|THE SEVEN YEAR ITCH - MAGAZINE COVERS|
|THE SEVEN YEAR ITCH - INTERVIEWS/ARTICLES|
|THE SCOTSMAN 2002|
|THE TIMES 06/07/0|
|DESTROY ALL MONTHLY 04/02|
|THE TELEGRAPH 2002|
She's known all over the world for both
her looks and her music, but what's really going on in the Siouxsie
camp? The most famous Banshee talks to Natasha Scharf about why the
Banshees reformed, her plans for The Creatures and what it's really like
being married to Budgie...
Siouxsie Sioux is not one to mince her words. She's got a reputation for being an ice maiden and detesting all journalists, so it was with great trepidation that I began this interview with a woman whose music and style has inspired and influenced so many for over three decades.
Today, the ice maiden seems to be in an amicable mood. She's stopped over in London to have her hair cut by the friend whose scissors created the singer's original trademark black locks, imitated by masses. Her press officer has told me that this is one of the few interviews she's granted as she genuinely dislikes talking to the press and prefers to get on with making music.
Once upon a Banshee...
When the Banshees dissolved in 1996, it looked very unlikely that we would see them together again. Siouxsie and Budgie went off to concentrate on The Creatures while Steve Severin set up an online record label called RE:. But as they say, absence makes the heart grow fonder and after a seven year break, the band have made their peace and joined hands once again.
So what did actually happen in those somewhat barren years? Siouxsie reveals in her husky voice: "We'd been having screaming matches with Polydor and when UMG/ Universal took over we were still trying to get the back catalogue looked after and remastered. We'd been hearing horror stories about how a lot of the old tapes that our original recordings were on were crumbling to dust. Dear Prudence was actually lost so we had to master from something else. This had been going on for seven years and we still hadn't got a go ahead or anything in February of this year. That was when Severin called me and said he'd had an offer from our old promoter in the States to do the Coachella Festival, near Palm Springs, and it was a bit of a shock," she laughs. She continues: "But we thought: 'What the hell, Universal aren't doing anything, let's just go out there and play the music.'"
The band started off playing a series of 'rehearsal' gigs on the East Coast, before working their way over to Los Angeles for the festival - they hadn't played together for seven years. As word spread about their reformation, the Banshees were quickly booked for dates in the rest of the USA, England, Scotland and Japan. Anyone who caught their Seven Year Itch shows would have noticed the choice of material was very nostalgic. "We decided that we would play a lot of the older stuff that we hadn't played since it was recorded," Siouxsie says, elaborating: "We played stuff from The Scream and Join Hands and we decided to keep it as a four piece."
Siouxsie, Budgie and Steve Severin were joined on stage by guitarist Knox Chandler, who joined the band as a live member shortly after they split somewhat acrimoniously with former guitarist Jon Klein on tour for The Rapture.
Siouxsie explains: "Ironically we had thought we'd found the perfect guitarist for the Banshees. My favourite guitarist of all time was John McGeoch and I think Knox fits in with that mould of guitarist better than anyone else we've had. He was just really easy to get on with and didn't need things explaining so much musically."
Siouxsie hand-picked the band's support act -The eX Girls, all the way from Japan. "I love the eX Girls," she says. "I think if we were financially a bit more able to do something with Sioux Records, we'd love to sign them 'cos they've not got a deal."
The dates in the US and UK rapidly sold out and Siouxsie admits she was surprised, adding: "We didn't really know what to expect. I thought it was a great finger up to the industry to do that without any kind of blanket promotion, MTV... funnily enough, people asked us whether we had planned to do this at the same time as the Queen's Golden Jubilee and I said: 'F**k off! Don't be stupid!'" she cackles.
"It was quite bizarre playing in the UK again but there was a great atmosphere and I personally saw a lot of people I hadn't seen for a long time - they seemed to come out the woodwork. There was a great young audience there as well - maybe some of that young audience came from the fact that The Creatures had been playing a lot and they got into us through that."
Of the two dates at the Shepherd's Bush Empire, the second was recorded and there's a very strong likelihood it will be released as a live DVD containing exclusive footage next year. Siouxsie says of the venue: "The shows at Shepherd's Bush were very intimate; when we played there it seemed a lot smaller than I remembered it and I love intimate theatres."
Best of the rest...
