|THE WOMAN IN THE DUNES - INTERVIEWS/ARTICLES|
|DARK CULTURE MAGAZINE 05/00|
|CHOLER MAGAZINE 12/01/01|
|INVISIBLE JUKEBOX (SOURCE UNKNOWN) 08/02|
|INTERVIEWED BY JARBOE 2001|
|THE HISTORY OF THE WOMAN IN THE DUNES|
Every month we play a musician a series of records which they're asked to identify and comment on - with no prior knowledge of what they're about to hear, This month it's the turn of. . .
Following the break-up of Siouxsie And The Banshees in April 1996, bassist and founder member Steven Severin disappeared into the digital underground, where he has rediscovered the state of independence enjoyed by The Banshees in their pre-signed period (1976-78). Since setting up base at his RE: Website (www.stevenseverin.com), he has released three CDs of computer-generated music. His first, Visions (1999), is an expanded version of his soundtrack for Nigel Wingrove's short film Visions Of Ecstasy, which was banned on the grounds of blasphemy. He followed it with music for Brazilian theatre group Os Satyros' adaptation of Lautreamont's Maldoror (also 1999). And this spring he composed the score for choreographer Shakti's adaptation of Kobo Abe's existentialist novel The Woman In The Dunes. As a lifelong non-musician, Severin's response to the challenge of digital music is as enthusiastic as the first time he picked up bass - for The Banshees' notorious birth at London's 100 Club's Punk Festival in 1976, where their set consisted of a ferocious 20 minute improvisation of "The Lord's Prayer" That initial shock attack subsequently informed everything that followed until their split. It is felt most directly on their 1978 debut The Scream and its successor Join Hands (featuring a new Improvised version of "Lord's Prayer"), however, its echoes can also be heard through their Beatles cover "Dear Prudence" (1983), the demolition derby single "Dazzle" (1984) and the late-flowering Licht und Schatten of "Peek-A-Boo" (1988); not to mention The Glove, Severin's side project with The Cure's Robert Smith. The Jukebox took place in London.
THE VELVET UNDERGROUND
(After a lengthy scraped string drone) No idea...
The official recordings are too familiar. This is a bootleg.
Is it live?
Yes. One member was in the running to produce your first album.
Oh, is it The Velvets? (Tom-toms start up) I would recognise this now. I came to The Velvets slightly late: I think it must have been 1971, when they had already split up. It was through somebody's older brother, who introduced me to Can and The Velvets at exactly the same time, so it was quite a weird indoctrination. I still listen to all the old albums. In fact, I also listen to the recent live reunion one, which is great musically, but Lou Reed has forgotten how to sing the songs, really. Just before Cale produced the last Banshees album (The Rapture, 1995), we were recording in France and The Velvets were playing at the Paris Olympia, so we took the weekend off to see them play, and it was absolutely amazing. I thought there would have been a much more nostalgic feel, but we obviously hadn't heard the music properly before, the way that Cale's viola interplayed with Sterling Morrison, who was the revelation. I never realised how important he was to how all the sounds fitted together in such a unique way.! He was the standout. And Moe (Tucker) was fantastic.
Were The VU an important influence on early Banshees?
They were absolutely vital. I don't know whether we played "Sister Ray" to John McKay (guitarist who absconded with drummer Kenny Morris after The Banshees' second album Join Hands), but we said, 'That's the kind of guitar we want'. Siouxsie always used to say she wanted the guitar to sound like a cross between The Velvet Underground and the shower scene in Psycho. At the start we couldn't play, not for a long time. So our hearts were always into sort of minimal extravaganzas. The other record in a similar vein was Terry Riley's A Rainbow In Curved Air followed by In C. And another big influence was Monster Movie by Can. I don't think Sioux ever really got into Terry Riley, but we certainly had the Velvets/Can connection. Eventually we sort of developed our craft, if you like, by doing "The Lord's Prayer" each and every performance, and we would always discover something different each time we did it. It got into some very staccato rhythms where I would just go on and on until we decided to stop or change. It wasn't like someone was there yelling, 'Go to A'' or something.
John Cale produced the final Banshees album, but wasn't he also in the running for your debut?
Yeah, Cale might have come up for the first album. We really liked (the mostly Cale - produced Jonathan Richman LP) The Modern Lovers, which came out a few years before The Scream. But he was working with Miles Copeland at the time, he was producing Squeeze and all manner of bad records, so we passed. But 1 7 years later we ended up working with him. It was good to meet him, but I am not mad about the results. It sounds funny, but he was brought in midway through and I don't think he really understood what we were trying to do. I wanted him to come in and make (an equivalent of Nico's) marble Index with us.
THE POP GROUP
(Immediately) The Pop Group. "Beyond Good And Evil". I wasn't a big fan I think they talked it better than they performed it, really. They were very arrogant in interviews and stuff and I remember liking that. They talked about dub techniques, mixed up with jazz and stuff. They were stretching beyond their means, I think, I saw them in London with This Heat, and This Heat were really amazing. I walked away thinking I had seen something really special in This Heat but didn't really think much of The Pop Group. Which is funny: here come the bright new things, The Pop Group, and I am thinking, 'Oh no, I prefer these old people from the Robert Wyatt/Soft Machine end of the spectrum'.
So a generation gap really was opened up by punk?
I think so. The Sex Pistols really were like Year Zero. It just felt totally like a completely different generation who were going to make a completely different sound. When you look back now and the years merge together, it all seems quite seamless, the way glam merges into what we call punk, but at the time it seemed a much more radical change than it really was. There are glam rock bits in everybody from around that time, even Wire.
Weren't The Pop Group bringing funk to the party?
