Bauhaus' Kevin Haskins Digs Up the Past in a New Art Book, 'Bauhaus - Undead'
Read an excerpt and dive into our chat with drummer Haskins about his new collector's art book, Bauhaus' first gig, and driving a hearse.
Drummer and composer Kevin Haskins has already had an impressive creative career. First as a founding member and drummer of post-punk goth godfathers Bauhaus, followed by the respected and influential offshoots Tones on Tail and Love and Rockets. Beginning in the late Nineties, his musical output evolved to comprise soundtrack scoring for video games, TV, and movies. He's created scores for Playstation 2, NBC, HBO, and even Disney.
That's all public information, though. What you may not know about him is that he's an unrepentant packrat. He's been saving flyers, set lists, backstage passes, photographs, handwritten lyrics, artwork, and every sort of memorabilia since the early days of Bauhaus in the late Seventies. Until about a year and half ago, it was all buried in boxes, and he'd forgotten about most of it.
Now, in collaboration with Jeff Anderson of Artist in Residence, he's sharing it all with fans in a large format, over 300 page tome — Bauhaus – Undead: The Visual History and Legacy of Bauhaus. Presale began September 19.
Noisey: So, you started collecting ephemera related to the band right away?
Kevin Haskins: Oh, yeah, I was really, really excited when we were first mentioned in our local newspaper. Our father — of course, my brother's in the band — really encouraged me to play the drums, and he set me up with lessons, but he was a very unemotional guy, very British … and he'd kind of say, "Well, good luck, but you're never going to make it, it's a one in a million" … and I didn't know this, but my mum told me years later that he would cut out all these articles and take them to the pub and he'd be showing his friends.
Oh, that's so nice! But he'd never tell you that.
Did anyone else in the band contribute to the book?
No, I think my brother offered, but I had so much material that it was overwhelming anyway. So I've been digging in boxes and finding all the stuff, and a lot of it I didn't remember. I found this cartoon by an artist called Matt Howarth. It was a cartoon with speech bubbles, four pages, and one page didn't have the speech bubbles filled in. So I Googled the artist's name and wrote to him and said, 'What's going on here?' He told me that he came backstage somewhere around '82 or in that era, and gave us this cartoon and said, 'I'd love for you to fill in the speech bubbles and send it back to me.'
Well, we'd obviously started, but got distracted. Then I put it in a box, and it was there for 25 years, or more. And he said he'd done the same. So he said, 'Do you want me to fill in the speech bubbles?' And I said, "No, let me do it." Now, we used to sometimes use the Cut-up Techniquetechnique, that was championed by William Burroughs, so I used the Cut-up Technique, and it actually was quite synchronistic and spooky how it came together. It was very pertinent to what was going on in the cartoon; it was weird.
I enjoyed reading your story about the hearse; it was perfect for me, as I used to drive a hearse as well! I could totally relate to breaking down on the side of the road and people staring.
Oh, so you could relate to that, good! What brought you to buying a hearse?
Well, I was goth as fuck at the time, and also I was considering being a funeral director. Mine was a 1978 Buick. What was yours?
A Ford Zephyr, a 1970. It was for sale at a funeral home, so we all went to check it out. We just … you know… we were young … you don't think through the practical side of things. It was great inside, it had little velvet curtains, so we could conceal ourselves in this little gothic den.
Over the years, there has been much protestation about not considering yourselves gothic. I feel like this isn't helping that cause very much, you know?
Yeah, I know, yes. Well, in the book, I did the whole piece on the hearse, and our first single was about a vampire. And we dressed in black, and the music was very dark, so, I mean, personally I feel a connection to the gothic movement, and we definitely flirted with it, but I think where the other guys are coming from is that we didn't feel like 100 percent part of that movement and I think there were more facets to Bauhaus than just goth.
Some people credit you with starting the whole goth movement.
I know! I know! It was in a way, quite rigid, as all movements are — mods, punks, rockers — there was a dress and a lifestyle and it was pretty intense. And we weren't living that. We were kind of on the periphery of it looking in and contributing to it and taking from it a little bit.
There's an old photo I've seen online, of Bauhaus playing soccer in the sun.
And that photo makes me laugh every time I see it, it just like exemplifies the whole, OK, 'We're not goth' thing.
Yeah, there you go, that's a good example.
So, your book is not cheap (though you havejust announced a less expensive version - thank you for that!). Can you tell me anything specifically about it that makes it a special collector's item?
