|DREAMSHOW - INTERVIEWS/ARTICLES|
|THE SUNDAY MAIL 17/07/05|
|THE GUARDIAN 22/07/05|
|THE TIMES MAGAZINE 06/08/05|
|THE SUN 19/08/05|
|THE GUARDIAN WEEKEND MAGAZINE 24/09/05|
|THE SUNDAY MAIL|
JOHN WAS MY GUITAR HERO.. I MISS HIM SO
SIOUXSIE SIOUX ON HER TRAGIC SCOTS BANSHEE
PUNK icon Siouxsie Sioux has revealed the secret sadness behind the biggest concert of her 29-year rock career.
She releases a new DVD on August 15 called Dreamshow, filmed at her first solo gig at the Royal Festival Hall, London, in October.
The ex-lead singer of the Banshees was joined on stage by her husband Budgie, one-time drummer with the now legendary punk band.
But another important group member was missing - Scots guitarist John McGeogh.
When Siouxsie, 48, was putting the concert together she planned to invite the talented Greenock-born musician to make a guest appearance.
But McGeogh died in his sleep on March 4, 2004, after a long illness, aged just 48. He is survived by partner Sophie and their daughter Emily. Siouxsie told me: 'When I was in the planning stages for the Festival Hall I thought of inviting John to play.
'The news of his death was very upsetting. I still have a great deal of affection for John. I really miss him. John was my favourite guitarist of all time.'
In 1977, McGeogh became a founder member of hit punk band Magazine.
Three years later, he joined The Banshees and his unique guitar style defined their sound.
The Scot also performed on hit records with Midge Ure in Visage, John Lydon in Public Image Limited and Richard Jobson in The Armoury Show.
In 1996, he was named by rock magazine Mojo as one of the 100 best guitarists. Siouxsie said: 'John was easily, without a shadow of a doubt, the most creative guitarist the Banshees ever had.
'The work he did with the band was the best. He was an amazingly natural musician. John brought real inventiveness to our songs. He was able to interpret the undisciplined ideas I had and wasn't fazed by them at all. It's really sad he's not around.'
Siouxsie's Dreamshow DVD features new versions of classic hits Happy House, Christine, Spellbound and Dear Prudence. The singer is backed by an orchestra and Japanese drummers.
She said: 'To reinterpret songs which didn't have orchestral arrangements in the first place made it so exciting and was an ambition fulfilled.'
It comes nearly three decades after Siouxsie - who was born plain Susan Dallion in London on May 27, 1957 - participated in two of the most pivotal moments in punk rock history.
She was a member of the Bromley Contingent - a group of fans who followed The Sex Pistols from gig to gig. Her mates included Billy Idol and Banshees' bass player Steve Severin.
On September 20, 1976, Siouxsie made her debut as a performer at a punk festival at the 100 Club in London.
The Banshees performed an improvised 20-minute version of The Lord's Prayer. Siouxsie recalled: 'I'd never sung in front of an audience in my life.
'It was thrilling and very frightening at the same time. As it was happening I forgot what I was doing and just got pulled along with the momentum of it all.
'In those 20 minutes, performing became totally addictive. I didn't have any songs of my own, so chose The Lord's Prayer as something to springboard from. I had three microphones. That's how sweetly naive I was. I wanted to be louder than anyone else.'
The Banshees were invited to record a John Peel
session for the BBC and a buzz in the music press led to the group being
offered a record deal by Polydor. Siouxsie's first single Hong Kong
Garden hit No.3 in 1978. It launched her on an incredible 29-year
Billy Sloan 18/07/05
Courtesy of Brian
30 years after the Banshees burst onto the scene at the birth of British
punk rock, Siouxsie Sioux is still a defiant musical maverick, and was
recently honoured with Mojo's icon award. Here, she reveals her own
On the day before we meet, Siouxsie Sioux won the icon award at Mojo magazine's annual honours ceremony. It's a fitting tribute to a woman whose look has been as influential as her music. While Siouxsie and the Banshees have made great albums and kept an audience since forming in 1976, their lead singer's real legacy can be seen in every town in Britain, where at least one young woman will be appropriating the Siouxsie look of black clothes, black hair and heavy make-up, most probably accompanied by a regional, youthful version of former Banshee Robert Smith. Neither the sunny climes of her current home (the south of France) nor three decades of mascara application have withered Sioux's gothic glamour, and last year she achieved that mark of status as a grande dame: a concert at the Festival Hall complete with a full orchestra."The Dreamshow concert was the realisation of so many goals," says Sioux of the Festival Hall event, which is being released on DVD. "We had always wanted to play with the Kodo drummer Leonard Eto, and with a percussion section, and with an orchestra, but when it came down to it, we only had two rehearsals. The orchestra had to be spontaneous, as I don't stick to songs as they're written, and thankfully they were. It was a new start for me."
Sioux has never been shy to acknowledge the debt she owes to the music she loves - the Velvet Undergound and the Stooges have often been cited as inspirations not just for Siouxsie and the Banshees but for punk as a whole - yet the goal has always been to take those influences and make something new. "I've never been one for people who wear their influences on their sleeves," she says. "You get bands that like the 1960s, so they make a homage to it. But an inspiration should only ever help you to find your own voice. For me it can be anything from the theme tune to Thunderbirds to the Doors to film scores, but the exciting thing is to make a new thing from those raw ingredients."
Influences can work in strange ways, though. When garage-punk legends the Stooges started out, their main goal was to be a commercially viable rock band in the mould of the Doors and the Stones. "The Doors and the Stooges were my two big influences, chiefly because both Jim Morrison and Iggy Pop have such strong vocal and lyrical styles," says Sioux. "This might be hearsay, but I heard that Iggy auditioned for the Doors after Jim Morrison died. The reality is that Iggy is Iggy: he might try and copy someone, but so what? His character was always going to come through."
The Stooges were not well known in the early 1970s, when Sioux was a teenager, but David Bowie had already become something of an evangelist for both them and the Velvet Underground. "Bowie opened the doors for a kind of music that made things seem possible," she says. "We were all excited to hear music that made us say: 'I want to do this.' That just felt liberating. At the same time I loved Sly and the Family Stone and the Temptations, because I had discovered that the only places that stayed open after 11 were gay clubs and that was the music you would hear in them."
Wasn't the punk scene famously puritanical about what was culturally acceptable? "It was initially very diverse, very anti-uniform. Once it went tabloid, it became narrow and that sealed the coffin on the whole thing." Sioux doesn't put too much value on image. "Clothes and supposedly happening scenes are of their time and transient, but timelessness gives something real value," she says. "I can still listen to an album like The Idiot by Iggy Pop, and Riders on the Storm by the Doors gets me every time - I remember seeing it on Top of the Pops as a kid, with a film of a lone rider on a rocky hillside - and I'll always love Street Hassle by Lou Reed."
