|MANTARAY - MAGAZINE COVERS|
|MANTARAY - INTERVIEWS/ARTICLES|
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|STATE MAGAZINE 25/06/08|
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|SCOTTISH SUNDAY MAIL 03/06/07|
|TIME OUT 18/04/07|
My Favourite Londoner - Mark Moore
on Siouxsie Sioux;
Mark Moore was born on January 12, 1965 in London. One of the youngest punks on the scene, he later transferred his allegiance to dance music and became one of the first superstar DJs in 1988 when his band S'Express had a Number One with 'Theme from S'Express'. Moore runs a record label, Umami, and the club night Electrogogo.
The first time I saw Siouxsie was on a Janet Street-Porter documentary for London Weekend Television, and I just remember being besotted by her - the way she looked, spoke and did her make-up in the mirror. She had this silent-movie star presence about her. This would have been around the tail end of 1977: I was one of the youngest kids on the punk scene.
In those days the scene was very identikit, yet she seemed to stand outside all of that, and as the music progressed Siouxsie & The Banshees became very much their own people. The fact that they were there from the start - they were part of the Bromley contingent - mattered too: it wasn't like they'd seen the Pistols on Bill Grundy's show and thought: Oh, let's get into this. So obviously they set the pace. You had a hundred girls who copied the Siouxsie look, which progressed into the gothic look, and I'm sure she hates to be connected to that - but what she was doing was her own thing. She didn't want to follow the rules, the band didn't want to follow the rules. And that was very refreshing.
There are many sides to Siouxsie. She has a 'big sister' element to her personality. There's the other side, too - the ice maiden side, which kind-of terrifies you. When she was on stage and people were trying to touch her legs, she would stand on their hands with her stilettoes. The whole thing about Siouxsie was that everyone was in love with her, everyone fancied her - even the girls. But it wasn't so much a 'get your kit off' attitude, it was more about reverence and power. Very few punks actually thought: I'd like to fuck Siouxsie. It was just too damn rude!
I was desperate to go and see a Siouxsie show. Once I had become a punk I would tag along with my brother and half the time I would get turned away from the gigs. But I found that because I had long hair I could make myself look as girly as possible and they'd think I was an older girl and let me in. The first time I saw her was at The Nashville, then there was a long gap and the next time was at The Rainbow. There was such a sense of excitement that by the time she came on everyone had ripped up the seats and tossed them in the air. The sense of danger just added to the whole experience. Even now when I go to a gig, like a Marilyn Manson show where all these guys are jumping around, I still get a sense of disappointment that all the 16-year-olds in the audience aren't smashing the place to bits.
What was great about Siouxsie & The Banshees was that you felt they were your band because they formed in public, they grew up in public and made mistakes in public. It made you feel closer to them. At the same time, they had an element of elitism and snobbery about them.
I didn't get to meet her until we were both at the same Kraftwerk gig in 1979 or 1980. She was suddenly just there and I was like: Oh my God, the ice maiden! Maybe I should just go and say hello or something? So I went up to her to say hello and she was the sweetest, nicest person you could ever hope to meet. She had no idea that I was a fan. I think she thought I was some ex-soul boy or something. She was like, 'You must come and see us play live some time', presuming I had never seen them.
Over the years I've got to know her quite well, and I dread to think of her reading this as she hates people gushing over her. She gets it all the time, but she's not someone who gets off on it.
Whenever Siouxsie gets mentioned, the Nazi armband she once wore always comes up; but no one talks about what the climate was like at the time.
Everyone had parents or grandparents who would always harp on about the war and how they'd fought in it for us. But the war had happened 30 years ago, which when you're 15 is centuries ago. You were brought up with this Boy's Own outlook of, 'This is what the Nazis did to us ...', with films like 'The Battle of Britain' and 'The Longest Day' always on TV. If you were a bit older and had managed to get in to see 'Cabaret' then Nazism was depicted as all high-camp and Marlene Dietrich, so we never appreciated it for the true horror that it actually was. I used to live in Golders Green and I knew Jewish girls who would parade up the high street with Nazi armbands on, thinking: This will upset our parents. They didn't actually think about what it meant. At first their parents were horrified. But then, six months down the line, they became unshockable. It was like, 'I've put your Nazi armband with your Vivienne Westwood "Fuck Your Mother" T-shirt, but I'm not washing them.'
What I did find great about the whole swastika stupidity was that it took the power away from it. My grandparents were Jewish and I always felt worried about wearing a Nazi armband so I never did. But what I did do was go to the local Indian shop and buy the peace swastikas in Day-Glo pink and bright orange and purple, trying to be clever and postmodern, waiting for someone to have a go at me, which they always did. It's annoying that such a beautiful symbol can be hijacked and made into such an evil symbol.
I love the whole iconic thing about Siouxsie. When I was a kid, the female icons were people like Dusty Springfield, and that's what she's the equivalent of now. It might be a different voice and a different style, but it's still that same degree of reverence. And she deserves her own prime-time variety show - every week!
Mark's club, Electrogogo, is at Madame JoJo's on Brewer Street on the first Thursday of every month. The latest release on Mark's Umami label is the Ping Pong Bitches' new album 'Alphadog'.Al de Perez
|SCOTTISH SUNDAY MAIL|
SIOUXSIE'S A SURE HIT
SIOUXSIE SIOUX will mark the 30th anniversary of the "summer of punk" with her first solo single.
Last night the singer gave Email a sneak preview of the track - Into A Swan - and we reckon she's set for the comeback of the year.
It's three decades since the Sex Pistols stuck a safety pin through the Queen's nose and caused chaos with their in famous boat trip on the Thames.
Siouxsie, a huge fan, struggled to get a deal for her group, The Banshees, back then. But she'll stick two fingers up to the record chiefs who snubbed her by releasing a solo album on indie label W14 Imprint in September. It was recorded in London and France.
She said: "What drives me is always to do better...plus the thrill you feel when working on a new project."
There are also plans for a UK tour - including Scottish gigs - to launch the new CD.Billy Sloan
Courtesy of Jerry
|THE OBSERVER MUSIC MONTHLY MAGAZINE|
MAUDE CHURCHILL MEETS SIOUXSIE SIOUX
Born Susan Ballion in Bromley, In May 1957, Siouxsie Sioux was a member of the Bromley Contingent, a group of teens who followed the Sex Pistols. She then formed Siouxsie and the Banshees in 1976. Her as yet untitled first solo album is due in September.
MAUDE: When you were a teenager, did the generation gap seem very pronounced?
SIOUXSIE: Yes, definitely. People were always saying: 'You weren't in the war, you should be grateful...' But of course, we weren't. Telling people how they should feel is like waving a red flag to a bull. There should be a generation gap. People should want to create their own identity, both personal and cultural. I adore old music, I like being transported to that time. But when people recreate old music they tread a fine line between reinterpreting it and mimicking it.
MAUDE: Which artists got you interested in music as a teenager?
SIOUXSIE: I loved David Bowie, Roxy Music and T.Rex. The ambiguity of the sexes was exciting, it was a positive time for anyone who didn't feel comfortable being pigeonholed. The music was visually stimulating - they put on a performance, with consideration to costume and lighting. The artists made those decisions, not the stylists or the marketing men.Maude Churchill
Siouxsie to Release 'Mantaray'
The legendary punk priestess to drop debut solo album this October.
On Oct. 2, flamboyant London-born songstress Siouxsie, born Susan Janet Ballion, will vacate her now infamous backing bands, the Banshees and the Creatures, and release Mantaray, her first proper solo effort. The record, issued in the U.S. courtesy of Decca, is Siouxsie's first album of new material since the Creatures' 2003 effort Hai!. Produced alongside seasoned knob twisters Steve Evans (Robert Plant) and Charlie Jones (Goldfrapp), Siouxsie's Mantaray will deliver tunes with titles such as "Into a Swan," "Drone Zone," and "Heaven and Alchemy."
1. "Into a Swan"
Courtesy of Matt
|DIGITAL ARTS ONLINE|
Golden Square glams Siouxsie music video
Golden Square has completed the post-production on the new Siouxsie Sioux promo, Into a Swan – marking the return of legendary Siouxsie and the Banshees lead vocalist and former member of Sex Pistols entourage, the “Bromley Contingent”. This is the first promo featuring Siouxsie performing as a solo artist.
The vision of the Crossroads directorial duo Harvey and Carolyn involved creating edgy multiple images of Siouxsie which appear on screen simultaneously. Some of this was achieved in camera using a series of intricate mini sets involving mirrors and beauty lighting.
Lead smoke artist, Aman Kang of Golden Square, worked closely with the directors to recreate and enhance this mirrored reflection effect in post and make sure Siouxsie was looking glamorous and powerful. Dressed in black and looking like a dominatrix Siouxsie comes across as a force to be reckoned with.
Lighting effects and the sparkly outlines of birds were also composited on in post to accentuate the breaking out into a swan symbolism and add to the drama. Aman also created a strong marching army of aggressive swans from one single ballerina in costume.
For more information see the Golden Square Web site.
Courtesy of bonehound
"It wasn't time to be a writer"
Siouxsie Sioux talks to Victoria Segal.
How long has Mantaray taken to finish?
"It's been done two to three tracks at a time. It's almost taken me by surprise that I've got an album. Funnily enough, Into A Swan and Loveless I wrote thinking I wouldn't be performing them. I was still in a bit of a flux deciding whether to take a backseat and just be a writer. I wrote Loveless first and Into A Swan second and I was reluctant to give it over for someone else to do. It was given to some artist, who I was told was kind of like the Sugababes, and they went as far as recording the track. In eh end the company preferred the demo I handed over and that opened the door to the record. I like to see what hand fate has to play in things and fate deemed it wasn't time for me to be a writer yet."
Had you never considered a solo record before?
"I think I'd always resisted it because I was terrified of having more attention than I had within the band. With the band I always like deflecting it although in reality, looking back at it, I was always thrust to the front anyway."
How does it feel to operate under your name?
"It feels like a blank page for me. The Dreamshow tour, that was under the title of Siouxsie and it freed it up quite a bit. I was able to cherrypick from every area, without thinking 'this is a Banshees tour' or 'this is a Creatures tour'."
What's the story behind Drone Zone?
"That was a piece of music from someone called Steve Hilton and when I received it coincided with me travelling backwards and forwards to London. The contrast was extreme with where I live (a cathedral town in Southern France). I love London but if I'm there for too long I feel invaded by the noise. So I was going backwards and forward to London and feeling I was going a bit bonkers, and I saw this programme about ballooning of all things. It's amazingly quiet up in the sky except when they go over cities. They made this comparison with what birds hear. In summer when people's windows are open, you get the noise of TVs, people shouting - it's a wonder they don't fall out the sky in shock. I've had people stay with me from New York and the quiet drives them mad. It's like two centuries ago here."
What is it about The Spirit Of Punk
that SIOUXSIE SIOUX is now "starting to hate"?
Siouxsie Sioux strides into the hotel lobby and, for one brief glorious moment, it's 1977 all over again. The shock of jet-black hair, the luminous skin, the blood-red lipstick, all present and correct, right down to the fashionably old-fashioned zipped pants and perv-boots.
And then we're back in the room, and it's the summer of 2007, she's just turned 50, and Bill Grundy is still reeling in his grave. We're a long way from the 100 Club in fact, in the ancient spa town of Bath, Sioux's temporary base while putting the finishing touches to Mantaray ("a giant stingray and just a really strong word"), astonishingly, after a 30-year rollercoaster career, her first ever solo album.
She now lives in the South of France, in "a cathedral town" not far from the Spanish border, with her long-term partner and drummer, Peter Clarke, better known as Budgie. The Banshees and The Creatures are now long gone (Clarke was the drummer in both), as is a major record deal, and Sioux is finally facing the world alone, still defiantly her own woman and still, with Mantaray, making music that sounds utterly unique.
Tomorrow morning she'll fly back to France and people who know her only as "the singer, Madame Ballion" (not "Dallion" as has been misreported for 30 years "ever since some twat in the music press got it wrong"). But tonight, Matthew - just for us - she is going to be Siouxsie Sioux.
Why, after 30 years, is it suddenly time for the first-ever solo Siouxsie album?
Well, why not? Basically, I decided that The Banshees were not going to happen again. In fact, it wasn't even a decision, it was more just events conspiring to make it that way.
As in we did the Seven Year Itch live album back in 2002 and I was hoping that maybe with the passing of time we could get back together, but it turned out that just wasn't going to happen. So at that point I was thinking about maybe not doing anything again onstage, maybe just write stuff instead for other people, but it turned out I ended up doing a solo record of my own.
I did that song with Basement Jaxx (Cish Cash) in 2003 and really enjoyed it, and after that happened I got lots of music sent to me, and initially the idea was to turn all these ideas into songs for other people. So the first one I did was Loveless, then Into A Swan, and suddenly I was quite reluctant to hand them over to somebody else. And as fate would have it, someone I knew was starting up this new record label, W14, and he was interested in me doing a solo project. And I started to think well maybe I could. So I did.
It sounds remarkably current.
Well, everyone else just seems so obsessed with the past - not just my past but the past in general. This whole nostalgia trip seems to have become a total obsession with the media. And I think, "Well if I can leave my bags at the door, why can't you?" I've always been more excited about what I'm doing right now, keeping some forward motion going, not being forced into a dead stop. Some people seem happy to rest on their laurels and have this satisfaction at what they have accomplished. I don't really feel that. What's gone is gone for me. I'm proud of what I've achieved over the years but I'm starting to hate it. It's such an obsession with people and I'm constantly being asked about it or to reminisce about it or to do this article or go on this programme. I'm actually developing an unhealthy attitude to it all.
And are you happy with the legacy of The Banshees?
I don't really know where we stand in it all and I just never even think about that stuff. All I know is that when it came to re-releasing The Scream and all the other albums a while back I thought they all stood up really well. It's just great I wasn't cringing, you know? But I am going to go out on tour again - doing my impression of Munch's The Scream all over again (sucks cheeks in furiously). I'll end up looking like that, I swear! And I still freak out at the idea of touring, even after all these years. These days security's so tight you can't even take your lippy on the plane! It's just the whole packing thing, what am I going to wear, that old chestnut. It's especially difficult when you're a girl and the singer and the front person. Still, it's worth it for that hour to two hours on stage, which I just love. It's addictive and almost like an out-of-body experience for me, really primal. It's just all the crap in-between I can't stand.
What do you listen to these days?
I don't really listen to that much current stuff at all. I like Peaches and I like Arcade Fire, but most of the time I listen to classical music just to clear my head. And I've always loved Bette Davis and Jim Morrison. And Iggy. Always Iggy. And Patti Smith's Horses.
What occupies you when you're at home in France?
I've just started Labyrinths by Borges, and before that I read The Magic Mountain by Thomas Mann, which was amazing. Books are my main vice nowadays. I'm on this book company mailing list, so I'm starting to work my way through all the books I've always wanted to read. Dante's Purgatorio with the illustrations by Dali, A La Recherche Du Temps Perdu by Proust, all that stuff. I really value the peace and quiet I have at home. I think I've become incredibly sensitised to noise. That continual roar that you get in a city just drives me crazy nowadays, and I need to see the sky and the greenery, and hear the music of nature, the birds, the wind, the insects, the rain. So I'm reading or outdoors in the garden with the cats. Maybe do a spot of deadheading (starts to scythe the air in a rather scary fashion). Fuck, there goes my watch (large chunky timepiece flies across the room). And watching sport, especially Wolverhampton Wanderers. My brother picked them as his football team in the '50s and they became my team too, though any time I ever mention this they always seem to do badly. What I loved about them was the black and gold kit and the gold wolf's head. That was it for me! I remember Derek Dougan. The Doog! He was a skinhead before there were skinheads.
Did you watch John Lydon on I'm A Celebrity Get Me Out Of Here?
I saw some of it, yeah. It was quite entertaining, I suppose. Mainly because of Janet Street-Porter.
Don't you think old Johnny betrayed "the spirit of punk" with that one?
Well, it's not something I would choose to do, but what he does is up to him. He should have a chat show. He'd be better at that than he is with music. Give the man a chat show! But no one should be held up to represent "the spirit of punk". All that stuff is rubbish.
Do the people in your town in France know who you are?
Those that know me just know me as the singer, Madame Ballion. I certainly don't ever feel as if I'm being watched, you know, (whispers quietly) "there's Siouxsie Sioux". I don't feel French even though I've been there for 15 years now, but I never really felt English either. Maybe because my dad was Walloon Belgian, from the French-speaking bit. Remember that old Monty Python sketch about boring Belgians? Belgium actually gave the world four fantastic things - chocolate, chips, Margritte, and Jacques Brel.
Do you ever regret not having any kids yourself?
The baby thing has just never appealed to me. I mean I love children, I have nieces and nephews, but I like it when there's some communication going on, usually after about the age of three. I think if I had a baby I'd treat it as a toy, dress it up like a doll.
Get the old fetish gear out?
Yeah! You're wearing this!
Isn't it hard being a vegetarian in rural France?
Not really. They have great vegetables there, really fresh produce, there are loads of vegetarian dishes you can make if you want to. You're not a vegetarian are you?
No, you don't look like a vegetarian.
Thanks. Any other health tips?
I swear by water and air. Air-conditioning is the real curse and if I'm travelling, especially in America, I have to ring ahead just to check that they don't have any suicide locks on the windows. I nearly got deported from Japan in 1982 over the air-conditioning in a hotel in Osaka. We'd been out on the sake, came back to the hotel and I knew I needed to get some sleep and to sleep I need air, not air-conditioning. I rang down to reception to see if they could come up and open the window, 'cos I couldn't, and they just said no. So I looked down at the phone, then over at the window, then just threw the phone through the window. So I got my air, but I also got the local detectives coming into my room at three in the morning, and I wasn't invited back to Japan after that until 17 years later, in 1999.
What would the Siouxsie Sioux of 1977 say if she met the Siouxsie Sioux of today?
I wish you were my mum.
Two negatives make a positive
Pam Hogg and Siouxsie Sioux love a giggle and a good time, especially after a glass of bubbly... or two.
They've had some fun adventures - from drinking pink champagne all day, and squealing around on the balcony in a thunderstorm at Siouxsie's house in France, to gatecrashing the Paris fashion shows. "We'd always talked about going," Pam explains, "and since we'd left it too late for tickets we decided to get dolled up in disguise and gatecrash." With Siouxsie in a red wig, and Pam in a black wig, the naughty twosome tried their luck. "Pam managed to get us into the Westwood show which was great," Siouxsie says, "but I desperately wanted to go to Gaultier which at that time was one of the most fortified. So we went on a bar crawl for an hour or so and then charged the gates. There were hundreds of people trying to push in but my friend Fuzzy had one ticket and we used him as our battering ram!" Looking, as always, jaw-droppingly hot, the girls met with little opposition. "It was amazing," Pam laughs. "They let us straight through and ushered us to front row seats reserved for Catherine Deneuve. I only realised then that the woman I was chatting to was Liza Minnelli." Blagging their way backstage after the show, they attracted the attention of Gaultier himself who rushed over with his film crew. "That's the best thing about Siouxsie, we always have such a laugh," Pam explains. "We're double trouble," exclaims Siouxsie, who has her first solo album out in September. "It's just great having someone to go out with who looks so fantastic." We're sure the feeling's mutual.
In The Know: Siouxsie Sioux
You can trace everything back to your environment.
My mum was an incredibly strong person. She was, to all intents and purposes, a single mum, cause she married someone who had an alcoholic illness. Because he was pretty useless, she had to go out to work, and did all the maintenance round the house. She was Mrs Fix-it - and she brought us up. Very self sufficient, a very strong woman.
When you're very young, you don't want to be the odd one out. You desperately want to fit in. But then there was a point round about puberty where I thought; "Fuck 'em! I'm right and they're wrong," and started to have fun with it. I learnt to turn a negative into a positive and almost encouraged that; "Keep your distance!" I was dressed to be killed.
The suburbs where I grew up had typically middle-class English values - all that keeping up with the Joneses and Stepford Wives nightmare-dream that goes on. I was always looking to just get out.
Bowie was really important. He was the only one who threw up traditional stereotypes of male and female. That was really attractive. I felt I had nothing to do with anyone. You really felt isolated if you weren't part of the mainstream. Kids my age wanted to settle down with a man with a nice job and a nice car. I felt horrified that they didn't have anything more exciting on their horizons.
When I met Berlin (her old Bromley Contingent friend from the punk days) I had to tell him he was gay. He was very confused. he hadn't a clue! I knew a lot of people like that. They thought they were straight, then they discovered they weren't - but they weren't confused, they just hadn't considered it. One of them's been in a gay relationship for 30 years now.
Sometimes I need to dress up because I feel crap inside and I need to cheer myself up - like I've put a brave face on it. Other times I'm in such a good mood. I can just throw it on and not be bothered.
I gave up smoking, but it made me ill. I was getting bronchitis and asthma. I was pumped full of steroids and antibiotics. I went back to smoking and got better. I could walk around with my packet of cigarettes and my sick note, saying; "It's alright. It's for the good of my health!"
I always find what's in, trendy and fashionable a bit... so fucking what? Once something becomes fashionable, it's out of date already. It's time for something else.
Making a solo album is totally different, but in a good way. There's no baggage, like when you've worked with people a long time. This time it was more about the songs and getting on with the work. It's been very organic in that way, very immediate. My favourite things are when something is as easy as pissing - they just pop out.
I think I should come up with a lyric; "If you're an obsessive fan, go home and slit your wrists. Get a life!" And sing it backwards.
Many times I've thought; "Fuck it" (and stopping making music). It's when you become too aware of the industry, the goings-on and the lack of sincerity in it all. Sometimes you think; "What am I doing? This is everything I hate." I like people being upfront, but I'm surrounded by stuff that's going to wind me up. More and more I find that hetro men do things very differently from the female way of doing things. I'm so opposite to the way they want to work. I must be a masochist.
I like being on my own. I like doing things like reading. I can spend days ploughing through Marcel Proust. And when you come to the end of a book, it's sad. You get so involved in it, it's like something's died.
I had my 50th b-day at the end of May. I do have a settled life now, with my cats at home in France. But then I'm coming to London and putting lots of stress on myself. Driving myself to the airport and just making the flight, and getting pestered by some twat on the plane and nearly beating him up. I had to do with a lashing from my tongue.