As I said, I like the dub thing, which I think The Slits did a little better. It wasn't quite right for me, that funk thing. It was too white for a start.
Some say music can't get much whiter than The Banshees.
Yeah, but I don't think we tried to be anything but... although we attempted a few funk things [grimaces at the memory].
Weren't The Pop Group pushing post-punk diversification?
I think that was a good thing, though I wasn't too keen on the Rough Trade groups of that time, like Au Pairs and Scritti Politti. I thought, 'Oh God, here come the hippies again.' Not to be completely nostalgic, but there was a time when you could go out and see Throbbing Gristle, Wire, Cabaret Voltaire and it seemed totally normal, as opposed to... The last show I saw approaching that sort of atmosphere was Main somewhere in North London. It is such a rarity to see anything like that anymore.
I know this. Is it Panasonic?
No. Much earlier.
I played this recently. What the hell is it? Is it Kraftwerk? No? But I heard this recently.
The Wire's publisher said if you don't get this, you can't be a true fan...
[Laughs] Oh dear. [Long pause] Roxy Music! God, that took me long enough. Now what's it called? It's called "Sultanesque"? Yes! It's the B-side of "Pyjamarama"? "Streetlife"? "Both Ends Burning"? I was completely shocked when I put this on because it is so Eno, and he is not there. So who did it? Is it (Bryan) Ferry? And if this is a Ferry solo track, then why doesn't he do more like this because it is good. I remember it being credited to Ferry but that doesn't mean much (laughs). Roxy Music were such a great role model. I don't think there has been another band like them in the way that they managed to cross across everything, somehow. In a lot of ways that is what (The Banshees) were hoping for. I think everybody of our generation believed that you could make great singles and then you would turn it over and you would hear something like "Sultanesque". That was the reasoning behind "Hong Kong Garden" and "Voices" on the other side. It came out of that belief in the hoodwinking you could do with the single - just by turning it over and showing a completely different side of your influence. Yeah, this is a good one, and hundreds of thousands of people got to hear it.
Didn't adventurous B-sides disappear with the 7" format?
Right up to the advent of CDs we always tried to put something a bit off-key on the B-side - never Just an album track. Usually me, Budgie and Sioux would go into the studio, write them quick and we wouldn't have to pay the other musicians! They always came out much more experimental that way. And of course the A&R men couldn't give a toss about B-sides. These days, with CD singles they just fill them out with endless remixes of the same track.
Did The Banshees succumb to remix culture?
Personally, I tried to avoid it like the plague - and still do. I can't get beyond the question why you would spend so much time crafting something just to let it be torn apart by someone else... I pretty much hate most of The Banshees' remixes. Mine's a kind of old fashioned view, but if you stick to that view, you won't come to any harm.
In what way were Roxy Music a role model?
With both them and David Bowie you knew that if you went just beneath the surface there was all this avant garde information. I can remember vividly that the first time I ever heard of William Burroughs was in a Bowie interview. Then you had things like Roxy Music having tea at the Ritz with Salvador Dali. I loved the crossover of fine art in to music, it really took it somewhere else.
And Eno being a confessed non-musician...
Yeah, that was really appealing (laughs). The first thing I ever got involved with was playing with tape recorders, making loops. We had a school band that couldn't play anything. It was like Banshees Mark I! We used things like chest expanders and hit bits of metal. I'm not trying to make it sound like Neubauten or anything, it was just 13 year olds messing around. I guess we kind of thought that if The Beatles could do it on "Revolution No 9" then so could we (laughs). They were just childish collages of noise, but the spirit of the whole non- musician thing continues on.
Absolutely. I never used to practice, ever. If I got the guitar out, I was either doing a gig, going into the studio or writing a song. Since the band split up it has stayed in its case. I never get it out to entertain anybody with a song.
Sounds a bit like an outtake from (Nico's) Desert Shore or something. Is it an early Steve Reich thing? No? (After first guitar chord) Swans. It's post-MCA Burning World. Is it something from White Light From The Mouth Of Infinity? Ah, "Helpless Child". Which album's this on? Oh dear, Michael will kill me. A friend of mine brought Michael Gira around to my apartment about two days before Swans did their first ever gig in the UK. They were doing Cop and Filth. I think. I am not sure I went to see them that time, but we got on really well. Since then, every time I was in New York I would see him, and when he was in London. We bonded over Glenn Branca, who had just played in London for the first time at the Riverside, and Michael had played guitars for him at one of his shows in New York. I used to treat going to see Swans as a religious experience. It was the only thing for which I would drop everything, because I knew something would happen, no matter which phase. I saw them at the notorious Town And Country concert, which people complained was too loud. It wasn't, but it was monolithic. I loved The Burning World phase I thought it was a great move, the way they added all the acoustic elements. What got me more than anything was the lyrics, honed to the bone. The words seemed to fit the music so perfectly There's a track on Michael's solo album Drainland called "I See Them All Lined Up", it's so evocative, you feel you are there in the courtyard watching an execution. The words are very simple, nothing flowery There's something very beautiful about that kind of brutality.
