Aside from the occasional reunion with Bauhaus and/or Love and Rockets, singer-bassist David J. has spent the last decade concentrating on his solo career. While he doesn't often tour, he has teamed up with Portland, Oregon's Adrian H. & the Wounds for a short Midwest and East Coast tour before he heads to Europe next month. While the shows are ostensibly in support of last year's somber Not Long for This World, the Goth rocker says he'll mix in a few Bauhaus and Love and Rockets tunes as well. He spoke via phone from his home just outside of San Diego.
The first Bauhaus album, In the Flat Field, received generally negative reviews. What did the reviews say about it?
I have to cast my mind back. I can't remember. I think we were ahead of our time. It wasn't talking about what was popular with the press at the time and we were criticized for being removed from that socio-political world. We were responding to our own social situation and wanting to escape from that. We came from a mundane factory town. The song "In the Flat Field" describes that. We wanted to create our own reality and our own world. It didn't jive with the down to earth talk about your working class social background and where you're from. We were flagrantly dramatic and flamboyant and that rubbed people the wrong way. The fashion was to be humble and down to earth. We marched to our own drummer. We were stripped-down and angular and odd. It wasn't easily categorized, even though we were given that label "Goth." It was its own animal really. Later on, when we re-formed, it was a complete reappraisal, especially by the NME and English papers, who lauded us and said, "We take it back. They were ahead of their time." You could see the influence in contemporary bands who were admired by the press. We finally got some recognition, which was quite sweet.
I remember college radio in the States embraced the band.
It started for us when the band had finished and Love and Rockets had started. College radio was great for us in America and really helped us a lot.
How did the Love and Rockets experience compare to Bauhaus?
Well, Love and Rockets was much more joyous and celebratory. It was more psychedelic, because psychedelic music was loved by us three but not so much by [Bauhaus singer] Peter [Murphy] ,who wasn't so into the psychedelic stuff. Because he wasn't in the picture, we explored that. In the mid-'80s, there was a neo psychedelic revival and it fit right where we wanted to take the band. From that, we started going back to early -'60s rock 'n' roll, and then T. Rex and Bowie, and there was an acoustic element. It was very rich. That band was very rich. It had many layers to it, and we had great fun. We were much more amiable.
Why did the band end?
Our last record was called Lift and were very much behind it. But commercially, it took a plunge when we made Hot Trip to Heaven in 1989 and 1990 that was primarily electronic. We were heavily into that. We wanted to put down the guitars and get very experimental. We've been told we were ahead of our time by contemporary electronic artists. RCA wanted us to play full-on stadium rock. It was very weird, and we didn't understand that. [Producer] Rick Rubin heard it and really liked it and wanted to sign us to American, so we went with him. The record didn't sell, and we did a couple more after that. We were always into the music, but it was like an uphill struggle. It was like the wind went out of our sails. We wanted to go off and do different things. We briefly reunited in 2008 to play Coachella and Lollapalooza, but we didn't have the motivation to make more music. It was like that spark was gone. We had two good gigs, and we figured we'd quit while we felt proud of the band.
Are you working on writing a new solo album?
I am, but there is an album called Not Long for This World that is out now. We're focusing on that on this jaunt. It's about mortality. It has a lot of covers and some originals. I'm very pleased with it. It's a bit of a punk rock cabaret, if you will.
I didn't plan it to be about mortality. I was asked to do a show at a theater in L.A. and I thought of doing a theme night and splitting it into "bouquets, wreaths and laurels," the title of an old track of mine. We have bouquets, which are love songs, wreaths, which are death songs, and laurels, which is one song of glory. That went really well and it was all filmed. I'm going to put that film out next year. I recorded some of the songs, mostly the wreath songs, and just put them on the shelf and didn't know what to do with them. I have that little connection there, and I thought I could come up with an album.
What are you memories of playing Cleveland?
I remember the crowds being very warm and up for it. They know their rock 'n' roll. It's like a working-class, Friday night-let-off-steam type of vibe. It's a great thing to play to. We've always played in your area, going back to the early days.
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