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  MOJO 04/06  
  UNCUT 05/06  











  Peek A Boo!


On September 7, 1979, it looked as if Siouxsie And The Banshees' short, explosive existence had come to an abrupt end when drummer Kenny Morris and guitarist John McKay walked out hours before a gig in Aberdeen.  "You have my blessing to beat the shit out of them," Sioux told the faithful with characteristic venom.

But bonus material on the band's first four albums, which are all set for re-release this spring, reveals exactly how she, together with lynchpin bassist Steven Severin, transformed the Class Of '76 anti-heroes into a formidable Top 10 rock machine.

"It wasn't scary," explains Severin.  "We were so ready to show them they were wrong to leave the band."

A handful of demos for their 1980 album, Kaleidoscope, which includes an early outing for Happy House and the previously unheard Sitting Room, confirm the pair's strong determination to seek out new musical territory.

Meanwhile, Juju, the Banshees' fourth album, released in 1981, is likely to appear as a deluxe edition boosted by live material and a John Peel session.

Siouxsie Sioux is currently in France working on her first ever solo album, expected to be released sometime in 2007.

Mark Paytress

Behind the CAMERA

Mojo 04/06

Siouxsie Sioux, photographed in Lynn Goldsmith's New York studio, 1981.  Lynn Goldsmith:  "I can't remember when I took this photograph and I don't think it was even for any specific assignment, I just wanted to photograph her, so I contacted the label.  I found her an easy person to photograph - the chairs were just ones I had in my studio.  I put them out like that because I had no Banshees to shoot, just Siouxsie."
















Siouxsie Sioux 

The First Record I Bought

JOHNNY CASH "A Boy Named Sue"

SIOUXSIE: Had to be!  Topical on many levels, yes.  I bought it because of the name - it was made for me.  Even as a young girl, I thought of myself as a boy named Sue.  I love Cash's voice - he stands out from the country genre.  There's nothing cheesy about him.  He sounded unconventional even then, had a nice bite to him.  Subsequently, whenever I heard this, the thought of changing the spelling of my name to "Sioux" crossed my mind...

The Song That Reminds Me Of Childhood

PETER, PAUL & MARY "Puff The Magic Dragon, JOHN LEYTON "Johnny Remember Me"

I recall Puff, played by Ed "Stewpot" Stewart on the radio, making me cry.  Puff would "frolic in the autumn mist" - it seemed really sad and mournful.  Also, "Johnny Remember Me" - very sad, with a bit of Joe Meek in there.  There's the dead girlfriend, the backing vocals moaning in the leaves on the breeze.  What happened to the good old days of corpse-pop?

The First Record I Remember Dancing To

SAM & DAVE "Hold On, I'm Coming"

The cover had a cartoon of them riding a tortoise.  God knows why.  My sister and brother were older than me, and they were into R&B.  This was a real foot-tapper.  Got my legs going.  I probably tried a few ska moves onstage, sticking my arse out and thinking that I looked cool, but probably looking like Baloo from The Jungle Book.  "Oo-bee-doo, I wanna be like you" - that was another good one, wasn't it?

The First Record I Had Sex To

MICK RONSON "Only After Dark"

I was a mad Ronson fan, and loved his album Slaughter On 10th Avenue.  Mick had got his Bowie-ish vocals down, and was so much more than a guitarist, but he never got the acclaim.  I fell head over heels for him.  The sex just happened - me and one of my first boyfriends got carried away to the music.  It was in the right place at the right time!  I should confess, I was probably imagining the guy was Mick Ronson, like on the album's cover, with his neckerchief and tears.  Mick'll be shocked to hear that, wherever he may be.

The Record That Reminds Me Of Forming A Band


Way back, even before we did the 100 Club, I had Steve Severin and Billy Idol in my bedroom and we taped a version of this, with Billy Idol on guitar, on one of those old cassette recorders with big buttons.  I seem to remember it was a cracking version, with Severin yelling "Stop wimping out, Billy - play harder!"  Where's the cassette?  I think it got lost, like much of the past, when my mum died and the house got sold.  The other bands that kick-started us were the Modern Lovers and the Ramones.

The Song Playing When I First Got In A Fight


It must have been a Banshees song off The Scream, during one of the early gigs.  We'd be mid-song and someone would try to grab me or the guitarist, so we would all pile in and have a fight.  Was I scared?  No, it was quite fun, I was loving it!  I'd be thinking:  oh, I'm gonna remember this gig.  Before that, "School's Out" always made me ready, and in the mood should anybody have tried anything funny.  And it made me bunk off school, yes...

