CVLT Nation Interviews Kevin Haskins on Poptone and His New Book!
The new album from trio Daniel Ash, Kevin Haskins, and Diva Dompe as Poptone, appropriately titled Poptone LP is being released on Cleopatra Records on June 8 of this year! You definitely don’t want to miss the band’s new tour promoting the former Bauhaus members’ latest release. You can pre-order the LP on CD and limited edition white vinyl as a 2-LP set, but advanced copies will be available (with the opportunity of Kevin Haskins’ signature) at the live shows this tour! —
“It’s been a real treat to revisit the unique and eclectic Tones catalog,” says Kevin Haskins. “I feel that there are many people who didn’t get a chance to see us back in the day and so I am excited for them to hear these weird and wonderful songs played live again. With the addition of Bauhaus and Love And Rockets material, it’s a veritable feast for the ears!”
Below is my recent interview with Kevin Haskins!
CN: Your new book on Bauhaus is nothing like the one your brother put out, is it? This is a coffee table book that has stories within it?
Kevin: Yeah, it’s quite different, yes a coffee table book. It mainly has images and photos and then I wrote about 30 stories just to go along with some of the photos, fliers, posters and all sorts of stuff in there.
CN: And you had a huge container full of memorabilia is how this started?
Kevin: Yeah I think started collecting when we were in our local newspaper Chronicle and Echo. I think I was kind of excited we were getting some kind of recognition. So I imagine that’s where I started with cutting out those articles. And so I just went on collecting stuff and I didn’t have any rhyme or reason for why I did it actually.
Kevin: Yeah, I mean I did have some help with the book from 3 or 4 fans who, once they heard I was making the book, contacted me and asked if I had this or that. And you know they had stuff that I didn’t even know existed so I didn’t collect every single thing, but I did keep some really great stuff that we would – you know most of us went to art school, so when we were bored on the road we would draw a lot and scribble on our tour itineraries. We used to play this surrealist game called The Exquisite Corpse where you fold a piece of paper into four and so one person starts doing a head or – it could be anything really – it’s usually based on a human or animal form or sci-fi form or whatever. And then that person folds it over and tosses it over to the next person, who doesn’t see the head, and he does the torso and so on and you just pass it around. Then the big reveal happens at the end when you’re finished and you could come up with some really comical looking figures and you could find that synchronicity with the different sections. So a lot of those, there’s like a double page spread devoted to that.
I also had a lot of photographs. I had bought a camera when we first when to New York. And I just took photos – I didn’t take a lot, but I tended to take candid photos where we were just being silly and playing pranks on each other. And that was a side of Bauhaus people wouldn’t really think would have existed. I think that a lot of people imagine us to be very serious and dark and doom-laden. And so I wanted to reveal that side of us and a lot of the stories have kind of humorous anecdotes in them. I just collected all this stuff and then a friend of mine, Matt Green who actually works as the publisher of Cleopatra. He suggested around this time 3 years ago, “Why don’t you make a coffee table book?” and I was like “Wow! That’s a great idea!” because I had no plan to use any of this collection, which he had seen.
So that’s sort of how it all came about. So he offered me a deal and I found out later it was a fair deal, but at the time I thought it was too low and so I said “No thank you, I’m gonna self publish.” I just thought the deal he was offering me wasn’t good enough. I went through a lot of work and a lot of this stuff is so valuable that for the cut he was offering, I thought “Nah.” And we’re really close friends so he said, “Of course you don’t have to take the deal and good luck with it!” And so I went off on this crazy journey for two years and I ran into this guy Jeff Anderson, when I went to see Underworld at the Hollywood Ball and I ran into this guy and he was a really colorful character and we went to this after party and then I kept running into him at shows and then eventually I said “What do you do?” and he said “I make books and box sets” “Well that’s interesting because I’m just starting to make a book on Bauhaus” and he was very interested, he said, “Bauhaus! Amazing!” So I went back to his house and saw all this beautiful work he’s done Nine Inch Nails and The Pixies and Fleetwood Mac, like really amazing, high quality, high art and I said, “Well you’ve got to work on my book with me” and he said, “Yeah I’d love to!”
