|JOIN HANDS - MAGAZINE COVERS|
|JOIN HANDS - INTERVIEWS/ARTICLES|
|MELODY MAKER 17/02/79|
|RECORD MIRROR 21/04/79|
|SMASH HITS 12/07/79|
|RECORD MIRROR 15/09/79|
do you think of it, then?" sneaked Siouxsie Sioux as we slipped
into the Kurfurstendamm, Berlin's notorious main strip, which is like
Oxford Street during an economic boom. "I don't think much of
it," she continued. "Far too many old ladies dripping furs and
She had a point. Every vista seemed to open up another example of elegantly wrinkled wealth.
Christopher Isherwood had, without doubt, left Berlin decades ago for fame and fortune in California. Harry Palmer's inscrutable espionage antics were locked firmly into Sixties popular culture, while the streets were hardly crawling with the kind of aesthetic bank clerks that are supposed to go hand-in-hand with Teutonic metal machine musik. But we had an evening and a following day to delve a mite deeper. Or so we hoped.
The trip was a three-day skirmish which took in Hamburg and Berlin, part of a slightly longer promotional jaunt arranged by Polydor to introduce Siouxsie and the Banshees to the EEC. Polydor didn't expect any immediate massive returns. Rather, they wanted to nudge their band onto the first rung of the ladder. Adrian Rudge, whose card read "International Promotion," resigned himself to many trips like this one. Unless you're very lucky or have instant family appeal, breaking the continent is a process of slow attrition. So far "The Scream" has notched up around 4,500 sales in West Germany, which isn't bad considering that it has just been released and the group are hardly a bierkeller name.
In Hamburg, the record company machine got underway. After a brief hotel stop-off, the afternoon was to be given over to interviews. Three, to be precise, and, in the true mogul manner, the German Polydor chief prepared the group by wheeling in a perspex and tubular steel trolley full of demon alcohol. The room had all the characteristic signs of oppulence, but one item added an oddly disquieting touch. On the wall hung a poster of a kid toting a gun at another who was blindfolded and strapped to an executioner's post. A new-world Lord Of The Flies? A heavy-duty comment about the reality outside in this land of Baader-Meinhoff? Who knows?
Interestingly, not only were the questions more or less identical throughout, but the band responded with (maybe unexpected) enthusiasm. They filled in the silences and they reiterated for the zillionth time the story of their 100 Club origins. News of Sid's death must have rekindled interest in that "legendary" performance.
The German angle was a natural topic for discussion. Everyone asked about "Metal Postcard (Mittageisen)" which, of course, is dedicated to John Heartfield, the German artist whose photo-montages used images of Hitlerian fascism. In fact, the song arose from two sources: one was a propaganda speech made by Goring, and the other a Heartfield piece called "Hurrah, die Butter ist alles!" which shows an overweight nuclear family chomping away on industrial knick-knacks.
Steven Severin (the surname comes courtesy of the Velvets' "Venus In Furs") cottoned on to the pun in the title. It's hardly surprising, if you're not aquainted with German. "Mittageisen" translates as midday iron (the food in the Heartfield pic) but might be mistaken for the similar sounding "Mittagessen" which means midday meal. Clever, huh?
The song, they explained again and again, is a warning about how some powerful figurehead could implant a masterscheme and you'd wake up to find daily orders coming over the, er, totaliterian loudspeakers. Siouxsie: "It could be apparent today. Despite trade unions and so on, everyone needs someone to guide them." Kenny Morris: "At the moment England is like a gaping wound. It's just waiting for someone to jump in." John McKay: "Heartfield put down the establishment. He was older and wiser than us and knew how to use photo-montage. All we had to use were Nazi armbands." Siouxsie: "Now it's something you're made to be very *unaware* of. It's on the TV all the time. It's such unconscious manipulation." John: "If we were doing anything really dangerous against the establishment, then we wouldn't be able to do interviews." Siouxsie: "It's as subtle as turning on a light bulb. You're often not aware of supporting things."
That explains the reason for and the outcry after their ill-judged flirtation with Nazi insignia. Because it was a crudely stage-managed shock tactic, it backfired and now--in their eyes--has become like a hairshirt. Siouxsie: "What lies around the swastika I hate, but I also don't identify with blind patriotism either." Again : "I couldn't write a song based around Heartfield if I had that attitude." Take three: "I used certain make-up and a swastika for people to stand back and be repelled. I did it to cause a reaction--not because I supported Nazism. Maybe we could say we had misjudged the reaction, especially from those people who were very sensitive to it."
The discussion then moved to Iran, wars of religion through the ages, and to the controversial TV programme Holocaust, which had just been screened in Germany and had attracted the country's largest-ever viewing figures. Rock Against Racism reared its head. The Banshees refuse to do a RAR gig.
Siouxsie: "The main thing is that you don't know where the money's going." (They plan to do some charity gigs in the not-too-distant future). John: "If you don't object to Jews or blacks or pink men or whatever, why should we play an RAR gig? There's an inverted snobbery there. If I was black, I'd be very insulted by RAR."
Siouxsie: "I'd rather do something like Rock Against Rabbit-Breeding. Men planting their sperm and watching women's bellies grow, when they don't have the means to support children, is very frightening." Then a little later: "I hate the extreme left and the extreme right because they're both wrong."
Being on the road with the Banshees is no Doctor Feelgood routine of wacky excess followed by more wacky excess. Kenny constantly looks like a rabbit trapped on crackling wires; Steven breaks lengthy silences with dry asides; John is committed to as a consuming performance; Siouxsie has a kind of homely sharpness, intuitive and determined.
They're trying to act as a barometer to whatever they see around them. Hence, as they change (and become increasingly sophisticated), so the approach and subject matter alter accordingly. The final number of every set is a version of "The Lord's Prayer." Deliberately kept open-ended, it is as varied or restricted as the audience of the night determines. The regulating factor is punter feedback. The lyrics consist of anthems, and Siouxsie will incorporate anything from "Twist and Shout," to "Deutschland Uber Alles" (though not in Germany), "Knockin' on Heaven's Door" and "Somewhere Over The Rainbow."
The Banshees don't see themselves as at all unconventional. You'll hear, "We just use everyone else's things in our own way" and "We don't want to be weird" and "We have a very traditional structure to our songs."
We were treated to a sneak preview of the new single, "Staircase," but only after swearing not to give anything away. All I'll say is that it's strong, though not as instant as "Garden," develops the thrust of the sound on "The Scream," sports some wonderful handclaps, and has an accompanying video that utilises the services of the oldest stunt man currently working in Britain. The song was sparked off by a famous shot from the movie Psycho, and by childhood fears about boogeymen lurking in darkly-lit wells. Siouxsie: "There's something about a staircase. It's so unpredictable and exciting at the same time. That feeling of displacement, vertigo when you're at the top looking down or at the bottom looking up."
The interviews were winding down, the sound check approached and the vodka was taking effect. Suddenly Siouxsie exclaimed: "I'll tell you my main childhood influence--Otis Redding." Gaspo! Steve taunted jokingly: "Relate that to the lyrics!" Seemingly, Siouxsie's older brother and sister had been bluebeat/ska/soul fanatics and had drenched the house in the likes of Prince Buster.
That evening's gig in the Markthalle went down well, apart from a solitary Hell's Angel who decided to introduce aggro where there wasn't any.
During the set he screamed at Siouxsie: "If you don't want to fuck me, baby, well, baby, fuck off." Siouxsie replied: "You're too ugly." Come the end of the gig, the Angel set about trying to trash the monitors. When driver/bodyguard Mick went to dissuade him, the Angel sank his molars into Mick's hand--though not before the latter had removed most of the former's teeth.
They showcased some new songs, which are still in a state of development. "Playground"--just possibly the single to follow "Staircase"--talks about adults who act like children and children who think they're adults. It might be interpreted as a swipe against the music press. As the title suggests, there's a kind of nursery-rhyme section, but it's still in a very embryonic stage. "Placebo Effect" came from hearing a programme on Capitol Radio, when one of the station's resident Kildares was discussing the kind and colour of medicaments that different nations most favour. Apparently the UK goes for pills while the French like suppositories and the Italians injections. Fascinating stuff.
Siouxsie also sang the whole of "Metal Postcard" in German. Dave Woods, who dropped out of a German course at London university to become their tour manager, had done a special translation. Unfortunately, nobody noticed on the first night-but in Berlin, after Siouxsie asked which language they'd prefer, audience reaction was more "positive."
Hamburg airport is like Belfast airport: strict security, body checks, closed-circuit TV and men with guns. Waiting in the departure lounge, John's eyes followed the posters down the wall. A line of tacky semi-psychedelic travel ads terminated abruptly in a black-and-white shocker for wanted terrorists. Crosses had been etched over the faces of those already caught. John's eyes lit up.
"I really do want one of those. Do you think they'd give me one if I asked for it." I don't think so somehow, but you can always try. "Maybe if I nicked it...?" I don't think that's a great idea.
On the way to the plane there was a collection box for Amnesty International. Les, the Banshees' irrepressible and book-devouring roadie, threw in some small change. "You never know when I might need them."
The Berlin show, held at the Kantkino--which normally operates as a hip cinema (performance alternating with Buster Keaton movies and arthouse contenders like Wim Wenders)--had another full turn-out, but the band gave a lacklustre performance. No one was happy, and Siouxsie chipped a tooth on the microphone. So it was decided to hit the town and sample the Berlin night-life.
The Bowie Club, recommended as a hot niterie, turned out to resemble the type of ineffectual disco that usually slumbers beneath a new brieze-block shopping precinct. The deejay spun "Satisfaction" (the Stones' version) and frustration filled the air. John snapped: "I've never seen so many ugly people together in my life." I suppose Amanda Lear would have approved.
The following morning was eaten up by an interview on the British Forces Network radio, which only left a few hours in the afternoon before the band flew to Amsterdam. There wasn't time to step into East Berlin, so two parties were formed. Kenny and John went to survey checkpoint Charlie while Siouxsie and Steven headed in the direction of the zoo.
Here, all ideas of Siouxsie as the glacial Rheinmadchen melted completely away. The inveterate animal lover (British to the core) emerged as she identified all sorts of tropical specimens and bounced up to the kangaroo cage, exclaiming "Hippety hoppety" to the rather stunned marsupial mammals.
