This was a slightly odd assignment: do a standard promotional interview with a guy who doesn’t want to talk about the new album – there’s no tour, the band is not going to work together again; all of that is laid out ahead of the call, but talk to him anyway…okay, sure. Just one other thing…you need to do this in your lunch-hour of your day-job. So there I was sitting in a chair in a bookstore, while customers were milling around choosing recipe books or taking magazines into the café. And down the end of the room in a chair I sat with a phone and a notepad and tried to connect with a great guitarist from a great band. We got there. In the end. This was first published in Rip It Up magazine in 2008.
Go Away White is the name of the brand new Bauhaus record – but getting guitarist Daniel Ash to talk about it starts off being hard work. We get there in the end. He warms up. And then he’s off. And in to it.
Named after the German art movement and architectural style, Bauhaus is an English band from the late 1970s that went on to become synonymous with the first wave of goth-rock. Bauhaus broke up in 1983, then reunited for a tour in 1998. 2005 saw that temporary reunion kick in to overdrive with regular touring; the festival circuit, club gigs, opening for other bands, helping to usher in a new wave of goth devotees – and then, the band was over.
What do you ask an iconic figure from a legendary band when it has been announced that said group will not be touring behind their new album? This is, most definitely, the end of the road for Bauhaus. Ash is talking to me because he wants to sell records. But the band will not play shows to sell records.
“It’s done. We’ve made the record. We love the record. But there’s a shelf-life for the personalities involved in this project. There’s an amount of time that we can be together and be creative. And that time has been and gone. We’ve made a great record. But it’s over. We can’t work together anymore – can’t go on the road. So we move on. We’ll go and do other things”.
Has my interview ended just as it’s begun?
Daniel Ash is incredibly polite, but he sounds bored. He admits to me that he has been asked the same questions again – and again – for the last two hours. “One woman had never even heard of the band – and here she was asking me about my past? It’s dull.”
Ash is very happy to talk about music – he likes talking about music – there’s only one subject that gives him more pleasure (and we’ll get to that later) – but he acknowledges that it is hard to talk about a band that has announced it is no more. “We had fun making the record. But, toward the end it wasn’t fun. And we realised that it was time to call it quits. Certain personalities don’t always fit together. And this was never going to work out for a long time”.
This is the second time that Ash has flitted around the subject, all this talk of “certain personalities”.
Drummer Kevin Haskins was quoted as saying that the band was “getting along really well but there was an incident that occurred”. I ask Ash to clarify. He begins to open up. First there’s a chuckle (I can envisage a smirk) “well, it’s funny – because of course three-quarters of us get along well when we play as Love & Rockets (one of many side-projects and splinter-groups that formed outside of Bauhaus). And we’re going to play again, soon, as Love & Rockets. So that pretty much answers it. The odd one out is Pete [lead vocalist for Bauhaus, Peter Murphy]. The vote splits and we move in a different direction. He’s great on the record. But it’s hard being together and working together all the time and this wasn’t going to work, so it’s over. Easy”.
One of the other stories I have to tap in to regarding the recording of this brand new album – Go Away White sounds every bit like a continuation of the Bauhaus sound, despite arriving 25 years after the group’s last studio outing – is the fact that Ash used a Vox wah-wah pedal once owned by Jimi Hendrix. So, was that a big deal at all?
“Ha-ha, yeah – most guitarists would think of that as some holy grail or something. But honestly, no, it’s nothing – I mean someone gave me the pedal, I used it, got a great sound and then put it back on the shelf. I mean, it’s a cute story because it was owned by Hendrix and he’s, like still the man, as far as guitarists are concerned – and rightly so I might add – but to me, I just used it, as I would any piece of equipment. And then I moved on to the next track when I was happy with the sound I got”.
It’s matter of fact talking to Ash about music. He used to be in Bauhaus, then made Love & Rockets. That got stale so they played as Bauhaus again. Now that’s over – for good this time, as he emphatically repeats, but get him started on motorbikes and he’s away, animated, lively and excited.
“My real passion, outside of music, is motorbikes. Racing bikes. I love them. Riding them, working on them – I go all grease monkey!”
He laughs wildly when I suggest that he’s the Jeff Beck of goth-rock (Beck is obsessed with working on classic cars).
“Yeah, I’ve heard Beck is really in to his cars, I guess it is a bit like that. Yeah, sure. Nice to be compared to him in some department”, more laughter.
In and around the Goth and post-punk music that Ash (very much an anti guitar-hero) is known for, there have been forays in to TV and film scoring.
“I love composing for film and for television – that’s where I see myself heading”.
And Ash still DJs for kicks – after talking to me he is packing a bag to head to Mexico to play at a party.
“I don’t beat-mix or juggle or scratch – I mean I flirted with mixing a while back, but I basically just play favourites. Everything from ska and punk to pop and disco”.
Anything that would shock a dyed-in-the-wool Bauhauser?
“I love really cheesy 1970s disco. It’s incongruous I know, and Bauhaus fans would laugh at the idea of it, but I love winding up We Are Family or Brick House or I’m Coming Up. All good stuff”.
So that’s it then from the man behind the ethereal sound of Bauhaus. He won’t be making any more Bauhaus records, nor touring, but he just might be riding past your town on one of his seven motorbikes, stopping to spin some funk LPs.