INCLEMENT DAY in central London. Pete
Murphy, Mick Karn and myself are
clustered around one of those upright
ashtray-on-a-stand affairs in a poky but
cosy recording studio. The interview
unfolds in an amiable but subdued manner.
As becomes apparent (and I had been led
to expect worse) neither are hostile but
clearly don't relish the task.
is the first time I've met either. I kept
expecting Pete Murphy's hair and tie (had
he been wearing one) to suddenly fly
backwards as in the Maxell ad. Mick Karn
has a surprising and, shall we say common
voice, rather like the clichéd brogue of
a south London blagger, at least when
he's not using long words. He still has
the pretty visage of a thousand and one
Japan photos although the searching
lights of today's picture taker discover
a facial mole. Mick: "Moles are
The Dali's Car project was
evolved over the last year. Previously
unacquainted, a Japanese journalist had
suggested a collaboration on finding Karn
needing lyrics for his music and Murphy
Had you been aware of each
Pete: "I was aware of
Japan's stuff and I really liked Mick's
Mick: "I wasn't
really aware of Bauhaus that much but I
was aware of Pete's vocals. That's what I
would home in on if I happened to hear a
Bauhaus track on the radio."
Pete: "I am basically
a singer not a musician, that was my role
in Bauhaus. I needed this sort of input.
There were lots of opportunities to go
into making commercially orientated music
with session musicians but I preferred to
wait and see what I was interested in.
Mick's album really interested me a lot.
When Mick rang up we just instinctively
went for it.
"I couldn't really
see my lyrics working in a commercial
sense anyway. I couldn't sing the lyrics
to an uptempo backing track. It didn't
suit my mood either at the time. Mick's
music seemed to relate more to what I was
feeling about myself and my experiences
something I hadn't thought before. Maybe
the reason it did work out well was that
we were both getting over the shock of
losing the last bands we'd been in. My
solo album was released before Japan
split so there were plans for tours and
all types of things made for me which
eventually I had to say no to. It wasn't
what I wanted to do."
The pair have the air of
sweeping up the treadmill routines of the
rock biz, throwing them in a dustbin and
bolting down the lid.
Mick: "I was looking
for something a lot simpler. Trying to
get the music down to the bare essentials
by a process of elimination. Keep it down
to a bare minimum which I think we've
done really well lyrically and
Peter: "I saw that as
a challenge to see if I could tie a vocal
line in with a very minimal music which
would, in theory, be something very
fresh. It isn't like verse chorus verse
chorus directed music. It's more
instrumental, the backing tracks would
stand up alone if Mick wished them to do
so. It taught me a lot about what I can
and can't do."
Oddly, perhaps, they
initially worked in isolation from one
another with four-track tapes which were
sent back and forth.
Mick: "We're both
quite private about the work we do when
it comes to being inspired or trying to
find something from inside of yourself.
It's not the type of thing you can do in
a room full of people or in a studio.
Pete: "It's a very
introverted project in every
Mick: "The whole
character of the tracks is that there
hasn't been a lot of effects or tricks
used on the voice or the instruments so
things don't exactly sit in or compliment
each other. It gives a sense of friction
musically and that's why the vocals
worked because they carried on that sense
of friction. Not sitting in perfectly
like the instruments didn't. The closest
we came to working it out together was in
the studio when certain pieces came up
that wouldn't go with the voice or vice
"All the musicians
around these days, their heroes are old
people like the Beatles. But when you
think of the Beatles they were limited to
four tracks and that's why they produced
what they did. Now there are so many
options you can take you tend to be in
the studio too long trying all the ideas
out. If you limit yourself, I think
that's the best way to accomplish
With finance from both
Virgin and Beggars Banquet to the tune of
£40,000, the LP has already gone
£20,000 over budget. Half the next
advance. Still, having two record
companies does carry certain advantages.
Mick: "It's almost a
case of them trying, if not to outdo each
other, showing that they can keep it up.
Neither will say 'I'm not going to put
that much in' which leaves us in quite a
Pete has called the LP
"obscure but listenable."
Mick: "I wouldn't say
it's very obvious. I think everyone is
quite excited because nobody knows
exactly what is going to happen with it.
When we were deciding what the single was
going to be we left it totally up to the
Pete: "There's no
obvious single there to release for the
charts at all."
How do you think fans of
your previous ensembles will react?