There's an obvious link between the Stooges and Siouxsie and the Banshees; less obvious is the influence that Philip Glass has had. "I think it's the simplicity of his music, and the way it deviates around a central theme. He never plays to impress, but to create a mood." So, almost 30 years on from making her performing debut by reciting The Lord's Prayer accompanied by Sid Vicious on drums at London's 100 Club, does Siouxsie still get a kick out of music? "I love it, and I get extremely anxious when I'm not making music. It's like being a smoker and running out of cigarettes. It's awful."
Need to know
First record bought: ABC by the
Will Hodgkinson 22/07/05
VERSUS SIOUXSIE SIOUX
Or the 'Grandmother Of Punk'
if you want to piss her off
Yes, let's do that
So it's got a couple of gigs on it, one from the Royal Festival Hall and another one at the 100 Club. Two very different gigs!, two very poignant moments!
Well yes, although I did lose it a bit in the first one, though.
I slagged off the venue and stormed off hahahahaha!
Basically I couldn't have cold drafts on the stage. I just said 'This is a fucking dump, the audience is great.' an I stormed off, haha! I was very ill with sinusitis, bronchitis, asthma, and all from doing something healthy: giving up smoking. I was definitely being punished for trying to be healthy.
Did you give up smoking in the end?
Listen, all these antibiotics and steroids and these fucking allergy pills, they were making me really ill! I was taking all those drugs and they were making it worse. So I thought I'd take up smoking again. And I didn't need to take the drugs anymore! I saw so many doctors and only one of them confided in me that, apparently, there is a very small minority of people whom it doesn't suit to give up smoking. They wont make it public because then people wouldn't even try to give up.
Now, after winning an Icon award of some sort recently, you were described as an 'elder stateswoman of punk'...
Arrggghhh! Well at least it's not the Godmother or the Grandmother or something. Actually the thing with that award is that, physically, it looks like s scary Klingon weapon, or a cat. It's got ears. You have to look at it from behind though
Are we done now, with all the punk retrospectives?
Oh, tell me about it - I get the requests all the time. 'It's the 29th year since this', 'It's the 31st year since that'. I say yes every now and again purely to shock my press officer, but there's a lot of retrospectives.
Is there anything left that's worth looking back at?
We'', I guess people look back - especially now - because it still stands out as not being part of the industry. The amount things have regressed now, to a point where people are so bloody aware of what's happening in terms of 'shifting bloody units', makes what happened all that time ago seem so important. People are so aware of being liked by everyone and not offending anyone and not sticking out. You can see why that Dido is popular because there is nothing offensive about her, although I find her totally offensive in her blandness.
We touched on cats back there somewhere, tell me more about cats.
Well, we have two now, but at one time we had four
I didn't trust cats for a long time, and now I do
That's a sign of maturity, you see. Appreciating all the talents of a cat.
What do you consider to be cats' chief talents?
We'', to be independent is a good talent. The fact that you feel incredibly privileged if they deign to come and see you - you certainly can't make them like you. Indeed the more you go for them the more they run away. And they're very watcheable, aren't they? I can watch them endlessly. Their actual shape is a visual feast.
Dogs, meanwhile, are a bit of a mess.
Dogs have a very needy, clingy, need-to-please thing, don't they? Cats are just 'take me or leave me, I don't care'. You don't want a dog - or a person, for that matter, slobbering all over you all the time, do you?
And what's the protocol for naming cats?
I've always wanted to call a cat Roger. I never have. All the names I've got are quite cute - of the two I've got, one is called Dandy and his brother was called Beano. Beano ran away one day. Or something happened to him. And Spooky was one that died earlier this year. She was rescued from Toulouse and was scared of her own shadow to begin with. And Spider looked like a giant bat.
How do you know he wasn't a giant bat that looked like a cat?
Well, he's now turned into a very Egyptian-looking sleek black cat - he grew into his legs and ears.
What are you doing tonight?
I'm going to the theatre, to see that Joe Meek production. Do you know much about him? I thought he was just a studio boffin but he turns out he was this maverick Svengali, very much like a Phil Spector type character. Do you remember 'Telstar'? That was a Meek record.
Wasn't that Margaret Thatcher's favourite record?
Was it? Well I never. That's actually a good record to like.
And finally, are you in it for the money or just having a good time?
I'm having a good time and lucky enough to get paid for it.
Peter Robinson 27/07/05
The icy glam punk queen has never stopped bewitching with her proto goth styles and sounds. SIOUXSIE SIOUX, we love you.
Few of those involved in London's mid-seventies punk phenomenon could have predicted that Siouxsie Sioux, one of the most prominent 'faces' on the burgeoning scene, would enjoy both commercial and critical success as a singer, songwriter and performer - not to mention a bona fide style icon - throughout many of the subsequent 30 years. After all, the principles of punk in it's earliest, angriest moments were to disposer of the pomp and ceremony of establish (i.e. dull) rock stars. Not to mention challenge the stale old music industry, by using the combined elements of youthful rebellion, shock tactics, subversive fashion, and raw energy over skilled musicianship. Career longevity was never part of the equation... was it?
Nonetheless, as testament to her unique talents, Miss Sioux is still with us, still recording and performing new material, still rocking a fantastic look. She continues to be adored not only by those old enough to remember the icy glamour of Siouxsie & The Banshees' debut Top Of The Pops appearance, singing Hong Kong Garden back in 1978, but by scores of younger fans, too, for whom punk is now a fascinating cultural studies topic.
Furthermore, Siouxsie has influenced countless female performers over the years, not only musically but also thanks to her resistance of the deeply entrenched sexism in the biz. Hence, the likes of Madonna and the Spice Girls all owe a debt to her trail-blazing Take-Me-as-I-am-or-Fuck-Off attitude. This debt was noticeably acknowledge when Scissor Sisters' Ana Mantronic collected the Best International Album prize from Siouxsie at the 2005 Brit Awards ceremony. Mantronic enthused about Miss Sioux: "If she weren't in existence I wouldn't be standing here today." Later on she admitted, "I did cry after I met Siouxsie Sioux because she's my hero."
The story begins in humdrum Chislehurst, Kent, where Susan Janet Ballion (her real name) was born in 1957. By the early 1970s she felt stifled and frustrated by these suburban surroundings, and like any wise teenager began to seek out excitement and escapism in music and style. Captivated by the innovative art-rock sounds and looks of bands and performer such as Roxy Music and David Bowie, plus films like Cabaret and TV starlets like Catwoman from the 1960s Batman series, she began to wildly experiment with her own image. While others were in thrall to the obligatory flared trousers and platform shoes, Siouxsie was going somewhere else all together. Net curtains duly twitched when she paraded past in ensembles fashioned from any combination of men's suit jackets, fishnet stockings, spiky, multi-coloured hair, teetering stilettos, a swastika armband and garish make-up. When she dressed up a like-minded male friend in rubber and walked him on a lead to a local wine bar - proceeding to order a bowl of water for her 'dog' - the angry punters practically choked on their Chablis.
Various other youngsters from surrounding outer-London boroughs were by now beating similar paths to Siouxsie. Obsessed with style and music, bored to death with the prospects of dead-end jobs, they inevitably gravitated to each other. This gaggle of newly nicknamed misfits - including Billy Idol, Steve Severin, Berlin and Debbie Wilson - became known as The Bromley Contingent, named after said drab district.