But sold-out shows weren't the only thing the band managed to achieve through their mini tour - it also chivvied Universal along into remastering the Banshees' singles and putting them out as a Best Of compilation. The CD contains 15 classic Banshees tracks, including Christine, Killing Jar and Hong Kong Garden. Although there are some omissions, Siouxsie says: "We realised it needed to be a taster for people who don't know the Banshees and we were quite brutal in what was included. There are some tracks we really wanted to have on there and we really kind of had to deal with not including just to make it more concise and immediate." She adds: "If we'd put all the singles on there, it would be a double album so we thought we'd keep it short and sweet. It's been great just hearing the stuff remastered and clearing all the cobwebs away."
The old favourites sit happily alongside the previously unreleased track Dizzy. "We chose to add Dizzy because we wanted to release it around the time we split," Siouxsie reveals. "It wasn't released before because we finished with Polydor. Us throwing the towel in just overtook everything and the track was just left there so it was an opportunity to resolve something that had been left hanging. I would like it to be released as a single."
With Best of Siouxsie and the Banshees now in the shops. Universal are looking at doing a boxed set of what Siouxsie describes as her favourite best of: the b-sides. She reveals: "There's no release date yet but it's been a relief that we're actually talking. It's just really been in the last few months that there are new people at Universal and they're really excited. It's about f**king time."
Some of the Banshees' material dates back as far as 1978, when The Scream was first released. How does Siouxsie see the Banshees in relation to the current music scene? She pauses for a while before answering: "I think our music just sounds really fresh now and I get the feeling that people are fed up with the same faces and the same marketing ploys. The way the music scene has become very sewn up and controlled it's almost really regressed to there being a lot of closed doors and there are only a few with very large budgets behind them to pump onto an unsuspecting audience. It's not just the music, it's film as well. It's quite stifling because there's so much out there but so little gets chosen to be rammed down people's throats."
Does she think there will be another big musical explosion, like Punk? "I think something needs to happen," she says, "but I don't think anything will be as big as what happened in the mid 70s just because it was so off-the-wall and unplanned really. I definitely think there's a lot of people not feeling fully dependent on being adopted by the industry. This is especially true with the internet and communications opening up a lot more. I hope people are just going to reject the usual channels of making music available."
What does she make of the current Punk revival? "Oh boring!" she says loudly. "I'm all for people looking at stuff and being inspired by it and being compelled to do something themselves - that's always a great thing. But just to go back and try to recreate or get all sentimental about it is just pointless."
However, the revivals have surely been helping the Banshees' popularity and there's also a new book planned. "We've been doing a lot of interviews for a Banshees biography and there will certainly be one at some point," Siouxsie reveals. "The shows have eaten into that a bit but there will be one at some point in the future. We have been talking to Paul Mathur about writing it but we need to find someone else to finish it."
Now the old material's in the can, are there any plans to record some new Banshees tracks? Siouxsie evasively responds: "For the tour, we did this version of Blue Jay Way, which was a great way of bringing us all together on the level of doing something we hadn't done before."
It seems that despite the nostalgia of the Seven Year Itch Tour, the chapter has finally been closed on Siouxsie and the Banshees. "It's been great touring as the Banshees. I mean, never say never but there's nothing else planned," she says. "Me and Budgie had to stop work on an album that we'd been working on. Me and Budgie can't wait to get back and work on our new material."
The new Creatures album has been in the pipeline for a while and follows on from the duo's last studio album, Anima Animus. "I don't know what the new album will be called but we're just recording and having fun and amassing as much music as possible," Siouxsie reveals. "It's gone even more DIY as we've not been working with an engineer so Budgie's been really busy learning engineering. We may come to a point and involve someone else but for the time being we just want to finish what we started."
She continues: "In Japan, we have contacts to link up with the oldest member of the Kodo drummers (a group of musicians who experiment with the traditional Japanese drum, the taiko). If something happens with that, it would be a dream come true." She adds: "We may do some recording in Tokyo but that doesn't mean the new material will have a Japanese slant to it. It's very mixed."
The Creatures released two exclusive tracks through their fan club last year. Red Wrapping Paper and Rocket Ship. She describes them as offering clues to the direction in which they're heading.
The Goth thing and other social misdemeanors...
Like many other peers, Siouxsie is somewhat bemused by all the talk of Goths. When I ask her how she feels when she sees people dressed like her in the Banshees' heyday, she replies: "Um, I haven't really noticed anyone else on the street. Maybe I've just been too busy traveling around and doing the shows..."
Mention 'Goth' and she laughs somewhat hesitantly and asks: "Is that still going on? I don't know, I suppose I find it very odd. It was very odd with the first shows we did - there was such resistance and intimidation and I enjoyed it being like that." She chuckles, "I was very confused when the audience changed and started to either look like or was welcoming us. I always found that very odd."