Mick: "I think the
Japan fans will go for it strongly. If
Japan had stayed together this would
probably have been the next logical step
after an album like 'Tin Drum' which was
quite complicated. I know we would have
gone to the other end and done something
Pete: "I think
Bauhaus fans will be quite surprised and
possibly let down because of their
expectation... their identification with
me as being quite an extreme hedonistic
performer. This is the absolute opposite
of the Bauhaus approach because of the
introverted atmosphere. It's understated
not overstated like Bauhaus was. You can
never really tell what the audience will
think. Especially if you've got no idea
how they received you in the first
And those who cared little
for Japan or Bauhaus will likely have
their hearing tainted by your pasts.
Mick: "If it's down
to what they read rather than what they
bear. If they get the chance to actually
hear something it doesn't really
Pete: "That's an
obvious result of what we've done before
and it's understandable. I absolutely
shut myself off from the whole music
business after Bauhaus. I just looked at
myself rather than outside stimulus which
has its drawbacks, you become so isolated
you start messing around with lots of
Mick: "It isn't very
good for your brain but it is good for
actual work. It's the same for me. I have
to find out and write around my
limitations as opposed to trying to outdo
something which may be current, which I
might not even be capable of."
Pete: "If I've got my
tentacles out... I'm very impressionate
of what's going on around me, in other
words I can be easily influenced
subconsciously by what's around. There is
that element of trying to maintain what's
going on just to stand up and be
acceptable. I decided that I didn't want
any subconscious influences other than
what was going on inside my head.
"That was a basic
rule or starting point for the project. I
wanted to shut-off and be a hermit for a
very long time and see what came out
lyrically. It worked out with lyrics
which are very new and very refreshing as
a purging of the Bauhaus ideas and
Er, could you elucidate on
the contents of your head?
Pete: "The only
outlet I'm willing to give it is in my
lyrics because everything else is so
personal it isn't... I'm not prepared to
bare my soul in an interview for
instance. The way in to what I'm
experiencing is through my lyrics."
Are they explicit?
Pete: "Yeah. Some are
very abstract lyrics which are just
impressions, lines giving images rather
than the literal descriptions of what is
going on as that carries more subjective
emotion, objective observation."
(Murphy dashes to the toilet.)
Mick: "That's true.
None of the lyrics are actual statements.
They're basically, with the use of
imagery, conveying a feeling. I've always
written first and foremost for myself. As
far as I'm concerned there's no other
way. If you write for the masses you're
never going to be happy with what you do.
You have to write for yourself first.
Pete's lines are conveying the same
feeling he has possibly picked up from
the instrumental tracks, not making
statements anymore than the music is. I'm
pleased because the whole LP has this
overall feeling which we haven't
So how much do his lyrics
mean to you?
Mick: "For me they
actually make the tracks. Pete thinks
that some of the tracks would stand up
instrumentally as they are. I should get
very irritated and bored with if they
were just instrumentals. For me there has
to be something laying on top, a separate
melody to take my mind away from that. So
I might see the lyrics in a completely
different way from how Pete may have
meant them. But I don't think that really
matters. It's down to the
What have you gained from
Mick: "I've learnt a
lot. That's what it's all about anyway,
learning. You learn how you react to
certain things, you learn what to do next
time. I think I've learnt more from this
album than I ever have before."
Pete: "I just learnt
what I'm really capable of as far as the
music business goes and in what is
expected of a person like me being a
vocalist. Lyrically, I've learnt a lot
about myself through research. It's been
a self-purging and self-seeking exercise
which seems to relate on a wider scale.
I'm just learning about myself and how to
deal with the world as it stands in
relation to myself."
Beyond this LP?
Pete: "We'll just
take it by instinct."
Mick: "I'm quite
happy just recording for the rest of my
life, to tell you the truth. There's talk
of tours but we'll see."
Pete: "I miss
performing. The actual experience of
expressing... my last performances were
very theatrically orientated. This would
be a totally different approach. I would
have to project from a very still stance,
What compliment would you
most like to receive from a person
hearing the LP?
Mick: "That we're not
like all the rest and that we're the only
people around doing something different.
The only reaction you ever want is
acceptance of what you do. Once that's
given that's the reward. There's bound to
be a lot of misinterpretation as usual
from the press."
Pete: "That's why
we've kept a low profile. As you can
probably see, we don't really enjoy
talking about ourselves. It isn't
something I've ever enjoyed. I've always
found it a very superficial exercise to
try and talk about what you're doing. I'd
rather just do it. I'm trying not to talk
about it too much and lead people up the
wrong alley. But this is a necessary
promotional exercise that we're required
to do. It must make your job quite