A deliciously decadent crossover between the worlds of gay and straight and sleaze and vice also began to occur, akin to what had happened a decade previously at Andy Warhol's Factory scene in New York. The gang would hang out at underground Soho gay-clubs such as Louise's, and various of their friends were either rent boys, trannies or, in the case of Linda Ashby, a Park Lane-based prostitute specialising in S&M. The Bromley Contingent were also the first bona fide fans of the Sex Pistols.
Siouxsie was by now beginning to garner attention and notoriety in her own right. In 1976, she attended a highly controversial exhibition titled Prostitution (used tampons were included in the show) at London's Institute of Contemporary Art. She and her grinning friends' faces appeared on the cover of the Daily Mail the following morning. The headline insisted, "These People are the Wreckers of Civilization," a rather extreme reaction to say the least. The same year saw the now-legendary Sex Pistols interview on BBC's Nationwide. It prompted scathing newspaper headlines galore, scores of furious complaints to the BBC and, paradoxically, overnight mainstream success for the band. Of course, Siouxsie was on the set with the band as this happened, and could clearly be seen loving all the cod-outrage.
The Punk Festival of 1976 took place at the 100 Club in Central London, and was arranged to showcase the Sex Pistols, along with other bands who had sprung up in their wake. Siouxsie plus friends Marco Pirroni, Steve Severin and Sid Vicious - who had not at this stage become a member of the Sex Pistols - decided to hastily form a band and play at the event. WI was into the idea of being in a band despite having absolutely no experience or ability or songs," recalls Siouxsie, in Mark Paytress' biography Siouxsie & The Banshees. "I wanted to take the ethos to its extreme." The inspired chaos of their 20-minute rendition of The Lord's Prayer, interspersed with Knockin' On Heaven's Door, astonished yet delighted the crowd with its sheer spontaneity and strangeness. The seeds were sown...
From these impromptu origins came a real band (albeit comprising of a different line-up) who instigated a graffiti campaign across the capital, urging record companies to "Sign The Banshees!" By 1978, Polydor Records obliged and debut single Hong Kong Garden cantered up the charts to number seven, becoming the first of many hit singles, including Happy House, Christine and Playground Twist, and albums such as The Scream and A Kiss In The Dreamhouse, throughout the following two decades.
As the 1970s gave way to the 1980s and band members quit and were replaced, Siouxsie's image transformed from hard-edged punk princess to a no-less iconic, wildly back-combed, white-faced proto Goth, a look which was imitated by young women around the world. Siouxsie and Budgie, the Banshees' drummer and her long-term partner, formed an offshoot duo named The Creatures in the early 1980s, which enjoyed hits including Mad Eyed Screamer and Right Now, and continued to record and release music until recently.
Not one to rest on her laurels, Siouxsie has branched out over the years, and despite The Banshees splitting in the mid-90s, has worked with Morrissey (on the 1994 song Interlude), The Cure and Basement Jaxx, providing vocals to the electro-clashy track Cish Cash on their 2003 Kish Kash album. Late last year, hr live Dreamshow event at the Royal Festival Hall - for which tickets sold out ultra-fast - came complete with a full orchestra and proved, yet again, her talent for commanding and captivating an audience. Indeed, Mojo magazine recently presented Siouxsie (now recording her first solo album) with their Mojo Icon Award, in preference to other contenders including David Bowie, Kate Bush and Marc Bolan. Editor Phil Alexander confirmed what many have long since known: "She has possibly attained iconic status through her image, but it's her music, and the humanity in it, that people connect with." Long live Queen Siouxsie!
James Anderson 08/05
SONGS FROM THE DEEP
The singer Siouxsie Sioux reveals the contents of her iPod
When I wake up it's Son This Is She by John Leyton, who did Johnny Remember Me. It's produced by Joe Meek and it's so, so uplifting - like Ave Maria.
Mid-morning over tea and biscuits
I need something light and airy, so Sunday Morning by the Velvet Underground from their first album. You don't think of light when you think of the Velvets, but this is.
Chopping onions for lunch
I listen to the album Mingus, Mingus, Minus, Mingus, Mingus, which is of course by Charles Mingus. Its' a great album by one of the best jazz innovators that just rolls along and gets me into a preparing food mood.
While I have a few friends around to eat it might be Philips Glass' Einstein On The Beach or something else by him. I believe he is good for the digestion. I don't want to listen to anything that I might sing along to as it might detract from my chewing.
It's fun time, so I go for my favourite Sinatra album. The track has to be Witchcraft, which makes me lively. It's New York bars, Manhattans, it's bright midnight lights and it's brilliant.
Relaxing in front of the fire
I have any early 1940s Dinah Shore album on which she sings Someone To Watch Over Me, which is beautiful. It has this sound of an old orchestra and it takes me back to the films of the 1940s, which I watched on TV in the 1960s.
I open the windows and look out over the countryside and listen to an album by Gavin Bryars called Sinking Of The Titanic, in which the composer imagines hat it would be like if the Titanic orchestra continued to play as the ship went down. The B-side is called Jesus' Blood Never Failed Me Yet, which is an amazing orchestrated recording that builds and builds into an incredibly beautiful noise that just envelopes you as he adds new instrumentation.
Dancing and prancing
Marc Bolan's Jeepster is one of those records that just gets me up and going. You can't really argue with Bolan; I mean just listen to 20th Century Boy, Get It On - they just work, they just move, they just swing.
I love Smokestack Lightning by Howlin' Wolf. It's so physical. You can not help but think of motion, of chain gangs, of trains.
It has to be A Horse With No Name by America. Even when it came out it was an odd one for me because I was into David Bowie/Ziggy Stardust and this is the opposite. Every time I hear it I say: "Ooh, I really like this record" and people are so shocked. It's such a mysterious song with great backing vocals and for some reason I imagine the band walking on the bottom of the ocean singing the chorus. It's one of those songs that takes me right back to my school days.
Chris Sullivan 06/08/05
Courtesy of XsidsiouX
In at the Deep End
A father who drank himself to death was only the start of her problems. The violent, suspicious 18-year-old at punk’s ground zero has finally made peace with her turbulent past.
FOURCES IS A BEAUTIFUL MEDIEVAL bastide in Gascony; ancient galleried houses encircle a small, tree-shaded town centre. It’s jigsaw pretty.
In this French paradise a lovingly maintained baby-blue vintage Volvo 1800 draws up and the passenger door swings open. Out steps a woman. She is tall, glamorous, black-haired, dressed all in white in a cool cut-shouldered polo neck and slacks. Heads at the local auberge turn. Standing in the glorious, bright southern light, she waves. "Cooeee."
Right now, it could be a million years since 1976 when the Nazi-armband-sporting Siouxsie Sioux was one of that handful of Londoners who spearheaded that generational earthquake known as punk.
