|THE RAPTURE - MAGAZINE COVERS|
|THE RAPTURE - INTERVIEWS/ARTICLES|
|MELODY MAKER 11/06/94|
|Q MAGAZINE 09/94|
|MELODY MAKER 24/12/94|
|MAKING MUSIC 01/95|
|THE GUARDIAN WEEKEND 14/01/95|
|Q MAGAZINE 04/95|
|RECORD COLLECTOR 04/95|
that unstylish year of boring pseudo-punk, intelligence as a disease,
right wing ascendancy and zero attention span is finally dead. To ring
in the beginning of 1995 in a blaze o f stunning style and rapid wit,
allow me to present some original punks: Siouxsie and the Banshees. The
British press questioned their validity back in 1984, wondering if they
had become "pop stars." Today we clasp our hands and ask: what
ever would we do without them?
The ravishing Siouxsie Sioux can always be relied on for a visual moment. While being given a peek at their new video for 'Oh Baby' I'm watching Siouxsie watching Siouxsie frown at Siouxsie's reflection in a lipstick-streaked mirror. The flesh, the image and the reflection in one frozen second. String scores of those glittering seconds together and you'll conjure up Siouxsie's long career.
First, there's the flesh and blood Siouxsie, a glorious woman of startling dark looks and savage humor who looks younger with each passing year. She must know arcane magic mere mortals aren't allowed to possess. Then there's images that Siouxsie has danced in and out of over the years: from brittle blonde punk to dark-haired diva, she's discarded enough looks to fill a fashion season. This segues into the many fleeting reflections Siouxsie's left, kept alive through her fan's [fans'] adoration. Drop by the average Banshees concert and you'll see creatures emulating ghostly versions of Siouxsie's dark tresses and glamorous make-up. Hold on: there is no such creature as an average Banshee's concert, is there? Their concerts are painful, exhilarating, uneasy, hot and cold, but NEVER average.
The Banshees aren't an average group. That word isn't in their commanding vocabulary of music. Fronted by Siouxsie since that fateful 1976 'Lord's Prayer" live performance, the band's other legends are percussionist Budgie and bassist Steve Severin. Steve's been Siouxsie's musical half since the band's conception, lending his sartorial splendor, sardonic wit and powerful songs to their potent brew. When a song deals with poisonous love and lust check the lyric credits: they're often Steve's. The quicksilver Budgie signed on after drummer Kenny Morris fled at the start of a 1979 British tour. He's stayed put behind the kit, emerging to capture the heart of Ms. Sioux in one of music's best kept secrets: you knew they were an item but Siouxsie wasn't one to kiss and tell. If you dared to ask, she'd tell you to kiss off.
This strong nucleus of voice and rhythm offers the key to the Banshees' unique sound. The exotic rhythms are perfectly suited for Siouxsie's deep compelling voice: there's always been an understanding of her voice and its power. On this new album the strength of purpose shimmers: after the disappointing Superstition, The Rapture's confident creativity declare the Banshees haven't gone senile.
The domination of rhythm and voice also explains the lack of guitar stars in the Banshees. Guitarists have never found a comfortable home here. This started when the band fired guitarist Peter Fenton while onstage! Now THAT'S real punk! John McKay, John McGeoch, the Pistol's Steve Jones, the Cure's Robert Smith, and Clock DVA's John Valentine Carruthers followed in Fenton's footsteps, although Smith bowed out due to exhaustion from being in two popular bands at once. Current six stringer (and former Specimen member) Jon Klein has triumphed through three albums, which wins him the longevity award. When the observation is made that Jon has survived due to his good nature and low-key ego, Steve slyly interjects, "He's got no choice!" There is a fitting reward for Jon's devotion: Siouxsie, Steve and Budgie will graciously let him remain in the Banshees and create more music with them. Siouxsie declares, "If someone is with us it's for a good reason and if they're not with us it's for a good reason as well."
They admit to having a sick sense of humor. It saturates that new video for the deceptively upbeat 'Oh Baby,' The Rapture's first single. The video features Siouxsie as a contestant in an actual junior beauty contest filmed in Flagstaff, Arizona. A sly, Subtly cruel document hidden in a music clip's innocent guise, it's sheer Banshees in a wickedly mocking fashion. Budgie playfully wonders if the MTV crowd will get it at all...Budgie is asking the wrong person.
It's a warm December night in New York City, where far above the city the tangled car horns sound like violins when mixed by sky and distance. The elegant threesome are exhausted but alert, filling Geffen's conference room with enough second hand cigarette smoke to create a fog bank. It's appropriate since the band refers to unusually quiet Geffen East as the Marie Celeste, the famous ghost ship. It's made known that the imposing table, which Siouxsie thinks an entire rain forest died for, is as big as her "not quite a room" at the trendy Paramount hotel.
Siouxsie's looking tailored and business-like in her gray vest and trousers, while Steve's sheer-sleeved black shot through with blue shirt adds the proper touch of glamour. Budgie's in practical cat burglar black from head to toe: it serves to emphasize his bright blonde hair. This trio is witty as well as exquisite to the eye: no ripped jeans and T-shirts here. It's odd how much you appreciate that quality in a band. They've come an amazingly long way from the tattered and torn punk look of 1976.
"What HAS happened between then and now?" mocks Siouxsie at the thought of their first erratic performance. The amazing growth of a band from grating punkers to divinely decadent artists is what happened. Tear off the wrappings each year and there's something new inside every time.
Siouxsie offers, "We always feel it necessary to sweep away anything that is in the past, and start as if it's your first record. The only difference is you've got a whole lot of experience! You've got a lot of situations you've been through that you can draw on, and I don't know, 18 years, on paper it looks like a lifetime for a lot o f people out there. Obviously if it felt like 18 years we'd stop and say it's time to go."
"It also has to do with the fact that we approach things so intuitively when we're making music that as soon as you look back on it when it's finished, you're able to use the experience o fit, like ahh, if we had done that, that was really good, let's push that side of things forward for the next record. So it's a constant evolution that we don't analyze if before we go in , we just do it and analyze it as we go along. We look back and go we could have done that better or that differently..." explains Steve.
"We are our own worst critics... or best critics!" amends Budgie with a smile. "We're hypercritical, and we can't con ourselves... we have tried."
Siouxsie adds, "It also has to feel genuine, too. We promised ourselves form the beginning that we would never allow what we do to become a mindless job that you have to keep down. There's no fear in letting go, and we're still here. We haven't lost our excitement about what we do. I mean creating something from nothing is the biggest buzz you can get. We still act like expectant parents every time there's a new one."
When the Banshees first howled to life they were a slashing rebellion against a turgid music business. Nothing has changed: faster and smarter, they're still kicking kaleidoscope fairy dust into the face of a lumbering giant that's forever trying to pin them down.
"It still IS a turgid business, although it's got bright new packages and labels. It's been repackaged and disguised..." mocks Siouxsie.
"There have been some really good things along the way," interrupts Steve, "but it's still a horrible, horrible stinking mass of mediocrity in the middle of this business we work in."
When the Banshees emerged there was no real support for them. They even had club owners against them due to their disruptive style. Even though they had to hack their own way out of London's vicious musical jungle, they still feel the late '70s/early '80s were much healthier for a truly creative band.
Steve exclaims, "Oh God yes," while Budgie agrees it's almost impossible for young bands now. Siouxsie fleshes out the thought, exclaiming, "The pressure to be like the next big thing is... there was a certain amount of naivete and innocence within the medium. Certainly music journalists tended to be more fans of music rather than being careerists or frustrated rock stars themselves."
"That's why you have such a big dance underground at the moment, because it's easier to create what you want without the restrictions of being seen as the next big thing. There's also a bit of fear in it that they don't put their faces on what they do. They can quietly walk away from that disaster and go on to something else, and no one really has them down as five minutes of fame and they're out the door," murmurs Steve, adding he feels that dance scene is already dying and won't admit it.
As much as the Banshees admired the initial spirit of the dance underground, they're a traditional guitar-bass-drums band, and like many other bands they go through the mind-numbing chore of finding the perfect producer. The Rapture is emitting an added buzz since the Banshees chose to work with the legendary John Cale, avant garde hero of the Velvet Underground turned acclaimed solo artist and producer. One musician declared working with John Cale isn't a challenge since he kicked his habit. The Banshees didn't find this to be so.
"It was a nightmare," groans Siouxsie dramatically, quickly laughing. "No, the only question we kept asking ourselves was why didn't we think him before or SOONER? We've been huge fans of the Velvet Underground and that was a band that you were aware it was four individual performers and writers, which was quite a unique thing. I think it's always been its appeal to people: there's something more than a bunch of musicians having fun together. And his solo career, there's been a big journey there."
Steve agrees, adding, "He produced such landmark albums, too. The first Stooges album, which people still quote today, the first Patti Smith album, the first Modern Lovers album, so we see that this is our first album in many ways because of... it's one of those things that you have to put it down to synchronicity. It was the right time to work with John Cale. It just happened."
"It wasn't a force, it was just a series of coincidences. We're still open: I mean you can meet someone tomorrow and everything can change, it will affect what you are doing," murmurs Siouxsie.
"Which is the best way that things seem to happen in a lot of areas. You can try and push something onto people, and say this has got to take now. But if it's a spontaneous thing that is in the right place and the right time..." Budgie trails off.
Steve steps in. "The '90s have been good to us. '91 we had Lollapalooza, '92 we had Batman Returns, working with Tim Burton, and now '94 with John Cale. And for a jaded old bunch like us, these things, you feel really excited. 'Oh, we're going to meet Tim Burton,'" Steve enthuses.
"We're like kiddies again," laughs Siouxsie.
"With a bunch of new toys," adds Budgie.
"It's great. There's no plan to these things, except now we're trying to look into the future and see what's coming next year," concludes Steve, spicing his words with a pinch of sarcasm.
Even though the Banshees seek out those who have similar outsider tendencies, they admit their plans don't always work out. Budgie supplies a specific example. "We chose to work with Bob Ezrin, because of things that we liked, like Alice Cooper's School's Out and Lou Reed's Berlin. Thinking this could be a wonderful union... but it didn't work out! It lasted two horrible weeks, and..."
Siouxsie sputters with evil laughter, declaring, "We sent him on the plane home!"
Budgie nods, adding "So what may seem right just isn't always so... you can't manufacture it. There's a chemistry within the group when we write songs, there's this chemistry... there's this alchemy thing that locks on. The more ingredients that you can get in to it without fogging the issue, that's the thing that we're always looking for. This strength of direction that you just tap into. And somehow, sometimes, it just runs away with you. And you're dragged in with it!"
