|A KISS IN THE DREAMHOUSE - MAGAZINE COVERS|
|A KISS IN THE DREAMHOUSE - INTERVIEWS/ARTICLES|
|RECORD MIRROR 18/12/82|
|MELODY MAKER 14/08/82|
|RECORD MIRROR 12/06/82|
|RECORD MIRROR 05/82|
|NEW SOUNDS NEW STYLES 02/82|
|SMASH HITS 1982|
|POP TOPS 1982|
|UNKNOWN SOURCE 1982|
|UNKNOWN SOURCE 1982|
BUT BRIEF, the Japanese cherry blossom trees are in bloom for only two
weeks of the year. And, with that quietly impeccable politeness for
which their country is rightly renowned, this year's blossoms have timed
their splendour precisely, to coincide exactly with the first visit to
these shores of one Siouxsie Sioux, and her Banshees three. And me.
Arriving with a weirdly mysterious reputation before them -- "we thought of them as the group from the dark side of the moon" as one girl put it to me -- Siouxsie And The Banshees appeared on stage four times, and answered 3000 interview questions, signed a million autographs (it seemed), and posed for enough fans' camera-snaps to reach all the way home to London.
And more than that, in their short stay, I saw and felt them make that electric pop contact: the magical instinctive link which we grow old, or too cool, to forget about, or bury under too much needless theorising.
Their audience was young, and very largely female, and beneath its native restraint it tingled with fresh naive excitement. Let me remember.
The first show was in a little club in a big neon-lit city. I arrived five minutes before the start (and travelling from Tooting to Tokyo, that was pretty neat timing, I thought) and found myself in an atmosphere charged with a delicious tension. The instant reminiscence was of the 100 Club, summer '76 -- I know that if everyone who says they were at those Pistols gigs really did go, then the audience would have resembled some '70s version of the 'Sergeant Pepper' cover, but I was there -- the same strange silence, the un-complacent anticipation, the wondrous sense of "what the hell's about to happen in this small and crowded room?"...
The club date, and the big concert shows which followed it, were successes on every level, tempting the Banshees' camp to speculate that Japan might become the first country outside Britain where the group make a large and lasting impact. The tour is short -- in keeping with their resolve that each appearance be a special event, instead of one more stop on a grinding schedule -- and it's run with the brisk efficiency the Japanese apply to any enterprise. (Financial help comes via a sponsorship deal with Yamaha). A band member confides how it's useful the way local laws keep the road-crew away from drugs -- and the roadies, meanwhile, say much the same about the group. Either way, morale is high.
Row on row of well-scrubbed. open-mouthed oriental faces stare up, enchanted by the onstage spectacle the Banshees present -- Siouxsie moving, superbly-dressed, commanding and prancing like some particularly malicious goblin; the still sentinels of Steven Severin and John McGeoch flanking her at either side; and behind, head down, drummer Budgie's blond muppet mop flopping. Given the obvious lyric/language barrier, visual image is inevitably crucial to the Japanese consumer. But as a total show, the Banshees and their music do communicate more than fashion and glamour.
I understood more about the group, too. Always an admirer of theirs, more especially of the new era, 'JuJu' incarnation, I couldn't pretend to be "a fan" pure and simple. But getting away from England, with its inescapable preconceptions, I got a refreshing reminder of what the group would really mean to a fan. You drop all the conceptual luggage, all the words which conceal more than they illuminate, and you rediscover the plain attraction underneath. A pop group, no more, no less. And no wicked thing to be, in these or any other days.
THEY'VE BEEN a rather silent pop group lately, or so it's looked from the home country's point of view -- apart from the Sioux/Budgie Creatures EP. Only the singles-compilation (LP and best-selling video) has kept their name around since last summer's 'Arabian Knights'. They say that playing around the world explains their UK absence. But then there was that announcement that the big '81 British tour would be their last . . .
"What we were basically saying," offers John McGeoch, "was that we weren't going to slog around -- and immediately we got this come-back of 'oh, the band are splitting up'. That, coupled with the fact that we've consciously been concentrating on our overseas markets, simply because we haven't been there before, and they're more interesting then playing the Top Rank Bognor Regis."
Steven Severin: "I don't know if we'll play in England (a couple of possible one-off's excepted) until the new album is ready, which should be early autumn. But that last UK tour was definitely the last tour of that size. We're gonna try and work out some new places to play."
What kind of things have put you off the standard tour. then?
Budgie: "Familiarity with the motorway service stations."
McGeoch: "It just becomes hard to be motivated, something that we always try and find within ourselves when we do a gig. It's hard to find that motivation if you're playing somewhere, and it feels like you've just been there a fortnight before -- and you didn't even like it the first time. Siouxsie and Steve, Budgie and I, in different bands, have slogged around that circuit x amount of times."
Siouxsie: "I like the feeling of looking forward to playing a gig, and if it gets to 'oh God, I've got a gig to do', then that's the wrong frame of mind, and you can push yourself out of that but it gets harder to do over a longer period of time."
Relatively simple affairs, the Japanese dates, she feels, are a challenge and a tonic: "Once you get to a certain stage, and the lights get better, and the sound quality, and the halls get bigger, you need to reassure yourself that you can still do it in a very bare situation as well, without having to rely on the bigness. And to know that we can still do it, well, it makes your head big!"
LAST NOVEMBER, in fact, should have seen the release of a new Siouxsie And The Banshees single, called 'Fireworks'. They recorded it in a rush, between tours, and according to Sioux, "it just wasn't good enough". The plan now is to re-record it this month with current whizz Martin Rushent producing, for imminent issue. On top of that, they're gathering material for the next LP, follow-up to the impressive 'JuJu', their first set with the settled line-up that brought in John and Budgie.
"I think we've opened up the valve now," suggests Budgie. "it's all coming out now. The ideas had been bottled up."
Severin: "We did that on purpose, we consciously didn't push any new ideas for a long time. We just let it rest because we thought 'JuJu' was such a strong concept between the four of us. That came together very slowly, but when it did the understanding of that concept in the band was very strong. So we just left things for a while, until that influence from yourself had died away."
As for the new songs, some of which they're performing already, McGeoch suspects "there's an inkling of a thread between them. But in the same way as 'JuJu' ended up having a strong identity, it should be said that we didn't write that identity into the songs. The songs gave birth to the identity of the album, rather than the other way round. A lot of people think you go in with an idea for 'the concept', and of course some people do work like that, but once we start having new material it suggests its own identity. And the new stuff is in a slightly different vein, both in lyrical and musical terms."
Pointless, though, to ask the Banshees to explain how different. By no means the 'difficult' or unco-operative band some writers have called them, they still keep interview answers resolutely specific. Which is quite fair: their job is music.
"Questions like 'musical direction'," says Severin, "only get answers like 'looser', 'sexier', really ill-defined things like that, because that's all the germs are at the moment."
John: "There is a thread, which is the personality of the writers, and how they reflect on their situation at the time of writing. But we can't pin it down to any one word or sentence of how it's going to be. We're as interested as you are in seeing how it's going to go."
Of the new numbers I saw them play -- like 'Fireworks', 'Coal Mind' and 'Cascade' -- one called 'Painted Bird' sounded especially dramatic. It's based, they tell me, on the book of the same name by Polish/US author Jerzy Kosinski (writer of Being There; he also acts the part of Zinoviev in the film Reds). Set in Eastern Europe during the war, it follows the life of an orphaned boy.
"A very violent book," says Siouxsie. "But there's also like an abstract theme in that this guy used to collect birds, and when he was feeling really aggressive, or frustrated, he'd paint this bird with different colours, and then throw it to its flock. And it would recognise its flock, but because it was a different colour, they would attack it."
At which point, Budgie is struck with a parallel close to his heart, or rather his name:
"D'you know that if a budgerigar escapes into the wild, after captivity, the sparrows kill it?"
"So don't go wild in the country then, Budgie," warns McGeoch.
"No it's true! They don't like all the colours, and they beat it up."
BUDGlE FLEW his particular cage, and lived to tell the tale, some time ago: it was that notoriously claustrophobic menagerie, the 'Liverpool scene', which he graced by drumming for Big In Japan, a group whose chaotic origins bear coincidental resemblance to those of the 100 Club Banshees. And now, via a stint with The Slits, he's a Banshee and really Big In Japan.
Immediately likeable by nature, he takes the most open pleasure of the four members in living the itinerant pop star fantasy, and with his stooped loping walk, beercan in hand, and leather trousers, most looks the part. At the same time, his personal contribution to the group is as valuable as his drumming: relaxed, down-to-earth, and self-skitting as you've got to be when telling how you skived off school judo lessons through a phobia about breaking your "roman" nose-- "roamin' all over me face".
John McGeoch, 26, married, is a Greenock-raised Scotsman who lends the band some welcome musical scope, as well as a personal air of solidity and thoughtfulness-- a steadiness only marginally undermined by his healthy native enthusiasm for a pint or eight now and again. He made his name, of course, as guitarist in Magazine (having met Devoto while at art school in Manchester). His plans for the months ahead include making a solo LP, co-produced with Severin. But heavy tour commitments prevented him doing any further work with Visage (whose first album he played on)-- "much to my accountant's disappointment, no doubt."
Siouxsie and Steven, the two founder-members, move inside the Banshees' world-within-a-world -- a kind of mobile bubble -- sharing a long friendship and a common air of studied stylishness. Both I'd describe, appreciatively, as cool -- without being cold, as their initial reserve might, off-puttingly, appear on first acquaintance. Although born in the sound of Bow Bells, Siouxsie is witheringly scornful of oi-oi Cockney heartiness. Still there are plenty of glimpses of a feisty South London girl, with a passion for funfairs and Betty Boop, beneath the near-Garboesque poise of her public self. (Incidentally, while Budgie was dodging school judo, Sioux was practicing the javelin -- a skill she's preserved with the mike-stand, as one or two early gig trouble-makers discovered at the cost of bruised heads).