LYDIA LUNCH & ROWLAND S HOWARD
Rowland and Lydia. They were another really good live band, The Birthday Party I did a couple of gigs with them, playing with Lydia, which was... interesting. When Lydia Lunch first came to London, she played at [defunct punk club] The Vortex or somewhere, and Dingwalls, and we saw both shows. All The Banshees went to see her. We were like kindred spirits immediately. Lydia could only have been about 16 or 1 7. Amazing. Teenage Jesus's stuff on the No New York album was brilliant, head and shoulders above everybody else on it. On our first proper tour of America in 1981 Lydia supported us on a couple of dates. She was in between Eight Eyed Spy and 13: 13. About a month later she turned up on my doorstep after sacking her band at JFK [airport]. She put on a tape of the 13:13 album and asked me if I could put a band together for her. I said I had no idea how to do something like that, but if she wanted to do something new... She had about four or five shows, two co-headlining with The Birthday Party and the others supporting The Cure. She had found an album of sounds from the Six Day War. We went into the studio and just put some feedback on top of that and that was our backing track. Then we jammed over the top of it. It was probably terrible. For me it was like a holiday. It gave me the opportunity to hang out with The Birthday Party and The Cure. I didn't get along too well with The Birthday Party, to be honest.
The wrong drugs, probably. But their performances were brilliant: out of the Iggy Pop handbook, but still, how many people do that for real? They had a unique sound as well. I think they mastered that angular funk sound where Pop Group didn't. The Birthday Party had more aggression, more focus. I appreciate what they did, but felt closer to Teenage Jesus - probably because they couldn't play (laughs).
Lovely strings [After a long pause] I don't recognise it.
It's Takemitsu's soundtrack to The Woman In The Dunes.
I didn't listen to it when I was doing the Dunes album. I would never recognise the music without the images.
How would you say your approach to the story differs from Takemitsu's here?
Because it was written in Japanese and then translated into English, there is bound to be a missing layer that I couldn't have got, or anybody could have got from the English version. But I never really approached it as being Japanese, even though the (Shakti) dance company are Japanese and it's a Japanese story. The themes of Kobo Abe's novel are universal — it could have been written by Albert Camus. It's much more repetitive than my other solo stuff has been. Because the dance needed some pieces to run for such a long time I would leave the whole thing running for ten minutes, so it evolves much slower than I would normally do it, which was really good discipline. A couple of tracks work better in performance than on the CD. One track called "Dance Of Sisyphus" had to be 12 minutes long, and it really does grind on. I found it really difficult to listen to it, but knowing what it was going to be used for, I had to let it have a life of its own. It was a battle for me to leave things out, because this track is supposed to be about the relentless, unchanging shifting of the sand, otherwise you are going to die.
Do you listen to much classical music?
Not a lot, no, and certainly not vocal music. But having said that the last thing I got into was the soundtrack to Fannelli, II Castrato, which is just amazing.
How did your Visions soundtrack differ from Dunes?
Well, that was different because I had the imagery from the film first. The side of the film that interested me was about five children in Yugoslavia, who saw a vision of the Madonna, I have this great book about the scientific experiments these friars did investigating the children's visions. They had great diagrams of 'before ecstasy' and 'after ecstasy', when the children would collectively say they'd seen a vision and the needle would go off the scales. That is what interested me rather than the film's dubious sexual element. I tried to take some of those waveform patterns of their ecstasy, put them into the sampler and change sounds like that. I have read reviews about it being a very spiritual record, but as far as I was concerned there is a lot of air in this record, where all The Banshees records are kind of suffocating.
A SILVER MOUNT ZION
It sounds like it is going to be Diamanda Galas. Is this a group? Another one that is untypical?
It's a Canadian group, if that's any help.
Related. It's a Godspeed side project.
I did think Godspeed when it first started What's the name of the spin-off?
A Silver Mount Zion.
I love Godspeed. I had read a lot about them and thought to myself, I am going to like this lot, and then when I heard them it threw all my expectations up in the air. I was expecting a new Swans type thing, something like that. I don't know really what I expected. I like the way the vocals are found speech here. They're a collective, aren't they? They have to develop a doctrine in some way, because with that many people, to communicate you must almost by necessity have a certain set of codes to make anything happen at all, rather than individual egos moving things in one direction. (Looks at sleeve) It feels like one person is at work here. All the titles of the songs are coming from one vision, it's something you couldn't sit down and decide upon collectively.
Could you work in a collective set-up?
Possibly. If you asked five years ago, I would have said, 'No, absolutely not'.
Steven Severin's The Woman In The Dunes is out now on Re:
Biba Kopf 08/02
Severin Awaits You There
After the demise of the band that made him famous, former Siouxsie & the Banshees guitarist Steven Severin has crafted a more than noteworthy solo career.
A volume of erotic prose/poetry. Surely no better use could be found for the artistic leanings of a man who shares an adopted surname with the lead character in Leopold von Sacher-Masoch's masochism study Venus in Furs (later immortalized by the Velvet Underground song of the same name).
But that new volume of verse, The Twelve Revelations, is hardly all Steven Severin has to offer as a claim to fame. For almost 20 years he played bass with the seminal postpunk goth band Siouxsie and the Banshees, co-writing many of the band's tracks with the inimitable Siouxsie Sioux. Since the breakup of the Banshees in mid-1996, he's kept busy with a stunning array of projects -- some musical, some literary, as his web site, www.stevenseverin.com, betrays. Oh, and he built the site, too.
Along with writing The Twelve Revelations, his recent projects have included recording two albums with a decidedly ambient vibe to them: Visions, an expansion upon his score for the unreleased (and infamously banned) film Visions of Ecstacy; and Maldoror, a series of music pieces written for a Brazilian theatre company in its performance of the surrealist "Os Cantos do Maldoror." In addition, he collaborated with equally eclectic recording artist Jarboe (late of seminal post-punk / proto-goths, Swans) on a surprising cover of Screaming Jay Hawkins' classic "I Put a Spell on You" for a dance production, The Woman in the Dunes.
With such a wide range of things to talk about, it was inevitable that a chat with Steven Severin would make sharp right turns with little braking. That said, buckle up and enjoy the thought processes of a true artistic original.
Joseph McCombs: What are the best and worst things that happened to you in 2000?