"Sometimes things just get missed by chance. For instance, we would have worked with Brian Eno at one point, but I don't think we would now. We're beyond that point... what could he give to us, and what could we give to him? It wouldn't make any difference now," shrugs Steve.
When Steven [sic] Hague was selected to work on 1991's Superstition, an immediate alarm went off. His work with fluffier bands denounced Hague as far too polished a producer for the Banshees, especially after the experimental plateau they'd reached via Peepshow. Unfortunately, the recorded results proved the distrust to be well-founded. There has to be a gracious way to explain Superstition's lackluster soul: can we be kind and call it an experiment?
Siouxsie instantly replies, "Yes."
"He approached us. He was really keen to do it, he wanted to do a really great Banshees album," adds Steve.
Siouxsie is willing to explain what exactly went wrong on that album. She's not hiding her disgust. "We like when someone is enthusiastic. It's not just oh, here's the next band on his list. It was like you always hope for this kind of cross fertilization and a joining of a similar spirit. But this album was a definite reaction against how we did the last album. Part of answering your earlier question, part of putting ourselves in a different situation to see what happens to get a fresh response, well, Superstition was a result of that. 'Well, we've never done that, OK, we'll see how it goes.' Then suddenly you're involved with it, and after touring, playing the songs and then going back to listen to the album, it was so disappointing! 'Oh SHIT, there's a vital ingredient missing here.' This album, is going back to that vital ingredient, and that's us, being intuitive, not compartmentalized and separated under the microscope with tweezers. It's, as you say, it was an experiment. Sometimes things like that work. If you don't know what the end result is going to be, then they don't work. "There was something not quite right: there was a bit of curdling going on in the ingredients. It wasn't perverse enough."
"These things always work on two levels," offers Steve. "There's a collective idea of where you think music is going, and that's what we took on board with Steven Hague. We felt that's where it's going, what does it mean to us and how can we use this approach? And the other side of that is your personal evolution that you feel. No one could have predicted that as soon as we finished working on Superstition and as soon as Lollapalooza started, that Nirvana album would come out and cause such wave thorough [throughout?] all sides of music, not the least was inspiring other bands to follow a similar guitar-oriented live thing. So even though it seemed like it became a dead end anyway, we felt it was a personal dead end, but it drove us to make the type of album that we made now."
Steve's expression says more than his words when he quietly describes that people are actually asking the band if this album is a reaction to the whole Unplugged phenomenon. "Of course not! It's rediscovering part of us!"
"It's appreciating what we had been through," scoffs Siouxsie.
There's a certain area of music that the Banshees excel at: they have that lush, atmospherically dangerous territory completely staked out. When experiments are conducted, they're fine for one record, but if the band did it again...
"Fools!" cries Siouxsie.
Steve knows what their audience's response would be: "You are trying our patience! Just stop it! We'll slap your wrists!"
"We just did it to confuse everyone out there," grins Siouxsie.
Yet in America Superstition yielded them many radio singles and the interest of a new audience via their Lollapalooza dates. All this from a weak album... what does this tell the band?
Steve strongly defends, "We didn't think it was because we changed tack [track?] or sidestepped, that it became more popular than before. To us it just seemed like a progression. For us, we think that just as many people should like this record, if not more."
Siouxsie firmly closes the subject by stating, "At least we realized it. We didn't go tripping merrily down the wrong path."
They have found their path again. The Rapture regally bears the Banshees true signature: fiercer bass, unusual musical elements, exotic topics, and more rage and ruin. The Rapture takes the wild spirit of classic albums like A Kiss in the Dreamhouse or The Thorn and updates it. The album's manic closing track, 'Love Me Out' [!] showcases the Banshees as they should be in 1995: dazzling, dangerously delicious and different than anyone else.
"It's not cartoon Banshees," agrees Siouxsie. "It's not how people perceive us. On our journey there's been one thing that's been part disappointing and part accepted: this cliche of how people perceive Siouxsie and the Banshees. They're dark, depressing, morbid, introverted... I am really disappointed with reviews, when you get... it's almost like you can read the first line and go 'OK, I read this one thirteen years ago!"
This attitude extends to that vital visual image: fans are fixated on the image of Siouxsie as 1982's dark queen with her elaborately teased hair and stark make-up. Too many people have frozen that goth punk Siouxsie in their memory as their lasting perception of her. Isn't that getting tiring to the band?
Diplomatically-inclined Budgie has a defense for these fans. "It's like anything, i f something affects you in your youth, you always think of that one instance in that artist's development: that's where YOU remember them from. After that you're not interested in them anymore. So you will always be that to those people, that particular point. 'Cities in Dust': from where we were then, it's been a constant progression for us, but that one image of Siouxsie... it's ALWAYS from years back. You see it when people come [to shows]..." he breaks into chuckles, "they're in different parts of where we were."
"That's quite affectionate when the audience does that," murmurs Steve. His soft voice gains emphasis when he continues. "We don't like it when critics or journalists take the soft option."
"And not even listen to it," retorts Siouxsie. "They do what they think is expected of them."
"We don't mind bad reviews: it's LAZY ones we don't like," underlines Steve.
So trust the progressive Banshees to do the unexpected. In the lazy short attention span theater that makes up the music scene of the '90s, they're artfully brandishing an epic title song at us. 'The Rapture' shows the band thumbing its nose at convention and pouring on the sensuous atmosphere thick and satisfying for an entire eleven minutes.
Siouxsie exclaims, "We actually got that song played on 200,000 listener radio station in Rome. It was fantastic! It was midnight when we went in, and there was this amazing guy who had this radio show that knew things about us that we'd forgotten about! He had this family tree, and he was talking about instances that had happened in the band..."
"We got to 1978 and we said we'd have to come back to do from 1979 to 1982," laughs Steve.
Siouxsie is completely delighted with this DJ. "At the stroke of 1:00 he put on 'The Rapture' for eleven minutes! He said this is probably the only time you're ever going to hear this track on the radio. We said cheers! Happy New Year!"
There's been this immense suspicion of long songs ever since the death of progressive rock. Groups like Yes took up entire album sides with bloated meanderings that staggered and collapsed under their own bombast. The Banshees were part of the short sharp shock troop that helped blow that trend out of the mid '70s. So why in 1995 are they giving it new life?
Steve easily replies, "That's why we did it... can WE do it? Can WE get away with it? WE'RE reclaiming it."
Siouxsie laughs, "Can we get away with it without doing drivel?"
The song is also a reaction against feeble songwriting. "It's the manufacturing of songs that have just become basically the chorus, verse and just chorus. It's getting more and more condensed, and it's over," frowns Budgie.
"It's so formulaic," dismisses Siouxsie.
Worse yet, weak songwriters take their trite choruses and verses and drool them over a five minute song, not realizing the song died after only two minutes.
Budgie declares, "We know what song you're thinking of!"
Steve grandly announces, "I am thinking of whole CAREERS!"
Siouxsie agrees with a healthy laugh, admitting that 'The Rapture' laid the keystone for the entire album. "The idea was there before we went into the studio. I had the title of the album and this song before anything else. It was the springboard of where we ended up with all the other songs."
"It wasn't a concept, it was more like stating the attitude, the approach, the frame of mind we wanted to put across," adds Budgie.
Siouxsie explains, "I wanted the cello to be more up front. It's a much more physical instrument. I wanted the music to forget about the last album and just realize what we're good at, without explaining. There's very little debate of what we are, how we are in this band. It's great when things aren't said but they are UNDERSTOOD. And after all this time it's how it should be!"
The Banshees are bound to have a silent communication going on: otherwise they wouldn't be talking about a new album.
Steve grins, "It's silent communication because we only talk to each other through lawyers!"
That sounds like a worse hell than those evil prog-rock songs! Another way the Banshees keep their creative resources refreshed is by their various peripheral projects, from the Creatures featuring Siouxsie and Budgie to Steve's work with film scores. Side projects bring in new ideas that lead to improved musical sparks.
"That was even more pronounced this time because we are working in two different countries now. It's good to get together and we all go..." Steve growls, supplying a fierce lunge and a running dialog. "'Have YOU seen THIS?' 'Well why not?' 'THIS is great.' 'Have you heard THAT?' 'No, THAT'S boring.' 'OK, I'm going home!'"
Oh well, creative differences: see you next album! But instead of taking the easy way out and cobbling together an album to fill a contract, the Banshees took their time with The Rapture. They knew that coming after Superstition, this one HAD to be brilliant.
Steve details, "On this album we had completed nine songs and had written and recorded them in France, and we had mixed that album as of October 1993. The album was due for release, but we decided that it wasn't ready yet. It's not complete, it's not ready."
"The record company was there waiting with their cling wrap wanting to wrap it up an throw it out!" laughs Siouxsie.
Budgie continues, "After that period, we decided to start more writing, and that's when we started looking around to bring in a producer. Up until that point we had been doing it ourselves. We were, I supposed, at that point where you take on a whole new bunch of ideas as well. We'd been on tour to Australia for the first time in ten years. We'd been doing live stuff around Europe, playing the songs we'd just finished. So we were taking on board all those extra things."
Budgie adds that they didn't hand John Cale completed songs to merely produce. "We had quite a few songs but things were also sparked off by having John Cale in the room with us. He's a pretty inspiring person to have around. He's also pretty scary as well!"
John Cale seems like an intimidating persona. "Yeah, in this big sort of Welsh way," grins Steve.
Is Steve implying that he's scary beyond how his mind works? Steve laughs in agreement. "It's the way he looks!"
"Yikes!" yelps Siouxsie." This man is not Florence Nightingale!"
"No, there is nothing fluffy about him!" continues Steve.
"Which is what we wanted," agrees Siouxsie.
Budgies stresses, "We don't suffer fools and neither does John. We were instantly aware that we couldn't con him. We couldn't go through the motions. We have a language that we've developed over the years: we can make a few noises and we'll sound like us. But that's not enough."
Steve admits, "Really he was the first producer we've ever worked with. Everyone else was more accepting of the pace the band worked at, always wanting to please..."
It's not hard to imagine a producer being intimidated by the three of you in full creative throttle. Steve agrees with a laugh. "Yeah! So it was great to have someone saying get here at 10:00, record, and then you get pumped up and want to do good stuff! We'd driven ourselves to one limit working without a producer, and being down in the mouth about the length of time we'd had to be away from the project,,, so getting someone like John Cale, no, I can't even say getting someone like John Cale, getting John Cale in... he's like an old fashioned producer, like you've always imagined they would be. They get in and do it!"
