|BOOMERANG - MAGAZINE COVERS|
|BOOMERANG - INTERVIEWS/ARTICLES|
|MELODY MAKER 1989|
|MELODY MAKER 07/10/89|
|MAKING MUSIC 11/89|
|RECORD MIRROR 11/11/89|
|MELODY MAKER 23/12/89|
|MELODY MAKER 24/02/90|
as two fifths of the Banshees or in their job as THE CREATURES, Siouxsie
and Budgie have never merged into the crowd. But why have they written a
song about it?
Siouxsie and Budgie make an elegant, eloquent duo. As two fifths of the Banshees they're often seen as the wicked witch and her trusty partner-in-crime, stirring up the charts with their unpredictable outbursts. As The Creatures, they push voice and percussion to the limit to make records that fly out of the radio to grab you warmly by the throat. . . that's if they make it past the censors.
Their latest magnum opus, 'Standing There', is no exception. It's been conspicuous by its absence from the airwaves, to the pair's disgust.
Siouxsie: "It's a shame because it should be heard by the people who tune into those moronic stations - that's what it's aimed at. It's very frustrating having your ammunition rendered useless. It's the same with the Banshees. With 'Arabian Knights' it was quite a thrill to get the word 'orifices' on the radio, and the same with the subject matter of 'Happy House', but maybe they've wised up and they just say no whatever we put out now!"
'Standing There' is certainly an upfront and quite alarming record, not only for what it says but also for the vehement manner of delivery. What is it about?
Siouxsie: "You can take it on various levels but it's aimed directly against people who don't have the guts to stand out from the crowd, who deceive themselves and others just to fit in. I hate the idea that even if they saw a kindred spirit they'd attack it because they recognise someone with a certain amount of freedom. Freedom of expression is very important and people build their own prisons, they are made afraid of being individual and self-expressive."
Budgie: "It's about the direct contact you get on the street, it's not just verbal abuse anymore. You see them up ahead and wonder, 'Should I cross over the road or turn around and go back?' They're making you think about regular things, you're walking round with your guard up all the time. You'll always get it if you look a bit different, they go 'Are you a boy or a girl, darling?' I used to get beaten up and pushed through shop windows in Liverpool in 1977, and nothing's changed."
Siouxsie: "It's not even something you can confront because it's a cowardly voice from a crowd. When you're an adolescent it can have a psychologically damaging effect on you because it makes you over-aware of yourself. Then there's that horrible mentality that if you're not dressed in a tent you're provoking some sort of sexual slander or abuse. Even something innocuous like 'Hello darling'... I can't stand it, I think it's really disrespectful from a complete stranger. It's like 'Well, you're low enough for me to say hello to even though I haven't been introduced.' The only way you cope with it is fantasising about them getting blasted away, meeting their maker and being turned into a worm!"
Siouxsie doesn't pull her punches, as she recently demonstrated on 'Juke Box Jury', bravely speaking her mind while all around her sat on the fence. While she and Budgie are forthright, animated and immensely likeable in real life, an impenetrable aura of mystique surrounds the Banshees. So it comes as quite a surprise that the new Creatures album 'Boomerang' recorded under conditions of hardship in rural Spain is unmistakably direct. The imaginative rhythms and melodies of many cultures carry words which are startlingly plain and stark.
Siouxsie: "The nature of the Banshees is much more defensive, a stance against the establishment. With The Creatures it's stripped down, one-to-one, it's got no armour to it and that's refreshing."
Budgie: "We've used things like steel drums and vibes for the first time, which gives that relaxing, comforting Caribbean sound. It's juxtaposed quite strangely with the sentiment of the songs."
Siouxsie : "I like the impact of something pleasant going with something shocking. I am a direct person, but I'm not without sensitivity! The image of me as a monster has been built up over the years though."
Don't you mind people being frightened of you?
Siouxsie: "It's good! I'd hate to be extremely approachable. From being very young and wanting to be my own person, I was quite happy if it did scare people. If I want to be approached, I'll let people know!"
The Creatures: A chic, smart and scary couple. And their records are chic, smart and scary too!
Lisa Tilston 11/11/89
Siouxsie and Budgie are back on form as
The Creatures. Ron Rom joins them on the road and discovers that they've
not as intimidating as people might imagine.
The prospect of meeting ice queen Siouxsie Sioux and fellow Creature, Budgie, backstage at Nottingham's Rock City, is a daunting one.
Siouxsie, the inspiration for a million suburban goths, has always seemed such a hard woman. One who doesn't take criticism lying down.
Yet tonight, The Creatures' live show (their third gig on a mini-tour) shatters a few myths. A relaxed, charismatic Siouxsie weaves across the stage with none of the intensity that made a Banshees gig so formidable.
She smiles and chats to the audience, while Budgie floats from drums to a variety of small instruments with weird sounding names.
After a third encore Siouxsie exits with "Thanks for not making us feel we are on a suicide mission". It indicates some of the nervous anxiety surrounding Creatures gigs.
After 12 years, Siouxsie and Budgie are still taking risks. They've abandoned the Banshees for an excursion with The Creatures, resulting in their best work for ages with 'Boomerang'.
This tour is to promote the current single 'Fury Eyes', which has been remixed from the album version into a groovier cut. And, though there's only two of them, they pull it off - Siouxsie filling the stage with sheer magnetism.
Later, tucking into vegetarian food, they're still buzzing with excitement.
Siouxsie comments: "Its so good to be playing venues this size again. It reminds me of the old days."
I ask why she went vegetarian.
"Well, we used to do gigs and afterwards there was a big meat spread which always seemed to be left and it seemed such a waste."
Do you feel healthier for it?
"Yeah, I do actually."
One day I'll meet a vegetarian who says they feel like shit. But not today. Siouxsie's beautiful, a cross between a silent movie actress and a she-devil.
She coats her lips with red gloss and we head for the hotel. Outside, fans snap photographs, Siouxsie signs autographs and accepts a gift.
"Oh you shouldn't," says Siouxsie.
"I should," claims the fan.
Another asks, "Budge, is it true that you had to stand naked in a sunflower field all days for the cover of 'Boomerang'?"
"I'm afraid so," replies Budgie.
Later, in the hotel bar, I tell them how daunting the prospect of meeting them was. Do they realise that they intimidate people?
Siouxsie: "I suppose so, but it is more of an entertainment than taking it seriously. It came about because of having to take that approach with people - because when we started it was a lot different, it was all about breaking down barriers and the shows were more like brawls.
"The violence was in the audience and it was in us as a band. A lot of energy comes from being wound up and being defensive, but now we try to get reactions from more positive things."
Maybe it was that edge that was missing from the Banshees' recent work, fuelling criticism that they had become as redundant as the dinosaurs they set out to replace. Whatever, these two took no notice, carrying on when most bands would have split.
With The Creatures' second album, 'Boomerang', the adventurism that was missing from the Banshees' work was evident. It encompassed a wide range of instruments and musical cultures to produce an almost supernatural record that shifted in moods from the ambient 'Fury Eyes' to the perverse 'Let's Go To Pluto'. It was the most positively received as well.
Siouxsie: "I'm suspicious of that because the criticisms of the Banshees have not always been right, merely fashionable. But 'Boomerang' was a real up for us."
So The Creatures are more than a pet project?
"Ahh, don't say pet project. Everyone does," jokes Siouxsie.
Budgie: "It has kind of expanded as we were doing it. The album was actually recorded in two weeks but the industry has slowed it down. The tour was never planned but when we did a couple of TV appearances around Xmas we realised that we could do this live."
Siouxsie: "This tour is the scariest things for us to do. When you're looking fear in the face it rekindles the old nerve ends, but I enjoyed the gig tonight."
'Boomerang' is also their most lyrically direct album. The track 'Standing There' is a vicious attack on sexism.
Siouxsie: "It didn't chart, though, because it didn't get played, which was a shame because it was a great subject for a pop record. I can imagine it offending a lot of Radio 1 programmers."
Did 'Standing There' arise from one particularly nasty incident?
Sioux: "Not really, it has always been there. It's just I thought, F***ing hell are brickies still shouting out? And one day I was so wound up by it I started fantasising what I would do with these people, and I thought I'd get some of my friends, find the guy who was the most verbal and follow him home."
So it brings out the vigilante in you?
Siouxsie: "Oh, yeah. That's how you fantasise because you are so frustrated at not being able to shout anything back. If you had a gun and shot him, it would be great to see the look on his friends' faces."
'Let's Go To Pluto' is quite a deranged green statement, and some quarters are trying to paint Siouxsie as old-punkette-turned-wise-earth-mother.
Budgie: "Yeah, but 'Let's Go To Pluto' was supposed to be real wacky, like 'Let's Twist Again Like We Did Last Summer'. It came through watching Patrick Moore. he was so intense about going there he said, If we ever managed to get there we would die because it's all methane gas!"
Siouxsie: "I wouldn't like to present it like, Hey, we're talking heavy shit here, but there was a definite thing that I wanted to write about, more worldly things that affect everybody."
'Willow' is a sad, languishing track.
Budgie: "Well, it's personal. It's kind of finding out about how my mother died as it was a black area and I hadn't realised what had happened until I saw my brother. He told me what went on with the family and I never really knew until a year afterwards, and I wrote it down directly after that."
'Boomerang' and the live gigs prove that Siouxsie and Budgie can still create impressive work. So where do the Banshees fit in?
Siouxsie: "Until recently, I wasn't sure that there was going to be anything else with the Banshees. It was something that I wanted to be left as an option, rather than saying that The Creatures was just a passing phase."
Budgie: "I think its inevitable that we'll go back to the Banshees, but we'll try and marry the two more successfully in the future."
Ron Rom 10/03/90
SIOUX THE SAVAGE BEAST
Back to bang the drum and scare the cat for the first time since 1983's Feast LP, THE CREATURES - aka - Siouxsie and Budgie Banshee - squawk 'We are all individuals!'
The first shock is Budgie's Northern accent. By the time I leave he 'a's are like pancakes, flying in and out of the conversation like flattening zeppelins.
The second shock is Siouxsie sitting to my left and - quite brazenly - eyeballing my question sheet. When I crush them to my chest and scream, she just flashes me one of those Blue Moon smiles and doesn't even blink. Come to think of it Sioux doesn't blink once in all the time I'm with her. You get the feeling if you were to lay her down her eyes would snap shut and look asleep like an expensive doll's. Anyway, one thing I can report - after all these years of speculation about wigs - it's definitely Real Hair.
Siouxsie... about the way you look?
How I look is how I like dressing... It's just a diversion and I resent people taking offence to it and attaching too much importance to it.
You give the impression of being very dominant and aggressive. Do you spend all your time stubbing cigarettes out on record executives, dragging them around the offices on the end of leads?
Similar stuff to that has happened. And it's happened for a reason. I get angry if I think someone's not doing what they should be in serving the group. After all, we deliver the music.
Whatever you think of the Queen Of Punk's musical ability - and after 12 years there's a lot to pick at, from the seven falling veils of The Banshees to the more instinctive, more diplomatic click and plunge that is The Creatures - you've got to admit that La Sioux always manages to Look The Part. To me and my non-Individual schoolfriends, she was the one to copy if you wanted to land a boyfriend called Sid. Our outfits became an unstylish riot of glued seams, fishnets and tie-dye. Our increasingly derivative hairstyles inspired comments like"'bogbrush"' and - the abhorred - "Toyah" in the Village Square.
We didn't love her but we liked her.
There was that black ice bone structure. A near immaculate construction that could suggest intelligence, danger, or sheer childish spite depending on which way Sioux chose to tilt her head for the camera, never mind that the songs - often sexy in a breathless, gossamer, double-exposed kind of way - were often disappointingly one dimensional. Siouxsie has always had a Martini Girl ability to look Right anytime, anyplace, anywhere.
Add to this the dress sense of a friendly Dominatrix and the ability to wear black blusher without looking like a coal miner returning home from a shift and one has to agree. Siouxsie is dramatically, consumptively, almost romantically cool. Not that her looks completely overshadow her strange falling-in-and-out-of-consciousness vocal style.