Steven Severin: 2000 was hell! Both my parents were in hospital for a time, I split with my girlfriend (which in itself wasn't a bad thing except that we have a three year old daughter) and my building caught fire while Sadie was staying over! On a positive note, I loved working with the Tiger Lillies, Holy Body & Shakti & just before Xmas had a hilarious time over dinner with Siouxsie. We haven't had that much fun for years.
The web site www.stevenseverin.com covers a lot of ground. Do you handle the site maintenance yourself, or do you have a faithful webmaster/webmistress?
All my own handiwork (for better or worse). I've got Flash but haven't had time to play with it. The site probably needs a shot in the arm so a remodel is high on this year's agenda.
Your post-Banshee products have been wildly varied -- between writing prose, writing music and performing, is there one outlet you find more or less rewarding than another?
I see it all as one expression. Each discipline gives me a thrill. I studied photography prior to the band - that's something I might get into again especially now it is "digital." I'd like to make my own videos for my albums but again it's time that's against me rather than finance.
You suggested, in the liner notes to Visions, that Nigel Wingrove's film Visions of Ecstacy "may not have the highest artistic integrity." What did you think of the film's quality? What's become of it in recent months -- still banned?
I think that quote sums up my feeling toward the film. It is still banned in the UK and I think Nigel lost interest in releasing it anywhere else. It's best left alone to enjoy its unmerited cult status.
When doing a project such as Visions, do you find it necessary to construct the music in such a way that someone who hasn't seen the movie (or other visual source) can get the same feelings and reactions as someone who has?
Visions has a powerful theme so it was pretty straight forward editing the music into an album. If I had had to do more of an incidental score it could have been problematic. The fact is that there is no dialogue in the film so the music had to be strident from the outset.
Was the erotic poetry of The Twelve Revelations something you'd been longing to do for a long time? Or did you wake up one day and hear a heretofore unawakened muse?
Neither. It just evolved out of my lyric writing. I felt that the type of imagery I was creating was better served by being read and digested in the mind rather than be set to music & sung. Once I made that decision I could free up and express new avenues in both libido and intellect. Sounds cold and pretentious but that's not the way I set about the task.
There's almost as much death imagery as sexual imagery in these poems. Is there something stimulating about extinction/oblivion?
Sex/Death, Love/Lust - perennial themes of course but I see them more as "transformations" and I was aiming for an hysteria that would bring the work more into the realm of surrealism as opposed to 'gothic'.
In the midst of all these erotic thoughts, there's a poem called "Cock Fight" that, to a first read, actually seems to be about roosters. Is that a gross misreading?
Yep. It's partially inspired by the bullfight scene in The Story of the Eye & a scene in the film Cincinnati Kid.
The final of the poems in The Twelve Revelations is called "The Floating World," though that phrase doesn't show up in the poem itself. Is there any connection between this and the Cynthia Kadohata novel of the same name (in which the floating world, or "ukiyo," represents a transient existence where the pleasure and loneliness of change comingle)?
No. None. It's about abandoning oneself to a state of bliss not in search of enlightenment but for the danger itself. I used the 'Roman' way of death as a metaphor for commiting to this state of bliss, to move beyond this world into a sensual eternity.
What do you think is the most powerful word in the English language?
Freedom. It scares people to death.
How did you arrive at "I Put a Spell on You" to retool for the Woman in the Dunes score? It's been covered many, many times -- which versions do/did you listen to? (My favorite is Nina Simone's reading.)
It was Shakti's request - not something I would have chosen myself but it gave me the opportunity to work with Jarboe. Something I've wanted to do for a long time.
Is there any pop music you enjoy these days? Or do you find most/all of it to be just so much manufactured prefab dreck?
At one extreme I like William Orbit's production work with Madonna & All Saints; at the other -- Godspeed, You Black Emperor are probably the new saviours. I have a soft spot for Robbie Williams -- I like my 'pop' stars to be a touch tormented & melancholic. If my prayers are answered Britney will be a junkie before the end of the year. Wouldn't that be 'entertainment'?
How are you ringing in the New Year -- anything special in store?
No. In London (& single) for the first time in a while so I'll be fairly quiet. I can't wait to enter the real millennium & put last year's traumas behind me. I will stop smoking.
Because I can't depart without saying something about your previous gig ... did you know there's a restaurant in San Francisco that almost named itself "Sushi and the Banshees"? (They opted for "We Be Sushi" instead, by the way.)
What a cop-out! Our road crew used to refer to us as "Spooky & the Banjos/Bashed Knees" (depending) behind our backs and "Sir" & "Mistress" to our faces. ;-)
Joseph McCombs 12/01/01
|DARK CULTURE MAGAZINE|
When we first got the green light to
have a telephone interview with Steve Severin, we were ecstatic. At the
same time Cinka and I were a bit nervous. I mean, what the hell do you
ask a former member of Siouxsie & the Banshees, without coming off
like a typical fan? And how would we have a conversation about his
twenty year career, with respect to his more obscure current projects?
Well, we thought hard about our questions. Ultimately, we dwindled in
the dark hoping for the best.
Steve Severin is an entrepreneur in the dark underground scene. He was a founding member of Siouxsie & the Banshees, one of the few bands to survive the London punk scene in the decades that followed. While Siouxsie and Budgie were busy with the Creatures, Severin found time to form The Glove with Robert Smith of The Cure. The 1995 break up of the Banshees would only foreshadow his further innovative endeavors. For some time now he has composed various albums under his own "Re:" label. It's quite a departure from his days as a Banshee bassist, but it show signs of a man who is invested in his vision and creative objectives.
