Peter Murphy's initial foray into the music world was as the inimitable singer for the pioneering early-80's band Bauhaus. The youngest of seven children, Peter was a book-binder’s apprentice before joining Bauhaus with childhood friend Daniel Ash. Forged in the flat fields of working-class Northampton, Bauhaus helped create what became known as the post-punk genre. Peter Murphy burst onto the music scene as an exhilarating, radical, and visceral performer, known for performances which mesmerized audiences. His dramatic brooding beauty and unique, sonorous baritone set the standard for an endless number of imitators who attempted to follow in his wake. A masterful interpreter, Peter had a remarkable knack for getting under the skin and deep into the heart:
“My creations as part of Bauhaus, my first foray into music making, allowed me the license of simply expressing a primal, more direct kind of reflex output using my voice, words, and body in performance, with hardly any notion of rules on how and why I should do what I do... doing for doing's sake with no ulterior motive other than to create a world of possibilities, a kind of raw innocence."
Bauhaus released a groundbreaking body of work that remains relevant and influential in the worlds of music and culture. Their seminal release, Bela Lugosi’s Dead, was recorded for 12 pounds in Wellingborough’s Beck Studio and was the first song Bauhaus ever recorded. Peter recorded the vocal in a single take, and it was the first time he had ever heard himself singing through headphones. Citing references as broad as Doris Day, Irish rebel songs, Catholic hymns, and T. Rex, Peter remembers the catalyst that propelled him into music:
“From early on, I would whistle on my dreary walk to school, and there was music everywhere in my Catholic school. But there was music at home, too.. And I used to think, ‘I can do that!’ I don’t know where that came from, but when I was at a concert I always knew that I’d rather be onstage than being down in the audience. There was a pivotal moment when I was about 14, and we were driving home from seeing relatives. It was nighttime and I was nodding off on the back seat with my head in my arms, and I just shot up with a great sense of urgency and said, ‘I’m going to be a singer!’ And that was that. They just turned round and said, ‘Right. Go back to sleep.’”
After the breakup of Bauhaus in 1983, Peter Murphy joined with former Japan bassist Mick Karn for the Dali’s Car project. They released one album, “The Waking Hour”, before splitting. They reformed briefly in 2010 to record material for the EP “InGladAloneness”, which was recorded in the final months of Karn’s life.
With the encouragement of Martin Mills, the founder of Beggars Banquet, Peter Murphy embarked on his solo career, releasing “Should the World Fail to Fall Apart” in 1986 with Ivo Watts-Russell producing.
In his solo career, Peter Murphy has released a total of 10 acclaimed solo albums, with 4 in the Billboard Top 200 Albums chart (“Love Hysteria”, “Deep”, “Holy Smoke”, “Lion”), numerous EPs, live albums, and various collaborative projects. “Deep” was a breakthrough commercial success, reaching number 44 on the Billboard Top 200 Albums chart. The album’s second single, “Cuts You Up” sold over 250,000 copies in the U.S. in just three weeks and occupied the No. 1 position on Billboard’s Modern Rock Tracks chart for 7 weeks, longer than any track had previously spent in the top spot. In 2018, Billboard named the song the 9th Greatest of All Time Alternative songs. The 2011 release of Peter’s ninth solo album, “Ninth” "was called “one of the strongest of his career" according to the LA Times. With 2014’s “Lion”, Peter began a collaboration with producer and Killing Joke bassist Martin “Youth” Glover, following up with his much-anticipated 11th studio album, set for release in 2022. Peter’s spellbinding voice and the lush romanticism and depth of his lyrical style continue to enthrall his fans, old and new alike, creating a richly woven tapestry that perfectly balances meaning, melody, and rhyme:
“With the release of 'Love Hysteria' Peter had created for himself a fantastical niche from where he musically captivated and bewitched his fans both old and new. 'Love Hysteria' was a mythical dreamlike landscape in which he evoked the bardic storytelling tradition. Jumping out of the album he grabbed the listener by the hand and pulled them into his journey. Amid the symbolic verse that never fails to enchant is the beguiling application of arrangement, where even the mystery of silence is recognized. A kick of the drum is like the pounding of an intoxicated and joyous heart and a single sustained note offers a moment to catch a breath”. (Elizabeth Dameron)
Known as an innately charismatic and courageous live performer, Peter continues to grow his fanbase across continents and generations. He remains a commanding stage presence, a performer who reaches all eyes, hearts, and minds in the room and takes them on a sonic odyssey. In recent years, Peter has played to sold-out crowds all over the world and performed career-spanning residencies of all of his solo albums performed in their entirety in 2019. His live performances are an unmatched, alluring mix of enigmatic theatrics, artful guile, pure rock and roll swagger, and a voice that is evocative and transcendent:
“I'm in a really rare position, in that I've got this loyal audience, which spans the generations, from teens to fifties, sixties – yet I'm without the commercial shackles. I've always been on independent labels, even though I've been licensed to major labels. So I really get to do what I want. You must be an enigma. This is what creates attraction to beauty. You walk on and you do it and this is what I have always felt. The moment I walk on stage I live there….”