So off we went and really we kind of took far too much interest in the aesthetic, artistic side of the book and not the business side. And he brought in these great layout designers Donnie Phillips and Katie Karrington. They were very tasteful and they were perfect how I wanted the book – I wanted the book to be sort of austere and sort of like fine artwork, and they got that idea very well and we were going on really well. Then I started to do social media promotion and I was getting a lot of interest. And then like a month before it was going to be released, we were going to do a pre-order because I didn’t have any money so I needed to get the money first and then make the book and I said, “Well how much is this gonna cost to make? And he said “Oh the best printers in LA” and it was like an insane amount of money for one book and we were making this huge book, you know, with a slip cover and the whole thing was a little bit ridiculous.
And so I had to price the book really high to make any kind of profit and we didn’t have a business plan, and it was a real big error. I learned a lot doing this book, lol. I learned all about shipping, and cost of shipping and cost of everything to do with making a book . Anyway we put it on sale and also there was a big calamity with those who had my website wherein their server went down the morning that I put my book on sale. Which is huge – it was down for 5 hours – and when you do a presale thing, the first few days are key, you know that’s when you get the orders, so that didn’t help. Anyway in the end I didn’t get enough orders, so I had to refund all the money and it was a huge disaster and I had a mini meltdown. Then I went looking for the publishing deal. Actually when I spoke to some publishers I was very upfront, “I tried this before and it didn’t work”, but they were very impressed that I sold as many as I did for that price they said “That’s really impressive!” “Really?” “Yeah” So I needed a publisher – I learned that most of our following is North American, like two-thirds – so I thought “Well I should have a publisher based book there” and excellent distribution and all that stuff and I had most of my interest in Europe and basically I came back to Square One like two years later. I went over to my friend Matt’s house, we would go out to shows a lot and we’d go around and have a drink before we left and he’d show me this Hanoi Rocks book that Cleopatra just put out and he said “Look at this book!” and I said “Oh cool, nice, nice!” and he said “Yeah we did a really great deal for them”, and he told me what the deal was and it was really good and I said “Well Matt, I was gonna actually tell you tonight that I’m back to Square One, I just don’t have a publisher” and asked if he could give me the same deal. He said “Well, you have all the artwork done now…” Basically I was handing him over the book on a plate and he said “Yeah we’ll do it” lol and yeah so I ended up back where I started after a crazy two-year journey. And that’s been great, they did a great job, I couldn’t be happier – the print is really great quality and so I’m very happy and grateful that it came out.
CN: Just the outside cover is fantastic!
Kevin: Yeah I wanted it very simple and tasteful. I was very cognizant of making sure I didn’t ruin the legacy of Bauhaus. You know it had to be a great book. We put a lot of work into it to make it so and left no stone unturned with the content. Actually Jeff who helped me, you know he’s made several books, and he said, “When I saw your content it just blew me away and I knew this was gonna be a great book, I don’t think you realize how strong the content is.”
CN: I’ve heard the story about Daniel fall asleep to YouTube and waking up to Motorhead. What was going through your head when he called you up?
Kevin: Well actually, he has a different story to me lol. So in 2016 we did several DJ gigs and we’d just get on really well, we had real fun together and we share the same sense of humor and we ended the year DJing New Years Eve in LA and afterwards Danny said “This is great! Let’s do a tour! Why don’t we do a DJ tour next year?” And I was like “Okay great” and then a few days into the new year I was thinking about it, I thought, you know, it’d be much more fulfilling and a bigger deal to actually play our music — So the next day I was texting him (he’s really into texting) “Why don’t we, instead of DJing”– because we’d talked about doing a Poptone thing on and off over the past several years. In the end we’d always end up thinking, well we don’t want to do the long touring and traveling it’s all… bleh and in the end we decided not to do it. So anyway, I suggested it and I said “You know let’s do it, come on, it’d be fun!” And then he didn’t respond then a couple of days later he started sending me — he sends me lots of pictures of motorbikes which he’s infatuated with — and I thought “Oh okay, he’s sending me pictures of bikes, why didn’t he respond?” And I was like “Daniel did you get my text a few days ago?” and then he just responded and said “Okay yeah, who’s gonna play bass?” and I was like “Wow, he wants to do it!” lol and so then I called him up and he said “Yeah” and so that’s that’s how it actually came about but Danny, he’s a lovely guy, he’s a funny guy, and sometimes he just kind of forgets things and so I think when we were in one of our first interviews he came up with the Lemmy listening to YouTube and having this epiphany that he should go out on the road. And after the interview I said “Danny, don’t you remember?” He said “No?” I said, “Yeah I texted you about this” like “Ah! Really?”