If I saw myself when I was a kid, I'd say; "Listen to your gut instincts and don't be swayed by thinking that you have to be logical or reasonable." The only things I've ever regretted was when I was doubting my instincts. Even if it doesn't make sense, go with your instincts.
|THE SUNDAY TIMES CULTURE MAGAZINE|
'I didn't get permission - I just
went ahead and did it.' That was then, but Siouxsie Sioux is still
as punk as she ever was, says Dan Cairns
Don't get Siouxsie Sioux started on the subject of the internet. Before we meet, the video for her new single, Into A Swan, has been leaked online. "YouTube," spits the high priestess of punk, "technology - I hate it. Everybody has downloaded it. You try to stop it, but it's pointless. Someone from (the gay club) Trannyshack in San Francisco is already miming their act to the song. Even my brother hasn't heard it yet. Mind you, he's only just got an answerphone."
If you were going to meet Siouxsie, what would you expect? That she'd be as spiky as her hair still is, frosty, magisterial, aloof? She's none of these things. In an adenoidal voice with a twang that recalls her fellow Bromleyite David Bowie, Siouxsie in the flesh is candid, approachable, emotional, her pale-blue eyes often swelling with tears of laughter or distress. The woman once labelled the queen of goth is as far removed from her image of severe, slightly threatening "artiste" as it is possible to be.
"I've never been able to categorise what I do," she muses at one point, "but I know others try. Though there has always been that undercurrent of, 'Don't get too comfortable.'" The labels we plaster her with are, she thinks, for the most part wrong. As just one example, the blogs are agog with speculation about Into A Swan, on which she intones: "I feel a force I've never felt before/I don't want to fight it anymore." Bingo, the tap-tap-tap: she's come out as a lesbian. Or not, as the case may be.
When I ask her how long it took for the inner her to catch up with the outer one - confident, defiant, a mask of industrial mascara and punked-up hairdo - who stared out of early photographs, she says: "I think maybe it's still trying to catch up, in total honesty." We're in a London hotel bar, patrolled by a clipboard Nazi whose pernickety perambulations Siouxsie delights in monitoring. Mantaray is her first solo record, after 11 studio albums with the Banshees and six with the Creatures, the side project she formed with her husband, the Banshees' drummer, Budgie.
Her home for the past 15 years has been a farmhouse near Toulouse, packed with cats and books, and she briefly considered making the album there. "But you have to have a workplace to go to," she says. "You think, 'Oh how perfect: when I get an idea, I can just walk into that room and do it.' But there's no urgency, it's always domani mañana, demain. Yet the idea is still there, lurking, like a reminder that you haven't done anything today."
Discussing the logistics of travelling from France to the studio in Bath where the album was recorded, she says, matter-of-factly: "I've just gotten into driving again. I hadn't been driving long while I was in London. I didn't enjoy it, so I quite happily gave up and allowed my husband to be my chauffeur. And so, in the last..." She pauses. "I've actually gone through a big upheaval. I'm divorced now. This is the first time I've publicly told anyone." Another, longer pause. "So, in the past two or three years, there have been major changes - practical, emotional, all kinds. I knew I needed to get to the airport. So I got a car, a little second-hand Renault. It's been like a real journey - literally." Then she adds, in a much smaller voice: "And, you know, there's tons of other stuff as well. It's not just about getting myself to the airport."
Siouxsie fans will be able to enjoy many a "eureka" moment sifting Mantaray's lyrics for post-divorce fall-out. "I want the record to stand up on its own," she says, aware of this possibility, "and not be, 'Oh, it's about all that stuff.'" Lines such as "If it doesn't kill you/It will shape you" and "Sweetness covered falseness" may mean she is denied this wish. But it's clear the album deals as much with history as with recent events. She mentions, again, the disparity between the up-yours 1976 photos and the person behind the disguise - back when Susan Ballion became Siouxsie Sioux and was part of the so-called Bromley Contingent, alongside Billy Idol and the Banshees' bassist, Steve Severin, caterwauling through a punk version of the Lord's Prayer at the 100 Club and getting chatted up by Bill Grundy during his infamous television interview with the Sex Pistols.
"The confidence youth projects isn't very deep," she says. "When you're very young, you desperately want to blend in. I remember feeling aware that my family background wasn't akin to everyone else's, that our home was at odds with what was around us in suburbia. And there was a point, round about 13 or 14, when I thought, 'You know what? F*** it.'" This metamorphosis wasn't, then, an act of rebellion against her upbringing, but against the suburban conformity she saw around her. Home life was, though, pretty complex, by all accounts. Her mother, a bilingual secretary, was, she says admiringly, "someone who went out to work at a time when I didn't know anyone else's mum who wasn't at home. I had a great teacher there, and I've had to remember that again now - you know, I used to do all this shit before, I lived on my own, I was the boss. She was the odd-job man, too, changing fuses, painting, doing the gardening. My dad was there, but not functioning".
Siouxsie's father, a scientist, was an alcoholic, and died from complications caused by drink when she was 14. She has, she says, spent years telling herself that isn't the whole picture. "You're angry at the disease. It's like you've been robbed of this person. But it's not the person, it's the disease you hate." Thinking back, she associates music with happiness, albeit in a complicated way. "It was like the classic Tom and Jerry cartoon, where they're getting on fine when the music's playing, and the second it stops, they're at it again. I remember when I was young, feeling really dismissive, but later I knew there was this other side: he read to me, things like the Just So stories. He was educated; he had all these ideas, a great sense of humour. Apparently, he invented a tropical-disease cure - I've only just found that out. I wanted to know, 'Why is this so?' And it was always, 'Don't ask so many questions.' But I'm still of the opinion: shine the light on it, get it out of the darkness and let's look at it."
On her wonderful new album, Siouxsie does just that: raging against adversity one minute, calming herself down the next, drifting off into fantasy on Sea of Tranquility (a song she describes as a "sci-fi murder mystery"), bathing in Bernard Hermann-like strings on Loveless. Here Comes That Day is so brassy, it sounds as if it's auditioning for the nest Bond film, while fans of the early, Metal Postcard-era Banshees will welcome the motorik austerity of About to Happen and They Follow You. The endlessly inventive soundscaping of her producers, the Robert Plant collaborators Steve Evans and Charlie Jones, means those jittery drives to Toulouse airport were not in vain.
Siouxsie turned 50 in May. Her influence - on the likes of Bjork, PJ Harvey, Yeah Yeah Yeahs and Bat For Lashes - has never been more apparent, though she reckons she wouldn't last long if she was emerging now. Innovators, these days, "get assimilated", she says, "eaten up and spat out. Something becomes fashionable and, like all fashion, it's destined for the heap". Not that her memory is rose-tinted. The moment punk was commercialised, she says, "it lost its teeth. People forget it was an attitude, a mindset, reacting to what was going on in the world, in music, at that time. You can't take that and place it now: that would just be mimicry. It's weird when you hear things like, 'This is the new punk rock.' They're so obsessed with looking back. I mean, after Bill Grundy, forget it. Once it hit the tabloids, it became a cartoon. People doing their own thing - that's punk.
"I did that. I didn't get a degree that told me I could do it. I didn't get permission. I just went ahead and did it, gatecrashed the party and took it over." She throws back her head and laughs in delight vat her bombast. There is, she admits, "a bit too much of Beryl the Peril in me sometimes. But I think I've always had the ability to channel my anger or frustration or longings through music. And, without vulnerability, there is no daring. If you're thick-skinned, if people say stuff and it doesn't hurt you, well, what's so strong about that?"
A move back to London is being considered, though Siouxsie says she's wary of the noise, of "all those straight lines and grid-like routines". Any new home in the city would have to be central. "I'm not going to the suburbs," she cackles edgily. "I'd rather commute from France than from Bromley. Toe me, that's a much more painful journey - in every way."
Punk violence? "I enjoyed
it!" LSD? "Wonderful!" At 50 Siouxsie
Sioux, ice queen of goth-psych, has gone solo and is happy to talk.
But mention swastikas and you'll get "a smack in the face!"
From the doorway of the Deville Restaurant in central London's quietly luxurious Mandeville Hotel, Siouxsie Sioux turns back to yell at Mojo: "You're that fucking close to getting a smack in the face!" Given her blazing eyes and the fact that she's clutching a large glass bottle of mineral water, it feels no idle threat. She then throws open the door, turns on substantial heels and marches towards the sanctuary of the elevator. Her press officer looks on, aghast.
It's not a typical way for the MOJO interview to end. But the woman born Susan Janet Ballion in Guy's Hospital, London, on May 27, 1957, has never done typical. Immortalised in punk folklore as the Sex Pistols acolyte with whom Bill Grundy fatefully flirted on live national television in 1976, her force-field personality ensured that Siouxsie And The Banshees - originally an ad hoc racket assembled for the 100 Club Punk Festival - transcended the era's swift slide into generic postures. With 1978's The Scream, the Banshees defined the post-punk sonic landscape: suburban alienation and lacerating power-chordage spiced with bleak humour. The sensational departure, mid-tour in 1979, of drummer Kenny Morris and guitarist John McKay was but the first in a litany of line-up changes and personal traumas, throughout which Siouxsie's determination to drive the Banshees -always different, yet always true to her singular vision of a gothic psychedelia - remained unshakeable. Even after their seemingly final split in 1995, the core of Siouxsie, drummer Budgie and bassist Steven Severin couldn't resist the allure of a reunion, and 2002's Seven Year Itch tour introduced a new generation to the band's formidable legacy.
With the advent of her debut solo album, Mantaray, it's a legacy she evidently finds burdensome. Following the Banshees' demise, Siouxsie devoted more time to The Creatures, the Banshees offshoot formed in 1981 comprising herself and husband-to-be Budgie, but finally struck out under her own name at the Royal Festival Hall in 2004 with the Dreamshow, sowing the seeds for this latest return.
Resplendent in figure-hugging black leather, though all smiles as we mock-merrily clink glasses, she famously disdains the interview ritual and that ice queen froideur is never far away.
"I want to know what someone thinks," she declares. "I don't wanna know what they think they ought to think."
As things transpire, it might be best not to quote her on that. And whatever you do, don't mention the war...
Why do a solo record?
I think because after all this time I felt I could. When I did the Dreamshow, and called it 'Siouxsie', it was amazing how freeing it felt. I could cherry pick all the best things. I felt, I can do this on my own, and I felt like working with a bunch of different people, put myself in a situation that was not my comfort zone.
You chose Robert Plant's producer, Steve Evans.
I loved (Plant's 2005 album) Mighty Rearranger. That was the only person I was thinking of working with. It's been a journey from then on. It's been a different way of working because the producer's based in Bath and I'm still based in France, near Toulouse, so it was little trips to Bristol, doing two or three tracks at a time. I wasn't in the studio 24/7 breathing down someone's neck, saying, "Haven't you finished yet?!" I was going for a few days, doing my vocals, then going back home.
On the opening track, Into A Swan, you declare: "I'm on the verge of an awakening". Is that truly indicative of your state of mind as you embark on this new era?
I think so, yeah. Of course! Why not? I think it's one of the best things, if not the best thing I've done. Even looking back on the first few albums. I know it's different, but I don know it's strong.
You mentioned comfort zones. Should the Banshees have split earlier than 1995?
No. I think it's rare that a band lasts in spite of all the crap that goes on, but also it's difficult to be able to stand back and see: are you really pushing it as much as you should? It always felt like you were, but objectivity comes with hindsight, I think.
No regrets, then?
Why would there be regrets?
Perhaps that you'd become sick of each other?
Well, towards the very end. But it was an amazing journey. And, that's life. Relationships, y'know, it's not all, Wahey! Get real. If it's only good when you're riding the charts or it's the good times, that's juvenile. Even when I did stop the band it was tough. Because it was something I felt really emotional about and very attached to. But, it felt the right thing to do.
You got the Seven Year Itch...
There was an itch and a scratch, and that was enough! Worth for an itch and a scratch but nothing more, nothing less.
The Banshees went through many line-ups. What was the best one?
God... (The) Scream was very strong. And I think the Juju period. And Peepshow. But from the beginning to the end, I've loved nearly all the B-sides. That's one link. I always wished we could bring the B-sides' spontaneity to the album sessions.
The line-up on The Scream didn't last much longer than the second album.
And many people who've seen the Banshees throughout maintain it was the best.
It was the times as well. All those gigs we did before being signed, I mean, that was heavy. They were battles. It was like turning up with rocks in your pocket. If anyone invades we'll kick 'em off. Punks were being chased down the street and beaten the shit out of by teddy boys. Lydon was being slashed. It was just violent. And we probably enjoyed it, a bit.
You were spat at a lot?
Ooh, yes. And I tried to control it. Whereas now, they way I controlled it there'd be lawsuits left right and centre!
You gave some back.
I certainly did.
Ultimately why did Messrs McKay and Morris leave?
Phhhrrrr! This is so boring. Who knows, who cares? I don't know. Obviously the success of Hong Kong Garden, a bit too much success too soon. I guess they left because they were scared of success.
Success didn't scare you?
Yes, but I was willing to meet it head on. I think there are two kinds of people: people get scared and they run away or they stand there and face it. Two ways of survival. I prefer facing something rather than running.
Do you regard songwriting as a means to tell the world, or even just yourself, about yourself?
I think it's personal. Maybe it's a need to connect with other people. Although not in a direct way. Or maybe it's the most direct way you can connect with people, without all the filters on. It's more pure, maybe more intuitive. And it's something that's more universal. Sometimes talking about it fails.
So you feel a need to do it?
Well, it's physical. It's important to me, to be in motion. Making music and performing is physical as well as being, not cerebral, but using your imagination.
What's your frame of reference, songwriting-wise? There was a big difference between the world depicted in The Scream to the one, say, in A Kiss In The Dreamhouse.
They were different worlds.
A product of you living in different worlds?
Yeah. A product of being receptive to different things in different worlds. The first album is very much your life leading up to that point. Growing up in the suburbs, and recognising that transition of being a child to being your own person. And of course, it's probably the easiest thing to write about, because it's so under the skin. All the things that you go through from adolescence... When you're at that age, a year is so long! You can go through three or four changes of opinion or evolutions. And you're still growing, physically. Yeah, it's very fertile, isn't it?
So the first album is you at your most personal?
No, it's the first thing that you're setting down, from never having a voice. And I think it's sad when people think they have to repeat that. After you've done your first thing then there's expectation. Of what you should be doing. And that is a red rag to a bull. I don't see the point in being a people pleaser unless you're pleasing yourself first. But there are a lot of people that put others before themselves, because they so want to be liked by everyone. If that's what makes them happy, fine. But I don't find any worth in that.
I want to ask you about Juju...
Oh, this is... I didn't know this was all going to be about the past. This is really boring.
But this is the MOJO Interview: it looks back over an artist's entire creative life.
I know, but I haven't got all bloody day, to be honest. We're at Juju, and I've just done a new record.
Can I just ask you a couple of questions about Juju?
(Sigh) All right.
The band seemed a real powerhouse unit by that point.
I think it was probably the strongest band.
Because you'd got Budgie and John McGeoch on board and they'd been honed by touring before you went into the studio?
Yeah. And McGeoch was a great guitarist. The chemistry worked so well with the four of us at that time. It was so easy, it was like pissing. There wasn't much thought. Everything just rolled. When I know something's good it's like writing on one long page. And it was seamless and easy.
Was it frustrating when that line-up didn't last longer (McGeoch was sacked in 1982)?
Of course, but that's life, nothing can sustain that brilliance, that feeling, that way of connecting. Christ, you've got other people on the periphery that end up getting involved, and somebody gets into drugs or into booze, and then it's sad. But it's probably inevitable. So just bloody enjoy it when you've got it. You're lucky to have it in the first place. And you'd better bloody know it, or you're a fool.
It was released at the height of the Thatcherite years - yet you seemed to be inhabiting your alternative reality, a horror-show phantasmagoria: Halloween, Voodoo Dolly, Arabian Knights...
Right! You're saying "Thatcherite Years" and I'm going "Really?!" I wasn't even aware! We were in our own universe. Not touched by anything else.
Fantastic! But nothing last forever (laughs).
Did other aspects of the decade impinge? Ecstasy?
I think probably... Actually, no, ecstasy was later. I never really got into drugs, although I did discover LSD around about '82. Which is very different from ecstasy. Have you taken LSD?
Once. It was rotten.
Rotten? When did you take it?
Oh wow. Well, I think it had been tampered quite a lot by then. Blotter or microdot?
Right. I tried purple haze once. In California. Probably had been tampered with too, but it was wonderful. I've never had a bad time on LSD. Ever. And I'd been warned by some junkie, 'cos I was so not into smack - I was friends with him but I didn't approve of his drug-taking - "Whatever you do don't take LSD, you'll have a terrible time." So of course, to spite him I took it. And I loved it. It made me laugh a lot.
Did it impact on your writing?
Um, yeah, certainly for Dreamhouse. I seem to remember Cocoon being written whilst I was tripping. I was in a rented flat and if I didn't have a notebook I used to write on the wallpaper. I remember strips of wallpaper lying around and piecing it together.
Drugs, and I'd include alcohol in this, must prompt cautionary tales, given your bad experiences with family and friends.
Unfortunately, in the music industry it's an acceptable thing to use. And I think it probably attracts a lot of people that are gonna be victims of it. More so than anywhere else. It's tolerated and almost encouraged to 'go for it' and abuse it. It's not nice to see people destroying themselves. I think having fun with that sort of stuff isn't a bad thing. It's just unfortunate that it's encouraged to go into the excesses where it's not really funny or entertaining, it's just a bit sad.
You've lost people to alcohol. You once said your one regret was not being able to quiz your father about things when he was alive?
Yeah, that's powerful stuff. But that wasn't just who he was: an alcoholic. There was a lot more to him. And I hate it when people take it out of context, because whenever I've spoken about my father it's always been in context of what else he did, and what else there was, his intelligence, and what a waste it was.
What was the best part of your childhood in Chislehurst?
The fact that there was always laughter and music. And the worst part was feeling very different from everyone and not really being able to invite people round, because it seemed like no one else had that problem, the unpredictability of what life at home would be like when you came home.
The suburbs have a malign reputation as depicted in some of your early songs. Was it all bad?
No! Not at all. But there was some bad. And I obviously wanted to get out. I loved the woods. I loved having the freedom of playing out on my own, and I don't know how much freedom kids have now. Young kids. I remember it seemed like I was running around wild. And that was great. Playing football or tennis in the street... and a car wants to come down this road?! We'd make him wait! We were right little brats. The road and the street was ours. There weren't many cars parked in the streets then.
What used to be alternative or dangerous just isn't now. You wonder what kids would do to offend their parents.
Be a lot more subtle, I guess. Well, it's all relative. You gotta go with, "What have you got?!" Smoking in a non-smoking area is a vigilante thing now. Which is ridiculous, when you think about it. Someone who smokes in this restaurant is gonna be like a terrorist. Shocking isn't it?
Wearing a swastika would still work, though. Was the Israel single and your adoption of the Star of David in any way to atone for the outrage over you wearing a swastika?
Yes, of course it was. I think the swastika was used in '76 for one gig, or two gigs, and it was just something that was picked up on. Very naïve, but I was 19 for fuck's sake. Nineteen and rebelling against the establishment and what seemingly was, 'You've never had it so good'. Being ignorant then, about what it signified. And it was a symbol that had been hijacked, the Nazis hijacked it, although I wasn't even aware of that... No matter how often I explain it, I'm bored of this as well. The one sensationalistic thing that people can bring up is a swastika. For two days I wore a swastika and you're using that as some kind of... I don't know. It's pathetic. And you're ignoring the fact of Metal Postcard, John Heartfield's sleeve. Why?
I'm not ignoring it. I'm well aware of it.
So why are you bringing it up? You know the answer, so why ask the question?
Because I think it's interesting in terms of youth culture. It was so easy to shock people then and it's not so easy now. But the swastika still shocks.
But even the swastika wasn't that shocking. It was only in hindsight that it became shocking. In the same way that, there were a lot of T-shirts around at the same time that were shocking. I remember Vivienne and Malcolm's shop getting raided constantly, 'cos of the T-shirts. The young boys, the cowboys, Karl Marx. Everything was up there for grabs, and in a way, there was nothing, as far as I or anybody else was concerned, political about it, it was just strong symbols. I hated the fact that anyone saw anything more than that, and couldn't accept that it was naïve. And 30 years later it's still being brought up. And I know you've probably been told by your editor to bring up the swastika. And it's pathetic. It's boring! How many fucking more times do I have to say what it is and what it was for to get asked it again? For two days I wore a swastika for fuck's sake! In total naïvety.
Why ask me?
Because it was offensive then and it's offensive now.
And I've talked about it and you know the fucking answer.
Fine, and you've just given it...
So why do I have to keep giving it? Why ask me a fucking question you've heard the answer to.
Perspectives alter over time. But I apologise. What's your favourite song on the new album?
Well, you know what? I'm not interested. Oh from that, you want to talk about the new album.
I'd rather talk about something you want to talk about.
Well you know what? I'm not interested now. It's so pathetic. This is what I mean about the bullshit in this industry. You've been given a fucking menu by your editor, like some fucking hungry little terrier. You've got a fantastic album and you wanna talk about something that you know the answer to, because you think, Oh, how's she gonna react? Well you know how I've reacted.
I'm perfectly happy to talk about the new album.
Well I haven't got fucking time now.
How much time do we have left? Ten minutes? As long as you like?
Oh, 10 minutes for the new album? Go fuck yourself.
Excuse you?! How long have we been here?
An hour and 20 minutes.
It's already too long.
And off she goes. The most surreal detail is her seizing the two-thirds empty water bottle, lest the pesky journalist enjoy a restorative swig on her account. The next day, her press officer calls MOJO to apologise. "I love her and her music," he says, "but Siouxsie behaved badly yesterday." Earlier, Siouxsie had called him en route home to France and stated that she will now do interviews only about the new album. Within days Siouxsie has a new press officer.
Six weeks later, MOJO is back at the Mandeville Hotel, this time in the tearoom, where we've been invited to finish the interview. Siouxsie arrives, unapologetically, 15 minutes late and we sit at a low table. The atmosphere is polite, businesslike. Her record company representative and manager sit within earshot. A bottle of water arrives. Siouxsie keeps it to herself.
Thanks for sparing us some more of your time.
I promise to make it as painless as possible.
Yeah, well, if you have to ask certain questions, make sure they're informed.
I'll do my best. You said you wrote the lyrics for Cocoon on A Kiss In The Dreamhouse on wallpaper while tripping on acid. I'm guessing Mantaray wasn't written under similar circumstances?
No. But... When I'm working on something I still get flashes of insight, or just ideas for tunes, so I have to have either a dictaphone or a notepad by the bed. So, not the wallpaper - but I'm prepared.
You've lived in France for more than 15 years now. Do you enjoy coming back to London?
Over the years, London has become more of a magnet to me. For a while I was like, I'm never going back! When you're in it all the time you never appreciate it. Since coming back, I went on the London Eye. Which I wouldn't have done if I still lived here. And it was fantastic! We tried to smuggle a bottle of champagne up there, 'cos it was sunset, but they stopped us! Sunset in the summer, it was amazing. You really get a sense of being proud of London up there.
