JON KLEIN INTERVIEW - 27/01/06

 
 
 

Along with his band 'Specimen' Jon Klein was founder of the Batcave, the unique alternative London club night which was home to an array of 'goth' bands, their admirers and the occasional Banshee.  Following the sudden departure of Banshee guitarist John 'Valentine' Carruthers in 1986, Jon's 'exploding horse, falling off a cliff' guitar sound secured him a place as the Banshees' 'latest' guitarist.  After a less than auspicious start on the relatively unsuccessful 'Song From The Edge Of The World' single, he went on to become the longest serving Banshee guitarist, responsible for some of the most memorable Banshee guitar riffs,  and in performance, probably one of their most visual.   He has since worked on projects with Talvin Singh, X-Lover,  T-Love, Lucia Cifarelli, David Devant, Dirty Harry, Cubanate,  Ali Zapak, and Sinead O'Connor to name but a few.  At the request of fans of his work with the Banshees, Jon had the following to say:

Jon KleinWhat Banshees song are you most proud of in regards to your guitar work, and what song prior to you joining the band was the most difficult technically to master? (skellington77) 

Hmmm!  Hard to choose a song, it's more bits really - 'Sick Child' intro/outro,  for delicate stuff. I like the spaghetti feel of 'Double Life'.  Mick Ronson died the day I recorded that, so Steven and Siouxsie asked if I could do a solo (they introduced it as an unusual request!), the sound is slightly synthetic, but I still like the intention. 

What Banshees song would you say is closest to being 'typically' Jon Klein? Are there any Banshee songs that you consider your 'babies', in terms of you having the most input?  (C.zar), (Nesta) 

'Raw Head' (which was created when looking for a verse part in 'Scarecrow')

Also 'Falling Down', that riff just appeared out of nowhere in a jam at a John Cale rehearsal - sounded a bit thin and scruffy in the mix; maybe that's a good thing though? 

Do you have a favourite or least favourite Banshee album/single and/or recording session? (skellington77), (Wickerman), (Painted Bird)

Favourite Album/single… I'd have to say that ultimately I’m an 'Israel' and 'Juju' kinda guy.

Israel
Juju

It's maybe not the most experimental period, but the whole band performs/plays with such authority and confidence. 

Any fond memories from a tour that haven't been mentioned before, and which tour was a particular favorite? (Painted Bird), (skellington77) 

One little anecdote maybe… after a show at the Universal Amphitheatre in L.A. one time Budgie met Clem Burke, who drummed with Blondie, in the hospitality area. So…. Budgie tries to get him into the dressing room to meet Siouxsie but she resists. "But Sioux it's Clem Burke!" Budgie pleaded, to which he got a snappy reply;  "I don't care what kind of a berk he is, he's not comin' in here!" 

My favourite tour would have to be Lollapalooza, as it was just too mental for words. There are so many stories, though unfortunately I would imagine many of them would result in legal action!? 

Would you like me to go round to Mr & Mrs Burn's house and slap them for you? (Muttley)

Thanks for your offer Mutley, but I'm over that, apart from a few bumps and scars. I would, however like to take this opportunity to thank a dear old friend, who sadly passed away a couple of years ago. Stu. P. Ditiot was the mini skirt wearing guitarist in 'Charge' who didn't like people putting his friends in hospital, and subsequently set up the Melody Maker article after that incident. 

Steve Severin in an interview with Zig Zag magazine (circa 1984) mentioned not being impressed with the "Batcave" bands, which many felt where obviously influenced by the Banshees to a certain extent.  Were the Banshees aware of your previous work with Specimen? How did that make you feel as your former band, Specimen, created the scene? (Isaak), (Voidoid) 

There were many bands around the Batcave scene, some better than others, but to be honest, the weird cabaret acts often set more of the tone than the live music. The Banshees didn't need to be part of the scene; they just liked hanging out and drinking there with their mates. They'd known Ollie since the old days at the Roxy, and always got in without any fuss to the best Wednesday night out in London. 

Jon KleinThe Banshee persona, especially on stage was very restrictive. You seem to have been the only Banshee guitarist who managed to maintain/retain your own individual look and free spiritedness and not become "Bansheefied".  You were without any doubt on stage the most charismatic guitarist the Banshees had. You constantly drew the audiences attention to you, even striking comedic poses. Did that sometimes create tension with the rest of the band?  Was it a struggle/battle not to conform? (Peter), (Metal Guru) 

As the material got less fiddly, it was easier to not be chained to the fretboard and footpedals onstage.

