Askin’ Haskins: Geneva Jacuzzi Interviews Bauhaus’s Kevin Haskins

The synth-pop artist celebrates the reissue of her debut album by talking to one of her biggest influences.

Geneva Jacuzzi is the LA-based multimedia artist and performer known for her surrealist lo-fi synth-pop; Kevin Haskins is the drummer of the legendary English goth-rock band Bauhaus. To celebrate the reissue of her debut album Lamaze — out tomorrow via Mexican Summer — Jacuzzi talked to Haskins, one of her biggest influences (and her now-friend), about making spooky music, falling in love with LA, and much more. 
— Annie Fell, Talkhouse Senior Editor

Geneva Jacuzzi: Hi, Kevin.

Kevin Haskins: How are you? 

Geneva: I’m good, how are you doing? 

Kevin: Pretty good. 

Geneva: It’s great to hear you, your voice. Just to frame this whole thing: I’m in the middle of doing promotion for the Lamaze reissue, and I thought it would be an interesting experiment for me to interview some of the artists that inspired the music. Bauhaus, Tones [on Tail], and [Love and] Rockets had a huge impact on my little creative brain. So first of all, I’m really honored to have this opportunity to interview you. 

Kevin: Thank you. 

Geneva: Thank you! This is actually my first time interviewing anyone. So bear with me, OK? [Laughs.] I had a funny idea of calling this interview Askin’ Haskins.

We haven’t talked in a few years. It’s been maybe three years or so, and so much has happened: You guys did another Bauhaus for reunion and there’s a pandemic. How have you been this last year?

Kevin: I feel pretty good, really. When the pandemic happened — I was working on an expanded edition of my Bauhaus coffee table book, and I was just finishing that up. And that was quite intense work. Also prior to the pandemic, we started renovating our house, and I had to kind of oversee everything and do a lot of the grunt work, like demolition and carrying bags of cement. So that really was a big distraction, and I was actually really envious of people who were making loaves of bread. But then, of course, also it was very stressful at times and really sad, of course, to hear about people dying and getting really badly ill. 

It’s been obviously been really very weird, being quarantined and contained to your house. You know, it could be worse, but that’s been just a really hard experience. I’m very blessed to be healthy, and all my family, especially my mother in law — we all got tested for Christmas, and she got positive on Christmas Eve, so she ruined our Christmas, and we all hate for that. I’m kidding, of course. She’s 77 and she was just really tired for a week and a half and had a cough, and that was it. So keeps fit, you know, she’s pretty healthy, so. Odd how it affects some people in some ways and other people in other ways, you know.

Geneva: I’ve been having the same jealousy over the bread makers myself. I find myself really busy, probably even busier than I’ve been in the past. I feel so disconnected from everyone in multiple ways right now. But, I’m glad that you’re doing well and staying busy.

I feel really lucky to have spent a little time with you and Danny Ash on the Poptone tour when you guys asked me to open. That was a very special experience for me. I could tell that you and Danny have a really special friendship, almost like family. Have you guys kept in touch over the last year?

Kevin: Yeah, we always stay in touch, but about once a month at leas. So we just kind of check in. He usually just sends me photos of his motorbikes.

Geneva: [Laughs.] Amazing.

Kevin: So that’s the way he kind of gets a conversation going. [Laughs.] He’s doing well.

Geneva: When we toured together, I was a little too modest. Of course I didn’t fan out on you, but I’m gonna do it now, Kevin. [Laughs.] Just as a little back story: When I was 16, it was the mid-, late-’90s. I was raised in a pretty strict Christian household and I lived in this sleepy little surf town called Encinitas. I didn’t have internet then, I had no way of finding music that I liked, but I did meet someone, a guy who was in a cover band. When I went to see his show, they covered “Passion of Lovers.” I remember just being like, “What is that song?” Eventually that led me to go to Lou’s Records and finding — I think the CD I got was the 1979-1983 compilation. It was kind of all over for me after that. It really changed everything.

I remember playing it nonstop. I would do this funny thing, where I had this old white Oldsmobile car, and I got a CD player put in and like a big sound system, and I would roll down my windows and I would drive the car down the 101 boulevard just blasting Bauhaus to all surfers, and all the normal people in town. I just remember feeling very rebellious. It was just so much fun for me to do that. That was my activity — like, I’m just going to drive and blast Bauhaus down the street. [Laughs.] 

