|KALEIDOSCOPE - MAGAZINE COVERS|
|KALEIDOSCOPE - INTERVIEWS/ARTICLES|
|RECORD MIRROR 23/02/80|
|SMASH HITS 01/05/80|
|THE FACE 08/80|
|MELODY MAKER 25/10/80|
SIOUXSIE AND THE BANSHEES MAY CALL THEIR NEW LP ‘KALEIDOSCOPE’, REFLECTING THEIR NEW, MULTI-FACETED STRENGTH. HERE THEY TALK ABOUT THE NEW SONGS AND PLANS . . .
Six months ago things looked grim for Siouxsie and the Banshees. Despite auditioning thousands of hopefuls, they couldn’t find a suitable guitarist, Sioux was laid up with a debilitating illness, and morale was low, mainly as a result of boredom.
The first quarter of 1980 was quiet in the Banshees camp, and detractors rubbed hands in glee.
Then a series of pokes in the face: using Magazine guitarist John McGeoch, the Banshees recorded and released the sprightly, haunted ‘Happy House’ and fun-exorcism ‘Drop Dead (Celebration)’. And the Top 20 beckoned.
Then a little tour - mainly dates scrapped on the previous outing as a result of Sioux’s illness and the John-Ken retreat. They climaxed with two nights at the London Music Machine and showed a changed group - looser and more wide-ranging with some impressive new songs like ‘Christine’, ‘Hybrid’ and ‘Desert Kisses’. Sioux using her voice in greater areas, acoustic guitar on stage, and greater reliance on the Severin-Budgie rhythm-pulse, more than taut strength than ever.
Everybody’s happy nowadays. The new approach - using different people and injecting new ideas into the central core of Sioux, Severin and Budgie - has sparked a deluge of prolificness. Enough for an LP, being worked on sporadically. It’s tentatively called ‘Kaleidoscope’, reflecting the new multi-faceted band structure. A single - the dramatic ‘Christine’ - will be out first, later this month.
I spoke to Sioux, Steve and Budgie in the Polydor bar on the day I’d just finished totting up Sioux’s overwhelming victory in the ZZ poll.
ZZ: What stage are you at in recording?
SIOUX: Three of them recorded for the album, and about four have been written. Three are half written.
STEVE: We’ll put out a single first.
SIOUX: Christine. Hopefully on May 23. It’s about Christine Seisnal (adopts country accent): She’s got twenty two personalities! She don’t know who to play with! (Then launches into Kenny Everett-style arty-intellectual intensity): It’s a very earthy feeling. Um, slightly feminine to the touch, almost lingering . . .did you see that ‘Tales of the Unexpected’ about the wine-taster?
STEVE: All twenty two personalities had different names, which was a really good source for the lyrics - the Strawberry Girl, Banana-split Lady . . .they were either names by her or the family. There’s a book called ‘The 3 Faces of Eve’ about her, which is more like a biography she wrote with a friend of hers from her childhood, a cousin. She turned out to go to college and become some sort of knob on psychiatry.
ZZ: How did Christine end up, did she die?
SIOUX: She’s still alive.
ZZ: Still like that?
STEVE: When the book was written she just had one, but she wasn’t sure . . .
SIOUX: She could always break into another one. She wasn’t, like, cured. She was right for them, but there’s always the danger she could change all of a sudden.
ZZ: What about ‘Hybrid’?
BUDGIE: That’s good. Got a good middle bit.
SIOUX: ‘Hybrid’. . .that’s about what the name implies. That was formulated when we were on the last tour with Robert Smith, in soundchecks. Steve had the bass line and I had the lyrics. Budgie invented the drum beat.
BUDGIE: That was at rehearsal when we were auditioning new guitarists. We did ‘Happy House’ then too, loads of new songs.
SIOUX: We got bored with trying the old Banshees songs on people, cos they just had to do their homework and maybe they could do it, but it wasn’t good enough to say yes to. But we got bored with them anyway, they were a lot of boring guitarists, so we just started writing things on the spot in the rehearsal to see if they could join in and add something of their own.
BUDGIE: When did we do ‘Desert Kisses’ then?
SIOUX: That was worked out with John (McGeoch) as well. That had a bass line and lyrics.
STEVE: John and Kenny are going to recognise a few of the titles of the new songs, I think. Old lyrics that they’ve seen and turned their noses up at.
SIOUX: Things like ‘Trophy’ and ‘Red Light’.
STEVE: ‘Trophy’ was nearly on ‘Join Hands’.
ZZ: The new songs seem to have a wider range . . .
SIOUX: Mm. The album won’t have a concept really as far as all the songs relating to each other, like on ‘Join Hands’.
ZZ: How do you feel about ‘Join Hands’ now?
SIOUX: It was a terrible situation for us to work in, although in the end I’m happy with the album. It’s just remembering what a stinking atmosphere it was trying to get it done in the Studio.
STEVE: I still think it was really important for us to put ‘The Lord’s Prayer’ on there, because so many people were like pretending it didn’t exist, pretending we were this singles band, exclamation marks. There were all these other sides to us and I’m really glad it got on there.
ZZ: These other sides seem to be coming through now more.
SIOUX: It’s given us - me ‘n’ Steve mainly - a good kick up the arse to just do things. In the end we’ve got to thank John and Kenny for leaving. They would have been sacked if they hadn’t pulled themselves together. Not for the way they left, but it’s turned up for the better that they have left. I think people are really HAPPY lately! Really happy! I started off whistling ‘Happy House’ in the bath, walk down the street and it’s sunny now. I feel very jolly lately.
ZZ: About the end of the year you were in a bit of a hole really. It was obviously one that you could climb out of. But you were ill, they left, you were looking for a guitarist.
STEVE: We had a really good Christmas though. We just jammed with Steve Jones for a couple of evenings and that was really funny.
SIOUX: Old fat-belly Jones! Bit of fun when we had nothing to do.
STEVE: We did ‘Bodies’ . . . he just likes playing with people, cos he’s not in a group anymore.
ZZ: I remember you were saying McGeoch might be playing with you way back.
STEVE: As soon as the other two left he was one of the first people we thought of but he was in the states at the time and there were all these messages flying across London trying to get hold of him. Then he rang me up on New Year’s Day and we went out for a drink. We thought we’d try a rehearsal, and in that rehearsal all the bits and pieces that we’d worked out in soundchecks and stuff came together immediately. So by the end of a Saturday and Sunday we virtually had ‘Drop Dead’, ‘Desert Kisses’ and ‘Happy House’ playable as a group.
ZZ: ‘Drop Dead’ was a bit misunderstood, wasn’t it (including by me at first, I might add)?
SIOUX: Not misunderstood but a lot of people have missed out on the humour. The main thing I can say about it is that I really, really enjoyed doing it, singing it, and that’s what nobody seems to have got from it. Everyone that I know gets from it that it sounds like we’ve enjoyed doing it. It was done live, as part of the demos. We produced it ourselves as well, which no one else picked up. No-one picked up on the fact that John used acoustic on the tour. Journalists seem more interested in what we wear rather than what we’re doing. They’re not very observant.
ZZ: Your whole approach to things seems to have changed - got looser. Like, recording the album in bits . . .
STEVE: It’s odd doing it like this.
SIOUX: I really like it, doing it ion bits . . . I’ve been learning to play guitar, for a week.
ZZ: Then you won’t have to find any more guitarists.
BUDGIE: Maybe we can become a three-piece!
STEVE: Half the album may be as a three-piece in some way.
SIOUX: I mean if they need guitar it probably won’t play a major role, if you know what I mean. A lot of things have been done as thee-pieces, and the guitar has been almost an afterthought. It’ll be more obvious that it’s that on some tracks on the album. It will predominantly be bass, vocals and drums.
BUDGIE: There’s loads of ideas you can do round that. You don’t have to fill it out that much.
STEVE: It’ll definitely be much more up-tempo album than ‘Join Hands’.
ZZ: People are still anxious to write you off, aren’t they?
SIOUX: But we keep bouncing back, stronger than ever. Stronger than ever, that’s the main thing. Maybe we’ve got to thank everyone for all the crap they’ve given us. They haven’t deterred us, they’ve encouraged us more. It’s almost like starting again, which is how we wanted it to be. Like a new beginning, rather than carrying on in the end.
ZZ: You’ve broken out of the routine anyway - a year ago it was definitely the old album-tour bit.
SIOUX: I don’t think we were able to see it at the time.
STEVE: None of the songs ever suffered.
SIOUX: We’re all really excited by anything that’s unpredictable. That’s how it is now more than ever. Some sort of pressure as well, so you’re your own sort of, driver. You drive yourself rather than have someone to make you do something. It’s down to yourself to get out of your mess. The new album’s tentatively called ‘Kaleidoscope’ because of the nature of the situation that we’re in. It’s all quite fragmented but every fragment is strong, bright and positive, but it’s nevertheless fragmented.
ZZ: Have any other topics prompted you to write songs recently? (Like the Christine business and events in Iran inspiring ‘Regal Zone’).
SIOUX: There’s one song that I’ve recently done called ‘Paradise Place’ which is about plastic surgeons in the Beverley Hills, that operate at a cut price (slice), very cheap, and they end up messing up someone’s features at the cost of how cheap it is. There’s gross abominations caused by these operators. In the States it’s legal for plastic surgeons to advertise like in yellow pages. Liquor Mart is the cheapest place to get beer, this is the cheapest place you get your nose fixed. It’s quite common for American women to spend a few hundred quid getting something done - wrinkles, nose, ears, thighs toned down - for a cut price slice. It’s quite horrific the things that go on. They have to go to proper surgeons then and spend three times as much getting it put right. They call them the ‘Cosmetic Cowboys’, and there’s this actual place called ‘Paradise Place’ in Beverley Hills.
One example was this woman who went to have her crow’s feet done, and one of the surgeons cut her eyelid off. It’s irrepairable now and she’s constantly got one eye open with no eyelid. There’s nothing you can do. Lots of women have died from infection - breast enlargement is most popular and breast decreasing is next popular. A lot of women die from oozing blood and milk and puss!
ZZ: What’s ‘Desert Kisses’ about - it’s the most romantic Banshees title ever!
SIOUX: It’s Banshee-ballad. Not wet. It’s a romantic, lonely song. Casablanca. . .
STEVE: We found this great band in Scotland called Altered Images. They sent a tape to the office and they wanted to support us in Scotland. The only place we could get them on as third support was Glasgow.
SIOUX: They’re all 18 and under, really young, and they’re really good. We wanna help them along. Saying don’t sign to rough Trade next week and get 100 singles pressed.
ZZ: How do you feel about groups who’ve copied you, slagged you off and got successful in the process?