In addition to Peter Murphy’s prolific solo touring, Bauhaus reformed for a worldwide tour in 1998 and then again for an exalted performance at Coachella in 2005, when Peter entered on a crane high above the stage and sang the entire nine and a half minutes of “Bela Lugosi’s Dead” hanging upside down. This performance has been cited by many as one of the top moments in Coachella history. A world tour followed and included a series of outdoor stadium shows with Nine Inch Nails. In late 2019, Bauhaus announced a single reunion show at the Hollywood Palladium which sold out in minutes. Three more shows were added which also quickly sold out. After a touring delay due to the COVID 19 pandemic, Peter wowed crowds and critics along with Bauhaus at The Cruel World Festival in May 2022, and additional worldwide shows were performed through the fall of 2022.
In addition to many acclaimed music videos, Peter has appeared onscreen in several very memorable film projects:
Peter in the classic UK Maxell tape advert:
Peter is in the famed opening sequence of Tony Scott's 1983 horror classic "The Hunger"
Peter also was featured in "The Twilight Saga: Eclipse" as The Cold One. He received a special invitation to appear in the film from the film's director, David Slade.
Peter narrated the animated short "The Lady Paranorma":
Peter was also recently included in HBO’s Watchmen: Vol 03 project with Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross. Formed within the Watchmen universe, the “Watchmen: Volume 03” release features an imagined, unreleased record, “The Manhattan Project” by a fictional band, The Nine Inch Nails, of which Peter Murphy is a member, receiving “vocals/incantations’’ credit on the album. The fictionalized backstory of this fictional band has Trent Reznor disappearing in 1995 and Peter Murphy taking over front man duties.
Words about Peter Murphy from David J, Peter's Bauhaus bandmate:
“When Murphy treads the boards, it is an act of possession. Peter Murphy is a self-contained pantheon of gods. His voice is the type of voice that is seldom heard in these electric days... It is a voice that demands attention and always, always gets it. It is a Voice.
The first time I ever saw Peter, I was immediately struck by his unselfconscious natural grace and charismatic charm.
"What do you think?" asked a young Daniel Ash, referring to this nascent star.
"He's solid gold!" I replied, "solid gold!"
Words about Peter Murphy from Youth, founding member of Killing Joke and producer of “Lion”:
“And then there’s Peter leading the fray, like Mephisto, goading the pit of writhing flesh before him whilst laughing in the face of all the world’s woes and pushing us all through the intense darkness into the light.”
Reviews from recent shows:
“Peter Murphy’s astonishing vocals were as audacious as ever.”
-John Robb, Vive le Rock Best of 2022
“Frontman Peter Murphy commanded the stage as he played off of the energy of the fans in the front row… With his almost Shakespearean- like movements, his body language told the story of the song just as much as the lyrics, leaving it almost unnecessary to address the near sold out crowd between songs.”
-Raymond Ahner, SF Sonic, May 2022
“Peter Murphy’s vocals pierced through the din. A commanding presence on stage, Murphy worked the crowd like a pro, engaging the front row directly without sacrificing the carefully curated vibe.”
-Alan Snodgrass, The Vinyl District, May 2022
“Peter Murphy remains consistent and is arguably at the top of his game on stage”
-Jason Miller, August 2022
*Cover photos courtesy of Gabriel Edvy