|HYAENA - MAGAZINE COVERS|
|HYAENA - INTERVIEWS/ARTICLES|
|RECORD MIRROR 24/03/84|
|SMASH HITS 24/05/84|
|RECORD MIRROR 17/11/84|
all four members of Siouxsie & The Banshees in the same place at the
same time can be difficult. Their new LP, "Hyaena" (out in
June) took eight months to record because they kept having to break off
for things like: "brief trips to far-off places" (Israel,
Europe); singles and LPs (by The Glove and The Creatures); and, of
course, Robert Smith's galavantings with his "project", The
Cure. So it seemed about time we got them all together to, like, talk,
about life, their relationships with it, and even themselves. Here goes.
SIOUXSIE describes herself so: "Erratic in moods-- either really stupid, really good or a real bitch." Maybe this explains why she's got bags of nicknames like Planetism (really), Janetism and Wicked Witch of the West. She has "no partner" and reckons it's very anti-social to be in the Banshees. "I don't do anything outside the band." It seems she constantly gets offers of TV programmes, "shitty films" and modelling jobs, and takes great pleasure in turning them all down.
"I could have easily played around in the quagmire of success. You wouldn't believe some of the offers -- explaining how I do my make-up on TV," she growls. "God! And it really makes me mad when all theses people come up and try to change me -- 'ooh, you've had your hair like that for ages.' Bloody cheek!"
She lives alone in a "carpetless" basement flat -- "Wooden and stone floors all over except for the carpet on the stairs that lead nowhere."
Shutters keep daylight out and "hands coming out of walls hold concealed lights."
She enjoys her time alone, and spends it reading and generally getting away from all the "hubbub". And presumably it's during these times she mulls over her rather eccentric world-view. For instance, her ambitions include: breaking glass with her voice, jumping off a high building and recording her voice on the way down.
She's what you might call "not very religious" and can't ever remember being christened. And for "Hyaena" she's written songs about "greed and disease." She most certainly doesn't suffer fools gladly, but a lot of the time it seems she just gets a sort of perverse pleasure out of playing up to her "aggressive" and slightly sinister image. As Severin puts it, "contrary to all reports, she's lovely."
STEVE SEVERIN describes himself as the "grumpy" member of the Banshees. "I never wanted to be in a group to be a clown." Nevertheless he seems to be a particularly amiable type, with a calculated, dry sense of humour. He puts down their dark doom-laden image to the fact that they "wrap everything up in a strong sense of black humour... and that's usually overlooked." Along with Sioux -- the other "grump" -- he shares the honour of being "boss." "You can't forget the fact that Budgie joined a few years later and that Robert doesn't want to be seen as anything but guitarist."
He talks determinedly about the way the group have stuck to their original principles, "constantly striving to have our own way." In fact he takes everything to do with music seriously -- even Top of the Pops. "Well it would be degrading standing there if you just pretended to be into it. I don't take anything not seriously." He even admits to being "disturbed" by "The Reflex" making it to number one.
"Bands who have no craft or pride like Duran and Culture Club just get the dosh. We get the pride, even though," he adds with a wry smile, "we wouldn't mind the dosh as well."
But then again, he says he never really thought of the Banshees in a pop context. "We don't try to be popular, we just are and we hope it stays like that. It's in that context we've been around for a long time.
"I mean bands like the Thompson Twins only last a couple of years -- but there's never been a band like us before, so who knows where we'll go from here. I'm just sure that when it ends, it'll end in tears. A plane crash?" he muses, morbidly. "Whatever, it's just inconceivable that anything so emotive as this could end in something off the cuff."
BUDGIE (real name Peter Clarke), they all agree, is the most easy-going Banshee. The only Northerner in the band, he's typically down-to-earth and the least prone to "bouts of flying off the handle."
Like the rest of them, he lives alone in London -- "no partner" again -- in a flat by the river. He describes it as very open-plan, with a little spiral staircase leading to a bed loft. There's also a sunken bath.
In his spare time he likes making, and drinking, cocktails. Severin reckons he can drink anyone under the table, "but not in a macho way." He doesn't brag about it.
At present he describes band relations as "tickety-boo. Better than ever since Robert joined." So what does he think of the rest of them?
"Robert's mad. His nickname's Fat Boy, but he looks so big half the time because he forgets to take his pyjamas off when he gets dressed. He's very cuddlesome. Sometimes we don't speak for a month, for some unknown reason, and then we bump into each other and have a month of conversations in one night."
Steve? "Beneath that cool exterior beats yet another crazed person." And Sioux? "She's tall, unpredictable, inspiring. Nice?...Yeah," he beams, as in a state of sudden realisation.
"I find it really difficult talking about my best friends. I know it sounds mad, but I haven't got any other friends (pretends to sulk). But everything I want to do, everything I want to get out of my system, I can vent in the band or it's off-shoots. And anyway, when you mix in ever increasing circles you tend to stick to the people closest to you.
"Basically," he adds, obviously feeling it's about time to say something strange, " we're just a mental family."
ROBERT SMITH has to be the whipping boy in the Banshees. He reckons it's because he's the "youngest member of the family. Then again it means I can get away with more," he says cheekily chewing on his gum. "I always quiz them on their motives. I'm the secret conscience they lost."
He reckons that Severin has a "complete lack of charm. He's deluded. He thinks he's Vincent Price's bastard son. He's also the most grumpy person I've ever met. Now I suppose it's about the time I say he's really got a heart of gold" (adopts sickly voice).
He finds Budgie more "mortal" than the rest. And Sioux, he reckons, "is a bit moody. Sometimes she can be sweet as syrup ... and just as sickly."
Robert's also the joker in the pack, and happiness depends on how many hours sleep he gets. "I need 16 to function, but on this tour I'm only getting about four."
Supposedly on the last Cure tour he took a lamb -- a present from a fan -- around with him in the back of the van. And recently he's just purchased a couple of animals for his brother's farm.
"A fat pig -- not for eating. The other one I think has died."
He lives "nowhere", on the move all the time. But his favourite place is his "big white bed" at his parents' home in Crawley. "It's in a big white room filled with books." His biggest influence of late is a book called Maldoror about insanity which he "relates to wholeheartedly." Unlike the others he's got a girlfriend (called Mary). "She's fab. My best friend. She's got black hair and very striking looks. In fact she looks like Betty Boop. When I'm with her I just sit back and watch -- I don't have to perform any more." The helpful soul he is, Robert tried to come up with the perfect ending for a Banshee interview. "I know. My ambition is World Peace, or to be responsible for the end of the world. What an ending."
Peter Martin 24/05/84
FANGS, FILM & FAT TIES
Siouxsie a Weather Girls fan?
Siouxsie a celluloid surf punk?
Siouxsie a corpse slitter?
Surely not? Eleanor Levy begs to differ
Fatter, shorter, spottier - when you meet pop legends 'in the flesh', there's usually SOMETHING different about them. Personal contact equals shattered illusions on a good many occasions.
Siouxsie, on the other hand, looks exactly like you imagine she will. Swathed in black lace, hair gleaming like she's been giving it a good rub down with Pledge. Siouxsie plays her part as the 'black lady' with teeth-grinding relish. As she remarks pleasantly:
"People always pay more attention to the Wicked Witch than to Snow White. I certainly find it a lot easier than being a simpering, cow-eyed little thing."
1984 has been a funny year for Siouxsie & The Banshees. An album 'Hyaena', an EP 'The Thorn' made up of reworkings of old Banshees favourites... but no top 40 hit to follow the success of 'Dear Prudence'. Add the departure of Robert Smith - currently replaced by John 'Valentine' Carruthers of Clock DVA - and its not been an uneventful year.
But first, the decision to leave his Banshees days behind him by the man Siouxsie described in her last RM interview as "fat boy".
GOODBYE MR SMITH
"It's really funny," she says, "when I called Robert that there were lots of letters saying 'how dare that Siouxsie! Who DOES she think she is?'. He calls me.. well, we all have unflattering names we use. We're just cartoon characters when we're all together. But it's all nasty fun really. When I'm being nice I tend to bear-hug people, so I don't know which is worse.
I'll tell you what happened with Robert. He kept being pissed off with things because he didn't have time to spend on them - but it was his choice to work with two things at one time. We knew it was ludicrous and I'm sure he did too, but he wore himself out.
"There was nothing you could say," (taking on warm, friendly voice of your local 'concerned' social worker). "We'd go 'Robert, see sense. Now its either one thing or the other' and he'd say 'I can do both, honest, honest, I can do 10 things at a time'. He paid for it in the end... didn't spend enough time on any one thing.
"Actually, he turned up at Budgie's birthday party out of the blue, so no, there's no antagonism... and no, he wasn't wearing his make up. He was incognito I think."
WHERE HAVE ALL THE BIG STARS GONE?
"There are a lot of stars who are only stars because they've read they are, whereas I think a lot of 'stars' didn't have to read about it in the press. The Weather Girls are stars. I saw them when they were backing singers for Sylvester. They were called Two Tons Of Fun or something and were brilliant.
