A role to sink his teeth into

Peter Murphy: The natural choice for 'Twilight.'

311_peter murphy (photo credit: Courtesy)
311_peter murphy
(photo credit: Courtesy)
On the surface, he’s just another vampire-loving Muslim resident of Istanbul named Murphy. But this Irish Catholic 1980s new-wave rock-star turned Sufi-practicing pop-culture figurehead of ghoulish gloom has never fit into categories dictated by society.
Apparently, while the rest of the world lives according to one set of rules, Peter Murphy, the one-time leader of influential goth rockers Bauhaus and currently a successful solo artist and the vampire portrayer of choice for Hollywood’s elite, has written his own rulebook.
Take, for example, the current directive that Turks are supposed to be at loggerheads with Israel. Murphy, who has been living in Istanbul since 1992 with his Turkish wife Beyhan Murphy, the head choreographer of the Turkish National Modern Dance group, is one of Israel’s favorite sons. Less than a year after performing to a sold out audience at the Barby club, Murphy is returning this month for two concerts – on on July 26 at the Mann Auditorium and one the following evening at The House in Haifa. Talking from a studio in Oxford, England where he was writing a batch of new songs, Murphy told The Jerusalem Post that for him, there was no justification for staying away from Israel.
“I don’t get involved with politics, so I’m not getting into the whole issue of boycotting a show. That would be reductive. If I did get pressure, as a Muslim, I would tell them that this isn’t an issue of Islam vs. Judaism, it’s a Palestinian-Israeli thing,” he said.
“This latest [Flotilla] incident was awful but there have been many incidents before. Look, Israel is surrounded by loads of people who want it to disappear. The Israelis have had to deal with this, and they do. But I have to tell you, they kick back too hard, they’re too aggressive,” Murphy added, summing up his political stance.
Despite not agreeing with everything Israel does to defend itself, Murphy stressed that it had nothing to do with his admiration for the country, adding that his wife has an ongoing and fruitful relationship with the Tel Aviv dance world and the Suzanne Dellal Center, resulting in the couple making four visits to Tel Aviv in recent years for dance performances.
Having been a Turkish resident for almost 20 years, Murphy said that he wasn’t worried the country would backslide toward religious fundamentalism, because the bulk of Turks favor their secular society.
“Turkey is a typical Middle Eastern culture, driven by emotions. But one thing is for sure, it will never become a fundamentalist, mullah-driven society,” he said.
TURKEY WAS an unlikely destination for the 53-year-old Murphy, who early in his musical career picked up the well-earned moniker ‘Godfather of Goth’ for his career-defining work with Bauhaus. The band released four albums before splitting in 1983, and its dark, nine-minute 1979 debut single “Bela Lugosi’s Dead” still stands as the “bill of rights” for the goth scene that took over fashion and music in the early 1980s and has shown its resilience ever since – demonstrated most recently through the huge popularity of the Twilight Saga series.
For the latest installment, The Twilight Saga: Eclipse, director David Slade, a long-time Bauhaus fan, pulled a rabbit out of the hat by inviting Murphy to appear in a cameo. He plays a character called The Cold One in an origin-story flashback during the film.
“I just can’t think of a better first-ever- vampire than Peter Murphy,” Slade told the BBC, adding a shoutout from the lyrics of Bauhaus’s most famous tune, “He’s the original undead, undead, undead.”
“My appearance is fleeting but powerful,” joked Murphy, adding that it was “lovely” of Slade to approach him for the role, while stating that he was a natural for it.
“Who else should have done it? I really started the whole post-modern vampire obsession. This is like a bookend to my role in The Hunger,” he said, referring to a 1983 vampire thriller starring David Bowie and Catherine DeNeuve that featured Bauhaus performing “Bela Lugosi’s Dead” in the opening credit sequence. “If someone’s looking for some press exposure, what more could you want?”
EVEN THOUGH he’s not in the limelight to the extent that he was in his Bauhaus heyday, Murphy is enjoying a low-key but steady solo career, marked by the upcoming release of his ninth album – appropriately titled Ninth. More than any other solo release, Murphy said that Ninth hearkens back most to the music and style of Bauhaus.
“The new album is harder-edged, full of testosterone. It’s very much to the point,” said Murphy, adding that the addition of a second guitarist, John Andrews, to his core three-piece band of Jeff Shartoff (bass) Mark G Thwaite (guitar) & Nick Troy Lucero (drums), all of whom have worked with Murphy since 2005, has toughened up the sound.
“We’ve been able to expand the palette,” he said. “When we went in to record Ninth, we did it all live, which is extremely rare nowadays. Using this archaic form of recording, I gathered the band, gave them the demos of the songs to learn the chords, but I said that the album is going to be made by us. I gave it a limit of nine days to complete.
“We weren’t making music by sending digital files. It all happened, and that was what I was trying to capture.”
In a way, Murphy explained, Ninth was the album that he wanted to make with Bauhaus as a successor to their 2007 reunion album Go Away White, an experience that left the singer with mixed feelings.
Murphy and estranged Bauhaus members Daniel Ash, David J and Kevin Haskins had regrouped once before, for a 1998 tour, but Go Away White was their first meeting in the studio after 25 years. The three ex-bandmates had gone on to achieve moderate success upon the demise of Bauhaus with their alternative rock band Love and Rockets. But the pull to recapture the glory of Bauhaus remained active for all the members, said Murphy.
With Go Away White, we were going in a certain direction and were hoping to continue that process, but we split up again and there was a lot left undone. So Ninth is really a continuation of that process,” said Murphy, offering mixed signals about his true feelings over dusting up the Bauhaus legacy.
“We’re like family, we truly love each other and protect each other, but there are times we can’t stand each other. There’s that whole dichotomy at work,” he said, calling himself “the biggest Bauhaus fan.”
“I never played a Bauhaus song in my solo career until 2006, because I knew it was like a special golden egg, and should be kept shrouded in seclusion.”
Claiming that he was the impetus for the band’s reunion, which saw it triumphantly appear with one of the bands that drew its inspiration from Bauhaus – Nine Inch Nails – Murphy said that he’s finally let the past slip away.
“I proposed the reunion but talking to them about it was like pulling teeth. Love and Rockets had an album coming out and they decided not to continue with Bauhaus. Ironically, their album completely died, and they ruined the chance of getting back together,” he said. “But I was really over Bauhaus years ago. And anyway, I’m continuing that legacy in my solo work.”
With a new generations of vampire groupies and music fans discovering him on celluloid, and through his appearances with Nine Inch Nails on their 2009 final tour – in which he performed with leader Trent Reznor after descending on a chain from the rafters upside down – Murphy is content with his life as a vampire-loving Turkish Muslim rock- and film-star.
“On reflection, what we were trying to do with regrouping Bauhaus was to reawaken that wonderful bond that we had. It’s always going to be there, but today, it’s not necessary anymore.”