So, just a silly question: I know you guys didn’t have CDs, and you probably didn’t drive much in England, but if you did, what would be the album that you would blast in the neighborhood as a teenager to show off, or piss off your neighbors?

Kevin: Well, I guess the first album by The Clash would probably be it. I was 17 or so when that came out, so the whole punk thing was perfect timing for me. I just embraced the whole thing. My brother used to take me to see these great gigs, and one was when The Clash and the Sex Pistols played at the 100 Club in London in ‘76. I’d just left high school, and I had long hair and flares. I didn’t know who they were at the time, but Siouxsie was there, and Sid Vicious was walking around with a bicycle chain, swinging it around, scaring people. I think my jaw was open the whole time. I was just trying to take it all in. It was all kind of dangerous and scary, you know, with the safety pins and all the clothes torn and girls’ fishnets — it was brilliant. When the Clash started playing, I just wanted to go home and form a punk rock band.

Geneva: So that was your Bauhaus at the time?

Kevin: Yeah!

Geneva: You know, when I listen to the music, I can hear the Bowie, the Velvet Underground, the punk, the glam. But, how the hell did it get so spooky?

Kevin: [Laughs.] Good question. The town we lived in was extremely boring — small town, pretty conservative. And, you know, the weather in England is rainy and gray most of the time, so we had nothing to do and it was just depressing. So I think that really influenced our music, and maybe that’s where it came from. 

I’m reading Stephen Morris, the drummer of Joy Division — he’s put out two memoirs, and I’m reading the first one. So I’ve been listening to Joy Division again, and they’re so dark.

Geneva: So dark.

Kevin: Also at that time in England, there was a little bit of a depression, and the a lot of the dustbin men who pick up the trash went on strike, and so trash was piled up on the streets. Then there was a problem with the electricity, so that they had power cuts. So every night for three or four nights a week, they cut the power off, so we were, like, lighting candles and it was cold. It was like Dickensian times. It was really miserable. Then punk came along and kind of was like, you know, “no future.” 

Geneva: Dystopian.

Kevin: Yes. All of that stuff must have influenced the music at the time. 

Geneva: Have you ever been scared of your own music?

Kevin: [Laughs.] I’ve never been asked that question. That is a good question. I don’t think so. I can’t think of a moment…

Geneva: That terrified you. [Laughs.] OK, well, on the topic, I was wondering: Do you believe in ghosts?

Kevin: Yeah.

Geneva: Have you had any encounters with the supernatural?

Kevin: Well, my mum had few ghost experiences. The most supernatural thing that has happened to me was — so, my mum’s brother was Uncle Ken. He was a great guy, he was a jeweler… Just a real character and loved life, but he smoked probably over 100 cigarettes a day. I’m not joking. So suddenly he got lung cancer and he died when he was around 40, and I was about 13, 14 at the time. It had been a few days after he died, and my mom was really upset because she helped raise him, sort of like a mother to him, as their mother had to work all hours to pay the bills.

So anyway, I have this dream about Ken, and I went down to breakfast and was sitting there like, Should I tell my mum this dream? I don’t want to upset her again. But I decided to tell her. So I said, “Mum, I had this dream about Uncle Ken last night. And she was like, “Oh, really? What was that?” And so I said, “So all our relatives were up at our house and we knew Uncle Ken was coming to visit. You were telling everyone to just act normal, you know, he’s ill but let’s just try to not make a fuss about it. So he came to the door” — I’m telling this story, and I’m kind of looking at my brother, and he’s kind of looking at me with a weird expression. So then I said, “So then he opened the door and we all said, ‘Hey, Uncle Ken!’” And then my brother jumped in and said, “Uncle Ken said, ‘Don’t worry, I’m in a really great place. You don’t need to worry about me, I’m completely fine.’” I’m getting goosebumps now — my brother had exactly the same dream as me that night.

Geneva: Oh, my god.

Kevin: Exactly the same. He just used us as the conduit to get a message to my mum that he was fine and really didn’t want her to worry about him. So that was pretty remarkable. 

Geneva: That’s an amazing story. Yeah, I always had this theory about siblings, and there’s always that psychic connection. I always kind of feel like when there’s siblings in bands, there’s a different kind of connection there, and you can almost hear it in the music in a weird way. It’s almost supernatural. 

Last night for the first time, I discovered these outtakes from Mask — the four songs named after each band member. You know what I’m talking about?

Kevin: I think so, yeah. 

Geneva: Did each of you record your own song for that?