Severin, like McGeoch, has plans for some solo work, or rather collaboration, with The Cure's guitarist Robert Smith: "First thing we're gonna do is, we've written a song that we're gonna record as a single, and we'll audition people to sing it. That'll probably lead to an album with just me and him, probably some guest singers. It's all a hangover from the friendship of when he played guitar for the Banshees" (as emergency stand-in on the tour where John McKay abruptly left).
But Siouxsie's careful to point out that all the extra-curricular activity does not signal any tensions within the group: "it's surprising that after The Creatures' EP, a lot of people thought that the band had split up. People were saying 'What's going on?' But it's really important to put across that because we have loosened up like that, and we do go off somewhere, that's why we're together so long. It's the difference between being married to someone and being in love with someone."
The Creatures project -- five numbers which Sioux and Budgie did together, using just voice and drums -- was an interesting diversion, arising spontaneously out of the 'JuJu' sessions, and it's an experiment they intend to repeat. At the time of the EP's release, though, more attention got focused on the cover pictures: action photos of the two Creatures, cavorting naked in a shower. "Wet, exhausted and pissed" is Budgie's summation of their state during the shooting session.
It very nearly cost them their trip to Japan, as well: at the visa application office, a magazine with the shots in was offered as the required pictorial evidence, causing instant consternation among embassy officials -- "Do they do this on stage!?"
TOKYO IS endless, and often ugly -- in contrast to the delicate beauty of the traditional Japanese aesthetic -- like an American city built inside out, with all its pipes and wires on the outside, and a billion billboards battling for eye-space. Yet for all its impossible sprawl and crawling congestion, its people appear to have preserved some measure of courtesy and mutual respect -- a rebuff for the saloon bar know-all who'll regale you with laboratory tales of too many white rats in a cage, driven to madness and murder.
I'm inclined to the view that there's no such thing as travel nowadays, only tourism, and these instant observations are necessarily glib -- but somehow, Japan seems to work, instructively well. Eastern cultures, whether socialist like China, or corporate-capitalist like Japan, are collectivist by heritage, and it's doubtful if disintegrating Western societies could ever attain that same orderliness, that cohesion, so wedded are we to an ethic of unchecked individualism. But the Japanese pattern of civility-- never lapsing into mere servility -- suggests that there's much the West could usefully learn.
Unfortunately, to date, the cultural influence is all one way: west to east. True, Japanese style enjoys a vogue-ish appreciation (which Siouxsie has long shared, recently doing a kimono-clad fashion spread in The Face) but that's a relatively superficial thing. Partly, too, our fascination with Japan is narcissistic, because, as that country adapts to massive westernisation, its our own eccentrically-distorted reflection which intrigues us. Our curiosity, if sincere, needs to extend into what's left of the ancient soul. For the moment, though, that reflection is inescapable. Cars and coca-cola, garish kitsch and rampant consumerism, girls in bobby-sox and pony tails, boys in bowling shirts and rockabilly quiffs -- I kept thinking Japan was re-living the American 1950s, at exactly that same stage of its development. Curiously, the date in Japan now is actually 'April 57' meaning, by their calendar, the 57th year of the Emperor's reign. Underneath the gloss and prosperity though, the turmoil of values may be frightening.
Oddities abound; like the exquisitely patterned, antique-styled gift which Budgie was given -- it was a smog-mask. (Little gifts are an appealing mania among the Japanese. Anton Corbijn was given a tiny toy tortoise, for his wallet, "to make the money go slower" -- but no contest, alas, for an American Express card). And, in a land of customarily strict female primness and servitude, that new species known as the Japanese groupie deserves a doctoral thesis all to itself.
Both more innocent and more fanatical, not to say numerous, then their western counterparts, these alarmingly young girls suggest some desperate restlessness inside the psyche of the new generation. Either that or chronic randiness, I suppose. (But Iet the visiting muso beware: scandal and kamikaze fathers are never far behind, and who'd be the the victim of a Sho'gun wedding?)
"REGIMENTATlON," says Siouxsie, is the thing that's impressed her most about this visit. "I really notice it. They do obey."
"It's like repressed hysteria or something," thinks Budgie. "lt's like they're all really bubbling under this tight skin they've got. It seems like they're dying to let rip, the younger ones anyway."
John McGeoch: "But I don't think it's as easy as repression -- y'know, the thing about the nail sticks out and you have to hammer it back in again. I think there's a genuine innocent idealism. People really do believe in the Japanese Dream."
Siouxsie: "Have you walked the streets? You've never seen anything like it. It's just a sea of black heads, they don't walk very fast. It's very claustrophobic just to walk the street because of all these slow-moving locusts with black heads, just crawling along. And they always wait for the right time to cross the roads.
They seem to accept what they've got, even the most boring jobs. I was sitting in a bar and there's this guy in his uniform, just there to open the door for people when they look like they're going to come in. He didn't once slouch, he was very straight, accepted it. Westerners just aren't perfectionists to that extent. It's very disciplined, they're never spontaneous nutters, and in some ways it's very admirable."
John: "I think it's interesting in the light of the amount of Americanisation that goes on, that there's a few Japanese musicians who are turning back to the traditional music, rather than looking to America for inspiration. You must have seen these silly Japanses bands playing heavy metal and singing in American accents, trying to sound like The Doobie Brothers. At least now there's a little bit that's interested in Japanese-ness.
"Actually, I think what we've anticipated, in England, is the prelude to a return to Morris Dancing. It's the next thing. We could probably make a lot of money on this."
Budgie: "Yeah, l mean, that Toni Basil's really got it sussed, hasn't she?"
BUT WHAT, on the other hand, did Japan make of the Banshees? Steve Severin recollects one particular reaction he'd had.
"This girl was saying her impression of the concerts in Tokyo, from the audience response she felt that a lot of the girls had been inspired, not only by the band, but more specifically by how Siouxsie was on stage-- there was a kind of independence that they might have been looking for."
And it's true that while girl singers are common in Japanese pop, their role is nearly always stereotyped -- the cute little poppet. Sioux's strength and fierce lack of coyness must provide a startlingly different model for her young admirers to adopt, one that's inevitably at odds with both Japanese tradition and present pop practice.
John McGeoch agrees: "As much as English women complain about being badly done to, Japanese women seem to have a far harder time." (The wife of your average Tokyo Joe businessman, for instance, appears to Iive a life of semi-widowhood -- to the company, to whisky-bars, to golf -- with an unpleasantly high incidence of violence in the home, the dark alternative to all that public politeness). "And one particular girl was saying that while the Japanese rock audiences tended to look to America for the happy-happy-happy, crappy-crappy-crappy music, the sunshine and wonderfulness, she felt that with the Banshees, the reason for the kids' enthusiasm was that they identified with the fact that we were dealing with some of their problems, rather than being purely escapist -- especially Sioux, as a female figurehead with that attitude she has, that had a strong heavy impact."
Budgie takes the matter of the Banshees' influence a step further: "Always the question that comes up over here is, how do you cope with the language barrier? But they got off on the emotion, the mood."
Sioux: "It's the projection of the band."
Budgie: "They seemed to look very studious, the audience, they were really listening and watching. And we were getting through, maybe more so than to somebody who's jumping about and shouting."
Siouxsie: "I think that maybe to people who've played here before us, there's a certain amount of patronisation in making sure they're 'having a good time', and they can sing along to a chorus that they know. And l think, it was explained to me, that maybe why they were so quiet was because there was some intensity in the set. Like we did 'Night Shift' when they might have expected us to play 'Happy House' and all the uppy ones."
In Japan or anywhere else, it's worth remembering (especially by rock writers, perhaps) that pop music moves its listeners hearts and minds, as well as feet, in a variety of ways that aren't always so obvious. Very often, the specific lyrical content might not be at all important, and hardly ever deserving of the primary attention that we analysts tend to lavish upon it. The key messages, highly personal, and difficult articulate even when you're aware of getting them, will just as likely reside inside the look and the sound, the non-verbal. The universal.
John McGeoch: "I don't think that people should look at a band and think 'that's the life I should lead'. Cos we're not up on stage playing music to people and being in a band just so everybody can go 'oh right, I'm gonna leave my job and start up a band, that's the life to lead'. But if you can inspire-- lyrical content aside, cos that's always a problem abroad, especially in the East, or even at home.
"We're not saying, Put down your tools and everybody start a fucking punk band or whatever. It's just, something I say quite often, it's like the jazz scene in the '40s was really rebel music, y'know? There were really no lyrics to say to people, vote for the left or do this or do that. It was just giving them some kind of insight, that other people share their problems and they were able to be dealt with, or discussed. So, over here, it's not a case of all the girls want to be Siouxsie -- they just see, and feel, and know something."
THE DlSCO-CLUB in this provincial city-- we're in Osaka, a kind of oriental Birmingham -- has closed down for the night. Even so, the weary staff are willing to stay on and re-open the place when Siouxsie puts in a late appearance. There's nobody else, just Sioux and Budgie and a couple of the Banshee camp, with a private disco-club all to themselves. I make for the deserted DJ kiosk.
The floor is hers, and hers alone, and there are few sights I'II remember so well, even through a by-then considerable alcoholic haze. It's four in the morning, and laughing in delight, Siouxsie Sioux is dancing to all the Greatest Hits of T. Rex. Her only partner is her own grotesquely, hideously deformed reflection, thrown back at her from off the trick-mirrored wall . . .
