Record Hunter (supplement to VOX) (December '92)
By Steve Malins
across the tracks siouxsie & the banshees
The Banshees' career hasn't been all goth and gloom, as Siouxsie explains by taking us on a guided tour of their second compilation album, Twice Upon A Time, released this month.
SIXTEEN YEARS on from the brash, youthful exhibitionism of punk, Siouxsie And The Banshees have much to look back upon; from swastika armbands to Louise Brookshaircuts; from the 100 Club to TOTP; from fractured guitar noise to the lavish strings and keyboards of their recent material.
Although bassist Steve Severin still lives in "dirty old" London, Sioux and drummer husband Budgie now live with six cats in a small French town an hour from Toulouse.
Their new home and the band's successes in the States coincide with Sioux's frustration with her home country, where they feel marginalised and stagnant, their continued development largely ignored. "We're not exiles," she insists, "we still go back to England regularly. But each time I feel more disappointed, as if I'm waiting for a party that never happens."
In addition to their new singles compilation, the band are considering an album of B-sides, provisionally titled Downside Up.
They have no plans to record any new material until next year, although Siouxsie recently tried to write while Budgie toured with the Indigo Girls, "the longest time we've been apart," she explains.
For now Siouxsie and Budgie are more concerned about rewiring their new home-"we can't have the kettle and iron on at the same time, let alone run a mobile studio"- experimenting with new recipes and local wines, and rushing out to collect their rubbish in the middle of the night, "so the neighbours don't see how late we get up."
'Fireworks' Chart pos: 22 (May '82)
"The first time we tried out producer Mike Hedges, and he was really up for getting an orchestra in. He was more an accomplice than someone there to tidy us up-just another big kid. We had a lot of fun throwing Chinese firecrackers. You can hear them on the record. The song's very sexual, explosive, distraught."
'Slowdive': 41 (Oct '82)
"Another sexual song, but more playful. I remember getting the girls to play that live on strings. The "oh my God" on it is their wrists nearly falling off, having a break and then having to start again. It's very open, very relaxed, loose. I wrote it on the spot after a jam in the studio."
'Melt!':49 (Dec '82)
"Just before Kiss In The Dreamhouse I was told by a doctor I would never sing again, or not the way I used to. I thought 'Oh my God, I'm going to sound like Bonnie Tyler'. Fortunately another specialist said it just needed rest. I really like the high-pitched lute sound from John McGeoch's guitar- he was very keen on experimenting. He didn't last."
'Dear Prudence': 3 (Oct '83)
"We're all really into The Beatles' White Album and were thinking about doing an EP of covers. Budgie wanted to do 'Glass Onion'. Severin preferred 'Dear Prudence' which is about Mia Farrow's sister. We've also covered 'Helter Skelter' but the EP didn't come together in the end. Robert Smith deputises on guitar after McGeoch's departure."
'Swimming Horses': 28 (Mar '84)
"The first single off Hyaena. I wrote it after watching a series called 20/20 Vision about out-of-the-way towns in the Middle East where if a girl was suspected of any sexual liaison, not just intercourse, she could be stoned to death, thrown down a well or burnt. I didn't want to be sensationalist, so the lyric is abstract. The intensity is in the performance."
'Dazzle': 33 (Jun '84)
"Robert Smith claimed 'Dazzle' was ruined by the strings but he wasn't that involved in Hyaena anyway and his comments on it are wounded pride. He was welcome to contribute but he didn't, so that was his tough shit. It wasn't an ideal arrangement and we both sort of fell out. There were a few scenes where I kicked him in the goolies. He used to come strolling in three hours late and I hate that kind of dippy, lazy approach. He tends to shuffle around which irritated me a lot."
'Overground' from 'The Thorn EP': 47 (Oct '84)
"We did this EP with Hedges in Bavaria. We wanted a stream babbling through one song, 'Red Over White', so Hedges set everything up in a field beside a stream. I felt really stupid at first because there were these blood curdling screams I had to do. I got over it and really started enjoying myself, when I noticed the lights coming on in the farmhouses in the distance. They must have thought a sheep was being strangled or something. We didn't use it in the end. The EP broke in our new guitarist, John Carruthers, who did a good job. I can say these nice things afterwards, poor bugger. He did really well but he didn't last either."
