|SEQUINS IN THE SUN - MAGAZINE COVERS|
|SEQUINS IN THE SUN - INTERVIEWS/ARTICLES|
|THE GUARDIAN WEEKEND MAGAZINE 30/01/01|
Siouxsie & The Banshees found fame in
the heyday of punk and played together for 20 years. Now 44,
Siouxsie Sioux performs with her drummer husband, Budgie, as The
Creatures, and the couple live near Toulouse, France.
Siouxsie says: I stopped wanting to be associated with punk back in 1978. By then, zips, safety pins and mohicans had already become another uniform. Punk was a joke then, and I don't have much time for people who are still jumping on the bandwagon now. But it was fun at the beginning. In 1976, we were the most hated people on the planet - and we thought that was great. For me, the highpoint was when the Banshees' first single, Hong Kong Garden, named in honour of my local Chinese takeaway in Chislehurst, was released. Wed only started a band as a dare and I felt such a fraud, as though I had no business having a record in the charts.
The Banshees faced many hurdles - but we seemed to gain from bad experiences. If our first drummer hadn't done a runner, for example, I might never have met my wonderful husband who replaced him.
I haven't been called 'punk songstress Siouxsie' for a long time, but I am proud that we went on to discover real talent and evolve musically. After punk faded, the Banshees retained a strong following and could still sell out venues. By the mid-Nineties, though, it had stopped being fun. Our new material was nothing like the music in the charts and we had no intention of jumping on the revivalist bandwagon and trotting out old favourites. It was my decision alone to finish the band. It was painful - The Banshees, who were only supposed to last 20 seconds, had survived 20 years and achieved so much.
Budgie and I have been performing separately as a duo called The Creatures since 1981. We married in 1991 at a church in Notting Hill - and had to rush back from our honeymoon after two days to perform on Top Of The Pops.
Eight years ago we moved to the countryside near Toulouse and I love it. Our house is old, stone-built with wooden floors, a beautiful conservatory and a large garden. There's nothing I like better than pottering around there, playing with my cats, or reading. In the summer, two or three hours every day are taken up with gardening. When we're not working, we'll go out for a drive or visit a museum. I did go through a broody stage a few years ago, but I didn't get pregnant and I'm over it now. In the end its a relief not to have any kids because were away so much.
I don't feel I've changed inside - but I've certainly had a lot more experiences than the girl who sang Hong Kong Garden all those years ago. With the benefit of hindsight, I can see how naÔve we were back in those early days. We were swept up in the excitement, but were surrounded by bloodsuckers - it's amazing we survived at all.
BIZARRE LIFE - SIOUXSIE SIOUX
SHE HIT FAME AMID THE FILTH AND THE FURY OF THE BILL GRUNDY SHOW. THEN SHE FORMED THE BANSHEES, AND SUSAN FROM THE SUBURBS BECAME SEXY, SHOCKING SIOUXSIE SIOUX, ĎLORDíS PRAYERí MAULER AND POST-PUNK ICON
Back in 1976, a small crowd or early punks and bewildered locals watched Siouxsie and a group of her mates make their 20-minute live debut. That was the beginning of the Banshees, a band that lasted 20 years and withstood numerous line-up changes.
With Siouxsie using her voice to channel her aggression, frustration and disenchantment, the Banshees earned critical adulation for their gender-fucking mix of the deliriously dark and the downright mental. Now, having metamorphosed from a Banshee to one of the Creatures (with her partner and former Banshees drummer Budgie), Siouxsie Sioux is more than just a survivor: over the past quarter of a century, sheís become a living legend.
Did you start fighting against complacency from an early age?
I think when I was really young - before adolescence - I was painfully aware of being very different. My Dad wasnít a respectable drunk, and my sister was quite a rebel. She got into clothes and being outrageous when she was in her adolescence. When I was that young I was so embarrassed, and desperately wanted to be normal and like everybody else. Although I didnít realise it at the time, I looked to my mum for guidance and inspiration. The situation for me was like being in a one-parent family. She kept the family together at a time when having our family situation was considered scandalous. But I think there came a point where I just thought, "Fuck it. Iím never going to change, and the situationís never going to change." After that, I kind of took pride in what we were, and revelled in not being like everyone else. That was my first sense of being an extrovert, I suppose.
So how did you become involved at the dawn of punk?