What's your daily routine back home?
There isn't an average day. I always maintain my physical working out. I do that every other day. It's pretty much based on yoga. Bike, whether indoors or outdoors. Look after the cats. Look after the house. And then with my new-found freedom of using the car, it's great just going for drives.
You've just learnt?
I could drive before, but I was a late learner and I hated driving in London. I don't get on with machinery that well. I allowed myself to be a passenger and be driven. I finally decided I had to ferry myself about.
Was it awkward being in the band with your partner?
Yeah, for sure. But we weren't a couple when we were working. That's how we dealt with it. And, long-term relationships, like band relationships, need constant work.
Didn't you crave a separation between personal life and work, where you could go home after a crap day and bitch to your husband?
Well, I always thought it would be nice to go out on the road and come back to someone who has been looking after the cats and doing the housework. "OK," I thought, "this could be easier!" But you never know, that might yet still happen! (Laughs)
You've been in the music industry 30 years and yet you hate it. Why keep coming back?
Because the music is the be all and end all. It's incredibly important in my life. Music has always had an importance, even from being young, I always associate music with things going well - even when things are bad, to have that as an outlet and have that as a way of expressing frustration or loss, pain or exhilaration, or assertion, or doubt, it's an amazing weapon, tool, device, outlet. And yeah, I don't give a shit about the rest of it. It's all, or can be, irritating, boring, supposedly necessary. But what's important is me having that vehicle to vent my expressions.
You can't get that from singing in the shower?
No, you can't. Though if you could get a pill that did that I'm sure it would do very well!
We're Not WORTHY
"Bono? It's all Siouxsie's fault," says The Edge
"Bono always reckoned that he sounded like a girl on our first record and I didn't agree with him until I listened back. But while he was talking about the light voice of an 18-year-old what I was hearing was something altogether different and that was the influence of Siouxsie And The Banshees on U2"
Three breathtakingly Bansheean moments by Mark Paytress.
THE POST-PUNK CLASSIC
The Scream *****
The most explosive and - given the band's early reputation - surprisingly accomplished album from the Class of '76, The Scream eschewed punk orthodoxy with 10 hymns to madness, absurdity and nicotine addiction. Sonic switchblades flash menacingly on Jigsaw Feeling and the cover of The Beatles' Helter Skelter, while Overground and Metal Postcard sound consumed by chronic catatonia. Oh, acknowledge the debt Joy Division, The Cure and assorted weaklings!
THE GOTH ALBUM
Reprising Bowie's early '70s pop/rock-straddling role with hit 45s and seriously acclaimed albums, the Banshees hit their career-defining, Ziggy Stardust moment here. Two singles, Spellbound and Arabian Knights, are neatly separated by one song of beguiling beauty, Into The Light. But it's that unholy trinity of monstrously effective concert faves, Halloween, Monitor and the self-defining Voodoo Dolly that paints Juju a deathly black.
THE NEGLECTED ONE
Road-weary, struggling to fix their eternal guitarist problem and dangerously close to falling apart, the Banshees had no fun making Tinderbox. But what had seemed frustratingly clichéd to them sounded to diehards like a tense yet persuasive restatement of classic themes and motifs. 92º and This Unrest were magnificently moody, Cities In Dust joyous and cutting-edge, and Candyman quintessentially Bansheean.
Interview: Siouxsie Sioux: The punk icon turns 50
Thirty years have passed since the summer of 1977, but Siouxsie Sioux is still a force to be reckoned with. Hermione Eyre meets an original punk icon turned solo survivor
Siouxsie Sioux inspires me to rewrite a celebrated Sondheim song from Follies: "Good times and bum times/ I've seen them all and my dear/ I'm still here/ Sometimes with Banshees/ Sometimes with Creatures/ Now it's just me and my gear..." I hum as I wait for her to finish her photoshoot for The Independent at Home House, a swanky London club. I tap my foot. It's nice out here in the garden area. "I've seen off the Pistols/ Without flaunting my Bristols/ I've shown the door/ To the Cure..."
But hang on a tick – what's that? A crazy horrible face is looking out at me through the window, sticking out its tongue, making flapping ears with its hands. God almighty, who is it? The face relaxes out of its grimace into the stately beauty of Siouxsie Sioux. She carries on posing for the photographer. Phew. That put an end to my little ditty. She's not only still here, but she's still giving us all a bit of a fright.
In fact, the old Siouxsie Sioux of the 1970s and 1980s is very present culturally: she featured on the soundtrack of two of the most talked-about films of last year – Sofia Coppola's Marie Antoinette and Richard Eyre's Notes on a Scandal. "Hong Kong Garden", her first-ever single, held its own in the Court of Versailles. But in Notes on a Scandal, the Cate Blanchett character Sheba Hart's nostalgia for the Banshees and her own punk days was presented as self-indulgent. Her kohl-smeared eyes at the end of the movie had the madness of a grown woman trying to go back to her adolescence, to an over-romanticised culture now gone. None of that for Sioux, the mouthy one from the Bromley Contingent who became the star of "the most élitist band in the world". She hates looking backwards. The greatest hits collections can look after the legacy. She's covering new ground.
She has an album out this month called Mantaray. Over her career she's released more than 20 albums, but, would you believe, this is her first solo work. "I'm on the verge of an awakening/ A new kind of strength for me..." she roars on the single "Into a Swan". The video for this is like the view through a kaleidoscope found in a Gormenghast nursery. Black-corseted and feathered, our heroine divides and doubles in a kind of amoebic reproduction, so that in some shots there's a whole army of Sioux. "I burst out, I'm transformed!" she yells as she metamorphoses into an owl and flaps off screen. I know it's naïve to expect videos to have anything to do with a singer's state of mind but I can't help feeling this might...
Ah, here she is, stalking over on heels, under a mane of black. The make-up isn't stagey – there's just a suggestion of those angular eyebrows – but the presence is full watt. She was a star before she was a musician. Years before she had a record deal, she caused a riot on Bill Grundy's Today show (don't tell me you haven't seen that clip where she and various Banshees and Sex Pistols swear themselves blue. What do you mean, you haven't watched The Top Ten Totally Terrific TV Moments? What do you do on a Saturday night?).
The heads of the businessmen in the Home House garden turn, whether or not they know who she is. There is something abject in their eyes as they look up at her, though.
So that new video... "Yeah. I liked the fact that Harvey and Carolyn, who made it, come from a background of making fabulous, glamorous, otherworldly commercials. But advertising has hundreds of thousands of pounds to play with so they had to get back to basics for old Universal." A grin. "Sometimes it's velvet/ Sometimes just pretzels and beer/ I'm still here..."
"Another video I'd like to make would be for 'Here Comes that Day'," she adds. It's another fabulously strong number, very John Barry/ Shirley Bassey and throbbing with punishment: divine retribution by big band. "Oh here comes the rain on your parade!" she sings. "There's a price to pay for a life of insincerity..." Every syllable of "insincerity" gets its due. "My vision of the video is a very empowered stripper in front of a culprit, one of the many guys there who has double lives or whatever. She becomes far too raw, progressive and confrontational and very violent even ... She might be swinging a nipple tassle and then..." – she mimes this with some relish – "take 'is eye out with it!"
As she crosses her legs and lights a cigarette – she has to, she says, 'cause giving up was so bad for her health – I notice her strappy sandals and the matte-black nail varnish on her toes. No, hang on a minute, her toes are bare but her big toenail is discoloured by a purple bruise. Slightly gothic, putting it on show like that. Slightly screw-you, too. Power to the toe!
I wonder what might have changed in her life to give her the boost to make this strong solo album – not to reinvent herself so much as to simply be herself spectacularly again. Soon it emerges that her husband and bandmate Budgie is in her life no more. "He's doing his own thing. It's been two or three years, actually, but I don't make my private life public. Life is full of change and reinvention and things don't work out how you expected and it would be boring if they did. It wakes you up. Maybe you have to tear down a bit what's gone before and start again. When you have to start again you just feel really alive. It's not over yet! There's plenty to do, you know."
She hits a throaty war cry. "Come on!"
Poor old Budgie. Sioux was always making jokes to journalists about how she was the cat and he her feathered victim. "I'm always eyeing him, wanting to bite his neck," she once said. Another time she made a quip about throwing a blanket over Budgie's cage when he wouldn't shut up. But of course these lines may be misleading about what really happened in the relationship.
There's a lot of pain and disappointment on the album, and certainly one or two cut-up-his-suits tracks. "It's healthier not to shut it down and block it up. It just gets heavier and heavier if you carry it round with you. There is some anger there on the album," she says. If I were Budgie I wouldn't be putting my eye near a stripper's nipple tassle any time soon.
"I think men and women are very different and maybe we're not totally suited as partners. We are so different emotionally. Women are allowed and encouraged to have all these emotions, whereas I still find men repressed. Isn't it weird the way, politically, women are oppressed but emotionally men are? I just do think females are superior. I, erm, I think they have the whole package." Is Sioux telling me she's a lesbian? "I've never particularly said I'm hetero or I'm a lesbian. I know there are people who are definitely one way, but not really me. I suppose if I am attracted to men then they usually have more feminine qualities." Russell Brand, did you hear that?
So no wonder the solo energy of her album felt real rather than manufactured. There is some kind of transformation in the works. It was her 50th birthday last week and about nine friends came to stay at her place in France (an 18th-century stone house near Toulouse that sounds suspiciously like a château).
Sioux recently said that one of her all-time favourite songs is "Hey Ya!" by Outkast, so I imagine them all dancing round the pool to André 3000, but perhaps the party was a little more subdued than that. "Weather was a bit crap but it's been crap everywhere." She seems happy about the birthday. "The big 50. Half a century. One half down, many more halves to go. In fact I've already done a few half centuries. I'm actually 350 years old but I just look fabulous for my age." It's weird seeing her laugh so freely. In the past she had a rule never to smile when she was performing, so on most of the footage the nearest thing you get to a smile is a sort of lipstick leer.
What is her elixir of youth, by the way? "I need my eight hours, still. I sleep a lot. I try and copy what my cats do. Eat, sleep and play."
Ah, the cats. She loves them cats. No children but three moggies: Spooky, orange and waspish; Spider, sleek prince of Siam; Dandy, white and fluffy murderer-cum-cutie pie. Are they on the album anywhere? Do you sing to them? "Oh I give regular shows to my kitties. And if they don't storm off with their tails up high thinking 'insufferable woman' then I know something's gone wrong. If it's something they find quite tuneful they might be my backing singers... Miaow." She's mocking me I think. Pretending to be all ironic about it. Why can't she just admit it – she sings to her cats. It's nice.
Anyway, she's got to rehearse – a tour starts this autumn. "I don't step up until I've got an audience. I don't like the idea of having a routine. I like mixing it up and including things I haven't played before." How does her new band take that? "Ha! Sometimes I'll torture them and I'll get a thrill out of making them suffer, like: 'Right, what was that B-side I did 30 years ago?' I like to wind them up – in a good way. I like things when they go wrong."
What will her costumes be like? "Have to wait and see." Fashion's currently having a goth phase... "God, not again. Posh Spice in black nail varnish? Ugh, whatever next? My rule is, if what you're wearing's in fashion, it's time to do something different." For inspiration, she might wander round the V&A. She loves the collection of art nouveau. Watch out for that black mane stalking the corridors at closing time.
Before she goes, two quick questions. I know she doesn't want to talk about the past, but on that Bill Grundy programme... She rolls her eyes – "The so-called 'Filth and the Fury', yes." Did you have something going on with [Sex Pistols guitarist] Steve Jones? Was that why he leapt so fruitily to your defence when Grundy tried to chat you up? "No! He was just being a gentleman, innit!" She pulls the same wide-eyed Marcel Marceau expression as she did back on the show. And finally, do you ever get frustrated spelling your name to call centres? What is the name on your bank card? Siouxsie Sioux or Susan Ballion? "Ere, I'm not telling you! What's your pin number then?"
"Good questions, bum questions/ I've seen them all and my dear/ I'm still here/ I've lived through punk, post-punk, new punk/ And I'm here!/ I've given Budgie the nudgie and yes, I'm still here! Look who's here!"
PRINCESS of punk Siouxsie Sioux has
vowed 'never to return' to her childhood home.
The Bromley-born goth, who turned 50 in May, said that she may consider returning to London after living in France for 15 years.
She plans to possibly move to central London following her recent divorce from Banshees' drummer Paul 'Budgie' Clarke.
She said: "I'm not going to the suburbs. I'd rather commute from France than from Bromley. To me, that's a much more painful journey - in every way."
Unsurprising really as her teenage years were marred with sadness after the death of her father when she was 14.
Her mother was forced to work full-time and Siouxsie Sioux was often left on her own in her Petts Wood home.
The punk movement, the Bromley Contingent, became her new family and they made rock history in the 1970s with the emergence of her band Siouxsie and the Banshees not to mention their memorable interview on the Bill Grundy Show.
"The confidence youth projects isn't very deep," she told a national Sunday newspaper.
"When you're very young, you desperately want to blend in. I remember feeling aware that my family background wasn't akin to everyone else's, that our home was at odds with what was around us in suburbia. And there was a point, round about 13 or 14, when I thought, 'You know what? F*** it.'"
She is now returning to the charts after 20 years with her single Into A Swan out this Monday preceding her album Mantaray that is released on September 10.
But the artiste, who influenced the likes of Morrissey, The Cure, U2 and the Scissor Sisters, said that she wouldn't have fared as well emerging in the 21st century.
She said: "They get eaten up and spat out. Something becomes fashionable and, like all fashion, it's destined for the heap.
'I feel no different to '76'
SIOUX - Mantaray
Rating **** In May, she turned 50 but remains as
uncompromising as ever, dropping The Banshees and The Creatures for a
challenging first ever solo album. Mantaray is loaded with vivid
splashes of sound — her distinctive, mannered vocals snaking in and out
of the heavy industrial clatter of synths, beats and guitars. Occasional shafts of sunlit melody
bring relief from the album’s claustrophobic core. Hear the piano-led
finale Heaven And Alchemy for a prime example. “I’ve loved making this
album,” she says in an interview for Universal’s new label W14 Music.
“It’s the first major label I’ve been on since we were kicked off
Polydor in ’95. “In that time it’s been a bit of
a wilderness of being self-employed. It was fun but mainly it was a lot of
hard work and being overly aware of budgets and the boring side of
everything.” Now she’s back with a collection
of songs that retain her independent spirit but bolstered by major label
support. “There’s a lot out there that is
so reliant on the industry, on stylists, on people being moulded to be
something. This just is.” Siouxsie entered the British
consciousness in 1976. The ultimate punk groupie was seen egging on The
Sex Pistols as they turned the airwaves blue and shocked a nation. On Bill Grundy’s Today programme,
there she was, bleach blonde hair, wild eye make-up that became her
trademark, polka-dot cravat, braces supporting her black baggy trousers.
In May, she turned 50 but remains as uncompromising as ever, dropping The Banshees and The Creatures for a challenging first ever solo album.
Mantaray is loaded with vivid splashes of sound — her distinctive, mannered vocals snaking in and out of the heavy industrial clatter of synths, beats and guitars.
Occasional shafts of sunlit melody bring relief from the album’s claustrophobic core. Hear the piano-led finale Heaven And Alchemy for a prime example.
“I’ve loved making this album,” she says in an interview for Universal’s new label W14 Music. “It’s the first major label I’ve been on since we were kicked off Polydor in ’95.
“In that time it’s been a bit of a wilderness of being self-employed. It was fun but mainly it was a lot of hard work and being overly aware of budgets and the boring side of everything.”
Now she’s back with a collection
of songs that retain her independent spirit but bolstered by major label
“There’s a lot out there that is so reliant on the industry, on stylists, on people being moulded to be something. This just is.”
Siouxsie entered the British consciousness in 1976. The ultimate punk groupie was seen egging on The Sex Pistols as they turned the airwaves blue and shocked a nation.
On Bill Grundy’s Today programme, there she was, bleach blonde hair, wild eye make-up that became her trademark, polka-dot cravat, braces supporting her black baggy trousers.
Her outrageous fusions of glam and fetish set the style for girl punks everywhere. Two years later, people realised there was a lot more to Siouxsie than her fashion sense and punk attitude when first single with The Banshees, Hong Kong Garden, crashed the Top Ten.
Though clearly imbued with the spirit of music’s brazen new wave, her other references points were great glamsters David Bowie, Roxy Music, T.Rex, even the pulsing, synthetic soundscapes of Krautrock pioneers Can.
Debut album The Scream heralded the arrival of one of our most important female artists.
Thirty years on, following her
recent divorce from Creatures collaborator Budgie, Siouxsie reflects: “I
don’t feel that much different to how I felt in ’76. I mean I’ve
taken on a lot more shades and have a lot more options that I can look at,
but I don’t feel very different.”
“I will be Siouxsie Sioux but
I’m certainly not going to be the kind of artist I don’t want,” she
After giving up smoking and getting “incredibly ill” in 2004, Siouxsie was in a right mess.
“I got bronchitis, asthma, sinusitis. I had to have an operation and I was pumped full of all these drugs like steroids and antibiotics. I put on so much weight even though I’d never really had a weight problem.
“I felt like I’d been invaded by aliens. It was really traumatic and I think it was almost like surviving death. It was horrible.”
Then she “got her body back” for the acclaimed Dreamshow solo tour and “there was a huge sigh of relief”. That led to where she is today, proud creator of a debut solo album.
Mantaray begins with the dramatic Into A Swan, intimate lyrics woven into crashing waves of music. It seems to distil one person’s rites of passage.
She says she “originally liked the idea of someone else doing it” then realised “there’s too much of me in there.
“I was reluctant to let anyone else have it because it was how I was feeling. I was breaking off the old. I was feeling lighter. I just shook off all that had been before. Something was right.”
Siouxsie adds that this new spirit wasn’t just confined to her music.
“I think I was doing a lot of
things differently. I had a new physical regime. I’ve always kept fit
but I discovered other methods that were invigorating.
“It felt like a rebirth. I know it’s insane that it’s come this late. It’s not normal!”
As for reaching 50, she says: “When you’re approaching 30, you think, ‘Oh my God, it’s over.’ And then, when you’re 40, it’s a case of, ‘It really is over now’.
“And then as I’ve just started with the next decade, it’s like, ‘Who gives a f***?’ You have to put all that into perspective.
“I remember when I was 18 or 19, not all 18 or 19-year-olds were young. I remember feeling quite isolated not seeking the conformity of ‘find a husband, get married, settle down’ so I know that being young doesn’t mean you are young and being old doesn’t mean you are old.”
What’s for certain is that Siouxsie Sioux, young or old, is never dull.
'I get the voodoo thing. My dad
Other than etching shallow lines around
her matte-red mouth, time hasn't made many visible inroads on Siouxsie
Sioux. It wouldn't dare. The frosty pose she cultivated at 20, as leader
of punk first-wavers Siouxsie and the Banshees, has solidified into a
coolness that doesn't brook familiarity.
It's 1976, a punk festival
organised by Malcolm McLaren at the 100 Club in London, and there's still
an empty space on the bill. A band is created to fill it: four
members of the Bromley Contingent, the group of Sex Pistols fans who
follow the band everywhere, get on stage and run through an unrehearsed
chaotic set based around the Lord's Prayer. They go by the name
Suzie Sue (sic) & The Banshees.
It's 30-odd years and many albums later, and Siouxsie Sioux is regarded as a highly influential, some might say legendary, member of the punk/post-punk scene - and is about to release her first solo album, 'Mantaray'.
FLUX: Would you like to tell us a little about the album then?
SS: Well, it's been in the making for awhile. There's been an idea for doing a solo album since the end of 2004 when I played the last two shows of the Siouxsie Dreamshow with an orchestra at the Festival Hall. We were cherry-picking everything from Banshees and Creatures and I just had the freedom that came with that. The idea was to work with people I've never worked with before.
FLUX: Had you ever thought of doing a solo album prior to 2004?
SS: My idea of what a solo album was didn't interest me at all; I just enjoyed collaborating with people. To an extent this album has still been a collaboration but the main difference is there's no baggage (laughs)
FLUX: What would you say the influences and inspirations were for this album?
SS: It kind of coincided at the end of 2004: the DVD of the Dreamshow was released in 2005 and Polydor were reissuing the masters and it was, I suppose, listening to those first few albums of where it all started that was inspirational in propelling me forwards. I think I was dreading listening to them because I hadn't heard them in 20 years or so.
FLUX: What current music do you listen to now?
SS: I really like Peaches; that's probably the last gig I went to, at the end of last year. I like what Polly Harvey has done and band-wise, umm, I don't know, I think I've just been pretty much heads down and just in my own world. I'm probably totally out of touch with what's going on. I haven't read music magazines in years, it was quite a shock going back and talking to them. I actually had to plough through the music press just to see what they were proposing I do. I mean nothing much changes you know, boys will be boys - boring and predictable....
FLUX: Do you know of this new wave of female singers, kind of the anti-Jessica Simpsons, such as Lovefoxx of CSS or -
SS: I don't. I came back from London with a bunch of albums to listen to and one of them is Bats For Lashes... I've just really been getting ready to prepare for rehearsing, I'll be doing that next week, so for me it's been all sorting out the artwork and so on, and dealing with the security for the album. I mean, within an hour of finishing the video (for first single 'Into A Swan') it was circulating Universal and it found its way onto YouTube, and I think there was a drag act who had based their whole act around 'Into A Swan' within a day! (laughs)
FLUX: How do you continue to challenge yourself, musically?
SS: I see everything that I've done (as having) evolved, one thing from the other - but to an extent, it's been allowed to do that. When we were starting, we didn't get signed for two years, which seemed like an eternity back then but in hindsight it was probably a good thing, we were able to hone our very raw talents and develop in those two years and to get our audience without relying on radio play and all that. It does seem that marketing is so important in the music industry now.... Yeah, it's like a development and an evolution but I've been fortunate to come from somewhere - I mean, when we were doing the albums for Polydor, we were pretty much just left alone to do them.
FLUX: How much do you think digital music files have changed the way people interact with the music and the band and the artist?
SS: Well, it's something I'm having to get used to and I don't really like it; I don't like having it sent by email, it does my head in. It seems like there's a confusion (between) the real world and the virtual world, like a competition to out-do each other, be the first to get the tracks or whatever... like, for me, the release date was like Christmas - you get your Christmas presents on Christmas day and not before - and now all that's been blown out the water.
Why I couldn't let my mask slip in
front of Siouxsie Sioux
After 30 years of courting controversy, singer Siouxsie Sioux amazes CHARLOTTE HEATHCOTE with her new album and a strange request...
