Kevin Haskins of Bauhaus on Meeting David Bowie

Kevin Haskins
Kevin Haskins
Photo courtesy Kevin Haskins

Kevin Haskins was still in his teens in 1978 when he became a founding member of post-punk band Bauhaus. Along with his brother and bassist David, guitarist Daniel Ash and singer Peter Murphy, Bauhaus brought together ideas from punk, glam rock and the avant-garde to create a brooding yet dynamic and electrifying sound that influenced the likes of Nine Inch Nails, Interpol, Nirvana, Pavement and Pulp, to name a few. After that band split in 1983, before reuniting in the '90s, Haskins was a member of Tones on Tail and then Love and Rockets.

Before playing in any of the bands for which he's known, Haskins cut his teeth in a cover band that played mostly '60s and '70s rock. When punk happened toward the end of the '70s, Haskins was inspired by the way Siouxsie and the Banshees' Budgie and Joy Division's Stephen Morris made heavy and creative use of toms over the hi-hat. Despite any initial inspirations, Haskins developed a unique style with bandmates who were not interested in retreading well-worn territory.

“I think with all of us in Bauhaus, we were fairly limited in terms of having classical training or much education in music,” admits Haskins. “If there was any one conscious thing, it was to be unique and innovative and approach our instruments in a different way, and I think we managed to pull that off. Every time I sat down to write and come up with a beat to one of the Bauhaus songs, I would try everything I could do to not revert to a regular, generic rock beat. If I had to go to that, it was a last resort.”

Haskins's ability to write to the creativity of his bandmates resulted in a flexible style that often directed the music. David played lead bass parts, akin to the way that Peter Hook of Joy Division seemed to direct the flow. In synching with Ash's anti-riffing, soundscaping guitar work and Murphy's bombastic, theatrical singing, Haskins learned to play to a wide variety of styles. That capacity served him well when Love and Rockets wrote an electronic/ambient album in the era of loud rock guitars (1994's Hot Trip To Heaven), and now, in his current life as a composer for film and television — most notably for Michael Mann's Robbery Homicide Division series and Saturday Night Live.

Many people first discovered Bauhaus in the 1983 vampire movie The Hunger. The band was hired to perform the opening sequence of the movie, which starred Catherine Deneuve, Susan Sarandon and one of Bauhaus's main musical heroes.

“We saw Bowie arrive, and he was wearing sort of green army fatigues,” recalls Haskins. “You can imagine how excited we were. We were beyond ourselves, really. He went and did hair and makeup, and he had this suit on, and he came out dressed as you see him in the movie. He was really cool and wandering around while they were setting up the shot with the lights in the club. I can't remember if the other bandmembers were with me or not, but I remember I was kind of following him around from a distance. All the extras were people who would frequent the club called Heaven. He walked up to this jukebox, and he started putting records on. And we all got a bit closer, and then he beckoned us, 'Come over, sit down.' Then for the next hour or two, we had this amazing little private audience with him when he was putting on these records. A lot of them were on Pin-Ups, the covers album he did. He was telling us why he decided to cover this Who track and how he'd go see the bands at Eel Pie Island or the Marquee Club in London and gave us this slice of history of his life and how was influenced by these people. I was pinching myself as if this was really happening. We filmed our parts and then we watched him and Catherine Deneuve being filmed.”

“At the end of the day, I was standing by this passageway from one room into another,” adds Haskins. “I was leaning against the wall, and I wanted a light for a cigarette. I saw Bowie's assistant — I think her name was Coco _ and asked, 'Do you have a light for my cigarette?' And she said, 'No, but I think David does.' I didn't know that David was immediately around the corner from me, because I couldn't see him. This arm came around the corner, it was connected to David Bowie, with a lit cigarette lighter. I was so nervous that my hand was shaking with the cigarette in my mouth, and he was trying to follow my cigarette and light it, but I was shaking so much that he was having a lot of difficulty. Bowie lit my cigarette. That's my claim to fame.”

This fall, Haskins will release a coffee-table book about Bauhaus that he's been working on in collaboration with Kihl Studio and Jeff Anderson of Artist in Residence. The book will include images of artifacts, including exquisite-corpse-style drawings by the band while on tour, and fliers from across the band's career, as well as stories about the band — including more with David Bowie.

Lipgloss with Kevin Haskins and Daniel Ash of Bauhaus, Love & Rockets and Tones on Tail DJ Set presented by Sacred Seed, 9 p.m.- 2 a.m. on Friday, March 25, at Bar Standard, 1037 Broadway.

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