SIOUX: It doesn’t matter really. The main way of seeing their hypocrisy is eight or nine out of ten have got some businessman managing them and they’re putting themselves into this position as a thing of the 80’s, which we’ve never done, we’ve always let the press make fools of themselves, and call us ice Bitches or whatever. Ice Sluts or the gloomy glums. The Glums! Nobody actually called us that - it’d be much better to call us The Glums. (Sioux does a good impression of whatsername from The Glums who goes ‘Oh Ron!’).
ZZ: You find a lot of the Good Time Bands are miserable!
SIOUX: That’s what I mean - clowns are really tragic people! You just got to make everyone as miserable as hell then you’re as happy as pie. If everyone gets rid of their happiness on other people they’ll be miserable.
BUDGIE: All the rock ‘n’ rollers are really pissed off, aren’t they?
STEVE: They’ve all signed contracts they’re trying to get out of. A lot of people who were around at the same time as us are really in trouble now.
With so many of the original - and newer - bands in either personnel disarray, contractual chaos or creative doldrums, it’s just so good to see the Banshees, who suffered the worst iceberg of their life last year, turn Titanic into a streamlined new destroyer. This is the happy House.
Kris Needs 05/80
IF YOU KNEW
Way back in '71 I cut a photograph out of a music paper. It wasn't a photo of a band or a singer. It was a photo of an audience. This audience was at the famous "Screen On The Green" Pistols gig. Three people stood out from the crowd - two girls and a boy.
Within the next few weeks I learned that the girls were called Debbie and Suzie and the boy was called Steve. They were part of a London crowd called The Bromley Contingent, punks who had their own scene and their own groups.
In September 1976 I went to the very first Punk Festival in London's 100 Club. On the first night, the bill was headed by the most infamous punk band - the Sex Pistols. Second on the bill were The Clash, their first gig without a fifth member.
Rumours were also running that Sid, the well known Sex Pistols fan, was going to be on stage with his own band. One band, Subway Sect, had already played a noisy set and the buzz went round that Sid was next. He was, but I was more interested in the singer - it was Suzie from my pic.
The band were called Suzie & The Banshees, the drummer was Sid Vicious and the bass player was that guy. Steve. His full name was Steve Havoc. The guitarist was called Marco. They played a twenty minute set which mainly consisted of a very bizarre version of "The Lord's Prayer", interrupted occasionally to play snippets of "Knocking On Heaven's Door" and "Twist & Shout" and all sorts of riffs and noises.
The set was loose, rough and totally chaotic. The bass player had first lifted a bass only twenty six hours earlier and the drummer had sat in on only half and hour of rehearsal. In all conventional senses, Suzie & The Banshees were a terrible group, but there was something that made them seem great.
After the 100 Club, Suzie and her Banshees disappeared. Then five months later a band called Siouxsie & The Banshees hit the scene with a manger called Nils Stevenson. Nils had joined the group as a guitarist, then decided to make use of the skills he had learned from Malcolm McLaren and became their manager.
It was obvious that the new Banshees were not the whizz-bang combo that had played the punk festival. Only Suzie (now Siouxsie Sioux) and bass player, Steve, remained. They had a powerful collection of original material and were playing almost seven nights a week.
A year later, after a few personnel changes. Siouxsie & The Banshees handed over the crown of being everybody's favourite unrecorded band. They signed to Polydor and brought out a single "Hong Kong Garden". The single charted and established Siouxsie & The Banshees status as a "real group" or as they say in the business "a force to be reckoned with".
Two albums later, in September 1979, drummer Kenny Morris and guitarist John McKay walked out on the second date of a full scale British tour. This left only Siouxsie and the original bassist, Steve Severin. This was a big blow, but it only took five months to have a new combo on the road.
That, apart from the release of the magnificent "Happy House" single, brings us to now in the Siouxsie & The Banshees story.
TONIGHT I was going to see the Banshees again. I had an interview with Siouxsie after the show and I didn't want to have to tell her that I didn't like the group. Siouxsie is known for her low opinion of the press.
After the show, including tow encores. Nils Stevenson takes me backstage to meet the group. They're all in a good frame of mind and eventually I end up in a corner talking to Siouxsie.
I ask her how much effect an audience has on their show, telling her that I had seen the show last night when she refused to play an encore because the crowd hadn't been dancing.
"Well, we always try to give 100 per cent, but it's difficult trying to put your heart and soul into a song when you're faced with a couple of hundred critics. I mean, when the audience all stand about waiting for you to make a mistake or to do something shocking it's no fun. Then if you get an audience that's out to enjoy itself you can feel it and it helps you relax.
"There was a period a while back when it must have been very trendy to go to a Banshees show. We used to get all these posers coming along and standing watching us, they'd never dance. A lot of the feeling went out of our show then. That was when I got the 'Ice Queen' tag."
Haven't the Banshees always been very fashionable? Didn't they come from the elite Bromley Contingent and start at a very fashionable time?
"No, we haven't always been fashionable. Okay, Steve and I used to be part of the Bromley Contingent, but that was only because we lived round there.
"When we went on stage that first night at the Punk Festival we weren't trying to join any movement. Originally we did it because it was fun. It sill is fun.
"The press has always enjoyed labelling us as posers. Like when we held out for so long without accepting a record deal. They said we were trying to put over a pose, that we could easily bring out records on a small independent label. We could have, but what's the use of bringing out records that aren't available everywhere?
"Our music is written as much for the young kid in Scotland who buys her records from Boots or Woollies as it is for the guy who shops in Rough Trade. Anyway, isn't it fashionable to be on a small label these days?"
What about the most recent turning point in the Banshees' career? The split last September?
"It wasn't a split! Two members of the band left. One has already been replaced, the other'll be replaced soon."
"When it happened it was the last thing we expected, especially in the sly way that they left. We had actually asked the two of them before we went on tour if they wanted to tour. We realised that they were unhappy to a degree, but when they said everything was fine we believed them."
Why do you think they left the Banshees?
"They never really acted like part of the Banshees. Both of them came into the band quite late and I think they created some tension by sticking together and putting a gap between them and me and Steve.
"We tried to make them feel more a part of the band, although we always wanted them to express themselves however they wanted musically. John was worse, maybe, because he had seen the group live before he joined. We were sure they were right for the Banshees, but as it turned out we were wrong!"
Do you ever see them now?
What are they doing now?
"I don't know. They're probably trying to be very modern. They're trying to be Eno. I don't know and I don't really care."
Is it true that "Drop Dead" was written about John and Kenny?
"No, I suppose to a certain extent, it was inspired by them, but it's not about them. I've forgotten about John and Kenny. Life must go on. Change is a healthy thing anyway!"
Change being a healthy thing, how do you think Siouxsie & The Banshees have changed?
"We have changed, I don't really know how. When you get into a situation where you're making records things change. You have to be more organised and when more people want to hear you, you've got to tour.
"Soundwise, I think our songs now have more depth, but they're still as much Banshees songs as 'Hong Kong Garden' was."
What about 'Happy House' where did it come from? What's it about?
"Happy House" started out as a title. We wanted to call the fan club The Happy House, then I got an idea for a song. It's really just a happy song. The kind you make as you go along when you're happy, for no real reason. Y'know, when you're sitting in the bath or when you're walking home late at night."
How do you feel about bands that started at the same time as the Banshees? How do you compare yourself to them?
"D'you mean the Clash and that lot? Well, I don't really feel anything about them. I suppose they did something to keep the music scene alive, but that's about it. I don't compare the Banshees to any band. The only comparison I draw is to how good the Banshees could be."
Are there any bands about just now that you particularly like?
"I like The Cramps. They're a good band, and they're made even better by the fact that they don't take themselves too seriously. Too many groups these days want to be part of the latest craze, the latest movement - the Cramps have managed to avoid this and maintain their own identity."
Where do Siouxsie & The Banshees go from here?
"Well, at the moment there are three of us. Me, Steve and Budgie. Budgie's really fitted into the band easily. Actually, there are four of us. Nils has been with us a for a long time and works really hard for the band. The next step is for us to find a permanent guitarist then well do some tours. Maybe go to America."
Do you have anyone in mind for the new guitarist?
"No, nobody definite. Soon after Kenny and John left, someone put us in touch with Budgie and he seemed to be right for us. Guitarists are different, we've auditioned hundreds and none of them seem to have anything to offer our sound."
Siouxsie & The Banshees seem to be going through a difficult period just now. Live, they've lost a lot of their characteristic spontaneity. They're touring with a borrowed guitarist. Yet, they still manage to bring out an excellent single. Siouxsie & The Banshees have been down before and somehow managed to use it to their advantage. It looks as if they'll do the same again.
Vincent McHardy 01/05/80
The hotel dining room is juxtaposed to a scaffolding-ridden
street, separated from it by small dingy windows. Inside, Siouxsie
Sioux, Steven Severin, John (Magazine) McGeoch, Budgie, manager Nils,
promoter's assistant Paul, guardian Mike and myself are eating our
dinner. Outside, some small boys of around thirteen are watching
us eating our dinner.
Bored at the lack of our response, they cheekily produce a colour Banshees pin-up and affix it to the window. The picture is of John McKay and Kenny Morris. Apart from mild amusement at the impertinent minds of such music-biz influenced youngsters, the band's reaction is minimal. Oh yes, and we're in Aberdeen.
Siouxsie & The Banshees are a most unusual band. Conceived spontaneously at what was, if you like, the very first official breath of punk rock, they've never appeared to consider themselves as a part of any rock fashion circus, least of all that one.
Innocent of jumping on anyone's bandwagon, as far as they we're concerned they weren't even consciously riding on it from the start. Judge the music, judge the people, and you'll find that it's impossible to dig up anything remotely similar to them since, on a plane that makes the words 'individual' and 'unique' sound so elderly, the Banshees are a law unto themselves.
The press have spent years searching for 'deep meaningful significance' in the band's words and music but they've never tried to adopt them. Possibly because of the unnerving musical achievements, maybe because of the insular, even negative, stage appearance but probably because the Banshees have never been a 'press band'.
They are not Thin Lizzy or the Boomtown Rats. The do not invite sycophancy or loathing. Rather, Siouxsie & The Banshees are disturbingly ordinary, showing plain that they hold little regard for the necessity of press-coverage, and journalists are tolerated but not much more. This band are what they want to be - the last outpost of self-sufficiency.
The self-sufficiency was proven last autumn in this very same oil-rich city. Deserted at a vital moment by the two people who once made up half (if the lesser half) of the Banshees. Siouxsie and Steve took the stage in front of a multitude of angry disappointed fans to give them both 'The Lord's Prayer' and a promise of returning. They knew then that coping was a certainty.
If you gloss over the number of their loud-mouthed contemporaries who've persistently changed line-up or split in arguments or disappeared without a trace then it's little short of a miracle that the band came home a few weeks later to play, in many opinions, almost the best gig of their career to a stunned Hammersmith Odeon.
It's just amazing that, a mere five months later, the Banshees have a chart single 'Happy House' and another tour in full flight.