In this month's issue of Dark Culture Magazine, we will show readers what the legendary Steve Severin had to say about his past and present.
Q: How do you find the time to work on your various projects? It seems like your so busy.
A: (chuckle ) Well, I don't know actually. The fact that I don't tour helps a lot. I think I spend more time deciding what to do next.
Q: Do you do a lot of work at home?
A: Ummmmm...yes, that helps.
Q: I understand that your recent work involves writing for plays. Have you always had an interest in theatre?
A: Yes and no. I very rarely go but when I do I'm very fussy about what I see. I saw the Brazilian company , in which led me working for them.
Q: A couple years ago in an issue of Alternative Press, you said that you have moved away from the "evil empire". Suggesting that this is in regards to the cooperate record industry, how has this affected your music making?
A: Ummmmm (pauses, and then brief laughter) Well, working with the Banshees, we were aiming for a more pop market than any of the stuff I've done since, but kind of on our own terms. You're always aware of the fact that the material is going to be judged and assessed by a cooperate "evil empire". So you have a different set of criteria of what you think is going to work. As soon as I started doing my own stuff, I didn't even think about what anybody else would think of it.
Q: It took a lot of the stress off?
A: Well, yeah, but I think that in the Banshees we always liked that kind of pressure of trying to write another ridiculous single. It was something that we enjoyed, not pressured into something we were doing.
Q: Was there any sort of pressure to become a pop band and hit the top ten and so forth with Siouxsie and the Banshees?
A: I don't really think so. Right from the beginning it was pretty obvious that it would be rare when we kind of did that. I think that really they didn't know what to do. (Cinka chuckles). There hadn't really been anybody like Siouxsie before. You had people that were on the rock side like Patti Smith a few years earlier, but really a female that was in front of a band doing singles as well as "dark music".
Q: Coming from those early day of punk, how do you view new generation of punk music?
A: Well, it couldn't be the same because the social situation couldn't be reproduced again. I really don't pay too much attention to it. "Punk" music was never really my thing anyway. From the start, we never really called it that. It never had a name. Ummm, it was the the journalists who called it that. The garage music in the 60's in America was the original kind of punk music.
Q: What artists or current music movement is influencing today?
A: (Pauses )I don't know if there's any sort of movement or anything...
Q: I read that you like Brian Eno a lot. Is that still influencing you or did it ever?
A: I like his ambient music a lot. I haven't liked the last two or three albums. And I sort of went off with it because he's he started working with U2. (mutual laughter) And he's sort of hit and miss. He's a very smart guy and I like a lot of his ideas about music. But he's in a place now that's complacent.
Q: Was there any difficulty making the transition from ex-Banshee to solo artist?
A: Ummmm...Not really. There hasn't been any sort of struggle since the Banshees. I've always thought of myself as one of the same. It's not all that bothersome. I'm proud of my accomplishments with the Banshees, so I haven't felt the pressure to shed that image. It just sort of takes shapes as it goes along. Some people seem to have that problem when becoming a "solo artist", but how could you forget a twenty year career that made you who you are? The Banshees was always about friendship. After touring, the routine can really test the limits of that. After spending some time away from that, we're just starting to get that friendship back to what it was in the beginning.
Q: What is your favorite Banshee album?
A: (Ponders for a moment) Ummm, I would say among them have been "A Kiss In the Dreamhouse" and "Peepshow" .
Q: Being a multi-faceted artist, what do you consider yourself?
A: Sort of a "Jack of all trades". Society has the tendancy to make oneself that you can only be successful or good at one thing. I've always kind of thought why not try to be everything you want.
Q: What would you say are the benefits of having an online label as opposed to a traditional one?
A: In some ways there are advantages of doing this kind of business on the internet. Umm, I like that anyone can be seen, sport stars, musicians, and so on can have their opinions heard. They can be a much more real person and sort of come off as more intimate by those means.
Q: What type of interview do you prefer?
A: Radio call in is always more comfortable. You are talking to fans that admire your work and know what they're talking about. There's a feeling that isn't so restricting. I have never really cared for journalists conducting an interview. Generally they tend to come at you from a particular angle.
Q: I've noticed that you have carried your current projects on the internet. Did you design the website?
A: Yes, basically I had to start from basics. I wasn't sure of what I really wanted, so I surfed the web to see what I didn't want. Again, another advantage to approaching anything of interest is available 24 hours. There is always an access to opinions on the internet as well.
Q: One of our readers was curious if there are any future plans to work with Robert Smith of the Cure again.
A: Uhh, no Robert is a strange one. He's been in The Cure forever. He's very controlling of his social environment. I've always been under the impression that you're either in or out of his element. He's really a busy man who still keeps in touch with a lot of musicians. Recently I sent a copy of "Visions" to Chris Perry but he never replied. Perhaps we'll have to create a Robert Smith Clone for the Glove reunion in 2001.(laughter)
Q: How do you view Napster and the trading of music online?
A: I think it's kind of inevitable, and I think it makes Metallica look really stupid. Anything that sort of shakes the labels up is good. The last time I found out I couldn't download stuff because I was on Macintosh, I just went away. I haven't really been following it to be honest. I mean, MP3's, so obvious to me, are inferior in quality than CD. I'm not worried about infringement of copyright. If people want albums, then they buy albums.
Q: Do you have any plans to release your music on MP3 format?
A: I've done a deal with MP3 France, and I have signed over the albums to them, but I haven't seen them put them up yet. I think it's good, but I haven't gotten around to putting it all over the internet.
Q: You once said that live performance is a young person's job, and you take pride in not stepping in front of an audience, especially since entering your 40's. Does this absolutely rule out the possibility of live performance in the future?
Q: Are there any current plans for touring?