It was a pretty spectacular zoo, although Siouxsie reckoned that Whipsnade was better. Later, Steven bought a weighty tome about Heartfield and I went home.
Ian Birch 17/02/79
ABERDEEN... NO-ONE CAN HEAR YOU SCREAM
‘I’m sorry that I hit you / but my string snapped / I’m sorry I disturbed your cat-nap / but whilst finishing a chore / I asked myself "what for?" / then something snapped / I had a relapse... a suburban relapse’ (‘Suburban Relapse’, Sioux / McKay)
Aberdeen, Friday, September 7. The geezer standing next to me in the urinal said "Hey, have you heard the rumour? Two of the Banshees have run off. They’re not going to play. The bouncers are expecting a riot."
My jaw joined other appendages in hanging slackly. As a newshound this is the sort of thing I’m supposed to tell other people, not learn from a pisser-by in the gents at Aberdeen Capitol an hour before the band I’ve traveled 500 miles to see are supposed to come on stage.
Back to my seat behind the mixing desk and Chris Parry, main man for the Cure and Fiction Records, is muttering something about his boys being asked to play a long set which they did and, fortunately as it turned out, captivated the audience.
Then as they left the stage an officious Scottish voice adopting the unmistakable tone of a British Rail announcer regretting the late arrival of almost everything except Christmas droned through the PA: "Attention. Your attention please. Owing to the disappearance of two members of the Banshees the gig will not take place. If you would stay in your seats arrangements will be made to refund your money."
Groans. Boos. A lot of milling about swiftly arrested by the sight of Siouxsie Sioux and Steve Severin centre stage - ergo it was guitarist John McKay and drummer Kenny Morris who’d done a bunk. The same undertaker’s apprentice intoned:
"Attention. Siouxsie would like to speak to you."
Suddenly everyone was dashing towards the front as Siouxsie took the mic: "Two original members of the band are here tonight. Two art college students fucked off out of it."
She sounded as though she’d been fuelling anger for enough hours to be burnt out, all but emotionally dead. With no ‘performance’ to give, no beat to move to, she and Severin stood awkwardly in the bland house lights, decidedly humble.
"All I can say is we will be back here with some friends who have got some roots. 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 shit out of them."
Steve said a couple of dejected sentences, things like "We are as disappointed as you are" then Siouxsie added "Next time you see them... pow!" They waved and walked off, now to cheers from the whole audience who I suppose could easily have turned nasty but had been won over by the honesty of what they’d just witnessed and the thrill of being involved in an event which was probably more significant than the gig they had expected.
Anyway they had no doubts about the consolation they wanted and the bands, crews and Capitol staff strove to pour the required oil on troubled waters.
"Cure! Cure! Cure!" The Cure, troopers already, came back with a couple more songs from beyond the realm of their rehearsed set including a new piece called ‘S’ which they graciously dedicated to Siouxsie. Then, after an exchange of messages by the frantic traffic of managers and roadies scurrying up and down the hall and across the stage, they announced "some guests".
Re-enter Sioux and Severin hastily strapping on the bass. Michael Dempsey, Cure’s bassman, plonked his mike down for Siouxsie and while Steve gave the band some rudimentary advice on what was to follow she said "I hope you realise these guys know nothing about the ‘Lord’s Prayer’ (roar of approval from the crowd).
"It’ll probably be all the better for that. John and Kenny were doing it for the money and you can’t do a good ‘Lord’s Prayer’ with that attitude. We will be back!"
Steve started pounding away and in about five seconds the Cure were into it, a relentless electric groaning which in the context came out as a formidable statement, the outpouring Siouxsie and Steve needed.
A black-haired girl all raggy in a leather jacket, white tights and some kind of check tunic bounding across the stage, chanting, singing, wailing. Absolutely no kind of chic involved in this at all. A naked event, a moment of truth, a spit in the eye of disaster. Something happened.
Now I’m no particular fan of the Banshees and I think the version of ‘Lord’s Prayer’ on ‘Join Hands’ is too long and uneven but this was transfixing. My scalp prickled at the nameless feelings of it.
Then she was done. The Cure crashed a few chords surplus to requirements before they noticed, then Siouxsie was telling the crowd "We’ll be back here in October." A bloke vaulted on stage with ambitions to give her a great big kiss and was intercepted by a bouncer. She urged him "Don’t get heavy" and the large gent obliged, drawing another cheer for Siouxsie.
For the hour she had become more of a heroine than a star and melted every trace of potential aggro in the place to warmth and sympathy (yes, contrary to image). Most people were still pragmatic enough to claim their money back but they drifted away peacefully.
Well. Clearly this was not going to be quite your standard tour-and-album type feature. The Banshees’ manager, Nils Stevenson, appeared for the first time and invited me and Mike Laye to come straight up to the dressing room where Siouxsie Sioux and Steve Severin wanted to talk and presumably use us to explain to their followers what the hell was going on. Here it is for you to take at face value or read between the lines whatever implications you will.
They were perched on plastic chairs in the middle of the usual tawdry chamber littered with the usual wreckage of running buffet. They were hardly pictures of joy but they did give the surprising impression of having already worked their way through the worst of their shock and despair into a more positive frame of mind - which Siouxsie emphasised by her first, somewhat sarcastic remark:
"This is the happiest day of my life."
Me: "What happened?"
Sioux: "It came to a head when we were in this record shop today supposed to be promoting the album. First time we’d ever done it and I didn’t see any harm in it because there’s a lot of people want to see us. But Kenny and Johnny had decided to fight against signing autographs."
Me: "Did they say why?"
Severin: "They said if somebody wanted to talk to them they didn’t need a signature on a piece of paper. Which is all very nice but they still came to the shop with us and hid behind us while we did all the signing. Then they took our album off the record deck and played the Slits instead."
Sioux: "It must have been the tits and arse that attracted them. Maybe that’s how they want to promote our album let it all hang out."
Severin: "And then when they saw our promotional copies of ‘Join Hands’ were being sold - because Polydor hadn’t supplied the shop in time - they started handing them out for free."
The background was that the supply of promos the Banshees took on the road to give to local press and DJs had been sold to the shopkeeper to save an embarrassing situation. He was in turn flogging them at the modest price of £3.80. It doesn’t seem like a very nefarious proceeding though perhaps McKay and Morris could have argued their point of principle though. Anyway it proved spark enough.
Severin: "So, right, Siouxsie thumped ‘em. Well barged John anyway."
Sioux: "Barged him across the other side of the shop! And that was it. They both disappeared. They fucked up the band, the tour and thousands of fans.
"It wasn’t just the albums, it was the whole pathetic attitude of them. It felt like they were, um, in it for the money. Like we played in Ulster for the first time yesterday and it was a big deal for me, but that wasn’t apparent for them. The only time I saw them getting excited on the trip was on the ferry when they were taking snapshots in a mirror. Poxy Polaroids of themselves! If they could have got that excited about the band it would have been great.
Even when we went into rehearsals for this tour I asked them outright whether they wanted to be part of Siouxsie And The Banshees or if they were going to be total voyeurs and dilettantes all their lives."
Siouxsie suspected their departure was premeditated. On the other hand Steve said she had already talked to him about kicking them out if they made it through to the end of the year.
Severin: "I was convinced they’d at least stay until we’d gone to America, simply for the joy ride. It can’t all be money. They’ve driven off and they’re each losing a fifth of what we’re losing."
Unusually the tour was being financed by the band, their manager and booker Dave Woods, who also manages Spizz Energi. Between them they stand to lose up to £47,000 depending on whether and how quickly new Banshees can be found and rehearsed. Astonishingly their target last weekend was to pick up the tour at Oxford this Friday (September 14).
Severin: "There’s no tour support from Polydor at all. We’ve always deliberately avoided that. At the moment we’d be the only group in Polydor who don’t owe them a penny because we knew as soon as they did they’d be able to ask favours. This tour we sunk everything into it that we’d got - all the royalties from the last album and ‘Hong Kong Gardens’. It looks as though it’s just, like - gone. I don’t understand why they’re stabbing themselves."
Sioux: "It’s not that. They don’t play that big a part in putting this together. I’m talking about conviction. They were talking about ‘the pressure. We can’t cope’. But they’ve had no pressure because they’ve refused to be a part of anything that’s got responsibilities. As far as press goes it was decided that they wouldn’t do any interviews."
Me: "They backed out of that did they?"
Severin: "No, they didn’t back out (chuckle). They were told to back out."
Sioux: "No they weren’t. They were asked."
Me: "In that instance weren’t you rejecting them then?"
Severin: "Yeah, but simply because they weren’t pulling their weight. Like with the songwriting everyone was getting an - already talking in the past tense - it was all split five ways with Nils on an equal share too. But that wasn’t how the songs were written."
Sioux: "It was the way we wanted it though because we had faith that we could work as four equal members of the band."
Severin: "It was fine for 18 months, up till we finished writing ‘Join Hands’."
Sioux: "But then they were acting like real prima donnas, not working, ‘This is below us. We won’t dirty our hands with that’... it just didn’t seem fair that they were benefiting financially."
Me: "So did you end up quarrelling over money?"
Severin: "The only time they came into the office was to get their weekly pay cheque. That may sound harsh but it was true. Now they’ve gone off thinking they’re not involved but they are, right up to their necks. Completely. Legally and everything." (The Banshees are likely to be suing McKay and Morris for the losses their departure may cause.)
Severin: "They were always going on about how we were slippin’ into being a real rock’n’roll band just like anybody else and then tonight they left their hotel room with their pillows upright on the beds with their tour passes clipped to them as if to denote effigies of themselves. There was no, um, passion in the way they left. I mean who stops to prop up their pillows and stick their tour passes to them if they’re really mad?"
Me: "What had they been expressing concern about over this thing of being ‘just like any other rock’n’roll band’?"
Severin: "They were always really paranoid about the whole ‘complete control’ thing. That things were starting to slip out of their personal control. The first major thing that happened was over the ‘Staircase’ sleeve which John and Kenny both hated and they had an alternative..."
Sioux: "Which was disgusting. Horrible."
Severin: "Sioux had written the lyrics and she knew what it was about but they had a different interpretation and they wanted a different sleeve. So me, Nils and Sioux wanted to go one way and they wanted the other... and that was the democracy of it."
Me: "Did you work on a strict democratic basis. If there was disagreement would you come down to voting?"