There are still problems. Though Budgie's become a full-fledged band member - now he's settled in he's as good a drummer as Kenny was and he'll soon be a better one - the search for a permanent guitarist goes on: the Banshees will not settle for half measures.
Still, there's no doubt that the band will solve the past and push into the future with the same single-minded determination that they've always wielded.
I'd far rather observe and chat with Siouxsie & The Banshees than interview them. Though there's no hostility or cynical boredom thrown at me, it feels like an invasion of privacy, as if I should be able to see and understand the band without having to record their verbals on a piece of paper or a C-60 tape. That's the way they like it, I'm sure.
But Siouxsie Sioux is open and polite. We sit together in the draughty hotel bar and she talks and I listen and I wonder wherefore the 'Ice Queen Of High Punk'? I mention the split because I reckon that really I have to and this is what happens...
Have you seen John and Kenny lately?
"Not to talk to. I have seen them but... they're probably trying to do their no-no album. Some sort of record for them to try to be Enos on."
So the bands atmosphere is better now? There's no personality clashes?
"There wasn't so much of a personality difference - it's just that parts of their personalities became more prominent, especially the paranoia. It's really not all that important."
She hesitates, like the subjects really not of any concern nowadays, and then speaks.
"A lot of people think that 'Drop Dead', (the B-side of 'Happy House') "was written about them but that's not true. It was, I suppose, inspired by them but then you can look at a dog turd in the street and be inspired to write a song about it, can't you? Really, I don't want people to think that I'm going around all bitter saying 'fuck John and Kenny!' because I'm not. It doesn't matter."
How's Budgie getting on?
"He is part of the band now. Someone passed us his name right after the split and we met him the next day. He was what we wanted."
And John McGeoch?
"McGoolie? A last resort. No, we're doing the tour now because John can manage the dates but obviously he won't stay with us. We started looking immediately for a permanent guitarist but it was expecting too much to expect and get one straight away. We're still getting names dropped but were not panicking yet. The most important thing right now is to be able to work again."
'Happy House' is not what I'd expected. It's almost a pop song.
"All the singles that we've released have been good pop songs! 'Happy House' started off as a title, as a name for our fan club, the Happy House you see, and it became a song. It was the first thing we wanted to record and we had the bass, drums and vocals worked out for it so we used it in auditions as a test. So no-one did anything off pat, it was used as a guide to try out new guitarists and they had to work out their own sound."
Were there many?
"More than ten. More than a hundred. I don't know but at the first rehearsal with John we thought 'we'll see how it goes' and it was practically worked out by the end of the first rehearsal. 'Drop Dead' was another song we used in that way."
Do you think you've change direction at all?
"We've always changed. Everyone who's ever closely followed us will have seen us making changes all the time - naturally changing songs. 'The Lord's Prayer' has never had lyrics or a tune to it. Live it's either been the best thing in the set or the worst: it either happened or it didn't. Though we do have some set numbers, for the others it depends on how the gig is going."
Back to 'Happy House', what is it about?
"About being happy. A happy song written or, rather made up when you're walking home at night and you whistle a tune. You know, it's like humming 'Daisy' as you're walking through the graveyard!"
Hmm, never struck me that way. But then, though the songs are full and stinging live, the actual words when you sit down and read them are almost morbid.
"Morbid? Why morbid? I think most clowns are the saddest people. I don't think we are morbid. 'Regal Zone' is personally political for me. 'Mother' is true and I think most people feel the words of the song are their relationship with their mothers. Ever since we started, people (and I mean writers) have never known what to make of us.
"We never were punk. What happened was that we just got up on stage with no thought of making musical fashion and, anyway, I'm always very suspicious of people that promote themselves as being part of a movement."
How do you see bands that were your peers; bands like the Clash, Jam?
"Look, if I had a good word to say about them I'd tell you but it's so stupid to go slagging off people or bands you don't particularly like. I do like the Cramps though. You can laugh at them, at their characters and they're enjoyable without being part of this movement or that movement."
This tour is very short?
"Yes, but we had to fit in dates when John (McGeoch) was free, and we have got away from the album/tour, album/tour schedule. Of course, up till now we couldn't do a tour and although we enjoy it, there's still no point in busting a gut."
And the venues are smaller, stand-up halls.
"I prefer playing in them. We'll play the Music Machine in London because it's a good place - it used to be great until it went off be because of the aggression there.
"There's such a lack of venues in London: they're all Rainbow's or Marquee's with very little in between and I hate the Marquee, it's such a business place, the place for a band to start. Even the intense atmosphere in there, I can't stand it!" I know what she means for the back-patting self-congratulation of the place is often more than I can tolerate.
There's another thing though, I don't know if I like the Banshees myself - I certainly wouldn't call them a favourite band - but do you know what attracts such loyal fans? Is it the words or the music or the atmosphere or what?
"That's not for me to say though, I think it's for all aspects. I feel that we're accessible and fans that I've talked to think there's a strength in an entire song." She pauses and flys back. "We worked a fucking lot before we signed to anyone and 'Hong Kong Garden' was a major success because of the fans' interest in it and certainly not through the playlist system! I think we must have played up the north about two or three times in all sorts of places, like tiny little wine bars, places like Leicester. A couple of years of transit vans and borrowing equipment from the support bands."
Did John and Kenny like that?
"Well, I don't know, John joined after most of that was over but, I think, they both left us at a bad patch. I know it's a cliché but the saying 'success will change you' - it's a hell of a surprise to be successful the day after your single's released. They just lost perspective on the issues that were important and concentrated on trivial issues."
Siouxsie looks over to where their manager Nils Stevenson is sitting.
"We've always had Nils, it's like a whole attitude from when we started because we had a good manager and we got away from 'showbiz'. You know, you get some fat cunt who's after something for the Seventies and it's depressing that it all comes down to that and many bands, they don't give a shit. Some people just want a finger in every little pie that's around but we've never had a problem like that."
Nils started off with the Banshees playing guitar but any suggestions of him as the band's next guitarist are waved aside. He's too precious as a manager. Next thing, we're brusquely uprooted and sent into the resident's bar, conversation crumbling with the move.
Though the band has played Europe, they're hoping to tour America soon.
"No plans yet," explains Siouxsie and Steve later mentions that although 'The Scream' was released in the States, it didn't do a lot and 'Join Hands' was not "considered suitable" for American ears. Its surely a mystery what the USA will make of Siouxsie & The Banshees, but an interesting one at that.
"Morbid? I still don't see why you think were morbid." Siouxsie has just expressed her dislike for heavy metal ("I hear it and I just think of those men waving their heads like this" 'Motorhead impersonation', and it's horrible") and now she wants me to explain my earlier views. I shake my head 'cos it just appears that way to me.
"What films do you go to see?"
Oh all manner of things.
"Well, when I used to go and see films it was always the ones like 'Baby Jane' and 'Psycho' that stood out. I've seen 'Chitty Chitty Bang Bang' too but I've never found it left a lasting impression on me. Perhaps that's it."
She disappears to play cards. I scratch my head.
Instead of the austere Music Hall, Siouxsie & The Banshees hold court tonight in a Mecca-cloned club called Fusion. It's two-thirds full (due, says Nils, to scratchy promotion which is due to short term) and it's still very cold. Pity the closeted Londoner!
Waiting for the Banshees to take the stage, I try to figure out that hovering question of the band's popularity. A live show once in a while is a recharge of soaring power - it's an experience - although I could never listen to more than one side of either of the band's albums at a time.
In front of me sits Audrey. She is a strange, softly spoken Indian girl who, after some years at University, went to a Banshee gig and has since followed them almost everywhere, including Europe. To me, its as if she's given up part of her life for them, it's like a religion.
"I was at University with all these doctors and specialists and when I saw Siouxsie she was just about the most positive person that I'd ever met." is Audrey's simple explanation. Not just another band, but not a cult band either.
Then, the Banshees appear and prove it and, to get the excuses over and done with, the sound isn't great thus obscuring the extension of many of Siouxsie lyrics and the audience is disquieting and petulant (they are no doubt expecting something to happen which doesn't occur - this may be historical Aberdeen but the Banshees would never be that predictable) and, all in all, it just falls short of the best that I naturally expected of the band. Doesn't make it ordinary though.
Rising out of the ashes to an eerie-sounding tape of children playing, they launch smoothly into 'Playground Twist' bringing whoops of approval from the singles-hunting audience. "Move back, you're crushing people's bollocks up the front," commands Siouxsie. They don't obey.
The set is a vivid mix of old and new, a fluid movement through the Banshee's catalogue stretching back to 'Suburban Relapse' in a blaze of red-lit fury and contempt and to 'Hong Kong Garden', moving forward to three new songs, 'Christine', 'Desert Kisses' and 'Hybrid'
'Christine' is a high-paced deep-keyed affair almost nudging at the Cure (a quaint irony of influence) that tells the story of a multi-schizophrenic American girl - I do not like it. 'Desert Kisses' though, is slower and smoother and quite creepily addictive while 'Hybrid' bases its attack on a relentless drum rattle (the living proof that Budgie is an extraordinary drummer who attracts almost as much as Sioux herself) and sharp insidious changes of pace - I like these two very much.
But with Siouxsie gliding back n forth like an expressionless Aunt Sally (another's suggestion, not mine), the songs that take the night are the irrestible 'Happy House', which has it's own sticky hook that grabs and won't let go and if any song, anywhere, is worth a twelve-inch then that one is, and 'Staircase' which is certainly my top Banshee single - never mind Polydor - which simply drives along in furious abandon.
I want to dance but I don't and it's because this Banshees gig, like all others, is an event both streamlined and difficult. When one song ends and another begins you're still left reeling from the one before - each is so distinctly separate. It's like walking with a map through an unknown country; each part is new and foreign and exciting.
But, you see, I don't even think that I like the Banshees anywhere other than on stage.
Back in the now over-familiar hotel bar, Steve Severin is talking with me. He is quiet and controlled and he thinks for a long time before answering any of my questions. He admits to not liking journalists on the road with the band as he doesn't really trust them.
The high standards of the Banshees' songs are clearly seen through Steve's comments, the evidence is all there as he outlines the "few" good pieces of writing that he has read in the press. Someone who expects such high standards, someone who troubles so much over writing a song (he indicates a few months for one lyric though not a general example) will obviously attain fine results. Steve is the representative Banshee.
Some fans and friends who are sitting with us explain their liking for the band because "there's not a song that they do that I don't like". Says it all really.
Some days after, I watch B.B.C.'s A Song For Europe peddling out its pathetic instant entries, littered with unremarkable people who sing about "fun" and try desperately to look as if they're having it.
And I know that Siouxsie & The Banshees, however unconventional, are on a level that these people will never understand.