A: Not quite, but they're sort of murmuring over the horizon. I sort of been asked to play this thing with Jarboe, and Bill Rieflen of Ministry, and this other guy Percy Howard. He's a black singer that sounds a bit like Scott Walker. And there are plans afoot to maybe go out all together across America...like half a dozen dates or something.
Q: With that group?
A: Yeah, but it's all kind of a bit up in there. It will actually be quite a difficult thing to put together. But we'll see. I'd definitely going to live to regret that (touring). That's the way I felt at the time. I really liked the idea of just kind of stopping at that point.
Q: Do you miss it at all?
A: A little bit, yeah. For a good three or four years I didn't miss it at all. The only thing I did miss was travelling, and being in different cities. That's one of the major thrills of it for me. Very rarely did I miss that hour and a half on stage. But I'm starting to see if I want to do that again. I don't see why I can't.
Cinka: I don't see why either, (laughter) Everybody else just doesn't stop. They all keep coming back.
Q: In regards to that I've been hearing semi-rumors of a Banshees reunion. Is there any information you can provide regarding that?
A: No, we haven't even talked about it. We're getting along very well at the moment, probably the best since the band started. (laughs) Because there's been that breathing space. I think it's like any long term relationship. You take a lot of things for granted, and forget why you like people. The Banshees was always about friendship. It was never a business or anything like that, or a career. We did it because we were friends, and we forgot how to be friends. And now we're getting that back again. So, you never know. Never say never.
Q: Besides work on the RE: label, what else are you working on?
A: Ummmm...There's this other project up in Scotland called Human Greed. Their making it and sending me bits. I'd like to release that when it's in the right shape. A few things like that. I don't really want to talk about many things in case they don't happen. I think I'm a bit superstitious about that as well.
Q: I don't blame you. Where do you see yourself in five years? I know that's kind of a trite question, but...
A: I never think about it. Hopefully still working and doing what I want to do.
Q: Here's my final question for you: What album is currently in your CD player?
A: Oh, ummm Allison Golfrapp, she's a singer. I think she's worked with Tricky and Massive Attack. It's amazingly produced that's why I like it. It's easy listening but there's quite some amazing things on there. Anything beautiful I like.
Cinka: Is there anything else you would like to accomplish with this interview?
Severin: No, I think we covered just about all of it
Cinka: Well, I've had a great time talking to you and I hope we can do this again.
Severin: Thank You.
Split & Mistress Cinka 05/00
|THE HISTORY OF THE WOMAN IN THE DUNES|
Shakti Chakravarti, female
Japanese/Indian performance artist and owner of 'The Garage' venue in
Edinburgh had booked the 'Os Satyros' Theatre Company for a run of
their stage production 'Maldoror' in her venue during the Fringe
Festival of 8th -30th August 1999, unfortunately 'Os Satyros' had to
cancelled at the last minute "..due to a recent bereavement".
Fortunately due to the aborted attempt to stage 'Maldoror' Shakti and
Severin met each other for the first time and a few e-mails later they
decided to meet again next time she was in London.
Following her meeting with him, Shakti and The Vasanta Mala Dance Company commissioned Severin for the production of the music for the dance interpretation of 'Woman in the Dunes', based on Kobo Abe's novel of the same name.
The only guidelines for Severin's work on the piece was that the music shapes the scenes from the story. Steven's only preparation before entering the studio, one week later, was to review the last 2 pages of Shakti's preliminary notes, his knowledge of the book and a film version released in 1964.
The world premiere of 'Woman in the Dunes' was the 16th - 17th May 2000, at the ICA (Institute of Contemporary Arts) Members Theatre,The Mall, London. A CD of the soundtrack, the 2nd in Severin's RE:play series, was prepared for the opening. Track 5 of the CD, the cover of 'I Put a Spell on You' was recorded at Shakti's request with Jarboe on vocals and using a piano piece written by Nick Pagan of the 'Changelings', chosen by Jarboe herself.
'Dunes' had a two month long residency at the Festival d'Avignon, France between 7th - 29th July 2000 and then at the Garage Theatre, Edinburgh during the Fringe Festival of the 6th - 28th August 2000.
During the following year Shakti performed the piece at the Montreal Fringe Festival in Canada (15th - 20th June 2001) and further performances took place in Japan during February 2002.
In 2003 Shakti suggested a new collaboration with Severin for her project 'Beauty and the Beast'.
Courtesy of Costas
|INTERVIEWED BY JARBOE|
Steven Severin is
impeccably well-mannered and refined. He is also witty, an amazing bass
player, composer, and author. When I first met him, and we 'shook' hands
in greeting, I thought he was the embodiment of Lestat from the A. Rice
novels. He wore lush velvets and a long black leather coat...The flesh
of his hand was so smooth and pale and elegantly cold. Yet Steven
Severin is full of life and completely contemporary. He inspires me with
his writing (The Twelve Revelations), and moves me with his beautiful
textural musical pieces such as Maldoror. Famous, of course for his long
term involvement in Siouxsie and the Banshees, I wanted to find out more
about the creative forces of the man behind the rock star.
Severin: Unless I have a deadline I tend to gestate ideas for ages. In my mind I'm working on 'The Twelve Reflections' a collection of prose/poems that is a sequel to 'The Twelve Revelations' which is due to be published this fall, 'The Pleasure Cage' a novella that uses the human body as a metaphor for its 'structure' 'Saint Fire' a story or series of that revolves around:- St. Anthony & his temptations, the CIA & their early LSD experiments and Gustave Flaubert and The Sphinx! One of my ongoing musical projects will at some point involve 'a character' reading from a fictional diary. I'm itching to do some 'hackwork' & I have been offered the chance of a column in a new magazine, The Edge. What inspires me? The banality of mankind! Since I was very young I've always felt the need to retreat into my head & scratch around the rim of my imagination to shut out the trivia & carelessness of the world outside. Stylistically, early on - Burroughs, Genet & Ballard later - Alain Robbe-Grillet, Angela Carter & Georges Bataille.
