I had heard from a few different people that Peter Murphy was a “challenging” interview. And everyone knows that really translates into petulant and off-putting, or the kind that likes to make you squirm by answering questions with another question or in one-word answers. So it was quite a relief, when I spoke with him from New York recently, to find out that the information I had been given about the longtime Bauhaus frontman (at the Casbah on Wednesday) was completely untrue. Not only was the sharp-featured baritone anything but rude or cold, he was the antithesis of his doom-and-gloom image, joking quite a bit as we talked about everything from his just-released ninth solo effort (aptly named Ninth) to his two decades of residency in Istanbul to his possible move into the world of acting.
Scott McDonald: How’s it going?
Peter Murphy: We’re in New York right now, and doing lots of stuff. Done a couple of in-stores, playing a few shows, and we’ll be heading out to Los Angeles very soon to do some more. Things have been great, really good.
SM: Why seven years between solo records?
PM: Well, you’ve got to remember, I did [2008’s Bauhaus release] Go Away White in the meantime, and I did the whole Bauhaus reunion as well. Trent [Reznor of Nine Inch Nails] and I also made an album in that time. So, really, there’s been a lot of stuff in there.
SM: Tell me a little about Ninth.
PM: I actually made this album seven or eight months ago. It was all ready to go,but with the record industry being in the s---, and rightly so, I wanted to find the right place for it. And I did with [current label] Nettwerk. I decided I didn’t want to just haul this album out onto the street corner and see who would pick it up, like I did with (2004’s) Unshattered. That pissed me off so much because the actual day it was released, the so-called label it was on went into bankruptcy, so I was left hanging. But excited to have the new one out.
SM: Are you still living in Turkey?
PM: Yes. It’s amazing. It’s New York, San Francisco, London and Tokyo all in one place. It’s one of the most amazing places in the world. I’m actually Turkish, in a sense, because I’ve lived there now since ’92. And I speak Turkish and everything else. It is a Middle Eastern country, but it’s a republic. It’s quite unique in the Islamic world, because it’s not Arabic, it’s not Iranian, it’s not Syrian -- it’s the heart of Islam, really. And it’s most wonderful to live there.
SM: That sounds cool.
PM: Yeah, it is cool. But I’m just cool. [Laughs] I’m luminous.
SM: I know The Hunger gets mentioned with Bauhaus a lot, and you just made a cameo in the Twilight series. Any plans to make a serious push into acting?
PM: I’ve been resisting it. I’ve got too much respect for acting to think of myself as an actor. But the more I’ve thought about it, I think I am one of them. You know what I mean? I’m in my element. A major Hollywood director came to me recently and has an amazing thing happening. I can’t really talk about it, because that’s what it’s all like these days. But there’s a connection happening there. Hopefully. And singing’s one thing -- I can go into a character easily -- but speaking lines is something different. I may fumble a bit at first, but it’s something I’m going to learn. It’s a process. And I have no problem with B-movies or anything like that. But I’d love to get a character role in a movie with someone the caliber of Sean Penn. I’d cream if I ever got something like that. I’d c-- if I got that job: "Excuse me, Sean, just a minute, I’m sorry I’m c---ing." I really would. Right there on the spot [laughs].
SM: Is it OK that people will always see you as both the singer for Bauhaus and as a solo artist?
PM: It’s fine. That’s my audience and that’s my work. But it’s cool that the younger kids are coming now as well. I love to hit them with the real s---. It’s vital. I want them to say, “Oh, this is what it is,” and, “This is how it’s done.” But, really, nevermind whose coming to the shows, just come and listen to the music and watch me. Look at my eyes. Watch my lips. And it’s always going to be cool because I’m cool. Simple as that.