"They were just BIG, with barrels of voice. Amazing. You'd never go up to them and say 'Oh shut up you fat old cow'. They draw attention to it. No one would have a dig at them for being big because they're saying it with arrows."
SIOUXSIE GOES TO THE MOVIES
"We've been offered films but they're so unimaginative - the pressures on a rock star when she's driven TOO far. We got offered 'The Howling II', which at first made us all think 'urghh' because it was so typecast and we'd just released an album called 'Hyaena', but we were offered the music to do, and that sounded good because no matter how much it's 'oh, bloody horror films again', I still find a charm in Vincent Price and I'll always love those films in a comic way.
"Trouble is, these things are offered and then 'A Deal' has to be struck. Part of this deal was that we appeared in the film - as surf punks. And it all took place in a Los Angeles bar. Oh dear."
BLOOD AND GUTS AND THINGS
"I had ambitions to be other things once. But they're all professions that try to put you off by having to do a lot of studying - like pathologist. Pathology reports at trials are fascinating.
"You know, there's a victim and it could be ANYONE, so they find out who it is by the fact that it was a left-hand upward stroke that caused the final blow, or one of the murderers hairs is on the body or the persons jacket. Or there's a spot of blood and its not the dead persons!
"I wanted to be a make-up artist too - the mucky type. It's quite scientific really, especially the effects they employ in the films, like hanging eyeballs. Fascinating. I could spend my life making sores."
Eleanor Levy 17/11/84
THE ICE MAIDEN MELTS
Siouxsie Sioux has always been depicted as cool and aloof. But is this really true? Does a punk goddess shop at Tesco's?
How do you look after your body?
"I'm afraid I wouldn't know how to. I'm not a fat old woman anyway. Some people don't need to exercise to stay slim. I'm one of those, luckily."
What do you do when you're not working?
"I like to read a lot... go shopping at Tesco... and socialise.
"Drinking is my favourite form of socialising. I know its not very good for me but it's such an unhealthy world we live in that you have to do something to forget all about it."
Do you go to the cinema?
"Yes I like films, but I don't like everything that goes with it. You get a sore arse, you get people guffawing when you don't think its funny, and you get popcorn bags being rattled behind you. Urgh!"
Have you been influenced by Cruella De Ville in One Hundred & One Dalmatians?
"Ooh, Cruella! What a goddess! I've always enjoyed the really wicked witches and stepmothers in the Walt Disney films but Cruella is a world apart. I love her, but I don't think she's influenced me.
"Why? Do you think I look like her?"
Do you get out to clubs?
"I haven't recently because we've been busy writing and rehearsing, but I do like to when I'm feeling armoured. By that I mean when I don't get too spooked by people watching me. People come up to me and go, 'Are you...?,' and I go, 'No!'
"I like the Asylum at Heaven most."
What did you do last night?
"I ate roasted moose! These Swedish people we know wanted us to eat a special Swedish dinner. It's very similar to roast beef, actually."
Would you like to live aboard?
"I'd like to have the luxury of having a to be a tax exile but I can't ever see that happening. I might be able to think of loads of places where I'd like to go for a few weeks, but I don't know if I could live in any of them.
"No, I prefer to just flit through and be treated like a queen."
Are you 'settled'?
"No, I hate it. I thought I'd be really thrilled if I had my own flat but it's horrible. I had to buy my own pots and pans recently.
"I've only had the flat a couple of months. It's horrible having a responsibility. I'm almost tempted to rent somewhere with grotty furniture."
Are Frankie shocking the music industry in the same way you and the Sex Pistols did on 1976?
"Hardly. They're making money out of it, we never did. Not that... I don't see the comparison really. Frankie are more of a concept, someone's brainchild.
"We just happened."
Have you seen Robert Smith recently?
Yes, I splattered him against a wall... no, were good friends again. We're back to talking to each other. Loads of people didn't understand this violent dialogue we had. I know he let us down on the eve of a tour, but that's nothing new! Guitarists!"
Do you listen to your old songs?
"I go through phases of listening to old records. I play a lot of our B-sides because they tend to get overlooked. We're a group that has fun on our B-sides. We do all of them ourselves."
Has the formation of Wonderland, your own label, been a success?
"Yes, I think so, its been really good in the way that it has shielded us from the main record company.
"We hope to start letting other groups record on the label soon. We get a lot of tapes sent to us, but they're all from bands that think we'll like what they're doing because its similar to us.
"It's something for the future."
Are you really the 'Ice Maiden' that people make you out to be?
"Just because I'm not always gushing and trying to please everyone I meet! If I was the opposite I'd be a drippy old cow.
"You get labels whatever you're like, whatever you do. I don't think I'm an Ice Maiden."
Are you an insecure person?
"Yes, I think people need to be insecure. If you're relaxed and confident all the time then you find it hard to find the inspiration to do anything well. I am quite happy, but they're always things to worry about."
Where would you like to be at this moment?
"In a bar in New York. I love bars. I love the atmosphere in a place where you know you're going to be able to drink and chat all day. I like watching expert barmen making cocktails. Heaven."
Can you imagine yourself at 40?
"It happens to everyone. I don't think people should be scared of growing old. I can't imagine myself at 40 but I'm quite prepared to wait and actually find out."
Are you afraid of ghosts?
"If I came face to face with one, I don't think I'd be the first to cut and run."
What do you regret doing the most ever?
"I've done a lot of things in my life but the only thing I regret is drinking and then suffering for it. I get the most awful hangovers and I know I'm destroying myself.
"Id give up if it wasn't for the fact that the actual drinking is so pleasant."
Paul Bursche 16/06/84
The Banshees' guide to secretly having
There is a new breed of supergroup among us - late seventies bands who have run the gauntlet of chart success but retained enough control to avoid the excesses of this bloodsucking business.
While the Strummer's of the world have their hair cut in a feeble attempt to recapture the youth we never saw and Sting and his chums play the game with frightening skill, there are a few who still exist to pursue their own vision, to make their own music and who are fortunate enough to hit a nerve with record buyers.
Siouxsie & The Banshees are such a group. They've come a long way since those heady days at the Vortex, they make double live albums, play at the Albert Hall - and get slated for it.
"We'd always wanted to capture a live performance and when the opportunity came to video it as well, that made it more enticing," says Siouxsie in answer to critics of the band's Nocturne project. "its really something we released as a snub to the bootlegs. There's bootlegs of every live performance we've done in England and no one gets slagged for releasing those with their shoddy quality."
Siouxsie puts her case clearly and quietly, happy to explain the ins and outs of the Banshees' current status. Steve Severin is more cautious. He reminds me that the Banshees only grant a quarter of interviews asked for (I'm the third RM writer to request this interview, lovable Jim Reid and Graham K getting the thumbs down), as he fiddles with his diamante bracelet and points out that Siouxsie & The Banshees have committed no crime.
"It simply doesn't need defending," he says, staring at the floor. "Everybody puts out live records whether they're big groups or small groups. Just because 'Nocturne' was a double live album, there's no stigma at all attached to that. It may seem to people who can't see further than their own eyelashes that it was anything more than something to do, but it's just nonsense. We did it because we wanted to do it - the way we've always done things."
Surely there's some stigma attached to playing the Albert Hall, I suggest? Steve stares on. "Simple Minds are playing a week at the Hammersmith Odeon. I think that's terribly boring and what could be worse than Duran playing Wembley? At least we're trying to find somewhere new to play," he points out.
Siouxsie explains the problems the Banshees face when trying to play the capital. When you've played the Palais and the Odeon what next? Wouldn't they like to play smaller gigs?
"Ooh no! All those sweaty people," cringes Steve. "We've never really liked playing small places, we're not exactly an r 'n' b band."
Siouxsie & The Banshees' new single 'Swimming Horses' looks set to follow 'Dear Prudence' into the upper reaches of the chart, but Siouxsie and Steve deny that the latter was a calculated move.
"People seem to think that all we had to do was to cover 'Dear Prudence' and we'd have a hit," says Steve. "Nothing's ever that simple - it's because of the way we did it, the way we recorded it, that it was successful."
But why record an old Beatles tune anyway, I ask?
Steven looks up for the first time. "To be quite honest." he says "there weren't any Banshees songs written and we wanted a new single out and we wanted Robert to be playing on a new single. It seemed a good way of getting back into the Banshees swing."
'Dear Prudence' was the second song Siouxsie & The Banshees took from the Beatles' 'White' album, (the other being Helter Skelter, of course). I ask Siouxsie about this special liking for the Fab Four's first anti-fab album.
"There's a special liking for that album," she admits. "My older brother had the 'White' album and played it constantly. The Beatles got slated for it when it was released, it was unbelievable but there's just something about that record. 'Dear Prudence' was almost done as a demo. There's this strange friction on it - the difference between the cuteness of Paul McCartney and the aggression of John Lennon which gave it a well balanced appeal."
The success of 'Dear Prudence' meant that Siouxsie & The Banshees came under increasing pressure to step aboard the media merry-go-round, as Robert Smith told me at Xmas, when the Banshees turned down an invitation to appear on the Russell Harty show.