So what sorts of things are making her tick now? We've talked about the eX Girls but Siouxsie's also rather partial to another Japanese band called Buffalo Daughter. She's also enthusing about a show she recently saw: "When I'm in London, I love going out to see shows. I saw Kiki and Herb's Where are we Now? which was on at the Soho Theatre. There's no hint of Andrew Lloyd Webber in it, thank God!" she laughs. Siouxsie says the show, which was described in the press release as an "anarchic cabaret" is: "really ironic, wicked and quite surprising show because the choice of material is very eclectic. I don't want to give the plot away because I just think you should go and see it. That's my favourite thing at the moment."
But playhouses aren't the only thing she misses about London now she's relocated to the South of France with Budgie. She reveals: "I really love visiting London and I think I see a lot more than when I lived here and I love being by the river. I love the bridges and seeing the skyline but I wouldn't move back. We might move from the South of France but not back to London."
And talking of Budgie, what is the secret of her 11-year marriage to the drummer? "Ah-ha!" she says. "It's funny, as we were leaving to come to London we both said we need a wife! I don't know what the secret is. Perhaps it's the fact that we're physically involved in music and still learning things and discovering things."
What about mixing business with pleasure: how does that work? "Well, it's hardly business!" Siouxsie retorts. "It's more, um, the vocation and pleasure and maybe if we were working in an office for someone else, it would be business. Then it would be dull and we'd snap but I think the nature of what we're working with, the only down side is the business side of it but I think we both give each other support in dealing with that bullshit!"
And so as our interview draws to an end, it's quite clear that Siouxsie has a whole bundle of tricks up her sleeve. As to whether we'll be seeing the Banshees together again, she's remaining very tight-lipped but, in her own words, "never say never."
Natasha Scharf Autumn 02
singer adores Iggy Pop and the weird world of Hieronymus Bosch, but
can’t stand art fascists
Ed Potton 06/07/02
|THE TELEGRAPH (?)|
...chosen by singer Siouxsie Sioux
THE WAY I KILLED MY FATHER
I think you can tell a lot about a film from its title. Unfaithful is just too obvious. So is Murder By Numbers. But this one - French title Comment J’ai Tué Mon Père - intrigues me. I’m hoping it’s in the vein of Hitchcock, because I always like psychological thrillers, and I think there’s a lack of real tension in modern film-making. This one just sounds really bold. As for the music, I love orchestrated soundtracks, with a really big string section. I’m so sick of soundtracks simply promoting someone’s single.
|DESTROY ALL MONTHLY|
Siouxsie and the Banshees is a long
time favorite band of mine that were actually putting out records before
I was listening to them. Their first record The Scream came out in 1978.
I don't know about the rest of y'all but in 1978, I was 10 years old and
listening to KISS. I first became aware of Siouxsie and other
"Post-Punk" bands at about the age of thirteen. For those of
you keeping count that's a little more than three years after they had
put out their first record and that would be about 1982.
I had just started high school and thought I was already listening to punk, ( via the South Bay scene) I was not up on what was happening in England (Batcave and such). Meanwhile Death Rock (or now called Gothic) was really hitting the L.A. scene hard, with bands like 45 Grave, TSOL (now improved with eyeliner and pirate shirts), and Christian Death.
These bands were just what the doctor ordered. The mood, the music, it all seemed right back then as Reagan was in the White House and things did seem black. As a kid in the eighties, it was very hard to get to a show, or anywhere. I had no car and most of the shows in Hollywood were usually 18 & over. The one place you could go (if you could get there) was the dance clubs. I know now that this sounds real lame but back then that's where I would meet my friends, get wasted in the parking lot and take acid or other mind-altering substances and surprisingly enough, dance. The tow big clubs to go and hear the tunes were the Odyssey and for a while The Fetish Club; these were the ones we frequented and I was at the mercy of the guy who had the car.
This was the beginning of the end for me. The end of doing well in school, hell it was the end of going to school, at least on a regular basis anyways. The bands that mad the hits we danced to were either already different bands (Bauhaus had become Tones on Tail) or not even together anymore but it didn't seem to matter. The queen of the whole scene was definitely Siouxsie Sioux. She had the right clothes, the right look and a band that had so much material it was hard not to find something you liked. As stated earlier their body of work began in 1978, followed up by numerous singles that would and still do make the pasty-faced kids catch the spider webs.
