices, but if you cannot wait, this new version will ship on Dec. 27 from Amazon.
I’m also curious to wait and hear reviews regarding the sound quality, as I do not own any releases by this reissue label based in the Netherlands. But after some false starts regarding some classic Bowie albums last year (EMI/Capitol Vaults delays Bowie reissues… again), it’s nice to see a truly rare piece of Bowie vinyl get a reissue treatment that actually seems legit and around the corner. Here’s to hoping Bowie’s last album, Reality, will see a similar treatment (though it was never released on vinyl).
Up-date: A source at Music on Vinyl has written me an email stating: “We’ve used the same master as was used for the original LP.” This, tied with the fact the Bowie’s official website announced the news first about this vinyl reissue, offers positive hope for the sound quality of this record.