"We don't do a lot of TV on purpose." says Siouxsie. "You pretty much have to belong to showbiz either to not mind making a fool of yourself, or to be any good at it. Also there are limits, the idea of talking about yourself on a chat show... I mean I haven't done enough yet. They can bring out the baby photos when I'm old and wrinkled."
'Swimming Horses' is another fine example of the new found confidence in Siouxsie's singing now her throat problem has cleared up. She puts it down to not realising the strain of having to sing so high in the Banshees' infancy, but admits that it came in handy as an excuse for not doing live work.
"The problem was I didn't know what key I could sing in comfortably," she explains. "We didn't know what key they were in anyway, until some muso like Robert Smith told us. The only key we knew was E thrash."
Mention of Robert Smith leads me to suggest that it must be difficult planning the Banshees' calendar when the Cure have to be taken into account. For example, Siouxsie & The Banshees' new album is in it's final stages but so is the Cure's. How do they manage with only one half of Robert's attentions? It seems I hit a nerve!
"Put it this way," smiles Siouxsie, "fat boy Smith is nothing to do with the new album except that he actually plays on it." "yeah," nods Steve. "He's off making another space opera with the Cure."
Don't worry though folks, all this bickering is light hearted. The cock-up is apparently down to the bands commitments and nothing to do with any rivalry.
"Actually it helps us all in a way," says Steve. "If we were a full time four piece then again we'd have people trying to make us tour 10 months a year so it's a way of getting out of that."
Sitting with Siouxsie, quite an intimidating presence until she opens her mouth and you realise she's a decent young woman and not the moody distant figure she often seems on stage, it seems strange we haven't yet seen her captured on film. After all, these days any pop star who can string four words together and look good at the same time (Bowie does his best), seems to have been slotted into a film.
"I've had quite a few offers but I'm waiting for something good to come along." she says. "It's not something I desperately want to do but I would be interested. Up till now it's all been shit like 'Breaking Glass'."
She twists one of her Munster style bat wing earrings and reveals another source of harassment. "I keep getting these clothes designers who say, 'let me do Siouxsie's wardrobe'," she snarls. "I just tell them to go to hell." "Let Kate Garner wear it!" says Steven cruelly.
"There's this terrible plot out to make the likes of me dress like a hippy," she says. "I despair when I pass Oxford Street and I see bondage and leather and studs everywhere. It's become quite acceptable to go to work like that, it's disgusting."
Siouxsie and Steve have long been critics of the current music scene, hating the current video craze and the lack of sensitivity in the music.
"It seems to be getting worse," says Steve. "I can't believe the charts." "Oh that sounds awful," pleads Siouxsie. "Like were getting really old and just complaining it's getting worse." Steve continues thoughtfully.
"I suppose it's when certain things become successful, a lot of people try the same methods to become successful. You get people like Duran Duran doing it in such a sterile way and then other people try and copy it and it runs down through all these groups."
"It comes back to what we were saying about the Beatles' 'White' album," says Siouxsie. "That was exactly the opposite, a bit dangerous and risky and that's why it means so much to us."
The immediate future for the group sees the completion of the new album (accompanied by a waxwork of Siouxsie in a well known megastore) and a smattering of live dates in Europe, possibly including some UK gigs in early summer. There's also a Banshees special on Channel Four, including some live footage.
What ambitions do the group still have?
"Id love to play in South America," says Siouxsie. "Somewhere like Mexico. We tried to play it last year but its hard to organise things down there." Unlike Siouxsie's least favourite country, the well organised Germany.
"No, I don't like it there," she says. "I always say you are what you eat and they eat pig's trotters and knuckles of pork." Steve thinks for a moment. "We haven't done a film soundtrack," he says. "We're still waiting for the right one to come along. We haven't had a number one - that's just off the top of my head."
'Swimming Horses' will be hard pushed to upstage 'Dear Prudence' in the charts but that isn't important to Siouxsie & The Banshees. They are not manufactured teen idols, they are serious about their music but they don't take themselves as seriously as it may appear. At their best, The Banshees' music is breathtaking. What it never is, is mediocre - you are forced to like it or dislike it.
Siouxsie and Steve chat happily away about trips to Japan and ancient appearances on The Old Grey Whistle Test. I suggest that it might be an idea to show their fans and critics that they can smile sometimes.
"No." says Siouxsie mockingly. "I like all that... keep it up. Who wants to share in the secret that we're really having fun?"
Andy Strike 24/03/84
FROM HERE TO ETERNITY
Paul O' Reilly meets Steve Severin, representative of the band who would remain invisible.
Siouxsie & The Banshees meant a lot to me. Of all the groups of their generation they were the most special and yet today I can't find that feeling in their music anymore. My youthful fanaticism has cooled to a mixture of affection and frustration and viewing the band dispassionately I see them stuck in a stylistic rut that has enabled them to be imitated and plagiarized to the point of boredom.
ZigZag: How do you feel when you see or hear all these shadow bands, The Cocteau Twins, all the Batcave crowd. How do they strike you when so many are so obviously inspired by or imitating you?
Steve Severin: I just wish these people would try a bit harder. I mean, The Cocteau Twins just stand there and do nothing and I don't think they would have got away with it if we hadn't opened up the space for them - but it's hard to talk about them without it sounding like sour grapes. I don't think its important to slag off bands that are coming up.
ZigZag: I don't mean you to but does it not depress you that they constantly pick up on such a one dimensional aspect of your work?
Steve Severin: Yeah, but then you get a band like Altered Images who pick up a completely different side of the Banshees, the more pop side if you like.
ZigZag: It seems that you've just inspired a horde of dullards recently.
Steve Severin: It must be the same with everything though. I mean you had Sham 69 a year after the Pistols. That's the same kind of thing but I don't think you should put them down... just let it develop. The people that are good are going to come out regardless of what kind of platform they started from. That said I've yet to see anything with the remotest pop promise come out of the Batcave.
ZigZag: But there are bands that can be inspired without being photocopies. I can't think of one band that has taken more than the superficial from the Banshees.
Steve Severin: It's pretty hard to spot that kind of thing anyway. It's not just a guitar sound or a drum sound or a vocal style. When people transcend mere copying an influence can be hard to detect. It may be that China Crisis are big Banshees fans but you can't tell in their music. There's so many adverts in the back of the music press for Banshees type bands but I think it's just a side effect, it doesn't do any harm. It's still better they grow up listening to us than Duran Duran.
Steve Severin: It must be surely.
ZigZag: Well alright, take your Tube appearance for example. For a band that professes that pop sensibility your presentation came across very lacking in gloss and slipshod. You missed a chance for that direct competition like TOTP.
Steve Severin: The format for The Tube is very different from TOTP, for a start virtually every band that goes on there uses backing tapes. We were up there and I just thought it was hilarious. You had Kool & The Gang who are just a bunch of session musicians and it was going to sound OK whatever they did. You had the Thompson Twins who were basically just miming and you had us with a really bad sound. We were basically stitched up but I thought it looked pretty exciting. At least it showed us sweating a bit.
ZigZag: Do you feel you fall between those stools, you're in the charts but there's no real affection for you on that level. You are still very much outsiders.
Steve Severin: Yes and that's a constant source of inspiration to us to feel like that. I mean it would be awful being the Thompson Twins. We don't talk to people like that, it's a different world.
ZigZag: Don't you ever feel you isolate yourselves too much?
Steve Severin: Not really. It's only because there always has been that air of insularity around the Banshees. I still feel there's no real reason we should talk to a musician simply because he's a musician. I've never ever thought that. Why the hell should you have to tolerate them just because they do some of the same things as you do, they don't have the same reasons or motives or ideas for the things they do...
ZigZag: Do you still have at the front of your mind that the Banshees are somehow different from other bands even though you're into the same depths of the music business as any other band on your level because honestly I don't see the differences as clearly now as maybe six years ago.
Steve Severin: Well no because it was very easy to see what was going on six years ago. Now there's a million bands who do what we do for sort of the same reasons. You've got Soft Cell, The Birthday Party - people like that who don't do things... to me because I'm involved in the whole thing so much it's even like the Thompson Twins because they just do things that make it harder for you to do what you want to do, they become like the standard way of doing it and then you have always got the pressure from the record company and the media to try and put you into a certain blueprint of how to be successful. That changes year by year, people like that see how other people get success and they feel that's the only way to do it at that time.
ZigZag: Do you feel that you have laid guidelines that these people are exploiting?
Steve Severin: Are we talking about the Thompson Twins?
ZigZag: The new muzak generally. You fought and they take short cuts.
Steve Severin: Yeah but I think these people have no control over what they do at all except maybe in the presentation of what they do. All the bands that are in the charts don't seem to have a stand on anything.
ZigZag: OK, what I'm saying is that you have done things before other people but that you miss a lot of opportunities as well, like the label now.
Steve Severin: Yes - I think that's very true but that's basically because of the workload. Because we don't have a manager, because we don't have a big producer doing all our records and people manufacturing us we really have to do it ourselves.