As I grew a little older around fifteen, sixteen (83-85) there were more and more shows and I had more and more friends with cars. One of the first shows I remember going to was at Perkins Palace in Pasadena. The bill was: The Cramps, Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds with Saccharine Trust opening. At last, a place where the music was live and not as many gay guys (the one drawback of gay clubs for sure, though they did have the good drugs, hmmm?) trying to pick up on you.
After that, the shows just kept coming; Specimen at Perkins, Alien Sex Fiend at Perkins, Sisters of Mercy at the Palace, Christian Death at The Roxy and finally around 1984 Siouxsie and the Banshees were playing the Santa Monica Civic. This was a must go! None of my friends had seen her before, and neither had I except in videos (generously played in the aforementioned dance clubs), the backs of albums and of course press photos. My friends and I wasted no time getting the money from our parents and buying tickets for both nights. One night The Gun Club opened for them, the second night was Test Department (who at that time completely blew my mind). The show was great Siouxsie and the Banshees knew how to write songs and had a lot of great hits that they delivered live!
Time was passing Death Rock turned into Glam and the L.A. Music scene was changing. At this point, I had the opportunity to see Siouxsie another time and, this time I got paid to see her. How did this happen you may be wondering, well it was about 1989 and I now had friends that ran dance clubs. One guy ran one called Plastic Passion and another called the Dirt Box, they were filming a movie (Out of Bounds with Anthony Michael Hall) at the Dirt Box and Siouxsie would be performing there. I got hired as an extra, and I was stoked. When I arrived I found out she would only be performing one song (Cities In Dust). You get what you pay for. It would be a long time before I saw Siouxsie and the Banshees perform again. In the interim, I now had friends at Geffen, and they sent me every one of her CDs. (Thanx Cali!) I have always liked music with a pop aesthetic even if it was made to make people dance, I am a stickler for structure, and I guess that's why Siouxsie always appealed to me.
Flash forward into the mid-nineties. Music is different, only kids from the 818 are into Goth and Siouxsie hasn't put out an album since Peepshow (1988). Lollapalooza '91 (the first one!) comes around and Siouxsie and the Banshees were playing there. I was already planning on going but this made it much sweeter. I hadn't seen them in a long time and once again, they delivered. This was a very different band than I remembered, much more mature and touting a full six-piece band. The lighting, the costume changes and the overall package was so moody and surreal, their set flew by like one fluid motion. Their performance was the best I had ever seen and, with the sun going down in lovely Irvine, they stole the show.
Flash-forward once more to February 2002, my friend Rick tells me Siouxsie and the Banshees are reforming and will be playing Coachella. At that time, I was with Jen (Destroy All, Editor Extraordinaire) and of course, we inquired about putting them into the magazine. Assured by Rick that this would be no problem, we proceeded.
I would be speaking with Steve Severin on the phone, the original, and still bass player for the Banshees. I was certain if anyone could give me the real scoop about what it was like to be a Banshee this was the man! We first began to speak of my experiences with the band and we both recalled the Santa Monica Civic show fondly. I next asked him if he thought this band would enjoy such longevity, and be around some twenty plus years. He answered, "No, we usually formed for twenty minutes." We both laughed, and without further comment, I knew he meant it was hard to be in the band at times. Steve continued to tell me that their last show was in 1996 and after that, he wasn't sure they'd ever play again. I thought this was another comment on how sometimes volatile the band's relationship was.
"We were already thinking along these lines..." Steve told me when I asked about the reunion. " We've been trying to get together and write some new material, we've also been trying to get Polydor/Universal on a greatest hits type thing. So in the course of this we decided that we should go out and play some songs," Steve continued. We spoke about the greatest hits albums that were out now (Once Upon a Time and Twice Upon a Time) "Those are just collections of our singles, so the idea would be to get together and put out a definitive greatest hits," Steve told me.
"We had a sort of acrimonious split, and we hadn't been talking too good for a few years. But we started to patch that all up and it became apparent that we all missed working together," Steve said. As I thought, his earlier comments did have something to do with the tensions between Siouxsie and himself but we did not delve into this any further.
The next subject I was interested in knowing was how from 1981 to 1983 the members of Siouxsie and the Banshees had managed to put out six albums of material (that's and average of two a year, whoa!). Siouxsie and the Banshees putting out four and The Creatures (Siouxsie's side project) putting out one, while Steve's own side project The Glove (which was formed with Robert Smith) also put one out. " It had a lot to do with the fact that the industry's a lot more regulated. You can't just write songs, record an album, and put it out in two months. You have to schedule these things now. We couldn't have possibly done what we did back then (putting out all that material). We wouldn't be allowed to do it," Steve informed me. "Because marketing is king and they have to have their six month run-up, the single, the video," Steve said, somewhat frustrated.