Jarboe: What are three must-read classics in your view? What are the three well-thumbed volumes in the Severin library?
Severin: A Clockwork Orange, 120 Days Of Sodom, Crash
Jarboe: (note: excellent choices!)
Jarboe: What are three truths you have found in life that you consider essential (...and will reveal to us)?
Severin: 1. Stand away from yourself & check that you are not turning into your father. 2. Stand away from yourself & check that you are not falling into the traps prescribed by your class. 3. Stand away from yourself & check that you are not becoming complacent with your own talents
Jarboe: What is a soundtrack you personally think is a masterpiece?
Severin: Nino Rota's score for 'Fellini's Casanova'
Jarboe: What known soundtrack would you currently choose to accompany a film about you?
Anything by Bernard Hermann. Hitchcock's 'Vertigo' is a favourite.
Severin: Goya's 'Black paintings' because the walls they are painted on would have to become part of my home ;-)
Jarboe: (appropriately sensual)
What is the current atmosphere in London with regards to music and the
Severin: The 'Underground' is as lively & naively boisterous as ever. But one does sense something needs to 'happen' to shake the foundations. I don't think there is one particular reason why London keeps rejuvenating itself. There are many factors:- island mentality, multi-cultural society, the loss of the empire, love of the under(dog)achiever and now we have a history - we can plunder our own back pages.
Courtesy of Jarboe
INTO THE LIGHT
Ex-Banshee Steve Severin emerges from his somber past; ballet will never be the same.
Perhaps...no, make that undoubtedly, one of the great satisfactions of being both chronologically and aesthetically aligned with nascent British punk, is what you knew all along it would be someday capable of. Despite hordes of numskulls in cheesy punk uniforms who got it all wrong (i.e. LA "punks" still think it's all about playing four chords really loud and whining about your girlfriend leaving you—duh), at the heart of punk was an avant-garde cultural, political and social movement, which was only so raw in its presentation because it was being presented by teenagers. It was, like it or not, about art.
Siouxsie &The Banshees were among the prime culprits, most certainly. Their debut album, The Scream, was a revelation not for how great it sounded at loud volumes, but for how utterly singular and groundbreaking it was in its time. They would go on to, artistically, have a hit and miss career (mostly hit, mind you) which lasted eighteen years, eventually landing them smack in the middle of a boring musical movement called alternative rock, and putting them face to face with a preposterously labeled "punk" revival, characterized by harmless, ineffective boobs like Green Day and Offspring.
But after the Banshees called it a day, it was no wonder at all that one of the band's arch creative forces, bassist Steve Severin, would be once again sidestepping the obvious. He's been since answering a higher cultural calling, composing scores for the stage and releasing them on his own label, RE:. The first was Maldoror, for the Brazilian theatrical group Os Sartryos. His new recording, the lush, evocative soundtrack to The Woman In The Dunes—based on the existentialist novel and later film-was commissioned by avant—garde dancer Shakti for the Vasanta Mala dance company's stage production. It debuted last year at the Institute For The Contemporary Arts in London, and was also performed during the Festival D'Avignon and the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, drawing rave reviews. We caught up with Mr. Severin in New York, and chatted, of course, over a "proper tea" at the T Room.
Ken: What you'd been doing for years with Siouxsie &The Banshees was immensely different from what you're doing now. Was this a very natural transition?
Steve: Oh, totally. People are usually quite surprised that I've been doing the sort of music I've been doing since the Banshees stopped. But to me it's totally natural. The elements of what I do now were always in the Banshees.
Ken: Is this a harbinger of the rest of your music career?
Steve: I think now the same way I've always thought about my career, which is, as long as I'm enjoying the things that I'm doing, that's as far ahead as I think. What I'm doing now encompasses a lot of different things, so I can never get bored. For instance, the last three months I've been pretty much concentrating on someone else's record for which I haven't had any creative input whatsoever. It's by Alan Moore, the comic writer...
Ken: The Watchmen.
Steve: Yeah, yeah. He gave me a completely finished spoken word album, and I've released it on my label. So, I've taken on that role, which is a completely new role for me, but it means that everything else gets a rest. I don't get stuck in a rut because I can't.
Ken: How did The Woman In The Dunes come about?
Steve: It sort of bounced off a previous project I'd done, which was Maldoror, for a Brazilian theatre company. They were due to play it at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, and they didn't make it; but I started corresponding with (dancer) Shakti, and then the idea of collaborating on something came up. She'd already had the idea of doing The Woman In The Dunes and I was familiar with the book and the film. We met in January and by May the whole album was finished and the first performance took place.
Ken: When it was finished and you listened to it, were you surprised by what you'd done?
Steve: I didn't have time to think about it. I was given a really loose brief on what was required. I found it strange, working with a choreographer, that she would be so loose, but the majority of what she does is very improvised.
Ken: Did you have an easy time working without the structure that comes with a band?
Steve: Yes, I found it really, really easy. Doing it the other way around is hard, putting an idea into the shape of a song, to fit around lyrics. It's a completely different process, really. I think that's why I'm able to work fast on the instrumental music, because there are so few disciplines. For The Woman In The Dunes, I was just given a couple of guideline emotions and a time limit.