Severin: "It never got to that before. Then after that they started to lose faith in me, Nils and Sioux."
Me: "What about the immediate future? You said on stage that you’d be back here in October. How much of a shot in the dark was that?"
Severin: "We’ve got some friends who would like to be in the Banshees..."
Nils Stevenson (across the room): "Who are fun."
Severin: "It was like claustrophobia. In interviews you’d go to stay something and then you’d get a comment behind your ear going ‘People are this’ and ‘People are that’, massive, what’s the word, generalisations about the whole human race. If you look back that never comes from me or Siouxsie. That’s from John.
"And the whole thing about the intensity of it all and the artistic aspect comes from Kenny. Well tonight we were like total nutcases - we jumped on stage and the Cure said ‘What are we doing?’ I said ‘Just play E’ and that’s what it’s all about."
Sioux: "When we first went on at the 100 Club we didn’t even know what E was."
Me: "It’s very early to sort out what this might mean to you but..."
Severin: "It’s just Phase Three. Me and Sioux built a band from nothing before and we will again as soon as we get the right people."
Nils Stevenson came over and described the afternoon’s absurd dramas. He’d spotted the prodigals in a cab about to leave. He raced over to them and they wound the window up on his hand. Hotel reception had booked the taxi to Stonehaven, about 20 miles down the coast, so he chased after them in the band mini-bus (a hired six-litre Chevrolet). He combed a train waiting at the station there and checked the register in the main hotel without success then gave up.
He said: "They come out with all this stuff about not wanting to be superstars but what’s plain is they don’t give a fuck about the punters."
I went down to the bus to drive back to the hotel with the remnants of the band and for some minutes Siouxsie sat in the open door signing autographs. One fan was asking for a badge and they hadn’t got any left but then Nils noticed John McKay’s guitar lying beside his seat. He picked it up and told the lad "Here, take this. A souvenir."
It was accepted with wide eyes and the fan went off into the night almost as bemused as Siouxsie Sioux and Steve Severin at the turn of the day’s events.
Phil Sutcliffe 15/09/79
Kingdom come / They will be done / In Earth as it is in Heaven / Amen...
Knock, knocking on Heaven’s door / Let me in! /
Dingalingalingfuckinding on Heaven’s door... my little chickadee...
I’ll get you in the end... Shake it, shake it, shake it baby... /
Twist and shout... yodelayhehe / Tomorrow belongs to me... Oh clare dela
lune / Mon ami pierrot’
(‘The Lord’s Prayer - Book Of Common Prayer / Dylan / Sioux / WC Fields / Lennon-McCartney / Topnotes / trad.)
I am the twelfth Sounds journalist to write about Siouxsie And The Banshees. They have cultivated no camp followers from the Press Corps.
Here they are sitting across the table from me in a modest Covent Garden restaurant, Siouxsie Sioux and Steve Severin, enduring friends, the grinding worry which had lined their faces a few days earlier now melted into smiles, naturally eager to speak in praise of their new recruits.
There’s Budgie on drums. He was on to Kenny’s stool almost before it had been decontaminated so obviously he was the right man for the crisis. He’d played through two days of auditioning guitarists, who mostly seemed to think the Banshees were an offshoot of the Steve Gibbons Band, before they’d conceded to the inevitable and asked Robert Smith of the Cure, already tour support, to stand in with them for the duration.
Sioux: "At first we thought ‘He’s great but we can’t’. Then we checked and re-checked with everyone concerned with his band and now we’re sure there’s not going to be any resentment or worries that we’re trying to steal Robert."
The new quartet had been together for two days and had four more to rehearse for their debut in Leicester. As Severin put it they had already "torn their address books in half" on the basis of the reactions of previously listed "friends" to recent events. And the whole business clearly felt as healthy as a seasonal pruning for an overgrown tree.
They wanted to talk about their new music and tell me that all this stuff about ‘Join Hands’ being humourless was wide of the mark, in fact Severin was flabbergasted: "I just don’t know how people can take it as totally serious."
I said that the overriding theme of the album would seem to be death, that the oppressive music hardly does anything to lighten the verbal load, and therefore I was surprised at his surprise that people didn’t find this a barrel of laughs. We got down to cases.
OK, ‘The Lord’s Prayer’. Outrageous desecration. Or just a jest.
Severin: "It’s a noisy joke. We’re making this horrendous noise and Sioux’s singing ‘Clare De Lune’. I have to laugh."
Sioux: "That’s a gleeful mockery of religion or any other fanaticism - for the Beatles or whatever. We’re just spanners in the works of uniform progression."
Nice phrase, nice thought. And I have to admit there is a boff or two in Siouxsie’s anarchic improvisations, dingafuckinling on Heaven’s door and all that.
But ‘Premature Burial’? Well Steve claimed Edgar Allan Poe (on whose short story the song is based) was a sort of Gothic comedian and Siouxsie said the single line ‘Oh what a bloody shame’ was there to make the doominess of it all feel silly... and yet they came back to discussing the song in terms of the weighty theme of social claustrophobia (the ‘burial’ image equals limiting factors like race or youth fashion cults).
But, ‘Poppy Day’? No. No punchlines, they agreed.
Severin: "Last November 11 I was watching the TV when they had the two minutes silence in memory of the war dead and I thought wouldn’t it be nice if there were music for it." A leaping notion that, silence set to music.
From this short track with its snatches of Rupert Brooke’s poem ‘The Soldier’ flows the great war illustration on the cover and the whole life-and-death depth of the album (a broad sweep from childhood to the afterlife).
So wipe that smile off your face.
You gather I remain unconvinced about the Banshees as musical wits and raconteurs. Sioux and Severin are averagely cheerful people but on the whole that side of them seems to get lost inside them whenever the band records (so far). If humour is there it has become too private to be shared despite their earnest wish that this should not be so.
Live there’s no doubt at all that they leave a very different impression and express far more of their personalities. What might be depressing becomes fiery.
Severin: "The usual reaction is that from the first song everybody dances and goes crazy. Our audiences aren’t like lemmings falling off a cliff as some people would have you think."
In the heat of a concert you can really feel the force behind the halting, simple remarks Siouxsie made about the positives behind their blackest imagery: "Life is such an optimistic thing. We feel so strongly about... it’s healthy."
However, many reviews of them have fastened on the ‘alienation’ Steve mentioned, an alleged gulf between the Banshees and the world. Talking over the inspiration of the songs as we did you may have noticed more material accruing which appears to support this accusation.
This line of thought about them seemed fairly persuasive to me for a while but on reflection it’s false. It is absurd to say that your emotions when watching say a TV news item in Iran (the starting point of ‘Regal Zone’) are unreal just because you aren’t out on the streets of Teheran yourself.
The energy of the imagination is the key counter-balance to physical detachment and it’s a factor the Banshees are profoundly aware of.
Sioux: "There is a big danger with TV and the other media that you get cold to these events but I can’t. I’m really curious about these things happening to people. It’s hard not to imagine what it’s like. They are real people." So is the observer, no less flesh-and-blood because (s)he’s sitting in an armchair.
Still, that said, I would also suggest that their very best pieces such as Severin’s ‘Jigsaw Feeling’ and Sioux’s ‘Mother’ are among the few which come entirely from within.
‘Mother’ especially is a raw wound of a song offered by Siouxsie from her own life and surely shared and picked and scratched at by everyone who hears it. Two voices (indecipherable without the lyrics on the sleeve) sing simultaneous love and hatred for the same (universal) mother.
Sioux: "It’s very close to home. It’s personal but I’m not hung up about it. I’ve deeply loved my mother. I’ve gone out and got pissed with her. Called her by her first name. But at times she’s been this disapproving figure and I’ve hated her I think.
"It’s not just me though. I haven’t met anyone who hasn’t got a confused relationship with their mother. What role they’re supposed to play, whether they should guide you without commanding you or.. it’s such a dilemma. Also a mother is the thing I’m most confused about becoming."
‘Mother’ is quite a shaker. Not exactly recreational but the sort of fusion of experience and imagination which will make Siouxsie And The Banshees a landmark group if they continue developing and delivering.
And now, having considered the essence of a band’s artistic nature, I’d like to conclude by presenting you with a more industrial view through this account of a phone dialogue between the Banshees’ manager/partner Nils Stevenson and someone at their record company, Polydor.
Nils: "There’s some bad news I’ve got to tell you. The band have split up."
Polydor person: "Oh. What’s happening?"
Nils: "Sioux and Steve are getting new people and carrying on."
Polydor person: "Oh. Good. Bye."
Phil Sutcliffe 29/09/79
WALK-OUTS HIT SIOUXSIE TOUR
Siouxsie & The Banshees' major British tour failed to get off the ground last weekend when, in a shock move, guitarist John McKay and drummer Kenny Morris walked out of the band a few hours before the scheduled opening concert. The drama occurred in Aberdeen, where they were due to perform at the Capitol - and subsequent gigs in Glasgow, Dunfermline and Bradford had to be cancelled. But Siouxsie is hoping to resume the tour, with two new Banshees, at Oxford New Theatre tomorrow (Friday).
On Friday in Aberdeen, the show went ahead with first a local band and then The Cure playing an extended set - while Siouxsie and the tour crew tried to locate Kenny and John, who had failed to turn up at the theatre. Eventually in their hotel rooms, their pillows were found propped up dummy-like in bed, with their backstage passes attached - and eye-witnesses reported seeing the pair taxi-bound for the railway station.
An irate Siouxsie then went on stage to tell an angry crowd that the two had quit without warning, though she pacified them to some extent by singing 'The Lord's Prayer' with remaining Banshee, bassist Steve Severin - and by insisting that ticket money should be refunded in full.
Tour manager Dave Woods commented: "They left no message and, coming at such a crucial time, one is forced to the conclusion that it was premeditated. There had been divisions apparent beforehand, but nothing more than petty arguments, and I've seen much worse in other bands. We certainly had no hint that anything like this would happen." It's been suggested that the rift came to a head that afternoon, at a signing session in a local record shop, when a heated argument broke out between Siouxsie and the two defectors.
Siouxsie plans to slot in the cancelled dates at the end of the tour, and she told the Aberdeen audience: "We'll be back with some old friends". On Monday, hectic rehearsals were taking place "to sort out two new Banshees", although no-one was prepared to comment on the rumour that Pistols Steve Jones and Paul Cook could step in, albeit temporarily. Said Woods: "We have every intention of being back on stage on Friday".