The Song That Made Me First Pick Up A Guitar


Right after John (McKay) and Kenny (Morris) left the band during the Join Hands tour, I was ill with hepatitis from all the gobbing that had been going on.  I was very run down, couldn't go anywhere.  But I got all these ideas, and instead of humming them, I borrowed an acoustic guitar and taught myself to play riffs.  Which later became songs "Paradise Place" and "Clockface" from Kaleidoscope.  So necessity was the mother of invention.  I'm lazy that way, but if no one else will do it for me, I'll pay.  You can't do your Baloo dance moves while holding a guitar, though.

The Record That Makes Me Think Most Fondly Of The Banshees


The Scream was our first-born, but Juju (1981) was when it felt like a real band again, with a different template.  We felt united, solid, all for one and one for all.  I've been listening to the new remasters to approve them, and I wasn't looking forward to that.  But once I heard them, I was going:  "Blimey!  There's enough distance to hear the old stuff again now."  It's almost like hearing someone else.  It's been a pleasant surprise; very uplifting.

The Last Album I Listened To

FRANK SINATRA "The Platinum Collection"

When I'm getting ready to go out, I play this.  You can't go wrong with "Witchcraft", "Night & Day", "My Funny Valentine"... it's a great, energising thing.  Or if I'm edgy and I need to calm myself down, it works, too.  I love his voice.  In younger days I'd play Alice Copper before going out, then rush out, bent on giving the world trouble!  But now this sets me up.

My Favourite New Album


I hadn't caught them until last December because, living chiefly in France, I'm not always aware of the latest goings-on.  Then I saw them live on TV and thought:  "Who the fuck is this?"  They're so powerful and intense.  And very together, like a gang who are proud to be alongside each other.  Funeral  is full of great songs.  There's nothing in-between about their approach; it's very definite.  It pisses me off when people think 'uplifting' means 'happy'.  What's uplifting  is stuff like this that's inspiring.

05/06 Chris Roberts















As Siouxsie Sioux embarks on her first solo album, Chris Sullivan finds out if age has mellowed the first lady of punk. 

On a warm day in May, in the bar of a quiet London hotel, Siouxsie Sioux is still turning heads in a tight-fitting Gaultier dress, with oriental make-up on her alabaster skin under her trademark black hair.  Siouxsie was one of the founders of British punk, performing at the legendary punk festival at the 100 Club in 1976 and, with the Sex Pistols, appearing infamously on the Bill Grundy Show.  Then, in the 1980s, hers was the face that launched a million Goths.  She, like the fashion designer Vivienne Westwood is a great British institution.

"I was certainly confused by all the lookalikes," chuckles the remarkably affable diva.  "And I didn't really know how to handle it at first.  At one point I was scheduled to be the Queen of Goth.  But I refused to be categorised.  Once people start asking me to conform in any way it is like a red rag to a bull - I rebel in the exact opposite direction."

But one cannot rebel for ever.  What happens when an icon of disaffected urban youth approaches middle age?  Do they (like Johnny Rotten) present nature programmes on television, or do they (like Joe Strummer) move to the country to walk the dog?  Siouxsie did indeed move with her husband and long-time musical collaborator, Budgie, to a converted farmhouse in the South of France in 1992.  But, although she dutifully tended her expansive garden, resting on her laurels was never an option.

Siouxsie is in London preparing for her solo album.  "I'm meeting with loads of different collaborators, but I don't want to talk about it too much in case I jinx it.  It was the Dreamshow that encouraged me to do this album because I loved working with all these different people so much."

The Dreamshow consisted of Siouxsie performing live at the Festival Hall in London in October 2004, backed by a classical orchestra, the Japanese Kodo drummer Leonard Eto, a percussion section, a brass section, backing singers and her band.  The event was a sell-out, and the DVD of the show topped the music charts much of last year.

Siouxsie and the Banshees first appeared on stage on September 20, 1976, supporting the Clash and the Sex Pistols.  Even by punk standards, they were unconventional.

"I was just starting to play the bass and Siouxsie wanted to sing, so together with Billy Idol we had an idea for a band," says the founder Banshee, Steve Severin.  "Then Malcolm (McLaren) said he was putting on this punk festival at the 100 Club and he needed to fill a slot.  So Billy said: 'We'll do it!'"

But, days before their debut, Idol dropped out and in stepped Marco Pirroni (later of Adam and the Ants) on guitar, with Sid Vicious on drums.  "The Clash let us rehearse in their space in Camden," recalls Severin.  "But after ten minutes Sid got bored and said: 'OK, let's just make a racket.  Who cares?'  So we made all this noise while Siouxsie recited the Lord's Prayer.  It was horrible."

Off stage Siouxsie was even more striking.  I remember the singer, along with Sue Catwoman, Lynda the dominatrix, Idol and the rest of what would become known as the Bromley Contingent, holding court throughout that hot summer of 1976 in Louise's, a lesbian club in Soho.