Robbie Millar 05/04/80
ROCK'S FAVOURITE SITUATION COMEDY RETURNS TO YOUR PAGES AND STAGES
The Banshees story so far: Siouxsie and Steve are still together but John (1) and Kenny have run away, leaving the way clear for Budgie to move in. John (2) says he hasn't but has really. He's certainly left Howard (who's no longer with Peter). On the tour with Claire, Caesar, Tony, Tich and John (3) - Altered Images - they meet Nick and some polecats. Now read on...
The 100 Club. Siouxsie Sioux, Steve Severin, Marco Pirroni, Sid Vicious. 'Lord's Prayer'. You just didn't feel anything then, did you?
"No". (Steve Severin)
1977. Nils Stevenson becomes manager. Siouxsie Sioux, Steve Severin, Peter Fenton, Kenny Morris. John McKay replaces Fenton. 'Captain Scarlet', '20th Century Boy'. Siouxsie & The Banshees don't appear on Live At The Roxy. Sign The Banshees. Sign The Banshees. "We will win in the end".
"It was always much more insular and much more rigid and almost... not regimental but very stiff. But I think in a way it was necessary at that time to protect ourselves. It was a new band and it was really a defence mechanism so as not to be poisoned by rock and roll antics and all that dross... I'm more relaxed now I think, because I know I'm not affected by it, y'know, I've been on the road for four years and I don't do the things that I was frightened I might end up doing." (Sioux)
John McKay was watching television one Christmas. The Boomtown Rats were number one. He was furious. "We should be number one!" He writes 'Hong Kong Garden': metaphysical descendent of Bolan greats, as were 'Playground Twist' and 'Staircase'. Polydor release 'Garden' as a single in August 1978. A hit.
'The Scream' is loved or loathed.
'Join Hands' - "I think it's a masterpiece." (Severin.) Did you feel that Siouxsie & The Banshees were...
"I think we didn't know how to do it. I think it was you who said that we grew up in the spotlight from the word go, and all the faults lie from there really. The destruction of the band." (Severin.)
"I was just stunned - we had a gig to do! We were doing this autograph session in this record shop - which is quite funny anyway, but it's like - funny! Maybe it's wrong that we should be stars or heroes to people but we always started out to be a pop group, so that's a kind of compromise in one way - how could you be a pop star and not sign autographs...? So we were signing and just talking to people, half the reason they want to sign autographs is so that they can have a quick chat about something, and there was a little row. John and Kenny stormed off and we just thought we'd see them at the soundcheck. The soundcheck came and went. We went back to the hotel and we were just sitting in the lobby. This bloke came over and said do you know such and such and they're in room so and so and they've just checked out. Who's that? McKay and Morris. We just sat there for about 20 minutes not saying anything. Suddenly we thought - the station! Me and Sioux just ran over to the station and there was a train about to go and no sign of John or Kenny. It was when Nils and everyone else came back to the hotel that it started to sink in that they'd actually run off. I just wouldn't want to live through that again... I've never had so much trauma in my life. It was horrible." (Severin.)
"There wasn't a thing of 'well, they've gone, we can't fuck up our lives'. It wasn't that at all, it was just like, 'I don't want to stop!' I'd never considered stopping at that point. I wasn't in the mood to stop. That is really what it is all about." (Severin.)
THIS WEEK -
I don't want to harp on, I just want to hear John's album. Obviously it was an enormous thing and it happened in public. But as far as me and Sioux are concerned it's over. When people start bringing the subject up, you start remembering what is was like to be at the Aberdeen Capitol when it happened..." (Severin)
"I did the 'Join Hands' tour and that was like jumping in at the deep end and I knew at the end of that tour that we were going to have to get a new guitarist, a more permanent guitarist to replace Robert Smith of The Cure. I think at that point, during the auditions, I knew I was going to stay. Even with just the three of us, we had so many ideas going." (Budgie)
"Nils rang me up whilst I was rehearsing with Magazine and he said 'We're looking for a new guitarist, we've auditioned 80 and I couldn't find anyone, will you come along? I said 'Well, I have a lot of commitments, Mr. Stevenson, I can't really see anyway that I can do it'. He said 'Well, really were looking for someone more permanent'. I asked him to give me a call at home. I hung up and said to Barry (Adamson) 'That was the manager of the Banshees asking me to join them'. Barry said 'Are you going to join them?' I said 'Naah! You're joking'. It seemed so outrageous at the time... we were in the middle of 'Correct Use Of Soap'." (McGeoch)
"One of the things we found out in auditioning for new guitarists was that it had to be someone who grew up with what happened in '76 and '77 and had adapted and lived through it. It was just impossible the thought of us having a new young guitarist in the group, because there were so many things that we'd been through that we would have had to communicate. I think that's the main reason we hit it off so well with Budgie, simply because he had been around. The same with John... It was very immediate and that was refreshing. All the people from that time had been through so many different experiences and yet landed together and we were all really positive again... It's very odd playing with musicians who are musicians... John is very very good. Budgie is very good, and at first it was totally peculiar. And I think that's one of the things that keeps the tension going within this group." (Severin)
"I just had some time off, I met them in a pub, got on very well, they invited me to a rehearsal, and almost on the first day we got 'Happy House' together. The real killer was when I went on tour with them. What the Banshees do is right up my street because... I hate guitar solos and displays of technique, and playing gigs with the Banshees was just really loose, it was refreshing. It might sound a bit slick but I was married to Magazine and I feel in love with a mistress. I had no intention of joining them after that first tour but I just couldn't get it out of my mind. It's probably the most upsetting thing I've ever done, leaving Magazine, it was absolutely dreadful and I hate talking about it... the whole thing is cheapened. Sometimes you just have to follow your heart." (McGeoch.)
Steve Severin speaks so softly the miniature microphone struggles to pick him up. It captures the lengthy pauses between answers excellently, though. My own voice booms inelegantly. I'm wary of Severin. He knows I'm wary. I know he knows. Etc. It's his 'embarrassment' (of rock routine? of real life?) not mixing well with my own 'embarrassment' at my parasitic role. Questions! Questions! All the time its questions!
Rock paper bias has bent Banshees image and reputation into all manner of peculiar and incongruous shapes. The groups reserve when it comes to the grand intrusion, their impatience and introversion, hasn't helped. They aren't tempted to stretch this way and that to convert. Severin is very sensitive to criticism.
"Oh yeah! I know I am, and I know Sioux is as well. We read every possible interview and review of everything we've ever done because in one way it is a gauge of what you're doing."
But very distorted.
"Oh yeah, it's purely a media gauge. Sometimes it's more personal than that...
In your position I would rarely take notice of rock 'criticism'.
"Well if you don't take notice you might end up like Rod Stewart or something. I don't know why were talking about the press, it's not a hang up of mine. It was for a week after 'Kaleidoscope'."
You couldn't trust your own head?
"Of course! The record's still come out. They wouldn't if we didn't think they were alright. It's just that... basically it upsets me that something we've put so much effort into is written off so cheaply.
For a couple of weeks it knocks all your sense of value about what you've done until you remember what you felt before. Criticism from people who come backstage can upset you as well. The number of times I've had to answer the question - Why was The Lord's Prayer on 'Join Hands' - it's getting like a standard fan's question, and for a while it really bugs you that fans can ask you why - a lot of people thought that it was a wrong move in a series of moves that were perfect - for them. That's what I find irritating. (So why WAS Lords Prayer on 'Join Hands'? - Ed).
What feedback are you expecting?
"The things we're trying to do are so intangible... I think it's really great that we have such a young audience! They must be growing up with the sound of Siouxsie & The Banshees as part of their lives. I think that's fantastic, because of what happened when I was young and what kind of effect that had on me. It's just a real... I mean Marc Bolan never said anything in his lyrics, Bowie never said anything specifically, but it was just the whole feel of those people when you were growing up that made you the kind of person you are today.
I fall over myself agreeing with him. "And if we're doing that to people I think that's really good, and that's why when anybody ever asks us what we are I always say - A Pop Group."
Does it upset you that people approach you as if you believe you're producing 'high art'?
"Yes, I've always been annoyed by that... it's as though they've found some sort of new consciousness or something that they're trying to work us in or out of. In one way it should be like that, but not all the time. It's as much Nils as anything else. One of the first things he said to us when we'd done a couple of gigs down the Roxy was' I've got to get you on 'Magpie'. Great!"
Do you feel that Siouxsie & The Banshees have let people down in anyway?
"I think a lot of it got distorted, about what bands were trying to do. You get one extreme of the 'why have you got a single on the album' people, and then you've got people who just want you to be like a '70s album band. There has to be room for something new, for a band which puts out really great singles and puts out great albums that can be respected as great albums. The things has to mix. There aren't King Crimson and they're aren't Slade anymore. Everything sort of melts into one."
Where does this 'respect' come from?
"To a certain extent I want us to be respected like an album band in the '70s, like Can and Beefheart, people who never had hit singles. But on the other side of the coin I really liked Roxy and Bowie and T.Rex..."
The best post-punk groups mix the mythological singles and albums consciousness with mesmerising grace and potency... that Bolan/Can feel bound tightly with sparks and sparkle.
"I think it's good that we can do accessible pop songs as well as have contrast with the album songs and b-sides." said Sioux, unaware of what Steve would say in another place. "I thinks that's vital for us or anyone that I ever liked... the only example I can sincerely give is The Velvet Underground..."
Craft, spontaneity, a lack of misguided, misleading and contrived intellectualism.
"We're just not intellectuals," says Severin. "we're just not... I've never understood that cold distant thing... every gig is like - mad!"
"Actually it's going to the fourth and fifth album." Severin laughs. "For the price of one! It'd be great to do. We've got the material. One of the albums is going to be three or four minute songs that could be singles, one album is gonna be four songs."
Essential Banshees. Two sides. To every story, and all the best pop groups.
An anonymous some-day in Bristol. A Top Rank Hall that could be in any major city. The Banshees are out eating. Its late afternoon, coming up to soundcheck time. It was Swansea the day before: a lot of spitting, a lot to have to contend with. A few dates before that, a few dates after this. A shirt, realistic tour. Altered Images are the support. Siouxsie & The Banshees are always very selective about who tours with them: it is a show. Like Buzzcocks, they've never had a bad support. Human League, Spizz, Cure and now the Images.
Altered Images, a Glasgow five piece, build bold pop songs with unique moods and balances. They are Scottish at a time when that means something or other. Actually it doesn't mean a thing. Scotland is not the home of a new sound, just the New Coincidence. The cynics, the critics, the cretins are already dropping down on Altered Images, absurdly comparing them with the Banshees, interpreting Sioux and Steve's interest as conceit. All this stupidity is rooted in laziness, a cranky need for comparative criticism. Seeing something that isn't there. Altered Images are an eccentric, exciting, erratic two guitar, girl singer pop group who should be a chart group. The corruption and cheapness of the London dominated putrid pop world and its self-protecting propaganda, its fear and it's blindness, gets in the way of natural 1980 pop groups like Altered Images.