From the moment of her very first gig in 1976, in which she screeched a warped version of the Lord's Prayer, it was clear that Siouxsie Sioux was hell-bent on rebellion.
Famous for wearing cupless bras and swastika armbands, Siouxsie even dismissed the anarchic punk movement as conformist. Thirty year later, as she releases Mantaray, her first solo album, it's clear that age has not dimmed her feisty spirit.
As we meet in a central London hotel, Siouxsie goes to greet me with a kiss, until I tell her to steer clear as I've caught a cold. She recoils in horror.
"There's no way I can do this interview," she tells her PR, who thinks she's joking. "No, really. I've got to sing later."
At that moment, one of the hotel staff walks into the room and, in the same casual way that most people ask for a glass of water, she says: "Have you got any surgical masks?"
Unfortunately, the hotel is clean out of surgical masks but Siouxsie is undeterred. "You'll have to pop over to Boots," she tells her PR, reluctantly agreeing to start the interview with me sitting on the other side of the room. When her PR returns, I'm forced to don the white mask.
"You look like Michael Jackson," she cackles, before carrying on as if nothing odd has happened.
It's the kind of willful behaviour that sees some stars branded as difficult or diva-like yet somehow, with Siouxsie, it's just entertaining. And it will please her fans (including U2, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Scissor Sisters and Massive Attack) to learn her musical ability remains as inimitable as her attitude.
Mantaray is an impressive record. As Siouxsie explains, she approached every tracks as a potential single and that attention to details has shone through and paid off, cementing her reputation as one of the industry's most influential women.
Still, Siouxsie dearly wishes she didn't have to promote it. Born Susan Janet Ballion in Bromley, Kent, in 1957, she has been perceived as something of an attention-seeker ever since her band, Siouxsie And The Banshees, exploded on the fringe of the Seventies punk scene.
Having courted controversy for her music, her style and her attitude, it was Siouxsie's presence that sparked the infamous Sex Pistols furore on the Bill Grundy Show. "We'll meet afterwards shall we?" asked the chat show host, prompting a stream of sweary invective from the band.
Since then she has released a string of critically-acclaimed albums as part of Siouxsie And The Banshees and splinter group the Creatures, so it's perhaps surprising when she says: "I don't particularly like the limelight that much. I was thinking on concentrating on writing and I was looking forward to being anonymous."
But then she teamed up with Steve Evans and Charlie Jones, who worked on Robert Plant's Mighty Rearranger. "We started working together last summer, doing two or three tracks at a time in Steve's studios in Bath. After a few mini sessions, we had 10 songs. The album just crept up on me."
After years of both releasing and producing records on her own label, Mantaray is being released by major music label Universal.
"Being on a major again is quite a shock, but I wanted the clout and the finance that comes with a major. It's tough on your own. There's a lot more promotion to do but I've made a good album, unfortunately, and I want to give it a chance. I think it deserves to be heard. So I'm putting on my armour and getting back out there."
Siouxsie may well have paved the way for women to succeed in the music industry on their own terms, but she remains indignant about sexism in the media: "There's far too much attention on how you look, especially being a woman, and how old you are. It's insulting and degrading.
"I'm someone who can tell people to **** off and die, but I still feel it's a lot of pressure. I'm not in my 20s. I don't want to be part of that stupid circus. Even Kate Moss gets Photoshopped. It's not real, but that's the pressure that's being put on the real world."
As it happens, Siouxsie, who turned 50 in May, could easily pass for a woman almost half her age. There are no discernable lines on her face and her figure is, frankly, to die for, without the slightest trace of middle-aged spread under the see-through top and leather trousers - but then that's exactly the kind of superficial observation that makes her blood boil.
Perhaps another reason why Siouxsie is feeling fragile is her recent divorce from Budgie, the Siouxsie And The Banshees drummer whom she married in 1991. "I've gone through a big upheaval in the past two or three years," is all she will say.
However, the only sign of her inner turmoil comes when she admits she hopes to make some cash from Mantaray. "I want to make lots and lots of money to give me lots and lots of freedom to what I want to do."
Which is? "Running away. I haven't had a holiday for years and years and years and years," she says. "I want to go somewhere exotic for treatments and yoga, scuba diving and horse riding and to really connect with nature, but I'm not someone who can camp; it would have to be somewhere with an en suite bathroom."
Maybe holidays aren't such a priority when you've relocated to a farmhouse near Toulouse, as Siouxsie and Budgie did in 1992. "It's home and it's beautiful but it's not the coast. It's beautiful countryside inland. I'm staying there for the time being, but the London magnet's kicking in, although I'd want a house slap-bang in the middle with a rooftop terrace with a mini Kew Gardens.
"It's another reason why I want the album to be really successful. How much do you reckon I'd need for that?"
Musically, she'd have to compromise to earn that kind of money, something that's obviously never going to happen. "People in the music industry are only willing to invest their money in a surefire hit, so there's a lot of dumbing-down," she says.
"I'm more interested in female artists because they have more of a hurdle to overcome. I like PJ Harvey and I love Peaches, she puts a smile on my face. I like anyone who's not conforming to what's expected of them."
By releasing such a powerful album in her fifth decade, Siouxsie is still setting the perfect example.
Siouxsie Sioux strikes out alone
At 50, punk's princess is singing solo for the first time. She talks make-up and deep-sea diving with Helen Brown
It's a cartoon-cool scene of black on black: the serpentine silhouette of Siouxsie Sioux shrink-wrapped in skin-tight midnight leather against the noir of a night sky in Paris.
I look out from the backstage of a television studio to where the punk icon, now 50, stands on the balcony, the glow of her cigarette snaking up and down in the dark. A throaty laugh drifts over the staff of Taratata, a live rock show that seems to be a French Later… with Jools Holland.
Though she's had her claws around a microphone since the late 1970s - first with the Banshees, then the Creatures - this is the first time she's performed live as a solo artist. "I'm not worried about the music," frets the manager, "but I'm not sure what she'll think of the interview."
It was an interview that launched the confrontationally kohled face of Susan Janet Ballion, as she was then, into the living rooms of a startled British public back in '76.
She appeared as part of the Sex Pistols' entourage when the band were interviewed on Thames Television's Today show; it was when the host, Bill Grundy, attempted to flirt with her that one of the most famous bouts of swearing in television history began.
Tonight, Sioux handles the interview with grace, as the only English-speaking guest to answer the cheesy host's questions in French, raising a painted eyebrow when he calls her "Syyyou-sie". He argues that the 'i' in her name demands it.
"You don't pronounce the 't' in Bardot, do you?" she replies.
French Jools is clearly 'orrified at the thought, but rallies, waving Mantaray, Sioux's new album and her first one solo, at the camera. The sleeve art has her as a sort of entomologist's geisha, with fake insects arranged over her powder-white skin.
Along with a hissed-out cover of the Doors' Hello I Love You (rehearsed only once) Sioux performs her new single, Into A Swan.
"I'm on the verge of an awakening / A new kind of strength for me," she roars. Sioux recently announced her divorce from husband and co-Creature, Budgie, and this is I Will Survive for women who prefer bondage boots to disco glitter. "I feel a force I've never felt before," hollers Sioux, "I burst out / I'm transformed."
'Puhhhhphew!" she sighs as we share plastic glasses of champagne in a dressing room. The force is fading and Sioux's arms mime exhaustion. She had a cat nap this afternoon but "needed a tiger nap".
She's not 19 any more, she says, and bored of "the crap": sitting about, 7am starts. In fact, the earliest of the new songs weren't written with a Sioux album in mind. "I thought they would be perfect for a band like Sugababes.
I liked the idea of being a writer and letting somebody else do the graft. And then I wrote Loveless and I wanted it. Still, I sent it to the label, and they preferred my demos to the girl group version."
She sparks a Marlboro Light and grins. Her rule has been never to smile on stage, but she is funny and engaging in person. She involves all four long limbs emphasising a point, praising her producer/bandmates Steve Evans and Charlie Jones for putting the industrial "Guhhghh-urhhh-glahh-urgggh" (mimed as a giant robot-dog running out of batteries) into her new sound.
It was Evans and Jones who also picked the album title out of her lyrics. A manta ray is described as "a ghost of a roar from the sea floor" on the track Sea of Tranquility. "Because the sounds on the album are so diverse, we needed an abstract title.
Rays symbolise something from deep space and a long, long time ago," says Sioux, flapping her arms. "The deep ocean also inspired Stingray and science fiction.
Which takes us on to space - those wings … Deep ocean and space are almost reversible worlds. I'd love a ray's wing to scrape past me in the water." Has Sioux ever been diving? I ask. "No, I really want to, but I've never found anybody to do it with me - story of my life."
But Sioux's lyrics were always aqueous. "You're right. I love the ocean. I've always liked the blue, so tranquil and peaceful and gliding. And the fear of it.
I remember being on holiday in Spain, about 16 and y'know, you've all had a few drinks and it's 'Let's go swimming at night', and the waves come toward you in the dark, and it's almost like oil. You can't see your body, and there's this idea of something lurking underneath. My dreams are of water. And my nightmares."
The Scream (her first Banshees album, 1978) was based on Frank Perry's film The Swimmer (1968). "Water's almost orchestral," she says. "But I've also always liked really heavy orchestral music.
My first awareness of being caught by it was the use of strings heightening the shower scene in Psycho. Bernard Hermann's music is soooo powerful. But I also love Shostakovich and Stravinsky, Eastern European music. It's got a strength and defiance with a real undertow of sadness and grief."
Inspired by cinema ("I was enraptured by the last Harry Potter film - the darkness and cobwebs"), she's always tried to use music to launch her listeners into an individual soundscape. "The Banshees to me never really sat in that very male, stamped dagh-dagh-dagh-dagh of male punk … evocative of nothing other than itself, of rock and roll.
"The Banshees took you into a world, added a sense of tension. So I suppose film and film music has been," she shrugs, "mah thang. Along with the sea and the moon - I suppose women are meant to be governed by those things. People forget the punk thing was really good for women. It motivated them to pick up a guitar rather than be a chanteuse. It allowed us to be aggressive."
Sioux thinks it's harder for women now, although they can still do it. I suggest that Amy Winehouse is taking her heavily kohled attitude into a new generation. "Yes…" she muses. "The make up is armour. It's tribal, primal. It's still war paint.
"You'd have to take it off if you ever do get to go diving, though, I say. "Hmmm," Sioux pats her eyebrows, "You'd be amazed at how well it stays on. You can immerse it in water, you just can't scratch at it." And leaving a whisper of crimson lipstick on each of my cheeks, Sioux heads back out into the night.
The Witching Hour
From Sinatra to Screaming Jay Hawkins, the sound of that old black magic. By Siouxsie Sioux.
The Witch Queen Of New Orleans - Redbone
When I DJed on the John Peel show (Sioux was one of the stand-ins for Peel when he suffered a fatal heart attack on holiday in 2004), I played this and it sounded great. You know how sometimes you go back and you play something that you once thought was fantastic and it isn't quite as fantastic as you remember? Well, this was as good, if not better than I remembered. It's very groovy with a great beat and rhythm. It was a hit in the early '70s. I'm really drawn to them because they're Native Americans and, of course, I name myself after a tribe of Native Americans. Initially it was because the song was great, then when I found out it was by a band of Native Americans it all just clicked together. I always preferred them to cowboys. And I find Native Americans really handsome. It's the long dark hair.
Available on: Message From A Drum, Epic, 1972.
Supernatural Thing Part 1 - Ben E King
I'm a big soul fan - artists such as Aretha Franklin, Sly & The Family Stone, The Temptations and a lot of Stevie Wonder. I think the words in this song - "When we kiss, you know you make me hot/I break out sometimes in little bitty green spots" - are stupidly funny and they make me laugh. We covered it in The Banshees in the early '80s; it was the B-side to Arabian Knights. I don't think Ben E King would have recognised it. It reminds me of the time when Marc Bolan came to see us. It was 1977, before we were signed, and we were playing at The Music Machine in London, subsequently renamed Camden Palace and now Koko. At the time we did a cover of 20th Century Boy. Marc Bolan came to see us do it. When we did, he had to be elbowed in the ribs to be told that we were playing his song. He didn't recognise it.
Available on: Supernatural Thing, Atlantic, 1975.
The Witch - Die Rattles
They're a German group and this is the only song I know by them. It contains some maniacal laughing and screaming. There's a great string section, and although they were an all-male band they had incredibly high voices. It's something I remember from the radio as a kid. I had a clock radio and I listened to it a lot. I was always attracted to the weirder stuff. Lunatic songs, like (Napoleon IV's) They're Coming To Take Me Away, Ha-Haaa! I don't listen to teh radio as much now. When I'm in France, where I live, I listen to the French version of Classic FM. They also play stuff like Nina Simone and Frank Sinatra, too. There's very little talking. I hate Radio 1. It's so irritating. Too much chit-chat. And competitions. They try way too hard to be "mad". You just feel like telling them to shut up.
Available on: Die Deutschen Singles A&B: 1965-1969 Vol 2, Bear Family, 2000
I Put A Spell On You - Screaming Jay Hawkings
I think I heard the Nina Simone version first, which I love. It's beautiful, the string arrangement is great and I love her voice. Compared to Nina Simone, who is very understated, Screaming Jay Hawkins sounds like he's losing his mind in the studio. It's such a performance. He's almost totally out of control. It's like you can hear him having a breakdown, and it's fantastic. It's quite scary hearing someone screaming at the top of their lungs. He puts a lot of himself into it. I think this is the best thing he's done.
Available on: I Put A Spell On You, Collectables, 1957
Abracadabra - The Steve Miller Band
I'm not a Steve Miller fan. He's a bit too straight for my liking. He's a bit soft rock, isn't he? But I love this song, the main reason being the guitar. It reminds me of Phil Manzanera at his best. Even when Roxy Music weren't all that good, Manzanera was at least a consistent plus. He redeemed them. I love this really mad guitar bit in Abracadabra (makes a Psycho-style stabbing string noise). It doesn't even sound like a guitar. A good guitarist can do that; make a noise that you don't even recognise. It's totally inspired. A very clever pop song.
Available on: Abracadabra, Eagle, 1982
Fire - Arthur Brown
Most people remember the video to this, the one where he looks like he's got a candelabra on his head. I suppose it's a bit of a tenuous connection to the witchcraft theme, but it always makes me think of burning in hell and the devil. I think the song is about being punished for doing something bad. The video certainly looks quite satanic. Have I heard the disco version by Lizzy Mercier Desclous? No, but I was into (hip late '70s label) ZE records and all that New York post-punk stuff. I liked another ZE artist called Cristina. She was really peculiar.
Available on: The Crazy World Of Arthur Brown, Polydor, 1968
Witchcraft - Frank Sinatra
I'm a huge fan of Frank Sinatra. I love his voice. For years I would play his music to wind down to and take the edge off the day. I find it fantastic for relaxing and very romantic. Other songs I particularly like are Night And Day, In The Wee Small Hours Of The Morning and One For My Baby (And One More For The Road). I don't know if Witchcraft is his best, but it's one of my favourites.
Available on: The Capitol Years, Capitol, 1998
Spooky - Classic IV
This is another old memory off the radio; I must have been very young when I first heard it. Classics IV were a pop-rock band and this was a big hit in America in the late '60s. It's got an R&B feel and it goes, "Love is kinda crazy with a spooky little girl like you". I remember the backing vocals, which go, "Spooooook-yyyyy" and thinking it was brilliant.
Available on: Spooky, Imperial, 1968
Voodoo Chile (Slight Return) - The Jimi Hendrix Experience
I remember when Polydor re-released his back catalogue in the early '80s, and it got me back into him. I also remember seeing him on The Lulu Show performing Hey Joe when I was about seven. It was totally out of tune, but he just made a great face and started retuning his guitar while he was playing. Of course, his guitar-playing is unique, but I love his voice as well. He was really embarrassed about his voice and wouldn't let anyone in the studio when he put his vocals down.
Available on: Electric Ladyland, MCA, 1968
That Old Black Magic - Frank Sinatra
It's just timeless. There are lots of versions of this song - Sammy Davis Jr, Tome Jones, Ella Fitzgerald - but I like Sinatra's the best. I'd imagine there are loads of metal bands who've done songs about black magic with loads of extreme screaming, trying to be very scary but not actually managing it. I find that kind of thing a bit unimaginative.
Available on: The Capitol Years, Capitol, 1998
|MANCHESTER EVENING NEWS|
Siouxsie Sioux still sexy
PUNK matriarch Siouxsie Sioux was
certainly rolling back the years when she performed an exclusive live set
"i do like my pop music you know, i like it with an edge."
biting back for more...
Infamous music journalist Paul Morley in conversation with the icon that is Siouxsie Sioux as she returns with her solo album...
So this is your first interview for quite a while then?
On a new thing, yeah.
I guess once you've made a record like this that's what it means isn't it? You're gonna have to go back in that mode.
And that's why I'm going, oh bloody hell! I've loved doing the work, I've loved making this album and it's the first major label that I've been on since we were kicked off Polydor in '95.
Have there been thoughts previously about doing a solo album?
I think I'd always resisted just because of my perception of what a solo album was.
And what was that?
That it would be me, always. That it's the solo artist to the front and then this kind of inconsequential music in the background. I don't like the rest of it being 'Siouxsie' Siouxsie, Siouxsie'. I think even in the Banshees days I was always deflecting and trying to point out that it's four in the band.
But it was always you on the cover of the papers, wasn't it?
The pressure was always that it was going to be Siouxsie.
Yeah, and you know I kind of battled on and said, 'no it's a band, it's a democracy.' And of course it wasn't, so, I think by the time I decided 'yes I want to do a solo album' a lot of things had happened like working with different people and other people. And doing this album, Mantaray, probably more than anything - I've worked with only people that I've never worked with.
Did you find yourself over the last 20 or so years ending up in many cul-de-sacs and in a way creating your own cul-de-sacs?
Yea, in hindsight, definitely. It's hard to see when you're in the cul-de-sac that you're actually in it, but I think that happens with everyone, after your initial bursting out and discovering what you could do when you are 19, 20, and the euphoria from that. Sadly I think everyone tends to create a cul-de-sac without realising it and it usually takes some kind of a massive kick up the arse to wake you up. It's like that with everything. If you've been doing something long enough, unless the situation arrives and you have to adapt, you're not going to go looking for it sadly.
By enduring for so long you've also left behind lots of trails of noises and images that create expectation.
Expectation and also baggage, and realising that people and the media want to pigeonhole you even further.
Of course in those early days - which we must just gently touch on - (S: laughs). Early on, you had a kind of stubbornness. You seemed like an independent unit that would resist all of these pressures and expectancies simply because you were so spiteful.
Yes just to spite people and what they thought! When the band first split up, it was like, "urrgh, that's the end of that" and it was a catalyst for it to move onto something else, and so you had to either give up or you continued but in a different way. In a way that ensured our survival - the fact that it was stubborn not to be defeated by something as trite, as, "oh god, has half the band pissed off?" (laughs).
At what point did it occur that you were creating works that, you know, did leave a kind of legacy?
Oh, I don't think I ever really considered that I was leaving works behind until I decided to stop.
Is there a sense now that this world has kind of caught up with some of that energy and ideas that were around in the late '70s.
Yes, well I suppose there was a time when we were incredibly fashionable so of course it's inevitable that you become incredibly unfashionable. I really think at the time when we were being dismissed as unfashionable, people were very aware of what had gone before and maybe were desperate to be something apart from that. Bands were desperately trying to create the next punk, I don't think they realised just how pointless that notion, because the environment then was so different. It's one of my only philosophies, you can rarely go looking for it, it usually finds you and it's a mutual accident.
You must be proud of the fact that in the end you did create a kind of history that did change things.
Proud. I think mainly I was very fortunate and on the whole I wish everyone would shut up about it (laughs), you know because, yes, something really special happened, but I don't think it had much to do with any one individual or any intent. Most people that weren't involved around any of that are so envious of the fact that they missed out on a great amount; we had such a lot of fun. I was just a kid having fun, and I was able to have fun in my own way, which I was very lucky to be able to do.
So what kind of decision did you make about the fact that you were going to make a solo album then?
I think I had been a bit deranged (laughs) leading up to the 2004 tour because I got incredibly ill. I mean, horribly ill and, ironically, (and probably this will get edited out because it's not what anyone should say) it was when I gave up smoking. I was very successful and I swear I didn't just get a cold; I got bronchitis, asthma, sinusitis. I had to have an operation. I was pumped full of all these drugs like steroids, antibiotics. My body was taken over by all these drugs and I ballooned. I actually put on so much weight and I've never really had a weight problem. I was seeing all these doctors and, quacks, I was calling them. All kinds of specialists. They were talking about blood tests. They were doing this, doing it and I was saying so what is it? Why is this? It's since I've stopped smoking. He said, "oh that's probably just coincidental". I said "coincidental, I've never bloody had asthma, bronchitis and all this rubbish" and, I honestly, I did that tour under a lot of pressure and I didn't go back to smoking. Meanwhile all through the tour I was having to see specialists, you know, I had like this spittoon on stage, I was constantly spitting up gunge. Finally at the end of the tour I just had enough of taking all these drugs and I gradually started smoking and the symptoms started improving and I did finally find a doctor that said "well it's not publicised but in some very are cases, there is a minority of people for whom this is a reaction. I really felt like I'd been invaded by aliens and it was really traumatic and I think it was like almost surviving death. It was really horrible...
(interjects) You started smoking again then?
Gradually, but I was so exhausted. Touring's knackering and when you're not in your 20s. I was at a point where there was no offing of a deal in sight, I was having these fantasies of just staying in France and opening up a flower shop or working with plants. Anything, so that I wouldn't have to deal with the bullshit side of what I loved doing. So, I was kind of in this flux and then when I was really ill Basement Jaxx sent me a song, some music and they said, "are you interested?" and I thought, "well, I like this". They sent me other stuff but I picked one thing and thought, "yeah, I like this". I just worked it up as a kind of demo at home in France and sent it to them and was expecting to be invited to London to put the vocals down proper and said "oh no, that's fine, we'll work with that" and they released that and I thought, "oh well maybe this is another direction to go". Just, like, not necessarily being in it. It's almost like from being an actor to being a director, being behind the scenes and I thought, well maybe that's the safest way to go. And then, a couple of tracks arrived when I was in this kind of state of flux and exhaustion and they were what became Loveless and Into A Swan, the two pieces of music...
So when you say they arrived, what do you mean by arrived?