Kevin: Yeah, I think — there’s this  surrealist parlor game called The Exquisite Corpse, where you have a piece of paper and you fold it up into four rectangles, and somebody does the head or whatever you want to do at the top, and then folds it over so the next person can’t see what you’ve done; then the next person does the torso, say, and passes it over and so on. And then at the end, you open it up to reveal this strange creature. 

I know it sounds really artsy fartsy, but on tour we used to play a lot just to while away the time because we didn’t have phones and computers of course. Someone, I think my brother [David J, Bauhaus’s bassist] — he usually had these ideas — someone thought up the idea of a musical version. We had just a drum machine as the root so it would be the same tempo, and then we all get our separate things and then we’d have like two or three hours each, and the engineer edited each piece together. Once it was finished, we all came in and listened to it, and that’s what that’s all about. 

Out of curiosity we had the engineer put all the faders on full volume on the desk so we could hear each composition playing at the same time and it sounded like a car wreck on the freeway.

Geneva: It’s interesting because when I listen to it, I could hear really four distinctive personalities. They sound like different people to me. And I’ve only met you and Danny, and just just by listening to that, I can see how the two of you would go on to collaborate later. I always hear — this is dumb, but I hear, like, secret information and secret codes in music, and you can really hear a person in their music. I feel like that was a really interesting way to lay out the different personality types of the band.

A question I pooled from social media was from Lola, actually, your daughter — she told me to ask you what was your first Bauhaus show like, and who did you open up for?

Kevin: The first show was probably the guerrilla show. We were rehearsing at this teacher training college in a port-a-cabin, which is like a portable classroom, and it happened to be adjacent to where the student union would put on bands. We’d been rehearsing for about a few days and we just had about five songs, and we were dying to play. The Pretenders were playing that night in the student union, so one of us had the idea, “Let’s just go and set up in the corner and play.” So we grabbed all the gear, and it was snowing so we had to pull all our gear up this little hill through the snow, set up fast, and just started playing. We had about 20 people in the crowd, and we were in the corner of the room, not on the stage. So people were kind of like, “This is weird.” 

We did a couple of songs and the student union guy said, “Hey! What are you guys doing?” And we’re like, “We’re the support band.” And he was like, “What? Why aren’t you on the stage?” “We just wanted to set up here.” And he was like, “Oh, OK,” and he kind of looked at us. So we started playing the next song, and when he started walking away he kept looking back over his shoulder like, “OK, these guys are bullshit.” And then he came back with all his student union guys and they shut us down. But we managed to play about four songs. 

Geneva: Genius. You hijacked it. I’ve hijacked many shows in my career — I used to call it art-jacking because I would take shows that were supposed to be rock shows and turn them into art performances. 

Kevin: We did the same kind of thing.

Geneva: Oh, yeah, you gotta sneak it in.

I really want to know what your connection to LA is, and how you feel about living here?

Kevin: Well, the reason I ended up here is because I married at a local LA girl. But when I used to visit, I remember the first time we came here with Bauhaus, we’d just been on the East Coast. Northampton — we weren’t very worldly, it’s not very cosmopolitan. We were kind of closeted in our worldview. It was kind of like living in a bubble. So on our first visit to America it was just sensory overload, especially New York. It was amazing. And so we got a show in LA, and I didn’t even think about what LA was — the plane landed and I looked out the window and I was like, “Oh, my god, look, there’s palm trees!” And we got off the plane and it was warm. All of us were just like, “This is great!” Our sound guy was really into American cars, so when he went to a place called Rent-A-Wreck or something, and and he rented this big old Cadillac — like a huge car, a convertible. So we all piled in this and we were driving down Sunset just like, “This is amazing.” So I fell in love with LA there and then. And whenever I’d visit, it was always great. It was fun and it was warm, and I love palm trees. So I moved here 30 years ago and I love it. 

One thing I love about LA is how much of a melting pot it is, of different cultures. Life’s more interesting like that. The world should just be one country, you know — no borders, and we’d all just be one. It would probably solve a lot of problems. [Laughs.]  but I don’t think we’re evolved enough for that yet.

Geneva: LA is a really special place. I always see it as a place where anything can happen, and weird things happen — interesting, weird things happen. I found myself last week in Dale Bozzio’s apartment, sitting in front of 60 television sets covered in plastic. [Laughs.] I remember thinking, Only in LA. In no other city on the planet does this happen. How I got there is a whole other story, but, only in LA. I think I’ll always live here.