Not that the Banshees would care, but what was the record company's immediate reaction to using John Cale?
Steve doesn't miss a second, retorting, "When was his last hit?"
"That['s] what they said," sighs Budgie in disbelief.
"There we were, skipping and going 'yes, he wants to do it,' and the record company was like Steve said, 'is he in the charts?' It was like..." Siouxsie's elegant jaw drops in remembered shock.
"Did he produce Kylie Minogue?" laughs Budgie.
"We were very determined. 'Well, we didn't ask your opinion but we got it anyway,'" sniffs Siouxsie.
"It's mind-blowing the things that record companies say to you," murmurs Steve. "You've think they've said everything then they come along and say something else and your mouth just drops and you think, oh, the stupidity! You think they've said it all..."
"Big howls of laughter all the way around, but we didn't let them know we were laughing," grins Siouxsie. She abruptly lets loose an amazing caterwaul of laughter. "'Did you hear that one, waughhhh!' Screaming laughter echoing over the sea and all around.
"But they kept us sane with the comedy element. It was always good for a laugh each day with a new name to make you howl your head off!"
It was good of Polydor, their British label, to make the Banshees' life so amusing. "It wasn't like that at the time," grumbles Steve.
Siouxsie threatens, "They were lucky I was in France. The doors to Polydor would have been kicked in!"
"What's even funnier now is that they wanted to put out a 'best of' at Christmas, to revitalize the English market! I said 'yeah that's the only area we're looking at, bloody England!" mutters Steve.
"We just released Twice Upon A Time! You probably notice that all these 'best of's' have got one extra track on them from the best of from last year! It's just repackaged with another title and it's like the Ultimate Collection!" Siouxsie has a superb announcer's voice when she puts her mind to it.
"Let's face it, this is where they have been making their money from over the last few years, reboxing and repackaging everything on the face of the earth. Glorified CD, digitized enhancement of the best of the unfound work of... the lost tapes of..." laughs Budgie.
Steve wearily murmurs, "Most of the record companies through the 80s spent all their money making bad choices on bands, and losing lots of money on terrible bands. So what's the easiest way to play safe?"
"And they're preferably dead," laughs Siouxsie.
Steve exclaims, "Let's have a look at that corpse's catalog!"
Siouxsie tops him. "Let's pull up that corpse and see how much more we can get out of it!"
There's that sick sense of humor! It has helped them work together after all these years. The band has known each other for so long that they cheerfully admit they know exactly how to get on each other's nerves. "And we do it every day!" laughs Budgie.
Siouxsie keeps talking about jumping out of a cupboard and scaring people half to death. If she launches that evil caterwauling laughter while in mid leap, heart failure would be certain.
"We are quite wicked with each other!" laughs Steve.
"Which is why we probably go through so many guitarists: their hearts aren't very strong!" laughs Siouxsie.
"It's from all that jumping out of the cupboards!" laughs Steve. "Oh no, I'm in Siouxsie and the Banshees! I thought it was a nightmare but I am still in the band!"
Wicked, willful and wonderful. Long may they annoy both each other and their detractors... as long as they still thrill their listeners!
Sandra A Garcia 02/95
They've come, and often they've
crumbled. So how well will this umbrageous-eyed questionnairee stand up
to interrogation? And, more importantly, are there enough vowels in the
Q box of letters to spell her name, which is, of course...Siouxsie.
What's the first thing you do when you wake up in the morning?
What was the first gig you went to?
Cliff Richard, Winter Gardens, Broadstairs, whilst on holiday with my mum. I was very young: four, five, or six.
Which song do you wish you had written?
Heartbreak Hotel. (Both performances by Elvis Presley and John Cale reign supreme.)
What is the best advice you've ever received?
Take no prisoners.
What is your most treasured material possession?
Who was the last person you slept with?
When did you last cry and why?
When I spilt my milk this morning.
What do you think of Bob Dylan?
I wouldn't invite him to a party. I was very disappointed to find out that Julie Driscoll didn't write This Wheel's On Fire.
What characteristics do you think you've inherited from your parents?
What is the biggest myth about fame?
That it's financially rewarding.
What are you like when you're drunk?
Playful, lovable, or scary, depending on the situation.
Who would you have play you in a film?
Pick five words that describe yourself.
Female, cruel, kind, cheerful, manic-depressive.
Do you believe in God?
No. Yes. No?
Is there one piece of criticism that sticks in your mind?
Yes. It was a description which I guess was supposed to be a criticism, but I thought was wonderful: "A tarantula on stilts."
What is your most unpleasant characteristic?
I respond very strangely to advice that sounds like a command. For example, if I'm told it's very important to be nice to someone, then you have a red flag to a bad situation. I'm not very nice.
What is your greatest fear?
That God exists.
What ambitions do you still have to fulfil?
To be able to pack in five minutes and get from A to B with a twitch of my nose.
Are you afraid of failure?
Yes, but I'm more afraid of being guided by it.
What do you never leave home without?
My "victim diviner" and "stiletto knife" cunningly disguised as lipstick. Touring is a perfect guise for the sport of serial killing. I do have a golden rule though: I only pick the ones that will never be missed. It's curious how most of the victims were once music journalists/editors. Their pathetic patter goes along the lines of "I used to be a rock critic once, you know. I even reviewed a Banshee album without listening to it...ahh..."
Who is your best male friend and your best female friend?
"Spider," the handsome black cat that walks on his own, and "Spooky," the fiery redhead from Toulouse.
Who would you most like to meet?
What music would you have played at your funeral?
A wonderful mixture of Dem Bones, El Dia De Los Muertos by Siouxsie & The Banshees, Smokestack Lightning by Howlin' Wolf, some Astor Piazzola (tango), Duke Ellington, Count Basie & His Orchestra, Yma Sumac...a wake to shake the living.
When you look in the mirror, do you like what you see?
If they weren't always cracked, I'd be able to tell you.
Do you have anything to declare?
Yes..."The events and characters in this play are fictitious. Any similarity to actual persons, living or dead, or to actual events, is purely coincidental."
Siouxsie Sioux became an extra in punk's
pageant from the moment the Sex Pistols appeared on live
television. She has endured, she believes, because she never made
it very big for a short time. And because she still likes making
As zombies are doomed to haunt a graveyard, so London's late-Seventies demi-monde will never be allowed to rest in peace. Poor little greenies. Observe the Street-Style exhibition at the Victoria and Albert Museum where a definitive display of hybrid costumes has taken its place among the reliquaries and Byzantine caskets. Observe dummies dressed in outfits of coffee-bar cowboys and surfers, rude boys and fly girls, indie kids and modernists. And do not forget to remember Swinging London. This is a three dimensional photograph album in which, unless you are 11, you are doomed to spy an aspect of your former self, see how you were, re-experience past rejections, eating disorders, drugs and skin diseases. Surprisingly, no spectator seems to be blushing; they seem to be art students illustrating sketch books for their personal posterity.
Glam is in the second room; past the red feather boa and platforms; past the lurex trousers by FB One to a sign saying, "the punk legacy cannot be exaggerated". Here are string vests and army boots and clothes by Seditionaries and there the Kammgarn suit worn by Sid Vicious outside Marylebone Magistrates Court - Trevira and wool with a silver lamé thread. "Imposing," said his mum. Around the old suit of dead Sid there is a customised leather jacket lent by Spit Edbanga and the Zandra Rhodes "punk couture" safety pin dress that, at the time, was more upsetting than the suicide of Ian Curtis because it meant that no matter how much you terrorised grown-ups, they still dared to escape from their ghetto.
Underneath, there is a neat row of T-shirts by Modzart. These "influential designs by John and Molly Dove" show Beatles 1975, Anarchy In The UK 1977, and in the middle, face, eyes and lips, Siouxsie Sioux 1980.
She is 37 now. She does not think of herself as an icon partly because she is not that conceited and partly because it would imply petrification. An icon is the moustache and beret of a meaningless revolutionary. An icon tends to be dead. And she has an album out this month. Her 14th to be exact. She is proud of it, and rightly, for The Rapture is a good work with sophisticated songs, a melancholy atmosphere and unpretentious orchestration. It was produced by John Cale who produced Patti Smith's Horses and had toured with Nico during her final narcolepsy. No, says Siouxsie, she doesn't feel old. Well, sometimes. But then, when she was 18, she sometimes felt as though she was 150.
Mr Ballion was a drunk. He drank Newcastle Brown Ale out of bottles, then whisky chasers, and a lot of them. They are very unhelpful, drunks. Not at all what you would describe should anyone have ever asked you what you wanted in a father.. They perpetrate fear, and leave scars, and cultivate an anger that never really goes away. They usually die, but this is of little help to those they leave behind. Indeed, those around them sometimes wish they would die. Mr Ballion's youngest daughter, Susan, often wished he would die. She hated him. Once she tried to poison him by putting salt and pepper in his drink, and as he drank it, his Adam's apple bobbing like a fairground attraction, she thought all the time, Oh my God I've done it, I've done it.
He was verbally aggressive rather than violent, although her sister, 10 years older, told her horror stories of knives and pokers, smashed plate-glass windows. Blood. Her sister still hates him. But Susan knew that when he was sober he was lucid, funny and intelligent, that he liked books; Kipling for her, Sartre for himself. But she also remembers the trivial things that take on burdensome importance - the doll's push-chair that was smashed when he fell over it sticks in her mind. She still pushed it but it never really worked, the wheels were buckled.
When school friends asked, "What does your father do?" she couldn't really say that he sat at home drinking, so she used to make things up. She never asked them home for fear of finding him in a stupor, or ranting, or in the middle of a gaggle of reeking public-bar cronies. He was a Pisces and now she always associates drinking with Pisces; his eyes would turn into fish eyes.
A violent streak ran in the family; neither her father not her mother, Elizabeth, Betty, possessed any front teeth because her father's brother, Johnny, had gone berserk one night and smashed them both in the face. The Ballion's had met in the Belgian Congo, she speaking French, he milking serum from poisonous snakes as part of his work as a laboratory technician. Her husband's drinking, or "disease" as it is sometimes also called, meant Betty had to work full-time as a bilingual secretary. She never talked about "it" and he was an "it" as far as the family were concerned.
Younger than the others, Susan was left to keep her own counsel and look after herself as best as she was able. The garden at their home north of Petts Wood grew into a jungle - high hedges, a crisis of roses - until the neighbours ganged up and complained. The Ballions must prune their hedges, they insisted.