These days Siouxsie has reinvented herself as "Siouxsie"; neither the leader of the famous Banshees, nor one half of her runaway band The Creatures - simply Siouxsie. It’s a reinvention that allows her to perform hits from both of her bands, and yet add new twists. This July she released a DVD of Dreamshow, a movie made last October when she as Siouxsie performed old and new songs at the Royal Festival Hall - backed by band, sting orchestra and the Kodo drummer Leonard Eto. It is a convenient reinvention - allowing her to pull all her lasts together, but a timely one. The once-furious Siouxsie has reached an accommodation with her turbulent past.
She lives close to the pretty Gascony village with her husband Budgie and their cats. Most days she waters the plants; does the quick crosswords in occasional English papers, reads Virginia Woolf. Of an evening she goes out for a meal with her husband, watches a movie, or switches on Ladette To Lady to tut - like any middle-aged woman should - at the outrageous behaviour. "I just feel extraordinarily relaxed," she admits. "I like the lack of people around here."
1976, the year of her arrival, was a year choc-full of furious figures, but none were quite like the 18-year-old Susan Ballion. The Pistols may have been punk’s ground zero; but the most overlooked thing about Siouxsie is that she arrived quite independently, and astonishingly fully-formed into that maelstrom year. Before anyone even uttered the words punk rock, in 1975 she was already strutting off on the bus to the Roxy dressed outrageously in rented costumes, drawing the threatening stares. She was one of that small handful who’d been waiting for this to happen, and who became one of punk’s crucial catalysts.
She was at the epicentre of the so-called Bromley Contingent - that group of suburban misfits that included the young William "Billy Idol" Broad - who discovered the Pistols first and who added the fanbase glamour that the new band needed. She was the one who arrived topless at their shows, shocking even the Pistols’ entourage. She was the one whose snarky tongue sparked the famous Bill Grundy incident on national TV when she wound up the presenter by saying, "I always wanted to meet you," sparking the brouhaha which ended in Steve Jones calling Grundy a "dirty fucker" - creating the moment which thrust the Pistols into the national consciousness.
But arguably Siouxsie’s influence runs much deeper than punk. It was her band that provided the catalyst for Robert Smith’s reinvention of The Cure. When in the early 1980s, the goth scene arrived, Siouxsie was clearly at the very least its fairy godmother.
From Elvis and Little Richard onwards, becoming a pop icon is an act of self-reinvention. But up until the mid-’70s no woman had ever reinvented herself quite as radically as Susan Ballion did when she turned herself into Siouxsie Sioux.
IF YOU LOOK BACK you can see it was an act of desperation. Born in 1957, Ballion was the sickly child of a fall-down drunk father and a mother who fought to maintain a veneer of normality in suburban Chislehurst.
Susan Ballion’s life was the pits. If you want to look for clues, listen to the Banshees’ last CD The Rapture. It’s an undeservedly overlooked album from 1995. It was the pint at which Polydor lost faith with the band’s declining UK sales and dropped them. As a band The Banshees were moribund. Relations between Siouxsie and her long time co-writer Steve "Severin" Bailey were faltering; he had stopped writing lyrics. That left Siouxsie to write alone at a time when she was starting to re-examine her childhood on songs like The Lonely One ("I was the lonely one/ I didn’t want no one") and Falling Down. "I would see you falling down/ Still I would have been around/ Hated to hear the sound/ as you fell and punched the ground/ such a miserable suicide."
It’s a song about your father, isn’t it?
"Yes," Siouxsie says, pulling on a Marlboro Lite. "It’s only recently you realise what an impact seeing something like that makes..."
We’ve eaten a light lunch of local cheese and wine at the auberge before wandering to the gardens of the Chateau de Fources - a beautiful 12th century hotel run by friends. Now we sit in the afternoon sun watching dragonflies flicking over the moat.
Her father was an intelligent Belgian doctor, a misfit in British suburbia who drank himself stupid at home. She remembers curiously intimate moments of sobriety when he would discuss his former career as a pathologist with her. "He described it very graphically," she remembers, smiling. Her passion for the visceral, she thinks, may stem from him.
Susan’s nearest sibling was ten years older than herself. She was too ashamed to invite school friends home to witness his misbehaviour. It was an isolated youth. "It obviously shaped me," she says. Add to that the song Candyman, from the 1986 album Tinderbox. It’s a song about child abuse. "Oh trust in me my pretty one/ Come walk with me my helpless one..."
"That song," says Siouxsie, "was an outlet for a lot of things that had not been expressed."
At the age of nine, Susan and a friend were sexually assaulted. When they told adults what had happened the police were called, and Susan was taken to see a police doctor who examined her; but her family quickly swept the fuss under the carpet - it was another undiscussable item. Presumably that was the moment that Siouxsie started to acquire that total disrespect for adulthood and authority that she exuded in later years.
"Definitely," she agrees. "I grew up having no faith in adults as responsible people. And being the youngest in the family I was isolated - I had no-one to confide in. So I invented my own world, my own reality. It was my own way of defending myself - protecting myself from the outside world. The only way I could deal with how to survive was to get some strong armour."
That armour grew thicker at 14 when her father died, effectively drinking himself to death. Immediately afterward, the young Siouxsie developed ulcerative colitis - a bowel disease which often appears to be triggered by emotional distress. In her case, Siouxsie was convinced her father’s death was the cause; she was hospitalised and operated on. During the long summer months, she sat in bed watching the hospital TV; David Bowie, Marc Bolan and Roxy Music on Top Of The Pops.
The brickbats life threw her would have been enough to create an introverted, angry teenager. The weird miracle is that armour Susan Ballion created was Siouxsie; this outrageous, feisty, sexually ambiguous, costumed freak who drew the stares of her horrified neighbours.
Today you have to stretch to remember how scary it would have been to dress as Siouxsie did in 1975-76; and how much fear and hostility her ever changing wardrobe, meticulously planned and often hired overnight from costumiers, would have engendered. Siouxsie and her contingent delighted in winding up the London she detested; she’s go to wine bars with her gay friend Berlin on a leash, demanding a bowl of water for him. They were acts of deliberate gleeful provocation. Grey-haired women who called her "a little slut" when she answered the door half-naked in a plastic apron received a fist in the face. Following the Pistols to Paris wearing a Nazi armband, she was set upon, arriving at the show bloodied - to John Lydon’s delight. "I was unafraid?" She ponders the idea. "I guess I thought I had nothing to lose."
It was Malcolm McLaren who gave her the opportunity to form a band when he asked, casually, if she knew any bands who might want to support The Pistols at the 100 Club at his supposed Punk Festival on 16th September, 1976. "To say no would have been impossible," says Siouxsie.
She lights another cigarette. Last year before the Dreamhouse dates she gave up smoking and immediately fell ill with a sinus infection that resulted in her waking up "with two giant Tampax up my nose." The pathologist’s daughter with a fascination for hospitals describes - in unnecessary detail - the quantity of blood that flowed from her when the feminine hygiene items were removed. Subsequently, she followed her own cure, returning to the Marlboro Lites with a vengeance. She says she felt much better after that.
Last year, in the run up to the Festival Hall dates she played the 100 Club again. It was a rare moment of nostalgia. Inevitably it brought that first, chaotic, under-rehearsed show back, with Marco Pirroni (later of Adam And The Ants) on bass and Sid Vicious banging on the drums as she intoned The Lord’s Prayer.