"Dirty and sweet--clad in black..."
Don't look back.
Paul Du Noyer 17/04/82
LET'S GET PHYSICAL
Some people wouldn't notice a change if it hit them in the face like a wet fish. A certain proportion of such people follow Siouxsie & The Banshees and call out for 'Love In A Void'. A certain number of people still persist in calling the Banshees cold and distant, black and white.
These people are wrong. These people are out of touch. The Banshees' current single 'Melt!' is a siren song, a song of desire. The Banshees come in colours and explode like fireworks and their music is full of sex and all its sinkings. Come close to 'A Kiss In The Dreamhouse', feel its fire and melt. If this is ice, how come it feels so hot?
Today the Banshees are in Berlin. There are those that still claim that this is Europe's most decadent city, but Siouxsie is not one of them. Those who find the lady cold and austere may be surprised to find that Germany is not her favourite country.
"This place is about anything but individuals," she says with a grimace. "Germany is so clockwork, so starchy, so rigid. Look at the food - it's all so substantially useful. All of it is made to fill you up and weigh you down. They don't care about the look or the taste. This country is humourless and depressing and were not coming back..."
If the Banshees don't like something, they tend to refuse it. They work hard and meticulously and they prefer not to be pushed.
"Polydor keep telling us that Germany is a big market and that we should play here for three months to 'break big'. A lot of people put pressure on bands to work at things, to slog. That kind of forced labour destroys bands and their sincerity. The same people urge you to economise falsely. They try and get you to skimp and save on the lights or the stage, get you to just take a torch so you'll save some money." Siouxsie sniffs with contempt.
The problems with Siouxsie voice ensure that the Banshees no longer slog their way through tours.
"We have to take a break between shows because I don't want to risk canceling or performing poorly. It turns out expensive because even though you're not playing one night out of two, you still have to pay for the gear and for hotels. We decided that rather than make money, we'd rather break even and do it well."
The Banshees' recent tour of Britain saw them boasting a string section for the first time and employing the Cure's Robert Smith as a stand in for the sick John McGeoch. While the punks pogoed in front of the stage, the Banshees displayed the range and tonal variety of 'A Kiss In The Dreamhouse' while demonstrating that they've lost none of their obsessive drive.
Modern Banshees' music is sex music, music that explores the pleasures and terrors of lust and the force of desire. 'Dreamhouse' could have been written by Alfred Hitchcock if he were a modern rock band instead of a dead director.
Siouxsie agrees that much of the album centres around desire. "Yes, it's about sex, but not in a 'Do ya like my body?, do ya think I'm sexy?' kind of way. I hate this word too, because of its connotations, but it's more about love. Love and desire and passion.
"And it's maybe a fairly sad record because a lot of passions end up trapping people and having sad endings. So it's about the travesties that come out of so called 'love'. So you have a song like 'Obsession' that just sounds sexual and has music that, at the same time, sounds very constrictive and cramped. Like an obsession. The events in the song actually took place. It's about a friend of a friend of mine. Its an extreme example of what happens in more subtle ways in most peoples relationships.
"It seems there's always an imbalance in love. One person's love is unrequited, or one person likes the the other more. So many relationships come down to who can hurt the other more or who can be most flippant while hurting the other..."
The songs on 'A Kiss In The Dreamhouse' explore love's diversions and perversions only to shine a light on the bizarre nature of the 'normal'.
While they are still fascinated by exotica as much as erotica, the exotic on 'Dreamhouse' always leads back to that tangled forest of sex that lies close to the surface of every life.
"Steve came up with the title while watching TV one night," explains Siouxsie.
"A series was starting based around the twenties or thirties and this top-class whorehouse in America. In the whorehouse you could meet perfect replicas of the stars of the time, women like Mae West, perfectly reproduced. It was a very rich and exclusive place and it actually existed."
The 'Dreamhouse' is not so far from the 'Happy House' though Siouxsie insists that the earlier song was sarcastic while the album title is merely "ironic". 'Dreamhouse' was the first album in which the Banshees really exploited the possibilities of studio.
"All of 'Juju' had been played live before we recorded it. With 'Dreamhouse' we were working in the studio more and allowing ourselves to be inspired by sounds. 'Fireworks' indicated the direction we wanted for the album. We wanted strings on that. John wanted a machine but Steve and I said it had to be real strings. They give a real, earthy, rich sound. You could hear the strings spitting and breathing and wheezing. Me and Steve have always wanted our music to be performed by the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra. We've always thought our songs would suit orchestration. Real strings have a very physical sound."
The Banshees achieved the richness they desired. "We wanted a really colourful sleeve with lots of gold and deep colours because we felt the music was very rich. This is the most produced record we've made, not in the calculated sense but in the sense that we explored the moods and sounds of the studio better. Mike Hedges really helped us. Before we've co-produced with producers and there's been misunderstandings, but with Mike we didn't have to talk in technical terms so we didn't have the same problem translating what we've done live into a sound in the studio..."
Full of their new record, the Banshees toured Britain only to find the venues and audiences jaded.
"We prefer playing new places because you always get a reaction whether they like you or not. The first night in Manchester we might as well have been playing to ourselves. We felt that we were good but the audience weren't. I saw one guy with a sleeping bag who was just collapsed. I don't know if he'd been sniffing glue or smoking a joint but he was out of it.
"You get the impression that a lot of people are only there for nostalgia or because there wasn't anything good on telly that night. We've played places where the crowd hated us and abused us but the dislike was so strong it got us burning. Either you win and convert them or they really hate you but in Britain some of the gigs are like a grey area. It's hard for you to know whether it's you or them..."
Siouxsie had emerged as the grand dame of the punk generation. Punk was their occasion but they have grown far beyond its narrow confines. The Banshees stand curiously apart from their own generation and from the current pop kids.
"Young groups seem very finance conscious now," says Siouxsie.
"I don't know if its the managers but they don't want to take risks and they only want to be short-term. They'll be in all the teeny mags for a short time and then be gone and they seem to be happy with that. Pop has reverted back to the days of the Bay City Rollers. And the independent labels have got as predictable as the majors. There's no selection. We're flooded with so much music that you can't even find the good stuff even if it's there. Someone somewhere is getting drowned by all this influx of music dressed up in nice clothes with no substance. Too many people are releasing music simply because it's been made."
Siouxsie & The Banshees have come to stand apart. Don't let's ignore them or put them on pedestals and forget about them. Together they are pursuing an individual path deeper into a strange jungle. Cut with them through the thickets and you might even find yourself learning something you didn't know. About yourself, about the Banshees.
Go on, lover, Melt.
Mark Copper 18/12/82
All quiet on the Banshees front
Come again? There are some alarming rumours sneaking out from the Banshees' base camp.
Could Siouxsie really be in danger of losing her voice? It was time to get Banshee John McGeoch on the line and sieve the genuine from the fake.
"We've virtually been on a world tour for the last year," begins John, "and on every part of it Siouxsie came down with something that local doctors would prescribe as laryngitis."
Siouxsie's throat complaints became worse and this partly explained why the Banshees announced earlier this year that they'd be doing fewer and more select live performances.
Then three weeks ago during a Scandinavian tour, everything came to a head. Suffering from another sore throat, she went to see Dr Sanner, a voice expert who keeps Abba's tonsils in trim. The news was terrifying. He told Siouxsie that her vocal cords were swollen to twice the size of an average persons and advised her to stop singing for the rest of the year.
Nor was that all. In order to preserve her voice for the future, she would have to sing in a different way. She would have to learn how to sing from her chest rather than from her throat as she does now. If she didn't look after herself, she'd end up, says John, "sounding like Joe Cocker."
No one in the band knows what will happen next. Siouxsie's back in Britain and is seeing more specialists. They have already finished their next single "Cascade" but are only half-way through their next L.P.
The group are already gearing up to the possibility they may have to postpone Banshee activity for at least six months.
But you never know.
As John adds: "Siouxsie is so stubborn that I can't believe she won't stop singing for six months."
|NEW SOUNDS NEW STYLES|
Once upon a time, in an Oxford St.
basement, its walls coated with years of indifferent Chinese food
stains, there was the 100 Club. Originally a jazz venue, its doors
were opened in 1976 to a new breed of shouters, the Sex Pistols.
As their residency slowly flowered, a Punk Festival was announced, the
field being open to anyone with the correct haircut, sneer, makeup,
vocabulary (these were after all, the days when 'squelching' was the
fashionable word for sex) and, above all, contacts.
The Festival duly came and went, settling the punk hierarchy that was to reign for the next two years. Of true outrage, there was little. A girl had an eye put out, possibly by Sid Vicious, although a court decided otherwise. And Siouxsie & The Banshees played their first show. The plan was to play until they were dragged off stage. Punks being nothing if not tolerant, the Banshees were allowed to spin out a horrid dirge for what seemed like hours but was probably less than fifteen minutes. The impolite indifference of the audience was a lovely piece of British compromise. Overnight, their indifference elevated Siouxsie and Steve Severin (nee Havoc) from members of the Pistols Bromley contingent fan club to the dizzy heights of the punk peerage. Astonishingly, five years later, the Banshees are still with us. They've even been rewarded with a greatest hits package and a compilation of their videos - both entitled 'Once Upon A Time' but featuring different tracks.
Whatever else has changed over over those years. Siouxsie's makeup has got no lighter. She still talks in a flat South London voice with a perpetual hint of a stifled giggle while her thick stripes of mascara waggle in time to her words, semaphoring their agreement.
"Yeah, that gig was only ever meant to be the entire life of the band. So I suppose it is a bit surprising to still be around after five years. I was in a total state of shock after the show. I didn't know where I was."
Steve butts in, "Well, shock and fifteen pints".