Wise people tread cautiously with new Banshees/Creatures fare. I was ready to mutilate 'Peepshow' (the last Banshees album). I reckoned it would sound something similar to overhearing your grandparent's having sex. I was wrong (and if - by chance - I was right it was brilliant inventive and very rude sex and I'll re-think their Christmas presents from now on).
When I think of The Banshees I remember the murdering sexuality of 'Melt', the monster-under-the-bed playfulness of 'Happy House', the retch and writhe of 'Peek-A-Boo'. When it comes to The Creatures their high points include 'Right Now' and now - 'Pity' and 'Killing Time' from the new 'Boomerang' album. 'Boomerang' is a complex work, dealing in everyday let's-have-a-chat-about-this-down-the-pub themes like different planets, love affairs with images, and the lust for revenge any woman over the age of 12 has for building site workers, ie 'Standing There' concerns itself with varying degrees of abuse from men to women (and some men), the bullying and the helplessness that inhabit this sore corner of everyday life. Budgie - who's a New Man - describes it as a Man Camp and a Human Camp and knowing which one you want to belong to.
Siouxsie says it's her way of dishing back something that's been tolerated for too long. All those overt and not-so-overt comments that you get just walking down the street.
Budgie: "And it's not a problem peculiar to women. I don't think."
Sioux: "No... men like Budgie get it too because they're a certain kind of man. They don't stand around in gaggles in pubs. They're probably considered quite effeminate... but I think with women it doesn't matter how you're dressed. If you wear a mini skirt or a sack. Men can find some way of throwing abuse at them. They do it regardless and I take that personally."
How personally? Have you ever been attacked or abused by a man?
"Yes I have... when I was much younger."
"I was attacked... sexually attacked...It's good that this sort of thing has become more talked about it means it's not so unusual anymore.
"You see when you're a child and it's not an overt rape... just some sort of contact, a confrontation with a grown up who shouldn't be there it can be confusing. And it can spoil everything. It can carry right on through puberty, adolescence, just growing up really.....it becomes something you accept, but - of course - you don't really.
The only way I coped with what was happening to me at the time was by becoming really aggressive. I've lost a lot of my aggression nowadays. I just won't waste my energy on thinking of physical things to do to people anymore. But before, the only way I used to survive was to imagine I was the guy from Taxi Driver. You know - 'talkin' to me punk?'... that kind of thing.
"Standing There" is for all those people - especially men who don't go 'Baaa' with all the rest of the sheep... and because there's a lot of girls out there who are going through what I went through... getting really frustrated and seriously wanting to do someone harm.
"It's dangerous. One day something will happen. There'll be someone who can't take it anymore walking around with a gun in her handbag and the next man who shouts something or approaches her she just turns around and blows his face off. And that's wrong because its romanticsing it, but I can still imagine a part of myself cheering.
"What goes on everyday needs to be accepted as fact. I hate it when you get that response - well, not all men are like that - I'm not saying they are... it's not only a feminist angle. It's a case of standing up for individuals.
Exactly how are you defining 'feminist'? Some people - especially female pop stars - seem to think it's another word for 'unsexy' or - whisper it - 'lesbian'?
"I know what you mean... and I can't feel comfortable with homophobics. They're very scary people. As are racists and sexists. There must be something psychologically wrong with these people.
But I do think labels are very misleading. I've certainly never thought of myself as being a Spokesperson For A Sex... A lot of women don't even want to be freed from the kitchen sink...It's like opening the door of a cage and the animal doesn't run."
Do you ever wake up in a cold sweat thinking you've dreamt it all... and really you're a menopausal housewife from Balham tied to a man who won't wash his own underwear?
(Now that is some laugh, like a handful of razor blades thrown down fro the heavens...)
"...Being a housewife...men who wont wash their own underwear. Now that to me is both dated and delightful. And surely a throw back to the old days when escaping from the aspidistra lifestyle of your parents was the first step to Finding Yourself. Nowadays - of course - you couldn't afford to live in the bloody suburbs even if you wanted to, and the call for mass individuality is getting fainter."
Except in this room
Individuality is a constant talking point with Siouxsie and Budgie. They probably feel comfortable with it, it reminds them of the good old days when everybody wanted the same thing - ie. to be different - 'Boomerang' is - to be fair - a very individual album, but a vivid sense of fear lurks behind the form of HELL... Other people may think of being roasted on spits... something like that but I think what you described is much worse.
Anathema to Sioux then is the neat gardens, the crazy minds behind the crazy paving, the evil vacuum of the suburbs. Everything, in fact, The Pet Shop Boys make all that money out of.
Budgie and I watch entranced as Sioux spits gleefully. "Rigidly pruned plants lead to rigidly pruned minds." and means it. Her very real fear of this subject is bravado, a masochistic jumping at shadows that could only have come from seasoned outsiders...
Do you get paranoid that people actually want to hurt you because - in their eyes at least - you are 'Different'?
"You might feel vulnerable but you don't feel particularly frightened... It's not a dramatic thing... Anyway, when you feel like that - you know, apart from it all - you can't afford to feel scared. You have to be confident in your individuality all the time. Otherwise, what's the point?..."
But when the masses find their strength in numbers what real defence has the loner?
"Just in feeling good, I suppose. It's all internal. Doing what you want, feeling how you want - not being afraid to stand up for yourself... People only mass together out of ignorance anyway. It's like a form of crowd hysteria."
"But Human Nature seems to be moving towards that mass instinct thing," says Budgie thoughtfully. "The emphasis is definitely being torn away from the individual... and you're powerless to stop it. Simply because it's become such a strain to keep yourself going... You get to the point where you're having to psyche yourself up just to go out..."
Perhaps the whole concept of The Individual has become outmoded... Take dance music... it's comradely, unpretentious, it has it's own almost unisex style and glamour. Everybody on the dancefloor is quite happy to feel part of the Mass and lose themselves. Is this such a bad thing? Most people who are desperate to stand out and be 'individuals' are such tossers anyway..
Sioux: "I believe very much in individuality..."
Budgie: "What is it you're saying?"
Just that I think there's an argument for the suppression of Individuality in some cases. Imagine if Wendy James had been shy? Think of The Peace?.. And surely you - of all people - were pissed off by the gangs of Professional Punks, the pretenders who would rant away at TV crews about being individuals. As if having green hair and bad teeth made you some sort of misunderstood genius...
Sioux: "But it was never a case of Individuality in that sense. Yes, there were people reading The Daily Express or whatever and finding out what the uniform was. They had their ten rules and regulations on how to Be A Punk. And yes it did look stupid... Real individuality is never stupid. It's something you always look for in people... You look for people who are just as outside of the game as you... And the more you travel the more you see and the more you realise that there are people like you around. And it's still a minority but it's great..."
What if, at the end of the day, you're just really Ordinary?
"I think everybody's unique... and it's only when people try to attack you for trying for something different that I even get bothered about it. It's their arrogance that I find most disgusting. They're so arrogant... If they can't comprehend it then it's not worth trying..."
Its like the woman says:
"Hey Creepos I'm talking to you/I've got a message to give to you, you've a got a problem...
Barbara Ellen 1989
Think of heat. Think of intensely searing heat coating the Spanish countryside while blasting the sky into the earth and scotching both into blinding whiteness. Into this heat blends the past and the future, as the setting of an ancient convent plays host to two modern music innovators, Siouxsie Sioux and Budgie, a pair of exotic Creatures dancing off from a pack of wild Banshees to create stunning new musical textures.
Back from their brutal stay in the Spanish heat, the two survivors of this sojourn are not only a pleasing sight to the eye but they're also eager to describe the atmosphere of the passionate, alien setting that inspired their latest album Boomerang. The album is a rich tautly elegant experience that veers from the feminist aggression of 'Standing There' to the playful tones of 'Speeding', often haunting the air with only the refined sounds of the dexterous Budgie on varied percussion and Siouxsie on vocals, making the album the luscious creation of a white hot merging of the Banshees' exotically erotic rhythms with its unique vocal soul.
"It was much like going camping," jests Siouxsie as she relaxes back on the couch, resplendent in a gauzy teal blue outfit. "Like doing a field recording. It was much more of a brutal place, just because it was steeped in so much history. It (Penuela) was a working ranch, an old convent steeped in religious iconography that the owner was a collector of. And also in conflict to this were these trophies from his bullfighting days of the 60's: it was a bit like some atrocity exhibition. It was quite an odd place, but very good for churning things around. The actual countryside... the light was so bright, you had to wear shades, it hurt not to wear shades," she describes with a remembered squint. "The white buildings, the stone everywhere and the sand... someone mentioned the songs reminded them of J.G. Ballard, like a science fiction film where they land on the dry sea bed, and it pretty much felt like that! There were fields of sunflowers but they looked alien and eerie, and the wheat fields... the wind when it whipped up went," as she imitates a harsh buzzing noise, her long fingers gracefully describing the motion. "It was completely desolate, very dry: not barren but very bleached looking as opposed to Hawaii which was so rich, so lush and green, everything dripping, where here was parched and dry."
Need a tall cool one yet? Siouxsie refers to Hawaii in contrast as it was there the Creatures created their initial album, the wild Feast, a complex affair of tribal rhythms and wailing vocals that came to be in 1982 and was released in 1983. There are many differences the span of years, locations, artistic differences, but in their minds what is the key factor in the difference?
Siouxsie holds with the atmosphere. "The situation of the two is extremely different. They're very conflicting places to be in, they aren't at all similar in what they inspired. The Feast album was quickly put together, it was the first time, that we had been anywhere exotic like that. We behaved in a very hyper way," she chuckles, "I remember when we came back to London we had everything and it had only been two weeks!"
"And we couldn't wind down," describes Budgie, "We were running around for another week afterwards going 'it's great, it's great, we've done it!" he laughs.
"We almost felt like we hadn't done it, it was done so quick," remembers Siouxsie. "And I think everything went down as we thought of it. As with Boomerang we gave ourselves a couple of days," she grins with dry humour.
"It's almost like after all these years we grew and and wanted to be a bit more prepared... we considered things a bit more," notes Budgie as Siouxsie, adds, "And we picked somewhere: Europe, and we took a mobile desk with us so we wouldn't be in the studio."
These two have an excellent rapport with each other, one following the other's thoughts without hesitation, with the enthusiastic Budgie visibly restraining himself at times just waiting for Siouxsie to finish. The rapport obviously came in good steed out in the makeshift studio setting in the Andalucian fields. But pity poor Mike Hedges, the Creatures/Banshees producer, unknowing technical victim on this exotic "camping" trip.
"Oh, he had his work cut out for him!" emphasises Siouxsie with a wicked grin.
"In Hawaii we had an assistant and another guy running around, but in Spain it was just the three of us. We had some technician out just to set up, and then everybody left!" chuckles Budgie. "If anything went wrong Mike had to sort all that out before we could work. So we actually only recorded 18 out of the 30 days we were there!"
"I don't think Mike realised everything he had to do. It was all very basic and the tension was just that: oh God, it's gonna blow up any minute!" Siouxsie declares with dramatic emphasis. "We were confronted with the crudeness of the situation we were in but again it worked to create something different."
Budgie's mouth quirks into another playful grin as he jests, "We've kept our distance from him since we got back!" as Siouxsie bursts into laughter, nodding in full agreement. "Yeah! It's almost like now I don't want to see you two for another year! But no hard feelings!"
"He went right into other projects but it's taken us ages to digest what happened," relates Budgie. "It's not that you just come out of it with a bit of a record, you come out with a mass of emotions and mixed feelings, and we still have to figure out what went on."
Siouxsie: "It's a lot to take in, and then you replay things when you're back and go did this really happen?"
Budgie adds, "And you end up doubting everything: at first it's all great and then the doubts set in. And then things begin to develop again in a different light."
Siouxsie points out, "Also, when we got back to London we decided that some of the tracks needed something else."
These exotic interview participants are such excellent conversationalists that topics come up effortlessly. This was a point I had in my mind, given that there is instrumentation on the album that goes beyond what happened with just the two Creatures in Spain.
"Yes, we called in the brass players," notes Siouxsie. "They sort of put a bridge between what we did last as the Creatures and somehow linked it to the present day. And just a few things we enhanced, and we also mixed it: we didn't mix it out there. We just spent three weeks back in the studio on that."