ZigZag: Do you ever feel your lack of delegation holds you back?
Steve Severin: I think that's partially responsible for why the label hasn't taken off.
ZigZag: Have you not thought of getting a like thinker in to run it along your lines?
Steve Severin: Yeah but who?
ZigZag: That leads me on to your fans. A few years ago there was a real hardcore of followers who on one level would have killed for the band and on another, later finished up working for you or with you. Have you ever been aware of that drifting away?
Steve Severin: Not really. I think all that's a side effect of what you do, that was at its strongest when we were touring a lot and there's that feeling of a big gang against the world and that kind of stuff but of course those things vanish, you can't expect to hold on to all your fans all the time and there should be a turnover of people and for the people who grow out of the Banshees I hope there are twice as many growing into us and I think that's why we're sustained. I'm always meeting people who say, 'I was following you on the Join Hands tour', but that doesn't mean they don't appreciate what your doing now.
ZigZag; Yeah, but there's not the crossover from front of audience to side of stage that there was, the air of insularity again.
Steve Severin: I think it's a very minor thing, losing fans like that is much preferable to being really, really successful and losing them that way. It's a question of degree. If we'd had a string of number ones, half the people would have disappeared like that anyway even though at the back of their mind they'd want us to be very successful. When you are it is a completely different thing. That sort of possessiveness is part and parcel of being a really devoted fan. You want a band to succeed but you also don't want them to be anyone else's, but hopefully we can get away with that as we've been pretty successful from the outset and people always saw how far we wanted to go.
ZigZag: How far do you think you've got, the label is a concrete thing but how would you like to see it ideally?
Steve Severin: It was never intended to be a stepping stone for any band, more sort of esoteric things that we found that hadn't been released. Not a 4AD or a Mute because they serve that purpose anyway but more along the lines of something like ZE or EG but it's a question of time.
ZigZag: Do you feel aware you're not doing it justice?
Steve Severin: It's not really set up in a way, yet that we can do things like that. It's basically our stronghold within Polydor and to that end it's doing very well. It was the whole axis of the deal we signed.
ZigZag: It's tempting from the outside to look at it as 'How about having our own label?' it's seeming inactivity doesn't help.
Steve Severin: I don't think we've got it to the point with the Banshees yet with being comfortable enough to let go and concentrate on other people. There's still loads of things to be done with the band and I think it really is just a question of time, we're too busy to concentrate on other things.
ZigZag: Is there time set aside in the five year plan to accommodate it?
Steve Severin: I don't really know, I haven't given it much thought as we've been so busy on the album. I don't know, you can't really win either way - if you take time off to concentrate on the label the album would suffer and vice versa.
ZigZag: So what are your immediate plans generally? You've just signed with Geffen I believe.
Steve Severin: Yes, they'll be releasing Prudence in the States and we're going over after the British tour to play a few shows on the coast. We've a big underground type following over there but whether that converts to a large scale we've yet to see. Geffen have got the muscle but we'll be the Banshees to the last...
ZigZag: Stroppy buggers as usual?
Steve Severin: No but we have a certain way of dealing with people that comes from our view of everything. We don't set out to wind people up but Sioux and I have an understanding that constantly demands the best of each other. Coast to Coast TV shows are a possibility but breaking the US is not our prime consideration so they can't expect massive concessions. For the first time we are serious and have real backing there which was never the case when we were with GEM before. We'll see what happens...
ZigZag: How about long term, the new album features a lot of orchestration. Is that a pointer for the future? Where will, you be in 10 years time?
Steve Severin: We could still be here!
ZigZag: You're not serious I hope...
Steve Severin: Why not, the Banshees aren't finished yet and if we still feel the need in 10 years we'll still be here. The Banshees could never become a cabaret version of what we are but we haven't developed yet as far as we can go.
ZigZag: Do you think you could be objective enough to know when the time had come to stop?
Steve Severin: I hope so and I believe we would know, the understanding between Siouxsie and I wouldn't allow us to carry on if that feeling wasn't there. It's instinctive and I'd trust it.
As The Banshees approach their eighth album and 'Swimming Horses' drowns, I wonder where they're going. I'm not suggesting that band are finished because they're not by any means but then again they could continue running on the spot ad infinitum. Once upon a time Siouxsie & The Banshees were so far in front that the rest were invisible but today the challengers are closing and I'm not sure the eight-year-olds legs have got a sprint left in them. Only time will tell..
Paul O' Reilly 06/84
'Severin' Ah, this must be the place. I push the button beside the neatly written name.
"Who is it?"
It's Bill Black.
"It's right at the top."
In from the warm Saturday afternoon, sun and up three or four flights of stairs. Just as you think you're going to end up on the roof of this town house just off Tottenham Court Road, you're halted by an unimposing white door. behind it can be heard Loud Music. This must be the place. Knock. No answer. Knock harder. Almost instantaneously the door swings open and reveals the surprisingly slight figure of Steve Severin. He appears a bit nervous.
"Siouxsie hasn't arrived yet," he whispers, beckoning me in, at the same time reaching for his coat. Er... "I'll go and get something for us to drink. Red or white?"
Left alone in the tiny flat I get a chance to survey chez Severin. The music is still babbling away, although more quietly, as I cost the impressive looking HiFi. No surprises there. Sure he's got a compact disc player but then Siouxsie & The Banshees have been a successful pop group for seven years now, and that doesn't go unrewarded, right?
More interesting is the nod to the Creative Process: the obligatory Portastudio and a fair-sized keyboard, adorned with the now-famous Prisoner emblem of an elaborate tricycle (there are half a dozen commercially released Prisoner videos amongst his large collection. Clearly a fan). The record collection. A healthy showing of the Banshees' back catalogue, three copies of 'Blue Sunshine' (The Glove's LP) plus a good deal of classical music, stretching forward to Brecht/Weill's 'Threepenny Opera' and Philip Glass. Hmmm, interesting.
I raise my eyes to the bookcase. Isn't it strange how many bands have taken their names from 'hip' book titles? There's Steppenwolf and Soft Machine - even Heaven 17 if you delve deep enough into Burgess' Clockwork Orange. I make a formal count of title/band names just to amuse myself until Severin returns. A man of taste.
"That was the Italian DAF," offers Severin as the music finally comes to an end. "A friend of mine sent it to me."
Do you get sent a lot of tapes?
"Yeah, I suppose I do; mostly from people I know though."
Any chance of hearing some tracks off the new album? I enquire sweetly. Severin busies himself hoisting a white label of 'Hyaena' onto the linear tracking turntable. Plucking his glass from the coffee table, he retires to a seat, mute and motionless.
I slurp and listen intently to the song now forming itself in the speakers. It's the new single 'Dazzle', a lustrous jostling of strings swarming forward before dying slowly to reveal Siouxsie's rich, textured voice. Apart from the elaborate (and successful) introduction, the four tracks I hear (Severin mysteriously jumps the second half of each side- in case I attempt an on the spot and therefore exclusive review? This man IS suspicious) hold no great surprises - I can exclusively reveal that the Banshees have not gone Tamla - only a refining of the 'Dreamhouse' sound with perhaps greater emphasis placed on the drums and no noticeable outings granted new boy Robert Smith's grumbling, glassy guitar.
But Siouxsie is singing better than ever (maybe the 'keep off the high notes' warning of a year or so back was a good thing) and the Eastern flavour added by some of the instruments used is effective and suitably exotic. Embedded in the very foundations of these songs, I muse, is the metallic anguish of 'The Scream', only warmed through and ripened by a fuller, less flighty exploration of the component parts (submerge/substitute latterly the name of the game) that has seen the Banshees take a thread from 'Carcass', twist it, knot it even, but never let go.
As the last track I'm granted a listen ends, a knocking becomes apparent at the door. It's photographer Carole Segal. She's immediately set to work signing a release form giving the Banshees a degree of control over the use of her pictures.
Is this really necessary, I wonder?
"I never let anyone use my pictures without checking with the band first that it's OK," says Carole sincerely.
"Every photographer we ever worked with has said that," snarls Severin. Time to change the subject. Did Robert Smith's Cure commitments cause any problems when it came to recording 'Hyaena'?
"We always knew he'd be taking December and maybe January off to record 'The Top', but we'd started recording stuff for the Banshees album as long ago as last June so at the start it seemed such a long way off it wasn't really important. But we had to start speeding things up towards the end and even then it meant we had to mix the album without Robert, which is a pity because he's really good in studios and it's always useful to have an extra pair of ears."
It becomes apparent that despite the leisurely recording schedule ("We had no real deadlines, only the ones we always work to") recording 'Hyaena' was not without its problems.
One was the choice of studio, a converted church used to record orchestras, chosen for its drum sound (significant) but cursed with primitive recording equipment. Another was the novel way the Banshees had chosen to work.
"We wrote everything in the studio and that's the first time we've ever done that and it wasn't ideal. Before we've either gone in with an album with most of it written or, as with 'Dreamhouse' had two or three songs to be getting on with. But this time we had nothing, only the constant thought that we had to come up with an album of songs, and we don't wake up every morning wanting to write a song.