I’m sure you’ve encountered this — one time I was in Athens, Greece, and we were dancing at a club and they put on a Geneva Jacuzzi song while we were dancing, and it was the first time I ever danced to my own music with other people. It was a very cool experience for me, especially being so far away from home and everything. Have you ever been to a dance club and ended up dancing to your own music?

Kevin: Yeah. It’s happened probably several times during my life, I think.

Geneva: How does it feel?

Kevin: Sometimes it’s expected, and of course the unexpected is the most fun time. I can’t really think of anything specifically, but I do remember — throughout my career and different bands — managing to get an acetate or something and taking it to a DJ in a club and just wanting to hear it really loud, especially if it’s dance music. You know, just to see what the people’s reactions are like. So that’s happened a couple of times.

Geneva: OK, I have some quick questions. Ferry or Eno?

Kevin: Eno, in a heartbeat. 

Geneva: I guess that was a no brainer. I mean, I’d actually pick Ferry, but that’s because I’m weird. [Laughs.] But I understand Eno, for sure. Ferry’s my rebellious nature.

Synth bass or real bass?

Kevin: That’s a tough one. I think real bass, I’d go with.

Geneva: Favorite Beatles album?

Kevin: Revolver.

Geneva. Good one. Favorite Bowie album?

Kevin. Um, I think Hunky Dory. Although Low — you can’t really pick one.

Geneva: I know! I’d go with Low, but my favorite Bowie song is on Scary Monsters, “Ashes To Ashes.” That’s my all-time favorite Bowie song, and Bowie video. Every time I do a music video, I tell the director, “Just make it look like ‘Ashes To Ashes’ and I’ll be happy.” [Laughs.]

This next question — I’m sorry, it’s loaded, but I’m going to ask it anyway — Bauhaus, Tones on Tail, or Love and Rockets? 

Kevin: [Laughs.] Oh, my god.

Geneva: Sorry.

Kevin: It’s between Bauhaus and Tones on Tail. I’m gonna go for in between.

Geneva: You know, I’m kind of exactly there with you too. [Laughs.]

I just got asked to do my first solo score — good idea or bad idea? 

Kevin: You know, I’ve had really enjoyable experiences and really unenjoyable ones. I think it’s good. What I enjoyed about it was it was a completely new way of working with music. It was like a challenge. My favorite things were working on documentaries, because it was usually just the director you’re working with, and it’s a labor of love and there’s so much passion going into it. It’s a really enjoyable process because of that, rather than a film being made to make money and you’ve got all these producers, and they don’t know what they’re talking about and they just drive you insane. 

Geneva: I can imagine. I’m used to being driven insane. Just to take us out on a very weird note, can you tell the story of the Bubblemen?

Kevin: Yeah. We were just playing a show, and the Bubblemen came into the dressing room. We were like, “Oh, my god, who are you guys?” They said, “We’re the Bubblemen. We’ve come from the planet Girl and we want to spread love and peace around the planet Earth. Will you help us?” We were like, “Hell yeah, of course we will!” So we said, “Actually, we’re playing this concert tonight and lots of people are coming. Do you guys have any songs?” They said, “Yeah, we actually have a couple of tunes we can sing.” So they started supporting us on tour and stayed with us, and then sadly they went back to Planet Girl.

Geneva: Excellent. Well, on that note, I guess we both have to go back to Planet Girl. [Laughs.] Kevin, thank you so much. I just love talking to you and I feel so honored to know you, and I’m so inspired by everything you’ve done. It’s had such a big impact on me, and this is a really special thing for me to do. I just want to thank you for humoring me, and sharing your story. [Laughs.]

Kevin: This was a lot of fun. Thank you for the kind words, it’s very sweet of you.

Geneva: Well, they’re all very true.

(Photo Credit: left, Justin Close; right, Pamela Dompe)

Geneva Jacuzzi is a pop artist working in the strange paradise of angels — Los Angeles. A mother of invention, she is exalted as an early pioneer of the modern lo-fi bedroom pop terrain, and is a notable figure in the underground scenes in Hollywood and Los Angeles, with her influence spreading worldwide in the pop, noise, and independent art communities. Geneva is further recognized for her work in visual and performance art, fabrication, fashion, and film. She directs and produces music videos and video art installations, designs and produces her own sets and wardrobe, and choreographs her stage performances.

The reissue of Lamaze, Geneva’s 2010 debut — a full-length pressing of analog 4-track and 8-track recordings that document the development of her musical style, from her first appearance in 2004 up to 2009 — is out February 26, 2021 via Mexican Summer.