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Cover Story: Love and Rockets • Reissues & Reunion

| April 30, 2023


Love and Rockets (L to R: Kevin Haskins, Daniel Ash, David. J)

Not that a random Google quest can sum up the alpha/omega significance of any particular subject. But when you punch in ‘Love and Rockets, band’ on the search engine, one of the Frequently Asked Questions it churns up is a deceptively simple “Is Love and Rockets Goth?” It’s a conundrum that still confounds bandleader Daniel Ash himself, and therein hangs the spectral tale. Even though the English-born, psychedelic-splashy trio (which also features bassist/vocalist David J and his percussionist brother Kevin Haskins) hasn’t recorded a new album since Lift, its seventh and final set back in 1998, it will forever be associated with its catacomb-creepy predecessor, the Peter Murphy-fronted Bauhaus, a quartet that practically defined the term Goth rock. “Because we are Goth, a little,” the vocalist/guitarist allows, on the eve of Love and Rockets’ surprise spring reunion tour and a corresponding Beggars Banquet remastering/reissuing campaign of all seven albums on colored vinyl. “But that’s just because of the band that we were in before, so it’s weird how when you add or subtract one member of a band, the sound becomes completely different.” For further evidence, he adds, look no further than Tones on Tail, his single-album spinoff with Bauhaus percussionist Kevin Haskins. Its single album Pop! (in 1984), he says, “Was just a case where there was no pressure from the record company to do anything other than exactly what we wanted to do, which was very liberating. But with all the bands we’ve been with on Beggars Banquet, we’ve had a clause in the contract saying that we have full artistic control, and that’s been really good for us over the years. There hasn’t been any situation where we’ve had to have some big-shot producer in to do this, that, or the other.”

A Bauhaus reunion tour last year was aborted when an ailing Murphy, nicknamed the Godfather of Goth, entered rehab. And while Love and Rockets foresee no concert cancellations looming ahead, they have — in the words of one of their most popular singles, “No New Tale To Tell,” either. They currently have no plans to write or record new material, as each member is otherwise engaged with ongoing outside projects. And whereas Bauhaus’ most significant dirge was “Bela Lugosi’s Dead,” the L and R anthems are conversely thoughtful and downright uplifting, from “The Light,” “Yin and Yang,” “It Could Be Sunshine,” and “Haunted When the Minutes Drag” to more celebratory entries like “Kundalini Express” and a rollicking cover of “Ball of Confusion.” Songs that — with a great degree of existential irony — sound almost tailor-made for our grim new post-pandemic era. A perfect panacea for folks desperately in search of just such a mood-altering prescription. Ash and Haskins checked in to discuss their unexpected return, all spurred by a booking to play Pasadena’s Cruel World festival earlier this year…

IE: How was the lockdown for you guys? And where were you all?

DANIEL ASH: Well, lockdown for me? I loved it. I ride motorcycles, and there was nobody on the street, so it was a great time. So it was weird — everybody was freaking out about it, but it worked to my advantage that nobody was around. And I was riding the bike through cities and stuff without any traffic, and it was fascinating — it was like something out of a science fiction film. I just get on the bike; I don’t make any plans — I just sort of go and see what happens, and I’ve done that my whole life. And I ended up once in a desert area somewhere, but I couldn’t actually tell you where it was. I remember I had to fill up with gas at a gas station, and there was some guy there that was like 197 years old and his dog, and I think that’s actually where I caught Covid, the bad one when it first happened, and that knocked me out for about 15 days. It wasn’t so much fun, but I just sort of thought of it as, “I’m just getting it out of the way.” I sort of had wanted to just get it out of the way. But it was pretty heavy. That was right at the beginning (of the lockdown) — everybody was staying indoors, but I was the opposite. I was out every day on the bike, and it was fantastic; it was fascinating. There was nobody around, and it was wonderful. It was like one of those Apocalyptic films where somebody wakes up in New York, and there’s nobody around — that’s my dream come true. I’m not the most sociable of people — I have to be honest. And I’ve got 22 bikes now — every time I do a tour, I buy another bike. And that’s my thing — I ride them all; I don’t just collect them.

IE: When they told me to stay indoors and avoid contact with other people, I thought, “Great! Done!” I was already headed in that misanthropic direction anyway.