Popping into the NME office on Monday, Siouxsie said: "I'm not altogether surprised it happened, but I didn't expect it to happen this way. Still, at least we've got rid of two spineless prima donnas. We're aiming to resume the tour on Friday, but it depends on rehearsals - we could delay it for 24 hours, because there's no way we'd go out with a sub-standard act."
Added Steve Severin: We think we've got a couple of replacements, though we don't want to name names at the moment. But I can promise you it's not Cook and Jones."
Meanwhile, McKay and Morris appear to have gone into hiding.
Derek Johnson 15/09/79
"I became more positive when I was in a band towards what I wanted
to do, which was to be a singer and write. Before I was in a band,
I knew what I didn't want to do - which was everything that was offered
to me, that was available to me. And then the band just
The husky tones voicing the frustrations of so many kids these days belongs to Siouxsie of Siouxsie & The Banshees.
They're an odd lot, that bunch, and I never know quite what to make of them. On one hand, I respect their distaste for the music business "establishment" I also greatly admire the way they try to control as much of their lives as possible, from artwork to security at gigs.
On the other hand, I sometimes share the impression of people like our own Cliff White that their music - however well intentioned - seems misguided, more a question of artificial form rather than heart-and-soul content. But then again, I found "The Scream" a strangely compelling album that I went back to over and over again...
Siouxsie, Steve Severin and myself are sitting in the London offices of Polydor Records. As four strong contributing individuals, the band like to do interviews together but Kenny Morris and John McKay haven't turned up.
Siouxsie and Steve are polite but distant, difficult to assess as they give nothing away nor make any attempt to be friendly. They view the music press as elitist, pompous and pretentious and, to quote Siouxsie, "just worms in the earth," (An understandable point of view, I admit, though with their professed respect for the individual, I do think they might make some attempt to distinguish the good writers from the bad!)
You probably know their history by now - how the band just "happened", to quote Siouxsie again, one night at The Hundred Club in London in 1976. The much publicised Bromley Contingent, however, is dismissed by Siouxsie as a creation of the press. "It was just some friends that knew each other really." she says, "that went to gigs together because they lived near each other."
Was the beginning of the band really that spontaneous?
"The first gig, yeah," Siouxsie replies, "A one-off, without really thinking of the future or anything, just of the time - which is still the same. I mean, people say what are you going to be doing in two years time, and where are you going to march off to? We don't know - we only know what were doing at the moment."
With one subsequent personnel change - John McKay replacing P.T.Fenton - the band stuck together, bonded by a common idea of trying to use the music business without being affected by it. A worthy aim, you might think, but not all of the early publicity was favourable. There was, for instance, the much written about wearing of the swastika by Siouxsie.
Determined as ever, Siouxsie still denies she regrets wearing it, "...because I wore it to show the thing up and not support it, and it was very much a shock tactic.
"And to an extent," she continues, "the swastika was - as I said I as very negative and knew what I didn't want to do, and now I'm more positive and I don't feel the need to wear a swastika any more."
Personally I still think that wearing the swastika - the dreadful symbol of the murder of millions of Jews, gays and other minorities as well as the deaths of countless other innocents in the war - is repulsive and just plain irresponsible. But whatever, the band successfully survived the unwelcome publicity to reward their faithful following with a hit single in the form of the superb "Hong Kong Garden." An impressive debut album in "The Scream" followed shortly after. Siouxsie & The Banshees had arrived.
The direct opposite of self-proclaimed "good time" bands like The Damned, Siouxsie & The Banshees collective refusal to commit themselves to anything that they regard as shallow has earned them a strong image as loners and outsiders. Was this deliberate?
"No!" chorus Siouxsie and Steve in protest.
"We haven't put that across at all," Siouxsie claims.
"We just put across what we feel," adds the quiet spoken Steve.
"Were always getting tagged as being bleak and dismal," Siouxsie complains.
"You should hear 'Jigsaw' on the disco," Steve comments "Its hardly dismal."
Dismal or not, Siouxsie & The Banshees have found their uncompromising attitude also has had its price tag. They've been banned, for example, from venues in Newcastle and Middlesborough for trying to protect their fans from the unnecessary attentions of bouncers. The band also claim they've been blacklisted from Radio One's "Round Table" programme after Siouxsie had made some outspoken remarks on it.
Another area of controversy where the band have encountered opposition has been their decision to release a German lyric version of "Mittageisen" (the album track) as a single in Germany. "Mittageisen" was inspired by the photographs of anti-Nazi propagandist John Heartfield - one of which has been used as the sleeve for the single - and the war is still a very sensitive topic in Germany. This single has already cost the band one TV appearance in Germany.
Undeterred, the band have gone ahead with the single, using an old recording of "Love In A Void" as the "B" side. Initially it will only be available in this country as an import, though Siouxsie tells us that Polydor will be releasing it here later in the year.
Meanwhile the band have of course a new single released in this country. Already in the charts, "Playground Twist" has lyrics by Siouxsie and, according to her, is a song about looking at life in general as a playground. The 'B' side, by the way, is called "Pulled To Bits" and not "Pull To Bits" as on the label.
The singles distinctive sleeve, incidentally, is a painting of a playground done by a mentally handicapped child from Kuwait. The band borrowed it from a London exhibition. (They've also recently done a fund raising concert for the mentally handicapped.)
Still on the subject of vinyl, the band have also finished recording their new album "Join Hands"". The track include "Regal Zone, "Poppy Days", "Placebo Effect", "Icon", "Playground Twist", "Mother", "Premature Burial" and a 13 minute version of their live show highlight, "The Lord's Prayer".
With artwork by a friend of Kenny's, the album will be released around the middle of August.
"Four individuals making one unit. Which is not just four individuals doing what they want with regard." That's how Siouxsie defines Siouxsie & The Banshees. Strangely strange but oddly normal.
Now if youll excuse me, Im just going to go and play "The Scream" again...
Ian Cranna 12/07/79
I’VE NEVER really liked Siouxsie and the Banshees. At times I’d admire the stance they’d taken, but after a while I got fed up with the pseudo intellectual articles written about them. I’m sure the band are sincere, even more so now, but after reading one or two articles on how they want to change the system it gets boring.
The band are serious, maybe too serious and also taken too seriously. That’s where Record Mirror comes in. A long time ago, before the band’s contract with Polydor, when Siouxsie and the Banshees was Siouxsie I wanted to do a colour poster on her. She did it but it wasn’t used.
When they got their contract an enthusiastic writer interviewed the band but there was trouble. The band were in their vehement period and had a go at the paper for ignoring them. The writer came back, wrote the article. I added past reviews and snide remarks to prove we hadn’t ignored them.
Later, the single and album and a new writer. He loved the Banshees, wanted to interview them. Off he went, back he came. Dejected, miserable, naïve, furious. The good turned to bad and the paper was back to square one with the band.
The next one had to be me, to sort out the differences, tell the truth, explain the problems.
THE MEETING is at Polydor’s press office. Guitarist Steve Severin is at a typewriter, putting down lyrics to a song. Drummer Kenny Morris is reading a magazine. John McKay and Siouxsie are, hopefully, on their way.
Five minutes later, after a few wary pleasantries we’re in a hospitality room. The usual straight into the interview situation. Never the best way to put anyone at ease but if a job’s to be done...
I put my point of view and try to explain the role of record Mirror. Yes, we probably are sexist but we do get requests all the time for Debbie Harry pics and we don’t want to be a copy of Sounds, NME or Melody Maker. Record Mirror is basically a chart paper and makes no pretentions about it.
We do cover new artists in reviews, news, interviews and sometimes, when we feel the artists are worth it, put them on the front cover but we always think about you, the reader, the main reason you buy Record Mirror is because we write about artists in the charts.
Our arguments carried on, both points of view being put across but in the end we agreed to differ. Except on one point, that all this arguing about the paper and its writers would be boring for you to read.
So let’s play a game. A word game. Another argument because the band thought it was daft. I was hoping that the words would get them thinking. Something they’ve always tried to get you, the listener to do. In the end they agreed.
The words, their answers and non-answers are here.
FEAR: John: "What, you want the first word that came into my head? Well, glass." (Does fear have anything to do with the new single, "Staircase"?) John: "It has everything to do with everybody. It’s a small curiosity."
APATHY: Siouxsie: "Old age."
CRITICS: Siouxsie: "Possums."
COMPARISONS: John: "Necessary. The whole world is built on comparisons."
SID VICIOUS: Siouxsie: "Cute."
BOWIE: Steve: "moustache." Siouxsie: "Beard." John: "Bored. Yeah, very bored. Boy is he bored. I mean coming back to England and..." Siouxsie: "Oh shut up."
COMPROMISE: John: "It must be one of the most humorous words around at the moment."
RECORD COVERS: Kenny: "Headaches." (I hear the single cover took a long time?) Siouxsie: "It took time but we had longer problems getting the single out via the record company. Relying on machinery." John: "Polydor’s pressing plant must be the worst in Britain. They’ve got injection moulding machines and they’re useless. The surface noise on singles is incredible."
DEFEAT: John: "It’s not a word in my vocabulary."
FAMILIES: John: Laughs. "Neglect."
FOOTBALL: Siouxsie: "Family."
NERVOUS BREAKDOWNS: Siouxsie: "Strings."
SPONTANEITY: Siouxsie: "Laughter."
TELEVISION: Siouxsie: "Love it." John: "I haven’t got one. It’s so bizarre." Siouxsie: "Addictive." John: "Dangerous." Kenny: "Don’t be so cruel to television." Siouxsie: "I’m not, I watch it all the time."
PLASTIC: Siouxsie: "Smells funny."
ENEMIES: Siouxsie: "Newspapers." John: "Everyone." Steve: "Friends."
PRESSURES: Siouxsie: "Strings again."
NORMALITY: Siouxsie: "Dubious." Kenny: "Glad to know it."
LYRICS: Kenny: "Disputes."
JOHN HEARTFIELD: Siouxsie: "Who’s that?" (Every other writer claimed to know about him. I’d never heard of him. ’Metal Postcard’ is dedicated to him). John: "He was totally misguided. He did a very good thing in that he reacted against Nazi Germany in probably the strongest way that anybody could but then he went over and believed in Communism. Russian Communism, and did things pro that. So he must have been pretty misguided. People seem to go through little bits of their life where they’ve got a very clear view of what they want and what they like and as they get older they start to get very confused. Him believing in Communism is incredible. That’s no better than being a Nazi."