Ken: It's interesting, because punk created an entirely new generation of musicians, or non-musicians, and the likes Bruce Gilbert of Wire or John Lydon went on to do really avant-garde work. Yet, can you imagine that Kid Rock or the members of Limp Bizkit would ever go on to do anything like that?
Steve: The mind boggles.
Ken: It is a very different mindset. Intelligent versus, well, stupid.
Steve: Well, I think people would only be surprised by what the original punks went on to do if they had a very defined idea of what punk meant in the first place. The nucleus of what we called English punk was very, very diverse. You had the Sex Pistols on one side and you had Throbbing Gristle on the other. You had Wire, you had Cabaret Voltaire. There were lots of avant-garde things going on. It's only when you look beyond, that you get all these stereotype thrash bands that imitated The Ramones and could never do it very well. I could imagine if people had that idea of what punk represented, then all the avant-garde music that followed would seem odd. But I think all of that was there in the beginning; it's just that everybody was so young, so it was a very raw expression, and we were striving for something that we hadn't mastered. I think you can hear that even on The Scream. When that came out, it was a very avant-garde album—there was no band doing any thing like that. The nearest thing was Roxy Music, and they were much more...
Ken: Much less confrontational,
Steve: Less confrontational, much more proficient. And they were more obviously art-school. If you think of New York punk bands, though, like the Talking Heads; and the No New York album, which Brian Eno produced—it was always coming from the avant- garde point of view.
Ken: Well, except in LA.
Steve: Oh, the Dead Kennedys and all. No, no, no.
Ken: It's funny because one of the things that Johnny Rotten made a point of early on, was that punk was a reaction against art- school rock.
Steve: Well, John said a lot of rubbish.
Ken: But it wasn't really anti-art school. It was just anti-establishment.
Steve: Quite like you said, it was more confrontational. It was more urgent.
Ken: Clearly you were involved in the confrontation. What does that mean to you now? Do you eventually lose your desire to confront on a socio-political level and wind up just channeling it into artistic confrontation?
Steve: I think the things I say and the methods I use are not necessarily confrontational, but they're obviously political in some ways. Even embracing the internet now, for example, I'm making a point of saying that I'm not going to use major record labels. That's a political stance in itself. But with the Banshees, it was never really about, you know, standing on the barricades, that kind of agitprop. It was always much more subtle.
Ken: There was a lot of ideology then...
Steve: Yeah, but that was mainly The Clash's thing. I didn't want to wear fatigues and spray paint slogans on myself.
Ken: One thing that seems certain is that you're not mired in your past or trying to play off it. How do you feel about the Banshees history, looking back?
Steve: I'm immensely proud of all the work we'd done. In some ways, every year it becomes a little more important, because nobody seems to be coming along to replace us. For starters, the whole female thing with Siouxsie, which is a really big part of it that can't be overlooked. She was the first, and inspired thousands of people to do whatever they wanted to do, and feel better about themselves as being independent. So I think the legacy is strong.
Ken: Do you think the Banshees stuck around as long as they should have?
Steve: Well, it was up to us. It was our thing. We stuck around...well, that's a horrible way of putting it. We didn't just stick around, we evolved and we did what we wanted to do, and there was an audience every time until we decided to stop.
Ken: Nostalgia, if you get mired in it, is damaging.
Steve: That was one of the contributing factors in deciding to split. Whenever you read an article, it would start with, 'Punk survivors...'; it was like, please, can't they approach this from another angle?
Ken: Well, journalists...
Steve: Journalists are lazy, that's their problem.
Ken: Do you feel like you've got some catching up to do because of how long you spent with the Banshees?
Steve: Yes and no. I always felt I was completely expressing myself within the Banshees. As far as I was concerned I was one of the two people who drove the band and therefore it was my band as much as it was Siouxsie's band. If I was unhappy, it was my fault, no one else's. But there is a point where you become aware that you're a brand as much as anything else, because the name has been around and you've been successful; so there was a desire to slip away from that.
Ken: Banshees Incorporated?
Steve: Yeah. More so for Siouxsie. That's why she did The Creatures.
Ken: Did you like what they did with The Creatures records?
Steve: I'm incredibly biased; everything I listen to, I can hear my input missing. Some things are just brilliant, but other things I tinker with in my mind. I'm too attached.
Ken: A lot of artists are stuck in the past because they don't want to face the challenge of looking ahead. Do you feel you're challenging yourself right now?
Steve: Obviously I think what I'm doing now is a challenge, extending myself into areas I've never dealt with before.
Ken: What you're doing now has a decidedly more European feel. What kind of impact do you think you can make in the States?
Steve: Are you saying the music itself has a kind of Teutonic feel to it? Well, I think the world has shrunk, it doesn't matter anymore. It may surprise people. There are people who might like it who are into ambient music and may not have ever been Banshees fans.
Ken: Are you as excited as you can be right now about what you're doing?
Steve: Oh god, yes. I don't display it very openly, but I feel incredibly passionate about everything I get involved with. I wouldn't bother doing it otherwise.
Ken: Finally...what happened to style?
Steve: I don't know-it died. I blame Oasis. Or maybe it was the Happy Mondays—those baggy people.
Ken: And Eddie Vedder over here.
Steve: Maybe it was ecstasy. People were too chilled out to dress up. They took the wrong drugs.
Ken: Well, The Banshees came along at a time when being in a band was about grand conceptual presentations, including radical statements of fashion. And that kind of disappeared, didn't it?
Steve: England still has extraordinary fashion designers. But I think Suede is the only band in England now that have that certain style and swagger. Well, and Placebo; Brian Molko's a glamorous figure. There are pockets of dissidence. But are film stars as glamorous as they used to be? I don't think so. I think Nike has take over the world and we're all wearing sweat pants. What can you do?