"It’s a shame. I always felt Sid was a better drummer than a bass player." Siouxsie tugs on her cigarette. Siouxsie detests the caricature Sid Vicious who became punk’s ultimate icon. "Well, God. He was out of control on drugs. That was so apparent. It was so sad. ’Cause he was more intelligent than that. The shame is nobody realises what he did, he did to wind people up. People think that was what he was. But the mix of drugs and fame really fucked him up."
THE BANSHEES, IT WAS immediately obvious, were an odd quantity. The cornerstone of the band’s early days was Sioux and bassist Severin - another member of the suburban contingent who had become Siouxsie’s boyfriend. Famously, no-one wanted to sign them. Siouxsie believes that the male industry didn’t know what to do with a scary female singer. "Well, why else?" says Siouxsie. "We didn’t get signed for an eternity compared to other bands we were headlining with."
Which may be so, but the Banshees’ project has never quite fit the mainstream. Their modal melodies and spacious textures may have passed a baton to a generation of bands like U2, and their lush, darkly expressionistic lyrics may have laid the groundwork for Goth, but the Banshees’ work never sat happily alongside that of their back-to-basics punk contemporaries. Their first hit was an eccentric piece of mock-Chinoiserie called Hong Kong Garden, dedicated to Siouxsie’s local take-away.
Despite their eleven studio albums and string of memorable singles from Playground Twist through to Happy House and Christine and the inspired house-influenced Peek-A-Boo, the Banshees have always remained more influential than successful. There remains something uneasy about The Banshees’ music. Even in this age of perpetual retro, you don’t hear it much on the radio.
Part of the problem was their ever-shifting line-up; guitarists in particular were hard to keep. John McKay walked; John McGeogh became mentally ill; his temporary replacement Robert Smith returned to his own band, disgruntled... and there were three more after that. Generally, you were very careless with your guitarists.
"Yes. Very negligent. We lost quite a lot. I don’t know - the guitarists we got seemed to be those toddlers who’d wander off into the main road..."
The desertion of Robert Smith to return to The Cure two weeks before a Banshees’ tour in particular stung Siouxsie. (Post-departure she coined the nickname "Fat Bob"). "I was only pissed off with him for letting me down," she says now. "That’s unforgivable. Not turning up for a tour - that’s a crime."
But part of the instability behind the Banshees may have lain in that magnificent shell-like exterior Siouxsie had built around herself; often other members seem to have felt left out. Communication between band members easily became strained. And once former Slit and Big In Japan man Peter "Budgie" Clarke joined, alliances between the band members changed again.
Siouxsie and budgie became lovers. They shared a kinship. Budgie’s mother had died when he was 12. They attempted at the start to keep their affair secret, ostensibly for the good of the group. "Well it lasted quite a while quite privately really," says Siouxsie.
Budgie was the person you allowed past that armour you’d built, wasn’t he?
Because up until then you’d kept that strongly around you?
And it had got you a long way as well.
"Yes," she says.
With the arrival of Budgie as Siouxsie’s companion and collaborator the Banshees started to transform. With allegiances within the band shifting, tensions grew.
Siouxsie and Budgie formed their bare drums-and-vocals side project The Creatures, partly as a way to explore new non-Banshee ideas, partly as a way of simply finding time together. Severin and Robert Smith of The Cure created their own group, The Glove, which Siouxsie always regarded as a riposte to The creatures. "Boys will be boys," says Siouxsie archly.
The Creatures had an immediate hit with the single Right Now; The Glove’s album, in contrast, was a druggy mush. Severin and Siouxsie - once the creative heart of the band - drifted apart. Severin wanted to explore more electronic music; Siouxsie wanted him to stay with guitars. Each grew to distrust the other. Great moments still occurred on songs like Peek-A-Boo and Melt; paradoxically through the late ’80s and early ’90s, the band’s star rose in America. In 1991 they were invited by Perry Farrell to join the drug-fuelled insanity of the first Lollapalooza tour, just as Kiss Them For Me was breaking big in the States; but it’s a typical trajectory for UK bands that by the time they’ve cracked America, they’re too worn out to want that success.
The Banshees had remained outsiders throughout their career. Poor management didn’t help - but that’s largely because they were too strong-headed to go with a conventional manager. "There was no way we were going to go with either the Svengali manager or the accountant manager," insists Siouxsie. Instead, for much of their career they chose people who managed their drug intake as badly as they managed the band. "We had managers that fuck up," admits Siouxsie.
But by then - in some ways - the Banshees had served Siouxsie’s purpose. She’d been looking for a way of finding life a million miles away from her suburban hell; the Banshees helped her find it.
In 1991 Siouxsie and Budgie married; the beginning of the end of the Banshees came in 1992 when the couple ran away together to find a home in southern France.
"I think that precipitated the separation," agrees Siouxsie. "A band... it’s like a family. There are always ups and downs. I think it’s a sign of immaturity that you can’t deal with them as they happen."
Formally the Banshees split after Polydor dropped them in 1995; they got back together briefly in 2002 for a tour when they were offered US dates. Reforming only showed how deep the enmity was now between Severin and Siouxsie. "It was so disappointing that bridges that should have been mended with the Seven Year Itch tour never were." They barely communicated.
"I suppose I kind of thought in the back of my mind, ‘It would be great if we wanted to get back together again and do a new album’. But there seems to be this unspoken resentment." She now thinks it’ll never happen.
She hasn’t spoken to Steve Severin in a year. "We have go-betweens," she smiles. "It’s sad isn’t it?"
THEIR LIFE HERE IS SURPRISINGLY calm, given what has gone before. She looks around, pointing out views, a medieval bridge, the light on the sunflower fields. The local mayor arrives; he’s an old friend. She tries to persuade him to join us; Budgie would be delighted to see him. "Il faut rester!" she tries to insist. "Peter a son Volvo."
She is clearly at home here. She goes back to Britain for business reasons. "It just seems really joyless," she complains. She is disengaged from the music scene. Budgie owns an iPod; she doesn’t. When she sees bands - she went to see the Kings Of Leon recently - she finds them stagey, aloof. "There’s no risk of someone being pulled into the crowd, or people hitting each other," she complains.
What? They don’t hit each other like they used to?
"Like I did," she cackles. "I used to just kick someone’s head in," she remembers fondly.
In the old days Siouxsie could be terrifying; fisticuffs within the band or with obstreperous outsiders were commonplace.
Are you still capable of a good right hander?
"Yes I am," she says proudly.
When did you last whack somebody?
"Last time I did it professionally," she says, "was probably in the rehearsal room of last year’s American shows." The new, more tactful Siouxsie declines to say who she hit. "They probably won’t want to be known as someone who was hit by me," she laughs. "I have to be sorely tested to hit someone and I was being sorely tested. I will say no more."
Her life, when she is not on the road, is somewhat more sedate these days. Much of it revolves around her cats. "I think I still have a certain... wariness about people."
