David J on Bauhaus and His Unexpected Bob Dylan Fandom

David J
David J
Cynthia Loebe

David J is scheduled to deejay at Lipgloss on Friday, July 31. Born David J. Haskins, David J is perhaps best known to music fans as the bassist and sometime singer in influential post-punk bands Bauhaus and Love and Rockets. Haskins is also an accomplished author whose plays have garnered critical praise and whose 2014 autobiography, Who Killed Mister Moonlight? (Bauhaus, Black Magick and Benediction), tells the story of his life as a creative person, including his artistic involvement with René Halkett, one of the original students of Bauhaus in the 1920s.

Still an active musician, Haskins has also served as a veritable mentor to musicians he has influenced, including Courtney Taylor Taylor of the Dandy Warhols, and as a producer to bands not as well known, such as Intra-Venus and the Cosmonauts from Salt Lake City. He is currently involved in a project called Theatre Bizarre Orchestra in Detroit with some older jazz heavyweights; there's a full album in the works for the fall.

Haskins understands what it means to work with younger performers: As a musician in an up-and-coming band in the early 1980s, he had his share of unexpected benefactors, including one musical hero who helped get Bauhaus tapped for the late Tony Scott's 1983 vampire film The Hunger.

“We were sitting in our little area [where there] was an old '50s jukebox, and we were setting up for a shoot,” recalls Haskins. “Someone asked, 'Do you mind if I choose something?' It was Bowie. 'No! Go right ahead.' So he punched the numbers and chose 'Groovin' With Mr. Bloe.' Then he did the Bowie dance in front of me. I'd always thought this track was the inspiration for a track of his. So I said, 'This reminds me of something,' as he's dancing in front of me, and he asks, 'Oh, yeah, what's that, then?' — not breaking his dance. 'It's something of yours.' He says, 'Oh, really? What's that?' I say, 'It's something off Low: “It's a New Career in a New Town.”' He just slowly put one finger to his lips, smiled and winked and carried on dancing. He was great, and he was really nice to us, and he related to us as boys in the band rather than as actors, and there was a level of connection there that was really nice.

“I think Tony Scott saw us performing 'Bela Lugosi's Dead' on television for Riverside,” adds Haskins. “He was preparing to make the film, and he called Bowie and said, 'Do you know this band Bauhaus? I'm thinking of having them in the film.' Bowie gave his thumbs-up, and that's how we got in the film.”

Before forming Bauhaus, Haskins became friends with an artist a handful of years older, Alan Moore, who would go on to be one of the most important comic artists of the '80s and beyond. The two met while involved with a theatrical artist collective in 1978, and have worked together and maintained a friendship over the years.

“I think he's a true genius,” Haskins says of Moore. “I like the way he'll take on a subject and perform an excavation — an artistic, psychic, literary excavation — and he goes underground. He intuits so many different levels of association concerned with whatever the subject is and brings it to bear and collects it all in a way that is completely astonishing to me. So working with him is a real adventure and a joy always.”

With his connection to dark music and art, it might come as a surprise to some longtime fans that Haskins is a massive Bob Dylan fan, dating back to his teenage years. But it took a fellow musician to point out any similarity between Haskins's solo work and that of Dylan.

“I've got more Bob Dylan albums than any other artist,” says Haskins. “I was in Berlin recently, and Anton Newcomb from Brian Jonestown Massacre came out to one of my gigs. He's very astute about music, and he made a comment about how it really put him in the mind of Bob Dylan's album Nashville Skyline, the vocals. Since he's said that, I can really hear it, whereas before I wasn't conscious of that.”

“'Lay Lady Lay' was the first thing I ever heard by Bob Dylan,” he continues. “I was on holiday with my parents, being a salty teenager at sixteen years old, and we were at the British seaside. I just insisted on staying in the room. For two weeks, I didn't leave the room. I just stayed there growing my hair, playing the guitar and being miserable. But I was happy in my melancholia. At one point my dad said, 'I paid for this holiday, and you just stay in the bloody hotel room, strumming that bloody banjo. Your brother's out there. Get some sun on your body.' 'Dad, shut up.' And, you know — a bad scene.

“They all go to the beach, and I was haunting the corridors of this seaside bed-and-breakfast, and I went past one door, and I heard this wonderful music emanating from beyond the door. I was listening at the door, and I was painfully shy at the time, but I got the guts to knock on the door because I had to know what the music was. I remember this young man, mid-twenties, long hair, shirtless, bell bottoms, a semi-naked girl in the bed, and he said, 'Yeah, what is it, man?' 'Excuse me, I'm sorry to bother you. What is this music that's playing?' 'You're kidding me, right?' 'No, I don't know what it is. What is it?' 'That's Bob Dylan, man! That's “Lay Lady Lay.”' Which was good, because that's what he was doing in the bed. I found that track on Bob Dylan's Greatest Hits Vol. II, and I became a super-fan after that.”

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If you'd like to contact me, Tom Murphy, on Twitter, my handle is @simianthinker.

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