Siouxsie's false eyebrows start to flap again. "After that first show, I felt really proud because I'd done it but also a bit intimidated because it was such an event. Continue? I didn't know how to.
"As for writing songs, I didn't really think of myself as a songwriter till around the time of 'Suburban Relapse' for the first album."
Both the album and the video document a remarkable development. For all its charm, their first single 'Hong Kong Garden' now seems like a message from a lost world. Simple, direct, almost happy.
On the video, the Banshees look frightened, unsure but very concerned to make a good impression. This fear runs right through the first half of their career, right up to the split which left Siouxsie and Steve alone at the start of a UK tour, their guitarist and drummer having departed into the night, leaving only teddy bears stuffed into the beds as farewell notes. That pair gone, a new relaxed, lighter touch was brought to their music and their faces by Budgie, a current pair of sticks about town, keeping the beat for the Slits and whoever else needed Britain's best young drummer. Being a Liverpudlian, Budgie is not subject to the moody sulks that their previous drummer was so fond of. The drive away from ostentatious seriousness was hastened by the incorporation of guitarist John McGeoch, a young Scotsman who's made rather a lot of money from Visage and likes to drink Haig straight from a quarter bottle hidden in the folds of his voluminous overcoat. Hardly the type for depressive bleatings about alienation.
Despite the obvious difference they made to the Banshees, both Budgie and John felt they'd 'come home' when they signed on the dotted line.
"It was like straight in at the deep end," grins Budgie (Budgie's always grinning), "I was straight out on tour with them. I'd never experienced anything so intense. I'd never stayed in a hotel, I'd never had a drum riser before. And I'd never even been in front of a TV camera before.
"Back in Liverpool, I used to get patted on the back for things I'd worked on. But with the Banshees, it was the first time I was part of something I could contribute to."
After leaving his original employers, Magazine, McGeoch spent time playing with a host of bands. A little bit for Visage, a bit here for Gen X and, especially, a bit there for the Banshees.
"I'd didn't enjoy that period very much. Apart from anything else you don't really get paid very much for the amount of work you put in."
As John and Budgie lessened the tension around the Banshees, so has Siouxsie relaxed. Gone is the sallow young girl who once laid a barbed wire wreath on her fathers grave and thought a blank, distasteful stare was the passport to success in any social situation. While always far from her ice queen image, Siouxsie once felt the need to act it out - in public at least. She's still cagey but can open up a little, is no longer afraid to smile or admit that she has feelings. Talking about the breakup she said, "Oh, I only held a grudge for two years." The eyebrows flapped, signalling a grin. She even dares to look straight at a camera these days. Right through the video she conspicuously avoids the viewer's eye (the implications of which shed strenuously refute) until almost the very end, the last few lines of 'Arabian Knights', when she talks directly to the camera. When you have to wait for a glimpse of her pupils that long, you certainly savour it, feeling - however wrongly - that you've been granted some kind of glimpse behind the facade.
She'll talk freely about the changes in the Banshees, openly pointing out what she sees as errors - such as not releasing 'Mirage' as a rapid follow-up to 'Hong Kong Garden'. She pins down the changes over the Banshees career with the remark, "I just think it's become more sublime, more subversive." But she's still dissatisfied with their success so far, thinking every single - including her side project with Budgie, the Creatures - should have sold far more than it did.
Both she and Steve will agree that's partly their own fault. "We don't follow up singles like other people. All that means is that they're probably better businessmen than us, striking while the iron is hot.
"Every year, we plan to put out four singles and get our faces on every TV programme and magazine but somehow we get bored with it all..."
But, more than anyone, they blame Polydor, their record company, with whom the Banshees contract runs out in June. They're counting off the months like wizened jailbirds. "I used to scream at them 'Why don't you buy us into the charts like everyone else does?' but they wouldn't take any notice. If they did try, they'd only get it wrong, spend fifty quid on it while someone else spent two hundred. They're so..."
Budgie prefers the more philosophical approach. "At least at Polydor, you know James Last's always on the wall."
THE SIOUXSIE SUE GUIDE TO HEALTHY EATING
"Fish fingers - with a squeeze of Jif lemon - tinned or frozen sweet corn, bread & butter, fried egg, all covered with Heinz salad cream. Or brown sauce or tomato ketchup sandwiches - you must cut lines in the bread so the sauce sinks in. Or beefburgers - they must be Birds' Eye, not Findus or anything else. Drink? Thanks, Ill have a vodka and tonic with a dash of lime."
Peter Silverton 02/82
a hole in the bottom!" The voice is unmistakeable as the
football lies forgotten and a stolen boat swerves Siouxsie Sioux through
the mist, out to sea, out of sight.
On the shingle shore, with the dawn still two hours off, panic subsides to impatience as the inebriated party resigns itself to the morning's headlines: "Beach Horror - Punk Drunk Sunk In Junk".
Yours truly scratches sand from his nostrils, squelches brine from his boots and morosely contemplates Siouxsie's stiletto scar on his shin and the prospect of the coming weekend marching round in a pair of "Smudge" Sheehan's spare "kingsize" tennis shorts. The smudge himself is busy whimpering. "Camera! Camera!" he splutters each time he senses a body looming out of the dark in a typically underhand effort to avoid the obligatory ducking.
"Wee Wee" Wong, the Japanese promoter responsible for the Banshees' recent oriental bash, blinks in utter bemusement as Ging(er) - an extraordinary member of the Banshees' entourage suffering from the inexplicable delusion that he's either Joe Strummer and/or Robert De Niro depending on his intake of liquids - sidles over and beckons towards the empty horizon.
"'Ere Yoko," he grunts, "when they come back in we'll 'ave the bastards over."
An impromptu audition to replace the chanteuse should Sioux end her days feeding the fishes gradually grinds to a shivering halt with Wongers immaculate version of "Christine, the Stlabelly Gill" and Severin suddenly mumbles "Sod it, I need a drink" and slouches back, drenched, towards the dim hotel lights.
Slowly the boat zig-zags back into view, Siouxsie giggling, soaked to the waist, while Tom and Billy, the tee-shirt sellers, make blundering efforts to row to the shore. On the brightening skyline, Severin's silhouette is attempting to light a sea-sodden Marlboro. The Banshees are back in business.
Recording and playing in Britain again for the first time in over a year, they not only need to equal the invigorating artistic renaissance of their last album, "Juju", but have a couple of inaccurate rumours to dispel as well.
The Elephant Fayre at Saint German - a country estate on the border of Cornwall currently exacting taxes from Lord Eliot (one of those middle-aged, hippy-dippy, heart-in-the-right-place-head-in-the-clouds type of aristocrats who patronise the youthful arts in a bid to assuage their monetary troubles and hereditary guilt) - is the Banshees' first ever outdoor gig over here. It's enough to excite the balding thick man on local tea-time TV to wish Siouxsie Sioux "smashing weather".
"It will rain, I know it will," she curtly replies and proceeds to embarrass his offensive inanity.
Interviewer: "There's a lot of speculation about this being your last concert. Is that right or..."
Interviewer: "But there's a lot of rumours aren't there, about your voice."
Siouxsie: "Yes, I saw a... we'd been working very hard, this was during a Scandinavian tour about a month ago, we got back and... um... I didn't have a voice left really and I'd seen a doctor in Sweden, Stockholm, who's supposed to be a top doctor and I ended up seeing a few doctors all saying different things, all pretty gloomy. I finally saw somebody in London and , eh, I decided that doctors make you iller than you are. So... I'm fine..."
Interviewer: "Is it a problem, though, for raunchy female singers?"
Sioux: "Not really..."
Interviewer: "I suppose there must be a lot of young musicians who are in the position that you once were; that they have maybe left school or college and they would like to get into music. You hit all sorts of barriers on the way to your success, what advice would you give to them?
Sioux: "Um... Go for it! I didn't know what I wanted to do. It was an accident that this is my profession. I didn't want a profession and it isn't really..."
If Siouxsie sees the Banshees as a hobby, then soothsaying must surely be another because on Saturday, it rains - though no-one seems to notice. Sheehan contentedly sups the local ale, hippies flog second-hand clothes, hand-pots, illicit pipes and pine rocking horses, a chap called Burt Hollocks, embarks on his magical business and Toby, the clown compere's greying old dog, alternately cocks his leg and cat-naps in the backstage cottage kitchen.
Meanwhile, back in the family seaside hotel a country mile or eight from the site, Budgie, Sioux and Severin blink off their marathon night on the bev and attempt to wrap up the rumours for good, while John McGeoch samples a hair of the dog down the road in a cosier hostelry.
"We're very conscious that the Banshees' reputation revolves around live performances and if we play anywhere our sales in that place double," says Severin while gamely fighting a hangover behind plastic shades.
"The basis of what we were trying to say last year about not playing so much was half to do with the fact that we were knackered and half that we felt we've built up a base in England so we don't have to constantly tour over here. We've been doing small tours of other places and well continue to do so, but as far as England goes, at this point in time, there's no necessity to keep play."
"Live work is very important, though, because of the physical aspect," Siouxsie asserts to combat any fresh misconceptions, and Severin fully agrees.
"It's just trying to maintain that uniqueness when we play live and keeping it special, keeping it an event. That's mainly why we don't want to play so much. Doing something like this thing today - we've been looking around for two or three years to play somewhere in London that isn't standard. We've been trying to find an outdoor park to play, we've looked closely at Crystal Palace but I think we've failed.
"It's incredibly hard to find anywhere new even for a band like us who've got some sort of reputation and are bound to draw a certain sized crowd. Maybe it's the fact that we scare people off - maybe they think were gonna draw loads of marauding punks...