Her love of cats goes back to her childhood; she wanted a panther like in the Kipling stories her father used to read her in sober moments. Instead he brought her back a cat from the pub one day. The cat had kittens. When conflict in the house became too unbearable she would sit alone on the back porch. "It would always be one of the cats that would come up and console me," she says.
The Banshees’ income funds her relatively modest lifestyle; they had to scrape around to finance their ambitious tour with drummer Leonard Eto, but her fanbase - often people who saw something of themselves in her fractured personality - have remained doggedly loyal. These days her performances are more relaxed; the Dreamshow dates became a stylish grown-up experimental cabaret show.
This year there’s a realisation abroad about how influential Siouxsie’s role was. The Edge recently presented her with an award as an "Icon" at a magazine prizegiving. Siouxsie was delighted. At this year’s Brits, she was presenting The Scissor Sisters with their Best International Act Award when their singer Ana Matronic grabbed the mike and turned the tables, declaring: "I’d like to thank Siouxsie Sioux, without whom I wouldn’t be in existence. It’s women like her who use their brains and not their butts who make this industry worthwhile."
"She was so generous," says Siouxsie, genuinely flattered.
It’s a pop psychology cliché to say that many pop stars are damaged before they start and seek some sort of redemption in stardom; usually of course, it’s the least reliable way of achieving it. But with Siouxsie, remarkably, sitting here blissfully admiring the view, becoming first a fierce pop star, and then learning to shed those layers has been a remarkable act of self-healing. At 48, that strange, brilliantly fearless persona that Susan Ballion invented as a survival mechanism served its purpose. With the exception of the occasional right-hander, she has abandoned it now. "You realise," she says, "it’s not appropriate to keep that way of dealing with things. I guess you start to learn to drop away some of the layers because you don’t need them."
For a middle-aged former punk Siouxsie seems remarkably content. If you ask if there’s one thing in particular that she’s particularly smug about having achieved she doesn’t mention the hits, the gigs, or the shadow she’s cast. She says, "It was getting myself out of the situation in Chislehurst. For me that is a great triumph. And I know I did that on my own."
You invented yourself?
"It was invent or sink. Do or die." She picks up the empty packet of Marlboros and squeezes it flat.
William Shaw 09/05
Mother of the Goth movement, friend of
Sid Vicious and now solo artist, Siouxsie Sioux talks sweaty stage
costumes, the new underground and having her own dummy at Madam
Tussaurd's. Just don't call her an icon...
MM: Let's talk about musical inspirations first. Who are you into at the moment?
Siouxsie Sioux: As a band I think probably Radiohead. I just find them complete and they don't seem to play that awards game. Oh and I like Peaches. I love Peaches!
MM: What about people who seem to be directly influenced by you, like the Yeah Yeah Yeahs?
Actually, everyone was saying 'have you heard the Yeah Yeah Yeahs they sound like the Banshees' and I hadn't. So I listened to their music and I thought they didn't really sound like The Banshees. And then I saw a DVD of them live and they came across really well and yeah, there is something there but I wouldn't say they are derivative. Maybe inspired by a lot of other things. I like them. And Missy Elliott, she's nice and mad. She's really in control of some many different things. Very wacky and you don't know what she's gonna do.
MM: We hear you're doing a solo album?
MM: Are you collaborating with different people?
Well, that's on the cards. We've always had orchestras in the studio, but they've always added to what's already there. So I actually want to take ideas that are just starting, and see what an orchestra or someone else can make with it. To take it somewhere else.
MM: So there's going to be an orchestra involved?
MM: Have you got a producer?
No but there are a few people in mind. But I'm not gonna talk about it 'cause I know if there's something good I've got an idea for, just mentioning it puts a jinx on it! But I've already got some of the material recorded. It's very primal.
MM: I remember reading an interview with you in The Guardian newspaper about ten years ago. At the time you weren't comfortable with the idea of being an icon. Now that people are striving to be icons with their first album, how do you feel about the concept now?
Anyone who is trying to get into the history books might as well forget it. I've always thought that the people who have nothing but still have a sense of style are far more inventive than people who just buy a label or a designer and hang it on themselves. It's DIY.
PJ: Do you think that idea's coming back again?
It's a hope but in the music industry now there's so many stylists, dressers and PRs, you know. And they say 'talk about this, be ambitious, be aggressive.' The musicians become like little models almost, blank pages for someone else's ideas. People who say what they should be looking like. Have an attitude, you know, you've either got it or you haven't.
MM: You icon status isn't just about visual style, however. It's about everything that goes with it - music, attitude, the complete parcel.
People think that style and visuals are really important, and they are, but if you haven't got anything to back it up with, it's like 'so what?' If people aren't concentrating on the music or you're not bringing that attitude to the music then it's all pretty pointless.
MM: So does the whole 'icon' thing still embarrass you?
Well it does because there's been so many twats being given icon status. It's almost like if something becomes really popular, you're like 'what? Joe Bloggs likes that as well? I must be doing something wrong here!' So I kinda mistrust something if it becomes accepted by the masses.
PJ: Do you still believe in the idea of the underground? How have you managed to maintain your underground sensibility?
It's the big question. What's interesting is how the underground is accepted by the masses and how that conflicts with it.
PJ: Your stage performances are so captivating, stylish and flamboyant. Do you choreograph them?
There has to be a lot of spontaneity. I happen to be quite physical when I'm on stage and I get sucked into the music. It feels all wrong when I'm too aware, like "I'm on the stage and I'm singing". It works when I'm not really that aware of where I am. But I always have a strong idea of how I want to present myself anyway. For the recent 'Dreamshow' performances Pam (Hogg) helped me to make the costume and give it a Japanese-y feel. I did all these drawings for her and sent them and said 'look there's not much time. It's got to be washable 'cause I sweat a lot. I've got to be able to stick it in the sink, rinse it and dry it up!' I like the idea of things being interchangeable, things that come off, collars and sleeves, and it's got to be comfortable but still, you know. I can move freely in it. It has to be comfortable but stunning as well. I'm all legs and arms and I'd love to have something which extended, so that I could whip the other musicians with it! Tentacles wrapped around someone's neck!
MM: What about your old clothes? Like the outfit you wore in the Happy House video?
I've still got them! I haven't thrown them away. Maybe they'll go up for auction for something like Greenpeace. That's why I need a big house, somewhere to store all my old stuff! My leather outfit with the thigh boots (from '80-81) actually went to Madam Tussaurd's. They made a dummy of me. I had to go and get fitted. They had to measure my eyes, and they had these pincers like, and you think you're gonna get your eye pulled out! And actually you see the eyeballs that they're gonna give you. I think early on they had me in my leather. I'll have to ask them 'Have you got my outfit? Can I have it back?' Whatever happened to that dummy?
Mark Moore & Princess Julia 08/05
LIVING THE DREAMSHOW
Siouxsie Sioux - gorgeous, stylish and unique, we caught up with her to find out more about her new DVD of Dreamshow at the Royal Festival Hall.
MARK MOORE: Ten years ago in The Guardian you weren't conceited enough to confess that you were an icon; you weren't comfortable with the fact because you related it to dead revolutionaries. Now you get people in this post - modern age on their first album trying and striving to be an icon.
