Somehow it's appropriate that the members of Love and Rockets are figuratively climbing out of their graves.
As part of Bauhaus, a seminal goth band born in 1979, Rocketeers Daniel Ash, David J and Kevin Haskins helped turn a generation of teenagers into the walking dead. Then, in 1984, following brief stints with Tones on Tail and the Jazz Butcher, they rose from the ashes to form their current band. By decade's end, Love and Rockets had translated its cult status into a top-five single (1989's "So Alive") and an arena tour that previewed the rise of America's alternative nation. For much of the early Nineties, though, the performers may as well have been deceased themselves.
"At the end of the tour, there was no sort of perspective anymore. We were really going through the motions and not putting everything into it," David J says from Los Angeles, where his band is preparing for its first tour in seven years. "We were being offered stadium tours for lots of money, but I think if we had carried on, it would've been disastrous. We didn't have it in us to make another good record at the time, and I think it would've blown up in our faces. We would've ended on a down. But because we left without compromising anything, we're on a high now. And I think that bodes well."
That's not a surprising statement from a musician whose group is hoping to make a comeback. More unexpected is J's view about Love and Rockets' place in today's much-changed cultural climate. "We feel more in tune with these times than we did in the Eighties," he says. "Then, we felt like outsiders--a bit of an oddity. But we like what's going on musically much more at the moment now. I think this is going to be our time more than it was in the Eighties."
Given that Love and Rockets last experienced major success at a time when Lollapalooza wasn't even a synaptic impulse in Perry Farrell's brain and Kurt Cobain was just another loser from Aberdeen, Washington, that may be wishful thinking. But J's got an ace up his sleeve--Sweet F.A., a new album that sounds both fresh and familiar. Radio programmers apparently agree: "Sweet Lover Hangover," the disc's first single, is currently playing on modern-rock radio next to songs by artists barely in kindergarten when Ash, J and Haskins first took the stage together.
This turn of events comes as sweet justice for J, who admits that the post-"Alive" years have been particularly trying. Each of the bandmates made solo albums that were largely ignored, and the last Love and Rockets offering (Hot Trip to Heaven, an experimental, ambient recording released in 1994) nearly led to the band's demise. "We had just decided to go into the studio again without any sort of preparation--to go in and put ourselves on the line," J divulges. "We had decided that if we didn't have anything in two weeks, then the band would be over. But in the first week, we had the whole of the album."
Few music-business types were thrilled by the results, however. The recording was roundly rejected by every major label but one--American, headed by producer-to-the-stars Rick Rubin. The original plan, J states, was to follow Hot Trip with a more typical platter within six months. But that idea crumbled when the Sweet F.A. sessions went from being a fast-paced affair to a two-year ordeal. The original tapes, produced in San Francisco, were dismissed by the musicians as too "laid-back"; a second effort in London was rejected by Rubin, who wanted a more stripped-down sound; and a third try, at Rubin's house in Southern California, came to a calamitous end when a mysterious fire claimed all their demos--plus most of the instruments they'd been playing since the Bauhaus days.
"The fire was very disturbing," J concedes, "but somehow it needed to happen. It was like a purging. In a curious way, it made us a band. After that there was a tenacious spirit, and it's toughened us up."
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Infused with new enthusiasm, the threesome finally completed F.A. last fall in San Francisco. J is pleased with the results and is keeping his fingers crossed about its commercial prospects. "We'd like a gold record," he acknowledges, adding, "After our last tour, there was the rise of bands in America like Nirvana, but people seem more receptive to British bands these days. And I think we've got a better attitude than a lot of other English bands. I think they have a bit of an anti-American slant that we don't have. I haven't seen Blur, but I've seen Oasis, and they're very static. And I think Americans find that very hard to relate to."
J's sales pitch doesn't end there. He goes on to brag that his and his mates' tastes are broader than before; Heaven was greatly influenced by British house music, he contends. And he touts the act's cohesiveness, brought about by what he sees as a newfound kinship among the players. "We don't feel any conflict anymore in being up on stage and being in the spotlight," he says. "We're very into playing live. It's like, 'Let's not talk about it, let's just let it happen.' There's this quiet confidence, and I really believe each of us are at our strongest when we're together."
Love and Rockets, with the Dandy Warhols. 9 p.m. Friday, April 12, Ogden Theatre, 935 East Colfax, $15, 830-2525 or 1-800-444-