He pauses, ponders his words for a moment, then a wry little smile cracks weary demeanour: "...Eh, maybe they're not that far wrong!"
"The thing that's good about this thing today," he continues, surprisingly animated for a chap long reputed to be a surly interviewee, "is that anything could happen. It could all go completely wrong, whereas if we were playing Reading, you'd know you were on between Saxon and..." He trails off his sentence in obvious disgust.
Siouxsie sips a medicinal Bloody Mary and just starts letting loose over the Leeds Futurama they'd played a year or so back where the kids "sleep in piss and puke and get bored" when Budgie recalls their favourite gig, entertaining the crowd at the Physically Handicapped Olympics in Newcastle last year.
"That was brilliant," Severin agrees.
"They were wild!" Siouxsie enthuses. "They were so rampant! It was so exciting, it really was, really like good fun without being showband-ish or anything. Just like a real Banshees fun thing."
"We even did a waltz version of 'Staircase!'" Budgie exclaims.
"Yeah, we did," Severin laughs," and it may sound hilarious but as soon as we came on all these wheelchairs just came speeding towards the stage... zoom! And there was this one kid who could actually dance in his wheelchair, spinning it round on one wheel!"
"Spinning it round going Wooo! Wooo! Wooo! and waving his one arm," Siouxsie chuckles. "They had the whole place to themselves so they could dance any way they wanted. Thalidomide kids as well. There was this one kid, right, who was deaf and dumb and he was weird - hyperactive or something, always running about - and he was, like, putting his hand up my leg and that. We weren't throwing any kind of pity at them, we weren't patting their heads - I pushed him away and he was really loving it, not being patronised.
"That's why I couldn't believe it when they said on that programme that this was our last live gig. I love playing live. It's not like we go out and just play like most people, there's a certain... attack. We're much better live, recordings are like watered down... well, not watered down but you know what I mean. It's like The Birthday Party, they're nothing on record, but live there's attack!"
It occurs to me at this point that Siouxsie's spot on, that what makes both the Banshees and The Birthday Party vital while Haircut One Hundred churn out confectionery is that their records are mere - I should say "mighty" - invitations to their shows, and I wonder if the Banshees feel beholden to their notorious live image.
Whether Siouxsie can't help but play the ice queen when she steps out on stage, whether it bothers her that we can sit and chat amiably but should I ever throw a fit and approach her mid-show, she'd answer with that stiletto?
"Well it is a ritual," Siouxsie admits. "It's very intense for that time and there's no way that anything else comes into your head except what you're doing. It's that direct! You're not thinking about washing your socks or anything normal or average in everyday life. It's like a wedding or something."
Contemplating this ritual in comfortable tranquility, I ask if it bothers them that it's their stage personae that people react to in everyday life and not Sioux, Severin, Budgie and McGeoch, four intelligent individuals; and although Siouxsie's adamant that the characters are not choreographed, they still must feel trapped and intimidated by a ritual they only occasionally live?
"No," Severin disagrees. "I think it's one of the ways we stay sane about it all because it's so different onstage we can just switch on and switch off even though it's that stage persona that people react to. That's one of the most satisfying things, the fact that you've created something that is not necessarily... um... ordinary.
"The whole idea of the Banshees being onstage is like something you're not gonna see in every day life - it's got to be! I think it's probably a throwback to seeing somebody like Bowie or Roxy Music onstage where it was a kind of unearthly thing - especially when you're about 14 or 15 and you're going to see a group, that's how it should be - something really special.
"We want people to have the same kind of ritual that we do, we want people to get dressed up and treat it like they're going to a wedding or a party and when they go and see the Banshees they get transported - not into like rock 'n' roll patronising rubbish, not away from their problems... well, in a way, yes! Into a kind of ideal that is special and helps!"
"Yes," Siouxsie agrees. "Something's happened because of one gig they've seen, even if it's seeing me throw a skinhead offstage that they've remembered and it becomes really important to them. It's like everyone's got a favourite book they re-read and think 'God! That's great!'"
Think about this: a couple of thousand Banshees fans from all walks of life, all age-groups, from all over the country converged a few miles south of Plymouth on a wet weekend just to see this band play for 90 minutes. Such devotion is rare - I wouldn't be here for many other bands - and I speculate that it's eager anticipation rather than mindless idolatry that makes such pilgrimages possible.
"Yeah, that's certainly what keeps us interested," Siouxsie agrees.
And yet... the other side of the coin, the fear of the unknown, the refusal to compromise to certainty, is exactly what upsets the industry.
"That's just happened over the past ten years or so," Severin sighs. "It's just become business orientated and all these people, instead of growing up realising that live gigs and records can be really exciting, unique and enlightening, just see it in terms of 'there's a lot of money to be made in this'. I mean, there's always been manufactured groups, but now its just getting ridiculous."
One need look no further than Altered Images to grasp his point. The Images embarked on their career aping, flattering and supporting the Banshees until Martin Rushent took over Severin's production chores, eked them out a neat little formula and undermined the Banshees' alleged contributions to the hit, "Happy Birthday". Little is said but then, little need be. The Images/Banshees mutual fan club is obviously over.
"I can't understand them," Severin admits. "I mean, it's always really good to have a challenge. Like, I wouldn't mind if all our singles got into the twenties, but it would be great to have a guaranteed number one just to see what you could do with it, just to really confound people who think they have to work to the formula.
"Look at Adam. What really disappointed me about him was he was guaranteed a number one and could have done something to change the way people looked at doing things for a couple of years or so. That's why we keep putting out singles - because it's one of the things that affects young people most.
"But going back to our reputation, our image, the only thing that keeps it fresh for us is that I think we've realised that we can't help but be stuck with the 'Ice Queen' or 'Originators Of Punk' etc, but there's no way we have to live with it..."
"...OR believe it," echoes Siouxsie. "It feels like punching King Kong sometimes - you know you're not gonna win, but at least you're not gonna be some sort of slag. I mean, Id' hate to be what the BBC or the record company expects me to be. That's another thing - a lot of people in music believe the press. Y'know, because something's in print, then that's you to hundreds of people and you have to respond to it and be it or you'll disappoint them.
"I don't snap at people for no reason, I'm not hard with people for no reason so people who talk to me say 'Oh! Really you're nice! I hate that too because I'm not really nice if I don't wanna be. It's something I have to beware of because someone calling me nice could make me act like a punk and tell someone to fuck off just to keep the image intact. Truthfully, I do approach things in that way... only, selectively..."
Severin says he's astonished the Banshees image and reputation remains 'miles out of step' with the Banshees' reality, especially as I suggest their records are less cynical, less aggressive and more musically accessible than their debut album, "The Scream". But he does admit they can still be notoriously difficult to work with.
"We've done all the screaming and the awkward things to get to this point," Siouxsie says, proud that Polydor ask to hear an album before its release rather than insisting, but still incredulous that the company, in the band's absence abroad, almost packaged their singles album, "From The Beginning", in a cartoon sleeve of Siouxsie in a cot!"
"I hate the business side of things," she says. "It's just not what I'm in it for, but I'd rather get involved and see it done properly than let them shit it up."
Severin calls it "infiltration", the ability to know how to "use" the business to the band's advantage. "The times gone when you can expect anyone to feel sorry for a band who've been mistreated by a major record company," he says. "It just doesn't wash anymore. The opposite way is just as feeble, like The Clash pretending they're in control, keeping CBS in contempt and making themselves seem more radical..."
"That's real romantic," Siouxsie mocks. "Like the good guys and the bad guys. The Clash, they love all that romantic ghetto-type stuff... it's all so Bruce Springsteen. They're much more a part of it than we are."
"What we don't particularly like, though, is respect," states Severin. "Especially just because we've been around for five years or something; that makes us want to be even more apart from everything, though it helps in that you can mess around a lot more..."
The Banshees messing around at the Elephant Fayre involved them playing soccer on the beach at five in the morning, Siouxsie kipping on a four poster bed in Lord Eliot's gaff having been introduced to Heathcote Williams as "Siouxsie, queen of the night", and the band previewing seven new numbers in a set of 16 in the Fayre's massive marquee.
So, just what did the would-be uniformed American cop with the walkie talkie and stuffed Pekinese on a lead think of "Painted Bird"? Just what did the ten-year-old chap who offered McGeoch "demon" magic mushrooms reckon to "So Un-real"? Just how did the out-of-it gang of Hells Angels who dismissed Budgie as an hallucination, react to "Pulled To Bits"?
Sorry folks but I just couldn't say, being safely sequestered backstage and all... Siouxsie, though, knows exactly how they should react and in her characteristically forthright manner often mistaken for arrogance, she comes as close as I've ever heard to expounding a Banshees philosophy.
"They should realise that the initial impetus and power that attracted people to the Banshees was that we'd do gigs where we'd always introduce new songs. But, as always, people forget that they liked the band on not knowing what to expect, they forget they liked you because you were new and fresh and they get bogged down in wanting greatest hits. We don't like that, we won't stand for that, well please ourselves."
The Banshees play by nobody's rules but their own and if you want to argue, I've got the scarred shins to prove it.
Remember that apocryphal evening when Bill Grundy, now sadly deceased, made an idiot out of himself trying to compete with the Sex Pistols on the ‘Today’ programme and only succeeded in ruining his career(?)? You do! Good. Think harder and you’ll remember that apart from the Pistols there was an extremely scantily clad damsel padding elegantly around the room drawing leers from the aforementioned Mr Grundy and admiration from most of the youths at home in their armchairs watching the television.