SIOUXSIE SIOUX: Anyone who is trying to get into the history books might as well forget it. I don't know, it's like when people say 'Oh, what you were wearing then', and you're like, 'Well, it's what you got at the time. It's DIY. It's not planned, it's kinda customised. It's to suit you and your limitations, usually budgetary, and so that's creative in itself, making nothing look like something fantastic and I always thought that the people with nothing that have a style were far more inventive than people who just buy a label or a designer and hang it on themselves. I always think that someone who thinks of ways to try and look like 'they're fabulous' and think they need the 'expense account'... and they haven't, then you know it's been cobbled together with this and that and bric-a-brac.
PRINCESS JULIA: Your stage performances are captivating, stylish and flamboyant. I was going to ask you how you arrived at that. Do you choreograph? How do you do it?
SS: It's a lot to do with spontaneity. I happen to be quite physical when I'm on stage. I get sucked into the music. It feels all wrong when I'm too aware like, 'I'm on the stage and I'm singing', and it works when I'm not really that aware of where I am. I always have a strong idea of how I want to present myself. In Dreamshow with the Japanese feel, Pam (Hogg) helped me to make the costumes. I did all these drawings for her and sent them and said, "Look, there's not much time, it's got to be washable", because I sweat a lot I've got to be able to stick it in a sink, rinse it and dry it up. I like the idea of things being inter-changeable; things that come off, collars and sleeves, and it's got to be comfortable. But still you know, I can move freely in it. There's nothing worse than having something you realise as soon as you've got it on it's something restrictive. You know, if I'm just gonna stand there like a Dodo it'll be fine, but for what I do I can't be restricted so (what I wear on stage) has to be comfortable but stunning as well. I'm all legs and arms, I'd love to have something which was extended so I could whip the other musicians. Tentacles wrapped around someone's neck.
PJ: Your voice is amazing!
SS: Well, it's all self-taught! Me imitating the Daleks at an early age!
PJ: What would you say were your favourite moments in Dreamshow?
SS: Oh, I loved doing 'Obsession' 'cause we'd never done that live as the Banshees before or since. I guess that was one of my favourite moments because there was a spooky thing that happened. The studio that we were originally working in broke down, which was Playground, so we had to go to Abbey Road. It's a big studio and we had done all the strings and over-dubbings and things for 'Obsession' and suddenly the tapes all started speeding up and slowing down. 'It's the ghost of John Lennon!' And on the record you can hear "neowghhh" and we just kept with it 'cause it was a freaky moment that just happened. So it was great and it was quite naked as well. It's quite edgy and it was the first performance ever live, so I enjoyed that! I really loved doing stuff like 'Take Mine' from 'Anima Animus' and embellishing some of The Creatures stuff. With 'Prettiest Thing' the brass coming in it felt really good and it was great how the orchestra worked, they were really responsive. I know orchestras, they have their pieces of paper. This orchestra were amazing, attentive, they went with it. I warned them; I said "Look, you may have your bars counted there but that's not what's gonna happen on the night... and I might change my mind about something but just listen, go with it and you'll be fine".
MM: How long did it take to rehearse the orchestra?
SS: That's the amazing thing. We had two rehearsals, just two rehearsals with them!
PJ: You're a proper pro!
SS: You gotta risk it for a biscuit!
Mark Moore & Princess Julia 17/08/05
Siouxsie Sioux still living the dream.
Siouxsie Sioux is the original queen of punk whose ferocious vocals earned her legendary status and respect from other generations gone by.
Now she's laid-back, chatty and very different to how you'd imagine the lead singer of classic band Siouxsie and the banshees and The creatures.
She's also aged a lot better than her punk contemporaries, looking svelte, stylish and well, not really that scary, as we sit and chat about her new DVD Dreamshow.
It's a film of last year's solo Royal Festival Hall dates, backed by a string orchestra and kodo drummer Leonard Eto.
Siouxsie says : ''It was a dream come true. The strings and Leonard Eto made it something I'll never forget''.
Combining both Siouxsie and the banshees plus The creatures hits such as Dear prudence, Happy house, and Cities in dust, the show was a one-off that no fan could miss.
Wearing spectacular stage costumes, Siouxsie proved why she remained THE icon of her generation and someone who has never been matched in attitude and style since she burst on to the 100 club stage in 1976.
She says : ''I just wanted to be different. I hated the norm - still do''.
''it was great returning to the 100 club to play a show again last year. It took me right back. I can't compare back then to now as it's really different. I'm just glad that I man still here doing the shows.''
With her solo album in production, Siouxsie is a busy lady but leaving London for France with husband Budgie has made her take control of her life.
''I enjoyed being back in London for the shows but I could never live there again - the noise is deafening. Friends from New York stayed with us in France but they couldn't cope with the silence. But for us and the cats - well, it's just paradise.''
|THE GUARDIAN WEEKEND MAGAZINE|
Growing up in the suburbs, Siouxsie Sioux realised she wasn't like everyone else. Then she discovered music and clothes ... and became a punk icon. She tells Michael Bracewell how she did it
A black and white photograph of Siouxsie Sioux taken at a Sex Pistols concert in August 1976 still retains its ability to shock. She is dressed in nothing more than an asymmetrical ensemble of fetishistic latex underwear, finished off with a cupless bra that leaves her breasts bare. Her expression is aloof, inscrutable.
That same night, Siouxsie and her friend Steve Severin approached Malcolm McLaren, then manager of the Sex Pistols, with the idea of forming their own group. Siouxsie And The Banshees, named after the Vincent Price film Cry Of The Banshees, went on to become one of the most celebrated products of the punk era. It's now almost 30 years since the band's first performance, where Siouxsie intoned The Lord's Prayer over a wall of feedback at London's 100 Club - a set described at the time by one journalist as "unbearable". She now spends most of her time in south-eastern France, where she lives with former Banshees drummer Budgie (the pair have their own band, the Creatures), but we meet at a London hotel. Siouxsie is wearing an elegant white trouser suit, and her black hair - more of an Elvis-style raven blue, in fact - is slicked back to reveal features that seem virtually unchanged since she appeared as a post-punk geisha on the cover of The Face magazine in 1983.Like her peers among the founding figures of British punk - Vivienne Westwood, Johnny Rotten, Howard Devoto and Mark E Smith - Siouxsie regards the labelling of "punk" as being the death of its vital energy. "Before we were on the Bill Grundy show with the Pistols," she says, "and before punk had been seized on by the tabloids, there was a healthy fear of our appearance. And it's funny how that fear turned to hatred once the phenomenon had been identified - or once it was considered to have been identified and contained. When I hired a costume from Berman's & Nathan's to go and see Roxy Music at Wembley Arena in 1975 (it was a cross between a mermaid and a chorus girl - purple sequins with a fish-tail train), I didn't get changed in the toilets at Charing Cross station, I travelled up to town in that outfit. I got odd looks, but if they saw you looking they'd turn away. I think that people sense that kind of single-mindedness and don't dare approach you. But all that really did change once punk was picked up on in the media. Then the public reaction was abusive."