It's a very big book. I didn't realize how big it was. I actually went to the Taschen store in LA and looked at their books and took a tape measure—my book is bigger than most of their books! And I'm manufacturing it here, which is very pricey. I'm not making a big profit on it, put it that way. It's about 304 pages, maybe a little bit more than that. Instead of having just one person write a forward, we're reaching out to a lot of artists who have name checked Bauhaus and asked them to write forwards. I have about six or eight so far, it's great, it's like the cherry on the cake. I had Moby write one, Peter Hook, Jane's Addiction, Maynard. They've all written the sweetest things. You know, Twiggy, from Marilyn Manson, he wrote a really great story about when he first heard us, [laughs] a bizarre story. I think he was like dressed as a clown in a nightclub or something.
And then "Double Dare" came on, and he said something along the lines of, "I heard this 'I dare you,' in this deep guttural voice, the deepest, scariest voice he'd ever heard to this day, and he said he was just transfixed from that point on.
So you managed to scare Twiggy Ramirez while he was dressed as a clown …
Yes! [Laughs] That vision is like... scary. But I'm very excited for the book, it's going to be like a baby being born, like holding it, after all this work. There's been so much work and love and passion put into it, and I think it's going to be a really beautiful big book and we'll be very pleased with it.
Are there any other stories from the book you can share?
Yeah, OK, this is about our first gig. Daniel secured this classroom at this teacher-training college in Northampton, and that's actually were we wrote "Bela."
In a classroom?
Yeah, it was a really sterile classroom with strip lighting; it was the most un-atmospheric, bland environment you could imagine. We were rehearsing, and every weekend the college union guys would put on a gig, and so the Pretenders were playing. We thought, let's just go and set our gear up. We wanted to play, we hadn't played to anybody, we'd only been together a few weeks. So we dragged all of our gear over these snowbanks and we set up really fast. There was no PA; I think we put a microphone through a combo amp for Peter, and we were playing! After a couple of numbers, a crowd started to form. And then this kid pushed through the crowd; he was part of the student union. He said, 'What are you guys doing?' Peter said, 'We're the support band.' He's like, 'Why aren't you on the stage?' Peter's like, 'We just prefer it here.' And he's giving us this squinty-eyed look, and then he was like, 'OK.' So we went into our next number, and I saw him walking away, looking over his shoulder at us. We only had about five songs, and I think we played "Raw Power" twice. Then all the rest of the student union guys came and said, 'You're NOT the support band.' But we'd finished anyway. So that was our first official/unofficial gig.
So you sort of opened for the Pretenders for your first gig, but they just didn't know it.
They didn't know it, yeah.
Was the room crowded?
About 100 people, I think.
More than most bands get for their first gig!
Yeah, our next one we had about four people; it was a New Year's Eve gig in the back room of a pub. There were about four people, and we played "Raw Power" four times.
We were recording our third LP, The Sky's Gone Out, at the legendary Rockfield Studios in Monmouthshire, Wales and employed the engineer from "Bela Lugosi's Dead," Derek Tompkins, to assist on the session. One day, venturing into the nearby village of Monmouth to stock up on supplies, Daniel and Peter happened upon a hearse that was for sale! This would make a very fine means of convenience for touring, they both thought and after consulting with David and I, the next day the sale was made. Following the deal, we drove it with great excitement back to the studio and showed it off to Derek and the studio owners teenage daughters, who immediately asked us to take them for a spin. Derek was exasperated because we were "supposed to be recording an album, and not driving a bloody hearse around all day!"
After assuring Derek that we would be back in fifteen minutes, the girls took up their positions in the back, where normally the coffin would be placed. With Peter at the wheel we all set off with gusto around the narrow country lanes of Wales. Peter decided to test the capacity of the engine for speed and endurance, and as our lives flashed before our eyes, we went careering around the narrow bends and curves, over humpbacked bridges, and on several occasions, ironically, almost meeting our keeper! The poor ladies were being thrown from side to side of the rear compartment, screaming with both fear and delight! Fortunately, we eventually made it back in one piece.
Once the LP was finished, we drove the old hearse back to our home town of Northampton and a fine fellow by the name of "Reasonable" Ray Kinsey, set about converting it into a more suitable conveyance for the undead. Ray installed seating and curtains, all in crushed velvet of a beautiful deep blue. A sumptuous carpet finished off the interior with gothic splendor. We could not wait to take it on our next tour, although our long suffering tour manager, Harry Isles, was not of a similar persuasion! Unfortunately, his worst fears came to fruition. The bloody thing would constantly overheat and breakdown. Much to the amusement and horror of families taking a leisurely spin, we all too often could be seen pushing the bloody thing along the B roads and streets of Great Britain.
Unfortunately over time, the negatives greatly outweighed the positives, and so on March 14th 1984, the poor beleaguered hearse was finally laid to rest.
Photos courtesy of Kevin Haskins
Christine Colby is staying GAF on Twitter.