DA: Yeah, right? Like, “No problem!” That was hilarious! And that’s where people that know me were saying, “You must be having a great time because you can’t see anybody!” I said, “Yeah, it’s great! Nobody’s coming ‘round; the phone’s not ringing — this is fantastic!” But I had to get hotels, though.

IE: You’re all in LA. But how often did you see each other?

DA: No, no, no — nobody saw anybody. We were in lockdown, and that was what was so great about it. So we weren’t in contact as such, and we weren’t working together at that point. I had a new band, Ashes and Diamonds, but I’d started that in 2019, and we were about halfway through (an album), and then COVID hit, and then we were working long distance. The drummer lives in New York, I’m out here, and Paul lives in England. So it was okay, but not as good as when the three of you got into a room together. And we’ve since put the finishing touches on the whole thing, and to be honest, we’re 99% thereof being done with the album, so that’s exciting, and we should be doing something with that in November, December of this year.

IE: Did you get busy painting in all that downtime?

DA: No. To be honest, I did a bunch of that earlier, just went nuts, and did 50 or 60 paintings all in one year; just went nuts in 2013, I think. But when COVID hit, apart from the time when I was sick, I was out on the bike all the time. And I ended up buying a couple of bikes just because there was nothing else to do. So I didn’t do any work — I was having a great time on the bike, on my own, just out in the middle of nowhere. For me, it was just business as usual. Ha! But the only thing is, when you do travel on the bike out into the middle of nowhere, you have to make sure that you have a full tank of gas, and I’ve been caught short on that a few times. And it’s extremely stressful, is all I can tell you. I remember I broke down once in Death Valley, which was not fun at all. But it took me a week to get home. I got a bit of the old “You boys ain’t from around these parts, is ya?” There were a couple of those situations going on — I’m not kidding!  It was very similar to the film “Deliverance,” and I’m not joking. There were a couple of real hairy moments there on these bike trips.

IE: Luckily, you brought your banjo…

DA: Ha! No, quite the opposite — that’s the last thing I’d do. This time around, I’ve learned my lesson on that. So I always make sure I’ve got a full tank of gas before I wander into the middle of nowhere. And Kevin, it’s your turn now.

IE: And Kevin, your daughter Diva is now involved with music, too, right?

KEVIN HASKINS: That’s true. Both of my daughters are. But Lolo is the one in the band Automatic, and my other daughter Diva has a band called Diva and the Pearly Gates, and they’re both really cool. But during COVID, everybody I knew was baking bread or relaxing and day-drinking cocktails. But I wasn’t doing any of that — I was just doing demolition on my house. I was in the middle of renovating my house, and it was my job to cart all the rubbish away and get a drill and rip up Spanish tiles from the floor and all that sort of stuff. So that was half of Covid, and then things had opened up by the time I’d finished all that, so mine wasn’t very enjoyable, really.

DA: It seems like a long, long time ago, that whole thing because time tended to drag for most people.

KH: And there was a joke going around early on, where it was like being on tour because you lost all sense of what day of the week it was. And I kind of liked that.

Read our recent Q&A with Love and Rockets bassist, David J.

IE: What did David stay busy with?

DA: We don’t know, really, because we weren’t in contact with him then — we weren’t actually working as a band at that time. COVID hit, and I was sending a little bit of music, sending guitar or vocal tracks to the Ashes and Diamonds guys, but it’s all a bit hazy now. I was really ill for 15 days, and I could barely get up to go to the bathroom and back, and my girlfriend was telling me I was sleeping for 16 hours a day; I had a temperature of 103, and I was completely delirious. And that was Covid. And you were completely out of it, immensely — I couldn’t stay awake for more than ten minutes at a time.

KH: But that sounds like your normal state!