Budgie notes, "The record was like two halves in the making."
But there's the magic in it... Boomerang is seamless, as the parts come together without songs declaring their mixed origins. The flavour from the initial experience saturated the whole with a glowing warmth.
"Yes, they came together, the two physical working areas," agrees Budgie.
"Well, all the drumbeats to the songs done in London were done in Spain," reasons Siouxsie, explaining, "'cos we had to work like the devil 'cos the last few days there they started processing the wheat they had collected and there were power surges! So it was," as she once more gives a demonstration, imitating a buzzing vibrating machine, "like Frankenstein but the machine was going bzzzt 'cos the lightening wasn't hitting right!" she laughs. "So we said let's quickly finish and let's not do anything crucial otherwise we may lose it all!"
"So we did the photographs instead and nearly died!" deadpans Budgie, "110 degrees at half past ten in the morning!"
So those wicked Creatures not only tortured their poor producer but they also took their premier photographer Anton Corbjin through a little hell on earth.
"Oh poor Anton! He came out and he's always worked in black and white, he's never liked colour. And we had such a shock cause he's going on 'oh yes, I want to work in colour, I've discovered colour'. And it was great, as he had started painting and had a good eye which was a surprise. We thought'd it be a shame if he dulled the colours, but instead they were almost poster-like," enthuses Siouxsie.
Here he is with a bleached, parched setting saturated with intense light perfect for high contrast black and white and he wants to use colour which prefers dull light! But the shots do look very rich... so that's the two of you on the front cover in those alien sunflower fields!
"Yes, those are the real sunflower fields!" grins Siouxsie as Budgie describes, "The colours are like just blue, yellow, the colour of us and green flower stems."
"But you couldn't see those colours 'cos you were like that," as Siouxsie screws her face up in an elaborate squint, "all the time! But we saw the proofs and went great colours!"
"It filled your field of vision - phenomenal acres and acres of sunflowers and massive blocks of colour, all going white due to the sun," emphasises Budgie.
I certainly am glad I have a soda before me! I can feel the grit in my throat and the glare in my eyes! But was all the music done in this barren setting or were there reference points drawn up in England? It was mentioned earlier that time was given beforehand on this album for some pre-production.
"It was pretty much done there," begins Siouxsie but Budgie interrupts politely to sidetrack. "My lyrical input to me was something I've had in notebooks and on little jots of paper and due to having time and being able to think clearly I actually made an effort to do something with them, as some of them have been around for six year. I made the effort to control the words and express myself that way as well. That was a big deal for me," he states with justified pride. "So in that sense for me it feels like a long time growing album for me. It's got a lot more depth to it."
Siouxsie nods, commenting, "I think that is why it is so diverse, much more diverse than Feast. I just rediscovered Feast, and enjoy playing it. And it's very much of the place that we were. I think it soaked up a lot more."
Feast is far more unbalanced, almost out of control with chants and primitive rhythms.
"It goes with where we were, that exoticness about it, whereas this is more exposed, more like an exposed nerve, very glaring," is Siouxsie's point.
"And this setting allowed us to find those feelings between us and get them out," reveals Budgie.
So anything that was done in England aside from the lyrical bits were mainly a sorting out of ideas. "Emptying out the brain!" agrees Siouxsie as she drops her head to one side, pantomiming her brain falling out with a soft plopping noise. It is a wonderfully curious gesture coming from someone who always seems so ...elegant!
Budgie takes the description further after grinning at Siouxsie's actions. "We set up drums and got a drum machine clicking and a mike in the middle of the room set on tape and I let the machine go and altered tempos and rhythms. There weren't too many words at that point but ideas mainly, phrases and melodies. And then we played that tape back and worked on top of that." He is clearly excited with his descriptions. Siouxsie relaxing with a smile as he rapidly continues.
"'You' was an idea which came out of Siouxsie singing to a taped feed with the speakers loud. She had a little dictaphone thing with a compressor microphone. So each time Siouxsie went "you" the sound," as he imitates Siouxsie singing, concluding, "it was like Captain Beefheart!"
"I said I really like that, as far as voice recording goes!" agrees Siouxsie. "You think God, that's awful, it's all condensed but I really like the sound of it."
It turned out perfectly on the album, being so tense and eerie, conveying an obsessive quality.
"We wanted to retain that quality, and it's things like that where we retained the initial impetus of the idea," declares Budgie.
Recording in special settings obviously had an heavy impact on the Creatures. Both Siouxsie and Budgie agree that it would be impossible to drag the Banshees into such unique recording situations.
"We found it difficult to keep everyone within 20 miles of London even with writing Peepshow!" ridicules Siouxsie, she falling practical. "And actually we would never be allowed into that situation with guitars and amplifiers. When we described what we were and how we would do it they thought 'oh yes, no problem', because there was no element of 'what, a group?' They didn't want that kind of thing there, but as soon as they realised it was only voice and drums..."
Budgie can't help but interrupt here. "But they got a shock! They thought it was like bongo drums! And I arrived with this 22 piece drum kit, a huge thing which is SO LOUD, and there was no sound proofing, it was just a stone barn, so it was phenomenally loud! They probably heard it 20 miles away over in the next village!" he laughs.
They probably thought it weird thunder rolling across the sunflower fields! Siouxsie grins, acknowledging, "But people were really great, although they were very curious."
"But then technically..." begins Budgie, Siouxsie exclaiming, "We found it hard technically with just two people..."
Budgie cuts her off, pointing out, "But definitely there are some ways of working which we could carry through, like the new positivity in the way we approached things now, which we started with Through The Looking Glass and carried into Peepshow, really the kind of impatience, of wanting to retain the germ of an idea..." as he laughs, "Like a wheat germ, not a virus! The smallest first idea you get, and to try and hold onto that as much as possible. It happened with 'Peek-A-Boo' and that really benefited from that. And 'Burn Up' as well, the essence of the beginning of the song, although..." as he looks a bit put off, "the group always wants more and more."
That is a main difference with the Creatures and the Banshees... the simplicity in the direction and the music itself being less layered and entangling.
"Right! And if you've got a guitar... and I'm not just picking on the guitarist 'cos it always seems to be the poor guitarist getting it with us..." as he begins to laugh, Siouxsie snickering along with him, waving for him to get on with it. "But even I've found when I played most of the instruments on the record... I did a marimba part which I was quite proud of and Siouxsie went 'Well, it doesn't really need that right there... loose the marimba part!' and I went 'Hold on, I spent two days on that!'" he self-mocks with an indignant bristle. "So I can understand what a guitarist can feel like when all he's got is guitar and the song is written on bass and piano and we decide 'we don't need guitar on this one!'"
Siouxsie wants to clarify, stating, "Or more importantly, we don't need it right there!"
"So the guitarist goes 'Well, what am I supposed to do!' That's the hardest thing to deal with and you know it's going to upset a little bit. But you eventually realise it's for the better of the song. And it's easier to realise that when it's just the two of you, as you both have the idea together. That's the hard thing about the group, when you stop being the four piece that plays together." he remarks, "when you start to be a bit more subtle, to do things in a simpler way that's when it becomes less bravado and much more subversive."
So that translates into the Creatures are more subversive than the Banshees. An interesting point. And from the sound of what you're telling me the album was recorded very quickly, with just the two of you holding onto those initial ideas.
Siouxsie nods, admitting, "Well, I'm very impatient, I'm forever saying 'come on, come on, come on' I really am... that's something I need to get better at, because everyone needs to take it easy."
Budgie can't resist this one, he murmuring with sweet sincerity. "Oh don't change, please don't change: its drives us all mad but don't change!" as Siouxsie playfully aims for him with a clenched fist, laughing as he continues, "The only time that Siouxsie is not impatient is in the morning."
Ah ha! I knew there had to be a time when she turned down that fierce energy! She defends, "I just think that... I mean once I get up I go! I'm up till three or four in the morning! But I'm not the sort of person that soon as the light has risen I'm la-la-la... not me!"
Budgie keeps up his gentle needling. "Not me... I bounce out! You can't keep me still!"
Siouxsie gives him a fond smile, declaring, "He's like Tigger," laughing as he begins to bounce about, chanting, "Let's go, let's go!"
I love watching these two act like little kids. But since we have a genuine pause I should act business-like and bring up something relevant. Would the Creatures have suffered a further set back if the Banshees had come back for another few months of touring America as planned? I won't go into why they didn't come back because it isn't appealing: record company politics and that rot.
Siouxsie claims, "I sort of forced the Creatures to happen. But also, there were a few things we were wanting to do and they sort of fell through. We wanted to film Peepshow, cause of what it looked like."
This time I am the one doing the interrupting... don't say it, Siouxsie, that marvelous spectacle never made it to film?
A grim frown appears as she describes, "Well, we had a great live in concert thing for Radio One, and it sounded great, and we said can we use that, and they said no!"
"That was because we were going to erect the stage posthumously and do a show but maybe what we'll do is the next time we go out well combine elements of that and other ideas we have..." muses Budgie hopefully.
A bitter glance from Siouxsie lends doubt to his words. "I don't know, it's really a shame. I was so up for it being documented... 'cos it was a good show and in reality we probably won't go back to it," she states resignedly. "It's very frustrating, to come up against a brick wall like that. Suddenly after that they said yes we could use it but for ridiculous money and we couldn't afford it! It was mean, really mean!" she complains angrily.
That is really mean, considering it is the bands artistry they taped.
"There was a big management fuck-up as well at that point," admits Budgie.
That sounds typical. But hopefully the Creatures own tour will be more faithfully documented. Budgie describes the intricate technical end of his part onstage for a few minutes. He begins to bounce anew, finally admitting, "I'm getting nervous already!".
"Oh yeah, Tigger's just raring to go!" mocks Siouxsie playfully, thumping imaginary drums on the couch for emphasis.
I wonder what other Banshees think of this tour, one main Banshee in particular. They both laugh, Budgie mock whispering "I don't think Steve knows yet! No, seriously, he was prepared for it. I spoke to him over Christmas and he thought that people would want this."
"Also to do it with just the two of us...again, that's the right way to do it. And it's possible so... Budgie had met up with someone who's taught him how to use sequencers in a very responsive way," describes Siouxsie.
"And it's great coming into all that technical area... we used a bit of it on Peepshow, to add to the brass parts, and it's allowing me to grow with it," Budgie explains.
The Creatures are exciting for Budgie in that not only are his lyrics utilised but what a responsibility his job is onstage! It's a challenge!
He shrugs lightly with a smile, reasoning, "But nobody said oh, you have to use all this stuff, 'cos I've always steered clear of it before. Until a need arose to use it, and you want to use it, 'cos you know how you're going to use it, and not let it use you. So I am really up for it, and it will be good! It will be more like Suicide than the Pet Shop Boys!"
We chat about Suicide for a bit, as they opened for the Banshees on their last British dates. Budgie manages to go from how bad the weather was to how bad the British press is in a dexterous feat of conversation, he finally stabilises his ideas. "We wanted to go straight back to America 'cos we loved it so here, he claims. "And for example one of the first things you said was how different this album was from Feast, whereas in England some of the journalists came at us with 'so, it's pretty much the same as the first one, isn't it'. They didn't even listen!" he decries with vehement disgust, his annoyance mounting as he exclaims, "It's so dead! No incentive, no feedback. There's only a handful of journalists who really have anything to say and there's no outlet for it. Radio is terrible!"
"They're just so wrapped up in their own little star trips... it's all very boring. They always go for the surface, that's as far as it goes," dismisses Siouxsie.
Well, here comes a topic that isn't just skin deep. Sorry Budgie, this one's largely for Siouxsie. Her stance on women has been most interesting throughout the years. In initial songs like 'Hong Hong Garden', 'Red Light', 'Circle', 'Obsession' or 'Carnival' women's traumas were documented and described, but now with 'Peek-A-Boo' and 'Standing There' there's a strongly accusing tone, with a more aggressive stance taken.