The band were generally fine about it, and amused by my occasional/frequent accidents.

Siouxsie was also very fond of 'Gold finger' the vibrator, that I used on guitar for 'Red Light', and in fact gave me her personal permission to use him on a TV show to play slide guitar.

In between tours I used to do a puppet show for some local kids; in the show the guitarist (Batman) often got a real good kicking from the chanteuse (Foxy Lady) for interrupting her beautiful renditions of Disney classics with tasteless guitar solos… I did get a few raised eyebrows! 

The Banshees had a long and difficult history with guitarists.   But you will go down in Banshees history as their longest serving guitarist.  What do you feel contributed to your success within the band?  Did you ever feel like a hired hand? (Peter), (Less_Hair_Van_U) 

Maybe because I really was interested in understanding how a band that had made that many albums thinks artistically- often simple stuff like; when is it finished? 'Peepshow' was a tough album for a guitarist to play on, as the band had got their first sampler, and Siouxsie had become bored with guitars. "You can make any sound you like as long as it doesn’t sound like a guitar!."  She actually hired me when she heard my 'exploding horse falling over a cliff' noise.

There were moments when both Martin and myself probably felt like hired hands inasmuch as we didn't necessarily know what was going on in the operation. The fact that there were two of us outside the S&BS partnership probably made things a little easier.  I think during that period the revolving door got used for managers instead. 

Being a guitarist for the Banshees is a laborious task- what was it like finding (or creating) that "Banshees sound" that had been around and maintained from the beginning?  (Toddicus) 

Me and Captain Scarlet (infamous guitar tech) ended up with a research lab that looked more like it was developing weapons of mass destruction than guitar sounds. I liked those sounds and wanted to get them right. Some of the parts were really quite elusive. I remember finding the correct way to play 'Night Shift' in a dressing room one afternoon… it was typically much easier than the way I'd been doing it for years! 

What was your relationship with Siouxsie like? Was she easy to get along with? Was she fun? How did being in the studio with the band compare to being on stage? (Starblood) 

I generally had a pretty good relationship with Siouxsie. She can have a pretty sharp sense of humour, but can also be quite playful at times. I liked playing records with her and especially talking about Mick Ronson. She reckoned that whilst everyone admired Bowie as Ziggy, Mick was sexier.

On stage we were all different animals, Siouxsie is one that's allergic to monitors. I remember one night coming off stage and asking her "were the stage monitors OK?"  She replied, "No, they were crap!" I asked her if she'd heard any good monitors in the last 15 years and she replied, "No, all crap!!"  I suggested it could be the very nature of the monitor (outside?)

Mind you, I do remember one night in Sussex, whilst the Banshees were sleeping soundly, a monitor on the floor below unexplainably burst into flames! I later wondered if it was some kind of Siouxsie Voodoo? 

What is your opinion about the remastering of the Banshees back catalogue, in particular the recent b-sides box set? (C.zar) 

Siouxsie wanted to do that B-side collection for so long now. I didn't always manage to grab copies of the singles in all their different formats, so it was quite a strange experience to hear all those songs again back to back. Very vivid memories surfaced; I'd totally forgotten about the 'unplugged and drunk' session! I like the package too; clear and comprehensive- very tasteful.   

Downside Up

Are you familiar with what Siouxsie Budgie and Steven have been doing musically since the Banshees demise and are you still in contact with any of them? (C.zar), (Costas)

I do keep an eye on them from time to time; the web makes it easier to play catch up. Me, Martin and Steven have been trying to organise a beer for a couple of years now… we'll just have to drink a couple extra to make up for it I guess! 

What's the last CD you listened to? (Lovelorn1) 

The last CD I listened to was a revisit to Tom Waits 'Rain Dogs' – great stories.

First time I ever saw him on live TV here, the audience thought it was comedy and started laughing, because he sounded a bit like the Muppet Show! 

