Photo Credit: Lisa King
Even before the storied gothic post-punk outfit Bauhaus called it quits in 1983, singer and bass player David J Haskins’ solo aspirations were already brewing. The same year that Bauhaus’ four members parted ways, Haskins—known as David J—released his debut solo album, Etiquette of Violence.
“I felt like I needed an outlet outside of the band,” he says. “Some of the lyrics I had written I didn’t want to give to Peter [Murphy] because I didn’t want that kind of interpretation. He’s brilliant in his own way, but I had my own idea of how they should be delivered.”
And while he spent much of the 1980s and ’90s with former Bauhaus cohorts Daniel Ash and Kevin Haskins cranking out psychedelic alternative rock hits with Love and Rockets, David J has also spent the last three decades honing his identity as a singer-songwriter. In the beginning, he sculpted haunting, lo-fi moods steeped in post-punk cadences and lyrics written using William S. Burroughs’ cut-up technique—randomly selecting words and placing them together.
“It introduces the element of chance which makes for certain juxtapositions of words and lines which you could never come up with in any other way,” he says. “It’s an interesting way of working, but I don’t use it at all now. Now I write almost exclusively about first-hand personal experiences.”
Over time, David J’s style has evolved to fall in line with the atmospheric storytelling traditions of Leonard Cohen, Bob Dylan and John Cale. In 1990, his sweet, bucolic “I'll Be Your Chauffeur,” from the album Songs From Another Season, reached No. 1 on Billboard’s Modern Rock Track chart.
More recently, songs such as “Hot Sheet Hotel” and “Where The Bloodline Ends,” from his 2014 LP An Eclipse of Ships, build around the escapades he endures as a touring musician. His elegant voice embodies both shameless and self-effacing grace, that flourishes to the tune of a nylon-stringed Spanish guitar. This year’s single “The Day That David Bowie Died” is a real-time revelation over the death of a life-long hero.
These songs, along with a handful of Bauhaus and Love and Rockets numbers, find new life on the road as David J tours the country playing intimate “living room” shows—low-key gatherings that feel more like parties, where he delivers each stripped-down number in an intimate setting. Occasionally, guest musicians join him on stage, depending on who’s in town at the time.
The mood at these shows ranges from celebratory to sheer reverence as Haskins winds through chapters of his career in a troubadour style. “With every situation, I don’t know what I’m walking into,” he says. “Every time I go to one of these venues I don’t know what the house is gonna be like. I love that. That’s very stimulating. Sometimes I stay in the houses, it’s all different, and it keeps me very alive.”