Peter Murphy–Taking Residency in the Belfry

To his adoring fans, Peter Murphy is an international post-punk and goth icon. 

To his family, he’s the joyful husband and father, who laughs almost all of the time and loves nothing more than the newspaper and a good cup of coffee. 

The fans go into a frenzy as they witness his acrobatic performances that include being suspended in mid-air and hung upside down. 

But, if you ask his family, they’ll tell you it’s his impersonation of Mrs. Doubtfire that solidifies his place in the world as the consummate performer. The dualism of rock ‘n’ roll life and personal life aside, it’s just a little tidbit of Peter Murphy trivia that is sure to make all who love him giggle with glee.

After four decades in the limelight, these days, Murphy enjoys most the challenge of the performing arts, and the proof is in the pudding. 

“The only challenge is to work up the songs…. It’s not tiring in any way—it’s the opposite, it gives you a lot of energy and impulse,” Murphy tells AQ, in talking about his latest residency, this time being held in NYC’s intimately excellent (Le) Poisson Rouge, where he will treat audiences to 12 performances in just over two weeks. Not only will nearly all of Murphy’s solo albums be performed in their entirety, the residency—which takes place from August 2 through August 19—will feature an evening of Murphy’s greatest hits, a night dedicated to his breakout group, Bauhaus, and conclude with two nights of tribute to an artist who was also no stranger to seminal adoration—the late David Bowie.

Back in March of this year, Murphy held a similar residency at The Chapel in San Francisco and found the experience to be eye-opening—an indication that East Coast fans should expect nothing less than an artist who is fired up and ready to start the show here in New York. “I’ve already done most the preparation, the pre-production, and the arrangements. So it’s something that’s ready,” he states. “To be doing such a mix, such a heavy load of albums in a row, whereby it’s stunning for the band, and not least because it’s such a unique achievement to do so—but for me, on that first outing in San Francisco, I actually did start to believe I’m a pretty good artist.”

Humility and cheekiness go hand-in-hand with Peter Murphy. He once declined a lifestyle profile in a major publication because he thought it would simply be “too boring.” But ask him what to expect from the Bowie tribute performances—Classic gems? Rare cuts? Personal favorites?—and Murphy answers the question by paraphrasing the same question back as an answer, then snorting with giddiness, “I’m not telling you!” It’s a game of tag between the cherub that Murphy really is, and the nosferatu that fans expect—and one gets the sense it’s a game Murphy loves to play. Or, at the very least, is indifferent. 

While he’s still not a fan of the “Godfather of Goth” moniker, those that know him say he’s softened up on the idea in recent years. Which is what makes the Bowie tributes so fitting, as he, too, often found himself creatively at odds with his public perception. It’s something Murphy is acutely aware of, but when asked if the two men were acquainted with each other, Murphy says “No, not really. I mean, we worked on [the motion picture] The Hunger together, but not much after that.” And as far as performing the material now, Murphy simply chalks it up to being in the moment. His moment.

“There was a time recently when everyone was performing tributes to David,” he says, “and I just let that pass. When all the dross had fallen away, I decided to take up the performing of some of Bowie’s music.”

Since the nineties, the “Englishman with an Irish name” has lived in Istanbul, Turkey. “I met my Turkish wife in London,” he shares. “She’s an artist in her own right. She was doing production work on some of my videos. “A Strange Kind of Love” was one. And we just hit it off. We moved to Turkey in 1992, and we’ve been there ever since.” But with the residency at (Le) Poisson Rouge set to begin, Murphy arrives in New York a week prior to begin rehearsals before opening night arrives. With the entire residency nearing sellout status, he reflects for a moment on the task at hand.

“Every time I perform I find it rewarding,” he says. “I’ve got a very loyal audience, and—when they come out for a show—what they find rewarding, I find rewarding. It becomes… how shall I put this? It becomes about you and the audience.” It’s a heavy statement coming from a guy who laughingly admits to tickling Nine Inch Nails’ Trent Reznor whenever he sees him. But, that is what makes Peter Murphy a gem of an artist. He’s secure enough to allow his artistic persona to indulge his fans’ deepest and darkest curiosities, but still wise enough to know when it’s time to pull away from the shadows, and step back into the light.