As the drummer with post-punk pioneers Bauhaus, Kevin Haskins played a huge part in shaping the genre that would later become known as goth, with bands such as The Sisters of Mercy, The Mission, All About Eve and even The Cure shoehorned into a scene that was actually more eclectic than the history books might suggest.
Led by the inimitable Peter Murphy, Bauhaus were as poetic as they were campy; the Poe-inspired vibe was important but Murphy also knew, and knows, how to spin a compelling tale through a Bowie-esque croon.
Bauhaus burned bright from 1978 to ’83, returned briefly in ’98 and then did a full reunion in 2005, putting out the Go Away White album in 2008 before finally calling it quits that same year. But their influence lives on, and not only with the remaining black-clad bands still content with the goth tag. Artists as diverse as Björk, Massive Attack and Smashing Pumpkins have spoken of Bauhaus’ impact on their own music.
This week, Haskins releases Bauhaus Undead through Cleopatra Records. Two years in the making, the book is a collection of anecdotes, unseen photographs, drawings and other collected oddities from Haskins’ years with the group. The Englishman has lived in L.A. for about 25 years, having met his Los Angeles born-and-bred wife during his stint with another former band, Tones on Tail. And it is from here that he started putting the book together.
“One of my best friends, Matt Green, who works at Cleopatra Records, suggested the idea,” Haskins says. “I had no thoughts to make a book at all but thought it was a good idea, and he remembered that I had a container full of memorabilia. He followed that up with offering me a publishing deal, and it was a standard deal. But I just felt that what I had was fresh and unique. There was a lot of material there, and I thought there’d be a lot of unique content so I thought, I’m not going to give that up.”
Haskins initially made the decision to go it alone and self-publish. For the next couple of years, he spent every spare moment laying out the book, clearing photographs and basically figuring out just how expensive it is to publish a book and do it properly. An attempted presale didn’t go as well as he’d hoped, and eventually, Haskins found himself back with Cleopatra.
“In the end I was completely back at square one,” he says. “Nothing, no publisher. I went round to Matt’s house, and he said to look at a book he was putting out about [Finnish sleaze-rock band] Hanoi Rocks. He said that he had given them a really good deal. He told me what the deal was, and it was much better that the one they had offered to me originally. So I asked if I could get that deal. I think it was because basically I was handing them a book on a plate — I had all the layout done, I’d cleared all the photos, I’d written the thing, it was all ready to go to the printer. I think because of that they offered me a really good deal, and so I said, ‘Yeah, let’s go.’ So it’s funny that I went on this complete circle. I ended back where I started with Matt, which is a nice story.”
The drummer, who also played with Tones on Tail as well as Love and Rockets, and now has a project called Poptone with his daughter Dina Dompé and fellow Bauhaus alum Daniel Ash, says that, although he received the blessing of his Bauhaus bandmates David J (also Haskins’ brother), Peter Murphy and Daniel Ash, he wanted to do the book himself. This was his baby, his challenge. The hard work was worth it, though: Haskins has produced a book that is visually stunning, packed with funny stories, and ultimately revealing for even the most knowledgeable fan.
“[There are] a lot of candid photographs that I took, backstage and with us larking around,” Haskins says. “Most of them are quite comical, and I thought that was great because most people don’t think of us in that way — that we do have a sense of humor and muck about. I’d forgotten that I had most of this stuff. It was like a treasure trove. On tour, we would draw a lot. I found these exquisite-corpse drawings from this surrealist game where you fold a piece of paper into four and somebody does the head and so on. No one else sees what the other person is doing, you do a whole figure and then you open it up and reveal the corpse at the end.”
The research provided Haskins with the opportunity to dig deep into his own past. The members of Bauhaus have always appeared fiercely anti-nostalgia, always looking ahead to the next project. Even the reunion resulted in new material. But putting this book together allowed Haskins to think about the band’s legacy.
“I think it exceeded our expectations many times,” he says. “Especially when we re-formed in ’98 — we were way bigger than we were back in the day, which is kind of funny. I was scared, although that was 20 years ago, that we were too old then, and that we would ruin the legacy. I was really concerned about that, because we’re all very proud of the band. I think we did all right. It was a big success. We did a world tour. It was great to see young kids down the front singing the words — that was unexpected.”
Naturally, fans of the band will never really stop asking about another reunion. Haskins is perhaps surprisingly open to the idea, while of course maintaining that his current project is his most important one.
“I’ve learned to never say never,” he says. “I think it’s possible. Peter and David are doing a few shows playing Bauhaus material. But Daniel and I are very invested in doing Poptone, playing the back catalog from all the three bands we were in. My daughter’s on bass, which is amazing. We actually did audition her, so she didn’t just get in because she’s my daughter. She’s very natural, and brings so much to the band and the music. It’s a real pleasure. I’m having so much fun. The fans’ reaction is way beyond what I thought it would be.
“It’s easy to stay at home at our age,” he adds. “But people our age come out and see us, and have a great time. That’s really gratifying.”
Bauhaus Undead by Kevin Haskins is available starting Friday, March 16, via Cleopatra Records. Haskins will be signing the book at 8 p.m. on March 16 at Lethal Amounts Gallery; 1226 W. Seventh St., Westlake.
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