"Yes, it was very slow, slower than usual. We'd exhausted ourselves on our solo projects so it was quite hard to get back into writing for the Banshees immediately after doing the Glove and the Creatures."
Was this frightening?
"Just frustrating. We knew it would come eventually. It helped that if we got stuck we could go off and play abroad or do those Albert Hall gigs. It seems like a long time but we didn't spend all those months just recording the album, we did a lot of other things as well."
Like the Glove, Severin and Smith's unremarkable collaboration of last year resulting in the 'Blue Sunshine' LP. Was it conceived as an answer to Budgie and Siouxsie's Creatures?
"We'd actually agreed to do it long before the Creatures decided to do something. I think it was around the time that Robert was doing 'Faith' that we thought of doing something together because at the time Robert was completely in the Cure and I was in the Banshees so it would have been a mixture of the two groups. When it finally came out it seemed like the other half of the Banshees' Creatures." And the pasting deserved?
"Of course I don't think its deserved!"
Not even in hindsight?
"I just think it turned up right in the middle of a general Banshees backlash."
Well that didn't stop the Creatures from scoring a hit or two. Was he bitter at his partners' success?
"Not at all. It's pretty obvious why one was successful and one wasn't - Siouxsie."
But Smith's nearly as famous, surely?
"But neither Robert nor I made much effort to make it clear who was actually the Glove. We did that on purpose (going as far as drafting in a female vocalist to do the duties on the single 'Like An Animal'), maybe that was a mistake."
There may well be more Severin/Smith collaborations, but they won't go under the name of the Glove.
At this point Siouxsie arrives. In a simple, stunning grey suit and that equally simple but no less striking makeup she appears her public self: intimidating, cold even.
"Hello," she barks. I'm surprised into a ludicrously royal have 'you come far?' type diatribe. Oh Kensington? Nice.
But of course Siouxsie is no Ice Queen. She's very friendly. Guarded but friendly.
"You're late, we've done most of the interview!" shouts Severin from the kitchen, where he's busy making the new arrival a cup of tea.
"Oh, I needn't have bothered coming then!" snorts Siouxsie dismissively.
For a moment I think she's serious. But Siouxsie wants to talk.
"I love the Weather Girls, don't you? They're just so... oooh!" she forms a huge circle with her arms and allows an equally large grin to crack that neatly painted face.
"They're so womanly aren't they? I think they're terrific!"
"Did you know that one of them has twelve children?" chirps Carole.
"No really? Then that goes to show that they're real women doesn't it!"
Am I hearing this? Siouxsie Sioux, who once wore a Swastika as the "ultimate symbol of shock" rejoicing in femininity? But times have changed and from scorning her nonconformity the popular press has dubbed Siouxsie 'glamorous' and 'sultry'. Anyway, there's Boy George to worry about now.
But paradoxically, Siouxsie (and Severin for that matter) have hardly changed a bit. His bleached crop, her weave of jet black hair - have they never felt the need to give the image a shake up? "I LOVE BLACK HAIR!" is Siouxsie's fiery response.
"It's not a fashion thing." sighs Severin.
"People have never been able to see me as dressing in a clown's costume." continues Sioux, "this has always been me. And it always will be, unless I want to change, and then I will."
But surely, now that your look is accepted and copied, don't you want to...?
"I don't think Siouxsie has been accepted!" chimes Severin. "There's still something more daring and dangerous about walking down the street when you're dressed like Siouxsie than if you were dressed like Sheena Easton."
So Siouxsie hasn't stopped shocking people?
"The most rebellious thing I've ever done I did quite recently and that's grow my armpit hair. The number of letters that have been written complaining about that! Everybody was going 'yuk!' and even my mother was disgusted. I was amazed! So never mind shaving your head girls, grow your armpit hair and shock everybody!"
And all this talk about fashion does have a point, and it's to do with serving as an indication of the Banshees' approach.
Of the 'class of 77' we've seen The Clash turn into the new Rolling Stones, Billy Idol defect to the States, even Johnny Lydon (nee Rotten) go beyond the grave of 'Death Disco' to record 'This Is Not A Love Song' - not to mention Weller's denial of rock to lead a new life as the coffee bar kid. And yet the Banshees soldier on, through bitchy and bizarre break ups (first the McKay/Morris contingent, then John McGeoch - both on the eve of Banshee tours) and even major scares like the 'stop the singing' bombshell dropped on Siouxsie last year, in the same mould.
A lyrical preoccupation here, a musical inflection there, the Banshees have still not deviated drastically from the route mapped out by 'The Scream'. From the tempered howl of that album to the perfected purr of the Creatures, the journey has been at times longwinded but always negotiable. So why should this rigid yet vigorous approach have lasted so long amongst the shifting sands of our recent pop history? Both are vague on this subject.
"Well, we're hardly a revivalist group so we can't say 'what shall we have a go at this time!'" offers Severin a mite sarcastically. Siouxsie takes a different track. "The Banshees have always been out on a limb, we've never had a camaraderie with other groups. It's just something that has never been there."
So are the Banshees lonely?
"Its not so much that were lonely," adds Severin, "as insulated. We've never really liked 'hanging out' with other musicians, most of them ae really tedious anyway.
"But that's a driving force in itself. If there are loads and loads of things you hate like all these horrid pop faces turning up on your radio and TV then that's a great form of inspiration. But I do try very hard to avoid hearing things I know I'm going to hate." There follows a general discussion on the state of the charts, with Siouxsie describing it in turns as "disgusting", "desperate" and "perverse". She doesn't like the sight of old men scrabbling for success, "a poxy slot on Top Of The Pops." Severin is more specific.
"I find it very, very dull. There is a distinct lack of personality in the groups that are around today. There's also a very real lack of male singers too. It's only made noticeable because the heritage of make singers is so strong. It's really good to have Phil Oakey back in the charts because he can sing. So can Billy Mackenzie but he's off walking his whippets somewhere."
Which begs the question, what does Siouxsie think of the current (bumper) crop of female singers around right now?
"I really don't listen to any Western singers," she replies apologetically. "It's hard to explain but I don't like the Western style of singing at all. It's all so obvious isn't it? The gaps and intervals between notes and stuff like that, it's all wrong.
"I much prefer the Eastern style of singing where all that is broken down and singers use their voices in really unusual and unexpected ways. It sounds like a wail to the Western ear when in fact it's very formal and incredibly difficult to achieve."
Which all makes perfect sense when you listen to Siouxsie's voice. I venture it's better than before the throat scare.
"It's really not that different, although I've taken some advice about how to sing the earlier songs because my voice has actually got deeper since I started singing and that caused a lot of problems when I tried to sing some of the stuff off 'Scream'. But it's got a lot more to do with the microphones we use now. I never used one that could capture the whole range of my voice properly but we've found one now so it should sound a lot better."
Getting back to her penchant for things Oriental, did this influence the instrumentation on 'Hyaena'?
"At one point we wanted to do something that sounded medieval, use harpsichords, lutes, that sort of thing. The backing tracks seemed to suggest that sort of thing but we dropped that idea in favour of using woodwind. Not clarinets, we wanted a 'honking' sound like you get from Turkish pipes and things. We wanted a rough sound rather than a smooth one."
Severin: "But all those ideas have been there since 'The Scream' when John and I were experimenting with open strings acting as a drone like Indian music has. But obviously if you do that on actual instruments the whole effect becomes far more obvious."
Buts it's still merely 'flavouring', wouldn't you like to make an album of solely those ideas?
"I'd like to do something where we wrote the music but didn't necessarily play the instruments. That might be an idea if we were offered a film score or something, just so that we could do the music but not have to record it."
Seems there's no shortage of offers to get into film soundtracks fluttering through the Banshees' letterbox (plus plenty of acting roles for Siouxsie) but the band have always been wary of lending their name to a dodo operation.
Severin: "We've always said no to anything that smacks of dreary artiness or any of those teen flicks that advertise 'featuring the music of' and then has you coming out of a car radio or something. But there's an interesting film that were looking into now which is gonna star Hannah Schgulla (of Fassbinder fame) and has Bunuel's script writer working on it. Eno's supposedly doing atmospheric incidental music for it and we've been asked to write four songs. The only drawback is that it's all about a pop group led by this girl. We'll have to see the script first."
So, another project to swell the extracurricular activities of Sioux, Severin, Budgie and Smith. But with all this going on ("nothing planned" is Siouxsie's word on a future Creatures get together) how strong can the corporate identity of the Banshees (battered and bruised by seven years comings and goings) remain?
Severin: "Nothing else would happen unless the Banshees was a strong unit. It's only because we have faith in our attitude that we can go off and try other things without worrying if were going to lose something along the way. The Banshees is still vital to all of us."
And momentum? How has that been maintained in the face of so many setbacks?
"The choice of people," replies Siouxsie mysteriously.
But whatever the pros and cons of a permanently flexible line-up there's no doubting that the Banshees have grown up, grown wise and grown wary until they wear their size nines with considerable aplomb - and not a little self satisfaction. But then they're survivors.