DA: Well, it used to be. But these days, I can hardly get any sleep at all. These days, it’s the opposite — I’m lucky to get three or four hours of sleep. But it just happens when you get older. It’s weird, very weird. But there were other parts of it where my legs, my knees in particular, were absolutely killing me, with severe aching pain. And I don’t really take any pills for anything. But all I had to do was take two aspirin, and because I never take aspirin, they worked. So every five or six hours for about three days, I just took aspirin, and they totally knocked the pain out. And the other thing was I don’t usually get headaches, but I had really bad headaches. And one symptom would kick in, like severe headaches, then that would go away, and severe cold symptoms would kick in, like hot and cold sweats, and I came out in a beautiful rash all over my back of these lumps. So I’ll just say this — it was like an illness from another planet, like something that I caught from aliens. It was like nothing else I’ve ever experienced. It was so strange. And there were a couple of times, to be quite honest, where I thought, “I hope Kevin remembers the song I want played at my funeral,” because I didn’t think I was gonna get through. There were a couple of days where it was really severe, and I was like, “I feel like I’m dying.”

KH: (Starts singing) “I was born…under a wandering star…”

IE: Is that the funeral song?

DA: No! It isn’t! You’ve got it wrong — see? He has forgotten it!

KH: “In the Mood” by Glenn Miller?

DA: No — it’s “Ballrooms of Mars” by T-Rex. You’ve forgotten it!

IE: Well, did mortality cross everybody’s mind?

DA: Well, it definitely crossed mine because when I was ill, I felt it. I felt my mortality because it was weird. Kevin, what about you?

KH: To be honest, it was really scary because nobody really knew what was really going on.

IE: But here’s the spooky, ironic thing — all of your key songs almost form a perfect post-COVID soundtrack. “Haunted When the Minutes Drag,” “Yin and Yang,” “The Light,” and “It Could Be Sunshine.” And certainly the escapist “Kundalini Express” and your cover of “Ball of Confusion,” because that’s exactly what the world is today. It’s like the times finally caught up to you.

DA: And it’s funny you should say that because a lot of those Love and Rockets tracks that we do, they’re timeless, as far as the lyrics go, and particularly “Ball of Confusion,” which could be at any time. Unfortunately, that’s the human condition. I mean, look at the fucking mess that we’re in right now in the world. And this thing with Russia and Ukraine? It’s a real concern. I try to put it in the back of my mind, but it still gets me mad. What gets me is, why do we still make tanks? Why are we still making nukes in 2023? Why are we so juvenile as a race for those things to still exist? How many people have died in this war now? 200,000? I can’t get my head around it. I can’t comprehend why humans are still doing this now. It’s so bad, and I can’t comprehend how we can do this to each other. Don’t even get me started.

IE: Early in the pandemic, when we were all wondering if we would survive it, I started going all the swag I’d pack-ratted away and found a carefully-preserved promotional Love and Rockets embroidered patch, which accompanied the ultra-rare main item the record company made at the time — an actual Love and Rockets official leather bomber jacket. And I mailed it to a booking-agent friend of mine here in town, Tracey, who loves you guys so much, in all your configurations, that she’s flown around the world to see you, over and over again. That was a whole other era of promotional gear.

DA: Yeah. We had about 75 leather jackets made, and they were sent out to all the (radio) DJs.

KH: In the States — I remember that whole thing quite well. And that patch was originally on the sleeve of all the leather jackets, the one with the rocket, heart, and wings.

IE: Tracey also reminded me of a show you once played at Berkeley’s Greek Theatre with Britain’s The Godfathers, whose signature anthem summed up life perfectly — “Birth School Work Death.”

DA: Yeah! And David Bowie was a huge fan of that band. I went to see ‘em in LA, and “So Alive” had just come out, and I was in the back of the queue with my girlfriend. This guy came up to me and says, “Hey, what are you doing in the queue? Come with me!” And he got me into the gig and got me into a private booth there, and I wound up sitting next to Bowie. So that was cool, but he ignored me! He was really, really into The Godfathers, just staring at the band with his friends and really getting off on them. He loved that band!

IE: What brought you together as kids? You’ve known each other forever.

DA: Well, I’ve known Peter from eleven years old, when we went to Catholic school. But I met David and Kevin at art school — we all met at art school, and then we all met up later because I started working with Peter, just the two of us in a room, and I invited Kevin, and then David came on board about two or three weeks later. And that’s when we all got together (as Bauhaus), which was about five years after art school.

IE: Tracey also pointed out that it’s very rare that a band can subtract one member and then spin off into another equally successful outfit like Bauhaus morphing into Love and Rockets.