I suppose it was the situation, and obviously my interest in music. I got to the age where I started to realise my own independence and wanted to celebrate it more. At that point I think you always latch onto music. For some people itís a critical point. It was a turning point for me: Bowie, T Rex and Roxy Music... I was a big fan and Iíd go to the concerts. I met Severin (Banshees founder member and bassist) at a Roxy Music concert. He and a friend called Simon used to go and see a band called the Sex Pistols. I didnít know it was connected, but, I was actually going to a shop called Let It Rock on the Kingís Road, though I wasnít able to afford anything. I remember the first thing I bought. I got Vivienne (Westwood) to customise some fishnet tights with gold and black tassels on them. Once I realised that the Sex Pistols had something to do with the shop, of course, I was well into it. After that I accompanied Severin and Simon wherever they played.
Your small crowd grew, didnít it?
It did. Back then, it was very remote and cut off, like any little group of people. Iím sure a lot of these groups came from the suburbs, which are amazing breeding grounds for the discontented. They exaggerate it. If thereís anything in a minority thatís gonna rebel, they really prepare them to be tough and go the whole hog. So this little group of friends grew, I guess by going to the Pistolsí concerts. I think the first time I saw them was at Ravensbourne college, and apart from a few curious people from the college trying to stay as far away from the stage as possible, there was just us. That happened more and more. Weíd see them at clubs in London, and there would always be this shocked audience that was there just because that was their local club!
How did you become so attached to the Sex Pistols?
The Pistols were the first band Iíd ever seen in its infancy, and the first that wasnít releasing records, or didnít have an image that was sown up. It was very exciting to be there as it all started to happen. Of course, when it started to happen, that was when the media interest happened and so I suppose the excitement and the incredulity of it all just sort of snowballed into the Bill Grundy Show thing.
At which point you became every bit as famous as the Sex Pistols. It was your picture on the cover of the daily Mirror.
Thatís right. And it was our pictured from the Screen on the Green gig that were being used. Suddenly the cameras were turning round and looking at the audience. It must have pissed the Pistols off a bit. I suppose itís quite a unique thing that happened, and none of us were thinking about it - we were just having a great time with the food and the green room. The old clichť of having no money was true. Most of us were on the dole. I donít know anyone who worked. I think a lot of us had worked and had been sacked.
The way you dressed then - were you out to intimidate people?
Not to intimidate people, just to have fun. But once I saw that people kind of kept their distance, well, that was a very desirable reaction. It was only really after Bill Grundy that people started to become aggressive. Before, people were more intimidated than anything and left you alone. I felt very insulated by it. But it was weird - you know, people putting their feet through their TVs because they were so disgusted. When you look back on it you think, "What on Earth was the fuss all about?"
What compelled you to go the whole hog and form Siouxsie and the Banshees?
When I first met Severin Iíd said that I wanted to be in a band. But I had always had it in the back of my mind. One night we were down Louiseís, a club Iíd introduced Malcolm MacLaren, Vivienne, the Pistols and all of that group to...
The lesbian gaff?
Yeah. One night Malcolm was talking loudly about this festival he was getting ready to put on at the 100Club. He was being very vocal and cursing the fact that a band had pulled out, and without thinking I said, "Iíll do it." And he said, "Great - so whatís the name of the band?" I just said, "Iíll let you know tomorrow." And that was it. Severin was there, and Sid (Vicious), and Billy (then Broad, later Idol), and they said theyíd do it as well.
So, a day later, Iíd come up with the name Siouxsie and the Banshees with Severin. Iíd thought up the name Siouxsie, and weíd seen Cry Of The Banshee on telly that night. Then we thought, "Great, but what can we do now?" The Clash let us borrow their rehearsal studio in Camden. They let Sid borrow a guitar too, and I borrowed the drumkit. Then Billy said he couldnít be in the Banshees because it conflicted with his own band. Iím sure Tony James had said, "No, no, no, you canít get involved with people who donít play." So I think the prospect of his career being ruined and in tatters made him pull out. It was like, "Oh bloody hell." I think everybody knew Marco (Pirroni, who later gained stardom in Adam and the Ants), but didnít know he could play. But he could, so he became the only musician in that line-up.
We did have on rehearsal at the Clashís studio, but that was literally to figure out what way the leads plug in. I remember Sid saying, "oh, letís ruin something like the Beatlesí íShe Loves Youí - I hate that bloody song - or the Bay City Rollers or something." I said, "Well I donít know any of them with all their words, but Iíve got an idea: Iíll kind of throw in bits of all that stuff and Iíll do íThe Lordís Prayerí too.
