There is an assumption in pop music that artists do their best work in their youth.
At 57, Peter Murphy – singer for post-punk provocateurs Bauhaus, who ignited an entire subculture with fellow UK post-punk bands Siouxsie and the Banshees and the Cure – may no longer be in his youth. But working with producer Youth (aka Martin Glover, Killing Joke, the Verve) on his new album, “Lion,” Murphy has created one of the best albums of his solo career.
“It’s down to the audience to really make that call,” Murphy says, calling from a tour stop in Houston. “A lot of people are saying this is the best I’ve done in a long time. That’s a compliment, not to discount the other albums. It’s just subjective.”
Murphy celebrated the 35th anniversary of Bauhaus on the 2013 solo Mr. Moonlight tour and returns to Tremont Music Hall on Friday.
He and Youth worked hurriedly on “Lion” in inspired locations such as Spain and London during two-week breaks from the tour. Also during this time, in Los Angeles, he was arrested for driving under the influence, hit and run and methamphetamine possession. The charges were reduced, and he’s on probation.
Touring meant his voice was well-oiled for recording sessions, which found him stretching his haunting baritone.
“I was well warmed up. There is also a raggedness to the vocal that was almost purposeful. Of course when you’re working and singing a lot, as you can probably hear now, I’m quite hoarse from it,” he says.
The sound isn’t always easy to duplicate onstage.
“There’s high end there (on the record) and also the density. It’s very big and orchestrated. Not all the songs tend to be realized live with the four-piece (band) I’ve got, but I’ve got six songs working well (live).”
Murphy didn’t have much in mind for “Lion” when he entered the studio.
“I had sketches and Youth had sketches. It did come together very spontaneously. That’s how I work best,” he adds.
Slower songs like “The Rose” and “I’m on Your Side” focus on Murphy’s more expansive and dramatic electronic balladry. There’s a futuristic quality to the synthesizers on the latter that gives it an almost sci-fi ballad feel, while tracks such as “Low Tar Stars” and “Holy Clown” could easily be adopted on the dance floor at Purgatory (which is the night after Murphy’s Charlotte show).
With his thin frame, that distinct baritone and shadowy imagery – and thanks to its use in the opening credits of 1983’s vampire film “The Hunger” – Bauhaus’ “Bela Lugosi’s Dead” became an anthem for vampire and goth culture. Twenty-seven years later, he portrayed The Cold One in “The Twilight Saga: Eclipse.”
But Murphy doesn’t identify himself with a “gothfather” image.
“I can understand certain elements that were inspired by it. It’s a compliment, but it’s not something we in the band at that time had any notion of, or wanted. I don’t understand the connection, other than a couple of songs,” he says. “I don’t necessarily look toward that culture as if it’s something that I’ve inspired, and I think I can speak for the rest of the band on that.”
He’s actually a husband and father who has lived in Turkey – where his wife heads up a contemporary ballet company – for decades. It’s a fitting place for him, reflecting the modern and ancient and East-meets-West qualities in Murphy’s music. He’s also worked with Turkish musicians.
“I still travel to do my work abroad in the West, but it is the meeting point of Europe and the Middle East. It does have both of those energies, not fighting, but blending,” he says.