Bill Black 02/06/84
YEAR IN THE DREAMHOUSE
In 1983, Siouxsie And The Banshees entered their seventh year as a group. They had their biggest hit to date with ‘Dear Prudence’, and they filled the Albert Hall for two nights in succession.
The resulting live double LP ‘Nocturne’ wraps up those seven years.
Yet 1983 was not only the year in which the Banshees consolidated their considerable reputation. It was also the year of the seven-year itch.
While Robert Smith slotted into the group’s guitar seat, he and the others busied themselves playing musical chairs. Smith re-launched the Cure and worked as The Glove with original banshee Steve Severin. Siouxsie and drummer Budgie experimented as the Creatures. Hardly a month went by when one combination or another wasn’t in the charts.
No.1 decided to chronicle the year Of The Banshees, taking Severin’s diary as our starting point. Severin and Budgie then chucked in their comments.
Prepare to be exhausted.
"We virtually pulled Robert out of retirement. Last year he just used to come round to Steve’s house and moan about being the frontman in a serious group and all the tours. This year our schedules had to be improvised around him once The Cure started having hits. It can be maddening when all the threads get tangled..."
"A lot of the recent work has been influenced by the songs we grew up on, records like ‘Itchycoo Park’ or the ‘White Album’ that my elder brother owned.
"We tend to pick up English things rather than West Coast psychedelia. When punk happened, it was more Yes or Genesis that everybody wanted out of the way. Jon Anderson is a hippy and Captain Beefheart isn’t. It’s as simple as that."
"One by one, all the songs on ‘Nocturne’ will get dropped from the live set. It’s hard to recapture the excitement of the old songs, especially for Robert who wasn’t involved in their writing. We wanted to record them before they’re dropped in the bin..."
ROYAL ALBERT HALL
"Playing the Albert Hall, we got a few people who’d never go to the Hammersmith Palais. We were probably more nervous the first time we played with Budgie or with Robert. Audiences aren’t very good in England at the moment, even at the RAH."
"It’s looser in that we’re not always together now that we have different projects and don’t tour all the time. It’s more fun with Robert in the group, more of a friendship and less of a career.
"All the different projects we’ve done this year have probably got rid of a lot of ideas and influences that might have clogged up the Banshees’ album..."
"Kajagoogoo, Paul Young, Duran Duran - they don’t have much personality as pop stars. I don’t feel curious about them.
"The only person who’s got the excitement of a Marc Bolan is Boy George. I can see why Culture Club interest people, even if they don’t interest me.
"I like reading the charts of ten years ago. I can’t believe that people will look back on this years charts in ten years and be excited. It’s been dull. Something’s got to happen next year just because this one’s been so dull..."
"Because the Clash aren’t around and The Jam have stopped, critics use us as a point in time. But we were never a focus for what punk was going to do like those groups.
"Suddenly people call us old warhorses. What’s the difference between six and seven year’s existence? Why are we ’old warhorses’ and not Simple Minds?"
"I can’t imagine us playing with people outside The Banshees. That’s just for old mates, the kind who end up having supergroups made up of their own names. Sioux and Steve have grown up with one style - Steve wouldn’t know how to jam with anybody. We don’t want to be like Shaky and Bonnie Tyler, that’s desperate.
‘Melt/Il Est Ne Le Divin Enfant’ survives Christmas at No. 80.
‘Kiss In The Dreamhouse’ at 95.
Siouxsie and Budgie airborne New Year’s Eve, arrive Hawaii on New Year’s Day.
As The Creatures, the pair record the ‘Feast’ album at Sea West Studios, Oahu, backing vocals courtesy of The Lamalani Hula Academy Hawaiian Chanters.
Back in London, Severin and Smith begin working as The Glove.
Banshees regroup in London, rehearse, fly to Far East.
Dates in Sydney, Melbourne, Auckland, Wellington, Tokyo, Osaka, Kyoto.
Severin takes two week’s holiday in Japan.
Siouxsie and Budgie no holiday in ‘83.
Smith manages two weeks in Crawley by leaving phone off hook and pretending he’s in Scotland.
The Glove back in the studio.
The Creatures promoting ‘Miss The Girl’ whose video is soon the victim of TV ‘censorship’; shown once on TVAM before seven in the morning.
Creatures adopt a peccary in London Zoo, possibly the ugliest and most unwanted beast in the place; name it Gregory Peccary.
‘Miss The Girl’ released April 20.
Smith resuscitates Cure and records ‘The Walk’, second in trilogy of ‘fantasy’ singles.
‘Feast’ released May 20, reviews positive.
Creatures record ‘Right Now’, a Mel Tormé song, as follow-up to ‘Miss The Girl’.
The Glove project complete
Banshees begin sixth studio album, as yet untitled.
Smith now as "permanent a member as anyone can be".
Recording continues intermittently, interrupted by success of The Cure, slowed by Banshees’ desire to emulate ’Dreamhouse’.
‘Right Now’ released July 1, accompanied by video featuring Sioux and Budgie in gold paint.
‘The Walk’ out same day.
Both become top 20 hits.
Banshees play festivals in Sweden and Denmark.
Begin recording ’Dear Prudence’ in Sweden in 10 days between festivals.
Budgie prefers ’Glass Onion’, also from Beatles’ ’White Album’.
Recordings interrupted by Smith’s trip to London for TOTP with ’The Walk’.
Later in month, Banshees record four old songs with Chandos Players, string section containing members of LSO (still not yet released).
July 30, a put-together Cure play Elephant Fayre in Cornwall as The Banshees had done the previous year.
Cure undertake two-week tour of States.
Return via Paris where Robert and partner Lol Tolhurst record ’The Lovecats’; Banshees tease Smith that song is a rip-off of their ’Cocoon’ song.
Glove’s debut single ’Like An Animal’ released August 12 and eventually reaches Top 50.
Glove album ‘Blue Sunshine’ released September 9.
‘Dear Prudence’ released September 23.
Banshees play festivals in Holland, Switzerland, Italy plus three club dates in Tel-Aviv, Israel.
Smith hires car and drives banshees to Dead Sea/Jerusalem, closest Budgie comes to a holiday.
Royal Albert Hall dates September 30 and October 1.
Following Monday Banshees begin mixing tapes for ‘Nocturne’.
‘Dear Prudence’ reaches N0.2, Banshees’ highest chart position and worthy of a silver disc.
‘Lovecats’ released October 20, accompanied by video with spectacular footage of cats, real and stuffed.
Banshees put together half-hour film for Channel 4, held together by a Mad Hatter’s tea Party with all four as Alice, wigs and all. Film included four three-minute films, one by each group member, which Severin likens to "ghost stories".
Second Glove single, ‘Punish Me With Kisses’, out November 18.
‘Nocturne’ and an hour long video of RAH released November 25, entering charts at 29.
Banshees reconvene in studio to continue work-in-progress, working on 11 tracks with everything from sitars to ‘non-instruments’.
Smith completes guitar parts for Banshees album, begins recording new Cure album: "He rings us everyday," claims Severin, "he misses us already."
‘’Japanese Whispers’, eight-track Cure album released containing all singles and B-sides from November 1982 to November 1983.
To complete the album (!), to have a No. 1 single, to make a film soundtrack or even a film, to play in South America, TO HAVE A HOLIDAY...
BANSHEES’ SIBERIAN NIGHTS AND BYGONE DAYS
IN BILBAO, industrial heart of Spain’s Basque region, there’s a basketball stadium waiting for Siouxsie And The Banshees.
The lights are up over the cavernous hall, the stage is set.
Outside, the crowds are gathering, and the riot police that line the square look uneasy, flipping visors backwards and forwards over twitching faces, slapping wooden truncheons into gloved hands. Last week a band turned up an hour late and the crowd rampaged. The police flex stiff muscles and grit their teeth, ready for any repeat.
Meanwhile, Budgie is being raced back to the hotel and the soundcheck has been cancelled so the show can start on time. The Banshees’ Franco/Iberian tour is scraping into motion.
The special effects machine broke down last night. "Hi-tech, who needs it?" asks Budgie, "back to skiffle I say, give me me wash board I’ll be alright."
It’s at this point that I have my first meeting with the face of Sioux. This time it’s in multiple, spread three high over 20 feet of wall - the familiar spray of hair, the hint of a smile at the corners of the mouth.
"Hmmm, red and black," comments Budgie, as Sioux’s face flicks past the car window, "that’s better - in Madrid it was pink with two noses."
"The printing had gone out of synch, she was left with two noses."
One way, I suppose, to make the face of Sioux shock once more.
PERHAPS THE Arabs had a point after all with that quaint little belief that every time a photographer snaps, he captures a piece of the subjects soul on film, until eventually only the pictures remain. Or perhaps it’s just that every picture capable of not just telling but creating a story hides a nascent cliché.
Just look at the casualties: like John Lydon holed up in LA with a musical career that he’s turned into a bad joke, and an acting career that was one from the start, unable to recapture that moment when the world fist looked in his direction.
