Mainstream American audiences got their first glimpse of Peter Murphy via his appearance in the 1983 vampire flick The Hunger, whose opening scene found the British vocalist performing inside a cage with his trailblazing post-punk band Bauhaus. Murphy delivered the cold, reptilian “Bela Lugosi’s Dead” in a tone bled dry of all human compassion, yet increasingly pleading. Grasping the wires of his enclosure, his eyes reflecting the urgency of the film’s title, the sleek, dapper frontman looked like the quintessential rising star, desperate to escape the confinement of day-to-day life and feed on the adulation of the masses.
It’s fitting that Murphy—who came full circle last year by appearing as a vampire in the film Twilight: Eclipse—is paying a visit to Santa Cruz, where The Lost Boys was filmed nearly 25 years ago. Those who attend the 53-year-old singer’s Rio Theatre show on Thursday, March 10 will witness a consummate showman at work: The man is blessed with a rich, regal baritone voice, a darkly gallant stage presence and a true flair for theatrics.
Murphy’s impact on underground culture cannot be denied. As the former singer in what’s widely considered the world’s first Goth band, he’s credited as the godfather of that movement. Bauhaus T-shirts have proven to be perennial totems of outsider cool, and solo Murphy gems like “Cuts You Up” and “A Strange Kind of Love” have become alt-rock classics.
Procuring an interview with the vampire had its hassles, but Murphy came through for GT at the 11th hour. Though he declined to answer questions on a couple of sensitive subjects (namely, his conversion to Islam in the ’90s and some disparaging comments that Brendan Perry of Dead Can Dance made about him last year), he generally came off as an agreeable sort of fellow, as far as denizens of darkness go.
GOOD TIMES: Tell me a little about how you found your onstage identity.
PETER MURPHY: The character or the persona that came about was purely to do with what the music was expressing in what was then Bauhaus. We didn’t even have enough money to buy clothes in those days; we made up our clothes from Oxfam or secondhand shops and such. The persona onstage was a natural sort of development along the course of concerts, albums and the whole “living Bauhaus.” Needless to say, I like the theater and the whole package that comes with it. It is very much a British tradition, and it reflected onto the Bauhaus stage in its most specific way through my makeup and the stuff that I do to this day.
What are some of the most remarkable differences between your stage persona and your day-to-day self?
You would have to ask my wife that. I think I am nothing like what I am onstage. Offstage I am
a very domestic and introverted person. I like emptying the dishwasher and throwing out
You completed work on your album Ninth two years ago. Why hasn’t it been released yet?
It was a case of being patient and waiting for the right label to come along which would offer the backing the album deserved. It has been a very frustrating wait, and one that is indicative of the state of the industry as it is now, which is: Either major label artists get signed for quite outrageous terms, such as interest in every piece of the artist’s life and income, or there are alternatives with low funds. Luckily we found Nettwerk to take on the album. They not only like it as a piece of creativity but are very excited and wish to back it and put as much muscle behind it as they can muster.
The vampire craze is stronger than ever. Are you sick of it, or does it give you a sense of godfatherly pride?
I think the whole vampire thing has become a boring cliché. I don’t think I am a progenitor of the so-called vampire culture. It must be the cheekbones!
If you were a different musician working with Peter Murphy, what do you think you’d have to say about Peter Murphy?
Professional, self-effacing, quite shy, but full of humor once he gets going … loved by dogs, cats and all children under 5.
Peter Murphy plays at 8 p.m. Thursday, March 10 at The Rio Theatre, 1205 Soquel Ave., Santa Cruz. Tickets are $25/adv, $29/door. For more info, call 423-8209.