Poptone Brings Musical History to Minneapolis’s First Avenue

Daniel Ash and Kevin Haskins on stage

Daniel Ash and Kevin Haskins of Poptone. Photo by Brian Hodges, courtesy of Shameless PR

On Wednesday, July 20, Daniel Ash and Kevin Haskins of Bauhaus, Tones on Tail, and Love and Rockets fame will be joined on the First Avenue stage by Haskins’s daughter Diva Dompé for a new venture called Poptone. This collaboration gives Ash and Haskins an opportunity to tour and play songs from across their various bands but especially Tones on Tail, which had very limited touring during the height of its popularity. With the addition of Dompé playing bass, they are able to cross the bridge from one band’s song to another and provide the opportunity for old fans and new to see their favorite tunes played live again or for the first time. Poptone has been touring differently this time, with a few stops and a break and then continuing to the next set of stops. Minneapolis is the first stop on this segment of the tour before moving on to cities like Chicago, Detroit, and Toronto. It is a rare treat for Minnesota to be the first stop, especially where Chicago might reign supreme and the fan enthusiasm locally is palpable.

The group has changed names and style a number of times since its inception as Bauhaus with Peter Murphy and David J in the late 1970s, but “it is always about evolution and wanting to create a great popular single,” says Ash, who was exceptionally kind and brought extra energy to our conversation. “I have always enjoyed pop music, which really is just short for popular, and that’s what I wanted: to create pop music. It is far harder to create a single popular song than it is to create an album, and sometimes it is just a fluke.” For example, Tones on Tail’s “Go” hit the charts despite being a B-side to “Lions” and to this day still enjoys great popularity and recognition in commercials and television shows such as Rick and Morty and Stranger Things. Tones on Tail was formed with Ash and Haskins while they were still in Bauhaus, adding Glenn Campling on bass, while Love and Rockets was formed after Bauhaus disbanded with Ash, Haskins, and David J.

Members of Poptone with gridwork and logo on top

Poptone poster by Paul Rae, courtesy of Shameless PR

Poptone’s eponymous live studio album is currently available from Cleopatra Records. Kevin Haskins also has a book out now called Bauhaus Undead: The Visual History and Legacy of Bauhaus, which is deluxe coffee-table art book celebrating the band.

As the group has evolved, I had to ask whether Ash has a favorite among his bands, “I really love Tones, but there are songs across all of them that are favorites, and I wanted Poptone to be a way for us to play these songs again, just like the fans want to hear them. It’s great to be playing these songs again, and Diva does a great job of playing bass for everything. She is a great addition especially because it wouldn’t be fair to Glenn to bring him over here from England to play bass on songs that aren’t his thing.”

Refraining from asking the obvious question of his musical influences, I instead opted to inquire about what modern music Ash was most interested in. “I am really across the board with my musical tastes, though I tend to stay away from modern country and hard rock—but I tend to just pop on YouTube and see what’s out there, and I am really impressed by what is there. There is so much music now, and I am enjoying a lot of what I find.” We discussed the local KFAI show Across the Board with DJ SLT, and he seemed interested in the idea of a show that plays something of everything.

Ash also mentioned a very recent solo track on his website called “Alien Love,” which has his sound but with lyrics that are definitely playful. He explains, “I put it together like six or seven weeks ago, and then there is a bonus track with the digital download called ‘Walking Home Drunk,’ where I had picked up a friend after he’d been drinking and put him in the studio and everything you here is just exactly what he said while drunk that night.” The song is like drunk beatnik poetry set to a slight electronic sound; it is hilarious and fantastic.

Members of Poptone playing in black and white

Photo by Paul Rae, courtesy of Shameless PR

In other interviews, Ash has talked about his enthusiasm for motorcycles, and even his website has a page devoted to his love of bikes. I mentioned that despite our limited seasonal time to ride it was a very popular past time for many here, especially in the darksider scene, and inquired what kinds of motorcycles he has an affinity for. Ash didn’t hesitate: “It isn’t enthusiasm—it is an absolute obsession, and I love Victory and Harley-Davidson. I have several of each, and Victory does such an amazing job providing a retro style with a modern engine that is just amazing.” He has visited the Harley-Davidson Museum in Milwaukee and spoke at length about the virtues of the various types of Victory cycles available. It was an unexpected but really rewarding education in motorcycles.

Poptones will be joined at First Avenue by local group BNLX, which Soundbites NYC has described as “fuzz-and-drum-machine-fueled psych-kraut-postpunk,” and between sets local Transmission host DJ Jake Rudh will keep the music flowing.  Tickets are still available, and it would be a shame to miss this opportunity to revisit musical history.

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