SUCCESS: John: "It’ll come." Siouxsie: "Ambition."
REVOLUTION: Kenny: "33." John: "A fallacy."
IDEALISM: Siouxsie: "Impractical."
RELIGION: Steve: "Hatred." John: "Seven years old." Siouxsie: "Wars."
SOCIETY: Siouxsie: "Religion."
HITLER: Steve: "Moustache." Siouxsie: "A great performer."
HUMOUR: Kenny: "Ha ha." (Something I’ve always found lacking in the band) John: "There isn’t though. There’s just all different levels and kinds of humour." Siouxsie: "We’re funny." John: "They’re always edited out our humorous bits." (Do writers take them too seriously?) Kenny: "It’s because what we are doing and the way we are. It becomes very intense, you almost psyche yourself up. It usually ends up in an attacking move. It has to be intense. They make you feel that way. There’s not much room for humour as far as interviews go." (But the band build up that situation by demanding that all four are present at interviews. Isn’t it better to get to know someone on the road?) John: "But even that can get distorted because I’m not the same on the road." Siouxsie: "You get diplomacy, which we’ve been forced into anyway."
LOVE: John: "I don’t understand what love really is." Siouxsie: "Cats." John: "It’s one of the most misguided conceptions that has ever been brought up by human beings. The most generalised, ridiculous thing. One of the most unrealistic things that has ever been brought up. The whole concept of love is totally messed up. I’ve been fascinated by people, but the only time for love is the first two weeks that you know someone, that’s called infatuation." Siouxsie: "It’s just a badly overused word." John: "Saying you’re in love with somebody saves you a lot of trouble. Saves you getting to know yourself any better and getting to know things in a broader sense like people because you’ve got that couple thing to come back to all the time." Kenny: "I always put love together with death, always together. It’s the same thing, always related." Siouxsie: "We should all have the same answer. We’re all in love with our manager." Kenny: "Good God, you can wipe that off."
That’s the lot. John asks what I think readers will get out of it and Siouxsie says, a laugh. I hope so.
The band are about to go back into the studio to record a new album and later in the year they might go to America. I wonder if they’ll understand them better than I do?
Alf Martin 21/04/79
But enough of the innate fallacies of Empirical Romanticism - can't we just talk about leather underwear.
"No," cries Ian Penman sternly, "I insist we talk about the innate fallacies of Empirical Romanticism - or if you're really in a hurry, how about the onset of Western Stoicism?"
"But can you take pictures of it?" asks Pennie Smith
Scene 1: Into The Commercial Zone!
Movement along these passages is without friction, skipping and rapid, often headlong, as if on prefect rock 'n' roll roller skates. Parts of the long galleries are open to the public. There are certain positions to sit in and watch the ascents or descents, depending.
Fantastic pop music charts come by, big as pantomimes; one has to go inside and search the numberless shelves each revealing treats sharper and more modern than the last.
The labyrinthine path turns out to have been set up deliberately to give the stranger a tour of the company. Meanwhile the inspector (myself) feels obliged, impassioned and duty-bound to turn some tables. Facts collected from previous interviews are turned into states of affairs which may or may not be the case, previous 'agreements' turned into recommendations and warnings which may be either correct and appropriate or incorrect and inappropriate. The relation of the subjects to the symbolic or imaginary is the final barrier. Beyond that...
Scene 2: The First Risk!
Siouxsie & The Banshees are convenient.
Our conversation, ostensibly to deal with their new single 'Staircase', and their upcoming Rainbow benefit gig for the National Society for Handicapped Children, was actually a long overdue occasion for conflict. It concerned the relative claims to validity or otherwise of the criteria which support the hitherto fairly inviolate, heavy and heavily credible Siouxsie & The Banshees image.
If anything, the purpose of this article is to stress that it seems impossible to either carry out or criticise the motions and articulations of recent rock and roll independently of it's political and ideological inclinations.
Listen to: don't just hear.
The role of instruments, techniques, institutions, events, ideas and interests in rock was very much changed by the New Wave. Rock and roll is healthier than it's ever been, true, but it still needs to tighten up its outputs and input, interrelations, passions and questioning. Revolutionary movements or moments such as the New Wave show the desire to rearrange organisational structures - playing, publishing, providing - and at the same time replace redundant forms of identification.
Look at: just don't see.
An immense complexity characterises the appearance of the concept of control of the rock medium. A succession of different mystiques announce the presence of what appears to be a vacuum.
Scene 3: The Empiricist's New Clothes!
"Won't somebody assist me?/Solve this mystery/Somebody assist me/Arrange the symmetry."
("Staircase") Siouxsie & The Banshees.
'At most, they expected to provide evidence of a state of mind, an intellectual fashion, a mixture of archaism and bold conjecture, of institution and blindness.' - Michael Foucault
Siouxsie & The Banshees are irrelevant.
Empiricism is, crudely, the belief that knowledge should be gained through observation and experiment, not through theory. Empiricism and romanticism are two boils on the seat of current beat music. Empirical argument - as provided by, for example, Siouxsie & The Banshees, The Pop Group, This Heat, Brian Eno and Danny Baker - tends toward common-sensical bias. Combined with classic romanticism, it will produce investments in Art - and with all the capital ambivalence that this both promises and affords.
But the real limits on expression must be clarified, before we're overrun. The first rule is no more biographies. Let's find out instead about the regularities and restraints which actually determine how something comes to be made, made public and publicly accepted as understood (even when not). What actually gives something value? What basis do the rock press generally work from to determine something's value?
Siouxsie says that "People keep picking on their own reactions as rules..." That's bad. I wholeheartedly agree. But don't you deserve it, I wonder?
In common with many of their contemporaries, Siouxsie & The Banshees like to present rock and roll as Art, and thus as something which one finds oneself, naturally, quite incapable of explaining or understanding.
The meaning of any music resides purely in the use to which a spectator puts or fails to put it. Beyond this, meaning is determined by common-sense dumb ideology or everyday commercial market forces. Rock and roll therefore has no real strength or resistance. Concerns, traditional or otherwise, simply don't escape any dominant assumptions. They can't do anything more than decorate, refine or polish already established structures.
Let's not pretend that there's no planning involved in somebody's use of restricted or elaborate kinds and codes of rock expression. Let's not pretend that any one entertainer is any more or less political than another. Let's not even pretend that only a few have any chance of or interest in effecting real change.
You either sustain or you subvert. You try to control completely.
Scene 4: J' Accuse!
The supercilious tone and mostly insubstantial content of drummer Kenny Morris' conversation suggest an ill-sorted sort of person suddenly elevated into a position where he feels he might safely lord it a bit with the 'ol intellectual facade.
The equally supercilious tone and apparent desire to contribute a minimum to conversation that is guitarist Severin's particular role, both suggest the same sort of person elevated into the same sort of position. Severin, however, feels as yet unsure quite how to lord it - although he is nevertheless determined to go ahead and do so. Rock journalists are suckers for this one: the sour, silent sage.
Bassist McKay and singer Sioux are fairly accomplished by comparison.
Provisionally, the inspector is accused by Severin of having made an 'infantile' remark; the group are evidently unconvinced by certain comparisons made in a Kate Bush album review (NME), late November '78):
'Lionheart' starts with words which could easily slot into 'The Scream'; 'Blue on the walls, Blue out of my mouth'; but where a Banshee might follow that up with, say Blood on the walls, blood out of my mouth...
Well, I reply, in all your interviews you seem to be quite obsessed with control at various stages of the music business. One of my doubts - but no means specific to you - is the amount of control exercised over meaning, by which I mean image - and aesthetic meanings, is the music press wholly to blame, for instance, for your particular 'shock horror' image? Don't you leave yourself open to such things through ambivalent or ambiguous expression?
KM: "Yes, we do. But it's only certain things people pick up on, time after time after time."
So don't you want to control it a bit more? I recall that, for instance, in the recent ZigZag feature 'Staircase' was described as being about 'unfathomable mystery'. Doesn't such ambiguous nonsense invite cockeyed aesthetic judgement?
Sioux: The song's just taking a very day-to-day thing, and the nature of that thing is very... mysterious."
In what sense? Staircases are mysterious? What do you expect people to take away from that?
Sioux: "I want them to take what they want from it. We've never tried to control people's reactions. It's just people who should know better."
Scene 5: A Banshees' Privileged Insight Into Real Life!
You don't exist isolated inside the music biz structure. You're part of it. Just on a pragmatic level, you're part of the financial structures: Income, outcome, profit. You're entangled in that up to your necks.
Scene 6: The Thing That Goes In Your Ear!
But what sort of information in or on a record do you find relevant?
KM: "The vinyl itself... what is actually on the vinyl."
The plastic object?
KM: "No, the thing that goes in your ear."
OK, what's it important to put in there? What's going to alter people's day-to-day misery?
KM: "I don't say it will alter them. You do a thing, they can accept it or leave it, but it will affect them, it won't alter them. I'm not worried totally about completely changing people's attitudes, because I don't have that kind of faith or belief in people. All I know is, it's there and it's for them to choose, they can take it or leave it."
I'd give up if I were you.
KM: "If they alter, they alter. But it'd be ridiculous to have faith in the belief that you're gonna alter masses of people. I'm not talking about little London. I'm talking about everywhere, the whole globe."
JM: "Why did you talk about 'giving up'? I mean, if I give up, this band falls to pieces. I don't give up, I don't give up creating. It comes out anyway."
But don't you think there's a danger there of subscribing to the belief that 'whatever comes out' is holy: the sanctity of the artist, the mystery of creation?
Sioux: "It's not at all a mystery of creation - if there's been a misunderstanding then that's hard luck, but what comes out is a result of what you're affected by, and it's around everyone else."
Well, how do you think you affect people?
Sioux: "Because they're not being presented with a standard method."
It seems to me to be very much just a parallel standard method: exchanging one set of 'mysteries' for another.
KM: "They're not 'mysteries' - why is that a recurring word in this interview?"
KM: "NO, they're obvious everyday things, but they're sort of themes and relations that usually lie strictly under the carpet in people's minds. Rather than write about something that's pure broad daylight, um, dole queue or whatever, there's no mystery involved..."
But what change will that effect?
KM: "Change what?"