Order was required but order, in fact hardly existed, for demons and "pervery" were all around. The sight of a man exposing himself was common up and down those Chislehurst streets; it was rare not to see a flasher at Bickley station. There was one, in particular, Rolf Harris they called him, who rode his bicycle with his penis resting on the crossbar. Events took a more offensive turn however when, at the age of nine, Susan was sexually assaulted by a man at the sweet shop. "I was too young to realise that I had been attacked - but my friend's father called the police." It wasn't until much later that she found out how common it was. In 1986 she wrote a song about it. Candyman. Yes, she says now, they were knee deep in wankers.
At school she didn't like boys so much. In games of Kiss and Chase other girls would allow themselves to be caught and kissed; if any unfortunate caught up with Susan she rammed grass in his mouth. Later, in clubs, if men goosed her she swivelled around and punched them.
Alcohol finally delivered Mr Ballion to his Maker and when it did Susan, at 14, felt guilty because her wish had come true. They laid the body out and her mother finally cut the hedge.
What did she inherit from him? A love of books and a hatred of the medical profession. A bunch of quacks he called them. She agrees. But Mr Ballion put her off marriage and the idea of a family; and of course, excessive drinking, in herself and in others, always unnerved her. Later, on the road and in the pop business, she thought that heroin addicts were the same as drunks - slumped, hopeless and boring.
Her sister was at art college and sometimes took her to the end-of-term shows - her sister knew arty men - men whose flamboyance and homosexuality attracted Susan because there was no threat. She was conscious of this. Conscious of being comfortable around men for the first time. "I thought, this is so brilliant, Nobody is hitting on me and you don't see men fighting and drinking too much and it all going wrong."
She took to dyeing her hair, inspired by glam, but more extreme. Crazy Colour. Black. Blonde. Eyes painted like Malcolm McDowell in A Clockwork Orange. She liked Nico and Patti Smith and Catwoman. All her heroes were heroines. And so, somewhere between the Strand and hearing Patti Smith's Horses album for the first time, Susan became Siouxsie.
"I wanted to be important," she remembers. "To mean something." She went on the bus in a see-through shirt, demanded a half fare and got one. She walked into Pips wine bar in Bromley leading her friend Berlin on a dog collar. ("We were," he recalled later, "up camp tree.") At one party, in Bromley, where sulphate was snorted off a turntable, she is remembered as sporting a plastic apron, a leather whip, and very little else.
Her mother was slightly worried. "Take a pully," she would say as her daughter, mind on the Velvets, style deranged by Cabaret, left the house in fishnets and stilettos and crystal clear plastic. "Take a pully. It might get cold." Later, her mother was proud of Siouxsie's success and, to Siouxsie's irritation, would invite the fans into the house for tea.
She thought she might be a model but she was too weird. She thought she might be a secretary but she ended up working in clubs. And everything about her said don't fuck with me because she looked tough and she took it further than everyone else. Siouxsie had a score to settle.
Then, on December 9, 1975, having debuted at St Martins Art School, the Sex Pistols played at Ravensbourne Art College in Bromley. Simon Barker saw them and told his friend Steve Bailey that they were good, like the Stooges. Word spread, from Steve to Billy Idol to Sue Catwoman to Siouxsie, who were like-minded anyway, united by daring accoutrements and inclination towards gay clubs.. They started to go to the gigs, looking fabulous, men in enough make-up to frighten the neighbours, women with blue hair and a demeanour that looked as if the pill was about to wear off. As a fashion phalanx they became known as the Bromley Contingent, and were as important, in their own way, as the Sex Pistols. Certainly they moved the style and attitude forward. Old couldn't believe it; young wanted it.
The following year The Bromley Contingent followed the Pistols to France and Siouxsie was punched by an Arab. She was wearing a topless bra, black vinyl stockings and a black armband with a swastika on it. She like Salon Kitty and disliked those who banged on about being in the war; the swastika was joke camp not death camp and she did not, then, appreciate the panorama of implications. "The Nazis were not only anti-Semitic but anti-anyone different, anti- anyone like me." The regalia backfired. The National Front started to pay attention and she was horrified.
Film maker John Maybury, who became a friend of Siouxsie's, remembers seeing her wear a swastika at a Pistols concert in London and thinking it was "fantastic". It should be remembered, he thinks, that the original punks were "naff art students having a laugh". The swastika subsequently melded with the hindsight of political rectitude, but then, "it was fun being obnoxious".
Steve Bailey became Steve Severin (in deference to Masoch's assistant in his book Venus In Furs and the Velvet Underground song of the same name). He and Sioux planned a band with Billy Idol who deserted to join Chelsea and then Generation X. At the suggestion of Malcolm McLaren, Sid Vicious was elected to play drums. Siouxsie and The Banshees played for the first time at the two-day Punk Festival at London's 100 Club on September 20, 1976. A wall of noise illuminated the fact that no one could play. Indeed, Severin had once refused to attend Dulwich College because music lessons were mandatory. Siouxsie said the Lord's Prayer. The mélange lasted 20 minutes. They walked off, bored. The Clash followed them on. She did not envisage doing it for a living. "She is nothing if not magnificent." Caroline Coon wrote at the time. "Her short hair, which she sweeps in great waves over her head, is streaked with red like flames. She'll wear black plastic non-existent bras, one mesh and one rubber stocking and suspender belts all covered by a polka dotted transparent plastic mac." Another observer said that the set was "unbearable."
The next night a beer glass was thrown, a girl's face was cut, and Sid Vicious, then 20, was arrested. He found himself in the Ashford Remand Centre where, for distraction, he read a book about Charles Manson that had been given to him by Vivienne Westwood.
In December, Siouxsie accidentally earned an immutable position in the history of pop culture by appearing on the television show that launched the Sex Pistols career. Like poisonous berries, The Bromley Contingent were peculiar in taste and unusual in hue; they always added colour, so they were asked to accompany the Pistols on the Today show. Siouxsie, with platinum blonde hair and Droog eyes, presented a more interesting vista then Pistol Glen Matlock. Presenter Billy Grundy asked her out; Steve Jones called him a dirty fucker. It was a live broadcast. The world would never be quite the same again.
"When we went down to the Green Room," Malcolm McLaren told author and pop critic Jon Savage, "there was Steve and Siouxsie getting hold of all the ringing phones and saying, 'This is Thames, get off the fucking phone you stupid old prat'. The EMI chauffeur came whizzing through the revolving doors and said, 'Come on boys I've got to get you out of this straight away, there's going to be a storm.'"
"From that day one," said Steve Jones, "it was different. Before then it was just music - the next day it was the media."
OUTRAGE, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder. Wild women attract publicity but are rarely offered any sensible business proposition because men still fear voodoo hoodoo and hex. They are scared to make eye contact, pray that the provocateur wont sit too close, hope that if they ignore her she might find her own way back to the ward. Weird witches are still seen as casting curses. Blame the crop failure on Courtney Love.
Jayne County will be remembered for the very wonderful If You Don't Want To Fuck Me Baby (Fuck Off) released in 1977, but she was, in the end, a bloke.
Poly Styrene skipped out to play for a while and was banned by the BBC, but it is no coincidence that the Slits and Siouxsie, both aggressive, both early originators took nearly two years to land a record deal. The Banshees were acclaimed as a great live band with enough songs to earn them consideration, but a contract eluded them. Someone with a paint can sprayed "Sign Siouxsie Now" on several record company buildings. It didn't help. Nor did Siouxsie's habit of insulting A & R men from behind her mike. They were turned down by Anchor, EMI, RCA, Chrysalis, CBS and Decca until June 1978 when Polydor, who had signed The Jam, came forward. They gave them a three album deal with full creative control - a contractual obligation that underpinned their subsequent longevity and aided survival when all around exploded like mines in a field. Hong Kong Garden released in August went to number 7; the album The Scream to number 12.
In February 1979 Sid Vicious died of an overdose. A note to his mum said that he wanted to be buried in his leather jacket and next to his girlfriend Nancy Spungen who had bled to death in the Chelsea Hotel after he stabbed her in the stomach. As his exit came to symbolise the end of pop's psychotic episode, Siouxsie & The Banshees prepared for a British tour.
The relationship between Severin and Siouxsie was cemented when the guitarist and drummer, as Severin succinctly puts it, "ran away."
John McKay and Kenny Morris left their tour passes on their pillows and hopped on a train from Aberdeen. The show opened with The Scars followed by The Cure. The Cure continued to play and the Banshees failed to materialise. Then Siouxsie appeared on stage. "Two art college students have fucked off out of it... If you ever see them you have my blessing to beat the shit of them."
Robert Smith (of The Cure) temporarily helped out as guitarist; Budgie (formerly of the Slits) was employed to play drums. Budgie is a strange little person, not least because of his equanimity around disorderly sisters; a man who can survive the Slits can presumably survive anything. Like the parakeet after which he is named, he is small and colourful and appears easy to please. "I got the nickname when I was sharing a flat with Holly Johnson and Paul Rutherford in Liverpool. Some guy was tormenting a budgie in a cafe and I went to its defence. Other guys had racing pigeons, but I used to breed budgerigars - I had a great one called Bobby - as a kid I was called the Bird Man of Morley Street."
He had intended to study fine art and took a course at Liverpool Polytechnic. His father, a joiner, sometimes asked him if he was ever going to get a proper job. Budgie loves the band - sees it as show-business rather than pop music. He still enjoys walking into an empty theatre before a soundcheck. He likes rootlessness and the unexpected; touring makes him remember when the fair used to roll into town - strange and different and slightly dangerous.
Two years ago he and Siouxsie were married, although she says that, to some extent, she is also married to Severin. Budgie kind of stole her from Severin, but they all got over it. They live in France near Toulouse. They have a garden, and cats, and books. They might have children, now that she has recovered, a little, from her own past.
The early Banshees albums, eerie, echoey, urban and accessible, appealed to a thanatoid sub-sect of punk that looked like Morticia Addams, in a frightwig. Unhappy darling? Perfectly. These, the pallid and purple, liked Sisters Of Mercy, Aleister Crowley and frightening films about the undead. In 1981 they collected in the Batcave in Soho where Siouxsie songs - Mirage, Love In A Void, Christine - wove in with those by Bauhaus and The Specimen. Thus Siouxsie was reincarnated into Goth Goddess and so her career survived.
Billy Chainsaw, her personal assistant, affirmed this cross-pollination by frequenting the Batcave and, at one point, throwing a wedding ceremony in which his bride wore black, the cake was popularly believed to have been cut with a chainsaw, and Billy, also in black, was unable to wear a hat because "my hair was too big".
