Not many people get to be in a legendary band,
even less people can claim to have founded two,
and very few people manage to build a continuously surprising solo career on top of all that. David J, born David John Haskins in Northampton in 1957, is such one-of-a-kind artist. After playing music with brother Kevin Haskins and childhood friend Daniel Ash as The Craze, in 1978 the three joined forces with Peter Murphy to form Bauhaus. The first band to release an LP on 4AD (1980’s In the Flat Field, released a year after seismic debut single Bela Lugosi's Dead), Bauhaus are among the most compelling, eclectic and game-changing forefathers of gothic rock. In 2012 Louderthanwar heralded them as “the ultimate post-punk band”.
With an eye always turned towards outside collaborations and solo experimentations,
in the 80s David J joined the Jazz Butcher and started honing his own songwriterly talents with solo albums such as Etiquette of Violence (1983) and Crocodile Tears and the Velvet Cosh (1985). 1985 is also the year when the core trio of David, brother Kevin and Daniel Ash launched a new prosperous adventure: Love and Rockets. Comparing this outfit to the three members’ previous experience with Bauhaus, AllMusic found Love and Rockets brimming with “a more straightforward sound that encompassed psychedelia and glam rock with impressive pop songcraft”.
While David J kept busy with the beloved groups he co-founded, through the decades David J has been prolific with solo releases as well as wide-ranging, diverse collaborations (from Porno for Pyros to The Master Musicians of Jajouka leader Bashir Attar). In 2014 he published a memoir titled Who Killed Mister Moonlight? (Bauhaus, Black Magick and Benediction).
Although Vice once proclaimed that he is “so goth he wears sunglasses in bed”, his musical output is thoroughly genre-defying and ever growing, something that his recent collaboration with Independent Project Records - first started in 2021, with the inclusion of a deep cut in the various artists compilation Source - decidedly brings to the fore.
Attics have always exerted an irresistible allure on David J’s imagination. They can unveil luminous jewels that time and dust have rendered all but lost.
With Tracks from the Attic, the Bauhaus and Love and Rockets co-founder invites us to join him and climb up the ladder. A most fascinating journey ensues: we’re looking through boxes of tapes, getting reacquainted with an artist we’ve known for a long time - yet, the intimate songs he recorded in solitude over three decades reveal new sides to him. Even while busy with his two legendary groups, David J was bursting with songs; this is a thrilling selection of recordings he made between 1984 and 2004, some on the road and most at home, with only the help of his Muse, a recorder and a lit candle.
Like all good attic finds, these songs were committed to tape and almost forgotten - it wasn’t until a fan-cum-friend suggested he’d offer his digitising skills that David thought about revisiting them again. All, except for deep cut This Town, had never previously been heard. The fact that most of these tunes did not end up becoming beloved classics (something that, once you hit play, your ears will hardly come to terms with) is but a sign of David J’s ever prolific creative state. Mostly composed on acoustic guitar, they will offer unexpected revelations to long-time fans, as they bring to light facets of his musical self that could not be fully expressed in a band setting. It is indeed fascinating to follow the evolution of David J’s art with songs through the decades, from the observational lyrical montages of the early days to a later, confident embrace of the deeply personal. At the same time, Tracks from the Attic can also be seen as a striking introduction for newcomers - it does feel like meeting one of the great British singer-songwriters for the first time. Oh No! Not Another Songwriter!, one of the box set’s highlights cheekily cries out. Well, this box set is evidence that, this is not just any songwriter…
David J describes this elegant and enveloping track from the Source compilation CD as:
“a beautiful shimmering ambient instrumental deconstruction
of the original song that appeared on my 2017 double album, Vagabond Songs (Last Hurrah Records).
Tim Newman is a sonic wizard!”