CN: Was your tour last year your first time playing since Bauhaus?
Kevin: Well yes, but I think we did a couple of Love and Rockets shows at Coachella and Lollapalooza, that was I think the last thing we did together which was in 2008. Yeah.
CN: Do you ever get bored playing the same old songs or has so much time has passed it feels like a reawakening?
Kevin: I only get bored with practice. I always practice at least a week, usually a week or two before we get into the rehearsal studio together because I have to kind of get my stamina up, you know, I’m getting old lol so I have to be fit and ready, very physical and I actually enjoy the exorcise. But I don’t usually rehearse our songs when I do that, I usually make a collection of punk rock songs and Bowie songs and really fast stuff so I get a really good workout and it’s sort of fun for me to play with other people. I mean I used to do that when I started learning and I picked up a lot of things doing that anyway. We’re going on tour this week so today I’m going to actually rehearse the set which is a little boring, but playing live isn’t, it’s a completely different thing. I really enjoy playing live I didn’t think I’d needed to or would want to anymore – and touring has just been great and also my daughter is in the band which is like really unreal, you know? I feel really blessed and so just touring with her and then my younger daughter Lola, she usually comes too and does the merch and so she usually travels with us so there’s myself, Daniel, and my two daughters.
CN: Daniel was saying you guys are like The Partridge Family for the 21st Century?
Kevin: Well this tour, this next one, my daughter is actually going to be opening for us as well, my youngest daughter Lola, and so that’s what he’s referring to.
So yeah, it’d be great if people come early to check them (Automatic) out. They’r really good, they haven’t been going on long, just a few months, they’ve just been playing around LA lot.
CN: What are some of your favorite songs to play live as Poptone?
Kevin: I like most of them really so it’s kind of hard.. Well we’re doing some new songs and that’s kind of making it more attractive. “Movement of Fear”, “Happiness” I enjoy playing brushes like jazz drumming. For some reason whenever I play “Love Me” it gives me like a flashback. It’s a Love And Rockets song and we got quite huge in North America and we used to play ampitheaters, and for some reason “Love Me” reminds me of when we used to always play those places, it was a very pleasant experience and for some reason “Love Me” reminds me of that experience, I don’t know why. “Go!” is always fun. And I love playing “Slice of Life”, that’s the only Bauhaus song we do and it’s… I dunno what to think about that song, it’s hard to describe, it’s all very precious and I feel proud when we play it.
CN: Only the west coast this time?
Kevin: Yeah well, we go out for short runs. We just do like west coast, east coast, north and south. That’s how we’ve been doing it and that’s the one thing that put Daniel and me off the whole idea was doing these long tours which you do at least 30 days in a row and it just becomes a chore. Our agent said “You don’t have to do that, you know, just go out and do like 8 shows and then come home and have a few weeks off” so that’s what we did last year. It just makes sense, by the end of 10 or 12 days you’re ready to go home, it’s been fun, I enjoyed it, and then after like a month off you’re like “I want to go back out again!” so it works really really well. Keeps it fresh.
CN: Do you usually meet fans after shows or do you need to rest up for the following gig?
Kevin: Well typically we don’t go out of our way to meet fans, but when we leave if there’s fans we’ll always usually spend time with them because they’ve been waiting outside. But actually on this next tour, I have my book now, so I’m gonna be signing my book at the merch table. It’s really kind of the last thing I want to do after playing because you’re really drained especially for me it’s very physical and I just want to relax and if some friends come to see us or whatever just spend time with them. But I’ve decided you know what, I’m gonna go out there onto the gig and sign my book. If they want to buy the book I’ll sign it. So that’s what I’m gonna do. Daniel is very reclusive so I don’t imagine he’s gonna do the same. And also we have a Poptone LP that was a session we did for Part Time Punks and Cleopatra did a great deal for us and so we’re gonna bring vinyl and CDs with us, it’s on limited edition white vinyl and it’s not gonna hit the streets until the middle of June and so this is a chance for everybody who comes to our shows to get the album before it’s actually released. And I expect, as I’m signing books, I’ll be out there – I don’t mind signing the album or whatever.