'Cities In Dust': 21 (Oct '85)
"We worked with Hugh Jones in Berlin's Hansa Studios. We started drinking way too much, a lot of schnapps and vodka. That time was the worst. I was nearly suicidal. I was having jealous rows with Budgie and ended up putting my foot through a plate glass window. We ended up having a huge row with Jones and sacked him. Meanwhile, we'd done some B-sides elsewhere, one of which was 'Cities In Dust'. We decided to make it a single and toured with the song before the Tinderbox album. I dislocated my knee on stage, trapped a nerve in my back because I carried on, drank too much, turned into a grouchy invalid and basically had an unhappy time.
'Candyman': 34 (Mar '86)
"It's about misplaced trust and child abuse. I used to be vehemently against motherhood because I was preoccupied with my own struggles. Now I'm less averse to having children because I'm able to give to someone else."
'This Wheel's On Fire': 14 (Jan '87)
"We were bedraggled and shellshocked after Tinderbox, but we had a debt and had to do something. We did a covers LP-Through The Looking Glass. It was therapeutically very good and produced one of our most listenable records. 'This Wheel's On Fire' was me taking off my blouse to Julie Driscoll. I had such a crush on her. We nearly didn't do it when I found out it was a Bob Dylan song. I sulked for ages."
'The Passenger': 41 (Mar '87)
"Around this time we pinched Martin McCarrick from Marc Almond's band and made him a permanent member. I first met Marc in an S&M store on the King's Road, a cock-bracelet shop or something like that. He later worked with Hedges, so there's been a lot of wife-swapping between us. Martin really lightened things up. I enjoyed having someone younger and a bit wide-eyed in the band. I had a plaything."
'Peek-A-Boo': 16 (Jul '88)
"Our guitarist Jon Klein first joined on Peepshow. The two fledglings had each other and we had someone else to sharpen our claws on. Guitarists are a bitch in the studio-slow and indecisive. We've given them all a hard time but rightly so. Orchestras are bastards too. The devious buggers get all limp-wristed and start playing slowly to waste time and get more money for the session. This is one of my favourites, a classic pop song."
'The Killing Jar': 41 (Oct '88)
"Butterfly collectors put their insects into this thing called a killing jar. It's gruesome but it preserves the beauty of the butterfly. This is a Severin lyric about someone who collects relationships in the cold, obsessive style of a butterfly collector. There's some great insect-like guitar from Jon."
'The Last Beat Of My Heart': 44 (Dec '88)
"Recorded on the last night of the Lollapalooza tour. It was an emotional thing to be part of. As the only Brits we were quite aloof at first. People were very tentative-I could see them thinking: 'Who is this English bitch?' We're not known as the most sociable band anyway. I like this version. It's very strident and grand."
'Kiss Them For Me': 32 (April '91)
"I'm very dissatisfied with the Superstition album. Stephen Hague's production was too technical and methodical. This song was sparked off by Jayne Mansfield's story. She typified the dream that Hollywood holds for young women-a fairytale thing. She was quite a fun character with her pink and yellow poodles and chihuahuas. It's not a feminist song. I don't despise her, she was too much of a victim."
'Shadowtime': 57 (Jun '91)
"Another Severin lyric. I didn't want it as a single, but we're democratic and I was over-ridden. Severin and the company wanted it; I wanted another song, Budgie wisely said,'don't know'. It was years before Budgie and myself admitted to each other that we were boyfriend/girlfriend. We haven't been apart from each other for more than two days in all this time."
'Face To Face': 21 (Jul '92)
"I grew up trying out Catwoman kicks on people-she and Emma Peel were my mentors when I was young. As soon as Warners, who owned the Batman soundtrack, got involved,'Face To Face' became the worst experience I've ever had. They treated us like shit. I wouldn't piss on them if they were on fire."
Contributed by Bonnie Bryant.