DA: Yeah, exactly. I can’t think of another band that’s done that, actually. But also Tones on Tail, which everybody forgets about. But that’s one of my favorites because of the stuff that me and Kevin made in that band. I’m really, really proud of that stuff, so there’s another one where there are two members of the same band in that band, as well. And we made a really good album, I mean really good.

IE: What accounts for this relationship’s longevity? Just a good friendship?

DA: Yeah. We’re friends outside of the band, as well, Us three in particular. I mean, I was friends with Pete, and we go back to eleven, you know? And apparently, I was in kindergarten with Dave, as well, because we both remember the nasty teacher we had, Miss Cherry, a miserable old spinster. She used to grab us by the earlobes and pull us down the corridors and stuff. All because I would have arrived late. Which wasn’t my fault — it was my parents’ fault, and they would even say, “Oh, we’re sorry he’s late! Blah, blah, blah!” And she’d say, “Oh, that’s no problem!” And then, as soon as they drove off, she’d grab me by the ear, twist it, and then dragged me down the corridor, really twisting it badly. She was a horrible old spinster, and I was what? Only six years old or something?

IE: Bauhaus fans would always see concert cancellations over the past few years and just shrug and accept them. But few folks probably knew that you were suffering along with Peter Murphy’s personal trauma.

DA: Yeah. And it’s all disintegrated. That tour disintegrated. We managed to do thirteen gigs, I think, and then that tour fell apart. And that’s really all I need to say about it, to be honest.

IE: And you’ve sworn you’ll never work with him again?

DA: Umm…we’re not going to work together, no. It’s unfortunate.

IE: You’re 65 now. So were The Beatles right? Will they still need us? Will they still feed us? When we’re 64?

DA: Ha! Yeah, that’s funny, that one! I remember Annie Lennox talking about that when she turned 64. She woke up one day and said, “Oh, my God! That song! I’m **there!” I don’t remember all the details of what she said, but it’s like, Yeah. Here it is. 64!

IE: You have to admit, though, music kind of chooses us, right?

DA: Yeah. It does choose you. It seems that way. I’ve gotta say, right from when I was a kid, I never saw myself doing a 9-5 job. It just didn’t compute in my mind. I think I only ever went to one job interview, and that was with Weetabix to be a graphic designer for the cartons. And I went to the interview, and there were a couple of hundred people down there for the interview. I was really scared because I’d gotten into the top six — I was really scared that I might get the job because I really did not want to get the job. Luckily, I didn’t get the job. But you know, that was a close one! The idea of working at Weetabix, designing the cartons for their cereals, didn’t really appeal to me very much.

IE: On another tangent, when you look back at early photos, your hair was always huge, out of control. How has your hairstyle become more age-appropriate now?

DA: Well, uhh, it hasn’t. It’s pretty much gone full circle — I used to have a Mohawk for about six years, and now mine’s pretty much going back to how it was in the ‘80s, believe it or not. So it’s come full circle. And I’m just glad that it’s still growing out of my head! That’s a good thing!

IE: Is there a possibility of an entire new Love and Rockets album?

DA: No. That’s not in the cards. We got offered this gig, Cruel World. It was an irresistible offer. And Kevin is very much in contact with various promoters, and they called him and offered Love and Rockets Cruel World. So we got the offer, and we looked at it, and we thought it was an offer we couldn’t refuse, so we took it. And that was very much how it happened before with Bauhaus, as well. We weren’t actually a band the last time we played this festival, but somebody big had dropped out, and they offered, and we took it. The same thing keeps happening — we get offered a big festival gig, and then we start getting all these offers to turn it into a full-on tour, which has happened here. So we’ve ended up doing 15 gigs, and here we go again — that’s how it happens with us.

IE: And you’ve also said that your new catalog remasters, all done at Abbey Road, was an offer that just happened to come simultaneously, right?

DA: Yes! It was a complete coincidence! Beggars had already planned on re-releasing that stuff before this gig at Cruel World was offered to us. So it was perfect synchronicity that this is going on right now, a perfect time because everything is being re-released on Beggars Banquet, all the back catalog. So that’s good.

IE: And while Bauhaus was always dark, you guys, without Murphy, were always conversely bright. It’s almost like the times call out for you now.

