BY JOANN LOVIGLIO Drummer Kevin Haskins and singer/songwriter/guitarist Daniel Ash have been releasing the bats since 1978 — first with Bauhaus, then with Tones on Tail, then Love & Rockets and now Poptone. While Bauhaus has been writ iconic in the fullness of time, largely on the strength of the deathless and ineffably creepy/cool “Bela Lugosi’s Dead” single, and Love & Rockets had bunch of full-blown commercial radio hits spread across seven albums, it is the lesser known/more edgy Tones On Tail that is finally getting its due. Sandwiched between its proto-goth predecessor and its hit-making, MTV-rotating successor, Tones on Tail sounded like neither and existed for just two years, from 1982-1984, yielding one brief U.S. tour and a smattering of EPs and 12-inches. Tones on Tail is the classic middle child: frequently overlooked, but often the coolest kid in the brood. After spending decades appreciated by just a fraction of its siblings’ respective fan bases, ToT’s tiny but mighty catalog is getting a second listen with Poptone, which reunites ToT vocalist/guitarist Daniel Ash and drummer Kevin Haskins, and adds Haskins’ daughter Diva on bass. In advance of Poptone’s Philly stop at the Troc on Friday August 3rd, Phawker had a few questions for Kevin Haskins, who has spent the better part of the 21st century composing soundtracks for video games, film and television. Discussed: The East Side Club; how Bauhaus came to be in The Hunger; his semi-private audience with David Bowie; Eel Pie Island; the gloomy prospects of a Bauhaus reunion, plus the obligatory goth talk.
PHAWKER: I saw Tones on Tail here in Philly (and chatted with you afterward, as much as a drunk teenager can hold an actual conversation) in 1984 at a subterranean den of iniquity called the East Side Club, which now is a CrossFit gym to the great amusement of those who remember its past. I vividly recall this initial jarring moment when Daniel Ash, Glenn Campling, and you came out dressed in white, down to your painted white boots. Was that more of a visual/stylistic decision, or were you making a more overt statement to audiences that Bauhaus was over and you had moved on? And how did crowds — perhaps not ready themselves to move on after Bauhaus — respond to Tones on Tail on that tour?
KEVIN HASKINS The decision to wear all white in Tones On Tail was mostly as a reaction to how we presented ourselves in Bauhaus. We wanted to establish a new identity and we felt it was a very bold statement. In fact I recall during our first shows in the UK that Bauhaus fans would sit on the stage with their backs to us in defiance, a row of Bauhaus logos prominently displayed on their leather jackets.
PHAWKER: Poptone’s set includes material from all three bands but is mostly Tones on Tail, which has the smallest catalog and the most challenging music of your three bands. Why did your setlist turn out so Tones-heavy, and how did the three of you select the material that you would play on tour?
KEVIN HASKINS Aside from cover versions, when selecting songs from our back catalog to play in Poptone, Daniel had a desire to only play songs that he had written and sang on. This resulted in the set being Tones On Tail heavy. I felt that this would actually result in a very desirable set for our audience as that material had barely been performed live before.
PHAWKER: For those of us of a certain age and predilection, Bauhaus performing “Bela Lugosi’s Dead” in the opening sequence in The Hunger was a powerful and formative moment. Were you on set when the opening scene was being shot? Any impressions/memories you can share about David Bowie, Catherine Deneuve, or how the band came to be performing in a cage in a sexy vampire movie?
KEVIN HASKINS During the editing sessions of “Shes In Parties,” director Tony Scott would pop in to the edit suite of Howard Guard to check out his new video. This was when the seed of the idea to have Bauhaus perform in his next movie entitled The Hunger was born. Once he heard our first single “Bela Lugosi’s Dead” the idea was cemented. We all arrived on set at the nightclub Heaven in Charing Cross London very early and waited around while the stage was being set. During that time David Bowie arrived in green designer army fatigues, brimming with charisma. After he disappeared into hair and make up our performance was filmed several times over. They erected a wire mesh across the front of the stage which Peter, behaving like a caged animal, utilized to great effect. During our performance Bowie appeared looking stunning in a silken black suit, round sunglasses and a huge black pompadour wig!
Later in the day we were treated to a remarkable audience with Bowie. In a side room to the club there was placed an old vintage Wurlitzer jukebox. Bowie sauntered over to it and began selecting songs. He turned around to see an array of extras, who were regular club kids at Heaven, and us. He motioned for us to all come into the room and sit down. For the next blissful hour he would put on songs, many of which [he] covered on the album Pinups, and regaled us with fascinating stories of when he first saw all these bands at Eel Pie Island at the Marquee club back in the ‘60s. It was a remarkable day!
PHAWKER: On a related note, many people assume the original version of “Bela Lugosi’s Dead” is live because of the crowd noise at the beginning. Explain the decision to include that snippet of audience noise, and what is the source of that crowd noise? Somebody else’ live album? An early Bauhaus gig?
KEVIN HASKINS The version of Bela Lugosi used for The Hunger was an earlier live recording. At the bequest of Tony Scott we attempted to make a special the recording but it simply didn’t work out.
PHAWKER: Last Bauhaus question, there was a reunion 10 years ago, some live shows and a “final” album — Going Away White — was recorded but the reunion dissolved before its release. The 40th anniversary of the band’s formation in 1979 is approaching. Any possibility of re-activating the band to mark the milestone with a tour? What would it take to get Bauhaus back together?
KEVIN HASKINS The version of Bela Lugosi used for The Hunger was an earlier live recording. At the bequest of Tony Scott we attempted to make a special the recording but it simply didn’t work out. There are no plans to revive Bauhaus at this time.
PHAWKER: You put down your drumsticks for a number of years after Love & Rockets ended. What were you up to in the interim, and what made you decide to return to playing — and to commit to touring again?
KEVIN HASKINS After Love And Rockets I began a career as a film and tv composer which was interspersed with touring with Bauhaus. In January of this year Daniel called me about doing a career retrospective tour.
PHAWKER: Does having your music referred to as “goth” bother you? That after-the-fact label annoys the hell out of me — if anything is “goth” it’s Bach, it’s “Toccata and Fugue,” or maybe it’s cartoonish stuff like Specimen — not Bauhaus and The Cure. Your thoughts about the g-word?
KEVIN HASKINS Goth was a pigeonhole created by the media and possibly due to the fact that we wore black and our first single was about a vampire actor, we are now termed as the Godfathers Of Goth. An entire movement sprung up that we were/are associated with.