Why íThe Lordís Prayerí?
It was something that was very sharp in my memory. You always felt like a real rebel if you didnít join in the prayers, and I always resented having to say prayers at school in the big assembly. I used to swap words around to see if anyone heard me. So I just figured, "I know the words, so Iíll try and make it as subversive as possible." íThe Lordís Prayerí became this hotchpotch of songs that I either hated or loved, altering them and taking them out of context.
What was it like playing the 100 Club?
We were all dead nervous before. But once I was on stage, it felt surprisingly natural. It was over really quickly. We did as much as we could, having fun on that theme. The audience didnít know what to make of it. I was reading William Burroughs at the time, and there was something in one of his books about certain frequencies making your bowels drop out and your eyes bleed, breaking glass with your voice, all that sort of thing. We wanted to make a real racket.
Youíve just demystified a bit of punk folklore by saying that youíd wanted to be in a band before the 100 Club gig - it was supposed to be a one-off! So was it your mind that it could actually lead somewhere?
I wanted to be in a band, but I had no idea of what the reality of that was. After that one show, we all figured, "Right, weíve done that now... Next!"
The best thing about it was that after we did it, the mould was broken. It was an escape route from where you were from and what you were expected to do with your life. Up to that point, I was probably still thinking: "What am I going to do?"
You were all a bit like that by the sound of it. None of you had careers.
There was no ambition to have a career. We didnít want to do what everyone else was expected to do. And being from the suburbs and kicking against that, we were prepared to react to whatever was happening. People adapted, and it was a great opportunity to change your life. I donít believe that things happen for no reason. There were enough other disaffected minorities out there that once the opportunity came along, the combination of all those people, kicking against society expected then to be, allowed people to take control and empower themselves.
How did it feel to go so quickly from such small beginnings to icon status?
It certainly wasnít anything I took that seriously. To me it was just a continuation of where weíd come from. Nothing seemed that extraordinary until the first single, íHong Kong Gardení, was recorded and we all started to hear it on the radio. I mean, that was quite a momentous occasion for me. It was unreal. Surreal. I felt like a gatecrasher. Like I was involved in something that I had no business to be involved in. But somehow by whatever fluke, there I was in a video on Top of the Pops, not a spectator any more. It didnít dawn on me quite that bluntly. But God, I was ecstatically happy.
Whereas most people in bands are careerists, Siouxsie and the Banshees operated on the same gut level as artists who claim to have no real control over what they create.
It just had to come out. There was no reason. It was almost as if pure instinct took over. It was something a lot more primal than what everyone else was doing then. They all wanted to be part of what theyíd read about, and all I knew was that I loved playing the music live. I felt so lucky to be doing what I wanted to be doing and having an outlet for it - and getting paid for it! Even now, I still feel completely out of whatís going on in the music industry.
So what does the future hold?
A huge question mark I hope. Thatís the way I like it.
SO SIOUX ME!
BIRTH: Siouxsie was born at Guyís Hospital, London, then moved from Sydenham to be raised in Bromley: "When we moved in they thought, ĎThere goes the neighbourhoodí."
CONFRONTATION: Siouxsie once decided to wind up a Bromley wine bar by fixing a leash to friend Bertie (Berlin), leading him inside on all fours, ordering a vodka and tonic for herself, and a bowl of water for him: "Jaws were hanging open, but nobody said anything... it went dead quiet."
REJECTION: Siouxsie was personally chastised following the Bill Grundy/Pistols debacle: "I actually got sacked from my pub/club job after that Daily Mirror front cover... So I was legitimately on the dole."
DEFINING PUNK MOMENT: "Its got to be the Bill Grundy Show, on so many different levels. I remember Malcolm McLaren saying, "Do you want to be the background to them doing the interview?" To everybody it seemed like no big deal, except we were gonna get free drinks in the green room. As it turned out, somebody - Bill Grundy and the TV people - were being so antagonistic towards the Pistols, trying to belittle them and make them look stupid, and it completely backfired on Grundy. He got the sack after the show went out, and the Pistols kind of got set up in a way, to do whatever they were going to do, with this springboard that got everybody aware of what and who they were."
Billy Chainsaw 02/01