‘Bauhaus – Undead’: Kevin Haskins Talks

We chat with Bauhaus’ Kevin Haskins about his book ‘Bauhaus – Undead’, a visual chronicle of the band’s musical journey. 

“I think we provided a voice for the disenchanted youth who existed on the outside edges of society! Or maybe we just wrote bloody good songs!  We were sometimes surprised at our success. I think the reason that the music has continued to thrive is because the majority of it is timeless. Because of its unique quality, it isn’t able to date.”

Ziggy Stardust video shoot photo by Fin Costello

Peter Murphy, “The Godfather of Goth”, liked the theatrical, the daring, the raw. Did this nature ever cause concern for his Bauhaus bandmates? “Yes, sometimes!” Kevin Haskins replies. “He did come very close to causing harm to himself and the audience but that sometimes comes with the territory of a brilliant showman. It was exhilarating to witness!”

Haskins is an accomplished drummer. Best known for his stints with Bauhaus, Haskins later formed Tones On Tail and Love And Rockets with Bauhaus guitarist Daniel Ash, bringing his usual flair and swing to whatever track he played. Much of the driving attack on seminal 1983 classic She’s In Parties comes from the psych march drums.

Kevin Haskins 2018- photo by Mitch Jenkins

Talking about his drumming influences, Haskins turns to fellow post punk bands Joy Division and Siouxsie and The Banshees for credit. “In respect of Bauhaus the two that come to mind are Stephen Morris (Joy Division) and Kenny Morris, (the first Banshees drummer). Stephen turned me on to The Synare Drum and I loved how Kenny would use the floor tom instead of the hi hat, and his minimalism. I also drew from their styles of playing. I also set a challenge for myself to try and come up with a unique pattern for each song.” He certainly did, Bauhaus masterpiece Mask (1981) is a meticulous melange of powered esoterity and originality.

“I love Mask.” Haskins continues. “It definitely has that second LP feel, where the band is sort of taking a breath and really getting in to the music, in a crafting sense. It was also when we first became interested in what one could create in the studio, rather than just banging out the songs. It has a very strong character and I feel that Mike Hedges [engineer/producer] was partly responsible for that.”

Haskins has written his own book, the excellent Bauhaus Undead, a chronicle of the band’s musical journey. How was the transition from musical artistry to written artistry? “Well about three years ago a good friend of mine Matt Green who works at Cleopatra, suggested that I put my massive collection of Bauhaus ephemera to good use in a coffee table book. I had no idea to ever become an author and so I am very grateful to Matt for suggesting the idea. He offered to publish it but I wanted to explore self-publishing, and explore I did! I embarked on what turned out to be a sometimes glorious and sometimes hellish journey!”

He writes glowingly of Don Letts, punk DJ, Clash videographer and Big Audio Dynamite co-founder. Has Letts been rightfully recognised by the general public? “I don’t really think that they do. I think that I mentioned in the book that he brought Reggae in to the punk scene when he used to DJ at The Roxy in London. As a result of that we all discovered the delights of dub reggae and that definitely had a big influence on all the post punk dub mixes that we and other bands immersed ourselves in. Then with Big Audio Dynamite, that band had a large influence on the music that followed that used sampling, such as Love And Rockets!”

A portrait of English DJ and broadcaster John Peel (1939 – 2005) taken in the studio at the BBC during the broadcast of his radio show, London, 1977. (Photo © Chalkie Davies/Getty Images)

Another familiar face appears in the book, this one worn by John Peel. Bauhaus were visited by Peel at a Northampton gig on September 23rd 1979. They presented him an advance copy of Bela Lugosi’s Dead. For many bands of the seventies, a stamp of approval from the radio presenter meant everything. Haskins agrees. “It was a remarkable feeling! I actually devoted a story to John Peel because he was such an important and influential person for so many musicians. I feel that I described him well when I said, “John Peel’s show was a shining beacon in an otherwise dull sea of bland mediocrity.” So to not only hear one’s music coming from a radio speaker, but it to be John Peel playing it, was almost overwhelming!”

Bauhaus by Graham Trott

It didn’t stop there. Bauhaus’s influence continued into a new generation of musicians. Simply listen to the early records of industrial rockers Marilyn Manson and Nine Inch Nails or the fiery ferocity of Manic Street Preachers miserable masterpiece The Holy Bible and try and refute their influence. Haskins rationalises their success. “I think we provided a voice for the disenchanted youth who existed on the outside edges of society! Or maybe we just wrote bloody good songs! It’s a difficult question to answer as we had no master plan and didn’t really put much thought in to the music, it just happened very organically. We were sometimes surprised at our success. I think the reason that the music has continued to thrive is because the majority of it is timeless. Because of its unique quality, it isn’t able to date.”

Bauhaus by Stella Watts

Haskins writes in his book the importance the band’s appearance at Coachella 2005 holds to him, writing in his book that “All through Bauhaus, Tones On Tail and Love And Rockets, we forged a strong relationship with Goldenvoice [Coachella Founders]”.  Haskins remembers the event fondly. “Paul Tollet from Goldenvoice was the reason that it happened and he also wrote us a blank check for production (lights, Special FX, etc). So it granted us the opportunity to put on something very unique and special. The first idea was to release thousands of bats from the stage during Bela Lugosi’s Dead. This idea was shelved when we discovered that there was a law in place that did not allow the release of bats at that particular time and location! It was also in front of the largest audience we had ever played to: 110,000. It was quite an amazing experience!”

Bauhaus by Judy Lyon (2005)

We ask if Haskins wishes to tell We Are Cult readers what his future projects involve. “I am currently playing in a band called Poptone” he responds.  “Which is myself, Daniel Ash and my daughter, Diva Dompe. We are playing songs from Bauhaus, Tones On Tail and Love And Rockets, Daniel and I being original members of all three bands. We have our debut LP being released on Cleopatra Records sometime around May/June this year.”

❉ ‘Bauhaus – Undead: The Visual History and Legacy of Bauhaus’ by KEVIN HASKINS will be released on March 16 via Cleopatra Records.

❉ Photo credit: Feature image by Brian Shanley.

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