"Well, I suppose I should!" she declares. "With more women being involved in music there's almost a resurgence of women singing songs that are written from a male point of view: the men are back writing for the women. Although there is a great section of women doing it for themselves, the thing is now, with dance music, this mini-skirted image, very transparent. And with the younger female singers, and this is what is really lacking in them, they're very soft. I won't name names but there's a bunch of new bands with female fronting singers who are very fey. It's the thing where they should make me look like a ninny! They should be really socking something into someone's face and really assert themselves like 'we're the new overlords'. There should be some pride going on here. But again they're playing the female game and I think it's a real shame.
That's why I like someone like Michelle Shocked and there are other women that are doing good things but they're not in the pop context."
That's all too true, I won't name any names either but there are too many clichťd female images for the letchs to drool on.
"And I love pop music, and I thought, say with a song like 'Standing There', it should be a pop song that has an onslaught!" is her strong statement.
"It's a battle in itself," muses Budgie.
"And with 'Peek-A-Boo' it should be a pop song and it should be heard on the charts, not just on an album where people already in the know will agree with it," she continues.
It's like you discussed before about indie bands, how they relate to the same audience over and over without taking their message to the public at large. But that development in your lyrics is obvious, with your frustration making these songs quite affective.
"I think I thought, well, dammit, someone has to do it! And I am still shocked. When you travel a lot and you return to London you're not prepared with it reverting back to the same thing you were trying to escape. Coming back from America the last time I was going out shopping and I was getting abuse screamed at me just because I was a girl not walking around with a sack on my head. And they think everyone is there to attract some comment on how sexually provocative they look and I said fuck this!" she spits out, her voice breaking in anger. "I was so angry, God, it really pissed me off! And there was an instant when my cab had stopped at a traffic light and over the road were these villains and I thought 'why should I be taking this' so I started yelling 'fuck you!'" and she demonstrates her scenario complete with hand gestures. "The cab driver went 'hey that was great what you did!'
"And I thought this is something that needs to be said, and they really need to be made that small. Don't make a big deal but let them know they're so pathetic," she sneers.
Ridicule always works best. That's why the context of the video for 'Standing There' is so fascinating: setting it in Spanish culture which is incredibly repressive and degrading towards independent women.
"Yes, but the amusing thing is in the dance it's very equal... it's almost like the women are practically beating their chests and going I'm going to come there and bite your nose off!" she laughs, lightening up her serious mein.
If Siouxsie begins stamping those heels and clicking her nails in a Spanish fury the unwary male who dares to heckle her better run for cover with his hand over his nose! And elsewhere! These Creatures mean business!
Sandra A. Garcia 04/90
THE BATTLE OF
WITH THE RELEASE OF LAST YEARíS CRITICALLY-ACCLAIMED ALBUM, ĎBOOMERANGí, SIOUXSIE AND BUDGIE FOUND A NEW LEASE OF LIFE. NOW, FOR THE FIRST TIME, THEY TAKE THEIR EXOTIC COCKTAIL OF MARACAS, MASCARA AND MORTALITY ON THE ROAD. THE STUD BROTHERS TALK TO THEM ABOUT FRIGHTENING MEN, STRONG WOMEN AND THE DIFFERENCES BETWEEN THE TWO.
"IíVE NEVER KNOWN WHAT TO DO WITH MY nieces, whether to sign their cards ĎAuntie Siouxsieí or sign them as my brotherís sister, which is a different spelling. So, what am I to them? Thereís a split because you are both things. Itís maybe like being a cripple with crutches rather then a cripple inside: you have a visible split personality. Most people donít have that excuse."
Weíre talking to Siouxsie about the problems or otherwise of being Siouxsie. Weíve met at Nomis Studios, buildings that are not only offensively inaccessible, but also enormously inhospitable since theyíre normally packed with wall-to-wall arseholes.
Today, Saturday, thereís just us, the receptionist, Siouxsie Sioux and her fellow Creature, Budgie. Siouxsie looks every inch the Spanish aristocrat, Budgieís somewhat less convincing. Not only is he peroxide blond (neither characteristically Spanish, nor particularly aristocratic), heís also wearing a white top decorated with whimsical red flowers. It looks rather like kiddiesí pyjama suits looked before kiddies took to favouring pyjamas plastered with heavily-armed spaceships.
We comment on how pleasingly arsehole-free the place is.
"Musicians donít work on Saturdays," says Budgie.
We tell Budgie that on our three visits to this place weíd had to duck into doorways as troops of people weíd offended marched past, armed with dangerous-looking guitar strings. The canteen where weíre sitting now offered a particularly displeasing vista in the form of the evermore wide and spivvy Spandau, the increasingly bizarre and "raunchy" Lloyd Cole and even the largely unknown Nick Lowe. Consequently weíd never previously chanced the canteen.
THE Creatures are in Nomis to rehearse for their forthcoming tour. Itíll be just Siouxsie, Budgie and a lot of staggeringly complicated machinery. Budgie likes that. "Musicians talk to one another. Machines do that too, but they donít talk back."
Again we comment on the dearth of musicians. Though we hate most of what they do, thereís something deliciously simple about their presence. We walk in and know exactly who they are. Even more extraordinary, they know exactly who they are.
Most of us arenít that lucky. Most of us are what other people say we are. We know ourselves chiefly through hearsay, which is pretty much what weíre here to discuss. See, only the very few, the very privileged, the very mad or the very, very weird have resolved to be themselves. Pop, when itís behaving as it ought, elevates that sense like nothing else can. Pop, by virtually annihilating uncertainty, reduces identity to image and elevates image to godhead. Lloyd Cole is Lloyd Cole in much the same way as Coke is Coke. This is marvellous for observers, but considerably less so for those who suffer this reduction. That was one of the last of Morriseyís perceptive remarks, that he found it increasingly difficult to be Steven, but easier and easier to be Morrisey. Shortly afterwards he slipped into hideous self-parody.
One of the things that mayíve prevented Siouxsie from doing something similar is her radical and deep-seated refusal to be what others would have her be. By consistently realising the tension between what is and what could be, by playing upon uncertainty, in fact, by making uncertainty a part of her image, she has, over a 13-year career, been whatever she has chosen to be. She can be as convincing as a Creature as she is a Banshee.
THE fact that The Creaturesí "Boomerang" is glorious helps of course. The album has us thinking of Christopher Isherwood on acid, Philip K Dick at My Lai, Myra and Ian (the Brady Bunch), maracas, mascara and mortality. But oddly not of heat and dust and blood which was apparently its avowed intention. Still, all of itís with good tunes.
Siouxsie seems coolly un-flattered. She appears not to trust us. Do we blame her? Yes we do.
You must be very proud?
"Yeah, Iím proud of it, because Iím surprised it came out the way it did. Or some reason, I donít know why, we did it in the hardest way possible by going to Spain, into an uncontrolled situation with uncontrolled equipment. It was a bit like going on a camping holiday for the first time, realising what lifeís like without a bathroom.
It was received a lot more favourably than the last Banshees effort.
"Thatís to be expected because the banshees have a long history and I think people are a lot less tolerant of something thatís been around for a long time, irrespective of what itís doing."
Does that annoy you?
"Partly, but it doesnít surprise me."
"Boomerang" is a rather miserable affair, isnít it...lyrically?
"Miserable?" she questions. To her credit she doesnít quite recoil at the suggestion.
"Good word to use there."
Okay, so it wasnít the most original description weíd ever used. But really, such sarcasm.
"I donít think either of those words apply. Thereís a lot on there thatís been wanting to get out for a long time. I think the lyrics are optimistic in their very directness."
Is that "direct" as far as youíre concerned, or as far as the listenerís concerned?
"Obviously I canít know what the listeners getting from it so it has to be as far as Iím concerned."
"Boomerang" does have moments of real directness as with "Standing There" and "Killing Time" that deal with sexism and lost love respectively. On the whole, though, itís a misty affair - not woolly, not some impossible quagmire, simply blissfully, maybe wilfully abstract, a bit like hearing a poem read in a foreign language. Everything is as it ought to be, but nothing is sure.
But, since weíre feeling difficult, we tell them their writingís deliberately vague anyway.
"Well, um, I feel itís more direct."
THE perpetually chivalrous Budgie steps in, asking us in his own disarmingly polite way to be more specific, rather difficult since weíre dealing with what we perceive to be often deliberate obtuseness. We mention "Pluto Drive".
"Well, thatís hardy miserable or dark," says Siouxsie, "thatís pretty camp, pretty loose."
In "Pluto Drive" Siouxsie says, "I want to turn blue under an alien sun" and later, "Maybe Iíll wait till the world turns to meet its plutonium fate". This suggests to us a yearning for death and/or a pessimistic belief in the certainty of nuclear holocaust.
"But itís not dark. I mean, I find peopleís preoccupation with death really hilarious."
Itís hardly a laugh a minute though, is it?
"No, I think the lyrics of songs like ĎPityí and ĎManchildí are getting out my feelings of disgust and horror at things thatíve happened to people, affected people. We havenít actually talked about the songs to anyone in Britain, so Iím forgetting that nothingís been documented yet. ĎManchildí, I suppose, is a human interest story. Itís a story based in Columbia before the drugs cartel, itís about a small child caught up in this feud, this vendetta between his village and a rival village. In a minor way, it was all about drug trafficking, but it ended with the stronger village wiping out the whole male population of the other village till there was just one boy left called Nelsito. It was understood that he would live Ďtil he was at least 18 before he was assassinated, but he was shot on the way to school."
When you hear a story like that, are you moved to pity or just impressed by the romance of it?
"It is romantic, but thereís more to it. If you donít know the background behind it, itís just a very good yarn, itís unbelievable. But if you do know the facts, itís an example of the waste thatís going on, thatís gone on around the world."
"Basically," explains Budgie, "íManchildí is a case of taking a news story and using it as a vehicle to express something youíre already feeling. Itís telling a simple story to sum up personal feelings briefly."
Do you feel bitter when you write a song like that?
"I donít know if itís bitterness," says Siouxsie. "Itís just that I have a stronger compulsion to write about something like that, rather than something Iím happy about or contented with, something that isnít isolated like that."
THE bitterest moment on "Boomerang" is "Standing There", an attack unequivocal to the point of viciousness on men and their many sins. The song and how it came to be were more than comprehensively covered in Steve Sutherlandís piece on The Creatures last October. What weíre more interested in is how much a persona as forbidding as Siouxsie can suffer at the hands of men (poor, weak mortals).
Have you suffered?
"In an everyday sense, yes. More so than professionally."
Itís difficult to believe that many of those adjectives applied to women could be applied to you. Your whole demeanour, onstage and otherwise, suggests youíre very self-contained, thoroughly invulnerable.
"Well, thatís a good thing to seem, especially when you feel threatened."
Do men have the nerve to threaten you?
"Yeah, if thereís enough of them. I always think that when you pass a situation like a lone brickie or something, you know nothingís going to happen. But you know that that tosser, with just a few others like him, is gonna feel stronger, and just because they feel that power theyíre gonna use it, abuse it."
Do you think all men are sexist?
"Um, no I donít. Iíd say that two generations ago a lot more men were brainwashed into being sexist. Now I think the segregation of the sexes is far less rigid, people are less willing to play to sexual stereotypes."
BUDGIE, who initially appears to be merely diplomatic, is more likely graced by a generous sense of reason. He considers every question and blunts many answers with a discursive, "Iím thinking that..." Heís an empiricist rather than a theorist, an English liberal in the very best sense.
Are all men sexist, Budgie?
"I'm thinking about that."
Are you a sexist?
"Am I a sexist? Iím just thinking in terms of the palliness, the mateyness of lads and the men together which seems something peculiar to men, the way it can be jovial and then quickly turn to something quite the opposite. A smirk and a nudge and a look can suddenly turn into aggression."
Men are certainly more aggressive than women, it may be to do with social conditioning.
"Yeah," agrees Siouxsie, "Iím sure a lot of menís aggression is down to that."
"I mean, there are aggressive women," says Budgie. "In Liverpool there are aggressive women who go round in a group and be aggressive."
"I mean I could be considered aggressive," says Siouxsie. "More aggressive than a lot of men, but thatís through coping with the situation. I mean, when youíre in a corner what does someone do? You either sink into the corner or you lash out."