That lady was none other than Siouxsie Sioux, now of Banshees’ fame who was at the time in ‘Liaison’ with Sid Vicious now sadly deceased. She was doing just what the majority of prima punkettes were doing at the time - being seen around the Kings Road with those bands who were in the advance guard of the rebellion, such as the Sex Pistols. Between this event in 1977 and summer of 1978 a lot developed in the career of Siouxsie. At an early punk festival at the 100 Club, Siouxsie and her mates epitomised the ‘don’t care’ attitude which was to become so typical of the punk movement. In such times legends are synthesised from the sweat of places like the 100 Club, and it is told that on the second night it was the late Mr. Vicious himself who ‘invented’ the pogo. The night was hot and dirty - Siouxsie, Sid and Steve Severin, took the stage and then proceeded to delight the assembled voluntary delinquents with a song as stunning in it’s brevity as in its unexpectedness.
The trio gave a rendition (I hesitate to label it such but what else can it be called?) of The Lord’s Prayer, its design? To uphold the feeling that it doesn’t matter if you can’t play, there shouldn't be any reason why you can’t have a go anyway. Predictably the farce ended in disgust on Siouxsie’s part and ridicule from those among the assembly who bothered to remain within earshot until the last painful notes (?).
Soon after, the Banshees actually surfaced. They were, Siouxsie herself, Steve Severin on bass, P. T. Fenton on guitar and Kenny Morris on drums, unfortunately no place for Sid who had responsibilities(!) in other quarters - also unfortunately, the ride was very short for P. T. - he was replaced after a period by one John McKay. The Banshees were favourites among the young punks and were soon filling every venue they managed to play. However, they had no instruments and at every gig they would act out an elaborate subterfuge wherein all their non-existent instruments and equipment were mislaid in transit, meaning that the main band had no way of going on stage, thus pressurising every support band into lending them their equipment. Eventually, from the session tapes that they had made for their most influential fan, John Peel, a record was made and sold well, although they had been beaten to the act by the Pirates who issued a bootleg Banshees recording well in advance of the Radio One material.
Surreptitiously, fans, (or perhaps even members of the band themselves) launched a nocturnal graffiti assault on the walls of record company buildings and in early 1976 most of the larger concerns sported a ‘sign Siouxsie And The Banshees’ logo, generally in gaudy colour, always in a prominent position. Polydor took the hint and the resultant single ‘Hong Kong Garden’ was a top ten hit! ‘The Scream’ followed and proved to be an essential album for new-wave buffs and ordinary pop fans alike. By late 1979 the second album was released and sold well, ‘Join Hands’ proved easily as popular as ‘The Scream’ and became beloved of those who held dear memories of dream-like proportions concerning the early days of punk and the 100 Club, because on the album was an impromptu version of ’The Lord’s Prayer’ which Siouxsie had so mercilessly murdered three years earlier - full circle for the Banshees but not with the same personnel, John McKay and Kenny Morris were no more, and with the addition of Budgie, one-time Slits drummer and John McGeoch from ’Magazine’, the banshees were set to wail another day and the result was ’Kaleidoscope’ which also featured the guitar playing skills of one-time Sex Pistol, Steve Jones. Siouxsie was now a face of the eighties and her new elegance and an air of mystery proved much more lucratively successful than the by now, antiquated anger and ugliness of punk. Subsequent albums ’Juju’ and the latest offering ’A Kiss In The Dreamhouse’ have proved that Siouxsie and the Banshees are as indelibly scrawled on the facade of British pop music as were their self-laudatory slogans of 1978.
SIOUXSIE AND THE BANSHEES; for so
long pitched as new demi-gods risen like juju edifices from the ashes of
'76 Punk. Stone-faced and arty with a scary monsters touch of the
You can read what you want from the lyrics and how they project from pics and stunning live shows, but the group themselves are a curiously matching foursome with willing giggles and easy speech. They don't tolerate fools easily but rise mischievously to a game of football which ends up with everyone being chucked into the sea after the Elephant Fayre gig.
What never lets up is their quiet determination to get on with the music which has spawned such a classic string of singles.
The fans clone The Face while remaining in the dark about the people, preferring to believe what they read. Meanwhile some of the weirdest words in rock are pored and pawed to add to the legend. A seemingly innocent and atmospheric ditty like 'Arabian Knights' is really about that venerable old pastime sheep-shagging. Cue for a Sioux-story...
Once upon a time, assorted Banshees were happily splashing about among the nude bathers on a beach in Sweden.
"We went right out to sea," recalls Sioux, "and we saw this bloke with nothing on in the distance walking towards us. He had a beard but all the rest of his body was shaved completely of hair! Everything - his legs, his pubes, his underarms - was totally bald except for this beard and a little bit around the ears.
"All these things are going to inspire songs in the future..."
You'll never find a Banshees song doing something so obvious as professing undying love with flowers of romance. Those are "drip songs", says Sioux, "and we still haven't done a drip song."
Not even 'Desert Kisses'?
"That's about a lonely cancer crab after the fallout."
"That was quite objective. 'Arabian Knights' is about shagging sheep! Hee Hee! In Australia you get lots of lonely shepherds and they call it welly-lugging. They stick the sheep's back legs down their wellies and take it from there. Gross."
Siouxsie & The banshees have always kept their personal lives out of the public gaze. But it's the mystery, that taste of the macabre and untouchable which helps keep a constant wide-eyed flow flocking to gigs and snapping up records and videos.
The Banshees have never swum in normal Rock Biz channels. They have always done things on their own terms and remained unique, from the days doing improvised gigs on borrowed gear to headlining the Elephant Fayre in Cornwall in a huge circus tent. They sing about things that fascinate them. Stories they've been told.
The pair sitting in a West End cocktail restaurant sipping Ankle Tremblers and Killer Zombies in black leather trousers (they were wearing the trousers, the drinks were in big glasses) explain it all with frequent smiles.
Steve: "Most of the stories we hear come from travelling round all the time. We attract weirdos all over the place."
Like one friend told Sioux in New York about a friend of his, which so fascinated her she wrote a song about it. She puts herself in the place of a girl who "just went totally off her head about this bloke who lived upstairs... she'd sit outside his door and touch his things and leave a pubic hair behind. She did a whole manuscript about it to prove she wasn't insane and that she was logical about it."
The song's called 'Obsession'. The album's titled 'A Kiss In The Dreamhouse'.
Steve: "That comes from a detective programme I saw a few weeks ago. It was a true story about this little club that used to exist in Hollywood in the '30s."
"Brothel", interjects Sioux.
"For a vast amount of money you could go and spend the night with the film star of your choice, who was actually a double hired in. We just wanted a good title."
In the last few weeks the Banshees have hardly had a minute to themselves, what with the new album and highly successful but gruelling tours of Scandinavia and Japan, where the hordes went berserk - politely of course.
Sioux: "This isn't a clock-in clock-out thing where the band is separate from your private life. There's always some thought about the group. Sometimes it gets a bit much. You wake up in the middle of the night and have to write something down."
The penalty of being top of the tree. But surely they must be rolling in it? Not so. All live in modest flats - Steve has just moved into the one below Sioux in west London - and boast healthy overdrafts at the bank.
They might have ruled the video charts for most of the year but the group maintain they have so far seen £58 from it.
"We've ploughed our money into keeping this group alive - like our lights. But we're the poorest we've ever been.
"It's really boring thinking about saving money. We've done it for years and it's been done, but we think 'sod it'. Other groups get their own homes, but I don't want a permanent home anyway. I'm quite happy putting 50ps in the electricity meter!"
Added wealth would enable the Banshees to move into such desirable fields as video and their own studio, but that day among the Ankle Tremblers Sioux had wilder ideas, sparkled by a desire to record the next record by the Creatures - the Sioux-Budgie voice-drum duo - on a beach at Bali.
"If I had loads of money I'd record everywhere. On top of a building... have a safety net put up and start singing as I'm falling off. I could do my last song as I'm falling to my death from the highest building in the world!"
For a few recent weeks Sioux fans thought that last song might've come with 'Fireworks', the last single. The papers carried screaming headlines about her losing her voice and being told not to quiver those tonsils again.
It gave out in Sweden halfway through the Scandinavian tour. The Swede quack told her she had to change the way she sang and wouldn't be able to for six months anyway. Panic!
"We thought it was a real disaster," says Steve. "But Sioux went to see a specialist in London. It was bad but not nearly as bad as the guy had said".
Now she's going to have a throat-scrape.
"It's like a small operation," she explained. "They probe down your throat and clean out all your vocal chords. You can't use your voice for a month afterwards because it'll be a bit raw from being scraped. It means will I be able to shut up for a month? That's night impossible!"
At least they'll be able to do a few gigs here later in the year - Events rather than Gruelling Tour.
Meanwhile the new album. Expect anything from jazz to a spaghetti Western theme, with some "really horrible things" to keep the pot boiling. But now the question is: will it inspire a cake? Previous waxings have instilled culinary leanings in Banshee fans.
"I've had some classic cakes made for me," says Sioux. "These kids came in with an 'Israel' cake, which was black with a Star Of David on it. I ate some and shared it around - couldn't eat all of it cos I haven't got a big stomach. A few days later there was a 'Kaleidoscope' cake - black and white stripes and colours. I put that in the fridge but someone put the defrost button on and all this water fell on it, it looked quite good after with all the colours running everywhere. Then I got a 'Join Hands' one with a wreath on it."
And now a kiss in a dream house. But a mess in the icebox? Sweet dreams.
Siouxsie And The Banshees release
their new single this month... following a blazing row with top producer
The single is called 'Fireworks' and is released on May 21 - nearly a year after the group's last single.
But the fireworks flew when Martin Rushent couldn't produce the single, although he was originally chosen by the band.
"He was unable to meet his commitments due to an exhausting schedule of TV and radio appearances," said a terse statement from the Banshees.