Claire sings. Caesar and Tony play guitars. John is bass, Tich is drums. The Banshees are at the top, they're at the bottom. The Banshees are deep into The Game, have been knocked about. Altered Images aren't sure how to play. The Banshees know all about the stupid questions that come their way. Altered Images are just finding out. One of the group is still at school. 18 and under, they could be crushed by all the baddies. They've been together since 1978.
The Banshees have worked their way up to staying in hotels. Images stay in B&B hotels, or friends' houses, or drive to London after a gig where they have somewhere to stay. A £300 fee they received for a John Peel session is helping to finance their first tour.
"Another thing that's really odd about the band apart from having musicians in is having non-Londoners." (Severin).
How could anyone say that a band with Budgie in is heartless? The morning after a searing Bristol show we sit in the foyer of Bristol Holiday Inn: Budgie takes away the weight of a long nights drinking with a glass of cold Guinness. He's from St Helens, and was part of the roots of the peculiar Liverpool swell. He broke out of Liverpool, saved The Slits, teamed up with Glen Matlock in a sort of supergroup, and landed, fatefully, in the Banshees. He's very happy about it.
"There are moments of discomfort. I wasn't too sure what was or is expected of me in some ways, whether Steve and Sioux were going through periods of not wanting a permanent structure anymore, cos they were so obviously pissed off with what happened. But I think it's just evolved naturally, it's making its own structure.
"Thinking back over what's happened to me over the last three years it's just ridiculous, the situations that I've been through. What happened back in '76 wasn't just a new spark in the record industry or anything like that, that wasn't really the important thing. I don't think it was like a blasting down of everything that had gone before so much as suddenly realising we were ourselves."
No time at all
The drive from Bristol to Sheffield is long, boring and cramped. "I just hate travel," says Sioux. "I hate getting from A to B, I just want to be there. I'm cursing and trying to get some sleep. Always thinking are we there yet?"
As soon as we are there it's straight to this Top Rank to soundcheck. Altered Images are already there. They'd journeyed via London. There's little to say. Altered Images hang around for the Banshees to soundcheck. Claire has her picture taken: an exaggerated show of shyness.
Severin's conversation is wandering. "The drummer from Altered Images was saying to me about losing all his friends since the connection with us. It just made me think about my situation when I was first in a band and then in a band who made records and a record that got into the top ten. I didn't lose any friends... all the friends I had were like great friends.
Some people are seeing strange things in the closeness between the Banshees and Altered Images.
"That's evil. Ridiculous. We had the same love for Spizz when he started, and the Human League, the same love for The Cure. We only play with people that we really like... this is the first band that's got a girl singer, that's all. They're a pop group! They've got at least four pop singles!"
I interview Altered Images outside their dressing room after their set at the Birmingham Top Rank. Reaction to the group had been slow. Audiences seem to need signs and suggestions before they open up. A year from now, Images, playing substantially the same music - stronger, sharper - will be topping bills and storming. At Sheffield I'd asked them to play 'Jeepster'. They didn't but they dedicated a song to me. I was at the hotel with the Banshees whilst they were on. I missed it. Choke.
They're eager to talk
Claire: "We just wanted to make tunes."
Caesar: "Originally it was very disjointed. All different parts just stuck together."
Claire: "All our songs were about eight minutes long because no-one knew when to stop."
John: "We just want to try new things, be respected by people..."
Caesar: "Initially we had two girl singers. It didn't work out. They used to hide behind each other."
John: "The Banshees have helped us a lot. It's a compliment, because we're one of the few bands the Banshees have openly said they liked." Caesar: "We did a gig at the Nashville supporting Margo & The Randoms and we were really bad. All the record companies were there and we blew it. It was probably best that happened..."
Claire: "We want lots of hit singles. Why shouldn't we be in the charts?"
Caesar: "We didn't want a sex symbol so we got Claire!"
John: "We take it seriously, but we don't take it too seriously."
McGeoch toughens up as soon as the tape recorder is turned on
We talk after the Birmingham show in a corner of the hotel bar. McGeoch fits into Siouxsie & The Banshees emphatically. How long has he been a Banshee?
"I'm not a Banshee"
He sighs, wearily. "It might sound like a pat answer because I've been asked the question so many times, but I think it's a reasonable one because without going into a lengthy legal discussion it's about as near as I can come to explaining my position within the band."
During this interview I nibble away at McGeoch's patience. "What I do with my life is extremely important to me. I lose a lot of sleep over it. I just hate interviewers coming up to me and saying why did you do this, why did you do that..."
So let's talk about the guitar. McGeoch is a great guitarist, whatever the occasion. "I play guitar like I paint. The parallels are trying to shrug off as many influences as possible, recognise yourself and then destroy it... I hate to sound like an artistic Martyr, I'm not really interested in the righteous side of artistic music, because what I like more than anything else it to... hit the big E, y'know, and I paint in the same way, splashing a big bit of red across the canvas."
Siouxsie & The Banshees
Caesar: "End of subject! Ours music's really happy."
John: "We express our youth."
Claire: "We do?"
"We'd rather be decadent than responsible. Something like UK Subs is responsible." (Severin.)
After the Bristol gig - the Banshees were pleased with their performance - queues form for signatures, on all sorts of bits of paper. Group members are pawed at and smothered. After the Sheffield gig - the Banshees were depressed and rushed away from the club - there are no signatures. After the Birmingham gig, a few hunters find their way to the Banshees' crowded dressing room. Sioux, though, finds time to eat a salad, while me and Budgie discuss Man, Groundhogs, Curved Air and other rubbish.
"People come back," he explains, "ask you to sign something, ask for a drink, y'know, give me your jacket. Sometimes they come in as if they're really expecting you to do something for them, you have to give them more, be at their beck and call. Stay still, I'm going to take a photograph. There's lots of things... if you start thinking about them too much, putting them in terms of perpetuating the rock myths, you'd just crack up."
"I don't like liggers," says Sioux with obvious distaste, "I just switch off whenever there are liggers around the band. I've never in my life asked for an autograph. I never wanted that. I never wanted to wait outside a gig to touch Marc Bolan or whatever. I never wanted to find out where they were living. I just didn't want that. I was just really thrilled when a new single came out, or there was a new photo in the paper."
When the hunters come hunting, and thrust tatty ticket stubs under her nose minutes after a show, she is extremely polite. "I've been rude before. It varies. Sometimes I'm in a very tolerant mood. Other times I'm not and I'm probably a real bitch. When I'm rude they mutter what a bitch I am, I just won't talk to them, I tell them to get out. Then I think how petty it is, what a prima donna behaving like that. When you think you're being strong and not being poisoned there's always the cliché of you thinking well I'm acting like a drama queen. It's a vicious circle - other times you think why am I trying to be polite?"
No one thinks to ask Altered Images for their autographs.
As the Banshees and Altered Images criss-cross around the country truly furthering the cause and possibility of pop music, a swarm of other groups are also touring, spreading various diseases and debasements, attracting their particular tribal audience. In Bristol the night the Banshees were playing, Ossie Osborne's 'new band' is playing the Colston Hall. In Sheffield, both The Scorpions and Rockpile are 'in town'. In Birmingham, AC/DC play the City Hall.
Each group's audience is sadly predictable, obviously uniformed, mostly dogmatic. One lot embroider their jackets, one lot spit - "Three years of fucking ignorance" Severin shouts in desperation from the Sheffield stage. Images and Banshees pop music reaches a much more narrow audience than it should.
"I think the one thing I get reminded of whenever I go on the road, and I was aware of it before," Sioux tells me, "is breaking down territory barriers, as far as the audience goes. We want if possible a wide cross section in the audience, whether they're... just as individuals, not as a punk audience or a blah blah audience or a London audience or a Scottish audience. It was then and is now always a specific audience that comes to see us and it's really disillusioning when you play somewhere like Swansea and there is this punk audience and there are two boys who've come down from London and they've had to beg me to let them stay in the gig for two hours cos they can't go outside in case they're beaten up because of their accents. I think that's... the only thing I've been conscious of wanting to change, of not having this specific audience, a narrow minded patriotic type."
I interview Sioux in the upstairs part of Sheffield Top Rank just before their lengthy soundcheck (soundchecks are integral parts in the Banshees song process - the next single, a Christmas song, 'Israel', has been moulded during soundchecks. Recorded on Bonfire Night, released by the end of November, it's their third great single of the year). As we talk, Budgie bashes around his kit on the downstairs stage, getting himself and his kit in the mood. Sioux's the face and made up fashion that caused a thousand lookalikes... hair to toe, make up to boots... she's dimly aware of the phenomenon. Is she surprised that she's a pop star?
"I'm not surprised that people buy the records, but I am surprised by the way it's still treated as being a big deal to see Siouxsie going into a hotel or trying to get backstage to find me... all this surprises me. I thought it would change, but it hasn't. I feel I must let a lot of people down because I don't do all the clichés that you associate with pop star..." Does she relish being a trendsetter?
"No. I should be impressed but I'm not. I just wish people had more pride in themselves and thought more of themselves. I switch off."
When Sioux speaks there's usually a hard edge to her voice, and in what she says. But does she think that people's general notion of her as 'cold' is pretty comic.
"Yeah!... I dunno, it's just like they're saying there's no passion and there's no fire and I think that's wrong. I think the word is used because there's a hard approach I have to a lot of things, but there's always a way of getting things done and just being strong, y'know."
Budgie's bashing gets louder, blotting out what we're saying. Sioux starts to raise her voice. "Music to me is really important, to be able to relax with or enjoy... it's a real lifeline, to feel like getting up and dancing when you're listening to the music, you really feel thankful to people who make you do that..."
As the Banshees collect in the Sheffield hotel lounge ready to drive to the gig, Nick Lowe and Jake Riviera walk through. Rockpile are staying at the same hotel. Sioux hates Nick Lowe. Any particular reason? "No particular reason."
"Curved Air", shouts Severin as Lowe disappears through a door, tentatively offering a wave. Lowe delights in calling the Banshees 'the new wave Curved Air'. Later that night, after respective gigs five groups spilling and milling get the night porter sweating with their drink fuelled antics. On one side of a large room, Rockpile and their support Polecats 'get it together'. The Polecats haul out their acoustic guitars and double bass and slap out a selection of creeky oldies, to the delight of Dave Edmunds and the disgust of John McGeoch. Altered Images are in the room, so too are three quarters of The Human League, along to see their friends. Is the split in the room symbolic? A certain tension builds up. Polecats turn out to be Banshee fans and earnestly try to impress them. Budgie wanders as if in a blur over to where the pointed Terry Williams is sat and to jeers drops deep into a drum chat. "I really liked his drumming on Spunk Rock when he was in Man," Budgie will explain to me enigmatically. In turn, Williams asked Budgie how he did the drumming on 'Happy House'.