As much influenced by the glam antics of David Bowie and the raw power of Iggy Pop, Siouxsie and her crowd would turn up in impeccable outfits that were dazzlingly original and certainly not what one might term punk.  But it wasn't until the Sex Pistols' infamous Screen On The Green appearance, that Siouxsie offered a taste of what was to come, taking to the stage clad only in shiny PVC underwear, fishnets and a cup-less bra that exposed her breasts and stole the Pistols' thunder.  As the former Banshees manager Nils Stevenson told me:  "I knew from that moment she was going to be huge." 

Born Susan Janet Ballion, Siouxsie was raised along with her older brother and sister in suburban Chislehurst, Kent.  Her parents had met in the Belgian Congo; her mother was a bilingual secretary, her father was a laboratory technician who milked venom from poisonous snakes and died when Siouxsie was just 14.  "I was always quite aware of us being different," she recalls.  "I didn't have any deep friendships at school because it was all silly girls talking about their boyfriends, so I started coming up the West End with my older sister, a go-go dancer, and hanging out at Let It Rock, Malcolm and Vivienne's shop before they opened Sex.  I must have been about 17."

One of these excursions sealed Siouxsie's fate.  "It was at a Roxy Music concert in October 1975 that I met Siouxsie," remembers Severin.  "She had some mad outfit that she had hired for the night and I had dyed white hair and a 1950s Lurex jacket.  It was a match made in heaven as we both saw ourselves as carrying on the tradition of glamorous art rock - the Velvets, David Bowie, and Roxy with a bit of Kraftwerk and Can thrown in.  We never fitted in.  We weren't a punk band."

"I've always hated the term punk and have never wanted to be lumped in with it," says Siouxsie, who has refused almost every request to be interviewed in punk's 30th anniversary year.  "It was so lazy.  But looking back, nothing can really describe how single-minded and isolated the key people were.  Thirty years ago, walking down the street as we did was like running the gauntlet: you risked getting the s*** beaten out of you.  But punk was the perfect name for those who needed something to belong to.  I never have.  What we did was always about defying categorisation."

Maybe it was this refusal to kowtow to what was fast becoming a commodified punk caricature that kept Siouxsie and the Banshees (now with Kenny Morris on drums and John McKay on guitar) unsigned for almost two years after the 100 Club engagement, even though they were a big live draw.  "By the time we were signed," she recalls, "I wanted nothing to do with punk.  Zips, mohicans or safety pins, they were yet another uniform sold in the back pages of music papers."

Siouxsie and the Banshees' first single, Hong Kong Garden - a perverse paean to a Chinese takeaway in Chislehurst - reached No 7 in the charts in September 1978, while the first album, The Scream, was a worldwide hit.  But as the band were recording the follow-up, Join Hands, splits were beginning to appear.  Just after its release, a fight broke out between the Banshees in an Aberdeen record shop, and Morris and McKay walked out just hours before that night's gig.  "If you see them." Siouxsie told the bewildered crowd that evening, "you have my permission to beat the s*** out of them."

"I've still got a soft spot for that album," says Siouxsie now.  "It doesn't matter what was going on behind the scenes because it was a really consolidated album that still sounds modern today.  We were lonely and isolated and that comes across in the music.  It's a very brave record."

But Siouxsie and Severin rose from the rubble, joined by Budgie on drums and the late John McGeoch on guitar, to record a new album, Kaleidoscope.  The new record followed two massively successful singles, Happy House and Christine, and at that point Siouxsie seemed to be the coolest figure in Britain.

"It really felt like a solid group at the time," recalls the singer.  "Juju, our next album, had a really strong identity and a unique sound, which the bands that came in our wake tried to mimic.  but the simply ended up diluting.  With all those other bands, the doom and the black was all they had.  They took it seriously.  There was always more to us than that.  So, of course, I found the Goth tag very limiting."

In 1996, on the day that the Sex Pistols launched their reunion tour, Severin and Siouxsie ended tow decades of musical collaboration and disbanded the Banshees.  "A lot of people were really upset when we split up," Siouxsie recalls.  "But being in a band you live in each other's pockets, and for stupid reasons it becomes joyless and petty grudges are held on to."

Now, after 30 years and nearly as many albums - 18 with the Banshees and 11 with the Creatures, the band she shares with Budgie - is there any advise that she would give to a young ingénue spurred on by her example?  "My advise to any young girl like me would be to dress and do whatever makes you happy, and not let convention hold you back.  A lot of people ask me now of recalcitrance was the only reason we did what we did initially.  And I answer:  'Yes, absolutely!'  It warmed the cockles of my heart, and to some extent it sill does."

20/05/06 Chris Sullivan