I wanted to find out what the audience could expect. I'd seen Siouxsie as a four piece and as a maybe six or seven piece (can't quite remember how many people were on stage at Lollapalooza, but it was more than four). " This reunion business is sort of a bolt out of the blue, as much as I said earlier we were headed towards this, we hadn't really set any deadline," Steve told me. I answered, " Rick from Goldenvoice kind of sped this process up by adding you to Coachella, huh?" "Yep, yep (we both laughed) so I just rang Siouxsie and she said, 'Oh you got the phone call from Faust huh?' and we knew we had to get this together. (Siouxsie is referring to Goethe's Faust, a story of a man who enters into a deal with the Devil. FYI.) "We ran around like headless chickens for a few days, ringing people to find if we could seriously do this. Everything started falling into place so we said yes let's do it," Steve said vibrantly.
From his comments, I could tell this wouldn't be one of those we got together for the money type things. He seemed genuinely excited and told me, "Choosing the set list will be a nightmare." I thought to myself, and shared with Steve that they are supposed to relish nightmares and a lot of the songs I want to hear never made it onto any set list I've heard. "Of course, as long as you don't remember you've missed them until we've left the building," Steve joked. "As long as you've enjoyed the selection we've put together that's all that matters to us. This tour will be quite different, we are going out as a four piece, and we will relying much more on the earlier guitar driven songs. Much less production and very much a return to our roots as a band," he informed me. "This should be really good fun," Steve said. "And a good barometer on how the band is getting along?" I asked. "We've got a few dates before Coachella, so if we arrive there, then we're getting on," he said with a very hearty laugh.
Unfortunately, Siouxsie Sioux was unavailable for a phone interview but she graciously agreed to answer a few questions that Mr. Severin delivered to her via e-mail.
Niler: How does it feel to be rehearsing and getting ready to go back out for a live stint after so long?
Siouxsie: Exciting and spontaneous, which is how I like to keep things. We're not promoting or anything, just a massive seven-year itch I'm dying to scratch! Budgie and I have toured extensively as The Creatures in that time, but Severin's not stepped on a stage in the 7 years. Fasten your seat belts!
N: Steven told me this is a much more back to basics Siouxsie and the Banshees, can we expect a lot of old favourites?
Siouxsie: We're doing this show as a 4 piece, which is how we started, so certainly there'll be a lot of our favourites, maybe some we've never played live before. It all feels very fresh...like a new beginning.
N: Did you ever think your band would enjoy such longevity?
Siouxsie: Well we blew our original idea of literally lasting for 15 minutes when we debuted in 1976. So, if it wasn't to be very short lived it would be very long, taking the original intent to its other extreme.
N: Do you like playing Los Angeles, what are some of your favourite places to go and things to do here?
Siouxsie: I love playing in LA, but not the long flights getting there and back. We've all got friends here who I never see in Europe, so mostly I like to catch up and hang out with them, going to museums, exhibitions and of course see as many new films as I can.
N: Lastly, what do you like to listen to, or your top five records of all time?
Siouxsie: At the moment, I'm finishing a new Creatures' album with Budgie in a studio we've built ourselves- It's been a bit like writing, directing, producing, editing, performing, scoring, and financing a film with a cast of 2! Very challenging and exhilarating- D.I.Y. or what? In between that and preparing for this show. I'm listening to some Dvorak, Beethoven, and Arvo Part.
Siouxsie and the Banshees will be touring with a few dates in the United States (New York, Chicago, and San Francisco) before Coachella, and if they can get a good spot, they will be hitting the European festivals. "If all goes well, I'm sure this week of shows (in the US) will not be enough and if the Internet and other sources are correct I have not received one single negative bit of feedback. Nobody has said don't do it. In fact quite the opposite," Steve said. Speaking from my personal experience (and why should I stop now), if you haven't ever seen Siouxsie and the Banshees, go to Coachella! These guys (and gal) can play and have always performed at an excellent level and I am a tough critic. For more information on Coachella go to www.goldenvoice.com, or for more info on Steve go to his site www.stevenseverin.com
"I like strong, passionate singers," insists the voice that launched a thousand goths. Now back with the Banshees after a seven-year lay-off, Siouxsie Sioux also professes a liking for death songs, violent cocktails, mad cuckoo clocks and stripper music, as she reveals to Lois Wilson.