Do you think that on a one-to-one basis you frighten men?
Do you enjoy that?
Isnít that as bad as the burly brickie frightening women?
"No, because itís always one-to-one. I donít hang around in a gaggle of women and do that to people. Thatís what I despise about the situation weíre talking about, itís always a group picking on one person. And itís not just women that itís aimed at, itís more to do with power-playing than sexism, and thereís certain men who donít fit into that gang of men who get the same treatment."
Could you define the power that you exercise over people?
"Um, no. Iíve never really been a self-analyst."
Do you think men are frightened of strong women?
"Only weak men, only really insecure men. I also think itís interesting that strong women arenít aggressively strong. Theyíre just not content to be put down or kept down."
Would you say there are definite differences between men and women?
"Um, I suppose men can drink more, the pelvic bone's different. Suppose men tend to like working with machines more than women, women are pretty scared of machinery, whereas men arenít. But then again, you donít know if thatís just conditioning."
"Or is it a natural persuasion you already have?" asks Budgie. "You asked if I was a sexist or does one just make sexist comments during the course of what oneís doing, like saying, ĎA woman can do that far better than a guyí. The natural thing is that the woman is the typist, but that role doesnít always hold true. But then maybe thereís something about the chemical make-up of the female brain that makes them better organisers of certain things."
So youíd say there are differences between men and women and, more, that theyíre genealogically determined.
"Well," says Siouxsie, "I think you have to keep open. The worst thing is when people make their mind up about something and are unbending about it."
BUDGIE scratches his chin. Itís not an easy question and thereís no definite answer, merely opinions - unacceptable to an empiricist. To presume that the sexes have genetically predetermined roles (that men are, biologically, better housewives and nurses) is to play into the hands of the most reactionary forces. But to presume the opposite, that the differences between the sexes are merely the result of rigorously enforced social construct, is to deny "womanliness" (that women are by nature less violent, more co-operative, more caring etc.) something that, in recent interviews Siouxsieís seemed to have placed an inordinate amount of emphasis on. So Budgie scratches his chin and we wonder if heíll step in and untie a few knots.
"I think," he says, "both male and female are in a position of power and are both able to abuse that position in the same way. A woman at the head of a corporation will claim theyíre not sexist just because thereís a woman at the head of the corporation. And maybe thatís just as bad because itís like saying theyíve done their bit and they donít want to do anymore."
No, the knots tighten. Do you ever find yourself treating women as objects?
Thereís a long indelicate pause. Budgie decides to answer by example, presumably believing that examples are the only honest answers.
"I spent the last year at art school working with a life model every day, which was studying the female form for a year. I think after a year of doing that, I found beauty in natural things, it was difficult not to look at things analytically. A lot of guys came in because it was looking at a naked woman all day, the window-cleaners would be up at the windows saying things. So you had this real crazy thing where you knew what was going on and you knew you were a man as well but you were there to learn and you built up a relationship with this woman as well because you were working in tandem."
"Thatís different though," says Siouxsie. "Youíre looking beyond the surface sexuality, youíre actually being interested in the subject."
"Yeah," agrees Budgie, "but I found it hard after doing that because I used to get accused of staring at people when I was looking at them. I suppose it was hard to discern whether I was looking at them or looking at them."
THATíS not really what weíre getting at. Life drawing looks for curves, lines, shadows, itís not a politically loaded gesture. What weíre really asking is, do you mentally undress girls on tubes?
Siouxsie gives us a fierce black look, the sort The Sunís Piers Morgan must by now be used to.
"Do you?" she asks.
Sometimes yes. Probably. Definitely.
Well, donít women do that?
"Well, I suppose I have done, but it would have had to have been someone I was interested in, curious about, and that wouldnít be every time I went on the tube. It would be a rare occurrence."
Budgie, do you do it?
Siouxsie laughs at this in an uncharacteristically smutty way. "Do you do it?" she repeats.
Uh, yes, an unfortunate double-entendre.
"Come on, own up," says Siouxsie.
"What, in a kind of daydream, reverie kind of way?" asks Budgie.
"Well, not with forethought and certainly not for a long time."
"Maybe," says Siouxsie, "if you do have to do that kind of thing, if there is something there and you canít deny that itís there, there has to be an outlet. I suppose itís okay as long as you do it personally, as long as you donít involve someone who doesnít want to be involved."
The "you" in interviews normally refers to unspecified persons or people in general. On this occasion, we get the distinct impression Siouxsie has us in mind. Itís "you" as in "you poor perverts". We could be wrong.
"Itís weird," says Budgie. "That sort of thing seems to depend on your mood. It doesnít happen so much when youíre off your guard, more the opposite, itís like being so open to your subconscious, itís almost like watching yourself falling asleep. Itís interesting what you read into peopleís body language, you think, íI wonder why they did thatí when they shift in a particular way. All these confusing things are coming at you, like, íIs that a threatening gesture? Is that as aggressive gesture?í And I wonder if people who are a danger to themselves or a threat to other people are just people who get all those things wrong, who read all those signals in a different way."
Do you consider yourselves good judges of character?
"Well, itís nice when you find you werenít far off the mark," says Budgie.
"I donít know," says Siouxsie. "You find when you make snap judgements of people you can shock yourself by saying, íI hate that personí for no reason and you almost chastise yourself and tell yourself youíre being really unfair. And then time can go by and you find you were right all the time. Thatís just a form of instinct, those feelings are very primitive, to do with the survival instinct and itís something that has almost been beaten out of us, relying on those instincts."
"Donít you find you get better at it?" asks Budgie.
"Yeah," says Siouxsie. "If you get burnt when you donít adhere to those instincts then you tend to learn when to bring them into operation."
Itís interesting that when Siouxsie thinks of first impressions she immediately imagines hating as opposed to liking or even indifference, surely the most common of all reactions.
Do you find it easy to hate?
"No, I find it easy not to be grey about people."
Is that a good thing?
"It probably is a good thing, because if I did feel grey about things Iíd never get anything done."
Do you have a certain type of friend, is there an obvious similarity between them all, a common denominator?
"Yeah and I suppose the main similarity is that theyíre all really into what theyíre doing. Iím not really interested in people who are just doing something to fill in time, to just get by. I really hate people whose attitude is, íThis is better than doing nothing, I supposeí."
On "Boomerang" thereís a track called "Killing Time". In it, you seem to be advocating a sort of calculated inertia, a waiting for the right lover.
"Thatís right in one way, but it doesnít have to be a person, it could be waiting for the right moment, or the right thing to do."
But do you admire that, is it better to do nothing than fill in time?
She clears her throat.
"Um yes. I believe in being selective in what you do, but I also think you have to work at ideals. It sounds like a contradiction, but I believe you have to strive for things and though sometimes the striving may not seem constructive and may be uninteresting, often the experience is still important."
Itís difficult for most people though, isnít it? You two have a vocation, most people go through life not knowing what on earth they should be doing...
"I donít know," says Siouxsie. "Iím not sure if I believe thatís true."
"I think," says Budgie, "the older you get, the more difficult it becomes to understand other peopleís motivations. Iím sure other people donít understand our motivation for doing this, even I find it difficult to consider it just a job because it doesnít really work like that. I suppose most people must think itís really glamorous."
Is it glamorous?
"Well, whatís glamour? Is Hollywood glamorous? It is on screen, but step outside of Pinewood Studios and it doesnít look it."
Are you a glamorous group?
Siouxsie gives this seemingly undue consideration.
"If you put us up against Phil Collins I suppose we are."
"I donít think weíre glamorous," says Budgie.
You do take an awful lot of care over the way you present yourselves.
"Yes," says Siouxsie, "but thatís just being aware of the image youíre projecting. Dressing down is just as much of an image."
ONCE again she seems to have us in mind, the scruffy perv in the leather and the fashionable dumb-looking skinhead.
"Yeah, dressing down can be an image, it can be considered image. Personally I enjoy dressing up, I enjoy the ritual of an event whereas some peopleís idea of a good time is to have a good time, but in their jeans and not doing anything."
So effort makes something more special.
"I think the whole thing we do," says Budgie, "what weíve always done, the privilege we have, is to manufacture precious moments."
Do you object to normality?
Siouxsie shrugs. "I donít know really. I certainly donít think itís as rife as people make it out to be."
Now thatís just not true. If it were, thereíd be no need to manufacture precious moments, no need for Siouxsie or Budgie or The Creatures.
Just before we leave, Siouxsie tells us her ambitions are to water-ski and skydive. We wonder if the firstís not a little too St Tropez and the second somewhat undignified. Then we think again. Sheíll get away with it, she always has done in the past.
The Stud Brothers 24/02/90
WITH THE BANSHEES NOW AS STRONG AS THEY WERE EVER, SIOUXSIE AND BUDGIE HAVE TAKEN TIME OUT TO RESURRECT THE CREATURES. IN THIS EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW, THEY EXPLAIN TO STEVE SUTHERLAND HOW THEIR SINGLE, íSTANDING THEREí, IS A TIRADE AGAINST MACHO IGNORANCE AND HOW THEIR ALBUM, íBOOMERANGí, WAS RECORDED IN THE SHADOW OF DEATH
"A GREAT KILLER MUST LOVE TO KILL; unless he feels it is the best thing he can do, unless he is conscious of its dignity and feels that it is its own reward, he will be incapable of any abnegation that is necessary in real killing. The truly great killer must have a sense of honour and a sense of glory far beyond that of the ordinary bullfighter... He must have a spiritual enjoyment of the moment of killing. Killing cleanly and in a way that gives you aesthetic pleasure has always been one of the greatest enjoyments of part of the human race. One of its greatest pleasures... is the feeling of rebellion against death which comes from its administering. Once you accept the rule of death, thou shalt not kill is an easily and naturally obeyed commandment. But when a man is still in rebellion against death he has pleasure in taking to himself one of the Godlike attributes; that of giving it. This is one of the most profound feelings in those men who enjoy killing. These things are done in pride and pride, of course, is a Christian sin, and a pagan virtue. But it is pride which makes the bullfight and true enjoyment of killing which makes the matador." - Ernest Hemingway, "Death In The Afternoon".
EVERYWHERE she looked, Siouxsie saw death. Black bulls, brown bulls, red bulls, their heads mounted on walls, their ritual slaughters recorded in fading photographs. It was not the fact of death which disturbed her most, but the senselessness of life being taken away for no other reason than to satisfy an excess of male hormones.
She was saddened and angry that the bulls had to die, and were still dying elsewhere. No matter how hard she tried, she couldnít understand why it had to happen. How a civilized country could not only sanction but celebrate murder was something she couldn't fathom.
She looked at their dumb heads again. Their eyes were glass, their horns were polished and she hated the man who robbed them of their vitality, their virility and bravery. How pathetic he must be, she thought, to need this shrine of trophies. He was a matador long retired yet his present life was committed to preserving his past for the future.
The room reeked of death but almost as sickening was the stench of nostalgia. In romanticising his youth, heíd killed all its truth, all its reality, all its worth - it was as if the old matador was excusing the way heíd relinquished all ambition or purpose. It was as if he, too, were dead.
Siouxsie took one more look and decided - this was where theyíd make their album. In this room, with the death heads and the fading photos and the house of martins nesting in the eves and the ancient vats of sherry cooling in the cellar, The Creatures would come alive again.
"THE most thrilling erotic sensation... is to risk everything on a dare or a jest or a practical joke... Such courting of danger is the energy of theatrical performance, which toreadors share with opera singers driven to exorbitant high notes... Carmen awaits her rendezvous with Josť despite the counsel of her friends, and taunts him with her love for Escamillo until he has no alternative but to kill her. At such moments, their sensual music acquires its highest value: it is the noisy protest of the life-force, decrying extinction." - Peter Conrad, "A Song Of Love And Death - The Meaning Of Opera".
IT began, like most good things, with a combination of accident, coincidence and subconscious fascination. Budgie had a book of Picasso bullfighting drawings, "Carmen" was playing at Earls Court and "Cumbre Flamenca" came to Sadlerís Wells, an orgy of dance so potent that Siouxsie says it made rock groups look like a "bunch of bedwetters". She was fascinated by the strength of the women and Budgie was just as taken by the ancient power and riveting control of the percussive steps. So, seeing as heíd given up the booze and plucked up enough courage to pass his driving test, they decided to drive through Spain, to see and savour it for themselves.