Since the demise of the Banshees, you have worked with Sinead O'Connor, produced an Album for Nervosa and formed the band Snail. Are there any other projects you were/are involved? What music plans do you have for the future? (Lovelorn1), (Painted Bird), (Strutting Rooster), (Gonville Bromhead VC) 

I've worked on loads of different projects including Talvin Singh, X-Lover,  T-Love, Lucia Cifarelli, David Devant, Dirty Harry, Cubanate,  Ali Zapak etc... I did a few years specialising in production as well as some film and theatre soundtrack and composition. I've also toured South East Asia and China a few times with a Circus; kind of  Captain Beefheart meets a ramshackle Billy Smarts…(Close up magic can be a great weapon when used on stroppy promoters. )

Snail is an ongoing project. It's always interesting to play with friends that have known each other that long….(how long???) There are a few musical plans on the table right now, but I'll have to update you as they happen. 

The 'Superstition' album was a departure for the band, most notably because of Stephen Hague's production.  During the Superstition tour, your guitar sound was harsh & very sharp and there's a world of difference between songs like 'Cry' live and its smooth clinical studio version. How do you regard the album Superstition today? Have certain songs aged better than others? (Metal Guru)   

Superstition

Making 'Superstition' was a very different experience to 'Peepshow'.  Stephen Hague was a much more mannered and methodical producer than Mike Hedges, who was fun, spontaneous, and very crazy!  Stephen specialised in singles, which is quite evident, but it felt less like you were in a magic world making an album; it felt more like you were in the music business. I really like 'Drifter' it carries more of a Banshee mood. Some of the programming elsewhere is a bit stiff. 

What is your date and place of birth, and do you have any brothers and sisters? (Costas) 

I was born in 1960, in Bristol; I have three brothers and three sisters. 

Of the Banshees videos that you appeared in, which one did you enjoy doing the most and do you have a favourite?  Were you disappointed not to be involved in the Face To Face video shoot? (Costas), (Painted Bird) 

Has to be Peek A Boo, though I got a great black eye during the Killing Jar video; they had the boys running around in naff butterfly outfits for a shot that got scrapped, during which I got accidentally whacked in the face.

Peek A Boo Video

My main disappointment in not appearing in the 'Face to Face' video , at the time, would be… did you see how much makeup the boys were allowed to wear! 

Can you describe your time in the Banshees using just three words?  (Costas) 

In-side-out 

Firstly I would like to say that you and John McGeoch were my favourite Banshees Guitarists. Why didn't you want to tour with the Band when 'The Rapture' was released? (Painted Bird)

I just refused to be pushed into a corner by the manager, who I felt had been a bit of a bully once too often.  There had been shit going down with the label, for which me and Martin also ended up getting agro, and the whole publishing issue was approached 2 years too late in the process, and mediated by people that didn’t understand the issues.

Eventually I was given 24 hours to agree to the tour, regardless of unresolved issues, and I just felt that I had to be firm in order to hang on to my sanity.

My worry was if I hit the road unhappy, that I'd end up in jail or hospital again. It was saddening, but it was never a career move; I had no job to go to!

It can't have been much fun for the band either, getting all that back catalogue up and running. Mind you, not having 100 songs to chose from might have made the end of the show easier to plan; not having five people starting different encores simultaneously (which happened more than once!) 

The video for Peek A Boo, with it's use of animation and it's effective use of lighting,  is one of the most innovative and striking the Banshees made, what are your memories of the video shoot? (Painted Bird)

The Peek A Boo video was a new experience. I'd never hung out in a dance studio before; it was very comical, like the kids from fame. On set however it was a different story. Siouxsie and Budgie had brought back these great masks from Venice, and Peter Scammel, the director, had this eerie Eno-like presence. He got an MTV award for that one which was well deserved. 

Is your brother a Jehovah Witness? If so I met him in Weymouth in 91 and had a lovely chat with him.  (Barney)

Sorry… none of my brothers are Jehovah's Witnesses (to my knowledge) I'm afraid. 

If you can compare and contrast your days as a Banshee with your time in Specimen. Was it difficult being the 'sideman' in the Banshees, meaning the one who had songs brought to him rather than the one bringing the songs...thanks!  (Kellycm)  

From a guitar player's point of view it's generally harder writing parts to songs than finding a part to base a song on.

The trade off, I guess, was  having the chance to play all that old Banshees material, which is something I never tired of.

On behalf of everyone who submitted a question I would just like to thank Jon for taking the time out to complete this questionnaire and for being so forthcoming in his answers.

Jon Klein Official Website Jon Klein's official website