Well they came via Polydor because I think we were having talks and I knew things weren't going anywhere. Then these two pieces of music arrived "Loveless" and I got quite excited. I thought maybe I can be a writer and at that time, to me, that was how I was gonna survive and be over 20 working in the music business. You know, that to me was a logical quite freeing thing to do, you know, nobody has to see my ugly mug anymore (laughs) and so I really loved the music so I wrote the words and put down the vocals and they told me it was going to be for, like a girl group, like the Sugababes. I do like my pop music, you know, I like it with an edge but I also like it just undiluted good pop.
So I wrote that and I was really pleased with it and I was looking forward to hearing a Sugababes-type rendition of it. Then they sent me some more bits of music and then I found what was gonna be Into A Swan and I thought, wow this is great. They ended up preferring my demos, and then the conversation was, "oh well maybe there's a deal in the offing".
When you were writing the lyrics to Into A Swan, what was the picture because it's turned out to be one of the great opening tracks to an album I've heard in recent years.
Yeah, it's like...
(interjects) Did you write that knowing it was about you, about what might happen or was it an idea for someone else?
I think obviously it was me but I kind of liked the idea of someone else doing it. Swan was the first one that I was reluctant to let anyone else have (laughs) and because it was how I was feeling. I was feeling that I was breaking off the old, I was feeling lighter. I had a new physical regime, you know, I've always kept fit but I discovered other ways and other methods to do and that was invigoratingly, I was just feeling much more positive within myself.
And it's taken you by surprise which is probably the point in a way isn't it?
Yeah, and the surprise has got another effect, its propelling me even more. It's almost like, "oh wow I can fly" and then its like whizzing off.
Without it as being as twee as a concept or a narrative, it's very clear that once you had that moment - and its obviously the opening - and you burst through, everything seems to come afterwards on many different levels.
It was a catalyst for how to move forward.
What are the big "thou shall nots" that there are for you?
Erm, "thou shall not be too clever". I said I don't want too much subtlety here. That was the main thing. I want the vocals to be there and present between the eyes pretty much and I want everything else to be as powerful but obviously not getting in the way of the vocals.
Heaven And Alchemy finishes it and Into A Swan could only be the opening Heaven And Alchemy could only be the end (Siouxsie agrees). Heaven And Alchemy is the one where I need to ask what's that one about?
I think it's just facing up to how we delude ourselves, with ourselves, or with other people. I think especially in important relationships and I think it's realising that absolute honesty is essential for anything to flourish and thrive. No matter how hard or difficult it is. In the end, it should be simple, and easy but you have to do it before you realise that (laughs).
Will you go out and perform these songs?
I think they should be performed.
Mantaray, it's just a great word and I kind of like the idea that it's not per se, a word that means anything for the album because I know I was trying to do something that summed up the album and it just sounded contrived and clever and I didn't want to do that.
It's better to be kind of abstract and a bit mysterious.
It does look amazing written down though and it leaves it open and I like that that it's open.
Which is kind of what you wanted to recover?
Well, you know, I've dumped my bags, you know, I'm feeling a lot lighter and my shoulders are feeling less tight (laughs).
There are absolutely millions of pop records out there, millions of rock records, millions of people now selling and servicing the rock community. How do you feel about that, the idea that it just goes out there and some of that awkward specialness that we've been talking about had kind of gone now, pop is a lot more industrial isn't it, its an industrialised world. In a way, you've rejoined it, you know, you're part of Universal, you're part of the process as well so it's mixed up with the optimism.
This album's going to be thrown out to the piranhas and its going to be eaten at and assimilated and you know, all of that, but I think amongst all that's out there, there's a lot out there that is so reliant on the industry, on stylists, on people being made, moulded to be something. This just is.
For the first time in a career
spanning more than 30 years, legendary punk musician Siouxsie Sioux has
made a solo album.
The instantly recognisable 50-year-old frontwoman of The Banshees and The Creatures says it was the opportune moment to strike out and record Mantaray with a brand new coterie of musicians and collaborators.
"The time felt right to drop the bags, start again and leave the past truly behind," explains Sioux in her distinctive gravelly tones, adding that a live tour in 2004 was the long-burning inspiration for a new album.
"It was totally different. The producers were also musicians so were hands-on. The way we worked was easy and direct.
'Leave me alone!'
"You know what's coming next when you're in a band, but this time some songs took complete turns and really surprised me. Everything was more intense and heightened," she adds.
"I got into more fights when it was the band. I'm pretty much the boss lady, but we knew which way we were going this time which made things flow quickly."
Sioux, who has lived in France for the past 15 years, had to conquer her fear of driving to make the journey to Bath, where the album was recorded over several sessions.
The album's recent release has caught the veteran singer up in a gruelling whirwind of publicity of both sides of the Atlantic - leading her to question the demands made on today's music stars.
"I've been screaming 'leave me alone!' quite a few times. It's exhausting. I couldn't do it constantly.
"If I didn't have my quiet, sedate life in France, I'd have been carried off to the lunatic asylum a long time ago. I can breathe properly there.
"This idea that life's a stage? Give me a break!" she laughs.
Sioux has been contemplating a move back to "the buzz" of London, but the round of activity to promote her album has made her think about maintaining her solace.
In the early 1990s, the retreat to France with former partner Budgie was prompted by her fame becoming too close for comfort, with fans leaving messages on her car windscreen and even turning up on their doorstep.
Winding back to the start of her career during the height of the punk era, Sioux - born Susan Ballion - admits she had a burning desire to perform and be famous.
"I was at this club called Louise's. Everyone was hanging out - Malcolm [McLaren] and The Sex Pistols were there," she recalls.
"He said 'there's this punk festival coming up and one of the bands has pulled out. I've really got to find someone to make up the bill'.
"And without thinking I said: "Oh, I'll do it". That night I was asking people if they could play.
"Opening my mouth without thinking is really what got me started!"
Sioux's resulting stage debut was at London's 100 Club in September 1976, with a line-up including Sex Pistol Sid Vicious on drums and Steve Severin, who went on to form The Banshees with her.
"I was well and truly bitten after that," adds the singer, arguably one of punk's most enduring figures - and still going strong today.
Siouxsie Sioux's album Mantaray is out now and released in the US on 2 October. She will perform at the BBC Electric Proms in London on 24 October.
|THE BIG ISSUE (IN THE NORTH)|
Wail of a time
Three decades after she first shocked and surprised the audience of London's famous 100 Club with her distinctive voice, Siouxsie Sioux is preparing to hit the road again. There's a slim possibility she might return to her old stomping ground to play a date or two but it's unlikely she'll be performing her electrifying version of The Lord's Prayer or any of the singles she recorded during her 17 years with The Banshees. Instead, she'll be previewing songs from her long-awaited solo debut Mantaray.
"Apart from a few friends and associates, nobody has heard any of the new tracks so it'll be interesting to see how people react to them," she suggests. "I know the video for the first single has been well received but I've no idea what people will make of the album. I'm hoping they're going to love it as much as I do but you never can tell.
"We were originally going to play our first show at the Russian Embassy in Berlin but I think we're going to be playing the revolving restaurant at the top of the Eiffel Tower now. After that, we're playing the Electric Proms, a couple more dates in Europe and some dates on the east and west coast of the States."
It's a clear indicator of how well respected Siouxsie is as a singer and performer that she was invited to play Electric Proms while she was still working on Mantaray. As she speculates over the artists on the bill, it's apparent that she still relishes the opportunity to perform live. Her slashed shirts and leather mini skirts might have been replaced with tailored suits over the years but she's still a magnetic performer who doesn't think twice about heckling anyone daring to talk during her sets.
Part of her appeal lies in the fact she oozes attitude and intensity and the rest is down to her trademark sneer and kohl-black eyes. The lipstick is a little darker these days and the kohl less dramatic but she still has a look that can make grown men and women melt.
Though her friends and colleagues keep her up to date with new artists she might like, Siouxsie prefers to listen to the radio these days. There are a couple of different stations broadcast in the south of France and her favourite plays a mix of jazz, classical and old chanteuses like Billie Holiday and Ella Fitzgerald. On the rare occasions she feels like listening to something more lively, she usually listens to Peaches or PJ Harvey.
Asked what she thinks of the contemporary artists dominating the charts, Siouxsie instantly retorts: "Not a lot. The only singer I find quite interesting is Amy Winehouse. She looks scarily out of control but I like her balls. It's a shame people won't leave her alone to just get on with her life. Nobody can cope with the amount of attention and intrusion she's received over the last few months, it's unreal."
Informed that several London freesheets ran cover stories about Winehouse nearly missing her train this week, Siouxsie is horrified. "I can't begin to imagine how she must feel being followed round by paparazzi day and night. I don't envy her at all. I never had that kind of pressure when I was her age because I was seen as a filthy punk girl they couldn't control or manipulate.
"At the time it was frustrating because it meant nobody would take a chance and sign us. In hindsight, however, it was a blessing because it gave us two years to get a footing and find our own audience.
"The media kill everything now through overexposure. They think people want more, but it just turns everyone off. Whenever something is raved about, I always wait until the fuss has died down so I can experience it objectively."
Mantaray was recorded at Riverside Studios in Bath and comparisons will inevitably be made with The Banshees and her previous side-project, The Creatures. For Siouxsie however, Mantaray feels and sounds like a completely different beast.
"With previous albums I usually had a strong idea what direction they should go in. With this one, I was completely open to the idea of just seeing what we came up with," she states. "There were no rules about what sounds we could or couldn't use, I just wanted to approach each song as a potential single.
"I thought that would help us capture the essence of each song and edit them as we were going along. So many artists these days don't know how to discipline themselves - they think because a CD can hold up to 80 minutes of music they should record 80 minutes of music."
Produced by Goldfrapp cohorts Steve Evans and Charlie Jones, Mantaray is a concise and compelling album that features ten pop and rock twisters. Opening track Into A Swan announces its arrival with brutal guitars and powerhouse drums while One Mile Below and Here Comes That Day inject playful basslines and colourful percussion into the equation. Elsewhere, Siouxsie flirts with glam-rock (About To Happen), croons over piano and distorted effects (Drone Zone), and delivers her most intimate and unsettling love song (Heaven & Alchemy).
"I was given other bits of music but the ones I went for were the ones I knew I could get my teeth into," she emphasises. "Working with new producers was a bit of a leap of faith but I'm glad I did because I ended up having a lot of fun making this record. Steve and Charlie are both great guys and they really encouraged me to push myself further and take a few risks. Some of the songs were done almost acapella, just sat around the piano, whilst others were programmed and mixed over and over. Into A Swan was the first track we recorded, though the final version is completely different from the original version. The chords are the same but the noises are completely different."
Interestingly, the tracks that really highlight Siouxsie's strengths as a singer are Loveless and If It Doesn't Kill You. The former finds her asking "How could you be so cruel... what am I going to do?" and the latter captures her whispering "Don't be bitter, don't be gloomy/If it doesn't kill you, it will shape you" over soaring strings, moody percussion and cinematic synths.
"I'm glad you like those tracks because they're two of my favourites," she says. "If It Doesn't Kill You was something I'd had kicking around for a few months but it wasn't until Steve and Charlie came up with the music that it really started to take shape and sound like a James Bond theme. Loveless was actually something I wrote for a new artist on Polydor. They played around with it but it didn't suit her voice apparently. I was really pleased they rejected it because it was too good to give away.
Informed that the press release accompanying Mantaray implies it's a record that "encompasses disappointment, distrust and despair", Siouxsie laughs heartily. "I think that's someone else's baggage, don't you? Personally, I think it's a really uplifting album that captures a full range of emotions from desire to delight. Looking at the song titles, I can see how someone might jump to the conclusion certain songs are about heartbreak, but the truth is I just enjoy dramatising things. Drone Zone is about transition and the need to put your armour on when you go from one environment to another whilst Into A Swan and If It Doesn't Kill You are about transformation and endurance."
Reminded that it's the 30th anniversary of The Banshees' first single Hong Kong Garden next year, Siouxsie implies it doesn't feel that long. "It's scary how time has just evaporated... I never listen to our old records but when Polydor decided to reissue all the early albums last year I had to sit and listen to the re-masters. I was dreading hearing them again because I thought I'd be sucked into this time tunnel but I was pleasantly surprised by how fresh and inspiring they still sounded. I actually got quite caught up deciding which B-sides and live tracks should be included as extras."
Just as I'm about to enquire if she misses the camaraderie of being in a band, Siouxsie says becoming a solo artist makes things much simpler. "When you're in a band there's always a level of compromise," she concludes. "Aside from having to deal with everyone's egos and hang-ups, everything just takes a lot longer. Whenever I was in the studio with The Banshees and thought we'd nailed a perfect take, inevitably somebody would have fallen off their stool or been playing out of time. It used to drive me mad. Deciding to do something on my own has heightened my senses and made me realise my strengths and weaknesses. It's been scary but exciting."
Courtesy of Robbie's mum
SIOUXSIE NOW & THEN
THE ICON TALKS TO EMILY MACKAY ABOUT HER NEW SOLO ALBUM AND, ON FOLLOWING PAGES, WE RECALL THE START OF HER AMAZING CAREER
Some stars are happy on a pedestal, frozen into the iconic images of their glory days. Siouxsie Sioux is not one of those people. While contemporaries like Deborah Harry or John Lydon grow increasingly embarrassing, hopping on the nearest bandwagon or celebrity TV gig, the unbelievably youthful-looking Siouxsie has kept to her own course, stretching and pushing the boundaries of her beloved trademark sound but never overreaching into the gimmicky or merely fashionable.
From the start Siouxsie and her Banshees were the thinking person's punks, rejecting the norms of the era before they'd even had times to solidify, outraging the outrageous and later defining post-punk and goth without ever being defined by them. They went on to refine and develop their initial aggressive racket, and explore dancier byways in The Creatures, and come to celebrated, mature elder status with The Rapture.
In all the hoopla surrounding the 30-years anniversary of punk, you won't see Siouxsie hosting many nostalgia concerts, appearing as a talking head on I Heart Punk or competing in Celebrity Goth Island. And yet there are more exciting young bands today drawing on the Banshees dark post-punk template than there are Sex Pistols or Buzzcocks soundalikes. Her Dreamshow topped the UK music DVD charts in 2005, the year she was also awarded the Mojo Icon award.
This is a woman informed by her past but not in need of it. With the recent release of her debut solo album, Mantaray, she's proved she can stand alone, without the bandmates she's worked so closely with over the years.
RC joins Siouxsie looking resigned to the prospect of a day of interviews in London's Mandeville Hotel, with, appropriately enough for the doyenne of dark, Dusty Springfield's Spooky playing softly in the background.
A lot of the imagery in Mantaray centres around transformation. Is that something you were feeling?
Yeah, for instance, Into A Swan is about more of an internal transformation, not transformation like a new set of clothes or something! The chrysalis to the butterfly is a metaphor for that sense of change. I think it's about starting again. This album's the first album I've done not working with anyone that I've worked with before, and for the first time, the producers are also playing on the album. It's felt very tight as well, quite organic, because the core of it was that Charlie (Jones, Goldfrapp guitarist) and Steve (Jones, producer) played the guitars and then Clive (Deamer, sticksman for Portishead and Roni Size) was on drums. It's almost like going back to being a three-piece, working up on the songs, and then everything else is added to it, to make it the fabulous shimmerer that it is.
After so long as part of a group, was it nervewracking to step out on your own?
I was excited by the thought of "How's this going to work, what's going to happen?". It came from deciding to do this solo project, which started in 2004, and culminated in some shows at the Royal Festival Hall, Dreamshow. I knew I was going to be working with this orchestra, so it kind of freed up the choice of material. Being able to do songs like Obsession for the first time live with strings, but also interpreting some classic Banshee or Creatures songs with percussion section, brass, strings... I found it really exciting.
But also, I just hate the music industry, the business side of it. It can really grind you down sometimes. I seem to be forever fighting against the male way of doing things. I don't like putting things into boxes and having a plan and a name. I like to keep the spontaneity and keep it open.
I'm on a rediscovery of self-belief and feeling fresh about something and really wanting to move forwards and not be too hung up on what's been and what's expected. That's how I like it, and I'm forever being asked "What was the theme of this?", "Why do it?" and I said, "Well, you've got the record, that's why I've done it" It answers itself. There wasn't a particular plan or manifesto."
So nothing triggered the solo album now?
It was just doing Dreamshow, and then I thought, "I haven't been on a major label for 10 years, ummm..." and I was thinking maybe I should be behind the scenes to move forwards. I enjoyed doing the Basement Jaxx track Cish Cash (from the 2003 album KIsh Kash), which was a one-off. Initially, the first two songs for this album, Into A Swan and Loveless, I was writing for a new artist on Polydor, and I thought well, maybe that's my way of going forwards, because I'm not in my 20s anymore.
But I ended up feeling quite reluctant about giving these songs away to someone else. And as it worked out, they loved the songs, but they preferred the demo that I'd done. Then I got offered a deal with W14 within Universal. I really liked the production on Robert Plant's The Mighty ReArranger and I thought, well, I'll try that. So I met Steve Evans. He works from Bath, and he and Charlie worked their magic, and I knew that it was the right partnership. Half of teh album, I'd say is about ideas that were already there, although not fully formed, and half has been written in the last two years. Swan and Loveless came together last year and then Drone Zone, About To Happen, Here Comes That Day, If It Doesn't Kill You, the rest happened very recently.
There is quite a range of styles on the album.
I was being sent all this music by different writers, and I picked just the music that I wanted to write to. It's not been like, "I need rock, it has to be a rock thing." The way Charlie and Steve work, they transformed If It Doesn't Kill You from what it was into what I think would be a great James Bond theme. They should write the next Bond theme. If It Doesn't Kill You would be a great title.
Lyrically, do you think this album is more personal than you've been before?
It's taking stock of the different journeys that I've made over the years. It's almost like they say painters need a lifetime of experience to draw from, and draw on, and the same with novelists, who usually start quite late as well, and have a well to draw from, rather than a little rock pool. Hahahahaha!
You've not tried to link up with the big production name of the moment or make a new rave album.
Oh god, no. At the time when Polydor were in the offing for signing me up, and they were like, "Oh, you've got to collaborate with Marilyn Manson," and I just kind of despaired and gradually let them fade away. So it was great when John Williams at W14 was actually really excited about me doing the solo album and wanting to just do it my way, and thankfully had confidence in that, because he didn't hear anything when he signed me. It was just the idea.
Personally, if something's fashionable or in, I tend to think, "Well, that's a good reason for not doing it," My favourite artists, I always feel that they're doing what they do in spite of what's around them, not just reflecting what's around them. I'm interested in an artist's own viewpoint, not someone that is looking to please the now and fit in with now. Because ultimately, what anyone does, I think you'd want it to be around longer than 15 minutes, to have a certain timelessness to it.
Is it unfortunate timing that Mantaray's release coincides with the 30th anniversary of punk?
They do it every 20 years, every 25 years, every 25 and a half... any excuse! I'm so, so sick of it! You know?! It's like... the amount of stuff that I just turn down. I'm not interested in being dragged back there again. I think I did the Banshees biog (by Mark Paytress) in 2003 just so that if you've got those questions, all those are answered there.
A lot of the punk nostalgia industry tends to ignore the female side of the movement in favour of the big names like the Pistols and The Clash; you'd never see Ari Up on a magazine cover.
No, and I love The Slits. Around mid-to-late 70s was a really exciting time for women; there wasn't a battle of the sexes. Of course that changed very quickly in the 80s and then it became very industry-friendly female frontpeople, which is probably why Blondie were so successful. Good pop, but definitely fits easily into that cover girl kind of thing. I've got too much of Beryl The Peril in me to be totally taken to the heart of the music industry. The first posters for (The Banshees) were "Your mother wouldn't like her" (cackles madly)! It was so funny! The first gigs we did after the 100 Club punk festival, I think it was somewhere like Tiverton, and they'd taken this big blown-up shot of me, with the star make up, and "Your mother wouldn't like her" printed on it. Which is ironic, because she would. I loved my mum. I got on really well with my mum.
Do you still feel any kinship with any of your peers from those days?
No. I've noticed that a lot of people who are involved in those kind of TV nostalgia programs, they haven't had a kind of continuous involvement in music, it was just around that kind of era, and then they didn't do it anymore, so it's probably something that they kind of look back on as the heyday of their youth. To me it's just part of the many things that happened. There was no plan when I got onto the stage for 15, 20 minutes, that's all it was for, for the there and then, and over 20 years later, that's kind of turned into me being around doing this, but I don't know, that's how its worked out.
I think also the Banshees were quite apart at the time, firstly in having a female front person, and also, I always thought we had this cinematic quality, while what was going on was very much rock, quite narrow, and direct, of course. I always thought we brought an exotic kind of mystery that defied being bracketed into 'this is punk rock' or 'this is new wave' or post-wave or, urgh... goth, or death or... I don't know.
We've never only done fast songs or only done slow songs. There's been no rules as to kind of material we do except that it's go to have a slight disturbing quality there and it's got to transport you somewhere and it's got to have something that's beyond black-and-white, beyond the printed word. It's visual.
What do you make of today's rock frontwomen? Karen O of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs is often compared to you.
I don't know them so well. I love Peaches, though. She played at, I think, The Forum last November and October, I loved the gig. I hadn't seen any of their live performances before, but she had a band with her and my friend said, "Oh, I'm so glad you saw that gig, because it's the best gig I'd seen her do." She'd never had a band before, she always had tapes, or, you know, an exotic dancer, or something, and it's always been quite a small club. But this time she had a great band with her. It was all female, that was a great gig. I love the titles of her albums, I mean, Fatherfucker, what a brilliant title. And what a great song Fuck The Pain Away is.
Where do you hear your influences today?
To be quite honest, I'm not really up on a lot of bands. The last time I was over in America, people were saying about the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, "Oh, it's so Banshees", and I couldn't hear it. It's more people telling me that there's a lot of Banshees in it. I try to hear it and I can't hear it.
There's quite a few bands that have taken their name from songs or material. I've never heard The Rapture, I don't know what they're like...
They're a dancey, punk-funky sort of thing.
Well you know, there's that element, see people tend to think of us as just rock, and if you only know us by the singles, you might think that, but the album tracks and the B-sides are different. We do a great version of Supernatural Thing (the flip of Arabian Knights). The B-sides are all anything goes, really, there's Drop Dead, El Dia De Los Muertos... a lot of things flying in from different areas.
What's your favourite cover that someone's done of one of your songs?
There's one about to come out by this UK hip-hop artist Akala, who's done Love In A void and it's fantastic. I loved it. Jeff Buckley did Killing Time, I loved that, I love his voice.
Not that 90s dance track by Capella that used the guitar motif from Happy House?
U Got 2 Know? Paid my rent, that has. But I don't play it. It's a nice little earner!
What is your favourite cover version that you've done with the Banshees or The Creatures?