Me and Sioux are talking about the weather or America or Mick Jagger or her great white leather slip on's or something. Lowe spots me and gives me the thumbs up. Thumbs up! He limps over to where we're sat and squats down in between, waiting coyly for his turn to talk, fiddling with a £10 note. He and Sioux stiltedly talk about 'business'.
When it's all over I say to Lowe, I'm surprised you survived! "What do you mean?" Curved Air. "Ah," he smacks his lips, "it's all part of the circus."
"He was just trying to be quotable." tuts Severin later.
Minutes before Siouxsie & The Banshees go on stage: Sioux will be teasing and backcombing her hair: Severin will be applying white make up to his face: Budgie will be spraying some joint easing stuff on his arms: McGeoch will be sucking on a large cigar and drinking a vodka and orange.
When on stage, showing off, turning on, breaking through, Siouxsie & The Banshees make you think of someone seeing their first ever pop concert.
"They must be growing up to the sound of Siouxsie & The Banshees as part of their lives. I think it's fantastic, because of when I was young and what happened to me. It's just a feeling." (Severin.)
Pop music is about liking things.
Pop music is about wanting things.
Pop music is about:
Altered Images and Siouxsie & The Banshees. Two glittering parts in the grand puzzle.
Paul Morley 08/11/80
MY LIFE IN PUNK ROCK
Susan X, former barmaid from Chislehurst, tells all...
Steve Severin's recently acquired pad is in West Hampstead, a stone's throw from the Moonlight Club. He shares it with Spizz of Athletico 80 and Jan, secretary of the Banshees/Athletico office. Steve's bed doubles as a settee in their spacious, sparsely furnished front room. The Banshees' bassist was in the kitchen preparing the evening meal so Siouxsie and yours truly proceeded without him.
I asked her first about her birthplace, and the childhood memories.
Siouxsie: Born in Chislehurst (not Bromley), Kent. My earliest memory is pretending to be dead. My mum used to keep stepping over me while I was laying on the kitchen floor. I was five. I once took a bottle of pills to make it more realistic. That was about the same time I started school. I can remember I had really long hair and I got chewing gum stuck in it. It was in there for a couple of years, until I eventually had my hair cut.
What was Chislehurst like?
It was just a typical suburban town. There were lower class and upper class areas and we lived somewhere in between.
There was mum and dad, until he died, and I've got another brother and sister and two cats called Cookie and Crystal.
Were your brother and sister involved in any sort of youth movements, gangs or such like?
My sister was a beatnik. My brother just had greased back hair and wore t-shirts and jeans. He didn't have a motorbike or anything though.
What about your school life?
I hated school. I used to skive off all the time, because nobody was home by day and it was easy just to stay in and watch telly. Sometimes a couple of us would go to the local park. We seemed to get flashed at a lot. The funniest incident was when this bloke rode up to us on a pushbike, opened his coat and he had his wanger resting on the crossbar. He had a beard and wore glasses, the police used to call him Rolf Harris.
Did you have any inclination while you were (supposed to be) at school that you'd eventually get involved in a band?
Not really. I used to go to the pub a lot with my dad and I wanted to be a barmaid. It just seemed cosy indoors serving drinks. I did in fact do some bartending for a while until I realised it wasn't all I'd imagined it to be. I also fancied being a surgeon.
Why do you object to your real name being used in print?
My real name was only actually printed once and my mum was pestered for months by people ringing her up and calling round to see if I was in. That's why I object, basically, to save her the harrassment, particularly now I'm no longer living with her.
What was the first record you bought?
"ABC" by the Jackson 5 was the first, although I didn't have to buy records before that. I used to borrow them from my brother or sister. I liked things like "The Israelites" and "John I'm Only Dancing". "Ziggy Stardust" was my first album. I liked most T.Rex and Gary Glitter singles, most good pop songs.
Can you remember the pinups you had on your bedroom wall?
(Pause) I had the "Man Who Sold The World" poster. Cant really remember anything else.
Have you always dressed against fashion?
Well I've always worn what I've wanted if that's what you mean, as opposed to what everyone else wants. I've always slapped make-up on in war paint fashion and I've been dying my hair since I was at school.
Have you ever had aggravation from people who've taken offence at your dress sense?
I used to get verbal abuse, specially on the underground for some reason, usually from Arabs and Pakis. I suppose they are a very male dominated peoples and a woman who dresses slightly loud poses some kind of threat. When I went to Paris with the Pistols some bloke came up and slapped me across the face for baring my tits in public.
Were you a regular Let It Rock (now Seditionaries) shopper?
Yeah. You could get some great one-offs there before it turned Co-op after McLaren left it to Vivienne Westwood. I got a great pair of black net stockings covered in little gold tassles there. It was good for things like that. You could get brothel creepers and drapes there off the peg when it was nearly impossible to get them anywhere else. It was also used as a meeting place 'cause you could hang around as long as you liked without hassles.
Is that where you met Steve Havoc (now Severin)?
I met Steve at a Pistols gig at the end of '75. I got introduced to him by Debbie or Tracy. He was best mates with Billy Idol. That was before the Bromley Contingent tag. Steve had seen them (the Pistols) a couple of times before me. He was at the Marquee when they supported the Hot Rods and were banned because a few chairs got slung around.
Was there anything sexual between you?
No, we were just good friends.
How did you get around when you followed the Pistols, because they did more gigs up north than in London didn't they?
We never followed them to that extent. Paris was just a one-off thing. It was a laugh but we never used to venture north of Watford Gap really.
On the night of Monday Sept 20 1976 the 100 Club Punk Festival commenced with a first night billing of the Sex Pistols, The Clash, Subway Sect, and Suzie and The Banshees. The Banshees consisted of Suzie's vocals, Steve Havoc (also known from time to time as Two Tone Steve and Steve Spunker) on bass, Marco (borrowed from The Models) on guitar, and Sid Vicious (borrowed from the Flowers Of Romance) on drums. Originally Billy Idol was asked to be their guitarist but he was in Chelsea (the group) at the time and they wouldn't release him.
They had rehearsed for the first time the previous night after Siouxsie and Steve had been asked if they knew of a band who could fill the Monday night vacancy. Bernie Rhodes had let them use his Chalk Farm rehearsal studios.
Suzi, later Siouxsie after she had played around with the spelling in order to make it more interesting, and The Banshees, a name culled from the film Cry Of The Banshee which is currently doing the rounds again in the West End's underground cinemas, were going to perform an extended version of "Goldfinger" but shelved that in favour of The Lord's Prayer. Their version included excerpts from "Twist & Shout" and "Knocking On Heaven's Door".
They were set to use The Clash's equipment until Siouxsie turned up wearing a swastika armband. When she refused to remove it Bernie Rhodes, then The Clash's manager, withdrew his consent.
Said Rhodes: "Our equipment is very distinctive. We've painted it luminous pink. If she used it then we would be associated with the swastika."
Siouxsie answer: "As a symbol of shock the swastika was the best thing around. I meant it to be nothing more."
They ended up using the Sex Pistols equipment instead.
Their contribution to the festival was the notion that they would keep playing until the audience eventually bottled them off. But that idea backfired, and after they had been playing for about half an hour they left of their own accord.
Looking back on the festival how do you view your contribution now?
It was an experience and it got the ball rolling for us. We all enjoyed it and we went down well. I'm still surprised we were on stage so long.
How/when did Kenny Morris and John McKay come onto the scene?
After the 100 Club Festival we didn't do anything for ages. Kenny Morris had been in the Flowers Of Romance and when he left them we just snapped him up. John joined us in about March '77. Pete Fenton had been with us for a while after Marco had gone back to The Models. Marco was never meant to be our permanent guitarist anyway. Pete didn't fit in either so we just waited till the right one came along. We had a violinist as well, called Simone, but she left after our second gig.
I've heard it (through the grapevine) that Pete is a petrol pump attendant in Croydon now. Have you kept in touch with him, or with Marco?
I haven't seen Pete for years but I still see Marco occasionally. He was in Rema Rema when they supported us at the Rainbow last year.
What about your manager, Nils Stevenson, how did he become involved?
He was co-manager with Malcolm of the Pistols but after the 'Anarchy' tour Malcolm decided he no longer required his services. Me and Steve had known Nils for ages and we needed a manager. Malcolm had given Nils £300 and sent him on his way. So he started getting us gigs. The second gig we played as Siouxsie & The Banshees was in Tiverton. In Devon or Dorset. Then we did the Roxy. Both of them were supporting The Slits. Anyway we all lived off this £300 plus what little we made on gigs. My dole money was stopped when they found out I was in a band and of course anybody who's in a band is rolling in it. We were in a ridiculous situation at the time. Our faces were all over the papers, we were selling out gigs, but we had no record contract or money.
What did you do for equipment then?
We used to turn up at the gigs... we were doing a lot of college type places then, headlining most of them... we just used to tell the support band that our equipment van had broken down on the motorway so could we borrow theirs. Steve didn't even own a guitar until last year.
Then came Polydor right?
Yeah. They offered us a really good contract but they still have the power to annoy us if they want to. No matter who you sign to, they're just a business and you're expected to pull your weight.
Were a lot of people behind you at Polydor to begin with?
No, just a few really, a couple of A&R men who stuck their necks out. It's a case of if you don't sign anyone you're safe, if you do sign someone you're expected to be behind them 100%, and if they don't sell the units you're put out on your arse.
On August 28 1978, a week after release "Hong Kong Garden" entered the BMRB top 30, an impressive and successful debut single by anybody's standards. It eventually reached No 7. Ironically The Sex Pistols had occupied the same position a couple of weeks previously with "No One Is Innocent", Ronnie Biggs substituting for Johnny Rotten's vocals. Thank Christ The Banshees offered a new wave alternative.
All was hunky dory in the following year. "The Scream" was critically acclaimed the best debut album of '78 by all bar Julie Burchill. Sell out tours, TV appearances, mass acceptance (of sorts), all the trappings of excess success. Perhaps life was just a little too sweet.
On September 7 last year the law of averages caught up with them. The second date of the 'Join Hands' tour was at Aberdeen Capitol. That afternoon the Banshees had put in a session signing album sleeves at the town's Other Record Shop. Afterwards a row developed, splitting the band in two, Kenny and John one one side, Siouxsie and Steve on the other. In the evening only Siouxsie and Steve turned up for the gig.
While support group The Cure ran through their set twice Siouxsie, Steve and Nils hurried back to the hotel. Kenny and John weren't there. They had been seen climbing out of a cab at Aberdeen station. On each of their hotel beds was a propped-up pillow, with a backstage pass attached. What was left of The Banshees went on stage and performed 'The Lord's Prayer', and instructed the packed house to collect cash refunds on the way out.
How do you feel about the split now, nearly a year later?
