[Book review] David J. Haskins – Who Killed Mister Moonlight? Bauhaus, Black Magick and Benediction

who_killed_mr_moonlight

[Reviewed by Peter Marks]

Who indeed? David J gives up all the answers to this within the contents and we, the readers, are left to as they say “draw our own conclusions” from the material presented. There’s much to digest, so much so that it has taken me almost an entire year to work it through; I feel I’ve managed to attain some measure of insight. Feel is the key word here, as so much of what J does is intuitive by nature. No manual was provided for navigating the choppy waters he’s been through and no safety net appears to have been employed in the writing of this book by any stretch of the imagination. As with everything he’s been involved with there is the aspect of the end user being the one observed; proceed with me into the maze won’t you?

For the Bauhaus fan there is everything you could hope for in this tome, all the important events and logic of the band are exceedingly well presented. They meet a number of their own musical heroes, which certainly adds to the overall depth of expression which this band made a hallmark during their existence. The drabness of 70s England is summed up with the few words it deserves; depressingly, things now in the world with all it’s need to catagorize and exploit creativity bear an alarming resemblance to the beige hell of that time… only now the powers that be have managed to predict revolution and nullify it through the usage of social media and television before any feathers are ruffled. Will it always be like this?

Many other curious facets about our celebrated foursome are brought to light, for example, I had no idea Daniel Ash was such an unpredictable character. The spontaneity he can summon up is remarkable, if at times, ill-conceived or downright insane. Regardless, I’ll never look at Flamenco music the same way after reading about a night he and J spent out on the town. J himself pulls back quite a few of the multiple layers which comprise him to reveal a person ceaselessly questing for arcane knowlege and occult experience. His brother Kevin manages to generally remain monolithic throughout, coming across as one who just wants to play music and be left out of the limelight which naturally leads to Mr. Murphy. I wasn’t there when any of these incidents happened but fame appears to have warped him and when you take in all the animosity it’s incredible their final record ‘Go Away White’ ever saw the light of day.

Right. So that’s Bauhaus over and done with, now onto the meat of the meal. For the first time ever, J jots down particulars and wickedly incisive details about his own solo career. His has been one hardly touched on and generally ignored so if you’re a fan then you’ll soak this up like parched Earth during a monsoon. If you aren’t then put this down, I sincerely doubt there’s much of interest for you here. Go play “Bela” and squeeze into your vinyl pants.

For well over two decades now, David J has shone a torch into some of the strangest recesses of existence and eloquent though he may be about it in his prose he’s somehow managed to stare into the void and not be the one to blink. Oh certainly there have been some rather intense “episodes” but he keeps at it. His music reflects this dubious fortune to devastating effect. He has yet to do a song called “Psilocybin Honey Trap” but I’m hopeful.

He goes from spending time in the company of literary giants like Burroughs or Alan Moore to sharing an irreverant, take the piss reunion with John Lydon at a show in LA. Our man isn’t one given over to the morose nature so prevalent among career musicians that the world has some obligation to recognize their inherent talent. If anything, J’s solo work has been the antithesis of all that; there’s no ego at play here. Albums like ‘Etiquette of Violence’ are not the product of a would-be celebrity, never mind the murkier ones he only briefly addresses which were done in conjunction with Tim Perkins and Moore. He assumes his reader has heard these and doesn’t go any further into it, with good reason. It isn’t safe to do so.

Having to dig through all the carnage of modern music to find his particular entries has been his calling card. This isn’t about to change but it’s nice to have this roadmap of where he’s been and more importantly why he’s gone there in the first place. All the connections which he makes through his work eventually reveal their purpose, even if it is years down the line and appear as a note from someone recently deceased. There is no such thing as chance, J makes mention of what he feels is at work and he may be onto something; I’m far too cynical to think as he does but he definitely makes a compelling case for himself. Oh, you wanted black and white explanation? The cover has plenty of that I noticed. Nope, nothing coincidental about that, no sir. Nothing. At. All.

One thing I had hoped for was to finally discover the identity of Mr. Licorice but alas it was not to be. What, you didn’t think he’d give up EVERYTHING now did you? Which brings me to the last point: Love and Rockets barely appear and thank god they don’t because if he’d tried to shoehorn them in, we would have an unreadable mess on our hands. J didn’t write this one about them, he put this out as a final statement for Bauhaus which hopefully will lay the beast to rest and also allow those of us who are fans of what he does on his own to get a better understanding of what makes him tick. Both of these lofty goals have been achieved and that ought to be enough for anyone reading but don’t worry, I’m sure the Kundalini Express will eventually appear. All aboard.

David J. HaskinsWho Killed Mister Moonlight? Bauhaus, Black Magick and Benediction
Jawbone Press 2014
Softcover 320 Pages

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