I'd say Supernatural Thing.
Do you have much of a record collection?
Yes, but they're old records. My vinyl is all the Stooges, all the Bowie albums. The Velvet Underground, Eno's Music For Airports. Gavin Briars... there's that amazing record called The Sinking Of The Titanic.
What about your own back catalogue?
Sadly, yeah, they're stuffed away somewhere. But I've got a secret; I love the smell of acetate. When you used to cut a record, you'd get that really heavy-duty, sort of purply-black colour vinyl and it had that amazing smell. It's a bit like if you used to open my mum's Ryman typewriter with its box and it had all that carbon. So I'm a secret carbon sniffer. It's fantastic. That's better than playing it. Well, they just wear out after a while. But I just keep it for the smell of it.
THE BANSHEES' TALE
AS EDITOR OF LEGENDARY FANZINE ZIGZAG, KRIS NEEDS HAD A FRONT ROW SEAT FOR THE EXPLOSIVE RISE OF SIOUXSIE & THE BANSHEES
In September 1976, Siouxsie & The Banshees defined the DIY punk ethic by venturing onstage for the first time with instruments they'd never touched until the day before. Siouxsie became one of the faces of British punk, but the Banshees subsequently developed a sound which left Ramones-imitators in the dust; fearlessly uncompromising, experimental, always progressing but boasting uncanny pop sensibility. Their striking, sometimes shocking, visuals cleverly avoided obvious moves like pushing Siouxsie as a UK Debbie Harry.
From the numbered gatefold of their first 7" single, Hong Kong Garden, Siouxsie & The Banshees paid special attention to presentation and marketing. They were at the forefront of the 12" revolution, including extended mixes and bonus tracks, while sleeves and videos came with band-hatched concepts. Even now they stand alone among the bands from that era.
in 1976, you couldn't miss Siouxsie and her suburban misfit mates, dubbed the Bromley Contingent. Siouxsie always had a voracious desire to break out of suburban normality in the loudest, most shocking way possible, getting an early taste of the night-life by accompanying her go-go dancer sister to work and frequenting the capital's underground gay clubs. She met a fellow malcontent called Steve at a Roxy Music gig and, along with others like Billy Broad (later Idol), glammed up early Pistols gigs. Calling herself Suzi while causing a stir in her fetish underwear creations, she introduced the Pistols crowd to the seminal multi-sexual Louise's club on Poland Street.
The scene which developed around Louise's, McLaren's Sex shop and Pistols gigs galvanised Sioux and Steve, now calling himself Spunka. When another group was needed for the Pistols' 20 September show at the 1976 100 Club Festival, Sioux thought up the name Suzi & The Banshees the night before, while looking for something that "sounded offensive but would get people confused". Joined by guitarist Marco Pirroni and Johnny Rotten's old mate Sid Vicious on drums, Steve picked up a bass. Their 20-minute caophony revolved around The Lord's Prayer, incorporating piss-taking snatches of She Loves You, Twist & Shout and Knocking On Heaven's Door. They planned to play until forced off but got bored before the audience did.
While Sid sang with infamous bedroom band Flowers Of Romance and Marco joined Adam & The Ants, Suzi became Siouxsie Sioux and was thrust into the nation's front rooms after being leched over by a drunken Bill Grundy on teatime TV, prodding the Pistols to swear themselves to overnight notoriety. Siouxsie and Steve, now Severin after the Velvets' Venus In Furs character, continued with the Banshees, recruiting guitarist PJ Fenton and drummer Kenny Morris, who'd rehearsed with with the Flowers. Although musically inept, they had bold ideas and provocative lyrics, bent on abusing rock's traditions and taboos.
"You don't think about old forms," said Steve. "You pretend you're the first person to pick up a guitar."
With an admiration for glam's simplicity, the primitive Banshees sounded like nobody else. By March, they were supporting Johnny Thunders & The Heartbreakers, whose record label, Track, let them rehearse at their Carnaby Street HQ.
The Banshees started playing at The Roxy, the Covent Garden underground transvestite joint which was about the only place for punk groups to play, but didn't feel sufficiently developed to appear on The Roxy London WC2 (Jan-April 1977) album. In July, the Banshees started appearing at The Vortex, the Wardour Street club which replaced the floundering Roxy as London's hangout.
Siouxsie and Steve's lyrics were graphically evocative, dealing with situations not encountered in rock music. Carcass concerned a butcher who feel in love with his meat to the extent of cutting his limbs off. "We just like to get people's backs up," cackled Sioux. "We've got a morbid sense of humour," adding that lyrics were "just explaining what is around you."
At first, they used the swastika in order to debunk a shock image but phased it out as more sinister, wide-reaching implications loomed. Other early songs included Love In A Void, Make Up To Break Up and irreverent covers of T.Rex's 20th Century Boy and the Captain Scarlet theme. Gradually, a majestic, heavy, monster sound emerged, helped by guitarist John MacKay replacing Fenton in July.
While entrenched in the front line of the London punk scene as editor of original fanzine Zigzag, I witnessed the Banshees' rise up close from earliest gigs to heady success, the magazine acting like a monitor in the heart of the group as they continued to claw an ever-deepening weal across the nation's erogenous zones. The October 1977 issue marked the first of many covers, placing Siouxsie as the strongest no-nonsense female singer this country had seen. "I don't want to appear as some kind of Women's Libber, 'cos I'm not, but neither am I someone who lets herself be pushed around and manipulated. I've got a mind of my own," she said.
The Banshees continued packing out the Vortex and venturing further afield, improving all the time. Siouxsie started appearing on music weekly covers, now crowned the Ice Queen. Many asked why the Banshees hadn't been signed despite record labels in a frenzy, snarfing up any punked-up hopefuls. Despite selling out gigs, the Banshees seemed to baffle or repel A&R men. Atlantic's Dave Dee, having turned down the Sex Pistols, proclaimed, "punk's finished". Decca offered a princely two grand, with other similarly paltry deals dismissed.
In November, the Banshees recorded a John Peel session (Love In A Void, Mirage, Metal, Suburban Relapse), which went out on 5 December and became one of the most requested in the show's history. Peel and his producer John Walters were massive fans and even talked with Banshees manager Nils Stevenson about releasing them on the BBC label. Their popularity further escalated in early 1978 as they sold out the Nashville, Music Machine and 100 Club, even promoting their own well-attended gig at North London's Alexandra Palace in March.
Another Peel session in February, with the new Hong Kong Garden, Overground, Carcass and their terrifying disembowelment of The Beatles' Helter Skelter, stepped up the pressure. They ran away with Best Unsigned Band in Zigzag's annual readers' poll. The group got so annoyed at A&R men coming to gigs, getting drunk on expense accounts then passing out that mysterious "SIGN THE BANSHEES" graffiti started appearing on record company buildings. Deciding a Zigzag cover and four-page feature might help, Severin designed a front page and an interview was arranged. The feature became a celebration instead of a protest when news came that the Banshees had signed with Polydor.
The Banshees were happy, especially with complete control over track selection, packaging and promotion. Sitting with the group in Soho Square, Siouxsie made no secret that she wanted to reach the biggest possible audience. "I can't understand bands that are in love with the idea of being underground. If they've got something to offer, why don't they make it on the television or the radio? If we got to No.1 on Top Of The Pops it'd be a great achievement."
"We've always aimed to get into one of the big five companies," added Steve. "Everybody got signed up, but hardly anyone got into those five companies."
Siouxsie did admit, though, "If everybody starts liking us then we're going to find it very hard!"
The Banshees already saw battles with the record company coming up, but Siouxsie reasoned, "We don't exist if we don't have something to fight against." She knew that with the success of Blondie, Polydor would try and push her as the UK's Debbie Harry. "Yes, yes, yes! I think every record company we've come into contact with wanted to do that but we were aware of it. That's how we could stop it. It's like a barrier. If it's a girl, 'Oh, she's just flogging an image, she hasn't really got anything to say.' They like that, whereas if they think she's got as much there as anyone else and more so, they don't like it. Everyone's so conditioned to think men say this and girls follow behind or just look pretty."
August's Hong Kong Garden was one of the brightest singles to emerge from the Class of '76, chiming guitars and glorious chorus laced with mystery and exotic embroidery. Flipped with the spectral Voices initial 7" copies came in numbered gatefold which, with the clamouring demand, propelled it into the Top 10. Now the Banshees were touring on the back of a hit single and packing the Hammersmith Odeon.
First album The Scream, produced by the by the band and Steve Lillywhite, was released in November, reaching No.12. It stands as one of the great debut albums from any era. From the primeval scene-setting of Pure through the fractured psychotic charge of Jigsaw Feeling, it rollercoasters through coruscating scenarios, including Helter Skelter and the harrowing breakdown of Suburban Relapse, before closing with the emotional tour de force of Switch. Unhampered by tradition and virtuosity, the Banshees arrived at their monolithic sound, redefining the traditional guitar-bass-drums-voice lineup in the process. Typically, the UK release didn't feature the hit, although it later appeared on the US version.
The November tour, supported by Spizz Oil and some unknowns called The Human League, saw Zigzag travelling with the group in their black Mercedes. While the previous feature celebrated the deal, we now set out to debunk the morbid image which had grown around the Banshees, showing that, although deadly serious about the music, they were also engagingly human and could even partake in booze-fuelled stupidity after hours. Whilst belittling lager louts in a post-gig Indian restaurant, Siouxsie declared that people were "too serious about the wrong things and not serious enough about other things... just in you doing this, observing a couple of days, shows the bad reputation that we've had through interviews".
The live set was now an amazing beast, mixing the album with new songs like Premature Burial, while The Lord's Prayer traversed a different irreverent orbit every night. After starting with nothing two years earlier, Siouxsie & The Banshees were now ferociously spectacular.
On a roll, they came up with next single, The Staircase Mystery. "It's a waltz and is about an unsolved mystery," explained Sioux. It was released the following March, flipped by a live version of T.Rex's 20th Century Boy, before they started demoing material for the second album, previewing tracks in another Peel session. Recording lasted three weeks, the band producing with Nils. Midway, Sioux guested on Radio 1's Round Table review show, her honest opinions resulting in a lifetime band. The Banshees swept the board in the Zigzag poll and pelted guests at London's Venue with cuddly animal trophies, although Sioux kept the giraffe.
The Banshees recorded a version of Metal Postcard for German release in September as Mittageisen. With Love In A Void on the flip, import demand prodded a hasty UK release as a double A-side. The cover was adapted from a photo-montage by pre-war anti-Nazi artist John Heartfield, depicting a German family under the Nazi regime eating guns and machinery in reference to Göring's World War Two Hamburg speech ("Would you rather have butter or guns? Guns make us powerful; butter merely makes us fat.") which also provides the song's chorus. Polydor obliterated Hitler and swastikas from the original.
Having discounted Icon as a single, the bell-driven swirl of Playground Twist was released in June, Flipped with sinister kiddy-song Pull To Bits. Reviewed on BBC's Juke Box Jury, the panel of Elaine Page, Joan Collins, Alan Freeman and John Lydon predicted a Hit before it reached No.28.
Join Hands was released in August, a worthy follow up with anti-war themes, mixing juggernaut grandeur (Regal Zone), anthems (Icon) and spine-frosting skincrawlers (Placebo Effect, Premature Burial). The World War One mood was set with memorial cover and funereal scene-setter Poppy Day. Most startling is the introspective Mother, which features Sioux backed by a music box playing Oh Mien Papa. The album closes with The Lord’s Prayer, picked by Sioux and Steve from various improvisations to represent the group’s original confrontational manifesto, as another side to the successful singles band.
A Zigzag interview threw up disquieting rumblings from Morris and McKay, the guitarist declaring, “The next step will have to be in a very different direction. I’m not sure how it will happen.” Morris railed against this writer for leading the group astray on the previous tour. Next time I saw him, at Throbbing Gristle’s YMCA gig, he was pissed and moaning, “I don’t want to be just a drummer, I’m an artist.”
Before the Join Hands tour, the Banshees played two warm-ups, at Bournemouth Village Bowl and Friars Aylesbury. A noticeable rift had developed between Sioux-Severin and McKay-Morris factions. While everyone had a laugh getting down to the main task, they carried an aura of icy disdain. Bournemouth suffered from poor sound, so McKay and Morris got royally drunk, loosening up on a midnight stroll along Bournemouth beach and letting their discontent spill out. McKay despised fame and adulation while lambasting the version of The Lord’s Prayer on the album. Then the Banshees went to Ireland, returning by ferry to start the UK tour.
I wasn’t shocked when Nils phoned and said that McKay and Morris had stormed off and disappeared after an argument at a record store signing before the first gig on 7 September. That night, in front of a packed house at Aberdeen Capitol, The Cure played a longer set before Sioux and Steve came on to explain what had happened, then leading the assembled through a suitably fired Lord’s Prayer. Afterwards, Nils handed an autograph-seeker McKay’s guitar as a souvenir.
The Banshees camp reckoned it was pre-planned, as there had been arguments in rehearsals, McKay recently employing a solicitor to establish his position in the band legally. Morris berated Sioux on the ferry for being “too silly” and saying she wanted to have fun on tour.
“They were just pathetic,” Nils later explained. “The band were growing apart. John and Kenny were going off into ga-ga land. I thought we could resolve things on the tour, but they never made the effort.”
Sioux and Severin moved swiftly on, roping in Budgie from The Slits while Robert Smith gallantly offered to play with both The Banshees and The Cure to fulfil the tour. The mood in a pub near their Barbican office was relieved and optimistic, Sioux remarking, “Isn’t it great not to have a pair of old women moaning away in the corner?”
The new line-up spent a day running through the set then made its triumphant debut on 18 September at Leicester’s De Montfort Hall. The betrayal seemed to make the Banshees bigger than ever, and they got a heroes’ roar as they walked on. Smith had the McKay style, spiced with his own, and there was no contest in the drumming department as the mighty Budgie wielded tribal nuances with formidable power. The tour was like a blast of defiant celebration, although Sioux got a warning to calm down the road frolics in future after she went down with hepatitis.
Announced on Peel’s show, auditions for a permanent guitarist proved depressing, the replacement being required to add their own input to new songs as well as regurgitating the catalogue. After Marco Pirroni didn’t click, names on the wish-list included Chris Spedding, Robert Fripp and Magazine’s John McGeoch. In January 1980, the latter tried out on the embryonic Happy House and Dessert Kisses, with great success but was still committed to Magazine. At one point, they considered covering Pink Floyd’s Arnold Layne with original producer Norman Smith.
Then Sioux acquired a synthesiser, while Steve, an enormous fan of Suicide, operated a drum machine while playing bass. This produced Eve White: Eve Black and Christine, inspired by a book called The Three Faces of Eve, about Christine Seisnal, who boasted 22 personalities, each with different names like the Strawberry Girl and Banana-split Lady. Happy House, another example of chart-friendly catchiness with the inimitable Banshees stamp, was released in March and made No 17.
The May 1980 Zigzag carried another Siouxsie cover to announce their return, “stronger than ever”. Sioux was positively bubbling, saying how happy she was: “We’re really all excited by anything unpredictable… I feel very jolly lately!” They continued to record what became the “fragmented but bright, strong and positive” Kaleidoscope, mixing songs after they’d been played, including Luna Camel and Red Light, with former Pistols guitarist Steve Jones coming in for Clockface.
Christine was released at the end of May while Kaleidoscope appeared in August, a multi-faceted departure featuring a more reflective, organic Banshees. Ironically, despite being created under such adversity, it was the most successful Banshees album to date, rising to No 7. A storming European tour followed in September with McGeoch on guitar. Supporting were new Scottish group Altered Images, who had sent the Banshees a demo.
In November the Banshees recorded Israel, which had started in a hotel room on tour. Released at the end of the month, it was their first to come with a 12”, featuring flip Red Over White plus Into The Light. That month also saw the Banshees tour the US for the first time, invoking mixed reactions, ranging from UK-style spitting to hysteria as they took New York.
Many cite Juju, the first album from the new line-up, as the Banshees’ best. It started taking shape in January and was recorded in March, spawning atmospheric gems like Arabian Knights, Nightshift, Voodoo Dolly, Halloween and Spellbound, which was released as a single in May. Juju followed in June, a towering display of dynamics and imagery shot with dark majesty and cinematic emotions. In 2005, it appeared as a deluxe double CD with rarities and curios.
Released in July, the lush Arabian Knights was joined by the Banshees’ version of soul standard Supernatural Thing. The 12” also featured the whooping bongo part of Conga Conga, which showed the Banshees getting funky and predating club trends by several years.
July’s Juju tour was jaw dropping, with its custom-built Perspex stage and Eastern music playing, before drapes parted to reveal moving clouds behind four dark silhouettes, striking up Israel. There was a different visual mood for every song: Sin in My Heart with red flames and Sioux in guitar, exotic Eastern evening for Arabian Knights and billowing green smoke on the cataclysmic Voodoo Dolly. Nightshift was the centrepiece, conjuring a mesmerising atmosphere. Sioux draped herself over the mic, eyes closed, wailing the “out of my mind with you” hook before the heart-stopping thunderclap moment. A stunning show, leaving punk well behind while also dwarfing the goth movement they were now credited with starting. The aftershow saw a first, as the Banshees sat in the auditorium signing autographs while I helped sell T-shirts.
Sioux and Budgie had been experimenting together at soundcheck, resulting in voice-drum excursion But Not Them, which was featured in the live set and recorded (but not used) for Juju. This grew into a spinoff called The Creatures, with a double 7”EP in September featuring But Not Them, Mad-Eyed Screamer and Thumb plus a unique take on The Troggs’ Wild Thing derived from The Lord’s Prayer. Meanwhile, Severin produced the first two singles for Altered Images (Dead Pop Stars, A Days Wait) plus some of their debut album, including title track Happy Birthday, which became a No 2 hit. In November, the Banshees released their Once Upon A Time hits compilation.
The Banshees got more experimental on 1982’s intoxicating A Kiss In The Dreamhouse, introducing female string duo The Venomettes. At s sneak preview in Camden’s Playground studios, Sioux explained, “Juju was a bit like closing an era. That’s why we waited a long time before recording a new LP, so we could work out of that.” After May’s non-album single Fireworks, the November album was trailered by disco-humping Slowdive (covered in 2006 by LCD Soundsystem). The next single was the Japanese tour-influenced spaghetti western epic Melt.
The Banshees decided to tour less and pursue more solo projects. Sioux was suffering throat problems while McGeoch collapsed in Madrid and suffered a nervous breakdown, resulting in his leaving the Banshees (he would join PiL until they split in 1992 and sadly died in his sleep in 2004). Once again Robert Smith stepped in.
In 1983, Severin played with NYC sleaze-poetess Lydia Lunch, along with Banshees guitar tech Murray Mitchell and drummer Keith Hoffman. Their grinding racket playing over an Israeli war tape was captured on The Agony Is The Ecstasy, an album shared with The Birthday Party. He also collaborated with Robert Smith and singer Jeanette Landray for a psychedelic club-orientated project called The Glove, releasing single Like An Angel in August and the Blue Sunshine album. Siouxsie and Budgie reactivated the Creatures, releasing Miss The Girl in May, and Right Now in July before a whole album called Feast. Based on percussion and loaded with atmosphere courtesy of marimbas and jungle effects, it was one of the more refreshing releases in that year of goth and electro-popsters.
The Banshees returned in September with their soaring version of Beatles’ White Album track Dear Prudence, reaching their highest ever chart position of No 3. Their gig at London’s Royal Albert Hall that month was a surreal triumph. Live album Nocturne followed in November, with fan club members getting an exclusive Christmas single featuring Headcut live. Throughout their career, Birmingham legend Billy ‘Chainsaw’ Houlston ran the Siouxsie & The Banshees File fan club with close involvement from the group.
March 1984 saw the Swimming Horses single followed by the brilliant string-drenched sweep of Dazzle in May. The keyboards dominated Hyaena album appeared in June as Robert Smith’s last contribution before he departed to concentrate on The Cure. He was replaced by John Carruthers from Clock DVA who, after his initiation test playing a Milan lunatic asylum, made his debut on November’s The Thorn EP, which featured orchestral versions of songs, including Overground, backed by the Chandos Players. Cellist/keyboards player Martin McCarrick was now on the firm.
October 1985’s Cities In The Dust single launched the Banshees’ new US deal with Geffen. The group toured the UK, Sioux crocking her knew at the Hammersmith Odeon gig. At Nottingham’s Royal Concert Hall, she perched on a stool with her leg in plaster, berating punter-pummelling meathead bouncers while Severin put down his bass and steamed in. The energy level rocketed and the set was a classic, the Banshees still spitting and scratching in luscious, pulsing Technicolor over dervish rhythms. Prevented from moving, Sioux concentrated on her singing: “I was trying to break glass with my voice rather than break heads with my mic-stand!” The set changed every night, mixing the known with tracks from the in-progress Tinderbox album. Self-produced, the album returned to the dark soul of the Banshees, with next single Candyman targeting paedophiles.
After the gig, Sioux was whisked back to her London doctor as her knee continued to flare. Visiting the group during recording at Air Studios, she reflected on hoe the Banshees had been going nearly 10 years. “All mistakes somehow seem to be swayed in our favour, mishaps or bad luck in turned to our advantage. That’s all.” Tinderbox was released in April 1986.
January 1987 saw the Banshees’ covers album, Through The Looking Glass, announced with their version of early Sioux heroine Julie Driscoll’s This Wheel’s On Fire, which rolled to No 14. Artists honoured included Sparks, Television, The Doors and the snake in Disney’s The Jungle Book. Their version of Iggy Pop’s The Passenger was released in March. In 1988, Carruthers was replaced by former Specimen guitarist Jon Klein, who added flamboyant modern-glam sensibility to their September Album Peepshow, which incorporated hip-hop rhythms on single Peek-A-Boo.
The Creatures returned the following year with Standing There trailering the Boomerang album (from which Jeff Buckley later covered Killing Time). After scoring their first US hit in May 1991 with the Stephen Hague-produced Jayne Mansfield tribute Kiss Them For Me reaching No 23, the Banshees released Superstition in June. The following year sae a second singles compilation, Twice Upon A Time, while Face To Face featured in Batman Returns. In August 1994, Siouxsie duetted with Morrissey on Interlude, and old Timi Yuro song, but the pair fell out and didn’t promote it, so it only reached N0 25. In 1995 John Cale produced The Rapture and its attendant singles O Baby and Stargazer.