They're forgotten but not forgiven. The whole affair still leaves me cold. We still don't know their reasons for leaving. They certainly weren't clarified. We knew it was dangerous to go on tour 'cause they had been turning up late for rehearsals and photo sessions, but we'd agreed that we'd have to kick ourselves up the pants to stop being so lazy. They just said 'Yeah yeah yeah'. We'd even suggested that they leave if they were disillusioned or something.
I was an eye witness at the Blondie Christmas party when you and Kenny clashed. I noticed the stiletto going in, getting if off your chest so to speak. Have you seen John or Kenny properly since the split?
I haven't seen John at all and that was the only time I've seen Kenny. He had it coming to him. We'd seen him just before we went into the party, right. He was a wanker to think nothing would happen just because it was Christmas.
Are they still under contract to Polydor?
No. That proves that if they had any bollocks between 'em Polydor would have had no qualms about keeping The Banshees and John and Kenny. I don't know what they're doing now, don't care.
So you've got another drummer (Budgie, whose former claim to fame was the percussion work on The Slits' terrific debut album "Cut"). Are you still looking for a guitarist?
Not until the end of the year. We've given it a rest for the time being.
What's happening about the stand-ins: Robert Smith (The Cure), John McGeoch (Magazine) and, rumour has it, Steve Jones (The Professionals)? Are none of them interested in a Banshee residence?
They were all borrowed, none of them on a permanent basis. The Steve Jones thing was nothing. His style is totally different to what were looking for.
Do you ever see any of the Bromley Contingent or the Pistols?
We still see Steve and Paul. Paul shares a flat with Nils. I haven't seen any of the Bromley Contingent as was, but I don't live in Bromley anymore.
What about Rotten/Lydon?
No, not really interested.
What do you listen to now?
Well I liked some of "Metal Box"; that double Human League single with "Marianne" and "Rock n Roll" on it; The Cramps - I really regret missing them at The Venue last time. But apart from that I prefer to keep an ear out for something new, like Altered Images, a new band from Scotland. They're all between the ages of 16 and 20. They're like a breath of fresh air.
What's your involvement with them?
They sent us a tape just before we went to Scotland last time, asking if they could support us. So we got them on for Glasgow and we were really impressed. We've brought then down since, to do a demo which we are taking around right now with the intention of putting out a single, maybe on our own label. They've also done a Peel session which should be aired soon.
Does this mean you'd rather forget the bands you started with: The Clash, Jam, Damned?
I hate those bands, always did. I s'pose it's better The Jam going in at No 1 rather than Liquid Gold but I really think they are just boring.
Are you conscious of your vocal range? Do you try to improve your singing?
I've had lessons but instead of teaching you how to improve your voice they just teach you how to breath properly and pronounce diction in the correct manner. I think vocal training tends to make you sound a bit artificial. I'd rather sound like myself.
Is it true that you went to the same teacher as Rotten (the plummy pianist and vocal coach featured in one of The Great Rock 'n' Roll Swindles funniest episodes)?
Yeah, she gave me two lessons and I had two more from some bloke, I forget his name. But yeah, that part of the film is very true. I don't know how many lessons John had. But like I said, I don't think lessons can help you sing any better.
Next month sees the release of a new Banshees album, "Kaleidoscope". It's the final nail in the coffin of the 'Bye bye blackheads' saga. Siouxsie and Steve have started from scratch and come out on top. The new album is as far removed from "The Scream" as "Metal Box" is from "Never Mind The Bollocks".
On "Kaleidoscope" Siouxsie introduces us to her playing synthesiser ("Lunar Camel"), Steve Severin playing sitar and Budgie the bass ("Tenant"), John McGeoch sitting in on sax ("Hybrid"), and Steve Jones modifying his style to contribute guitar to three tracks ("Clockface", "Paradise Place" and "Skin"). Siouxsie herself is well chuffed with the final cut and all that remains is to see if the '70s Banshees fans stay with the '80s Banshees. On the evidence of the new album they are two totally different bands.
Vaughn Toulouse 08/80
AND THE BITTER BILL
Siouxsie isn’t just concerned about being a rock musician, she has strong feelings on other matters as well.
Interview by ROSALIND RUSSELL
ON FRIDAY, Parliament resumes the discussion which began last week, on John Corrie’s Private Members Bill to amend the 1967 Abortion Act. Corrie and his supporters want to knobble the Act, making it virtually impossible for anyone without money to obtain a legal abortion in this country. If you’re rich enough, you can do anything.
Last week, there was a huge rally at Westminster, to lobby MPs and show them most women in this country want the Act to stay as it is. During the speeches, letters were read out from people who couldn’t be there. Among the letters was a message of support from Siouxsie and the Banshees. Their letter was greeted with loud appreciation.
Although some bands will play benefit gigs for causes like one parent families and rock against racism, not many of them will stick their necks out for anything more controversial. They might profess to expressing political ideas in their songs, but when it comes down to the nitty gritty, public opinion (and record company contracts) comes high on the list of priorities. Apart from which, a lot of the all-male bands probably think that the abortion issue is never likely to affect them... though they must have girlfriends and sisters.
"I didn’t expect the letter to be read out," said Siouxsie, when I expressed my gratitude for her support. "I wasn’t doing it to make a speech, I feel strongly about the issue. I just can’t believe that they (Parliament) would want to take this step back to the dark ages. Really, there’s no debating it - it’s a personal thing to do with a woman. Women have the right to decide about their future.
"Rather than stopping abortions, more should be done to advertise contraceptives. There’s a lot of advertising that plays on a sexual theme. It’s only fair that they balance it."
It’s certainly an odd contradiction that manufacturers are allowed to display half naked women draped across cars, hi-fi etc. yet contraceptive advertising is stuck furtively in the corner of barbers’ windows.
"Women will find other ways to get abortions if they can’t get them legally," said Siouxsie. "Women’s lives will be endangered. It’s all too seedy. And the contraceptives we have aren’t wonderful either. The male precautions are touch and go. It’s crazy. Parliament is predominantly male, it’s just not representative, them voting on an issue like this. Perhaps, with their wives they can go through a pregnancy mentally, but they don’t go through the physical thing. Even if you want to have your baby, it’s not easy.
"Of course, the backbone of Corrie’s support is the Catholic Church, but there’s also a social thing. Marriage is good business. Married couples buy products for the home, for their children. They can get access to a mortgage. If you’re single, it’s almost impossible. I wonder if these people have thought of how many deprived children are the result of not being able to get an abortion."
My own view of the attempt to change the abortion laws is that it’s only part of a general campaign to keep women down... barefoot, pregnant and in the kitchen. Get us out of the employment market (trying to head off the steady march to two million unemployed) and into consumerism.
"But they have to realise that socially women have changed," stressed Siouxsie.
"Women want careers and that’s difficult with children. If you’ve got money, you can do what you want. But backstreet abortions will just put the sharks back in business. Up to 1967, abortion was a twighlight zone. How many battered babies were the result?
"I didn’t want to think that it was any big deal being a girl, but I’m not exempt from discrimination either. I don’t feel at all maternal, although it’s rammed down girls’ throats that they should feel that way. I have a friend that had to have an abortion - if she hadn’t, her career, and her boyfriend’s, would have been ruined. They just didn’t have the money to bring up a child. It’s hard enough just to get things going right, never mind having to support a baby."
I asked Siouxsie what she’d be doing if she didn’t have the band.
"I don’t know. I’m not even qualified to do what I do. Before the band, I drifted from one job to another, I worked in a bar. I always had it in mind to be self employed. It’s open to everyone if they push for it."
But independence begins early. If you’re a girl, you were probably brought up with your mother’s feminine ideals. Perhaps Siouxsie was lucky, maybe she was encouraged to think for herself.
"No, my parents weren’t wild hippies or anything. I had a latchkey from when I was about seven. It was a necessity really. My mother still has preconceptions of what a girl should be like of course. My father’s dead. I never had religion rammed down my throat. My mother still says things like ‘When are you going to become a secretary?’. She doesn’t think that music is a safe thing, no security. I haven’t had an exceptional upbringing.
"But some little girls are given dolls that wet their nappies, or ironing boards and toys that they have to work with. And that’s when they are at their most imaginative stage. Little boys are given spaceships, adventurous things. I didn’t have many toys anyway, but I was given an old dolly. I preferred going out to playing with things.
"Even the words for women are so horrible. Like ‘spinster’ when she’s not married. It sounds all shrivelled up. But the word for the man is ‘bachelor’ and that sounds so carefree. And there are no good words for the female sex organs. Vagina sounds so clinical."
I think that male macho rock stars have a lot to blame at their door for propagating the female/passive myth. Siouxsie disagreed.
"It’s clichés all the time. Silly gits - so what? Girls are just as responsible for trying to maintain the stereotype. I’ve never wanted the female thing to be like a rulebook. If you’re an individual, different things suit you. I feel strongly about it, but I don’t want to be a dictator of any sort."
Siouxsie and the Banshees tried very hard at the beginning to maintain their group approach, rather then having Siouxsie pushed to the front, as girl singers have been in the past. But breaking down tradition doesn’t come that easy.
"We used to go to tremendous lengths to get the group idea across. But it was impossible to have four people at an interview. It was a waste of time anyway, because they still put all the quotes down to me."
Although they have had to give way on that idea, Siouxsie and the Banshees still don’t do the usual showbiz rounds of parties and gigs.
"It’s all showbiz, I don’t go out to a lot of things," said Siouxsie. "I can’t come to terms with going out and relaxing and enjoying myself. I’m not paranoid about it. I think I’ve lost the desire to go out. I can’t really work it out myself."
The band haven’t had much time to go out recently anyway, because they’ve been working on a new single which is out on March 7. It’s called ‘Happy House’ c/w ‘Drop Dead/Celebration’. There’s no album planned, they’re just writing songs and will decide as they go along whether to release a series of singles through the year, or an EP or an album.
"We don’t want to make plans too far ahead. We’ve said bye bye to time schedules, or anything permanent. We want the freedom to play it more casually. Me, Steve, and Nils the manager are the nucleus. As long as that nucleus isn’t poisoned or damaged we’ll be all right."
The band is tentatively fixing up dates for the end of March, mainly the gigs they were unable to do when Siouxsie became ill with hepatitis.
"I went onstage bright yellow at the end," she smiled. "I didn’t know I had it until I went yellow. I thought it was just a cramp. I was supposed to go into hospital, but I didn’t. I can’t bear hospitals. I was in there for just over a day and I hated it. Some of the people knew who I was... I didn’t want them looking into my bedpan. And there was always some vampire lurking, wanting to take samples of your blood.
"You see so many sick old people in hospital, it’s depressing. And there’s that awful smell of medicine, urine and Zal. It made me ill."
SIOUXSIE and the Banshees have already tried to give their support to sick people, in need of help. They played a benefit gig at the Rainbow, in aid of the mentally handicapped. They raised about £4,000 - then had to hand £1,000 of it back to pay for damage to the theatre. Maybe the people who ripped the seats out should have remembered that the gig didn’t just happen for them.