Chainsaw, who left shift work in a factory in Birmingham to work for Siouxsie in 1979, now also edits a magazine, Purr. Created by and appealing to the people that ebb and flow in his world, it is a confident mixture of illustration and underground writing and a reminder that this sub-culture has sprouted long roots. Purr's second issue featured an exclusive story by Hubert Selby Jr; its third the last story written by Robin Cook. A booklet illustrated by Edward Gorey is to come.
Siouxsie had gone off punk anyway when they gave it a name. She knew that once it had been recognised it would be limited in how it was perceived; the point would be missed because its strength lay in the broadness of sweep that was an attitude and a spirit. You are qualified, she still thinks, because you are good at something, not because you possess something that tells somebody else that you are good at something. She has long distrusted the judgment of others and the diktats of definition.
When she was small she could never understand why, because she was a girl, certain duties were assigned to her; now she faces "the misconception that being a female commodity stops at the age of 25". This she must dismiss, just as she knows she must wear what she likes. What is mutton dressed as lamb anyway and who cares? "I haven't reached the stage when I think, ooh, I better tone it down. I like people who can handle their age, take it and throw it back, like fuck you."
She has little time for people that think they know her because of what they have read and little affection for a music industry where "success" has become tawdry and ephemeral and sales are so rarely related to quality or content. She is caught up in a conundrum - she knows that creativity is often enhanced by limitation but resents the fact that Polydor will not spend more money on promotion - money that could be spent, among other things, on making touring more enjoyable. "It is to do with what people are told," she says. "We have never hired a shit-hot marketing team. I don't want to be a product."
But a product, in some ways, she is - a trademark even. The Banshees are seen to sell a predictable number of albums much as an author tends to sell the same number of novels, and, depending on who else is touring that year, they say they can be pretty sure to fill a 6,000 capacity hall in London, 3,000 in Europe and up to 15,000 in America. Thus, certain financial forecasts can be made by a record company unwilling to take risks. No, thank you very much, the Banshees will not be on a punk compilation album with Sham 69 or any other band with whom they have never been associated. Nor do they wish to send out the same songs in a different package. "I want to be out there in the market-place but I'm not doing it that way; it cheapens it," she says. "So I am seen as a prima donna bitch."
Lasting isn't important. She shrugs. They formed for a night. If this party finishes she will find another one somewhere else. But it's not over yet "I would still like to be huge," she says. "In hindsight we have been very lucky we weren't huge for a short amount of time." She would also like to be rich. "A million would do." A million would mean that she could make the albums but not be forced to release them. She likes making the albums.
The German installation artist Rebecca Horn seems to have been responsible for the interior of the Pump Room in Rotherhithe; indeed, there is a possibility that, when particularly depressed, she made the whole of Rotherhithe. This vast dilapidated building houses a dark landscape where a discarded wheelchair and barbed wire fuse into subterranean passages and where, crumbling walls and old graffiti open out into a space where, for no apparent reason, there is a light and warmth and people are selling army surplus. Around the outside there are lines of rusting Beetles and no visible entrance or exit.
The Pump House is known in the film industry as a place where low-budget films are made. "Very poor catering," says one experienced regular. Very poor catering is right. Chips from a van and a piece of fruit cake. A lurex curtain reveals a podium full of Banshees: Budgie and Severin are wearing silver shirts and feathers; Siouxsie's wearing a gold-sequined trouser suit. The podium is revolving, round and round, and a disco ball spits out those shimmying globs of light that cause convulsions. "Can we have quiet, please, this is a set not a party."
A bald Australian man named John Hillcoat studies a monitor. Hillcoat has been employed to make the video for Stargazer, the second single to be released from The Rapture. He is an interesting choice. In 1988 he released the extraordinary Ghosts Of The Civil Dead, a film about the high security prisons in Australia. Since then there have been videos for Nick Cave and the German avant guarde noise band Einstürzende Neubauten. The Banshees saw his film, Blume, for the latter, a finely focused use of simple but surreal images made by a film maker who knows that narrative must never be lost to the palette of the editing suite. The chaos of hi-tech quick-flash graphics and digital effects does not appear in the work of Hillcoat - he allows an idea to breath. His videos are short films and they are different.
His promo for the Banshees' O Baby involved a baby beauty pageant in Flagstaff, Arizona. Hillcoat, who is fascinated by the macabre, both covert and overt, knew that the imagery would be of frills, curls and uncanny posturing as children from 10 months upwards competed for titles such as Tot Personality and Miniature Miss Talent. Research had also revealed a subtext, a dangerous undercurrent where fanatic mothers had lost control and beaten their daughters up for losing.
Siouxsie flew in and Hillcoat noticed that she was keen to record the scene backstage to tell the truth of this glitzy scenario. It was, in the end, a pop video, not a documentary, but she knew that silence was the Candyman's currency.
She had attended her mother's funeral the day before. So, on the set in Flagstaff, the Siouxsie mask was useful, a defence and a device that aided work. "She was very strong," says Hillcoat. "The consummate professional."
Behind lurked a bereavement that had been appalling. There had been cancer and, in Siouxsie's view, a series of medical mistakes. Then, suddenly, the telephone call to France that warned of finality. "I booked the flight but I was too late," she says "That was the worst thing not saying goodbye."
John Maybury once persuaded her to remove the Siouxsie face for his Court Of Miracles film series - he recognised that she was "a lovely looking woman," but that it was not her habit to take advantage of this. In Rotherhithe, the mask is the pancake face of traditional Chinese theatre for a narrative set in Hong Kong. Red flashes across her profile; thick black streaks slash over a crimson mouth: Siouxsie is definitely here. She is wearing the sparkly slacks, being photographed, thinking that this work with Hillcoat marks a new start for them, that the album will be a turning point. But there has been a moment, in the dressing room, between coats of paint as it were, when the bare face of Susan Ballion was revealed. A strong jaw, dark eyes, high cheekbones - it is still and sad and beautiful and you wouldn't know it was her.
Jessica Berens 14/01/95
THIS MONTH, POLYDOR REISSUE 12 OF THE BAND'S ALBUMS ON MID-PRICE CD. PAT GILBERT CONSIDERS THE LEGACY OF THE SUPERANNUATED SIOUXSIE
According to their critics, the Banshees should no longer exist. As the band that best symbolised the punk spirit, they should have self-destructed years ago. One or two classic albums and then, bam, like the Pistols, a swift and bloody demise.
But there was no implosion, of course (despite McKay and Morris's mid-tour defection in 1979), and today, 19 years and 14 albums after their legendary appearance at the October 1976 punk festival, the Banshees are still going strong and - considering their latest, critically-acclaimed album, "The Rapture" - still have a few surprises up their sleeves.
To some, however, the whole idea of a superannuated Siouxsie is an anathema, a sorry reminder that, instead of wiping out the rock dinosaur, punk only served to create its own monsters. That the Banshees - the last original punk group to sign a major deal - were the ones to find lasting commercial success seemed doubly ironic. After all, it was they who established the myth that "anyone can form a band", and, more so than the Velvet Underground, turned the tuneless, amateur cacophony into an incendiary artform.
The idea, then, of the band embracing traditional musicianship, and surviving the difficult second and third albums to make it as a successful 90's chart act - well, in the context of their punk roots, it seemed ten times worse than the Who not dying before they got old.
But unlike her critics, the young Siouxsie of 79 knew her best was yet to come. At a time when people were still dwelling on the majesty of the ragged, noisy art-rock of "The Scream" and the bleaker, cacophonous follow-up, "Join Hands", the Banshees were preparing to take the dark, teutonic undertow of their music a step further. But what most surprised fans, after Morris and McKay's split, was Siouxsie and bassist Steve Severin's plan to turn their music into something approaching pop.
Indeed, by the time John McGeoch (ex-Magazine) had filled Roberts Smiths plimsouls in late 1979, the classic 'Gothic' Banshees sound - a sophisticated cocktail of complex guitar lines, galloping toms, shrieking vocals and mystical imagery - was already taking shape. Timeless pop singles like "Christine" and "Happy House" were only a twist of the "Kaleidoscope" away. And so too was Goth...
Polydor' s decision to reissue the Banshees' back catalogue at mid-price will no doubt elicit a barrage of reviews, underscoring the received wisdom that the band never again scaled the artistic heights of their first three albums, and that their career tailed away after 1981' s "Juju", which was host to startling post-punk anthems like "Head Cut" and "Voodoo Dolly".
Yet listening to these albums end-to-end its difficult to see where the rot sets in, if, indeed, it ever did.
Once dismissed as self-indulgent and unnecessarily theatrical, in a Mystic Meg kind of way, 1982's "A Kiss In The Dreamhouse" now seems darkly magnificent, with tracks like "Melt!", "Painted Bird" and "Slowdive" providing McGeoch with the perfect platform to wring tortured figures from his guitar and for Siouxsie to indulge in other-worldly, sub-Gothic images that were genuinely unsettling in a way that her disciples - the Skeletal Family and Ghost Dance - could only hope to imitate.
Only after the patchy "Nocturne", originally a live double recorded at the Albert Hall, did Siouxsie ever look short of an idea or two, and, with Severin off playing with Robert Smith in the Glove, and the singer herself scoring a hit or two with the Creatures (also featuring drummer Budgie), "Hyaena", from 1984, turned out to be anything but a laugh. By this time, McGeoch had departed, and Smith was providing guitar once more, but while "Swimming Horses" and "Dazzle" outwardly retained a sense of purpose and occasion, the rest of the album was poor.
An 18-month break, and the recruitment of ex-Clock DVA guitarist, John 'Valentine' Carruthers, was evidently just what the group needed: when they bounced back in 1986 with "Tinderbox", it was as if demons that had haunted Siouxsie through the Gothic years had finally been exorcised. Brighter, more poppy, yet still unpredictable and offbeat, the album was a triumph, and tracks like "Candyman" and "Cities In Dust" cast the Banshees into their present role as punk survivors, with a unique sound that could be massaged into a variety of new, but still recognisable, shapes.
Now nudging 30, Siouxsie and Severin had little in common with the teenagers who, backed by Sid Vicious on drums and future Adam Ant collaborator Marco Pirroni on guitar, hacked their way through a 15-minute rendition of "The Lord's Prayer" at the 100 Club in 1976. "Tinderbox" proved they were adults making adult music, and they wore this realisation with confidence.