You're saying... your lyrics are pointing at things and you're hoping that people will go "Oh, yes, now I see!"
KM: "Not exactly. You can wipe that off for a start. As I said, we're not there to alter people, not exactly. We don't have enough faith - I certainly don't - in people."
'Faith in people' meaning what? You have faith in yourself - you being a person, presumably...
KM: "Of course I do. You can see our album looking glossy in the racks, along with everybody else's, and that's the way we want it - that's the way we know we're gonna get over to so many people. We want it there in the media with all the rot so that it'll shine out."
Scene 7: The Phantom In Your Living Room!
If you don't have 'faith in people', how do you expect them to see it shining out? What if they're not bright enough to perceive it?
KM: "Rubbish, no, it's there in the racks, shining to everyone else's eyes. They're not blind."
You said you didn't have faith in people.
KM: "No. Exactly. That's why, for one instance, out goes a single like 'Hong Kong Garden' which is readily accessible. People won't exactly - I'm sure - hardly anyone I ever spoke to understood the lyrics, or heard them, but it was a very good way of drawing people in. That person was excited enough by that single - whether it was a kid in the street or a housewife. We reached a whole range, a whole spectrum of people who would go to a record shop and buy the album.
"Its there. Its in your living room. We want Siouxsie & The Banshees to be a living room name."
Just another object in the living room that no-one understands? I mean, what was Siouxsie & The Banshees a reaction against, initially?
Sioux: "A reaction towards the falseness of people maintaining that they were being very honest, expressive, uncontrived and everything - and it wasn't that, it was well thought out, well rehearsed..."
Aren't you falling into the same trap? You said that the reason you didn't make your own record was because you wanted it to be 'perfect.'
Sioux: "We wanted to do it one hundred per cent."
You think, in other words, that there's some perfect way of doing something?
Sioux: "The drive behind you is that you want to do something as perfectly as possible, yet always after you attempt that you realise the mistakes you made, and have to carry on going up.
"We're by no means satisfied by what we've done. We're not smug or satisfied. We haven't really reached anywhere we think we will reach."
What are you reaching for?
In what terms?
Sioux: "Global terms. And in ourselves, as impressing ourselves."
JM: "I don't really think in terms of success. I think in terms of my satisfaction. I don't think I'm writing this tune for the Banshees to be globally successful."
Sioux: "No, I didn't say that."
JM: "You did in a way."
Sioux: "I said I want us to be, that's not the reason why I'm doing it."
JM: "Well that's what you said in answer to the question..."
Scene 8: Ho Hum!
JM: "People can relate to records. Not even on a heavy level; to have a record that they like and can identify with - lyrics or even just the feeling put across, the sounds - is, like, a great thing to have in their lives, for just a while, until they get fed up with that album and need another one. It's just, um..."
Production and consumption? One more sharpysleeved, sharplyproduced, sharplyplayed, pop record. Who needs it? (Well I wouldn't mind a few more. - Ed.)
Scene 9: It's A Free Marketplace!
Ah, the index of 'freedom' as the right to aggressively idle, vagrant expression and opinion. The right to the aggressively idle, vagrant Siouxsie & The Banshees. Once again, I ask, what is it in the grooves which is so valid?
Sioux: "For want of a better word, just, honest."
KM: "I dunno, I just think comparisons are obvious if you're going to ask a question like that. I don't know what you expect us to sit here and say to that. Other than, you know, we've got confidence in our creativity, we know one hundred percent what we want to do."
Damned if I do. Is it that you want to stick honest things in the ears of people in whom you've absolutely no faith, in the hope that they'll prick up and plug into the great, glossy, global gestalt where everything is evidently self-evidently supernatural, peeping out from under the deep pile of the collective carpet?
What a useful project!
Scene 10: Siouxsie & The Interglobal Building Society!
Nothing can stop them now, beyond... Reality.
Ian Penman 31/03/79
the wake of the split that rocked the music business, NME investigates
NIGHT OF THE LONG KNIVES
1. There Was I, Waiting At The Church...
NICK KENT feels the wrath of Siouxsie Sioux and Steve Severin
"IT’S THE LAST thing we imagined happening, particularly in the totally underhand manner it did. We knew they were unhappy to a certain extent..."
"We were unhappy with them as well!" The equally aggressive but more overtly hostile Siouxsie brusquely interrupts her cohort Steve Severin’s comparatively soft-spoken train of pained summations.
"In fact," Severin continues, "during the rehearsals for this tour we were asking them: ’Are you happy with the situation as it stands? Do you feel like you want to do this tour? Do you still want to carry on?’
"Because tours generally - certainly this tour took a good three months of pre-planning to set up, so a lot was obviously at stake and if there were serious conflicts, then they should have spoken up at the very outset.
"But they always replied ’Yes, we want to do it’, until it was taken for granted that the band, regardless of any possible conflicts that might occur during the tour, would see it through in its established four-piece set-up."
The topic under discussion should be obvious enough. On Friday, September 7, Siouxsie and the Banshees arrived in Aberdeen for the second date of a month-long tour instigated to promote the second album release, ’Join Hands’. Although Aberdeen was the second ’official’ whistle-stop, the Banshees had performed three gigs immediately beforehand, the first two being low profile warm-ups.
Even at these warm-up dates, a certain tension could apparently be noted at times. A guitar intro would sullenly cut short vocalist Siouxsie’s between-song verbal rap. Occasional percussive slice-ups would throw the singer’s timing off. Still, this was nothing compared to what lay in store at Aberdeen.
The tensions that culminated with the rushed exit of guitarist John McKay and drummer Kenny Morris from Scotland and the Banshees’ line-up are documented elsewhere.
Another fact worth noting, though, is that the pair’s bizarre scramble for a southbound train could clearly have crippled the band’s financial standing beyond repair, not to mention bankrupting their promoter Dave Woods.
The £50,000 (an approximate sum quoted by Severin) invested in the tour had been raised partly by Woods, but more so by the band themselves, who invested all monies earned from ’The Scream’ album and ’Hong Kong Garden’. So far, the whole debacle has caused all parties to forfeit something close to a stiff five grand in deposits on the halls for the five cancelled gigs.
SIOUXSIE AND Steve Severin readily related their side of the story to me in the NME review cell last week.
So when they do consider the seeds of dissent to have been sown, and what triggered the first signs of this antipathy off?
Siouxsie: "It was in a way there all along."
Severin: "Yeah, in a way it was an integral part of what we did. There’s always been that kind of tension there simply because both Kenny and John literally walked into Siouxsie and the Banshees and they could never quite get over that - especially John, because he’d seen the band onstage.
"We realised this though, and were constantly trying to make him feel part of the group while letting him express himself musically as he desired.
"Probably recording ’The Scream’ was the first really traumatic time for the band, simply because it was our first record."
‘The Scream’, the pair now feel, was not the achievement it should have been. Certainly something was lost somewhere between the tracks laid down in the studio and the end result on vinyl. Siouxsie takes up the topic.
"Well, me, Nils and Steve were totally aware that ’The Scream’ as it finally came out was not what we wanted, but John and Kenny either weren’t aware of its failings or wouldn’t admit it."
Severin: "Yeah, because after ’Staircase’ and ’Playground Twist’ (the two singles following ’Hong Kong Garden’) John was talking about getting Steve Lillywhite back because he felt our attempts to find another producer more suited to our sound were getting less and less successful."
Although Siouxsie and Severin initially disagree about the degree of friction going on, the fact is that ’Join Hands’ was recorded in a fragmented fashion.
Siouxsie: "With ’The Scream’ the traumas were caused because we were always there in the studio and pressures would rise naturally, but at least when we disagreed over something it would be argued over face to face right there on the spot between the four of us."
Severin: "But with ’Join Hands’ the process was almost completely different because it would be us going in first and recording backing tracks and then Siouxsie would go in and record her vocals. So on one level there’d be none of that out-and-out bickering, but on the other hand the animosity would take the form of behind-the-back bitchiness."
This bitchiness Siouxsie in particular considers a factor in the group’s ultimate fragmentation, coupled with a disinterest in Banshee projects on McKay and Morris’s part that manifested itself in everything from refusal to participate in interviews through to non-appearances at ’Join Hands’ mixing sessions.
Siouxsie: "I was involved very much in the final mixes whilst John and Kenny weren’t - partly as a matter of policy, but more because they’d lost confidence in themselves as far as matters of judgement were concerned."
Morris and McKay by this time were living together. Severin recalls: "John and Kenny would be away, just disappear for three or four days at a time, then turn up to hear the mixes done in their absence and you could hear them just out of earshot muttering ’They’re not doing it right’."
Siouxsie, never one to beat about the bush, expands: "I think that it is of paramount importance that you get across that they’d worked up a nice little marriage with each other and that they’d travel up their own arseholes with each other and console each other! That’s when the trouble really started, when they became really, really fucked up!"
Venomous words, but wasn’t the Morris-McKay pact perchance a show of force to balance out a potential Siouxsie-Severin pairing?
Severin quickly replies: "Not at all, because Sioux and I are no way a unit unto ourselves. It was the whole operation and John and Kenny went off on their own. They’d antagonise Nils and Dave Woods on a touring and business situation, just everyone was alienated."
Siouxsie: "Even our soundman was closer to them than the rest of us put together."
Still on the subject of this pact that Morris and McKay appear to have instigated, if there was no direct enemy to confront with the band set-up, then what was the basic thrust for their antagonism?
Siouxsie again answers: "I think basically it was an inferiority relationship; two people feeling inadequate, feeling less important and joining together to build up a single strength."
Yet John McKay, although a latecomer, immediately established himself as a vital ingredient in the shaping of the band’s music. His guitar playing formed a dominant textural dimension to the Spartan overall sound, while his riffs and chord progressions provided the vital form around which the other three Banshees functioned.
Severin views McKay’s work with the Banshees in retrospect thus: "As far as coming up with the tunes, it was John certainly. But when it came to matching the lyrics with the music then it was down to us. All arrangements were always a group effort."
Yet ultimately what strikes one as so bizarre is the undeniable fact that the Siouxsie-Severin-McKay-Morris axis from its very inception up to the last days before its sudden splintering, appeared to be the perfect example of a practical group democracy.
Every aspect, from the long, lean stretch without a record deal, commercial success and the stolid adherence to facing the media as a four piece, shaped the Banshees as a band whom the most rabid of their detractors had to appreciate for their hard line commitment to a unity of intent, purpose and vision.