In early 1984, Zigzag’s Paul O’Reilly had asked Severin if he would know when it was time to finish the Banshees. “I hope so and I believe we would know. The understanding between Sioux and I wouldn’t allow us to carry on if that feeling wasn’t there. It’s instinctive and I’d trust it.” The Banshees decided to stop in 1996 as nostalgia gained steam for punk’s 20th anniversary with a Sex Pistols reunion. Siouxsie issued the statement, “I just think it’s the most dignified thing to do for the idea of the band and the spirit in which it started… We’ve had a fantastic journey.” Twenty minutes onstage had turned into a 20-year career.Both continue to follow their chosen paths (although they reformed in 2002 for the Seven Year Itch tour and live album/DVD). Severin composes film soundtracks and internet music, while Siouxsie is releasing her first solo album – in the middle of relentless 1977 nostalgia! But there are few left from that time making music so personal and forward-thinking, while not trying to recreate past glories. But that was always the way with Siouxsie & The Banshees, and the whole point.
|THE DAILY STAR|
KNOW IT ALL SIOUXSIE IS A BIT OF A SMARTIE
SIOUXSIE Sioux is back, and the high priestess of punk has preached a powerful sermon to Amy Winehouse, Pete Doherty and Victoria Beckham.
We went to gay
Paris to see the grand dame of rock, 50, perform inspirational tracks from
her first solo album Mantaray at the Eiffel Tower for the Coke Music
|WORKING CLASS MAG|
It’s hard to
recall a time when the scent of Armageddon has hung so heavy in the
international air as it has during this, the nose-end of the 21st Century.
During the century previous, a few sentient seers--Orwell, Gramsci,
Ballard--had, in fact, offered fair warning. But none did so with anything
quite like the luridly affective glamour of the puissant post-punk
prophetess Siouxsie Sioux.
- Pt. 1
Iconic British singer Siouxsie Sioux is launching her first solo tour of the U.S. in support of her debut solo album, Mantaray.
Siouxsie kicks off the run with a pair of shows February 8-9 at The Fillmore at Irving Plaza in New York City. Other stops on the schedule include The Fillmore in San Francisco (February 13), the Music Box at Henry Fonda Theatre in Los Angeles (February 15-16) and House of Blues in Anaheim, Calif. (February 18).
The singer will follow the trek with a U.K. tour that begins February 29 at Manchester Academy, with stops at Carling Academy Liverpool (March 1), Wulfrin Hall in Wolverhampton (March 4), the Anson Room in Bristol (March 6), Carling Academy Oxford (March 7) and London's Shepherds Bush Empire (March 10).
Tickets for U.S. shows are available at Ticketmaster.com, with U.K. shows available at Ticketmaster.co.uk.
Siouxsie said Mantaray, which has been well received by fans during her European tour, was a long time coming because she'd always had something else to focus on.
"I suppose the one constant thing throughout has been me being involved in The Banshees or The Creatures," she told Pollstar. "And, as you know, musicians come and go. I guess this just felt the right time to just look for a whole new bunch of musicians."
She sought out Steve Evans and Charlie Jones after hearing their work on Robert Plant's 2006 release, Mighty ReArranger.
"It was really the first - I'm not a huge fan per se of Led Zeppelin or Robert Plant - but I thought it was a really strong album."
The pair not only played on the disc, but produced it, and will also be on the road with her for most of the tour. Once the ball was rolling, the album came together very quickly, even though it was cut a little differently than some of Siouxsie's previous projects.
"I did actually work a lot from home. I didn't do any recording at home, which was a different tack. It felt good traveling to work, rather than it kind of overlapping in the domestic situation.
"And really I'd say half if the material, certainly lyrics, had been hanging around for a while. The other half was done very immediately. I had other writers sending bits of music. I think that probably was prompted by when I did the Basement Jaxx track, "Cish Cash," and suddenly people started pricking up their ears and saying, 'Oh, she writes with other people.' So I had a real luxury of just cherry picking the stuff that was the most immediate for me to work with."
Speaking of collaborations, Siouxsie said she'd love to write and record the theme song for a very specific kind of movie. "I'd love to do something specifically for film. I think there's a couple of songs that would be perfect Bond songs on the album. 'Here Comes That Day' would be a good one and 'If It Doesn't Kill You' would be a great title for a new Bond film. I love film and I love the visuals to go with it."
The singer recently performed a song with composer Angelo Badalamenti for a film directed by British director John Maybury about Dylan Thomas, starring Sienna Miller and Cillian Murphy.
Now that she's flying solo, Siouxsie said she's interested in any project that leaves her free, including performing with a full orchestra. "I'm up for anything that takes things out of just strictly being in a band.
"After I did the Dream Show at the Royal Festival Hall, where I did have a whole string section and brass section and percussion section, we tried to make that happen traveling to cities and picking up a string section for whatever town. But that didn't happen. It may still happen one of these days. I'd love to be able to go to places like Moscow."
The singer said she's excited about being back on stage in the U.S.
"It's been four years since I've played in the States, so I'm looking forward to getting over there again. I think touring in America is a lot easier. It's just geared up to be a lot easier. And I suppose not being on the doorstep in America, it always feels like more of an event whenever I travel over there and do shows. The audiences are always enthusiastic."
In part two of Pollstar's
interview with Siouxsie, she talks about her illustrious past and how
things have changed since she started in 1976.
Goth-Punk Icon Siouxsie Sioux Maintains Her Provocative Edge
Siouxsie Sioux has just returned from vacation — from Sri Lanka, to be exact. It's an odd place to imagine the famously pale punk poetess and avatar of all things gothic. But as she explains from her maison de maître in southern France, she felt obliged to take some uncharacteristic downtime before revving up for her American tour. "The industry can really take it out of you," she sighs over the phone, noticeably tired after a long day of interviews.
She deserved the rest. After 30 years as a legendary punk-rock provocateur, beloved frontwoman for Siouxsie and the Banshees, and an outspoken firebrand who has probably inspired more young feminists than Betty Friedan, there have been some major changes in her life of late. She quit cigarettes. She dissolved her two-decade partnership with Budgie, her husband and drummer. And, most notably, she finally released her first solo album, Mantaray.
A simultaneous continuation of, and departure from, her previous output, Mantaray is nothing if not diverse. It begins with "Into a Swan," a dense burst of distorted electronics and guitars with lyrics asserting a "new kind of strength" that makes her "laugh in the face that is vulture law." (Online bloggers have tried to claim the song as the newly single Siouxsie's closet-smashing lesbian anthem; on the subject, she says merely, "Stop me while I laugh some more.") Elsewhere she swoops through the darkly swooning "Loveless," hums in a buzzing "Drone Zone," and trills around the tribal beats of "One Mile Below." Then she takes some time to play a spy-theme diva on "If It Doesn't Kill You" and adopt the role of a brassy, Shirley Bassey–esque jazz belter in "Here Comes That Day."
"Things took different curves and swerves," Siouxsie says of the songwriting process. "The album isn't a snapshot of a distinct period of time." That's a result of not working with a normal band in a rehearsal studio, instead collaborating long-distance with record producers (and longtime musicians) Steve Evans and Charlie Jones, who contributed most of the album's synth programming, bass, and guitar work. They'd mail Siouxsie song concepts to which she would add vocals and her own melodic contributions. Back and forth they went until, at last, all that needed to be added were a few session drum tracks.
Of course, the record gleams. When an album's producers are also its programmers, you can be guaranteed of that. And no matter what possible criticisms you may level against Mantaray — it's too eclectic, it's too slick, it isn't Peepshow Redux — its postmodern mash of glam, jazz, synth-disco, and epic pop make it undeniably a product of the 21st century. Siouxsie Sioux at 50 isn't trying to sound like Siouxsie Sioux at 25.
That's partly because the notoriously strong-willed Siouxsie despises nostalgia. "I don't do the 'legacy' thing," she scoffed to the U.K.'s Guardian. "I just want to do what I do, and leave me the fuck alone." And when a Mojo interviewer kept pestering her with Banshees questions, she stormed out, her tongue lashing back over her shoulder: "You're that fucking close to getting a smack in the face."
Can she really expect to escape her iconhood, though?
In San Francisco alone, you could cover your apartment with what she dismissively calls "Siouxsie wallpaper" — the endless flow of event posters, flyers, and handbills that use images of her famous cheekbones, raccoon eyeliner, and black rat's-nest hairstyles as shorthand code for Total Uncompromising Awesomeness. The same fans, of course, also want that icon frozen in time. But the woman whose French neighbors know her simply as "Madame Ballion" — 1957 birth certificate: Susan Janet Ballion — wants to be recognized by her music, not her face.
Siouxsie's drive to reconcile her
past with her present, 1978's The Scream LP with 2008's Mantaray
and More tour, starts now. Faîtes comme vous voulez, madame.
|SAN FRANCISCO CHRONICLE|
POP QUIZ: SIOUXSIE
Siouxsie is cleaning house. After 30 years with the Banshees and the Creatures, she has dumped both bands, along with her drummer husband, Budgie, and set off on her own with a highly confessional solo album, "Mantaray." On the first single, "Into a Swan," the woman who schooled everyone from PJ Harvey to Karen O wails, "I feel a force I've never felt before." And for the first time ever, at 50, the high priestess of punk sounds like she's in a happy place. We called her up at her new home in the south of France, where she had just returned from a vacation. Siouxsie plays Tuesday at the Fillmore.
Q: You were just in Sri Lanka. What did you do?
A: I did safari. I went swimming. I did yoga.
Q: I'm sorry, but I'm having a hard time picturing you in scuba gear.
A: It was fabulous. It was nice to go somewhere exotic. I hadn't been on holiday in a long time.
Q: Aren't you constantly traveling the world?
A: Touring isn't a holiday. After 30 years, it must be in my system, but I hate the travel, especially now with all those bloody restrictions. I hate those terrorists making me pack my toiletries in my suitcase.
Q: Do you think that's the worst thing about terrorists?
A: That is the worst thing. I'm getting tendonitis from carrying my suitcase, it's so heavy. I used to be able to balance it out with the carry-on.
Q: Don't you have people to carry your bags for you?
A: I've got no slaves, unfortunately.
Q: Let's talk about your solo album. It sounds like it's all about your breakup.
A: With any significant long-term relationship there are many ups and downs. I'm not put off by downs. I actually think it's not how you cope with things going well, but how things are when they're going badly. That sorts out people who are there for the long haul.
Q: What have you learned from all this?
A: It's really struck home to me how different men are from women. I always thought there was a possibility to be equal. I'm not sure they're that well suited anymore. It's almost like a fantasy that you're going to be happy. It is a pure fantasy.
Q: Has anything good come out of your divorce?
A: Definitely. I've rediscovered my independence, which I had before I got embroiled in the relationship. It's been very empowering. This holiday was very spiritual. It's something I would never have done having a partner.
Q: After 30 years, it must feel strange to be on your own.
A: I did start off independent. Most women wonder when they're going to find someone. I had my music, so that was never an issue for me. But then the music and the relationship blurred. This new album and my new lease of freedom are my reminders that I'm very independent and very strong and always have been.
Q: Are you dating again?
A: That's none of your business. I've had enough dating to last a lifetime. I'm dating my kitties.
Q: What do you make of all your little big-haired clones?
A: I don't really see that much because I live in France. I'm totally clueless. That's been great about not being in London and bombarded with what's going on.
Q: Last night I spent nine hours watching old Siouxsie and the Banshees videos on YouTube. Do you ever do that?
A: I'm so nontechno.
I do not hang out on the Internet. I'm so not into doing that. I still
like writing longhand. I hate machines. I just want to take a hammer to
- Pt. 2
Siouxsie Sioux launched her first solo tour of the U.S. last week in New York City and is headed for the West Coast this week to give audiences there the chance to hear her impressive new disc, Mantaray, live.
The singer told Pollstar although she's off to Europe after next weekend, she plans to keep her eyes open for some festivals to play Stateside this summer.
Of course any conversation with Siouxsie has to include a discussion of her illustrious past. The singer said when she hit the stage at the 100 Club Punk Festival in 1976 with a twisted version of the Lord's Prayer she had no idea what kind of journey she was starting.
"I guess I had some musical aspirations. I think I've always thought about wanting to perform in some way. I had no idea how, because I had no training of any sort. I certainly wasn't qualified in that way, which made it such a perfect time for it to rely on just instinct and doing it yourself.
"I think performers - it's like any artist - I think you have something there to start off with. And I think anyone that is trained, usually, unless there is that - I don't know, I don't want to call it a talent - but an ability or a feeling for whatever they choose, then I think there's always something lacking with a performance that comes from someone that's just trained. I think they have to have a natural feeling for it. And that's something you can't really learn. You have to have it or not.
"I think most artists are searching for something, searching for that connection with other people. And searching for an outlet for their frustrations or their anger. You know the great thing about music is it does express almost what's intangible and hard to express just by talking. And it tends to be an outlet for the whole range of emotions, not just the easily discerned."
Siouxsie said the free-for-all atmosphere of the London music scene in her early days made the experience that much better. She has her doubts about anything like it ever happening again for one reason - the Internet.
"The best thing about then was there was no way of knowing what was going to happen next. I think we just enjoyed the journey and took it as it came.
"It seems to be so much more organized and official now. And I think possibly with the way technology has gone, I think music's been devalued quite a lot by over-accessibility via the Internet. I think it seems to have less of a - I don't know - a do or die feeling about it. I think it's possibly made people lazy.
"I personally can't understand why people would want to have a record downloaded on their computer. What I grew up with, if I want something, I just want to have it in my hand and actual."
But what about the argument that the Internet has freed artists from label constraints? Siouxsie thinks that fight helps bands in the long run and points to The Banshees as an example.
"I think maybe it's made it easier on some levels - that it's not absolutely necessary that you sign to a major label or anything. But I don't know, it's just become more ordinary, seemingly. The struggle of surviving before maybe toughened you up a bit more.
"By the time we were signed, we'd actually got our own audience on our own steam. We couldn't get signed, so we got our audience and, of course, there were other outlets like John Peel with the radio sessions that we did.
"So when we released our first single, I think it shocked everyone in the industry. We just worked and carried on and got an audience that way. It wasn't reliant on the industry backing us. It seems now it's almost like unless you get playlisted, you're dead. On the radio it just so competitive and all sewn up."
One thing Siouxsie thinks hasn't lost any importance is touring.
"That's something you can't replace, actually being in a concert. I think live performance has always been important. But that's what I mean by the music itself has been devalued somewhat."
So what advice does an artist who's survived by transforming herself from angry punk to goth goddess to musical elder statesman have for bands trying to make it? Basically two words - have fun.
"I think just go with your instincts as much as possible. And you have to enjoy it. It's not all fun, but you have to actually enjoy what you're doing, otherwise it's pointless.
"I love being
on stage and doing the show, but it's almost like - you know, the
traveling isn't fun and being away from home all the time isn't so much
fun - so it's almost like I have a fear of it up until the moment that I'm
on stage. But once I'm up there, that is what's the most important thing.
And if you didn't have that, it would be pretty meaningless."
|NY DAILY NEWS|
Siouxsie Sioux has a simple explanation
for why her voice sounds stronger than ever, 30 years into her career.
"I started smoking again," she says. "I had stopped four or five years ago, and it made me sick. My body rejected all the good intentions. When I started up again, it improved."
Spoken like a true punk - or life-long contrarian. After all, we are talking about the woman who made her debut screeching "The Lord's Prayer" onstage at Brit-punk's ground zero, the 100 Club, in a band that featured Sid Vicious flailing away at the drums. Siouxsie went on to forge one of the most freakishly original bands of that spiky season: the Banshees, a group often credited with birthing the modern goth movement.
Now, three decades later, Siouxsie has made another striking about-face. At 50, she has just released her first solo CD, "Mantaray," whose material she'll highlight at concerts tonight and tomorrow at Irving Plaza.
"Mantaray" represents her first work with musicians outside the Banshees, or her subsequent group the Creatures. Though it boasts the kind of severe arrangements and drama-queen vocals fans love, its lyrics couldn't be less goth. "Don't be bitter/don't be gloomy," Siouxsie sings in her triumph-over-adversity tale "If It Doesn't Kill You."
"There's a price to pay for insincerity," she sings earnestly in "Here Comes That Day."
"I guess the lyrics are more direct," Siouxsie says. "My frame of mind was very positive because I was looking forward to doing something new [in the music]."
Yet the lingering goth image can irk her. "People tend to have a cartoon image of who a performer is," she says. "It's very black and white. It's an easy way of filing me away."
But fans have loved it, showing up to her performances with distressed hair and spidery garb. Many tried to look as much like her as possible.
"At first it was quite confusing," she says. "My image had come from feeling like I didn't fit in. So I did my own thing. The whole point was not to fit in. It was pretty scary to [then] see an army of Siouxsies."
But the press ate it up, and - aided by her aloofness - dubbed her "The Ice Queen of Rock."
"It's better than being 'the ninny of rock,'" she quips. "When I was young,I did love the image of the wicked queen in Snow White. I thought she was really beautiful. I didn't want to be Snow White. I was always drawn to stronger features rather than cherubic-looking, cutesy types."
The result made her a fashion icon - ironic for someone who loathes the insecurities played upon by the fashion industry. Worse, such things drew attention away from the music. Yet, at this late date, that has quieted down some. In the last few years, Siouxsie's aural legacy gained new focus through remastered versions of her classic CDs, like "The Scream" and "Kaleidoscope."
The singer says she hadn't listened to those early works since they came out. When she did, she was "pleasantly surprised."
The experience also helped her turn
the page on the early days and point her squarely toward her new solo
sound. "Hopefully," she says. "This is another chapter - or
even a whole new book."
Deep Sea Diva: Going solo, Siouxsie
artfully diversifies with Mantaray
"When I arrived at the airport, everyone was cheering. But it turned out it was for the New York Giants."
Siouxsie's slightly jet-lagged voice is full of sly humor, but it's no joke—people should be cheering for her anywhere she goes. An iconic figure whose early music and imagery fronting the Banshees inadvertently codified a genre, she has kicked against such stereotyping ever since. Her passionate and playful performances are, at their best, still a constant, glamorous blast of wryness, desire and rage, and her distinctive purr of a voice is still strong.
Siouxsie's latest step might actually be her most unexpected in years: Having reunited with the Banshees for a tour, then following that up with the career overview Dreamshow performances, she's back on the road with her first solo album, Mantaray. Having parted ways professionally and personally with Budgie, the drumming stalwart behind the Banshees and the Creatures, she's now almost beginning from scratch. But a chance listen to a recent Robert Plant album led to hergetting in touch with one of his collaborators, multi-instrumentalist/producer Steve Evans.
"I first met Steve on his own in his studio in Bath [England], just to meet him and to see if we could work together. I met him again with [co-producer] Charlie [Jones] to talk more specifically about material. They both worked on 'Into a Swan' [the album's brawling lead single] and 'Loveless.' I asked them, 'Let's see what you do with these two songs; I want to hear what you do, rather than talk it up.'"
The result is a 10-song effort created from a variety of individual sessions, drawing on both newer songs and older ones reworked by the Evans/Jones team and other musicians. While understandably reminiscent at points of her vast, three-decade repertoire, the disc possesses plenty of highlights in a very stylish way, from the funhouse/burlesque vamp of "Here Comes That Day" ("We went all-out to get that feeling," Siouxsie notes) to the "science-fiction murder mystery" of "Sea of Tranquility," a reflective song she considers the album's emotional heart.
"It's inspired by the site of that name on the moon and was really a creative piece of writing that I had around; it didn't have a vocal melody, but it came later," Siouxsie says. "It was inspired by both deep underwater and deep space, the future with of an organic feeling."
Evans is heading up the four-piece band backing Siouxsie on tour; having already completed a series of shows in Europe, she feels they've settled in together very well, something she finds reflective of a growing sense of strength in her own abilities.
"The evolving and the experiences and the confidence you grow to have with other musicians is important," she says. "When [the Banshees] first started, I felt I could only communicate with those three people with me. As time goes by, the musical vocabulary that you accumulate makes you much more able to interact with other musicians more easily."
The variety evident on Mantaray, itself reflective of the many musical approaches in which she has worked over the years—from near-atonal noise to slick dance pop, demented jazz to frenetic psychedelia—further helps to dispel the perception she describes as one of her life's biggest frustrations, that for "a lot of my music, the cliché is that it's gloomy and dark. I think that's very much a cartoon impression that people read about, and it gets perpetuated."
Mantaray may just be a starting point for a new phase of Siouxsie's work, but it's one that rewards attention, and she hardly seems inclined to rest on her laurels. Asked what constitutes artistic satisfaction, she concludes, "I'm always looking for it—I think it's actually starting something, whether a project or a song, and you're not sure how it's going to work out, and there's a bit of unsureness if it's going to work out, but then you go through the work process, and when you've actually done it, you see that it's all been worth it."
Ned Raggett 14/02/08
Dawn Collinson meets with the legend that is Siouxsie Sioux
PUNK doesn’t always deal well with its survivors; not the legendary ones at least.
Those who didn’t succumb to drug immortality in its 70s heyday can increasingly be found offering wise words of anarchy from the comfort of reality TV.
But not Siouxsie Sioux.
The razor-cheeked goddess of punk is very different from them, and so very much the same as she ever was.
“I’m really doing what I always do and p***ing everyone off!” she laughs. “I suppose the music industry, especially for women, doesn’t encourage people to hang around too long but I don’t care about that.”
Conformity is not a word which has ever, or could ever, apply to Siouxsie.
Although she was born Susan Ballion, from the moment she made her stage debut in 1976 she was always her alter ego – raging against the machine, caught up in a surge of youth revolution.
“I didn’t project too much forward when I was younger about what I’d be doing now,” she says. “I was too much in the moment, but then I think you are at that age.
“When I started it was just a lot about ideas, and there not being enough hours in the day for them all.
“In its own way it was naive too, and not careerist. We didn’t think about the future so much, I didn’t set out to be famous, it was just great to be able to do something that I was madly keen and excited about.”
It’s hard to imagine anyone feeling that intensity of passion more than 30 years later. But, at 50, it seems that Siouxsie does.
Although she’s keen to stress that the Siouxsie which fans get these days is not simply a musical museum piece, preserved for nostalgia’s sake.
What happened in the 70s was of its time, and it’s not up for re-creation.
“What people don’t understand is when punk started it was so innocent and not aware of being looked at or being a phenomenon,” she says. “You can’t consciously create something that’s important, it’s a combination of chemistry, conditions, the environment, everything and it’s not something you can orchestrate. It’s a freak of nature.
“But something becomes fashionable and, like all fashion, it’s destined for the heap. Once punk hit the tabloids, it became a cartoon.”
Siouxsie, though, was determined not to be caught up in the commercialisation.
A high profile career which began in 1978, with the top 10 single Hong Kong Garden, has endured – but strictly on her terms.
Eleven Banshees albums and numerous collaborations later – including The Creatures, with her husband at the time Budgie – she is still a uniquely creative force to be reckoned with.