The row was exacerbated when Rushent said he couldn't put a real orchestra backing on the single.
Rushent - who has produced Altered Images and the Human League - was unavailable for comment.
But a spokesperson for his company Genetic denied that a row had broken out.
"He didn't do the project for various reasons and the circumstances were unavoidable," she said. "I don't need to come up with any defence, there was no argument or disagreement."
Siouxsie and her Banshees are to play again in the summer, despite earlier promises not to tour.
They play a one-off date at St German's Elephant Fayre (near Plymouth) on July 21 as part of an all-day event.
From 'The Lords Prayer' and 'Hong
Kong Garden' away in the mists of punky time and 'Slowdive' and 'Melt'
in trendy, smart 1982. Siouxsie Sioux and her Banshees have wailed
and screamed most of the more interesting sounds to have been produced
by a British band over that six year period.
Nowadays she is still clad in black, and mysterious with it. Heavily coiffeured on top and intriguingly made up, she conveys the impression of something eerie in the atmosphere, almost like a witch holding sway over the other members of the coven. Her menacing vociferousness in live shows and her trance-like spiralling, whirling dances make Siouxsie and the Banshees one of the most exciting live bands still left over from the punk days.
The image is certainly effective in projecting their aggressive music, less extravagant than Toyah but no less energetic their string of albums reads surprisingly short. In fact there are five, and a compilation ('The Singles'). Starting in 1978 with 'The Scream' when they finally succeeded in getting a deal with Polydor after a massive amateur publicity 'campaign' (aerosol spraypaint on walls all over London's record companies), and their first single 'Hong Kong Garden' which astonished nobody by climbing into the top ten almost immediately. This song was a long way from their first ever appearance; an impromptu, unrehearsed and sacreligious bash through the 'Lords Prayer' at an early punk festival at the '100 Club' in London two years earlier. Then they had been shouted down but now in summer 1978 they were hot property, and record company bosses all over the city must have been kicking themselves for putting the multi coloured mess which appeared on their walls down to vandals.
Later came 'Join Hands', 'Kaleidoscope' and 'Juju' all filled with the swirling rhythms and mystique which have always surrounded the band and their singles continued to enjoy chart success. 'The Staircase (Mystery)', 'Happy House', 'Christine' and 'Israel' among others, made it almost inevitable that a compilation of all these would be made and sure enough in early 1982 it appeared and became a top selling album in no time. The die-hards still existed however and their thirst for new material had to be quenched as well and so 'A Kiss In The Dreamhouse' was released to be met by eager waiting fans and if the two singles 'Slowdive' and 'Melt' are any yardstick whatsoever it fully lives up to expectations, still Siouxsie displays her verbal gymnastics and the power of the Banshees, John McGeoch, Steve Severin and Budgie continues, undaunted by their deserters' cries of scorn and criticism that they are just a relic of a long gone age. Siouxsie and the Banshees are anything but this, and have been proving it for long enough now for us to admit and enjoy without resorting to needless whining about them being reactionary or behind the times.
Siouxsie raises eyebrows in Sweden
What are you thinking of Siouxsie Sioux, while the Banshees' van speeds towards Gothenburg through a midnight sun that keeps the dark at arm's length? What's behind the made-up eyes and the determined fringe, eyes staring down the motorway?
Next to Siouxsie, Steve Severin is dealing as best he can with a flourishing cold. So's Budgie behind him, humming along to his Walkman, sneezing occasionally. John McGeoch is the only member of the Banshees in health. He's dealing with this situation in the sensible way, mixing drink and sleep in equal measures.
Sweden flashes past, endless trees, endless clearings like the fairways of some enormous golf club. The occasional house furthers the impression.
Siouxsie coughs, Steve sneezes. The Banshees have a competition. When we finally reach Gothenburg at 1.30 in the morning, Siouxsie states the terms: "Who do you think has the most contagious diseases amongst us?"
This is not the easiest question to answer. Every night Budgie wrestles with his fever, changing T-shirts in a sweat-soaked bed: "You feel like you're tripping and then you go to the toilet, flush it, and the water turns blue and swells to the surface... You start gargling with a Swedish mouthwash that turns out to be the colour of blood..."
the Banshees have come to Scandinavia as part of their policy of touring 'new and interesting places.' Three of them have been forced to abandon booze as a consequence of illness (and Swedish high prices). Severin is conducting an investigation into life beyond alcohol. The results? "You become a boring bastard."
Siouxsie's laryngitis has forced the band to cancel two shows already. In Stockholm, 40,000 people can't be disappointed. "How do you like my new voice? I've been working for weeks to get this new bass croak. Trouble is, you are your own instrument so you have to look after yourself. I've been trying to give up booze and cigarettes, but I can't live like a nun on the road. I'm not an opera singer."
Sweden is a clean and decent country, as healthy as brown and muscled arms can be. Amidst this sauna-soaked beam of health, the Banshees seem the spirit of decadence itself. They haven't a head of hair that isn't dyed or thrown into some shape of disarray nor a scrap of clothing that doesn't intimidate in its haughty blackness or subversive sense of humour.
Take Siouxsie's black string vest with its gloved hands barely covering her breasts or her black gloves with bright red nails sewn on for laughs or nightmares.
Everywhere the Banshees appear, they draw eyes like moths to a flame. As their van arrives backstage at the Stockholm festival, it's surrounded. The curious stare while the cameras exercise a professional fascination, clicking endlessly wherever they turn. The cameras lick at the Banshees made-up armour, looking for chinks, for some kind of intimacy, some hint of humanity behind the artificial creations.
In three days, I find the humanity, but it doesn't come in the shape of weakness. Rather it's there in the affection and respect with which the Banshees treat one another. The Banshees are now a private family, born on the road.
Siouxsie agrees: "I think John and Budgie have changed as a result of being in the Banshees, look-wise and thought-wise. It's not like they joined the Banshees and went out and bought a new set of clothes. They didn't try and copy the old musical parts."
Siouxsie and Steve are not the most approachable people in the world though there's real warmth behind their coolness. The two have a silence and self-assurance that make those less certain of themselves quake at the knees.
The cameras bounce off them as they move behind a wall of profound boredom and indifference. Before them, the curious flounder. Siouxsie doesn't depend on the stares she attracts, rather, she scorns them. Siouxsie doesn't dress for others.
"When I heard that Siouxsie and Steve wanted to work with me I was flattered," explains John McGeoch. "I loved 'The Scream' when I heard it. I knew they were pursuing something of interest.
"I went down to meet them for the first time round about Christmas in Notting Hill. Steve Strange told me to wear black if I wanted to make the right impression. We had a meal and got drunk and that was it, we got along.
"But I know that many people find them intimidating. I've seen people asking them questions who just get deeper and deeper into trouble. Talking to Siouxsie and Steve can be like falling into some black hole. You stutter and stammer, and the more you explain yourself, the deeper into the quicksand you go, falling into that silence they have. I've seen some people come out shaking..."
So what are you thinking of, Siouxsie Sioux, as the golf course flashes past? The stereo's blasting out sixties classics, some favourite dark moments - 'Paint It Black', 'The Sun Ain't Gonna Shine Anymore' - some light and sexy songs as well, even 'What's New Pussycat?' with Siouxsie doing her best Fenella Fielding impression.
At one point she leans back to Dave Woods, the Banshees' organiser, sitting behind us, 'Pass me my whip please...'
Since their massive tour of Britain last year, the Banshees have neither played in the UK nor released a record until 'Fireworks' two weeks ago. Instead they've toured Europe, America, played Hong Kong and Japan and now, Scandinavia.
Scandinavia is not necessarily ideal in this respect. In Finland, the locals don't say much. They just look suicidal and drink. Budgie recites a joke about Finland: "Two Finns are drinking together. They drink steadily for two hours without speaking. Finally one of them raises his glass and says 'Cheers.' The other replies: 'Are we here to drink or bullshit?'" It's the way he tells 'em.
Then there's Oslo from which Siouxsie is just recovering: "Oslo is the most boring place in the world, worse than Middlesbrough. Even when they were having a parade on Bank Holiday Monday, the locals still behaved like death warmed up."
Between trips, the Banshees have begun recording a new album with engineer Mike Hedges. This after a false start with current pop hero, Martin Rushent: "We'd heard that he wanted to work with us," says Siouxsie. "We wanted to have a go. We thought he might have a different approach to the Banshees, that he wouldn't treat us alike a cult. We'd have changed him as much as he changed us. Producers who work with us think our songs are weird compared to the typical Top 20 and so they're often not strict enough about getting things right. They think weird means lazy. You need something intuitive between a band and a producer and we've tended to be too strong for our producers in the past. Rushent agreed to a date to start working with us and ten he kept putting us off at short notice so we've abandoned the idea."
Are they, too, rushing to be a 'pop' band?
"We've always tried to be a singles band and we've always been disappointed when they haven't gone to number one. All the songs we write are possible singles though though they're not written as singles."
The presence of Siouxsie an the Banshees in the charts, along with New Order and the Bunnymen, is desperately needed relief from the featherweight pop that's been inundating the nation. If ever a bit of threat was needed, if emotion needed unveiling, it's now.
How does Siouxsie see the current pop?
"It's depressingly safe and shallow and completely disposable. People are so insecure that they're plating music that's boring, music that has no sex or aggression or emotion. Present pop is all calculated, it lacks the emotions and the lunacy of the pop of the sixties.
"Pop now isn't risqué, it's prissy. Even Tom Jones was a million times more daring and sexy than, say, Sheena Easton. In the sixties, even the music our parents liked was sexier than current pop. I'd love to see a Top Of The Pops with us and the Birthday Party, the Cramps, Suicide - that's how exciting I remember 'Ready Steady Go' as being."