Now, with the participants sliced in twain in a manner that the remaining pair can only view as sabotage, it’s fairly easy to sympathise with Siouxsie’s venomous declarations and, in particular, Severin’s very real shocked sense of betrayal and pained bemusement.
As far as Siouxsie is concerned, that former unity of intent was in one vital respect superficial.
"A vital factor of the Banshees for me and Steve was always that there be an element of risk involved. It goes back to that original 100 Club gig in the sense that when we did that, we laid all our cards on the table. We went up on that stage knowing full well that we’d probably come off looking complete clowns. And although that gig was a one-off and we never wanted to repeat the same thing again, we still wanted to create a situation which embodied that same feeling of taking risks, of going out on a limb, of working against the odds.
"But John and Kenny could never bear to take that gamble, to break stride. John is just utterly humourless, a dilettante who would never dare make a fool of himself. And Kenny was just into the group on a voyeuristic level, wanting to be part of a ’punk phenomenon’."
Severin: "From now on I’d be very very wary of having permanent members after this tour. It could very easily be a case of me and Sioux working on a short-term basis, using intersting players to create something quickly, something very spontaneous.
"That’s the feeling I have now, possibly due to having been jilted by two people we’ve worked with solidly for two years and who I really thought I knew. But the more I think about it, the more I see it as being the one sure way of staying fresh, of destroying the idea of a group as a marriage."
2. Can’t Get Away To Marry You Today...
KRIS NEEDS plots the points of departure of Kenny Morris and John McKay
IT’S IRONIC that Siouxsie and the Banshees’ latest album bears the title ‘Join Hands’ when half the group just ran away two dates into their biggest tour yet.
But those close to the Banshees could see it coming. What caught everyone on the hop was the time they chose to do it.
At the moment no one knows the exact reason John McKay and Kenny Morris ran out at such a crucial point over such a trivial matter - their refusal to sign autographs at a record shop promo appearance. Their only comment was to Banshees manager Nils Stevenson as he caught them speeding off in a cab outside their Aberdeen hotel: "We can’t take the pressure."
And with that the cab roared away.
The pair are now in hiding.
At first it was thought they were with Rema manager Linda Tricker, John McKay’s girlfriend, but other rumours now have them in Paris. It seems unlikely they are going to join either PiL or the Psychedelic Furs, as early theories hinted.
No explanation has been issued to mystified group or public - and the Banshees have made no attempt to penetrate the veil of secrecy.
As far as they’re concerned McKay and Morris are ex-Banshees.
So as motives are not forthcoming, one can only think back and try and find a reason.
Accompanying Siouxsie and the Banshees on the two warm-up dates for the stricken tour - Bournemouth and Aylesbury - it was quite noticeable that Kenny and John’s preference for each other’s company within the band had grown into a practical self-isolation. While Siouxsie and Steve plus Nils, tour promoter Dave Woods and driver-bodyguard Mick Murphy, laughed and chatted as a busload of mates would, the pair at the back kept an aura of icy disdain. In the past McKay and Morris only usually opened up to anyone else when pissed or stoned. After Bournemouth, a particularly bad gig due to poor sound, the duo loosened up considerably and, during a two-hour walk along the sea front in the early hours of the morning, said things which, looking back, take on a distinctly different light.
It was the usual sort of stoned conversation but there was no mistaking John’s general tone - change was gonna come.
McKay has always seemed to despise the trappings which went hand-in-hand with the Banshees’ music being accepted by large numbers of people. He wrote large chunks of both Banshees albums’ music, usually to the ideas and lyrics of Sioux and Severin. And this was his main concern. John McKay spoke about the new album not so much as a proud parent, like Sioux, more a scientist quite pleased with latest developments.
The last ever formal interview conducted with the four Banshees took place a few weeks ago for Zigzag. Then, John McKay took a large part of the conversation with concise thoughts on the themes behind the album and its general cohesiveness.
That night on the cliff, though, his tongue loosened and with no record company surroundings to inhibit him, he expressed several doubts. Doubts about including ‘The Lord’s Prayer’ on the album. Taking up 15 minutes of side two as it does.
In the interview he said: "It’s really important to have ‘The Lord’s Prayer’ on this album. We probably wont do it on the next tour, only on occasions when we feel like it."
Yet out on the cliff he spoke of the track as more of a filler - even though it was the first piece the group ever performed, the song they’ve closed their set with for over two years.
Maybe John’s feelings towards the 15-minute cut weren’t helped when ‘Infantry’, a solo piece of guitar mood-music which was to have followed ‘Prayer’ was left off.
McKay talked as if a great change would happen to the group by the next album: "The next step will have to be in a very different direction," adding warily, "I’m not sure how it will happen."
Obviously I took this to mean a different element creeping into the Banshees music. At the time...
From these talks the fact emerged that just weeks before the tour John had engaged a solicitor to establish his position within the band and its contracts, adding fuel to Sioux and Steve’s theory that the departure was pre-planned.
Kenny Morris had obviously been feeling "the pressure".
During that last interview he remained almost mute for half an hour, then suddenly launched into a trembling diatribe against the interviewer for saying that the group had got drunk in a past article. The fact that the article was trying to present a different side to a much-maligned humourless image seemed to escape him.
And next time I saw Morris he was drunk. It was the Throbbing Gristle night at the YMCA gig series. This man was clearly disturbed and vehemently expressed his desire to branch out into other fields.
"I’ve got other tools in my toolbox I want to use. I don’t just want to be a drummer."
He added that many of his aspirations lay in art (painting and all that, not New Musick and all that).
It was probably McKay and Morris who led the popular image of "those morose Banshees" in their lives out of the lights. It got worse. Apart from his outburst on the tape, Morris asked Nils if this reporter could be kept away from the tour because he was "too silly". He barely concealed his disgust when Sioux laughed or talked about animals, which is often her wont.
Nils: "On the boat to Belfast Kenny complained about Sioux being silly. I said, ‘All I want from this tour is some fun’. Kenny went mad, throwing his arms up in the air, and said, ‘Fun? Some of us have personal lives to have fun in. Other members of this team are so involved in this group they’ve got no personal life’.
"They were just pathetic. The band were growing apart. John and Kenny were going off into gaga land, totally abstract nonsense."
What, with the band?
"With life in general. They seemed to become more immature. I always had hopes for John, until he got tight in with Kenny. The more he got involved with Kenny the more Kenny fucked him up.
"I thought we could resolve things on the tour. I thought it would obviously get better if the band were forced together. But they never made the effort."
The rest of the Banshees were aware of the McKay-Morris discontent to the extent there was a confrontation during the tour rehearsals. John and Kenny were asked if they wanted to continue playing with Siouxsie and the Banshees. Their reply, according to Steve, was affirmative and committed.
Now we await their next move with interest. One thing’s certain, they can’t work for financial gain for some time yet, and no money is heading their way.
Meanwhile Siouxsie and Steve were sighted in a Barbican pub last week, celebrating their first day’s rehearsal with two new stopgap members, Budgie and Robert Smith from tour support band The Cure, who’ll be doing a set with his own group before taking the stage with the Banshees.
Budgie was an immediate choice for Kenny’s drum-stool, having so impressed with The Slits who he also joined as Very Short Notice when Palmolive left.
The mood in the pub was relieved, adventurous and optimistic. As Sioux said: "Isn’t it great not to have a pair of old women moaning away in the corner?"
Nick Kent 22/09/79
said they couldn't take the pressure'
Siouxsie and the Banshees split. RONNIR GURR was on the spot.
LAST FRIDAY afternoon John McKay and Kenny Morris walked out of Aberdeen's Other Record Shop and left behind two colleagues with whom they had made two fine albums. Siouxsie And The Banshees had become Siouxsie And A Banshee.
Steve Severin, bass guitarist, with the intention of clearing up the facts of the matter, phoned late Sunday evening. He is depending on your viewpoint, quiet spoken, pissed off or sinister. The truth is probably all three. What I wonder is going on? Almost apologetically he begins.
"Two people have left the band, Kenny and John. They've yet to tell us the reasons they left. John and Kenny had this policy of not signing autographs which is fine, but you've got to explain your feelings to people.
"If it's a case of them wanting proof that they've met you well you can't put that down. In any case we did this promotional appearance in a record shop in Aberdeen in the afternoon. They said, 'we'll come along and talk' so we said fine, but you've got to get out of things yourself if you're pressured by the fans.
"So Sioux and I sat signing everything that was thrust under our noses, while John and Kenny stood behind us talking to a couple of people from the shop. Every time someone asked me directly to ask them for autographs I did but they just went on talking.
"The shop only had 50 copies of the new album. Polydor were supposed to have sent another 200 but they hadn't so we had about 30 promotional copies in the van which Nils (Stevenson, the band's manager), sold to the shop. When John saw that they were stamped 'promo' he took it upon himself to start handing them out. Nils said he'd just sold them to the shop, Sioux started shouting and there was a huge argument. John stormed out of the shop, followed by Kenny, though I don't know why he followed John.
"The first thing Nils and I did was to tell Sioux off for arguing in public, but it wasn't just her fault, John was out of order too.
"So Sioux and I turned up for the soundcheck, thinking that they had gone off to some cafe to sulk because they were disgusted at the way Sioux behaved, but they never turned up. We went back to the hotel and just sat around waiting. Then someone told us that two of our party, Morris and McKay, had checked out, so we immediately ran across to the station. There was no way they could have got a train because there was a three hour interval between trains so we went back to the hotel and just waited.
"What happened was that Nils and Dave (Woods), our booker, had come back to the hotel and had seen them getting into a cab. They were obviously doing a runner, so Nils tried to stop them. They said that they couldn't take the pressure and wound up the window with Nils' arm in it. We tried to reason with them saying that they would be finished if they didn't do the tour. They drove off saying that it was their money too. Nils phoned the cab firm and found that it was booked to take them to Stonehaven, so Dave chased them apparently the cab never arrived there.
"The only person they've been in touch with is our bodyguard. They phoned him to apologise and said that he was the last one they wanted to hurt, knowing full well that if anyone could kill them it would be him.
"I don't understand them. We'd just been through a lot of trouble in Ireland. Our gear didn't turn up so we had to borrow some. That's the kind of thing that brings you together as a band. We'd been through all that shit, then the next day they walk out on us, the tour and 2000 people.