1. John Leyton- Johnny Remember Me
“I was four when I first heard this. It was in my brother’s collection and I got him to play it to me over and over again. The subject matter, like so many of the songs at that time, dealt with the death of a loved one. Twinkle sang Terry and The Shangri-La’s had Leader Of The Pack, but I think this was one of the very first and definitely the best. John is the tormented lover. Every time he hears the breeze in the leaves of the trees it reminds him of the words of his dying girlfriend. The backing vocals are amazing, very eerie. I was totally hooked. It was that first delicious feeling of subversion. Started young, didn’t I? There were definite shivers up my spine. Some kids run away from that and some are drawn to it. I was totally pulled in. I still love it just as much.”
2. Cristina- Is That All There Is?
“A fabulous version of the Leiber & Stoller classic. It’s so cracked, with popping corks and cuckoo clocks going mad in the background. There’s wry irony, sarcasm and total irreverence. Leiber & Stoller hated it and their legal team had it withdrawn. Shame on them! This song just needs to be heard. The Creatures used it as an outro on shows in 1999. I was asked my favourite record for a TV show. I picked this and they were too scared to use it. I don’t know a lot about her. She was based in New York and had a great Christmas single, Things Fall Apart.”
3. Frank Sinatra- Night and Day
“I really got into him six or seven years ago. Budgie and I had been touring constantly and it had been a real wrench being away for so long. Listening to Frank was my way of calming down, unwinding and feeling myself again. I could have included so many different songs by him. This one is an old Cole Porter song. It has the most amazing string arrangements by Nelson Riddle. It’s got just such a brilliant vibe. And what a voice! I can listen to Frank at any time. We were in America one time, in an amazing bar with red leather bar seats and they did fantastic cocktails and they were playing this song. It was just perfect. Every time I hear this I just think of the 50’s. I love the sound of a singer with a big band orchestra behind him or her. It’s romantic but very powerful and uplifting. And the lyrics...well, night and day- I love extremes in lyrics.”
4. Yma Sumac- Malambo No.1
“Yma was famous for her four-octave range, and here she uses it to full effect. She’s so full of fun. This track also features The Rico Mamba Orchestra, a fantastic brass and percussion-driven band. She’s like Maria Callas and Carmen Miranda, very theatrical but not serious and totally mambo. It’s great to shake great big violent cocktails to. I was on tour in 1981 with the Banshees and a fan gave me a tape of stuff he thought I’d like. I’d never heard of Yma until he introduced me to her and since then I’ve tracked d own various compilations by her. I recommend this totally.”
5. Iggy Pop- Nightclubbing
“What a great singer! I first heard Iggy with the Stooges on Fun House and Raw Power and I was bummed out that I’d never had the opportunity to see him live. In 1977 he played London and I was so desperate to go because I knew I’d love him live and I did. The Creatures developed a spontaneous bit at the end of our set that segued Pluto Drive into Nightclubbing. It was such fun and turned into real stripper type music. The Idiot was so bold, so different to his previous stuff, so strong. It was a real reaffirmation, a stamping of his authority on the music scene. What a fucking voice and what a performer. I saw him recently in LA and he’s still got it.”
6. Diana Ross- Love Hangover
“This highlights one of the biggest misnomers of the punk scene. There we were seeing the Sex Pistols in London, but the backdrop to that was down at the disco. We were at Bang’s at Centrepoint, a gay night, and everyone was dancing madly and this track came on and just caught up with all the energy and fun. I love that line: ‘If there’s a cure for this I don’t want it.’ I love the build-up. It starts really slow and sexy, like waking up in the morning, then it builds up to this tremendous hook of a bass line and the rhythm has the momentum of a steam train gathering speed. It’s fabulous.”
7. Yoko Ono- Walking On Thin Ice
“I can’t say a lot about this track, but it’s one of those songs that I play and yell at anyone near by, come and listen to this. I bought it on cassette single in one of those cardboard boxes. It was isolated, an island in my collection. John Lennon produced it, Yoko yelps and there’s some great guitar and bass. It’s a great winter song, almost an alternative Christmas song. I like the use of her nonconformist vocalising, her yelping and warbling. I don’t always like what she does but I always admire her and think she’s interesting. Brilliant, a song to turn up full volume.”