DA: Yeah! A bit of optimism! And now that I’m thinking about it, maybe that is what’s going on. Maybe there are forces out there that have nothing to do with us — it’s just been put in our laps here, and so much said, if you know what I mean.

IE: Was Hot Trip to Heaven, the startling electronic album that you presented to RCA, the one they turned down?

DA: Yeah. There was a big problem with that. We, as a band, were set up with guitar-oriented music, but we wanted to do something very different. And we were listening to a lot of Orbital, Leftfield, that whole techno thing that was going on in the ‘90s. We loved electronica. We loved it. So that was our…attempt, if you like, to do something really different because that was a huge influence on us at the time. I thought, at the time, that this was either going to be our Dark Side of the Moon or it was going to be a big commercial flop. Unfortunately, it was a big commercial flop. People didn’t want that from us — they wanted how we sounded in the past, before that album. But we’re still very proud of that record, even though it didn’t go down well with the record company at the time. In fact, I remember one representative from the record company came to see me at a gig and was asking me, “Can you put some guitar on this record?” I said, “Absolutely not — it is what it is, and it’s not gonna change. It’s fully realized.” Unfortunately, commercially, it died the death, but I think if people hear it now, they’ll realize that it’s actually a great record. And we’re very proud of it.

IE: I’d almost forgotten about your final album for the tough little indie imprint Red Ant.

DA: Actually, you know, there’s one track on that album which we recently found by chance almost, but we’re really into it — it’s called “Deep Deep Down,” so we’re gonna be playing that live. And it’s something that I know I’d forgotten about, but I texted Dave and said, “Wow! You’ve got to listen to ‘Deep Deep Down’! It’s amazing!” He and Kevin were both in love with it already — they were like, “Yeah! We’re gonna play that one!” We were all in agreement on playing it, and it’s a really underrated track, I think.

IE: Dare I ask, do you still own one of those promotional Bomber jackets yourself?

DA: I don’t, no. But I’ve got one friend in England who’s still got one, a guy called Reasonable Ray. He was our merchandise guy, and he’s still got one. And man! He’s got to be 80, 82 years old now. It’s surreal! But I used to go motorcycle riding with him, and it was a bit embarrassing, actually, because he’d ride his bike with that jacket with the Love and Rockets logo on the back. And it was a bit embarrassing for me. But he was a guy from years and years ago — when we first met him, he would have been about 45, and we were about 25, 26, and he ended up being our merchandise guy for many, many years. And he’s still around.

IE: Did you ever meet the Hernandez brothers? And who designed your patch-immortalized logo?

DA: I never met them. But I actually live about twelve miles away from them because I live near Ventura, which is where they come from. But I’ve never met them. But as far as our logo goes, we designed that ourselves, David, Kevin, and myself. We designed that ourselves because we all went to art school around the same time, and we all did graphics for four years, so it sort of comes naturally to us to do the album sleeves and the logo.

IE: But ultimately, post-coronavirus, we’re all still here, right? Even though the music business is completely different now. Why buy an artist’s album when you can stream or Spotify it?

DA: Yeah. Well, you know, it’s changed. Everything has changed so much. I often say to people, “When was the last time you sat down and listened to a whole album?” And they can’t remember. It’s just a sign of the times. It’s more instant now, and people are into only one or two tracks. But then again, if you go to people like Taylor Swift, then all the girls are gonna buy the whole album, and good! Great! But it’s been a long, long time since I’ve sat down and listened to a whole album myself!

I’d rather be out traveling on two wheels — it’s my thing, that’s my life, and it’s been that way since I was about 16. I even used to steal my dad’s scooter. Motorcycle people are a certain breed, and you can’t really explain it to people who don’t ride. It’s an addiction. If you see some interviews with Keanu Reeves, he talks about it — he says, “If I don’t ride my motorcycle, I begin to get unwell. It’s not good for my health to not ride.” And it’s a real thing. When it was raining here in California for six weeks in a row, on and off, I was losing my mind. I was beginning to get cabin fever, bad, and I was mentally not in a very good place. And it’s a great addiction. I call it Lazy Man’s Zen because it forces you to concentrate. And if you don’t concentrate? You can kill yourself, so it forces you to focus on one thing. It’s fantastic — I couldn’t live without it.

– Tom Lanham

Love and Rockets appear in Chicago at The

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