Why then, have the Banshees not become the toast of the nation?
"We've continually threatened to become a bit bigger. Many of the bands we started with have made it and are now desperately clinging on. A lot of success is gone about in a desperate way.
"There are certain things this band could do to get 'bigger'. I could have been in films or I could have gone on kiddies programmes and had custard pies thrown in my face. I'm not that desperate. I haven't like the programmes or the films I've been offered, they're degrading. They throw a few pennies in a pile of shit and everybody dives in sky-deep, just for a few pennies."
The Banshees are no great favourites on TOTP. When they were invited to appear with 'Fireworks,' they arrived to find the Beeb had built a flashing neon sign with the simple legend 'SIOUXSIE.' The band's refusal to use it was seen as bolshy, as was their abandonment of fireworks once they realised they'd have to have talks with the Beeb's fire department...
Siouxsie is a good deal less tolerant of foolishness than the current pop generation. The cameras bounce off her. They treat her as if she was there to be looked at but she defeats them with boredom, the haughty queen of dread.
Her power is to attract eyes without needing them, as if in spite of herself. She brushes off the stares she attracts, profoundly indifferent to her 'star status'. Her freedom lies in her peculiar boredom that belonged at the heart of punk's self-discovery.
Has Siouxsie ever reconciled herself to being stared at? What are you thinking, Siouxsie Sioux, behind that mask of indifference? Of some world where everyone might be as 'different' as you, some world where there might be no one left to stare?
"In Finland we were just stared at. The gig was just a freak show. They were looking not even watching. In Japan they would look a lot but with a respect for your individuality and your privacy. They were fascinated by our difference. Outside London, England is the worst we've found. Walking into a bar in Italy they'll all look round but then they'll get on with their drinks. In England, they don't just stare, they whisper loudly and you get the impression you're not wanted. And you get all the rudeness from 14-year-old kids and workmen. I've always had this quality of attracting attention and being indifferent to it but it has been exercised by having to be used. If you look bored, it drives people away."
Singlemindedly, the Banshees and Siouxsie have carved out themselves according to their own purposes. Their music captures that bored stare, that aggression and that sense of independence that flows from Siouxsie. And some of the loneliness and isolation too.
On the new album, there will be a song called 'Painted Bird,' based on the novel by Jerzy Kosinski. There is a character in the book, as Siouxsie explains, who is an old and embittered man. Sometimes when his bitterness proves too much to bear, he captures a bird and paints it many bright colours. When he releases the bird, it flies back to its own kind. They don't recognise the bird and tear it to pieces.
What are you thinking of, Siouxsie Sioux, coughing you way through Sweden, is it of the painted bird?
"I'm not going to dress down to avoid the stares, then they're changing you. I'd rather be a bit uncomfortable and be myself."
Mark Cooper 12/06/82
Shortly before Christmas Siouxsie and the Banshees' JOHN MCGEOCH was temporarily retired from live work following a nervous breakdown. A few weeks later Chas de Whalley found him in much better health working in his home studio on ideas for his own album...
"It was actually our record company's idea, I'm afraid to say. After the success Siouxsie and Budgie had with that Creatures thing they offered me the opportunity to do something by myself.
"It wasn't as if I had a burning ambition to make a solo album with lots of things on it I could never use with the Banshees because songwriting doesn't work like that for me. I find I'm writing constantly, although it's mostly a process of rejection, and quite frequently ideas I originally thought really wouldn't suit the band end up fitted perfectly. So I'm not at all precious about things.
"But the point is until now I haven't really had the opportunity to put my head down and think hard about a whole album of my own material. people always seem to believe I have more time than I do. I suppose it's because while I was playing with Magazine I was also involved in a number of other projects. Like Visage. But being a Banshee certainly doesn't leave much time left over to do things by yourself.
"I'm aiming on playing just about everything myself. Guitar, synthesizer, clattering the drums and maybe even a little saxophone too if I think there's a place for it. But I've asked Steve (Severin) from the Banshees to co-produce it with me because basically I think you need somebody there to say 'Don't do that. That's rubbish!' Or vice versa.
"It has to be somebody whose opinion you can trust and whom you can have a good constructive argument with if need be. I know there are guys around, like Steve Winwood for instance, who can do things like 'Arc Of A Diver' entirely alone. But I'd never be able to trust myself. I'd be frightened that I wouldn't have enough discretion.
"Recording is a lot like painting, you see. You have to know when you've got enough on tape or on canvas. Part of what I'd call the craft of it is knowing when to stop. Steve Severin is very good at that. He's got a very good head for arrangements. That's probably because he's not encumbered by a musical background. he studied art at college like me but he never had piano lessons between the ages of 5 and 12 like I did and he really only started to play bass when the Banshees formed.
"Whereas I've been playing guitar for fourteen years and I've been through just about everything from Cream and Hendrix rip-offs to acoustic jazz. With all that behind you it can be difficult to come up with ideas which are really surprising and off-the-wall.
"Siouxsie can do it all the time. She doesn't just write the lyrics - she frequently has musical ideas too. She'll wake up in the morning with a tune in her head and sing it straight into a cassette recorder.
"I remember we were in the studio working on the B side of the next single and she suddenly thought of a lovely little melody line which she worked out on a glockenspiel. She insisted we record it before she forgot it. It's that kind of freshness of approach which can really put the spark of life into a song.
"A lot of the 'Juju' album - which was the first one I did as a full-time Banshee - was spontaneous like that. It was vastly different to what I'd been getting into with Howard Devoto and Dave Formula in Magazine. Things like the 'Correct Use Of Soap' album were all very tightly arranged and written with a five piece band, including keyboards very much in mind.
"'Juju' was loose and exuberant, even joyful in a sense, because it was basically a brand new band. Siouxsie and Steve had struggled through for the best part of a year alone before they picked up first Budgie and then myself. I was a tentative element for at least six months. It wasn't until we recorded 'Israel' - which was the first song we all wrote together (although I did help out on earlier things 'Christine') - that we finally put a stamp on it.
"I suppose 'A Kiss In The Dreamhouse' could have proved a more formulated and disciplined album had we not been lucky enough to have Mike Hedges produce. He's as adventurous as we are when it comes to recording ideas. We had a few of the tracks written and rehearsed before we went in with him but some of it came together from larking about with the technology itself.
"Like 'Circle', for instance. That's based round a tape loop of part of the string section we added to the 'Fireworks' single. I wrote it on piano originally and then Virginia Astley scored it out for a string quartet. I then did the conducting, which was great fun. We made a loop of that and then Mike trimmed it electronically at both ends so that it seemed to spin on and on. Everything else, the drums, lyrics and bits of tune were hung onto afterwards like coats on hooks.
"Mike also likes to go for good, loud, roomy sounds, so that he doesn't have to do much more than alter the tone settings a little when it's mixing time. That suits me down to the ground because I like to play with lots of effects on my guitar. I don't like adding them later because I'm actually inspired at times by the noises effects units make as I'm playing them.
"I remember having a raging argument with an engineer once because he said my flanger was hissing too much and it was actually destroying the guitar note as it died away. He couldn't seem to understand that that was the sound I wanted!
"I don't see guitar playing as a musical or technical thing, primarily. It's more expressionist in a way. More like painting. It's all a question of broad splashes of colour or else delicate brush strokes which will help tilt the listener's viewpoint. The sounds and the impact they make are more important than the actual notes played.
"Both Steve and myself use a lot of effects on stage. We both have MXR mains powered flangers. I thought of a little innovation with mine. I've had the foot switch wired to a jump lead to the floor while I have the flanger itself mounted on a redundant mike stand. That way it's possible to get at the controls and change the settings with the minimum of scrabbling about in the dark with a roadie and a torch.
"I'm really a joke on stage when it comes to all that sort of thing. My amp's got reverb and sustain built into it and I have a Yamaha Analog Delay unti too which can give me everything from flangeing to echo to ADT as well as that chorus effect you can hear on 'Arabian Knights'. As soon as the lights go down between numbers I dash back to the amp and start fiddling. It all looks incredibly complicated but once you've got the settings memorised it's so simple a chimpanzee could do it.
"Mostly I use the same sounds on each song every night although there are a couple of things, like 'Voodoo Dolly' where both Steve and I experiment every time. It's a bit like a jam I suppose, but it's a very exciting part of the set. for us.
"I've been playing through a Roland Jazz Chorus 120 both on stage and in the studio, although just recently I've been very impressed with a Peavey Combo. The JCS is very versatile. I reckon with just two or three guitars and one of those you could come up with enough different sounds to make a whole album.
"The other thing about the SG 1000 which I particularly like is the pole-tap switch. The guitar is fitted with two humbucking pick-ups but with the switch you can pull a coil out of the circuit on each pick-up and get a thinner, brighter Fender-type tone, which is very useful.
"It also has a feature Yamahas don't advertise very much for some reason. If you have the tone set to maximum treble on the guitar and then you wind up the volume to anything over 8, the tone circuit is by-passed automatically and all you get going to the amp is that high gain, overload signal straight from the pick-ups. That's a sound I use a lot.
"I've actually got about a dozen guitars although a lot of them are old horrors I bash about with at home. My favourite is the Yamaha SG 1000. I don't really go for 'old' guitars although I know you're supposed to. I've got a Twentieth Anniversary Les Paul but I hardly use it.
"The wonderful thing about Yamahas is that they're all identical. With just about any other make you have to search around to find a good one after you've decided what you want because they can vary so much. But I've had four or five now and I know I can send a roadie out to get me a new one when I need it and be sure that what he brings back will play perfectly. I don't have to go down and pick one out for myself.