Taking on the world is one thing, doing battle with your own myth is an altogether tougher prospect. And our current contenders, Siouxsie And The Banshees - they looked defeated to me, but they say they’re rallying for another assault. Good luck.
Until last year the Banshees seemed the most capable of setting the images dancing to the tune they called. With ’Hyaena’, it finally seemed as if the ghosts of Banshees past were closing in. All those pictures, all the young Siouxs that crept off the printed page and into the corners of provincial discos from whence they’d be called by the first chords of ’Spellbound’. From the Ice Queen to Findus mass-production, it added up to one thing for the Banshees - you couldn’t tell the spectre from the spectacle. ’Belladonna’ - wasn’t that by Bauhaus, or was it the Sex Gang Children, The Sisters Of Mercy perhaps? The Banshees? Aw c’mon.
I see the face of Sioux close up, and it’s a face I’ve seen everywhere. She hurries into the waiting car with a flash of lace from beneath a black coat ...
"Following the footsteps of a rag doll dance, we are entranced..."
ARE WE? yet still? Now that the footsteps of the dance are neatly laid out in black vinyl, perhaps it is time to look back. Just what was it about the Banshees anyway?
ROXY MUSIC, T. REX (Can and Captain Beefheart).
Weren’t you a go-go dancer with The Sex Pistols, Siouxsie?
"God no! A friend and I once got drunk at the Screen On The Green and danced on our seats, but go-go dancer? Never!"
STEP ONE: "be limblessly in love."
Singles: Hong Kong Garden (+++++)
The Staircase (Mystery) (+++)
LP: The Scream (+++++)
WAY BACK when, Siouxsie And The Banshees were wearing black and turning the lights up bright white. That image might have lost the unique focus it had then, but the music of ‘The Scream’ and ‘Hong Kong Garden’ still prickles like electric acupuncture. It’s surprising how close to the bone it still penetrates.
After Patti Smith’s ‘Horses’, ‘The Scream’ is the best debut LP of all time. Was it 1978 or ten years on? From the underwater claustrophobia of its cover, through the fractured monochrome scenarios to the morbid fascination of ‘Switch’s’ final flickers, its poetry in sound and splinters.
From Bauhaus to the Sex Gang Children, all the dark dunces that were to paddle in its wake never understood the economy of its terror. Where a Bauhaus song is a compost heap of nastiness, ‘Hong Kong Garden’ is a gaudy rush of elation, through which the ugly reality of junk deals and nascent fascism are partially glimpsed - ‘Metal Postcard’ and ‘Switch’ hint at a horror but never pin it down, let alone heap it on the entire contents of the dictionary of darkness.
Oh, and fascism of course - because the Banshees strolled through a moral twilight, there were always those ready to brand them. Julie Birchill, reviewing ’The Scream’, concentrated on the (admittedly) rather stupid line in ‘Love In A Void’, "too many Jews for my liking", despite the fact that this did not appear on the LP. What did appear on ’Metal Postcard’ was a dedication to John Heartfield, Munich born founder of the Berlin Dadaists, whose grim and violent blood-and-iron collages (similar in their imagery to the Banshees’ own) were so acceptable to the Nazi party that he had to flee the country. In exile in Britain he was threatened with extradition, which shows that even then we were pretty bad at Spot The Fascist.
‘Carcass’ from ’The Scream’ is immensely funny, but then I’m the man Neil Spence describes it as "sick". ("You’re sick" - Ed.)
THE SHOW in Bilbao is uninspired, mainly because the Basque hardnuts in the audience were, pre-show, slugging the kamikaze local brandy. By halfway through the set the bottles are empty and look out, here they come...
When an encore is refused, a deadly shower comes the way of an unfortunate roadie. He ducks - his skull survives and the snare drum behind him sustains a large hole... in the casing!
I chat with two fans who’ve followed the Banshees across America and to Spain. Everyone seems to accept their presence by now, Siouxsie’s dubbed them "the bebbies", they ride in the crew bus.
"Oh, I’ve just been coming to see the Banshees for ages," says one, "not since the beginning, mind, but then I was only eight when they did their first gigs."
Meanwhile the bottles rain on, and the crew are hiding behind the amplifiers. Severin pads over, his first words to me are: "How about that for dinosaur rock, then? Pretty calm and placid, eh?" At which I am understandably bemused. Later he continues. "At your age, How come you remember Led Zeppelin anyway?"
Suddenly it clicks that Mr Severin has mistaken me for Mat Snow ("Who he?" - Ed.), a man much weightier, less pretty and more disposed to satin bomber jackets and mid - 70s rock than myself. He apologises, and continues on the subject of Mat’s review of ’Nocturne’, which enthused about said LP as being almost as good as Led Zeppelin.
"I wasn’t insulted, just thought it rather amusing that anyone would admit to seeing Led Zeppelin at Earls Court in 1975."
Not a comparison you have a particular fear of, Steve?
"Not at all. Don’t care."
STEP TWO: "bye, bye blackheads."
Single: Playground Twist (++++)
LP: Join Hands (+++)
AFTER THE glorious swirl of ‘Playground Twist’, ‘Join Hands’ was a strangely patchy and disappointing LP. Severin still rates it highly, but in retrospect it stands as the least essential of the Banshees’ legacy. A series of war memorials replace the flailing limbs of ‘The Scream’ and childhood hatred, ancestral horrors and religion flood into the monochrome to give a pale, stained-glass window tint. There’s nothing bad or obvious, just something hollow, and a poor version of ‘The Lord’s Prayer’ taking up most of the second side doesn’t help.
"’Join Hands’ maintains the Banshees on the devastating level attained by ‘The Scream’", concluded Paul Morley, but compared with ‘The Scream’s’ scatter of silvered guitar, there’s something lacking in McKay’s performance on the record. Weeks later he became the Banshees’ third guitar casualty - Marco Pirroni ended up fat and in Adam And The Ants, Peter Fenton was sacked, and McKay finished by sticking a dummy in his hotel room bed and walking out on a national tour, taking drummer Kenny Morris with him. Some time later, Robert Smith, lying comatose in Venice, was apparently revived by a passing Norman St. John Stevas. Life has never been easy for the guitarist with the Banshees.
SPANISH JOURNALIST to Siouxsie: "What DO you do to your guitarists?"
"String them up by their balls".
"Why did you choose John Carruthers?"
"Because he hasn’t got any balls so we knew he wouldn’t object".
John Carruthers, seventh guitarist of Siouxsie And The Banshees, buys plastic Flintstone models, and laughs when I remind him of his departure from Clock DVA. He walked out after a DVA show in Paris, but not before jumping on Adi Newton’s favourite trumpet.
"I was always the pop side of DVA," he says, "Adi was the avant-garde side".
So what does he bring to the Banshees?
STEP THREE: "We’ve come to play ..."
LP: Kaleidoscope (++++)
Singles: Happy House (+++++)
SIOUX AND Severin opened the window and in fluttered John McGeoch, a page from an old Magazine, and Budgie, the only drummer everyone likes. They’ll tell you they always said they wanted to be pop stars, but it was only now that they began to play the game, if not in earnest, at least in Technicolor. ’Happy House’ was a delightful irony, a postcard in primary colours, its perspective knocked askew by Budgie’s offbeat drums. ’Christine’ was bright, brilliant and faintly ludicrous, although ‘Eve White/Eve Black’ could still chill and thrill.
On ’Kaleidoscope’, even the horror stories are full colour. Sometimes you feel an urge for one of those cold, grey chords, but the mastery of their pop twist is still something to wonder at, not wander at.
SIOUXSIE AND Budgie, inseparable and insoluble. We spend many hours together getting into a state accurately described by Peter Anderson as "nae brains". I expected to find Siouxsie withdrawn, apathetic and arrogant, I found her approachable, funny and likeable. I ask her why she still does it.
"Because I enjoy it," she replies after the San Sebastian show, and I believe she still does. "Because I want to make the definitive Banshees album," she continues, and I doubt they ever will.
When it comes to chatting, drunken Art talk, or falling out of the bus doing chicken impersonations and singing ’Rock Lobster’, Siouxsie’s a scream. When it comes down to questions and answers she hates it. This won’t be the last of Siouxsie Sioux, but I’m told it could be the last Siouxsie interview.
Ironically it’s not really an interview at all. In the end she agrees to finally commit words to tape, at 4.30a.m. on my last ’night’.
"You must have learned so much more about what we’re like from being around with us," she says, "than from sitting down and asking particular questions."
STEP FOUR: "but her nails are deep in your skin."
Singles: Israel (+++++)
Arabian Nights (++++)
LP: Juju (+++)
ISRAEL WAS splendour incarnate, best heard in its live form, with the clouds sweeping past in back projection it symbolised another peak, and for all its moments (’Spellbound’, Halloween’ and ’Monitor’) ’Juju’ could do no more than mark time. Paul Morley’s review said a lot about the banshees of the time ("the Banshees are a terrific vision, and exclusive attraction, a peak in entertainment, Siouxsie And The Banshees - the toy display of hair, skirt, boys, vanity, flash, thigh, smile, cheek to cheek, back to back") but not a lot about ’Juju’. It was an archetypal banshees LP, compelling, not disastrous (that was to wait for ’Hyaena’), but nothing truly special.