CN: Do you still have your Bubblemen costume?
Kevin: Lol No. I think my brother might have one, I seem to remember him having one. Maybe Daniel– I don’t know where they ended up. When we used to store our gear they were there… maybe Daniel’s got them, but Daniel’s not interested in collecting any of it. So yeah I don’t know where they are.
CN: What newer bands do you listen to if any?
Kevin: I like Perfume Genius although he’s not really that new, he’s really good. I just saw him at Coachella, he’s great live. I like Savages, I think that’s probably not surprising. When I see them live they remind me of Bauhaus in the early days a lot. Just the energy and the attitude and they’re great live, a really good band. And then within this Poptone project I think it’s important to have really good opening bands and also it makes touring more fun and enjoyable because when you find a great band, you get to watch them every night if you want to! So Diva and myself and my wife, we did a lot of searching for a good band ano we’ve had Geneva Jacuzzi open for us, she’s based in a LA, a one-woman act very kind of theatrical and artistic and the music’s great so she was great. There’s band called POW! from San Francisco now based in LA and I just love them, they’re amazing. I won’t try to describe all these bands, if people are interested they’ll check them out. My daughter’s band Automatic again, really great. There’s a band called SURFBORT from Brooklyn, New York, they haven’t supported us but I just really like them, they’re friends of my daughter’s and they have the essence of what punk rock is all about and I love going to see them. And it’s great having — I mean I call my daughters young– they’re 27 and 30 years old but to me they’re young and they love turning me onto bands and they’ll say, “What shows are you going to?” and sometimes they’ll come along and we see local bands and bands passing through. It’s very good because it keeps my ear to the ground and keeps me in touch with what’s going on now instead of being stuck in the 80s or 90s.
CN: Are you a grandfather?
Kevin: Yeah, my oldest daughter Diva has a little girl, she’s four years old, she’s a character. She’s wonderful, she’s very independent, very smart, and beautiful in so many ways and you know I’m a granddad I’m gonna gush over her.
CN: What was it like when Diva and Lola were born while you were in What was it like juggling Love and Rockets with fatherhood?
Kevin: Well I used to miss them terribly when I went on tour, although even then we weren’t heavyweight tourers, we didn’t do like world tours but even so, it was difficult at times. But I’ve talked to them about it and they don’t remember me being gone that much. I used to send them these care packages, I’d get a cardboard box and then I’d write on it “Bumper Bundle of Bumptious Goodies” or something very English and I would just collect little toys and candy and comic books and things that I would, you know if I was away recording or on tour I’d just make collect all this stuff and send it to them and they used to love getting those. My eldest daughter just on the last tour we did, she did the same thing for her daughter which is really cute. So yeah they’d love these parcels that would arrive and I would decorate the box on the outside with pictures and stuff and so they used to get very excited apparently.
CN: Do you have any pets?
Kevin: Yes, yeah. Well we have 3 dogs. We have a tiny yorkie, she’s completely jet black so she’s called Wednesday. That’s my wife’s dog and then my two dogs are Bela and Rascal and they’re both rescues. Bela’s a poodle yorkie and then Rascal’s a poodle something, he’s got like really messed up underbite teeth. The way I rescued her, I was at the vet with Bela and I was sitting next to this woman and she had a little ball of black fur… didn’t even look like a dog. And we started talking and she was at Weimaraner Rescue and last night somebody dropped this puppy over the fence six feet high and the poor thing broke his leg, he was probably the runt of the litter because she has the face that only a mother could love lol. And so I just go towards the woman and I just looked at her face and I just fell in love with her and I said I’ll adopt her and she said “Oh great because I need to find a home for her” and I said “I’ll take her” So after she got her leg fixed up we had to wait like a month or something and then I picked her up. I love her, she’s great, I call her Rascal and she’s a real rascal. And she’s really funny looking. So yeah I love my dogs, they’re a big part of my life.
May 10 Solana Beach, CA – Belly Up
May 11 Pomona, CA – The Glass House Concert
May 13 Los Angeles, CA – The Teragram Ballroom
May 15 San Francisco, CA – The Regency Ballroom
May 16 Santa Cruz, CA – The Catalyst Club
May 18 Seattle, WA – Neptune Theatre
May 19 Portland, OR – Wonder Ballroom
May 20 Vancouver, BC – Rickshaw Theatre