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BOOK REVIEW: "Who Killed Mister Moonlight? Bauhaus, Black Magick and Benediction" by David J. Haskins

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BOOK REVIEW: Who Killed Mister Moonlight? Bauhaus, Black Magick and Benediction by David J. Haskins (Jawbone) 2014

A little over a month after David Bowie ascended in early 2016, legendary Bauhaus and Love And Rockets bassist/singer David J. Haskins (whose stage name is “David J”) spent time talking to fans and students at ACM@UCO here in Oklahoma City, talking about music, art, his time in both bands – and other musical projects – magic(k) and more, as covered by Red Dirt Report. (Along with this exclusive interview David J gave to RDR's Louis Fowler)

The Northampton, England native also talked a bit about his critically-acclaimed autobiography, Who Killed Mister Moonlight? Bahaus, Black Magick and Benediction, which had been released a few years earlier. During his discussion, David J shared a number of stories that he addresses in this captivating memoir.

As I wrote in my article on David J’s visit, I noted: “Another question regarded the beat poet, artist and writer William S. Burroughs, a figure who even in the 1970’s and 80’s, when Bauhaus and Love and Rockets were around, resonated strongly with artists, musicians, occultists and counterculture figures – including David J, who around the time of recording Bauhaus’s album The Sky’s Gone Out (1982) was into Burroughs and “books on magic” – was familiar with Genesis P-Orridge (Throbbing Gristle, Psychic TV) and interest in Burroughs and magic, including “sigil magic.” It was David J’s knowledge of sigil magic which led to him actually meeting his hero Burroughs not four months later.

“Sigil magic, where you decide on a desire, your will,” David J. said. “You write it down and you extract letters … and out of the letters that are left you make a graphic image that is symbolic of that desire. Memorize it, set fire to it and let it go out into the universe. And then the idea is that the universe does its thing and it then come to fruition.

“My desire was simply to meet William Burroughs. And then a matter of four months later, just out of the blue, I get this invitation to perform at William Burroughs’s 70th birthday. A celebration concert in Toronto. It was extraordinary meeting him. Such a mythic character.

And while David J does go into fairly significant detail regarding “magickal workings” with figures like artist and iconoclast Alan Moore, and the excitement of meeting David Bowie during the filming of the 1983 vampire horror film The Hunger (based on a novel for horror writer Whitley Strieber, he of Communion / alien abduction fame), which starred Bowie with Catherine Deneuve and Susan Sarandon. Bauhaus performed "Bela Lugosi's Dead" at the beginning of the film as the credits rolled. David J said his encounter with Bowie - which focused on them talking about a Bowie song and an earlier song that influenced it - as a "treasured memory."

Oh, and their appearance in The Hunger? David J will note that for the film, their performance and appearance is the most "visceral and exciting" part of the movie. Indeed!

What is interesting is that David J and fellow, future Bauhaus bandmate Daniel Ash met in kindergarten in 1961 and would solidify a friendship and shared interest in art and music, leading to the creation of Bauhuas 1919 - later shortened to Bauhaus - in 1978, with Ash on guitar and David J handling bass duties, alongside his younger brother Kevin Haskins on drums and enigmatic singer Peter Murphy embracing the role of frontman.

David J and Ash were the most artistically-inclined members, taking the time to design the sleeve covers, while the band rapidly gained fans and interest in Britain, with the touring and headaches that go along with it all. Recording In the Flat Field, Mask, The Sky's Gone Out, and Go Away White are all described, along with the way their sound developed over those years in the early 1980's and how their meteoric rise also caused rifts in the band, even with another hit - a 1982 cover of David Bowie's 1972 song "Ziggy Stardust" that sounds remarkably like the original. 

And while those formative years as a band are certainly of interest to either the casual or serious fan of New Wave, Goth, or Dark Wave alternative-rock music, I will admit that David J's second portion of the memoir - "Alchemy 1984-2004" - was of most interest to me, particularly due to my research into the occult, parapolitics and the prevalence of synchronicity in my life, well, David J is someone I could definitely hang with.

I mean, David J opens up this sometime hair-raising portion of the book by quoting a bit of "Black Lodge"-ian lines from Twin Peaks: "Through the darkness of future past / The magician longs to see / One chants out between two worlds / Fire walk with me." This is followed by a line from Aleister Crowley: "Magick is the science and art of causing change in conformity with Will."

Things begin rock n' roll enough, with a July 4, 1985 LSD adventure accompanied by a Velvet Underground soundtrack. But then Love And Rockets forms and they are immediately embraced in the US (having an initial hit with a cover of the Temptations song "Ball of Confusion" and - a few years later - "So Alive," bigger in the US than in his native Britain).

It's then that David J shares a harrowing dream he has with the Alan Moore, the gifted graphic novelist and a magician in his own right. David J's dream, Moore deduced, was Hecate, "The Greek goddess of the underworld, Queen of ghosts, Mistress of magic, the keeper of the keys of Hades and divinity of crossroads ... a lunar deity, she presides over witchcraft and the magic arts."

So, Moore suggests a magickal working. Invoking a serpent god for purposes that aren't entirely clear, are really quite chilling, but hey, when things get too weird, cue up R.E.M.'s "Nightswimming," eh? After all, as Alan Moore told David J, "Yes, we're swimming in deep waters now."

You get the sense that David J realizes his magician friend's comment is the understatement of the year!

From here on out its a seemingly even wilder ride than what it had been before Bauhaus disintegrated. But as the author tells us, there was still more that Bauhaus had to share with its legion of fans - magick spells or not. Now, while I always liked Bauhaus, I was a bigger fan of Love And Rockets. And I felt David J had more to share about that psych-pop trio than he let on in Who Killed Mister Moonlight? And I did hear on the Twitter rumor mill that more about the LaR days may be coming out in book form sooner rather than later. Fingers crossed!

This November, the recording session that yielded Bauhaus’ goth classic ‘Bela Lugosi’s Dead’ will be reissued to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the band’s formation, an article in Rolling Stone magazine reported this week.

And next month, in advance of that reissue, both Peter Murphy and David J will embark on an extensive European tour. While Murphy and Daniel Ash seem to still have a long way to go before things are entirely patched up and another proper Bauhaus tour takes place, as Ash and drummer Kevin Haskins have been touring as Poptone of late, which includes the performing of music by another Bauhaus side project - Tones on Tail.

I thoroughly enjoyed Who Killed Mister Moonlight? David J Haskins is an entirely likable and sensible person and deeply creative and sensitve person. Meeting him as I did, sharing with him a synchronicty I had prior to and after David Bowie's ascension, was something I will treasure. He took it seriously and I really, really appreciated that. 

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Andrew W. Griffin

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Andrew W. Griffin received his Bachelor of Science in Journalism from...

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Red Dirt Report was launched July 4, 2007 as an independent news website covering all manner of news, culture, entertainment and lifestyle stories that affect and interest Oklahoma readers and readers outside of our state. Our mission is to educate, promote civic engagement and discourse on public policy, government and politics. Our experienced journalists provided balanced in-depth coverage of news stories that affect Oklahomans. Our opinion/editorial stories come from a wide range of political view points. We carry out our mission by reporting, writing, and posting news and information. read more

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