It wasn't until 1978 - well after the initial shock waves of punk - that the Banshees released their first record. Something about their attitude, their refusal to conform to the increasingly commodified idea of punk, had kept the major record companies at a distance, but when their first album, The Scream, finally came out, its originality, edge and sheer energy provoked instant, near fanatical acclaim. It was one of those records that immediately summoned up a world view - dark, tense, eerily erotic.
"Looking back on those days, nothing can really capture quite how out on a limb the primary people were," says Siouxsie. "How brave it was, I suppose - without it really seeming brave at the time; more a kind of recklessness. But the term 'punk' was so lazy and easy and inaccurate. The Pistols were different because they had Rotten - without him, who knows? And the Clash went at it in a way that was far more traditional - a kind of Keith Richards thing. I wasn't trying to be masculine and getting down with the boys, so the main difference between us and the rest was that it wasn't a solely male perspective. I think a certain amount of anger has been a fuel of mine, if you want - but also some sort of sadness, and plain mischief, of course."
Siouxsie, originally Susie Ballion, grew up in suburban Chislehurst with her parents, brother and sister. Her mother worked as a bilingual secretary; her father was a lab technician. "I think that just because of the kind of family we were, there was definitely a sense of not feeling a part of the community, or of being neighbourly. I was very aware of us being very different. My father had a drink problem, which also sensitised that feeling.
"Where we lived was very residential, and our house seemed different. It wasn't red brick, to begin with - it was white stucco with a flat roof, and with trees. Everyone else had gardens with patios and neatly cut lawns, and we had these massive copper beech trees at the front, and a huge privet hedge. You couldn't look in to our house. All the others were almost inviting you to look in - life in all its normality was being paraded. Which probably wasn't the case behind closed doors, but that was the perception."
The suburbs, she says, "inspired intense hatred. I think the lure of London was always there. I remember my sister taking me to Biba on Kensington High Street; I bought a coat and used to gravitate towards going there on my own later. But the suburbs were also a yardstick for measuring how much we didn't fit in."
Together with Severin and another early Banshees member, Billy Idol, Siouxsie was part of the "Bromley Contingent", a small collection of friends and acquaintances from south London. They met at the earliest concerts by the Sex Pistols and then, discovering they were all from the same place, began to go out en masse - English descendants of Andy Warhol's heroically dysfunctional superstars. Their defining moment, perhaps, was Bertie Marshall's infamous "Berlin's Baby Bondage party" in 1976, held at his parents' house. The Sex Pistols came, and legend has it that the Styrofoam tiles on the ceiling were for ever scarred by Siouxsie's whip.
In many ways, Siouxsie And The Banshees became the contingent's ultimate statement about outsiderdom. Siouxsie and Severin went on to record many tracks that centred on disturbed childhoods, paranoia and personality disorders - singles such as Happy House, Playground Twist and Christine. "I would definitely say that our early material, for at least the first two albums, was suburbia - where I grew up, and the circumstances."
Her own childhood and teenage experiences of music were liberating. "Certainly music was the one big thing that made everything seem OK. It was a cause of happiness within the family, and laughter, and fun. My first love affair with a record was with John Leyton's Johnny Remember Me. It had these amazing, ghostly backing vocals, a great melody, and it was about a dead girlfriend, basically. I was three or four when it came out, in 1961, and I used to have to get somebody to put it on the record player for me.
"As I got older, I loved a lot of the Tamla Motown and a lot of R&B. Then there was the usual Beatles and Stones. I really got into The White Album. Pop music for me was definitely escapist, but never studious. I was never attracted to being a very proficient singer or player. I suppose I was interested in creating a vision; in the same way I was very drawn to tension within cinema. Hitchcock was my other early obsession - Psycho, and its score. So there was the sense of trying to create an atmosphere: how a sound resonates and makes an effect. That has always been very important for me."
Listening to a bootlegged early demo tape from 1977, you are immediately struck by its jagged, jarring energy. Severin says a powerful early influence was seeing the German group Can play their first UK show at Brunel University in 1973.
"They came on and just played nonstop for two hours, each piece merging straight into the next. It had the most mesmerising effect on the audience. That's what I wanted to achieve with the Banshees." Two career-defining singles - Staircase Mystery and Playground Twist - led the group to their second album, Join Hands. And it was at this point, in 1979, just as Siouxsie And The Banshees were being recognised as one of the most original groups to emerge from punk, that guitarist John McKay and drummer Kenny Morris left - choosing to depart just hours before a concert in Aberdeen. Siouxsie told the disappointed crowd: "If you've got one per cent of the aggression we feel towards them, if you ever see them, you have my blessings to beat the shit out of them."
A quarter of a century later, Severin describes their departure as "a tragic waste" but an event that, in his words, was "the single key event" in the group's history. "It forced us to re-evaluate ourselves," he says. "We had to grow up in public very, very fast, and I had to come to terms with what had always been my crippling shyness." In the event, this sudden change gave the band new energy, repositioning them in the slick, fashion-conscious 1980s as purveyors of richly atmospheric, gorgeously dramatic music - the memorably intense singles Dazzle, Swimming Horses and Peek A Boo, as well as their intoxicating cover of the Beatles' Dear Prudence.
"I've come to realise that the Banshees would have happened regardless of the 'punk' explosion," says Severin. "While most of the protagonists of punk looked to American garage bands - Flaming Groovies, MC5, the Stooges, the Dolls - or to the New York scene of Patti Smith, Television, Heartbreakers and the Ramones as a benchmark, we, perversely, saw ourselves as taking on the baton of glamorous art rock - Bowie and Roxy Music - while incorporating a love for Can, Kraftwerk and Neu."
Entering their second decade, Siouxsie And The Banshees occupied an unusual position, somewhere between "cult band" and "iconic". With inimitable style, they finally disbanded in 1996, on the day the Sex Pistols announced their first reunion tour. Siouxsie and Budgie moved to France, pursuing their work together as the Creatures. Both Siouxsie and Severin loathed the way they were sometimes linked to goth music. Like their musical heroes the Velvet Underground and Roxy Music, Siouxsie And The Banshees had created a back catalogue and a mythology that was as much a burden as an achievement.
"The music press tried very hard to make us unfashionable in the 90s, certainly in England," says Siouxsie. "For me, timelessness is what counts; sometimes you can only really tell after a long time how timeless something will be. With the Banshees, we had a way of just allowing our music to happen. There was a lot of space; it wasn't cluttered, and was hardly embellished. It evoked isolation, but in quite a euphoric way. At a signing the other day, someone asked me how it felt to be the queen of goth. I said, 'That's rather like being known as the Prince Regent of Fools.' I hate all that. There is a fun, flippant side to me, of course. But I would much rather be known as the Ice Queen."
Siouxsie And The Banshees' first album, The Scream, will be re-released by Polydor on October 3, followed by the rest of the back catalogue.
Michael Bracewell 19/08/05
The Banshees queen on hating Dylan
and inventing goth.
Uncut: Are you stranger now than
when you were young?
NEED TO KNOW
Article courtesy of Anima Animus and Paul