In fact, such was their relative contentment that their next move was to issue an album of covers. In the past, of course, they'd tackled the Beatles' "Helter Skelter" and "Dear Prudence", but "Through The Looking Glass" proved far more adventurous, with versions of everything from Sparks' "This Town Ain't Big Enough For The Both Of Us" and John Cale's "Gun", though it was ultimately their take on Iggy's "The Passenger" (yawn!) that made it onto 7".
The follow-up, 1988s "Peepshow", confirmed the Banshees' life-long love affair with weirdness, weighing in with odd rhythms, backwards guitar and violent imagery ("Rawhead & Bloodybones"), but ultimately the shock tactics were beginning to wear thin. Gentler, and making a concession to the dance explosion, "Superstition", from 1991, could regain the momentum lost by its predecessor, and fans welcomed the attempt to put a lid on the second phase of the Banshees' career with the singles collection, "Twice Upon A Time", a sequel to 1981's essential "Once Upon A Time", long available at budget price.
So, there we have it: all the Banshees CDs on the racks at an affordable price, except their recent return-to-form, the John Cale-produced "The Rapture". All the original artwork, mesmerising sound quality - the Banshees were made for that unique CD sparkle - but no bonus tracks. We'll obviously have to wait for that long-overdue rarities set...
Pat Gilbert 04/95
Where Are They Now?
THERE IS A REGULAR Q FEATURE CALLED Where Are They Now? in which we track down once-famous rock stars who, for various reasons, have parted company with renown and notability. They exempted themselves from the rock myth. They have become despatch riders. They fiddle about on an eight track. They are invariably content and fulfilled.
But what about those rock musicians who just disappear for a while? Take off? Have it away on their toes? Vamoose, skidaddle, give it some bugger offery. Go, if you’ll pardon the expression, missing? Those tense, hastily organised, band meetings. That poignantly empty seat on the tour bus. Those heart-breaking Have You Seen This rock Star? posters, with blurred black-and-white photos of troubled musical souls with shades that hide a thousand woes.
Where do they go?
They go to Iceland, that’s where. They go to Paris. They go to New Orleans. They go bonkers. They enter monasteries. They join religious sects. They go to work in dad’s store. And some of them never come back.
John McKay and Kenny Morris
IT’S FRIDAY, IT’S FIVE O’CLOCK, IT’S SEPTEMBER 7, 1979, and John McKay and Kenny Morris of Siouxsie And The Banshees have just hit on an ingenious method of quitting the band.
The 24-date Siouxsie And The Banshees UK tour has reached it’s second night, in Aberdeen. The scene this afternoon: our fractious chums have fouled up an in-store Banshees signing at the city’s other record Shop. Their beef: Nils Stevenson, the Banshees’ manager, upon learning that the record store’s promised quota of 200 copies of the new album, Join Hands, has not been sent by Polydor, has sold the store 30 of his own promotional copies - bearing "Not For Sale" stickers - so that they can sell them to the fans queuing up for signatures.
No, no, no, think McKay and Morris, we shall not fellate the corporate infrastructure thus. Indeed, drummer Morris, whom Banshees insiders will later describe as "arty", and guitarist McKay ("utterly humourless"), not only refuse to sign copies of the album, but begin giving them away for nothing, and even take the album off the store stereo, replacing it with the frankly better Cut by The Slits.
The upshot is immediate: an aghast Siouxsie shoves McKay out of the store, and Morris follows. Much muttering commences. The surly duo return to their hotel, arrange their pillows in their beds, World war II escape caper style, so they look like their bodies are asleep in them, then they pin their backstage passes to the resultant bumps. Vamoosage ensues.
Stevenson, returning to the hotel, observes them getting into a cab. Attempting to intercept his charges, the manager conducts enquiries through the taxi’s window. In mid-flow, Morris winds the window up on his arm. "We can’t take the pressure," they vouchsafe.
They have booked the cab to Stonehaven, 15 miles down the coast, Stevenson, at the wheel of the band’s hired six-litre Chevrolet minibus, gives speedy chase. But the cab never arrives.
Now, Siouxsie Sioux and her bassist Steve Severin fully expect McKay and Morris to re-appear for the gig’s soundcheck. A bit of a tantrum, that’s all. These things happen in love and rock. Soon, they reckon, it’ll be backstage hugs, all differences forgotten.
In fact, Morris and McKay not only didn’t come back for the gig, they never came back. Ever. Regular perusers of the music weeklies might have seen news of their next low-key projects, circa 1986, but to all practical and artistic extents, John McKay and Kenny Morris, on that day in Aberdeen, disappeared off the face of the earth. Forever.
Jungle - what is it, really?
Internet - what’s the latest?
Session work - how do you get it?
Dark Side Of The Moon - how did they do that?
Tom Doyle meets Siouxsie and her two faithful Banshees to discuss recordings past and present
SIOUXSIE SIOUX arches a famous eyebrow at the prospect of doing a ‘technical’ interview. "You won’t need me then," she grins, peering over her expensive Junior Gaultier shades, "I don’t know a knob from a dickhead." Her fellow band members, Bassist Steve Severin and drummer/husband Budgie explode into laughter.
"I get my ideas from my Dictaphone," she goes on. "That’s about how technical I get - on, off. Dictaphones are very handy actually. I swear by the Dictaphone. I remember someone talking to me about their studio and I said, ‘Yeah, my method is the Dictaphone’ - and they just looked at me dumbfounded, like, ‘Is this woman serious?’."
The Banshees sit around a table in a south west London hotel conference room, eager to talk about ‘The Rapture’, their latest album in a 16 year career. Siouxsie is chatty and friendly in a slightly guarded way, Severin is serious and soft spoken, while Budgie acts as band storyteller, cheerfully relating anecdote after anecdote in an animated fashion. The three tend to talk almost as one, finishing each other’s points, even sentences.
They explain that the writing for the new album (their first since 1991’s ‘Superstition’) began in March 1993 in Siouxsie and Budgie’s house in the south of France. Siouxsie: "The room had high-ceiling walls, tiled floors, bit of soundproofing, but we kept that slap-back effect." Steve: "The cats lived in the bass drum." Siouxsie: "Yeah, every now and then you’d hear ‘Meoooow’..."
Budgie: "We decided to write in one room with all the band present..." Siouxsie: "It was a reaction to the technical, clinical approach to the last album. I just wanted to get out of my straightjacket and let them kill the machines, let me out of the box."
Budgie: "Steve had some portastudio things he’d been working on." Siouxsie: "We basically fleshed out the ideas as a band without being separated. We were all in one room making the one noise." Steve: "It's just something we needed to do it, we hadn’t done it for a long time. Hardly any of ’Superstition’ was done like that."
Siouxsie: "If you go into a rehearsal room there’s a kind of sterility to the atmosphere because you’ve hired x amount hours in the day." Budgie: "You feel as if you have to work. You see everybody else clocking into their respective studios like battery chickens." Siouxsie: "Battery chickens laying the golden egg locked in their room - ’come out with something or we’ll never open the doors’."
You get the distinct impression The Banshees were much happier working in the relaxed atmosphere of their home... Siouxsie: "Oh yeah. It was great. We had our own food and every now and then I’d cook something, Budgie would cook something, Jon [Klein, current guitarist] would cook something, and I think Steve rustled up a few things..." Budgie: "Good breakfasts, I think. Steamed cauliflower with Dijon mustard. This is Vegetarian Weekly, isn’t it?"
Steve: "In the past we’d go into the studio with five or six key songs we know we can do straight away as backing tracks, and just get them down. We very rarely go in with the whole thing. We like to spend a bit of time inventing things in the studio. But you have to get the balance right, so this time we went in with maybe six songs we knew we were doing. It’s a really good way of working because it’s very flexible; one person could be writing lyrics and the other person could be downstairs working something out on a portastudio and then in the evening we’d maybe all listen to it. So it was very sort of organic. And being in the countryside, it’s not like the countryside inspires you but it helps you focus because you’ve got less..."
Budgie: "...Admit it, Steve, it was hell." Siouxsie: "It was great for working, just the silence and the lack of things being thrown at you whether you want it or not, just distractions making you so aware that you’re in that day of the year of that month, you know. No newspapers, no TV, no radio." Budgie: "We had a satellite dish on the roof and so we were watching UK Gold together and Top Of The Pops from 1970-blob and together we’re sitting going [adopts laddish tone], ’Fucking rubbish’." Steve: "There was that sort of gang mentality you get when you’re maybe touring for a while."
Siouxsie: "We had a great sense of starting again from scratch with no baggage. It’s like you’re not part of the industry; it was like getting together again round someone’s house, which is exactly what it was. It wasn’t like you had to finish this idea because you had to pack up."
The writing/rehearsing period lasted six weeks, although due to particularly adverse weather conditions, it nearly didn’t happen at all. Budgie: "It’s an hour and a half drive from our house to Toulouse airport and when we arrived in Toulouse, a blizzard appeared. So we jumped in the car, and it took us ten hours to get back. We tobogganed back. Martin [McCarrick - keys, cello and accordion] had brought all this duty free Blue Sapphire Bombay Gin, which was being quaffed merrily in the back. We just knew this was going to be a great album because we christened it in the best possible way."
Once they felt they had enough songs to begin recording, the band decided to book into Studio De Manoir on the west coast of France. Budgie: "It basically means ’The Manor’, but it wasn’t." Siouxsie: "It was very rustic and I think we were on the end of the electricity fault line. For some reason these amazing storms and torrential rain and lightning and thunder would hit and the studio would go down. Quite often we’d just find some candles and look out at this [makes a thunderous crash] and watch toads hopping here and there."
Steve: "We’d never been in a residential in the countryside before. We’d done an album in Berlin, but that was about it."
Budgie: "We’d decided this was going to be our own creation, if you like - we had no producer. We had this engineer, Charlie Gray, who we’d used on B-sides before. We had to be our own bosses - you’ve got to get the thing working and get some method together and create a discipline which we’re not the best at."
Steve: "We’re probably a bit of a nightmare for an engineer because I’d be there at ten in the morning looking over his shoulder and going through tracks, then Budgie would come in a bit later and then Sioux would arrive, and so his whole working day was elongated because everyone wanted to keep going."
Was it difficult producing themselves? Were there many arguments? Steve: "We like to think we have a pretty in-built pecking order, a kind of nice democracy, but you know, we haven’t really." Budgie: "I think we learned a lot about each other. There were certain moments when somebody would grasp the idea of something and run with it. Other times it’s like a stalemate - if you’ve got a producer involved in that kind of thing they’ll never sort it out because they always take sides." Siouxsie: "We do what’s best for the song, so the person with the most convincing conviction behind an idea will win."