The rest of the band give total support for Siouxsie’s feeling about the attempt to change the abortion laws.
"Elementary my dear Watson," Siouxsie grinned. "But I feel odd about aligning myself with a cause because there are so many others. I like whales, so I shouldn’t agree to play in Japan. Probably in every country there’s something going on you can’t agree with. You can’t do more than a token really, it’s personal. There are so many things going on that you don’t even know about. When you buy something you could be supporting a company that’s helping to kill someone else."
But Siouxsie did give her support against John Corrie’s vicious bill. I’d like to see more people put their mouth where it’s likely to do some good. You could sit back and let your rights be signed away without giving a damn. Or you could tell your MP how you want him/her to vote. It’s about time you all got off your bums and did something.
Rosalind Russell 23/02/80
Siouxsie’s Nuremberg trials
The management should have turned on the house lights. Unfortunately, they had none, so they tried disco lights instead. A strange sight, and not unmoving.
The brown glass beer bottles described slow arcs through the red, green and blue dappled cigarette smoke, bounced off the drum riser, struck the bass guitar, winged a snare or simply shattered on the stage. The Banshees’ road crew, with outstanding cool, continued dismantling cymbals and turning off guitar amps while shards of glass sprayed the air.
Occasionally, they’d flash a challenging glare into the crowd, but this violence was fostered strictly in the security of the mob, and there were no takers for direct combat in Weissenohe.
Weissenohe? On the map, it’s a pinprick on Nuremberg’s circumference; in real life a one-street farming village. Entertainment is limited to a pub and the To Act Club (the name presumably based on some misunderstanding of our language), on opposite sides of the street, one place being owned by the son of the owner of the other.
But it was the club that won out on this occasion, drawing fans from 60 miles around for Siouxsie And The Banshees’ only South German gig. They’d arrived by the hundred, all decked in "Sid Wasn’t Vicious" tee-shirts, dog-collars and enough Union Jacks to rival Jubilee Year.
Some had not got it quite right. A kind of fan for all seasons, a fat girl with a crewcut, wore a parka stenciled with "Eagles-Clash-Quo-Iggy-Fuck You". But most looked quite convincingly 1977, and most felt shortchanged by the Banshees’ one-hour set and by the refusal of the encore they demanded.
Fifteen Deutchmarks admission and no encore! Couldn’t they understand that the Banshees scorned such showbiz conventions as encores? How unhip can you be! Why, Siouxsie would explain later, the group was more inclined to add to the set if the audience didn’t ask: "Right, they don’t like us, let’s make them hate us!"
Much of the Banshees’ radicalism has been relegated to the neo-theoretical in this way, if, that is, you can call a three-year "no encores" tradition radical.
Their performance was formal to the point of conservatism, a beautiful stylized show based upon fashion, dance, volume, slight musical structures, and no audience communication. (Although Siouxsie did offer to share an electric shock she’d received while touching a metal stage support.) I watched it all unfold as one might watch the Balinese Trance Dance on a cultural TV programme, with a detached interest and absolutely no sense of personal involvement.
Until they decided to heave bottles, the Weissenohe teenagers seemed not to get so much out of it either. They danced automatically while Siouxsie whipped the stage with the mike chord, put one foot on a monitor speaker and peered out into the throng. I fancied she had a rather worried, harried look, that seemed to say "what have I wrought?"
The other Banshees were static and deadpan. They looked like a more effeminate Police, with the same brown-rooted blond bobs, but more billowy in the trousers. Bassist Steve Severin wore black-and-silver stripped lurex baggies that tapered at the shins, and a high buttoned cossack shirt in black, which set off his earring rather fetchingly.
Ex-Magazine guitarist John McGeoch preferred a lemon yellow tee-shirt that echoed his angelic fringe, camouflage trousers and a string of silvered pearls. Couldn’t see what Budgie was wearing behind the cymbals.
Siouxsie walked on stage in a long black mod leather jacket, red squared flannel shirt over red dress, black tights and ankle boots. The top layer was gradually discarded during the set, although not in any overtly erotic manner. In fact, it took her almost three numbers to get the shirt off, but then the numbers were very short.
Fairly exact copies of the songs on "Kaleidoscope" occupied a good chunk of the performance. "Skin" brought Siouxsie to her knees, perhaps caught up in the passion of the song’s message which proposes that fat women be skinned in protest against seal slaughter. Weissenohe didn’t bat an eyelid, just kept on lurching around vacantly.
"It would be nice to think," said Steve Severin, "that audiences in Germany understood the words of our songs, but you can’t waste time wondering about whether they do or not..."
Any musician obliged to tour and record cannot avoid improving, while the learning-to-play period is surely the least interesting for any listener.
And it’s a long haul between the happily messy accidents of no technique (to which the Banshees’ "Scream" album bears testimony) and the control of musicianship. The current Banshees are about half-way down that road, and their new songs are circumscribed by their less-than-overwhelming ability.
Drummer Budgie is perhaps the most advanced, with particularly strong, apparently reggae-inspired snare accents. He makes some of the more banal two-chord songs sound interesting by initiating little rhythmic quirks.
McGeoch, in "Happy House", "Hybrid" and other tunes plays high-strung metallic arpeggios that reminded me of the guitarist in High Tide - a band I had successfully forgotten for the last ten years. Siouxsie sings in pitch with the guitar chords without actually developing melodies, although sometimes she’ll slide between notes - I think they call it portamento technique in opera. She also plays a little discreet rhythm guitar. Severin mostly makes a low undefined rumble.
When the mob had finished venting it’s spleen, we drove to a country hotel and talked about some of these things. Or at least I talked about them, while the group clung fairly doggedly to it’s "noble savages" image... In general, you could say, they were pleasantly unhelpful.
"We don’t consciously think about what the band has done or where it’s going musically at all," said Steve Severin.
"Well, I admire craft," said Siouxsie. I asked if she admired it three years ago.
"How could she? She didn’t have any," said Budgie.
"No, no," she continued, "I’m not really talking about music. I’ve always been impressed by, like, welded iron that’s been made by hand and pummelled by hand compared to... I don’t know... a cheap thing that you can get made out of zinc or something. Actually..." She paused, looking slightly embarrassed. "I don’t know what I’m talking about."
"I never practice," said Severin with some pride, "because I want to stay bad. That’s why I like to play with John and Budgie because they’re more..."
"Yeah. And it’s harder work for me if I’m not. I think it’s a more creative situation."
I asked about improvisation.
"Well, we don’t take a lot of drugs and ‘lay back’ if that’s what you mean," said McGeoch. (It wasn’t.)
Severin said that a lot of the Banshees repertoire began as long pieces but got tightened by retaining only the highlights: "I think it’s more powerful that way. Besides, I’ve always liked singles. I don’t think people regard us as a singles band, but I would be pleased if they did. Trying to be a singles band - I think that’s an honourable goal."
"I think the best improvisation is mistakes," said Siouxsie. "Let’s face it, we’re not very professional. We spend most of our time trying to get out of mistakes that we’ve made."
But the show looked very professional.
"Cor, did we fool you? great!"
I tried to outline a theory about performance versus music, but it didn’t go down very well, so I asked instead about the spirit of community among new wave groups.
"There isn’t any," said Severin, cheerfully dashing a few romantic illusions. "Never was. It was always more bitchy than anything else. We’ve never said ‘oh yeah, we really love the Clash’ or anything. We’ve always said that we’re not part of any existing scene. I hate meeting other bands, especially in professional situations."
"We’re quite close to the Skids," said McGeoch, "but we never talk about music. We just get drunk together."
I said that I imagined music-making to be fundamentally a social activity which involved an exchange of ideas with other people working in the same field.
"NO!" said the Banshees as one, almost in disgust.
"There’s no cafe society among the new bands," said McGeoch. "The worst thing in the world," said Severin, "is another musician coming up to you and talking about your instrument."
"The first time I met Paul Cook," said Budgie, "he said to me ‘What kind of drum kit do you use?’ I said ‘a black one’." Severin nodded enthusiastically. "I really believe," he said, "that in the last three years a new kind of musician has appeared who doesn’t have any connection at all with the attitudes of the earlier rock musicians."
For John McGeoch, it seemed to be about more than attitudes: "Yeah. It’s something you’ll never be able to put your finger on, and I’m glad that you can’t. But I feel in sympathy with the times, and I feel that I know what’s valuable in modern music." However, he wasn’t offering clues. I asked if the Banshees ever listened to music other than rock.
"You mean Stravinsky and Beethoven and all that?" asked Siouxsie, grinning from ear to ear, "Oh yeah, I like a bit of Beethoven."
"I like Shostakovich," said Budgie, and seemed to be serious.
A fly crawled onto the ashtray in a sleepy, autumnal stagger (it’s a tough time for flies). Budgie hit it with his hand and mashed a few legs together. It wriggled and buzzed around with the bits that still worked.
"Oh Budgie!" cried Siouxsie. "If you’re going to kill something do it with one swift blow!"
"But I did," he protested, "that was just rigor mortis."
When I heard this exchange again on the cassette player, it sounded somehow symbolic...
Steve Lake 25/10/80
Siouxsie’s lessons in song
Siouxsie and the Banshees reckon the three Rs are old hat.
They say there should be four - with rock making up the curriculum.
The top new wave band are currently No. 17 in our charts with Happy House.
And they want to bring a little happiness into the classroom.
Bromley-born Siouxsie, 23, said: "We'd like very much to do a tour of schools at the end of the summer term.
"A lot of our fans are very young and can't get into our concerts either because of alcohol on the premises or because they're too expensive.
"If we play at schools it would be very cheap - about 25p admission.
"We actually got the idea from a few head-mistresses who wrote requesting signed pictures for their end of term raffles.
"One of them suggested we play at her school, and that got us thinking."
Siouxsie, who sprang to punk fame with outrageous outfits like topless corsets believes blackboard rock will benefit education.
"It will make school more fun." she said.
"Education is very important, but the way things are taught is so boring.
"Teachers make it as academic and as uninteresting as possible."
Bewitching, barbaric Siouxsie, who comes on like Geronimo's granddaughter in full cry admits she was often absent from school.
She said: "I didn't enjoy it. I didn't like the attitude of the teachers.
"They didn't credit you with a mind of your own. And they were always flaunting their authority."
Siouxsie is not only top of the class with school kids, they are tops with her too.
She said: "Kids are great. When you are a kid you have the potential to be anything you want.
"When you become an adult all those dreams die and you become trapped."
Siouxsie is not sure whether she will have kids of her own.
She said: "it's the biggest responsibility anyone can have because you have control of somebody - who's dependent on you."
Siouxsie - who prides herself on her individuality - also has strong views on the family.
She said: "I don't believe in marriage for myself - though I'm not against it for other people.
"If you feel strongly about kids you should have them, even if you're not married."