8. The Doors- Riders On The Storm
“Now I’m going to take it down a pace or two. We’ve been running around shaking our cocktails a little too much. I’d heard Hello, I Love You and thought that was great. Then, when I was 14, I was watching Top Of The Pops and this song came on. They didn’t show the band, but had this film of this mysterious Clint Eastwood-type character riding his horse through the rain. If you think back to Top Of The Pops in 1971 this was real Cannes Film Festival stuff. It was so unusual. I loved the song but had no idea what Jim Morrison looked like. When I found out I was, like, wow! If I’d known that at the time I’d have been his Number 1 fan. Ten years later I was in San Francisco with a friend at Christmas and we were coming down off some blue window pane acid. It was late at night and we were listening to a night time radio station and this came on. Throughout the song there is the whispering of the title tracking the lead vocal and that whisper was so loud. It was in my ear, in my head. I was brain-washed. I just love the real sound effects, too, the rain and the storm. You can just drift off into your own film scenario. A poet, songwriter, and an amazing singer. What a lot to put up with!”
9. Gavin Bryars- Jesus Blood Never Failed Me Yet
“Brian Eno got this released. He was the executive producer, so to speak. Bryars, a classical pianist and arranger, had a friend who made this semi-documentary film on tramps around London- Euston, King’s Cross and Elephant And Castle. He made a lot of recordings of tramps but didn’t use this one so handed it to Gavin for him to do something with. The song is just this tramp singing. He’s totally in tune but a bit of a religious drunk. And bit by bit the orchestra joins in with this solo performance and it builds into this amazingly beautiful hymn. It never sounds pompous as the strings, the piano, and then finally the whole orchestra join in. It’s a simple thing but, by adding the different layers to it, it turns into something far more involved and complex. When you hear the beginning it’s almost comical, this old codger singing to himself, and it could have been used as a send-up. Instead, Gavin changes the sentiment entirely.”
10. Miles Davis- Solea
“This is the last track on Sketches Of Spain and I just love this LP from start to finish. When I was growing up my older sister used to play me the live recordings from the Black Hawk studios in San Francisco, so Miles was already in my blood. Budgie and I had been recording in Spain and when I got home I saw this and thought it was an omen. I had to buy it and I’ve been in love with it ever since. Miles Davis was inspired by Spanish composer Joaquin Rodrigo’s Concierto de Aranjuez, and Gil Evans extended the middle section of the Concierto at the start of the record. When I heard it, it was just like being back surrounded by the landscape of Spain. Solea means flamenco, but this is a real bluesy track based around the percussion. There’s no apparent time signature, you can’t count it, you just have to feel it. It’s this rimshot crack. I’ve since bought all of Mile Davis’s LPs, but this was a real perfect coupling. A creative collaboration that really works. It’s so uplifting.”
Anarchy no more
Despite having mellowed and married since her days with the Banshees, Siouxsie Sioux hasn’t changed her views on punk. It was always an excuse to party
“My attitude to the Pistols reforming is, ‘What, again? Have you run out of money already? “ In Morningside and just about everywhere else, she was every parents’ worst role model nightmare. Up and down our punk-infested land, mothers were terrified their little Susies would nick a pot of their dads’ Snowcem and paint their faces white, dye their hair with tar and stick their fingers in a socket for that just-electrocuted effect ... allowing them to come down to breakfast looking like a death-warmed-up dead-ringer for Siouxsie. How quickly the world forgets. For today, in a hotel overlooking London’s Tower Bridge, Siouxsie Sioux - the Banshees’ bondage-breeked, Swastika-swinging leaderene - can barely attract the waiters’ attention in the bar.
True, it was a quarter of a century ago that she got up on stage at the 100 Club and murdered The Lord’s Prayer in the Banshees’ first public performance (with a certain Sid Vicious on drums). But she doesn’t look all that different now. Correction: she looks almost exactly the same but, like all former punks, healthier, now that she’s ditched the black PVC and abandoned a diet that seemed to consist of warm lager, amphetamines and other people’s spittle.
The French lifestyle obviously agrees with her: she lives about an hour’s drive from Toulouse, in a cathedral town the identity of which she prefers to keep secret, with her husband and fellow ex-Banshee, Budgie. “No-one knows me there - I like that,” says Siouxsie, now 45 and dressed in what could almost be termed a girlie blouse, when she eventually succeeds in ordering herself a coffee.
She and Budgie share this rustic idyll-with-recording-studio with their three cats. And, in answer to the “tell me something about yourself that would surprise people” question, she enthuses about her passion for deadheading roses (once it was the Establishment and prog-rock dinosaurs - offences for which the Daily Mail wanted all punks locked up in the Tower across the river).