They needed a holiday too. The Banshees had struggled since the "Hyaena" album, guitarists had come and gone, there had been management bust-ups and it often felt like starting from scratch. But, with the "Peepshow" album, they felt whole again. "Peek-A-Boo" had been a hit single and Martin McCarrick and Jon Klein had effectively survived the transition from experimental additions to contributing members. Siouxsie and Budgie felt The Banshees were stronger than at any time since "Kiss In The Dreamhouse" and decided, as they did then, to make a hiatus and attempt something a trifle more spontaneous. Back in Ď83, theyíd made the "Feast" LP in Hawaii, soaking up the atmosphere and capturing some of the islandís exotic flavour by using local instruments. Now they fancied working that quickly again and Spain seemed the place that would most vividly tempt the flow of their creative juices.
Siouxsie and Budgie had already demoed a "deluge of ideas" in a small rehearsal room in Surrey when they set out though Spain with the aim of finding a barn or chapel or something to record in. They were searching for the stimulation of the senses that comes visiting an alien environment. They stayed in converted castles and convents, getting spooked and excited and lost and found - experiencing emotional stuff which Siouxsie still carries inside.
"One of the convents which we stayed at, this room.. As soon as you walked in, you immediately got this feeling that someone had confronted all their demons there, all their own. It was completely quiet. Outside was this cherry tree with blossom that was all fallen down and the windows were like castle windows, really deep in the wall. To see you had to lean out... It was definitely still haunted by the really strong thing that must have happened there.
"Convents must have a hell of a lot of grief and sorrow and pain in them with all that confrontational looking inward and asking yourself. I was really taken aback by it."
Eventually one of the Domeq family who, along with Harvey's, own all the sherry bodegas, suggested they try this ranch just north of Cadiz. It was built on the site of an 11th century convent, surrounded by fields of wheat and sunflowers, and some of the rooms were acoustically perfect so you could whisper in one corner and someone in the opposite corner could hear you quite clearly while someone else in the centre of the room would hear nothing at all. It had a coach house, an abundance of alters and crosses and other religious iconography, and this room, full of death and glory, the matador-ownerís own private museum. It was here that The Creatures recorded "Boomerang".
"I WANTED to know more about why," says Siouxsie. "It was a real conflict. Thereís so much I like about the people and the country and yet I find the bullfighting completely disgusting."
Gripped by the characteristic confusion of horror and fascination that has always fuelled their best work, Siouxsie and Budgie sent for producer Mike Hedges and a mobile 16-track recording desk and, in 110 degree heat, The Creatures set about trying to convert their enflamed emotions into music. Flamenco dancers from a nearby school were brought in to enhance the flavour, all deals struck in sign language because no one local spoke English and Siouxsieís pidgin-Spanish didnít stretch far into the Andalusian dialect.
Sometimes the generator would pack up as it strained to pump water to the house as well as run the desk which was precariously earthed by a wire leading to a metal spike driven into the ground and kept damp. Sometimes the wind would turn and come from the east and the locals, still steeped in superstition, would lock their doors against evil. And all the time there were the bulls, affronting Siouxsieís intelligence, violating her instincts to such an extent she would goad the matador-owner into flaming rows while, unknown to them in their extraordinary self-exile, students were being butchered in Tiananmen Square.
"The fighters dress in pink satin with little pom poms and tight little trousers. I think they look very feminine," Siouxsie told the old matador. "Itís like ballet, isnít it? Maybe the man really wants to be a woman and the bullís the man!"
Budgie tried to watch one of the bullfights on TV - itís presented like American football in Spain - but it turned his stomach and he had to turn away when the reluctant bull was needlessly butchered.
"I canít understand how they can only see one side of it," Siouxsie explains over a vegetarian meal back in London. "They see the ritual but they donít see the glorified slaughter that it really is. The matador is the supreme thing - it doesnít occur to them that they should consider the feelings of the bulls, they donít see the cruelty and senselessness and pointlessness of it and how itís proving machismo at all. It made me really angry.
"The bullfightís like boxing - a way out of poverty for the chosen few. Itís a fairytale - this young man, who was destined to be a farm boy, eating a few grains of rice a day and a few olives, actually becomes a big star."
"And the contradiction is they take such pride in their bulls," says Budgie. "Theyíre not allowed to smell human beings because they mustnít get too used to the smell of man. Thatís why they go for the rag, because they donít smell the man behind it. Theyíre trained to go for the cloth. If a bull gets a bit smart and has smelled the man to much itíll think, íF*** the cloth, I know where heís goneí.
"That explains why, even if they win, the bulls donít come back. Itís because theyíve wised up by that point, theyíll never fight again."
This is true. The bluntly macho author Hemingway, in his study of bullfighting "Death In The Afternoon", says that victorious bulls are only used again in amateur contests and cites the tale of one such beast that killed 16 and wounded 60 before he was deemed too old and sent by its owner to the knackerís yard. But one of its victims had been a 14-year-old gypsy boy whose brother and sister had followed the bull around from village to village for two years awaiting their revenge. When the bull arrived at the knacker's yard, the brother was granted permission to kill the bull so he dug out both the bulls eyes while it was still alive and spat carefully into each socket before putting the beast out of its misery by severing the spinal marrow between the neck vertebrae with a dagger. Then he cut off the bullís balls and he and his sister built a small fire in the street, roasted them on sticks and ate them. Only then were they satisfied, their task complete.
"Itís a fantasy of mine to train bulls that know the scent of man," says Siouxsie, her eyes flashing with revenge. "Iíd like to train my own bulls and send them out, see how they like it then!"
She considers Spain now with a mixture of shock and respect, a turmoil which she hopes has surfaced on the album. She couldnít get over how the sword thrust into the bullsí neck was like the cock going into the c***, couldnít understand why Spanish women settled for putting their strength into having 10 children instead of following the example of the exuberantly wanton Carmen who lived life like a firecracker and enraged the passions of the menfolk.
"STANDING There", the stampeding first single from the "Boomerang" album, deals with this self-same battle of the sexes but deliberately brings it all back home.
"I just think men are pretty ugly," explains Siouxsie. "You know how aggressive a pub feels when youíre not getting well-oiled yourself? Well, thatís something Iíve always felt from when theyíre grouped together.
"Being a girl, walking down the street, youíre confronted with that all the time. You never get used to it. It really pisses me off. I think itís one of the subtle ways that, without actually hitting you, men can be violent towards a girl. Itís their way of being really aggressive and putting you down, trying to humiliate you and make you feel like nothing.
"Itís all to do with them feeling really left out, looking at something they canít attain and I think itís gotten worse - thatís why I really felt that I had to put them down in some way. Theyíve become so slobby so... I think they really hate women. I think thereís a lot of men who genuinely hate women but they would never actually have the guts to say it. They always have to wait until theyíre in a group situation. Itís so cowardly.
"Itís all sexual - yíknow, theyíre not getting it every night or theyíre not getting it even once a month! Itís all bravado - yíknow, ĎYeah, Iíd give Ďer one!í and all that. And they hide behind cowardly excuses like, ĎOh, itís only flattering herí. Are they f***! Yíknow, they know theyíre being antagonistic.
"Walking down the street, you canít win. Itís either, ĎHello darlingí or, ĎYouíre an ugly old cow arenít you?í Even if you smile at them because youíve been conned.
"I just thought, Ďwhat a dickhead! How pathetic - the perpetual voyeur, doesnít want to get involved himselfí. Thatís the whole thing with the bullfighting too. I really hate the people who are doing the looking, because the people who pay to go and see these things are really responsible for it."
WHETHER heavy metal is a symptom or a cause really isnít the point any more - historyís being rewritten daily so that the goodness, the liberating drive of the Sixties and Seventies can be dismissed as fashion quirks, wishy-washy ideas propagated by weak people who wish to recreate society in their decadent image. This pie-in-the-sky theory obviously suits the current political climate down to the ground because the subtext is that the natural state decrees that the strong prosper and the weak go to the wall, the men conquer and the women submit. The liberal era is now considered an aberrant historical abomination. And Thatcherís a bloke in a dress.
"I hate that. I hate the treachery of those women who'll emulate a man to get on. And why, if weíre constantly being told that women are making headway and gaining more power, is plastic surgery on the up and up and up and up?"
This is one of Siouxsieís abiding obsessions. She first expressed her concern over cosmetic surgery in "Paradise Place" on the 1980 "Kaleidoscope" album and she still canít work it out of her system.
"I feel really weird about it. I mean, itís there, you can get it - itís been almost a make-up accessory on America for a long time but itís infiltrating here now. And when I hear stories of people whoíve had boob jobs, this lift, this tuck, I always want there to be a moral to the stupidness of it -yíknow, in the end, people walk around with their faces round their ankles - because itís just running away from the inevitable.
"But the pressureís there. If youíre a woman, youíre not allowed to grow old. It comes from Hollywood, where women are doing it to keep their husbands because otherwise theyíll run off with some young bimbo. Itís insulting. Why arenít you allowed to grow old? Yíknow, men are supposed to get more interesting as they get older with their nice craggy faces, but itís just not allowed for a woman and it really pisses me off."
It seems to me that, despite propaganda to the contrary, modern society is still primitive in that men are supposed to do the work, to achieve, to provide - and women are supposed to be: artistically their bodies are their only worthwhile creation.
"Men fear older, intelligent women. They feel much happier impressing someone who knows nothing. Men always prefer taking out a 17-year-old whoís going to giggle all the way through the meal than taking out someone intelligent who might throw something back in their face."
Itís a power thing really. Itís all a mannered form of domination, a cultured form of rape.
"Yes, itís a humiliating thing. Itís not just punching somebody in the face, itís degradation."
It used to be that rape killed women inside because some never recovered emotionally. Now with the danger of contracting AIDS, rape can be physical murder. Siouxsie likens it to Russian roulette, Budgie says, "No amount of counselling can deal with that one," and I propose that the greatest horror and sci-fi writers in the world couldnít have created anything more terrifying.
"And to become pregnant from a rape. What if you donít believe in abortion? How do you face that?" asks Siouxsie.
Budgie points out that, in Ireland, abortionís still against the law and I voice my fear that theyíd make it illegal in Britain again if they could only wangle it.
Siouxsie agrees: "This moral climateís so unfeeling, it just doesnít take anything into consideration. Iím all for menís tackle being clamped. Bugger clamping cars! I really have no sympathy. You look at the reports of these men and itís never a one-time offence. It sickens me to the core when these men attack children and 70 or 80-year-old women! Sometimes I just despair how someone can be that horrible."
I wonder if theyíre more to be pitied than blamed.
"Thatís saying theyíre not quite right so theyíre not responsible for their actions. But you can never put right what the victimís gone through. And some men take it so flippantly that I canít consider them poor people. Off with his head!"
"BEFORE we left England, there was something in one of the supplements about what had happened in Mai Lai in Vietnam, how the people in that village were massacred on that stupid order through the sheer frustration of not getting at the enemy. What resulted was pure blood lust. There was a description of one of the men jumping on top of a water buffalo as if to hug it but having knives in both hands and just...
"All these things conspired to a point where I just really hated people, I hated men, I almost wanted the world to end, I wanted the bolt of lightning to completely obliterate the planet because itís not worth continuing with that kind of.. badness."
Siouxsie almost had her wish earlier this year when, in an uncanny instance of life imitating art, the Iranians set about enacting the Bansheesí "Israel" and "Arabian Knights".
"That Salman Rushdie thing really annoyed me. The Ayatollah was prepared to start another war over it. What a lunatic! I thought, ĎHeís senile for crying out loud!í Itís like the judges over here, how one gets to be a judge and deem whether a murder or rape is a serious offence or not. You know senility is affecting their judgement."
Siouxsieís talking about the she-was-asking-for-it-dressed-like-that syndrome.
"I saw Barry White in some interview quoted as saying that. I thought, ĎShame on you Barry. Shame on you.í I had a certain amount of affection for his old singles but that just completely ruined it for me. Itís just like what happened with Donna Summer and her statement on AIDS - what a stupid thing to say.