For those uninspired moments, they even tried Eno’s Oblique Strategies, a set of cards he designed for producers, each featuring a different instruction to help (or hinder) the recording process. Steve: "There are some technical instructions in there, but there are some that just say ’Think Pink’ or ’Ignore the Last Thing You Recorded’ and ’Erase Your Last Idea’."
Tired of working with computers and sequencing as they had with ’Superstition’, The Banshees returned to their roots and recorded almost everything entirely live. Budgie: "We wanted as much spill as possible. The drums were in front of the control room window, the bass was off to the left. Martin had his keyboard or cello in the middle of the room, Siouxsie was in a booth - even though she came into the room for some songs - and Jon was in the room even though the guitar amps were isolated. We would only use a click track if we weren’t sure of the arrangement and then we’d be able to go back and piece together something - it wasn’t really for strictness of tempo, it was more for the construction of the songs."
Siouxsie: "It was necessary when we were trying to marry the song "The Rapture" together because the transitions were strange, and to do that in the right way, something was needed." Budgie: "The pulse in "The Rapture" is in one tempo and the cello part comes in another tempo - we’re marrying 6/4 and 4/4, or whatever. There was a bit of maths going there."
Steve: "We wanted the band bashing out a backing track together and then over the weekend you sit there with a piece of tape and edit it together. All the bits were there but they came in at different times. The only track that really had any computer work on it was "The Double Life"." Budgie: "Basically we liked the sounds of the computer-generated sequence on that."
Steve: "They’re two separate things, writing with computers and recording with computers, digital recording. Even with ’Face To Face’ we did it very quickly starting with the computer and getting the ideas down fast. But the ’Superstition’ album was actually formed with computers and it was too isolated and too much in one direction.
Did they enjoy it at the time? Budgie: "No, I couldn’t enjoy going in and doing four drum passes, knowing there would be a bit of that taken and there would be cymbal crashes landing on beats I didn’t play them on. But overall I could live with it. In retrospect I suppose it just didn’t feel natural."
Siouxsie: "With that kind of analytical anything-is-possible thing, I think you actually lose the character of the performances. The music ends up like a neat little drawing." Budgie: "It’s like a series of sound-bytes on MTV or something, one of those links where they put snippets of Hendrix and The Doors together and you recognise instantly all the parts but they mean nothing, there’s no emotion about it."
Steve: "On ’Superstition’ that method of recording worked for maybe half the songs, but the important thing is we didn’t feel connected as a band. Still, things like "Kiss Them For Me" wouldn’t have happened if we’d been working in another way because the technology made us write in that way."
Budgie: ""Peek-A-Boo" is the same because the drums went on way at the end and the vocals were more structured, with a different microphone for every verse. We used this great Swedish tape recorder mike called The Slug Grub or something."
Steve: "We’re from the school or era where you basically get your hands dirty. If you want a tape loop, you make one. It doesn’t matter what it goes round..." Budgie: "...If it’s really long it’ll be going around mike stands and it wobbles and shifts." Steve: "The producer can get into his hard disk and do the same thing with the entire track you’re recording, but somehow it’s just not the same."
The band eventually returned to Whitfield Street Studios in London to begin mixing the nine tracks they’d completed in France. Budgie: "I think our engineer Charlie had a bloody hard job - we’re very demanding of each other and the engineer."
Steve: "The mixing was a bit of a struggle because it was too much harking back to what we’d just tried to reject - a super-automated desk and all on computer. Nearly every song was 48-track and it just spilled everywhere with just so many ideas. The problem with that is you’re not involved, only one person looking at a screen is involved. It’s the type of thing where logically we would have wanted to be physically turning the pots. But it wasn’t to be and that was a bit of tension. We finished the nine tracks in time to go off and do some festivals and a tour of Australia. We could have put it out that winter..."
Siouxsie: "Yeah, Polydor were waiting in the wings with their clingfilm to wrap it up." Steve: "But we said to them we didn’t hear a first single - we hear three or four singles maybe, but we don’t hear the first one. It just didn’t feel right. And with nine songs it was only like 45 minutes, just, which of course is the length of an old LP, but it just didn’t feel complete. So we started this really fruitless search for a producer."
Eventually they joined forces with John Cale (they’re all massive fans of The Velvet Underground), who they lovingly describe as "our Florence Nightingale".
Siouxsie: "It was great working with someone where you just can’t bullshit them and they don’t bullshit you. Great sense of humour, but a great sense of working with ’now’. He’s got an understanding of what you’re going for which we didn’t have to explain. And we’ve never worked with a producer that was a musician as well, so it wasn’t like getting a new boy in and seeing if he’s all he’s cracked up to be or if he’s intimidated by us."
Steve: "You’re totally open to any suggestions he makes because it’s like, why not? He’s almost certainly not going to be wrong. He was really good at analysing arrangements and things: he’d want to hear the bass drum pattern and that was like, ’Wow, great’."
Budgie: "I think the reason Cale came along was because he’d heard what we’d done and he could maybe relate to it. He was in the middle of a really heavy schedule with the Velvet Underground, but he very quickly had a grasp of what we were trying to do with this record."
Steve: "The thing that sealed it with us was we’d been trying to stick the tail on the donkey with all these other producers and you’d be waiting for weeks for their managers to ring." Budgie: "But with John the phone call and the fax came back within 24 hours saying, ’Let’s get together’. The fax was pinned to the wall and we were like, ’Wow’."
Siouxsie: "Still at this point we’d had no response from the record company about songs like "The Rapture" and "The Double Life" - there was no kind of input from them whatsoever." Steve: "You just have to steel yourself and keep telling yourself like an automaton that they’re great songs, because as soon as you hand it over, everybody snatches it like a piece of product and they talk about it in such an awful, detached way, it’s really easy to forget you really love it as a song."
Together with Cale, the band moved to Wessex Studios in Highbury and mixed the five remaining tracks from the album - "O Baby", "Tearing Apart", "The Lonely One", "Falling Down" and "Forever".
Siouxsie: "The strange thing about this album is, the ones you think John Cale would have been involved in, he wasn’t. We’d done nine and we rejected two of them, so we had seven. So we got five more; and he remixed "Fall From Grace"."
Budgie: "On "Fall From Grace", Siouxsie was playing the drums and I was playing guitar, Steve was playing bass, Jon was on guitar and Martin was droning away on his cello, and it was a real Velvet Underground theme. I was just hitting two strings and it went on for hours. That’s where some of these things would come from. We had all the structure but actually formulating the thing was done through experimenting."
Siouxsie: "I was doing my Mo Tucker thing on the drums. I love those big boomy toms. Sometimes I have to show Budgie how to drum... It’s like, ’Leave the hi-hat alone, keep the important things, y’know, those big meaty toms’."
Budgie: "The first thing that went when I joined the band was the hi-hat." Siouxsie: "We actually had to physically move it out of the rehearsal room." Budgie: "It slowly crept back in though."
What are their favourite albums from their back catalogue? Budgie likes ’Juju’. Steve and Siouxsie both like ’Kaleidoscope’. Siouxsie: "That was a point where it could have been the end of the band, but we kind of got a different strength and life. We’re all self-taught and I actually did start playing some guitar and it was very much hands-on. We were all playing different instruments." Steve: "It was like toys, it was great." Budgie: "I came in and they’d done "Christine" and "Red Light" and there were just two people sitting in the room. It was me joining the group on record in the middle of "Red Light" when the drums fade in, it was like I was fading into the group."
Steve and Siouxsie both go "aaah". The three of them also have nothing but fond memories of recording ‘A Kiss In The Dreamhouse’. Steve: "I think we’re all very fond of ’Dreamhouse’ because it was very experimental and we felt we could do no wrong. We were so supremely confident in everything we were doing and we’d built up such a great rapport with Mike Hedges."
Budgie: "When we were finishing that album, the studio was being repossessed and so we were kind of hanging onto the Dolby’s and stuff." Siouxsie: "Yeah, leave that Vocoder there!" Budgie: "Take the eight channels at the end there, we’re not using those. And then the Asteroids machine went and the fridge went and the secretary went and only the telephone was left."
Steve: "We have a habit of demolishing studios - not in a rock & roll way, but everything begins falling around our ears when we’re working there. Even right up to date with this album, we mixed it in Skyline in New York and that closed down."
Budgie: "There’s only one place that survived us and that’s RAK Studios. But he did apparently sack all the staff soon after."
Are there any of their albums they now think are crap? Siouxsie: "There aren’t many albums I listen to and hate, it’s more a question of the circumstances in which they were done. Like ‘Tinderbox’, I couldn’t listen to for a long time because of its association with what we were doing at the time, trying to get it finished. And ’Hyaena’ because that was the first artistic block we had."
At one point in the past The Banshees even considered working with Trevor Horn and had a meeting with him where they let him hear the demo for "Peek-A-Boo".
Budgie: "He just said, ’What else can I add?’. He also sat at the back of the studio, rolling a cigarette, going, ’What’s that frequency? It hurts my ears. Now can you work with that sound coming out of the speakers’ and we were like, ’What sound? It sounds great’."
They have nothing but praise for Mike Hedges, with whom they recorded four albums - ’A Kiss In The Dreamhouse’, ’Hyaena’, ’Through The Looking glass’, and ’Peepshow’. Budgie: "We worked with Mike Hedges because he was the only one who could tolerate that sound." Steve: "And boost it."
Without doubt, they reckon their worst production nightmare was in the early stages of the ’Tinderbox’ sessions with a particular US producer who shall remain nameless.
Budgie: "He would say, ’Hey Budgie, I don’t record 16s on the snare drum, I gave that up in the Seventies’. And I’m like, a) I want 16s on the snare drum, and b) what do you mean you don’t record that anymore? What is this flavour of the month I don’t know about? He’d say to Siouxsie, ’Hey listen I’m not sure about these lyrics here’."
Siouxsie: "He’s like, ’There’s three lines here and maybe we should make it four lines’." Budgie: "And of course in the wings he’s got his little keyboard and it’s like, his production company - oh, now we understand." Siouxsie: "We sent him on the plane back home."
Budgie: "One time we were sitting in a pizza restaurant on Hyde Park and he had this big fur coat on, and Siouxsie goes, ’Do you know you look like Fozzie the Bear?’. The guy’s sense of humour revealed itself in all its glory." Siouxsie: "He stormed off in a temper, and half an hour later he came back because there was this blizzard and he hadn’t been able to find a taxi. We just howled with laughter and he stomped off again into the night, lost in the snow in London."