So what became of the Banshees? They disbanded in 1996, after two decades and 11 albums together, on a point of principle - to protest at the Sex Pistols’ decision to reform for punk’s 20th anniversary. In a statement, they declared: “As the ‘music industry’ prepares to revive the heady days of ‘punk’, when confusing opportunists with protagonists it proceeded to sign anything with a safety pin that could spit, we’d like to say goodbye.”
But now, as John Lydon (née Rotten) and the other surviving Pistols don their Rohan-designed, relaxed-fit punkwear for the Queen’s Golden Jubilee, Siouxsie is putting her band back together for some gigs and a greatest-hits album. So much for principles, but she denies this protagonist has turned into an opportunist.
“My attitude to the Pistols reforming is, ‘What, again? Have you run out of money already?’ I suppose it’s in the spirit of filthy lucre that they do it, but I don’t really approve. In our case, it’s sheer coincidence that this compilation is coming out now. We’ve been trying for ages to rescue the Banshees’ old stuff and remaster it. We want to re-release the entire back catalogue.” The words “punk” and “remaster” might be a contradiction in terms for the purists, but Siouxsie reckons Hong Kong Garden and the other dozen hit singles sound even better like this, even more apocalyptic.
Married life suits her, too, although she’s surprised by this. “I grew up determined that I would never, ever marry,” she says. “And I was convinced my parents had put me off for life.”
Her mother, Elizabeth, was half-Scots and her father Marc, Belgian, and Susan Ballion - Siouxsie’s real name - was born the youngest of three in Chislehurst, a South London suburb which she cannot pretend was especially grey.
“Mum was the driving force in our family because Dad was a drunk,” she explains, almost matter-of-factly. “It was Mum who went out to work - she was a secretary in the West End - and she also mended all the fuses.”
Listening to her describe how Susan became Siouxsie, it is clear her mother was a huge influence. “She was an incredibly powerful woman and yet she was one of seven, born in the 1920s, and we know how society treated women of her generation. The war robbed her of her adolescence and she had to grow up very quickly, always with a stiff upper lip, never complaining.”
But Siouxsie, whose brother and sister were much older, had to grow up fast, too. “I was 14 when Dad finally died, because of all the abuse he’d done to his body, and I remember feeling relieved - then ashamed that I felt that. Then I got really ill. There was a big question mark over what was wrong with me but I spent a long time in hospital. I had drips everywhere, then I ulcerated and needed an emergency operation. The doctors said I almost died.
“I came out of hospital feeling very angry. I’d ask questions about Dad but Mum wouldn’t tell me anything. My parents tolerated each other, sad to say, and while all the girls at my school used to talk of nothing else but getting married and having kids, I didn’t want any of that.”
Touchingly, for two former members of a movement which espoused nihilism, Siouxsie and Budgie have been together for 21 years. “I tried to keep Budgie at arm’s length and warned him not to ask me to marry him,” she says. This punk couple must have seemed a strange sight, she admits, with the man having to be physically dragged away from bridalwear shops by the reluctant woman. But, in 1991, they did marry. “By then I’d done what I had to do.”
So how did Siouxsie become a punk? Already a latch-key kid with an overactive imagination, she returned home from hospital angry, confused and in a tearing hurry, and began expressing herself through fashion. “I used to shop at Let It Rock, which later became Sex, and I met Malcolm McLaren there and got to hear about this young band he managed. The first time I saw the Sex Pistols play, the crowd weren’t pushing to the front, they were clutching the walls, almost trying to get away - I’d never seen that kind of reaction before.”
She became a member of the Bromley Contingent, a group of scenesters who followed the Pistols from gig to gig, sometimes dancing on stage with them, and who were heavily influenced by the movie Cabaret, hence the swastikas. “It was high camp rather than death camp but, of course, we wanted to shock. The older generation were forever telling us that what we needed was a bloody good war.”
Punk was completely spontaneous, something she says McLaren never properly understood. “He didn’t know what he had and he was mortified when the Pistols swore on TV [in a show which got host Bill Grundy sacked]. It was that element of being uncontrollable that made punk so exciting.”
And punk made Siouxsie an icon. “I can’t really get my head around that,” she says. “Punk wasn’t really a revolution, it was just a pose. Something happened which was very liberating. No-one was self-conscious, we responded to what was happening round about us. But, at the end of the day, we were simply having a laugh.”
Siouxsie Sioux. She makes her man wait until she’s good and ready. She likes cats and keeps her garden nice. Not such a bad role model after all, then.
Courtesy of Brian