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Peter Murphy on stage

Peter Murphy: From Goth to God

 
story by tim mcmahan


 

 

Lazy-i: May 8, 2002

Peter Murphy
Tuesday, May 14
8p.m.
The Ranch Bowl
1600 So. 72nd St.
Omaha
$22 adv./$25 DOS
21+

For those who have followed Peter Murphy's career like members of a dark, musical cult, his shift to a new, more mystical sound should come as no surprise; at least that's what Murphy says.

Murphy is something of a god among those mascara-eyed, jet-black-haired "Goth" kids you see hanging out on weekends in the Old Market, waiting for someone (anyone) to comment about how ghoulish they look. He was the front-man and chief songwriter for what many consider the grandfathers of the Goth rock movement, a British post-punk band called Bauhaus. It's a title that Murphy seems to grudgingly accept, especially in the aftermath of circus-geek Marilyn Manson, who owes as much dept to Bauhaus as he does Alice Cooper.

While Bauhaus remains the centerpiece of Murphy's black-clad legacy to this day, I didn't discover his music until well after Bauhaus had come and gone -- a few years into his solo career when he released the slick, stylized Deep in 1989. The CD seemed to be top MTV's 120 Minutes alt top-20 list for at least a year. It was here that I first heard Murphy's grotto-low Bowie-esque voice (especially on the semi-hit "Cut You Up," whose video slid into regular MTV rotation), a voice so low that you thought he was singing from inside of an armored wishing well. I lost track of Murphy after Holy Smoke, his follow-up to Deep released in 1992, and so, apparently, did much of the music public until he got back together with his mates from Bauhaus for a reunion tour in 1998 that was capped with a rather successful world tour. Murphy probably could have ridden the Bauhaus flame until it effectively burned out, except that along the way he made a life-changing turn toward the Middle East by way of Turkey.


 

 

 

A native of the U.K., Murphy moved to Turkey in 1992 when his Turkish wife, Beyhan, was named the artistic director of Turkey's National Contemporary Dance Company. He says he met first Beyhan in 1982 when asked to audition for a part in an independent film she was making.

"After we left the audition, I asked my manager what her name was," Murphy said. "He said 'Beyhan,' and I said 'What kind of name is that?' and he said 'Turkish.' I had absolutely no idea."

Though a "nice break from London," Murphy said the move to Turkey was a massive cultural adjustment. "You have to learn to open yourself to the unknown and be open, in that sense," he said. "The Turkish culture, the quality of love there and the social family values are on a different level. The people are very in touch with each other. There isn't that sort of typical British cold-shoulder insular environment there at all. It's very much a peoples' culture."

Moments into Murphy's latest solo effort, Dust, released just last week on Metropolis Records, and it's impossible to ignore the country's influence on his music. There has always been a sort of mystical underside to Murphy's hooks, but Dust takes the implied spiritual-ness to new levels, saturating every track with as many Middle Eastern-sounding references as there are dance beats. The result is a throbbing, trancey, culturally flavored album that never looses sight of its pop roots.

Murphy also credits collaborator Mercan (pronounced Mer-jan) Dede for the sounds on Dust. He discovered Mercan's music through his wife, who had been considering his music for her dance company. "I knew instinctively he would be the right person to co-produce my next album," Murphy said. "He understood what animal I was hearing in my head.

"He's young -- a fine artist more so than a rock artist. In addition, he's a rave sort of DJ where he spins and does five hour sets in clubs. He's not what the name Mercan Dede suggests -- in a classic way in Turkey if you have the title 'Dede' you're an old, wise, spiritual master. That's what was intriguing. He has this great, smart Western esthetic running through his music and that's what came around in my head. I knew that I had met the right person and that this was going to be a Peter Murphy album and not some lame World album."

Murphy said despite the obvious Middle Eastern flavor, Dust, whose support tour brings Murphy to the anything-but-spiritual confines of The Ranch Bowl March 14, is the natural progression that his fans will recognize. "If you listen to 'Socrates The Python,' off Love Hysteria or 'Huuvola,' off Cascade or even 'Bela Lugosi's Dead,' all the elements are there, but here it's much more focused.

"My signature is that whatever I do must be authentic and completely ahead of its time and pioneering in a way," he said. "I'm also very interested at making subversive pop songs. If you listen to Dust, you'll hear those songs. It's kind of like taking my hardcore fans to the very heart of where I'm going. I mean, this could be a Bauhaus album."


 

 

Peter Murphy: Dust


"If you listen to 'Socrates The Python,' off Love Hysteria or 'Huuvola,' off Cascade or even 'Bela Lugosi's Dead,' all the elements are there, but here it's much more focused."


 

Pete looking sullen


"Marilyn Manson sounded just like I did when I was freaking out over Iggy Pop."


 

Murphy recorded Dust throughout the summer and fall of 2001 not in Turkey, but in Montreal. "I was in Canada when Sept. 11 happened and was worried about going back (to Turkey) until I realized that it was safer there than being in America," he said. "The Middle East has lived what New York has lived for centuries, really.

"There's an odd paradox where the Turks love all things Western and Western-looking, and yet they're always let down by the West," he said. "I tell my friends the only thing the West has got is its advances in rational sciences. The West is in great need of their quality of heart, that's my take on it."

I couldn't let the interview go without a question about Bauhaus and the band's role as the creator of goth. "There's an element of truth there," Murphy said. "Marilyn Manson sounded just like I did when I was freaking out over Iggy Pop. He probably got off on Bauhaus and you saw how it surfaced in his very confrontational performance. He's smart, if you look at it objectively; he's marketed as a much more refined Alice Cooper. Bauhaus was never hammer horror, but we were, in a way, that was perfectly kitschy."

How has Murphy's goals and direction changed since he began performing in the late '70s? "I'm not afraid of dying now and don't think I'll end up in hell," he said. "There's a lot of resistance and fear to that. Think about it like a metaphor: You're the receptacle clouded with fear, ignorance and coarseness. Once the truth is actually poured into the glass, the truth will take on the color and quality of the glass itself. It's a case of cleaning that grot away and uncovering the truth of what's in there. That's becoming more yourself. God is here, not somewhere else.

"I've got my devil still," he adds, laughing. "He's always on my shoulder, but I've made him a Muslim."



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Published in The Omaha Weekly May 8, 2002. Copyright 2002 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.