"But everyoneís scared arenít they? Everythingís so soft these days. I really donít know how ĎStanding Thereí is going to be received. I donít know if it will be played on the radio. It sounds very rough and ready, the way we recorded it was sort of self-sabotage and spur of the moment and thatís very alien to pop music these days. Even dance music is very rounded off although I do like House music - at least theyíre throwing in something off the wall, itís got some sort of irreverence. Everything else is so soft and polite."
The 12-inch version of "Standing There" is infinitely superior to the seven-inch. It lasts 10 minutes and itís like a chase, with gasping pauses, over a relentless driving electronic pulse. Itís so persistent, it confronts the senses which is exactly what The Creatures intended. The video makes it plainer still, featuring a nine-year-old Siouxsie and a seven-year-old Budgie ragging these stupid men.
"Sheís like Beryl The Peril," laughs Siouxsie. "Iíve always wanted to be Beryl The Peril."
AFTER making music for over a decade, Siouxsie is still on the periphery, looking in. Sheís been a Banshee for a third of her life and yet sheís further from what passes for the fulcrum of pop than she ever was. Sheís established without being part of the establishment. And when she has hits, itís like they happen by accident.
"Iím really aware of the automatic brain death that can occur so weíve deliberately pulled away and changed. Some people go to America and spend years touring there because they know it will pay off but, if there was even a spark there, youíre gonna dampen it. Youíre gonna be zombies - the actual soul and the essence will go and there will be this thing walking along impersonating you, saying, ĎHií at the right time and drinking a bottle of jack Daniels and falling over at the right time.
"Itís just something I wonít accept, which has certainly slowed the process of what would have been as we hurtled towards the inevitable. Itís like walking up the down escalator to keep the feeling because the very worst thing is doing something you love and having it killed by repetition, no matter what it is.
"Itís not a very good business move, I know that, but Iím feeling a lot happier. Iím 32 now and Iím much less concerned about myself. All your adolescence is coming to terms with this body and this person and these odd feelings that you canít account for and itís all self-preoccupation which is necessary to get through. But I think, if you carry on just being self-preoccupied, itís pointless, itís just re-treading what you already know. Itís safe ground, itís like taking a drug and knowing what itís gonna do.
"The excitement of taking drugs is not knowing whatís going to happen. The first time I took LSD, Iíd heard all these horror stories about throwing yourself through the window and cutting your tongue off and it was like, ĎShall I? Shanít I? Shall I? Shanít I? And I took it and I donít think Iíve ever laughed so much in my life. But, whenever I took it again, I was trying to seek that virgin experience, that sort of trick or treat, not knowing sort of thing. That way I didnít become an acid casualty or anything, because I thought, íWhatís the point? From now on all Iíll want is moreí. The magic wonít happen so it was just pointless.
"There will always be curiosity but, once youíve satisfied it, itís pointless it becoming a habit. Iím getting a bit sick of forming new habits, I want rid of all these crutches smoking, drinking, whatever."
Siouxsie doesnít smoke anymore and she seldom drinks. She prefers her stimuli to be external these days, hence the trip to Spain and the frequent visits to the theatre where she saw Alec Guinness and was stunned. The recent TV screening of Nic Roegís "Eureka" moved her too.
"God, what a brilliant film! Nic Roegís camera work trips! It really does what you can do either by day dreaming or under the influence of something - it makes things change as youíre thinking about them. You wonder if heíd fed his camera LSD or something."
She goes on to eulogise a programme she saw about the discovery of acid, about how the scientist who first synthesised it spilled some on his fingers and it was so string that he started to trip while cycling home.
"Can you imagine?" she laughs. "He must have thought heíd gone completely mad! He didnít recognise his wife and, when she tried to give him some milk, he didnít know what it was! Later he said, íI shouldnít say it but everyone should try it once in their life. Itís incredible! Like space travel without going anywhere.í And I suppose in a way it is."
If thereís one thing she hates above all others, Siouxsie says itís wilful ignorance. Thatís why she abhors the hypocrisy of a law that allows alcohol to be sold openly to football hooligans while acid, which she considers much less an aid to violent behaviour, is illegal. Again she puts it down to fear of the unknown.
"My attitude is one of living life not through your own... selfishness. That doesnít really make sense but I think itís really important to take things in because the more you take in, the more humbled you are. Learning is an endless thing."
Siouxsie believes the more you know, the more you know there is to know. All you really learn is how much more there is to learn, how ignorant you are.
"Thatís what The Creatures are saying and weíre having fun with it. Itís about not being kept down by the disgusting attitudes of other people. Itís standing there and saying, íLook at you, you halfwit!í Itís about being able to face things and staying strong."
Steve Sutherland 07/10/89
THROUGHOUT A DECADE IN WHICH POP BEGAN
FASHION-OBSESSED AND ENDED UP A MARKETING STATISTIC, SIOUXSIE SIOUX HAD
FOLLOWED HER INSTINCTS AND MAINTAINED HER INDEPENDENCE. NOW, AS A
NEW DECADE BEGINS, SHE LOOKS BACK, DISAPPOINTED BUT NOT DEFEATED BY THE
POP PROCESS AND PREDICTS THERE IS STILL A FUTURE WORTH FIGHTING
Have we got eyes in the backs of our heads? Sometimes it seems we must have - so many people are looking backwards rather than forwards. The eighties have been rife with nostalgia which seems to be creeping up, getting closer and closer to the present every day.
Perhaps, it's something to do with the advent of sampling, the way you can take a sound from anywhere, any time and make it your own. I read somewhere that there are samples of samples being taken now and that the original samplers are getting pissed off that they're being robbed! It's not that I consider sampling artistic theft or anything like that - it depends entirely on how it's done, whether a person makes something new or different with it. Unfortunately, very few people do.
There is an argument that sampling and the whole nostalgia thing signals a general malaise, a widespread lack of imagination and, although I don't agree with that, I really think what happened over a decade ago, termed punk by the media, set such a strong precedent that it must be very hard to follow. It's almost the same situation as the child of a great actor trying to follow in their footsteps.
What happened back then happened because no one was ready for it. The people who were waiting for it, did it, they became involved and, briefly, it caught the industry completely unawares. But today it's as if all the moves have been scripted, all the gestures reduced to stunts. There are so many people trying to do a Bill Grundy because they know the affect it will have. It's almost like a caricature of an effect. It's very transparent, lacking the imagination and the style and risk necessary to change things. There is no spontaneity about it, no passion. It is totally controllable. And totally controlled. You feel that, if they were to be a stylistic revolution in music today, it would have been invented by the industry itself, assembled from bits and pieces of previous role models. But a shock that's already been delivered is really no shock at all.
It's due to nostalgia that I think everything feels stagnant at the moment. But it's really a false impression. There is a lot of great music being made that, because of safe radio formatting, because of the lack of pop programmes on TV, never gets the chance to reach a wide audience. Those bands who are making an impression, bands like The Wonderstuff or The Stone Roses, have barged their way to attention by playing live and building up such a following that, eventually, they couldn't be ignored. Their fan base forced their hand.
Of course, this route to getting noticed has become increasingly difficult because it's getting harder and harder to play live. Video's seen to that. One of the reasons the changes we hoped would take place a decade ago never did was because of the video. We used to go onstage, play, finish and then go to the bar. There was never an "us" and "them" situation between the band and the audience. Everyone was involved and that kept it vital. But video is a lazy, non-participatory pastime, encouraging passive armchair acceptance rather than lively involvement. It also perpetrates the star system we once hoped would be smashed because it doesn't allow any contact between the artist and the audience at all.
Personally, I enjoy making videos but, again, like sampling, what comes out depends entirely on how much imagination you put in. Most videos are so literal, they leave no room for your own interpretation of the song and the song becomes so much less for it. Of course, there are songs being written now specifically to suit video which is just as disgusting as writing a book specifically to be turned into a film.
But video can work. If you throw in conflicting visuals, if you provide alternative interpretations to what the song seems to be saying, it can be an enriching experience. Sadly, though, most videos are soap operas that rob you of your own imagination and we'd be better off without them. But there's no choice - people are pressured to make videos to support the sales of a single in the same way that they're pressured to produce different formats of the same song. Again, some songs suit this and an interesting new format can be created, but just as often the song says all it has to say in its original form and the format is just an empty exercise, there's nothing else to be got out of it.
Still, the artistic side of it is seldom considered. If you make a record you're under pressure to deliver different formats whether it's artistically warranted or not solely because people buy them.
I'm always having this argument with people from the record company. They say people don't buy things they don't want but I think, if it's being pushed at them, if they're being offered it, they're being pressured to buy, especially the real fans who'll collect anything. And, really, they're the last people who should be getting ripped-off.
There is a theory that we get the pop we deserve - that if the stupid people didn't buy the crap, then the crap wouldn't get there. But I think people only buy what they hear and they aren't given enough choice on the radio or on TV. The industry conspires to push certain artist who write to a tried and tested, nostalgic formula, at the expense of anything else because it maintains the status quo and keeps them in their jobs.
Some people are even asking whether music is actually as important as it used to be, implying that future generations will channel their energies elsewhere. But I believe that attitude comes from looking back through rose-tinted glasses because new musical movements are never a majority thing. It's always a minority that makes it happen, that causes the upheaval. Most people want nothing more than to move next door to their parents and stay in their own secure little area but there will always be a few people who escape through music, who adopt it and use it to change their lives, to change themselves.
These people are still out there somewhere but it seems as if they've given up on the idea that it can all be taken over and changed. Or maybe they just like it as it is. I still believe that the ideal situation is to have such a fan-base that it is impossible to be ignored and then go on "Top Of The Pops" and be different, perhaps change things - at least present an alternative. But bands like The Butthole Surfers seem happy surviving on the periphery which I think is a pity because that way you're often only preaching to the converted.
That's not enough for me. I'd much prefer to see them on "Top Of The Pops" because that's part of the excitement of pop, seeing a band who don't belong there who've forced their way on. There's no excitement in preaching to the converted. It's so much more thrilling to play to an audience who doesn't accept you because you get more fired up, you're out to get 'em.
One of the great pleasures of music is confrontation - the way you can confront and confuse an audience, offer them something new, perhaps make them think a bit, unsettle them out of their complacency. But the record industry found a way to tame the confrontational spirit. It couldn't do anything to the music itself - that remains free - but it managed to contain it, control and channel it to the outer limits.
The great divide took place the day the first record store decided to start a New Wave section. To have maximum effect, Phil Collins records and Lydia Lunch records should always be in together so that people going to buy one could be confronted, affronted, even challenged by the other. But, once you start putting records in sections, it says to people, "Here's what you want or, don't bother looking here, you're not going to like it." You go into record stores and you know exactly where your sort of music is to be found. You never ever stray so there's never any opportunity for cross-fertilization.
It's really satisfying when you get on with someone that you'd think you'd have nothing at all in common with, when you're thrown together on a train or a plane in a situation where you can't escape each other so you end up talking and you realise you share a lot. But the record industry erects a stupid facade where we're all contained within our own categories and musical dialogue is discouraged because, I suppose, the more individual markets they can invent, the more they can make people feel, "This is for me, this makes me this sort of person. That's for them, they're different", the more records they'll sell. It's a symptom of the way we're robbed of choice in the Eighties that going into a record store these days is like being a well-trained rat in a laboratory - you're guided by the signs and signals to your reward. Everyone's scrutinised, everyone's watched.
If there were to be a musical revolution on a par with the movement in the Seventies, it would immediately be jumped upon, altered, channeled, contained and then marketed. It would never be allowed to grow or develop, it could never just happen accidentally as it did before, fuelled by people's frustration at the lack of good music around.
I still feel music is important, it's a real passion, and I still see great, passionate music being made, but the control of that music is out of our hands. The same people who were in charge of the media - of TV and radio and record companies - when the Banshees first started are still there now and their attitudes haven't changed. They're still obstructive to the growth of anything new, they still go for the tested, the tried and true. So, if I was 18 now and loved music, I think I'd try to get into the business side of the industry because that's what's f***ed it up and that's where the next revolution has to occur.