HOWL OF THE BANSHEE
SIOUXSIE AND THE BANSHEES guitarist Jon Klein was beaten up and left bleeding in the gutter - minutes after a bitter argument with ex-Dead Or Alive singer Pete Burns.
Klein was rushed to University College Hospital, central London, by Banshees drummer Budgie. There he received 17 stitches to an L-shaped wound on the forehead. He had another open cut and numerous bruises on the top of his head, two open wounds ("nasty stiletto punctures") on the upper thigh, a black eye and grazed ribs.
The drama happened last Saturday night (May 28th) at Fred’s nightclub in Carlisle Street, Soho.
The Banshees had spent the day in Wessex studios at Highbury New barn with producer John Cale, finishing off some material for their next album. They then went to Fred’s to discuss their progress.
According to Klein: "The whole band were there and we had our meeting. I thought I’d stay for another quick drink with Siouxsie and Budgie - which probably turned into a couple more.
"There seemed to be a Liverpool contingent turning up, and for most of the night Siouxsie was engaged in conversation with Pete Burns.
"He’s a wild looking chap these days. He was wearing a black twin piece, like a dress, with white trim. He had straight, shoulder length hair, and he was wearing tons of make-up. He looked more like a transvestite than an androgyne. Most people wouldn’t recognise him today."
Jon Klein had met Pete Burns briefly once before. Also, Klein’s sister had at one time managed a health club Burns belongs to, but had been controversially dismissed from her job.
"We were sitting at this table in Fred’s, and I think it was Siouxsie who brought this up - ’Did you hear about what happened to Jon’s sister?’ I thought they’d been relatively friendly. My sister had done some work on Pete’s wardrobe, and she’s done him some favours.
"But his reaction to Siouxsie’s question was along the lines of ’Who cares? So what?’ Pop star jive.
"I did get hot under the collar, because of this being family. The argument moved straight past my sister into pretty much anything that came to hand. I’m sure we were shouting by now. I was telling him about his behaviour. Self-centred. Self-important. The mentality of the ’rock stars club’. I never felt any particular affiliation with this part of the music establishment. I don’t get on well with the fame game, generally.
"At a certain point, this girl just suddenly appeared on my left, smiling inanely. I didn’t know who she was. I only later found out she was Pete’s wife. She was obviously flanking Pete, coming to take a piece of the action. She wasn’t aggressive, more a wind-up. It felt like it had become a bit of a game at this point.
"I do not remember how we ended up in the street. I don’t know how I had a glass of beer in my hand, and I don’t remember what the punchline was that triggered me to pour it on her head. She was pretty upset because she’d obviously spent a lot of time on her hair - it was back-combed and lacquered. The next thing I knew was - bang! I had a rendezvous with the gutter."
Klein did not see any blow coming, nor did he see his assailants, said to be a man and a woman.
"I just felt several blows to the head and body. I didn’t manage to get off the floor until they were pulled off by Budgie. As far as I can make out, they wouldn’t have stopped beating me if it weren’t for him. It must have been fairly obvious after the first boot or two that I wasn’t going to get up. I was in a state of catatonic shock.
"The worst injuries were to my head and my ass, so it seems like I probably had one of them at each end, one kicking my head in and the other one bringing up the rear, as it were."
When Klein got his bearings, he claims Pete Burns was going off down the road yelling, "You bald f***".
"The crew at Fred’s tried to drag me in and clean me up, but I just wanted to get the f*** out of there. Budgie caught up with me somewhere north of Tottenham Court Road. He brought my hat, which he found at the scene of the crime. I didn’t want to loose that because it was the only way I could keep the rest of my head on.
"By this time, I was in such a state of shock I was totally numb. Budgie forced me to go to hospital. He came with me and would not leave me. I got home at seven o’clock the next morning."
After two hours sleep, Klein got up and returned to the studio where "it was definitely hard finding a spot to put the headphones on". He added: "I’d like to put it on record that I got a take down that day."
The LP, due for release later in the year, has been in the making for 15 months, on and off. Cale was brought in as "more of a rock producer" to finish it off.
According to Klein: "It’s more kind of ’Turn the machine on and play.’ It’s the third consecutive album with the same line-up - it ups the telepathic factor and the general chemistry of the album."
Pete Burns was unavailable for comment as The Maker went to press.
C'MON, SPIRIT OUT
The Banshees come screaming
Since then they've had 20-odd hits and more guitarists than the Musicians Union has members ("We just chew 'em up and pit 'em out," says Siouxsie with a commendable lack of compassion), played Lollapalooza (the Yanks' mobile Reading) and written the theme to Tim Burton's Batman Returns.
Remarkably, throughout all this they've retained their cool and an admirable reputation for debauchery. Steve Severin, the band's bassist and sometime lyricist, was recently banned from London media hangout the Atlantic Bar for over-indulgence. That's like being banned from Chelsea's Shed for being too much of a Chelsea supporter. Steve also subscribes to loaded. Geezer.
And Siouxsie, apparently, can out-drink the most exuberantly beery scrum half. It's Budgie, Banshees drummer and husband to Siouxsie, who's most composed of the three.
It's their ability to take themselves slightly less seriously than their legions of black clad fans do, that Severin reckons has kept the band going. "We've never had much respect for the music industry. We aren't particularly interested in making friends, and nowadays we're a fuck of a lot more relaxed about what we do than we ever were. We get on with enjoying ourselves."
The Banshees new album Rapture is a sometimes excellent, always good collection of juju beats, insidious, eccentric melodies, plaintive wishes and sour sentiments. Siouxsie's an expert at sour sentiments. At its best, as with the slick, slinky S&M meisterwork 'Not Forgotten', Rapture pulsates with a grisly, sequined glitz the Banshees have made their own.
"I love the record," says Steve, who's soon to publish a volume of his own erotic prose poetry (a mucky book to you lot). "It was recorded in very much the same way as the early stuff; the four of us in a room banging the stuff out. In fact, a lot of people have said it reminds them of the stuff we were doing in the '80s."
And what about us?
"loaded's one of the first men's magazines around to acknowledge that men are actually having a good time. If you read the other titles you always get the impression they're faintly embarrassed about men enjoying themselves." GHF!
The Stud Brothers 1995
BANSHEES' BABY BOOM
SIOUXSIE AND THE BANSHEES are setting out on their first major British tour since 1988 to follow the release by Wonderland/Polydor of their new single, "O Baby", and album, "The Rapture". As reported last week, the band have worked with The Velvet Underground's John Cale on the album. Cale has produced five of the album's 12 tracks - including the single, released on December 28.
Tour dates are: Wolverhampton Civic Hall (January 21), Nottingham Rock City (22), Leeds Town & Country Club (23), Cardiff University (25), Liverpool Royal Court Theatre (26), Glasgow Barrowlands (28), Newcastle Mayfair (29), Manchester Academy (30), Portsmouth Guildhall (February 1), London Shepherd's Bush Empire (3), Cambridge Corn Exchange (7), and Norwich UEA (8).
Fittingly, the bonus tracks on the new single include a live cover of the Velvets' classic, "All Tomorrow's Parties", recorded in Los Angeles in 1991. The seven-inch and cassette formats of the single are backed with "B Side Ourselves", which also appears on one of the CD formats along with "O Baby (Manhattan Mix)". The second CD includes live recordings of "All Tomorrow's Parties" and the 1984 hit "Swimming Horses".
Banshees bassist and founder member Steven Severin told the Maker: "We decided that we wanted to do away with the computers and the producers and just do it all ourselves. So we went down to Sioux's house, stayed there for about six weeks and wrote nine songs, which we thought would comprise the album. Then we went to a studio in Biarritz in the south of France and recorded those.
"We thought we'd kind of finished it, and we were going to release the album at the end of last year; but we decided that we hadn't got enough songs, or enough variety in the songs. So then we thought that the best way to finish this thing would be to get a producer to help us put it all together.
"We must have spent about three to four months deflecting all the dance producers that Polydor were throwing at us. Our first question was always 'Can they record a live drum kit?"
"Then Budgie (Banshees drummer) was doing some session work in Paris, and he met John Cale's European manager. And the penny dropped: 'Let's ask John Cale.'
"All the other producers had their managers in the way. They'd get back to us three weeks later and all that kind of rubbish.
"Cale faxed us the next day and said, 'Love the songs you've done, and I'm very flattered to be involved.' So we took it from there.
"We wrote five new songs with him coming to rehearsals with us, recorded them in two weeks, and pretty much had it done by June or July of this year. We had 45 minutes' worth even before that, but in a lot of ways it's nicer working across an hour. We wanted it to be like a concert, with ups and downs all the way through. We recorded most of it live in the studio."
"The problem that we've always had with producers is that they come up from tea boy to tape operator to engineer to producer, and the reputation that we carry with us usually intimidates them. It was nice to have it the other way round. He's a pretty formidable character, but he's got a great sense of humour and he's not at all difficult to work with. It's just that he likes hard work, and we responded.
"I think the album is less sumptuous than some of the things we've done before. Something like 'Forever' is very beautiful, but it's also very simple.
"That's one of the things that John Cale got us to do. He doesn't care that much about the sound of the bass drum, it's more to do with songs and arrangements. That's where he'd use his production skills. He always said, 'You don't need to do any more on this song,' or 'It just needs one more bit and then it'll be done.' It was a discipline that we needed."
Asked about the tour, Severin laughed: "Well, it's about time. We haven't consciously ignored playing in the UK, it's just fallen that way. Fifteen shows isn't massive, but it's enough.
"When we played Clapham Grand last year, it was great to have the audience breathing down your necks. It was so different to playing Reading the next weekend. We work better when we've got a captive audience as opposed to a comatose one, so festivals aren't our greatest thing in the world."
"O Baby" is a fairly straightforward love song, and probably the most commercial Banshees single in their 16-year recording career.
Commented Severin: "Weird, eh. Wait till you see the video - that's the twist. It was filmed at an American baby beauty pageant, and it's semi-documentary - there's no lip-synching. There's just Siouxsie taking part in a baby beauty pageant - and winning!
"We're used to raised eyebrows. There were quite a few with 'Peek A Boo', and with 'Kiss Them For Me'. We always like to put out something that isn't representative of the album - we're a bit perverse like that. Maybe it'll intrigue someone enough to want to hear the whole thing.
"Everybody needs that bit of surprise. That's what pop music should be."
"The Rapture", released on January 16 is the first album of new Banshees material since 1991's "Superstition". Severin promises that the three-year-plus hiatus will not be repeated.
"We don't want three years between albums - it's daft," he said. "We're putting together some more new material already, in our minds if not on tape yet."