HIGH OVER the top of the hill that is the old town of San Sebastian, a Madonna statue looks over the bay, where Spanish holiday makers walk along the promenade. Not a plastic windmill or a tourist stall in sight. The way is lined only with old and rotting trees.
From the hill you can also see into the newer section of the town, where the riot police are gathering. San Sebastian forms an unlikely focus for the fervour of the Basque terrorists - here the squeals of tourists from the beach are often known to blend with the sound of cracking skulls from the backstreets as disruptions are quelled.
Today it’s the usual scene, a protest against the extradition of terrorists from France. Where now there’s turmoil, tomorrow will see only a steady stream of the dark-clothed faithful, assembled to pay homage. Not to the Banshees though - that comes later, if no less placidly. This is the congregation for morning mass at San Sebastian church.
Behind his dark glasses, Severin’s eyes are bright and alert, the pay-off for staying in the hotel last night and an early bed. My shades are worn for more practical reasons, not the least being to conceal the dark circles that are the wages of another night’s drinking with Sioux and Budgie (Rock’n’roll, phew!!- Ed.). Horror tales of Aussie gay clubs, swapped stories of LA and the memory of a late-night soaking cum photo session with Budgie float in a brain still swimming.
There’s not a glance as we enter the church, Severin and I in black and grey, dark glasses and blond hair, Peter Anderson modelling soggy wrestling boots and snapping shots at the back of the service.
Later, when transcribing the tape, I’ll be grateful for the entertainment provided by the chanting voices, filling the lengthy gaps between my stuttered and Severin’s ponderous answers. He tells me he has little faith left in the music press. I ask him how it feels now the people that once had faith in him (Paul Morley, Chris Bohn) no longer do.
There’s a long pause.
"I’m not really sure how this... I don’t particularly want to talk about... I don’t think that Morley has ever done anything that..."
Do you think that the music business does operate as some sort of contagion that will suck in anyone who comes in contact?
"That’s pretty true, but I think that’s one of the reasons that we try and keep a bit off centre from all that rubbish. I don’t think people really judge us on what we’re doing, it’s just what we’re doing in a certain arena.
"I think that what Morley was trying to say was that we should make more of an attempt to be a positive force on the other side from pop people who don’t really care much for their craft. But we don’t have the inclination or the energy to waste in doing such, we just get on with what we’re doing and if it looks as though we’re not trying then that’s nonsense because... there’s more rubbish on the other side of what we do.
"We never intend to be on an independent label and live in that sacrosanct world. We’ve dived straight into the pop world and made music that is quite perverse for that medium."
You dived into the arena as lions, and you’re beginning to look like Christians...
"That’s not one of my fears. I don’t think we could ever be Duran Duran."
But do you think you have the same amount of perversity as you once did?
"I’ve no idea. I think we’ll always have a certain kind of edge, whether it was pronounced as it was... I don’t think it can be anymore, because so much has happened. I don’t think anything has come up in the wake of what we do that would make us stop and drastically alter what we do."
But I remember promises of a more schizophrenic Banshees, the diversity of Can and Beefheart on LPs, the gloss and glamour of T. Rex and Roxy Music on the singles. ‘Hyaena’ seems so much flatter than I would have hoped.
"Well, I always thought that idea of the combination was a pretty inadequate way of trying to describe what we were trying to do. There never was any master plan, and there never has been. Those are influences that I don’t think have any bearing any more."
Sioux said the other night that she hated acceptance, is that a reaction that you have too?
"I think that was more true maybe two years ago, that was what we rebelled against. We’ve spent maybe the last two years staggering around, simple because... I know exactly what she means, I don’t particularly want to be the darlings of the young marrieds, which is what other ’rock’ bands that have come up since us are becoming.
"The problem is that people expect a certain reaction from you, a certain kind of portrayal of an image that is partly our doing and partly something that’s been foisted upon us."
Do you feel then that because the image of the Banshees has been cheapened by imitators, it is now more difficult to be the beginnings of what has become a cliché?
"I think we’re well aware of that. I think we were aware when we were writing ’Juju’ that some of what we were doing was a smirk at ourselves and a smirk at our image. I think it’s obvious that there’s so much more to us than that, though.
"I still think that you can’t dismiss what we caused out of hand. I think we have given to people the same thing as Roxy Music and Bowie gave to Sioux and I when we were younger. Whether people have taken it on superficial values, or whether they’ve really dug into it for inspiration is their side of it.
"I can’t see there’s anything wrong with instigating some sort of clan. Like all groups our appeal is sometimes reduced to some lowest common denominator, but I think it’s a bit worthier or a bit more disruptive than other types of clans.
"There was something definitely going on for a while though that was nothing like anything that has happened since."
When you say you’ve been staggering, what do you mean by that?
"It was a conscious decision... I think McGeoch leaving was an end of a straight line. We’d received critical acclaim for ’Dreamhouse’ and we would have just kept on touring and fallen into the sort of traps that people like Morley and Chris Bohn think we have done.
"Instead we’ve spent two years doing things like this, coming to Spain and France for a month, with no real intention of promoting a product. During that time all these pop people have come up and it has been just as confusing for us as for everyone else, but it was the only way to keep it clear to carry on. If we’d kept on a certain treadmill, albeit a treadmill that we’d invented, we would have been exhausted by now. What we needed was a lack of direction for a while, in order to be able to look around and see where we were and where we could go."
Having said that, ’Hyaena’ had less identity than any Banshees LP so far. As Biba Kopf said, it sounded so like the Banshees it could have been the Sex Gang Children.
"I don’t think the Sex Gang Children could have written ’Dazzle’ in a million years."
Given a year or so, they could have mustered ’Pointing Bone’. You simply expect better.
"Uummm... I tend to agree with a lot of that. I think about half of it is up to scratch."
So why was it put out?
"Well, we were aiming for something that was almost impossible, to try and get an LP out of a band that didn’t really exist, and Robert’s desire to be a pop star ground everybody down to one of the lowest points the band’s ever had. But knowing how frustrated we were and how awful it was to make the album over such a length of time, I was really pleased with the way it came out... it could have been much worse. It fails in a few ways for me. It’s not as good as ’Dreamhouse’, but then those kind of records don’t happen very often.
"This interview has dwelled much more on the gloomy side than I would have wished it to, I actually feel more optimistic than I sound, and harking back to the failures of last year isn’t really what I want to put across. I’d rather say that there is a resurgence of the Banshees, but it’s not really my place to do so - that’s really down to the quality of the next record, but somehow I know that will be there, just on instinct."
As incense blends with instinct the confession comes to an end, and we walk into the watery winter light.
STEP FIVE: "I opened up new wounds."
Singles: Fireworks (++++)
LP: A Kiss In The Dreamhouse (+++++)
"THIS MUSIC will take your breath away," promised Richard Cook, and it did. Again Siouxsie And The Banshees seemed to have confounded all expectation. When they seemed to be heading for cliché, ’Fireworks’ opened a burst of sexual shivers. The cover was a blatant plagiarisation of Klimt which set hippy spotters’ dials twitching and began the ’Siouxsie Sioux eats opium’ rumours.
For all that, ‘Dreamhouse’ is superb. Siouxsie’s favourite. The last great Banshees LP?
Eureka! After striking gold, could the Banshees continue to exist?
"I WAS brought up in a pub you know," says Budgie one night. Peter Anderson and I listen attentively from under the bar and begin to understand why he’s still sitting on the stool. "It was great, used to hear some great stories.
"One of the best ones was about this bloke who just found a rabbit lying in his front garden. He took it in and put it in the kitchen, left a cabbage leaf on the floor for it and put the rest of the cabbage in the sink.
"In the morning he wakes up, goes downstairs and... no sign of the rabbit. He searches everywhere. Eventually he finds it sitting in the sink. No cabbage just this huge obese rabbit, unable to move out of the sink."
LP: Nocturne (-)
DOES IT ever seem difficult to be Siouxsie Sioux?
"Of course it does, I’m not completely confident, I’d be a complete wanker of I was confident all the time.
"But I’m the best critic of the group and of myself. It makes you retreat totally though. Like what we were saying the other night about going out, you said ‘Is it because of who you are that you feel uneasy in clubs now?’ and it probably is. I mean the Banshees don’t want to be like this... I mean stars are stars, and it’s brilliant that they exist, and the Banshees are stars.
"But now someone’s a star just as soon as they read they are. Success is their only justification, when they read in the press that they’re Number One they feel that they’re stars. At one time it was just the opposite - you could feel that you were Number One even if you only sold 10 records. It wasn’t restricted to music either, you could see them on the street or anything."
STEP SEVEN: "I’m in a state of catalepsy/Do I really exist"
LP: Hyaena (++)
Singles: Dear Prudence (++)
IT’S ALL been said.
IN BARCELONA a TV studio is waiting for the Banshees.
Back in England, I’m still watching.