We need people to go into TV, go into radio, like Tony Wilson has done, and shake it up from the inside. And this doesn't only apply to music - we need young people to go in there and affect the arts programmes, the films we get to see on TV. We need people to go in and alter the parameters, to rewrite the unwritten book about what the limitations are. There has to be a new breed of people eager to infiltrate on the behalf of new music the way there has been for new comedy. If "The Young Ones" can do it, so can we. We must wrest control from the establishment, we must take over ourselves.
Rather than businessmen making records - accountants writing songs to formula - the people who make records should get into the business. Let's get rid of the businessmen completely - out of music, out of business. Soul II Soul have done it. More will surly follow.
Siouxsie Sioux 23/12/89
Budgie and Siouxsie have been to Spain to record a new Creatures album, Nice holiday? Not exactly.
THE CREATURES have been at it again. With Siouxsie & The Banshees currently 'resting' Siouxsie and Budgie have been off in Spain making another Creatures record, six years on from The Creatures' debut as a vocals and percussion duo. The resulting "Boomerang" (The Creatures' come-back??) is a fine album, full of the wit, peculiarity, and roughness that too often gets smoothed out of more self-consciously career- oriented recordings. There's a sense of freedom and spontaneity here that makes The Creatures sound like a new band rather than two old pros taking a bit of time out from their real job.
But what is it that draws the line between The Bs and The Cs? As Budgie explained when we met in Advision Studios, time is the main factor. With a successful Banshees LP and tour out of the way (Budgie regards "Peepshow" as the strongest Banshees record for ages), he and Siouxsie felt spurred on by their sense of achievement. It's also a relief, he explained, to get away from the "big machinery" of The Banshees organisation.
How do they decide which are Banshees' songs, and which Creatures' songs? There are several tracks on "Boomerang" (most obviously the rolling 6/8 feel of 'Pluto Drive') that would fit well in the Banshees' canon.
"Because we wrote them at this point in time they're not held over for the Banshees," Budgie says. "'Pluto Drive' is the first time I've really written lyrics. I've never written lyrics for Siouxsie & The Banshees, apart from one B-side ('Cuckoo') - Steve and Sue always write the lyrics, alone or together. That's another difference: with The Banshees, sometimes one person will come up with an idea, but the three or the five of us will all introduce parts. The Creatures is the speed and just two people, the short democratic move."
THE HI AND LO
Songs for the LP were put together at a residential rehearsal studio in Surrey, using a distinctly odd combination of hi-tech gear and lo-tech recording techniques. Like many experienced musicians, The Creatures are wary of making polished demoes, for fear of problems recreating them in the studio. Budgie's drum kit and marimba, a Hammond organ, steel drums, tubular bells, and anything else that came to hand were crammed into the rehearsal room with a TR808 drum box, a DAT machine, and a huge speaker foldback system. If Siouxsie wanted anything louder, she'd take her vocal mike over to it.
"First we started like The Creatures that we knew, with tunes suggested by the drum tunings. Siouxsie came up with the melody for 'Manchild' playing drums herself.
"Within three days we'd filled two 60 minute DAT tapes with ideas. Then we'd retrace our steps, playing it back on the DAT and overdubbing on to my Professional Walkman. We'd have the 808 on the DAT with drums and vocals, I'd go on to marimba, and the DAT would go through the speakers, the marimba would go through the other speakers, and we'd record all that on to a cassette. Then we'd listen to that on the cassette, and it went on like that, rapidly deteriorating in quality all the way," he laughs.
REIGN IN SPAIN
Cheerily pursuing the spirit that led them to record the first Creatures LP in Hawaii, Siouxsie and Budgie decided to take producer Mike Hedges and the Abbey Road 2in 16-track mobile off to a ranch in southern Spain built on the site of an 11th century convent.
"We decided not to do it in a studio. We'd talked about it with the Banshees, but there were too many problems involved - like mains power and accommodation. But with the two of us and Mike, who'd been collecting mobile gear, we could virtually go anywhere. But staying in Europe, we could transport the drum kit and the mobile desk and so we'd be self-sufficient."
It may have been Spain, but it wasn't a holiday. "We couldn't speak to anyone else as no-one spoke English, the heat was quite oppressive, the situation was fairly full of friction because we knew the owner was an ex-bull fighter so everything was more emotionally charged...But we wanted to be in this situation. You're able with just two people to put your self on the edge. When you've been working for a long time, every studio looks the same, and you have to rely on yourself for the sense of urgency, thrill, imagination, and attack - it's the fear of the unknown, knowing that it might not work. But we didn't know how hard we were making it for ourselves."
What about all the wit and spontaneity (see above) of professional musicians playing around and having a good time?
"The fun things on the record came after we got back and were putting the brass parts and the percussion on. We used vibes, matchboxes, we sampled match strikes, speeding racing cars... The jaws harp on 'Untiedundone' just makes me laugh. A lot of these things came about after the pressure was off."
"It's a massive thing I'd developed for 'Peep-show', courtesy of Tama - basically it was me taking the opportunity to get as many drums as I could free," he laughs. The kit is mostly all power toms with Evans CAD/CAM heads. "There's also this gong drum which I've always wanted. The gong drum is single-headed, with a skin larger than the diameter of the drum which pulls over like a timpani head. Most people use them with a plastic head, making this brrlapp! noise. I tune it to a low C, that becomes the root note of the kit."
Apart from drums. Budgie's other most obvious contribution to The Creatures is on marimba (a large wooden xylophone-ish machine). "It started on the first Creatures thing because I wanted the notes to sound more. I just tried to play it and I could. I've got gaffer tape all over the keys to tell me where to play - they're all brown, so it's different from a keyboard. But then I scribble all over keyboards as well. Rhythmical stuff, that's what I do, I like playing octaves then putting things between, doing paradiddles, but changing the notes around. I can always hear tunes anyway, this gives me the opportunity to put down the tunes that I can hear - and I can keep the tune very close to the drum beat. Some times with the marimba you can hit the wrong notes, and that's kind of nice as well - you're going so fast, you're just getting the movement."
Has Budgie made the transition from drummer to multi-instrumentalist? "I'm definitely not a multi-instrumentalist. I still like to think the sensibilities of drumming should really be adhered to through all the instruments - understatement is the hardest thing to do. There's part of me that wants to be very talented with all instruments, but limitations are good, as that helps you get more out of things. I'm still learning so much about playing drums that ifs quite a preoccupation."
"This was written very quickly in Spain. We had drums and voice in the same room, all spilling on to the same microphones. Siouxsie had got the lyric by that point so we played it on eye contact - that kind of spontaneity. The intro was an elongated count-in that got kept. The last thing we did on most of the tracks was develop the final melody, giving in to the seduction of the tune. We could have had things a lot harder, but if there was a nice tune we let it breathe."
"The flamenco dancers on this came from the local ballet school. We had one mike at their feet, one on the hands, and we just gave them the 808 through a speaker. Obviously we couldn't have it very loud, so I had to stand there conducting madly. We knew roughly the arrangement but we didn't let them hear it. "
"Siouxsie got the vocal part from the dictaphone she always carries. The crunch of the condenser mike on that was something she wanted to retain, but we didn't achieve it till the cutting stage, when we compressed it right up - it just sucks everything else dry when the vocal comes in. It was important to keep that initial feel - the song was losing something, and we didn't know what it was. The funny harmony on the chorus may be an SPX1000. It was just an over-the-top effect put there to pull back some of what the little dictaphone did. It was meant to be otherworldly, strange, obsessed, and that gave it the right kind of lean."
"Sioux wrote the lyric about one of these little cells in a convent in Almagra. It really changed when we put the steel drums to it, a pair of mid-range ones. I had great fun playing them; their tuning doesn't have anything to do with a piano keyboard - C is here, C# right over there. I was playing them with dowelling rods with elastic bands around them for the beating parts. If you hit them hard, you get a dipping and rising note, like 'bwrang!'."
"Putting it into 3/4 time with a very recognisable beat lets the vocal really have its moment, and I think the lyric works really well. The impulse for the brass came from the only Fleetwood Mac album I've got, a greatest hits album from when Peter Green was in the group. There's a song called 'Love That Burns', and it has the most drunken brass playing I've ever heard. I wanted that mood to put some kind of tune in it. There's some really late snares at the end of 'Killing Time', but we kept them. I was off my stool at the time - I'd jumped and caught the cymbal about three feet in the air, and came back down again - it had that 'only just made it' feel. It's very important to capture that on tape; that's the difference between records and live. Concerts have lots of little moments within what can be a quite ordinary concert. What you're trying to do when you're making the album is pull all those little moments of magic together, make it all magic."
"That's me on the bass harmonica. I've always had a harmonica with me since I first heard Canned Heat. I used it on 'Happy House', the first Siouxsie & The Banshees recording I ever did. I stuck my hand up and said, 'Excuse me, I can play harmonica as well.' With The Creatures, I feel that side of me has been allowed to come out more. Although I've been with Siouxsie & The Banshees for ten years, there are certain... not 'restrictions', but 'ways of doing things' - you're part of a team. With this, all the sides of your character can come through, and I think that's what I've been enjoying most."
"'Pluto' was one of four wild drum tracks I did in Spain. The drums had taken nearly the whole month to settle in with the heat and the humidity, and I ended up doing these four tracks just before we had to leave. The drum sound in this place was immense, with archways in the room, and a big cellar underneath- a real cacophony of sound. On this, we had the fast triplets which pulls you into one foot-tapping mode, and then the drums come right across this. I just locked into the beat and it was hypnotic - I held the beat for about ten minutes. The hi-hat's doing the offbeats and I'm sitting on top of that."
"We worked on the bass marimba a lot for this one while we were in Surrey, putting down interwoven parts. As for the oriental bit at the end, that was almost like 'we can't be serious', but it worked."
"These wild drum tracks were initially going to be B sides. It's the way we've approached Siouxsie & The Banshees B-sides - the spontaneity, the speed of working, though we've not always been able to do it with the Banshees as it takes longer to grow things with everybody putting their bit in."
"We'd finished in Spain and we decided to add the brass. I was at home working out the brass parts for 'Standing There' and 'Strolling Wolf before Peter Thorns (trombone player) came round. We were sitting there when Siouxsie came out with a tune for the drum part for 'Untiedundone' and we wrote it down. Harmony is important to The Creatures because it's such an important part of the arrangements. There's less competition than in Banshees' songs - guitars and keyboards always fight on the same frequency levels with vocals. It's definitely something I want Siouxsie to push further - very spontaneous."
"'Simoom' was done to a 50 foot tape loop running the full length of the barn, round pencils, mike stands... that loop was a DAT tape with the drum sound from rehearsals, with 808, recorded to DAT, transferred to 1/2 in., then made into the loop, and I played drums 3 along to the loop. That's an example of Mike saying, 'Let's do it this way.' At the end of it he just slowed it down, and when it got to half speed, I just picked up the note in the new key and kept on playing. That became..."
"So I actually wrote it on the spot on the marimba, thinking, 'Help, somebody record this.' That was the take and the drums were the last thing that went on. We'd been drinking a bit of sherry at the table that evening, so we felt loose enough to try it. As for the crickets on it - I went out with a portable DAT machine and sat down in the field at about 10.30 in the evening, completely dark - typically, the one I got sounded like he had a gammy leg."
"This is a Sioux lyric about the inevitable cruelty of things. It pinpoints a cruel aspect of nature, the turtles breaking from their eggs and being picked on by the seagulls. It was initially written on guitar, the blue Vox teardrop to an open D. That metallic drum sound (apart from the oil drums) is the dragon roar gong - the sound you hear in Chinese theatre, gushy but contained. I go in to Ray Man's in Neal Street, Covent Garden."
"This is a Spanish word meaning a lament, the feeling you get when something's lost and gone; Spanish blues. They're snippets of words that were written over the years pulled together. The droning comes from the bottom end of the bass marimba with the mike slammed up between the actual wood slats, completely out of phase. We attempted to clarify it with another marimba part, but we left it as it was. The vibes on top evoke the atmosphere perfectly."
John Lewin 11/89