Currently on tour to support her solo album Mantaray, she will be in Liverpool on March 1.
Although any fans from the old days, of which there are still many, hoping to hear the old songs will be disappointed.
Siouxsie maintains they are in a minority.
“People know that when they come to a gig they’re not going to get a greatest hits package.
“My audience now is very mixed, male and female, and there’s a lot of young kids just getting into me as well as some that have been there from the late 70s.”
Since 1992, home for Siouxsie has been a farmhouse near Toulouse. She made the conscious decision to distance herself from London when she did, she says, “because it felt like everybody knew your business.
“There wasn’t any chance to escape the constant goldfish bowl, so I decided to go somewhere and just be a girl.”
Siouxsie Sioux is at the Liverpool Academy on Saturday March 1
Dawn Collinson 15/02/08
|THE PINK PAPER|
“I was waiting for people to stop nagging me”
Punk star Siouxsie Sioux is back after 12 years. She tells Steve Bustin what took her so long.
A tour by Siouxsie Sioux is an
event. She hasn’t mounted a proper UK tour since 1995, but with the
arrival of Mantaray, her first solo album, late last year and with a few
“trial” gigs under her belt, the first lady of punk is most definitely
back. So what kept her so long?
Steve Bustin 15/02/08
BOWIE TOP 50
No. 14 JOHN, I'M ONLY DANCING
Released as a single, September 1972, re-released January 1980; "John, I'm Only Dancing (Again)" (1975) released as a single, December 1979. Highest UK chart position: 12. Bowie's first successful follow-up single, six months after "Starman", consolidated his career and cemented the "Hi, I'm bi" pose.
It always takes me back to when I was 14. I just remember the feeling of that time. I think "School's Out" by Alice Cooper was out, too. I was just getting ready to turn, I think. When Bowie's music happened, it was a lifeline. I'd always grown up with music, but to be into something that was happening currently, something of my own that my sister or brother hadn't played first... it felt personal. I liked the subversiveness of Bowie. That was his appeal, and the fact that there was all that confusion about "Is it a boy? Is it a girl?" And I was pretty confused about myself, and that really tapped into something. I'd never be tempted to cover "John, I'm Only Dancing". It's perfect as it is. It's so of a time. I wouldn't wont to mess with that."
BLOOD SPLASHED ON A DAISY IN THE SUNSHINE
An Interview With Siouxsie SiouxWhen Siouxsie Sioux climbed onstage at the 100 Club in September 1976 with a band made up of nonmusician buddies—Marco Pirroni, Steven Severin, and Sid Vicious—she probably wasn’t thinking about world tours with roadies, lighting rigs, and costume changes 30 years down the line. From all accounts she mostly shrieked the Lord’s Prayer over a walloping din created by the guys while dodging loogies. Ah, but fate has its own plans. Sixteen Siouxsie and the Banshees albums, ten Creatures albums, and an insane number of singles (big hits! “Hong Kong Garden,” “Dear Prudence,” “Cities and Dust,” “Peek-a-Boo,” “Israel,” etc.) later, she’s on the road to everywhere with a solo album, Mantaray, and still making ’em hurt with her glittery dark-glam voodoo thing. After a recent US tour, Vice gave her a call in France.
Vice: You’re in what part of France?
Siouxsie: Southwest, near Toulouse and Bourdeaux. We’ve got the Pyranees nearby.
And Spain. So you’re back home there after your solo tour?
Yeah. We were in the States for February. After that we came to the UK and did some regional dates, which I hadn’t done for well over ten years, and then ended up at London, Shepherd’s Bush Empire, which was just a great show.
How do you like the US these
Have you ever gotten up there and
nothing came out?
Who do you like in film these
Steve Lafreniere 06/08
If You Knew Siouxsie
It took Siouxsie 30 years to get around to her solo debut. The goth beauty tells Paul Byrne that she didn't want to rush it.
Of all the freaks, geeks and dreamers to find themselves at the centre of a cultural phenomenon as punk broke through in 1977, Siouxsie Sioux always seemed slightly removed from the spit and grime of the times.
It was there, right from her very first public appearance, looking coy and domineering on the Today show, back on December 1, 1976, that middle-aged TV presenter Bill Grundy pushed the Sex Pistols to shock him after his awkward flirtation with the teenage Siouxsie. The interview, and following outbursts, made TV history and put the Sex Pistols on the road to stardom.
The following 12 months would be eventful for these Bromley Contingent friends who were so intent on upsetting Middle England, Siouxsie & The Banshees seeing their drummer, Simon John Ritchie, become the Sex Pistols' new bass player, Sid Vicious, just as the latter became every teenager's -- and tabloid editor's -- favourite band. As for Siouxsie and her boys, success was theirs not long after too, with the Banshee's debut single, Hong Kong Garden hitting the top 10 in August 1978.
Eighteen years -- and quite a few more top 10 hits, including Spellbound and Happy House -- later, the band called it a day, Siouxsie going on to form The Creatures with the band's drummer -- and her hubby -- Budgie.
The couple's recent divorce sparked Siouxsie's solo debut, last October's MantaRay, which garnered glowing reviews, but so-so sales. As the woman formerly known as Susan Janet Ballion comes to Ireland for the first time in a decade, she's plainly happy to be starting a new chapter in her life. . .
Paul Byrne: At this stage, I'm guessing you don't exactly stress yourself over interviews.
Siouxsie Sioux: Well, I'm never anxious about interviews, otherwise, I wouldn't do any ...
Oh, good, because I was going to ask you about drugs, and any homosexual experiences. I thought we could go deep. . .
Well, I haven't had any homosexual experiences. Not that I remember. . .
This is your first time touring Ireland in nine years -- too busy? Indifferent? Lazy?
Oh, never lazy. That's cropped up with Spain, with Italy, Greece -- there's been quite a few places that we haven't played in a while. It's been the promoters; blame the promoters.
Your solo debut, MantaRay, was welcomed by the critics -- is that important to you?
Yeah, that's nice, but if they had all slammed it, that wouldn't have daunted me. I would have rolled my eyes and said, 'What's new?' I wish the music would get more airplay on the radio. Get listed on the radio. Radio is so conservative.
It took 30 years for you to release a solo album. Was being single again after such a long time part of the inspiration?
Lots of things conspired to make it the right time. In the early days, there were shouts for me to do a solo album and I just felt that it was something I didn't need to do. With The Banshees, we were always changing our lead guitarist, so it meant I was working with new people all the time anyway. And I really wanted to establish that I was the leader of a band.
You've said there's some anger on the album -- is there still fire in your belly these days?
When you first start, you're dealing with what's on the surface, and as you grow, you find new strengths, new depths, so to just live a life where you're relying on the past, that's not very healthy.
Punk was all about burning out rather than fading away, which makes the current crop of reunions -- The Sex Pistols, The Stooges, etc -- seem like something close to betrayal. Is it never say never for the Banshees?
Well, I don't have to consider getting the band back together. Nobody has to; no one's got a gun at their heads.
How does it feel, to have an official biography out there, and to be accepting Icon awards?
It's all rubbish. I mean, I've only had one award, and that was a great excuse for a piss-up. That's the positive thing that comes out of that; some free drinks, and maybe some interesting artists.
You seem pretty removed from the rock'n'roll life, living in your 18th-century stone house just outside Toulouse with your cats ...
I've been down here for 16 years, and it's a stark contrast to going to London or New York, but I think there's a homing device that has a strong pull at certain times. So, London's looking attractive to me once again. . .
Looking back on those early years in London, home life was pretty chaotic around then. Have you made your peace with that?
I think everyone has something from their childhood that leaves some kind of scar and everyone has to try to come to terms with, and face it. You see, you've always got to look for the positive. And although you wouldn't wish it on yourself, you can look back and say, well, I didn't enjoy it at the time, but I learnt from it.
Paul Byrne 16/06/08
has been one of music’s most inspiring performers of the last thirty
years, coming to international attention as one of The Bromley
Contingent (the name given to the original hardcore Sex Pistol
fans) she went on to form Siouxsie and the Banshees and The
Creatures, which are recognized as two of music’s most influential
acts, with fans including PJ Harvey, Shirley Manson and U2
among countless others.
After the break up of the Banshees and The Creatures, Siouxsie returned last year with her first solo record MantaRay, an album that received tremendous reviews and showed Siouxsie as still a force to be reckoned with. She has proven repeatedly that she can continue to grow and evolve as a song writer which, more than anything, shows the true spirit of the ideals associated with the original punk movement. After successful tours in support of the record Siouxsie is now preparing to start a European tour which kicks off in Dublin on the 1st July in Tripod.
Drop-D caught up Siouxsie in the middle of tour preparations to talk about the success of MantaRay, her views on the current trends in music and why quitting smoking isn’t a good idea.
• Drop-d: Hi Siouxsie, How are things?
Siouxsie: Things are good in this funny on and off weather (laughs).
• Drop-d: Last year saw the release of your first ever solo album after playing with the Banshees and the Creatures for nearly 30 years. How have you found playing on your own?
Siouxsie: It’s been great playing with no baggage I suppose. We started off by playing this great show which was just us playing MantaRay up the Eiffel tower last year, it was a real one off and the shows and the band have just gotten stronger and stronger since and it’s so refreshing to be around people that are so enthusiastic about it all, as a lot of it’s very new for them. Many of them haven’t gotten the chance to visit the states before or even been out of the country I don’t think (laughs). Its great having that enthusiasm because it rubs off and makes it all very enjoyable. It almost feels like starting again and after all the time it’s great to have that feeling again.
• Drop-d: The album gained extremely positive reviews and has gone down tremendously well with your fans. Do you feel this has set a new precedent in your career?
Siouxsie: I always thought my fans were very open and its very reassuring that their going with it and not wailing away that there should be more oldies in there (laughs). The shows we’ve been doing we’re pretty much just playing the album live and some selected older songs that I hadn’t played in quite a while and the band members were keen to play some of them but it’s also a new experience to play the older songs with new people.
• Drop-d: You started your solo exploits in the 1990’s collaborating with Morrissey for a cover of Interlude. Why did you wait so long to release a full solo album?
Siouxsie: Well I suppose very early on in the late 70’s/early 80’s there were lots of calls for me to do a solo album and I always rejected that, thinking it was too obvious and also I wanted to establish that I was the leader of the band and to really get that fully understood. Once the shouting for it had gone away and life had taken its course I felt ready to do it under my own name.
o Drop-d: You have delved into some very personal experiences such as your divorce and your own rebirth on this album. Did you find the material hard to write?
Siouxsie: No not at all, I think a lot of the people are interpreting songs as being about my divorce but most were written before the separation and it happened that once I announced that I was divorced people just linked them up. As for rebirth, Into the Sawn, About to Happen and Loveless were all recorded fairly recently but some of them were taken from writings I’ve had for years and taking them now and fitting them around music after all this time was very new.
• Drop-d: I heard you became quite ill while working on the album, how have you been since?
Siouxsie: Yeah, that happened in 2005 while I was working on the last Creatures album just after I gave up smoking of all things (laughs). I mean honestly, I became unbelievably ill and I saw so many specialists and they were all drawing blanks and question marks. I ended up with Asthma, bronchitis and really bad reactions. Meanwhile I was being pumped full of these horrible steroids that invade your body and misshape it. So at the end of 2004 I just though ‘I still haven’t had a cigarette, I’m smoking one and I improved from that day on. I know that won’t be a popular thing to say in this day and age (laughs). I might try and quit again but I’m nervous that I’m going to get incredibly ill again.
• Drop-d: During your career, your music has picked up several different ‘Genre labels’ such as Punk Rock, Pop, Industrial, Goth and even Trip-hop. Do you feel this shows the diversity in music post punk rock?
Siouxsie: I’ve heard psychedelic as well (laughs). I think number one, the label ‘punk’ was something to run away from. Once it became tabloid material and you got people wanting to be a punk band. It then became all about what to wear, how supposedly to behave. That was the death of anything that was truly punk. It started as not doing like others or not conforming to anything whether it be a label or societies norms. It’s totally insufficient to lump a bunch of people under one title. I think there has to be something wrong with someone if they want to be associated with a label whether it be punk or rock or heavy metal or anything.
• Drop-d: In every interview I’ve read with you, you’re always asked about your style and your status as a Punk Icon. Do you ever get tired of the attention it brings? Do you ever feel it distracts people’s attention from the music?
Siouxsie: Well I could do a whole bunch of punk press every day of the year and I choose not to. I just think it shows the lack of anything going on in the present that they can get excited by. It’s a little sad.
• Drop-d: I think most people would agree there isn’t any movement out there as powerful as the 70’s punk scene.
Siouxsie: Well it’s not about the movement, it should be about individuals but I think its tough now with the way the industry is and the way music is being devalued quite a lot with the Internet. I just remember when records and buying records was so important and that been lost quite a bit with downloading.
• Drop-d: Now people can just download anything they want for free
Siouxsie: Yeah and why do they think that’s ok? I just think it takes away the event of it all. Waiting for the release day as apposed to getting it months in advance. I can’t understand why anyone would like to listen to something they like on a fucking computer anyway or spoil it with demo versions. So that just leaves things cold and it must be tough for a band starting off when people have that “not willing to pay” attitude.
• Drop-d: After the success of The Banshees’ ‘7 year Itch’ tour, do you think The Creatures will get back together for one more tour?
Siouxsie: (laughs) no, That avenue is really just two people and those two people have had some issues (laughs)
• Drop-d: Are you heading to any of the Sex Pistols shows this year for old times sake?
Siouxsie: Well I never have and I wish them well but I’m not really interested in seeing them live anymore. I have my own things to worry about now fortunately (laughs)
Robert O'Connor 10/06/08
In the intervening years since Siouxsie
Sioux last made a live appearance in Ireland, her life has undergone a
number of changes. The Banshees are no more, nor are the Creatures and,
obviously connected, her marriage to Budgie. It is, then, in her new solo
guise that she visits Dublin and Belfast next week.
Is the solo experience
proving very different, more lonely, to being part of a band?
Even though the punk bands
brought female musicians to the fore, the industry itself seemed to be
You seemed to have an exit
strategy from punk worked out from the start, a way to escape when two
chords and some attitude stopped being enough.
Hence the gap before
starting a solo career? In the meantime a lot of people have been name
checking and queuing up to work with you.
As a recognisable cultural
figure, has that world ever come calling?
Phil Udell 25/06/08
Siouxsie Sioux is still a vital force
Siouxsie Sioux, ultimate Banshee and queen of punk, reckons that age has mellowed her. But our correspondent isn’t so sure.
Few other female performers have spawned as many adoring imitators, all those black-haired, black-eyed Siouxsies, frozen reminders of a past she is eager to shake off. There’s certainly something of Siouxsie the ice queen as she makes her entrance today, a little late and a little brittle, shielded behind huge sunglasses.
These days she’s flying solo, both professionally and personally (her marriage to Budgie, the drummer with the Banshees, ended in 2007). Her first album, Mantaray (2007), was well received, and last year’s Mantaray and More tour proved that Siouxsie at 50 is every bit as exciting a performer as Siouxsie at 30. The final show at Koko in Camden was filmed for a DVD release, which is why she’s here today.
The DVD opens with a sepia-tinted intro, in which she’s shown leaving her hotel and heading for the venue in a tongue-in-cheek homage to the screen sirens of the silent age. It’s funny and self-deprecating, not qualities always associated with her. “I have many expressions,” she purrs. “And life’s too short. I couldn’t keep up being fierce and severe all the time. I don’t think anyone could. It’s funny. People assume things about you based on your stage persona, and don’t see you as a real person.”
After living in a French farmhouse for years, home is now London. “I felt drawn back. Where I lived in France it was very remote. In the winter everything shuts down and no one can hear you scream.”
The move back to London certainly seems to have suited her. “That’s why I wanted to do the DVD. I really enjoyed the shows, and I wanted to let people know what a happy bunny I am.” She laughs, a slightly demented cackle. “And I love Koko. It was neglected for a while, but it’s been done up now and it’s got a great tradition to it. I like things that have a history and are still here and still vital.”
Like the venue, she’s still a vital force. But she has a history, and for years she seemed unwilling to embrace her past and perform old material. Yet on the Mantaray tour she sang everything from Hong Kong Garden to Spellbound. “Yes, because it wasn’t distant enough before. And the Banshees did an album a year, so it was always about promoting the new material.”
Singing the old songs triggered old memories. “It’s odd. These are young Siouxsie’s lyrics, definitely. But it’s fun to dip into the past. I do that with old diaries, to see where I’m at now compared to where I was then.”
She was born Susan Janet Ballion, the youngest of three children, and attended an all-girls school in Kent. It was a very suburban, working class upbringing. Her mother was a secretary; her father a lab technician who milked serum from posionous snakes. A loner and devoted Bowie fan, she hung around gay discos before falling into the punk scene and becoming part of the so-called Bromley Contingent, which also included Billy Idol and Steve Severin.
It’s more than 30 years since the Banshees formed and a blonde Siouxsie appeared — alongside other members of the Contingent — on the TV programme Today, larking about with the Sex Pistols. It was the presenter Bill Grundy’s attempt to flirt with her that prompted the Pistols guitarist Steve Jones to call him, among other things, “a f****ing rotter”. The incident made front-page headlines, most notably “The Filth and the Fury” in the Daily Mirror. Does she look back at that time fondly? “Yes, it was a very lucky time to be around. There was the shock-horror element, and it was fun to have that effect on people. But there was a serious side to it too. If you got off your arse and did something it was there for the taking. And not just music, but fashion, art, film-making. The punk ethos was to have an open mind. It was very creative and industrious.
“Now it’s all labels and consumerism. I think it’s harder for women now than it was 30 years ago. When you look at the pressures on women to never age and always look physically perfect, and in a very traditional, Barbie, male-oriented way, you’d think that punk never happened. Punk was very empowering for women. And now it’s all gone back to finding a rich footballer .”
Are there any younger female artists she regards as strong role models? “Well, there’s Lily Allen or Amy Winehouse. It’s just sad that Amy’s career has gone the way it has with the — yawn! — drugs. That the focus should be on that is just tragic. But that’s the tabloids for you. I don’t take much notice of it all to be honest. I’m too busy sorting my own life out. It’s just me and my babies now.” Ah yes, her cats. How are they? “Well I’ve only got two now,” she says. “They’ve got their own pet passports with their little photos. One of them got ill and now he won’t eat cat food. I’m a vegetarian and now I have to go to Waitrose and get corn-fed free-range chicken for the little f***er. That’s all he’ll eat. I’m just waiting for the day when he decides he’s off the chicken and it’s got to be duck! My next goal is to get them to use the Litter Kwitter. It’s this thing you put over the toilet, to train your cat to use the loo.”
By now a crowd has gathered outside the window, noticing that the woman inside looks an awful lot like Siouxsie Sioux. We are in the Freedom Bar on Wardour Street, a venue once associated with Marc Almond, with whom Siouxsie recorded a duet, Threat of Love, a decade ago. She also recorded Interlude with Morrissey and, more recently, she sang Cish Cash with Basement Jaxx, a track included on the DVD. Among the extras is an interview. One scene shows Siouxsie sitting in front of a mirror, half of her face made up and the other half blank, almost as if she has a split personality. Is that how she regards fame?
“Yes. When I’m performing there’s a transformation and I become this character. This will sound quite insane, but actually I’m quite shy and quiet. I’m a very private person. I like the odd party, as long as it’s not in a goldfish bowl.”
So she doesn’t do the celebrity party circuit? She pulls a face. “God, no! Some friends threw a party for me and Debbie Harry, so I went along. And there were all these professional partygoers. Who’s that dreadful creature, Paris Hilton? I told her to shut her f***ing mobile off. There were all these girls and they’d run up to you whenever they saw a photographer. And they’re all midgets! So I started bending my legs and walking around trying to look short. There’s me towering over everybody trying to hide my hundred chins!”
So, with Mantaray under her belt, and having survived a stampede of lesser celebrities, what does the future hold? “Who knows? The album was fun and I felt comfortable playing live. In the past there were always internal struggles going on. When you’re the singer you tend to get all the attention, and that can breed resentment.” So she won’t be re-forming the Banshees? “No,” she says emphatically. “Never.”
Was she aware that Adam Ant was back on the road? She looks slightly alarmed. “Really? Poor Adam. I knew him in the early days. He was what we called ‘a weekend punk’. As soon as the make-up came off he was just your average Joe. And then years later you discover that he had all these mental health issues.” She pauses. “I guess that’s what fame does to you.”
So how come she’s not gone the same way? She grins. “Sense of humour, dear.”
Paul Burston 15/05/09
Siouxsie Sioux dashes Banshees reunion hope
Siouxsie Sioux, 51, came to fame in 1976 in the infamous Sex Pistols interview with Bill Grundy before becoming a star with Siouxsie & The Banshees. The band split in 1996 and she has just finished touring her solo album, Mantaray. A DVD of the last gig, Finale, is out today
it seem weird to play Banshees songs without them being there?
|CAMDEN NEW JOURNAL|
Still Sioux good to be on road
box Siouxsie or she’ll box you back!”
This was the stern warning the iconic hellraiser gave when I dared ask
where she fell in the punk/goth debate.
Rolsin Gadelrab 07/05/09
|THE TIMES ONLINE|
I Am What I Am
Siouxsie Sioux, 51, is a British singer-songwriter. Her new box set, Siouxsie and the Banshees at the BBC, is out on June 1. She is divorced and lives alone in the south of France and London
My upbringing was pretty unorthodox. My father was an alcoholic and my mother went out to work — she was the strong one. I grew up with a less clichéd view of life. Punk was a natural extension of that.
Punk can’t happen again — it’s like chemistry, created by the artistic and social elements in the air. It was able to shock because of the societal norms of the day. But life has changed a lot since then.
Divorce after a relationship of 25 years [with fellow band member Budgie] was a huge upheaval. At first, I was frightened of being free: it was like a bereavement without the funeral. Once the turmoil subsides, though, there’s a new optimism.
I’m not into technology — much of it is a way of not communicating. E-mails are like hit-and-runs. For clarity, an actual conversation is invaluable.
I love being in the middle of a storm — it’s humbling to be among unconstrained nature. I hate the arrogance of modern life that sees itself as all-important. For all man’s puny struggles, the weather can change and wipe them all out.
I do think women are better than men. They have had to put up with discrimination for so long, they are more tolerant. They are more emotionally developed and less afraid of expression. It’s a cause for concern that the male ego has to be impenetrable. Those feelings have to come out, and the way they do is usually destructive and violent.
I recently went on holiday alone for the first time. Travelling was a nightmare. But a bit of fear is healthy. All my key moments have been born out of a sense of adventure and not knowing who to turn to.