"That crowd had sat for two hours waiting for us, the Scars had been on, the Cure had been on and when the manager of the hall announced that we wouldn't be playing they were pretty incensed. All that Sioux and I could do was go out and say sorry, but we were there and were willing to play and that the other two had gone. They took it well and started shouting for the Cure to come back, which they did. That was really good of them. Sioux and I asked the Cure if they knew 'The Lord's Prayer', so we went back on and played it for 10 minutes.
"We're looking for replacements, have been since this happened and hopefully we should be back on tour by next weekend which would mean that we'd only miss three or four gigs, which would be re-arranged for the end of the tour.
"So that's the story, or rather it's the facts. I just wanted to let you know exactly what happened before anyone gets in and starts distorting the facts."
The Banshees then are seeking two new recruits, rumoured to be Marco (once a Banshee again to be a Banshee?) and former Slits drummer Budgie. I look forward to seeing them action. Meanwhile Messrs McKay and Morris, the ball is in your court.
Ronnie Gurr 15/09/79
There's something about Banshees interviews that brings out the worst in everyone, and if I read one more piece of self-opinionated garbage about Siouxsie and The Meaning Of Life I'll probably well, I dunno, set Hugh Fielder and the Steve Forbet Army on the author (Aaargh, not that - Lads Ed).
Personally I'm of the opinion that S & the B's produce great music. They made one of the best debut albums of last year and two fine and uniquely fresh singles without any recourse to phoney credibility ploys or fatuous intellectual pretensions. And so, as a service to mistreated Banshees fans everywhere, Sounds proudly presents the Banshees Easter '79 Treading Water Jawsette.
We met in a Polydor office. They were pleasant, friendly and open. The interview was based round the whys and wherefores of the now and the immediate future. Like how did this benefit gig for the National Society For Handicapped Children at the Rainbow this Saturday (7 April) come about?
Steve: "No one approached us or anything. We just felt it was time for the rich pop stars to put something back."
Siouxsie: No! Rich pop stars? I had to borrow money off the PR man to get into Polydor today. It was just something we wanted to do. It wasn't planned as being, 'we really should show how into humanity we are' or anything like that. We just wanted to do it, plus we thought this was the best cause we could do anything for."
Steve: "If this is successful we could do more."
Would you consider RAR gigs?
Steve: "We've been asked to do that a lot, but we don't want anything with any political undertones to it."
Siouxsie: "And also those sort of gigs become just a hip thing to do. It was very half-hearted, y'know like white groups doing a token reggae song. We felt strongly about the mentally handicapped because they're people who just can't help themselves."
Is this just a one off gig or the warm up for a tour?
Steve: "Oh, just a one off. We won't do a UK tour till September, 'cos we start recording the new album in May - that'll hopefully come out some time at the beginning of August. It's all written."
So what should we expect, has the music changed, do you see it in terms of progression?
John: "No, not progression. Obviously change, but if anything we pull ourselves back from the idea of 'progression' 'cos that usually means practicising etc, slipping into other people's habits."
Siouxsie: "We're probably aiming for it to be as simple as possible. Y'know, very basic and communicating better than the other album did. Coming across more strongly."
How did '20th Century Boy' come to be the single's b-side, I thought it was gonna be 'Love In A Void'?
Steve: "No that was just the idea very early on. We've been doing '20th Century Boy' on stage for quite a while now."
Siouxsie: "Really it just fitted the mood when we were in the studio. We'd recorded 'Staircase', and we just went in and did it live."
So are the earlier numbers like 'Love In A Void' lost forever now?
Siouxsie: "Actually we've got plans to put a lot of early stuff out, but we'd rather not tell you how yet."
OKAY, Let's talk about 'Staircase'.
Siouxsie: "That's more a song about curiosity and fear, it's not a great political statement or anything." (Damn - Staircases Against The Nazis).
Does it relate to the fascination you have for stairs when you're young?
Siouxsie: "Yeah it's very much a memory of them. Especially in my house, people were always falling down the stairs in it."
Steve: "There used to be a gate on my stairs to keep me from falling down."
John: "That's weird, I had a dream about gates and stairs the other night."
Siouxsie: "Oh no! Don't put that down - there's no great hidden depths to the song. It's really funny the way it's been received by critics. The only thing I could see they had against it was it wasn't another 'Hong Kong Garden', which is mad. 'Hong Kong Garden' was our first single so it had to be more instant. Maybe now we're just trying to broaden things within the structure we're working in."
Any other future plans?
Siouxsie: "We're going to Spain of all places at the end of April, Barcelona and Madrid. There's a John Peel session on the 9th. We hope to do an American tour.
How do you see the Banshees relationship to the rest of the punk/new wave/post punk framework?
Steve: "Well, we could never deny our roots in that explosion, but we've always tried to keep slightly away from it right from the beginning, because virtually as soon as we started things were going wrong. You had the Vibrators playing for a start who were just old men. There's no such thing as 'a movement' 'cos every band hates each other."
Was it always like that?
Siouxsie: "I think so cos every band must feel they're the best, otherwise there'd be no point in doing it. I don't think you can talk about ideals being standards cos they're your ideals and everyone else should make their own ideas and ideals come out. But I think the way punk developed became inevitable when the Daily Mirror was publishing all that '5 East Lessons On How To Be A Punk' stuff. Which is disgusting because it was originally concerned with attitudes and being honest with yourself more than anything and you got people picking up on it as a trend or a fashion. You should be about yourself."
One final question - where d'you think the image of you being very cold and arrogant stems from?
Siouxsie: "Well in a way we are arrogant in the way that every band should think they're the best. We're proud of what we do, we're not ashamed of it, we don't wanna brush it under the carpet. But I think when you say that to people they're a bit shocked."
Gary Bushell 07/04/79
After two months chosen silence the exiled Banshees - John McKay and Kenny Morris - have finally spoken out.
Thrills received the letter below and several judicious phone calls later it became apparent that this McKay and Morris missive was the first time their erstwhile manager, Nils Stevenson, has heard from the wayward boys since that fateful autumnal evening when the guitarist and drummer escaped the Siouxsie roost never to be seen again!
It should be noted that the Polydor press office, on hearing of the letter, found it "fair", while Nils' chose to reply to the points raised directly. There seems no reason to intercede but John McKay's footnote does need some elucidation. On the night in question, after John and Kenny had failed to appear for the gig, Nils (having run out of the mimeographed autographed pix to give the faithful) picked up McKay's guitar and gave it to a fan saying, "We won't be needing this anymore."
No doubt McKay might take action against Stevenson for this generous outburst but the manager reckons "it's nothing to what I'm going to sue them for."
John and Kenny's Letter
Of the unwritten rules and principles which bound Siouxsie and the Banshees together and gave it that "Unity of intent, purpose and vision" as Nick Kent put it recently, perhaps the most important was, that not withstanding the material and financial considerations, if any one member felt that the trust and communication fundamental to a performance was missing, then that person should not go on stage or persist in upholding any such false situation. This basic honesty was and is vital, and it is a testament to just how much is remembered of those early ideals, that no one even hinted at that as a possible reason for our departure. The incident in the record shop just served as a catalyst and tipped the already finely balanced scales towards the spur of the moment decision.
Another of these unwritten principles was that we would use commercialism to our advantage, without poisoning and misdirecting any of the original energy and ideals into the financial treadmill of album, tour, single and all its inherent limitations. Siouxsie and Steve believed in the direction that the management was steering us, whilst we felt that we were getting dangerously close to the brand of commercialism which we had all held out for two years to avoid.
Over the period of time which elapsed between 'The Scream' and 'Join Hands' the emphasis shifted from what we as a unit wanted, to what we as a unit ought to do to retain our tenuous grip on commercial success. A case in point was 'The Staircase' cover. Rather than continue to build on what the Banshees had achieved Nils wanted to cash in on our commercial success. What followed need not be gone into, all that we say is that it was not "unity of intent" etc. Similar behaviour patterns were followed by Nils as to the recordings and almost and almost everything else that differed from his idea of what our success should be.
By now we had unity of 3 against 2.
The Banshees had always wanted and repeatedly asked for somewhere we could leave equipment and go whenever we liked individually or as a group, to expand upon the directions musical or otherwise taken by the Banshees, and explore new ones whilst under no pressure whatsoever to create a "product." (Something the Pistols and Clash had from the early days). No such facility was provided, the spirit of Banshees rapidly disappeared.
the degrees of compromise and attitudes surrounding us made it impossible for the Banshees to continue.
John McKay, Kenny Morris
I am writing this footnote in the hope that the guitar given away by Nils in Aberdeen which was my personal possession and of great sentimental value, can be recovered. I would be glad if the person who has it could write to the following address and something can be arranged.
c/o Alexis Grower, 14 Tooks Court, Cursitor Street, London, EC4.
1) They've got to be jesting, "unwritten rules", and "principles", bullshit. Tell the people in Aberdeen, Taunton, Glasgow and all the other cancelled gigs then your road crew band and management John & Kenny. This is the best you can do after 2½ months of deliberation. Why should anyone "hint" at these reasons for your departure, you didn't. Their ideas on "trust and communication" are absurdly naive, it would be impossible to plan for any group of individuals with character as misunderstandings and personality clashes are part of being human. A group could never see eye to eye 100% on everything.
2) Kenny and John weren't there when the original ideas were formulated. Blaming management is a cliche. Why didn't they make their feelings about touring etc. known before the tour which we spent 3 months arranging and they had full knowledge of "The commercialism which we had all held out for two years to avoid", John joined the group less than a year before we signed to Polydor.
3) Join Hands is hardly commercial, likewise the singles after Hong Kong Garden. It is however true to say Hong Kong was a bid for mass recognition therefore they should have left in 1978. It really gets petty now. Siouxsie chose the Staircase bag which was also far from commercial. Had my only concern been financial gain through commercialism I would have had Siouxsie on the bag dressed in a St Trinians outfit.
4) 3 against 2 if they say so.
5) As they know we simply couldn't afford a rehearsal room. The Pistols got their studio early before the group and property boom's, likewise the Clash, who incidentally no longer have their own studio. I kept them well informed, much of my time spent reasoning and discussing projects but their inbred negativity proved too strong for me. Siouxsie and The Banshees will continue, piggies.
Max Bell 08/12/79