Uncut (December '05)
THE JON WILDE INTERVIEW
The Banshee queen on hating Dylan and inventing goth
UNCUT: Are you stranger now than when you were young?
SIOUXSIE: I don't feel strange at all now. Having said that, I feel as much of an outsider as ever. I never felt strange as a child. I thought it was normal to pretend to be dead. I used to do that quite a lot. Too many Bette Davis movies! I'd throw a box down the stairs and pretend I'd thrown myself down. It was partly out of a need to be noticed, partly a need to make things interesting for myself. As a child, I always had a taste for the macabre. The first record I ever bought was "Johnny Remember Me" by John Leyton, a song about someone's dead girlfriend. After that, I graduated to "Leader Of The Pack" by The Shangri-Las and "Terry" by Twinkle. I always had a thing for sexy death songs.
How glad are you that you gave yourself a name like Siouxsie rather than something like Poly Styrene?
I definitely got off lightly there. I particularly like the way the spelling of Siouxsie has endured. It still catches people out, especially where I now live in France.
Despite their image, it always seemed the Banshees had a sense of humour.
To me, punk was always more of a comedy than a revolution. The Banshees might have seemed like they were deadly serious but, most of the time, we were pissing ourselves with laughter. It does amuse me when something like the Bill Grundy incident is written about like it was a landmark event. We were all just having a laugh.
Around the time, did it vex you to be put into the same category of music as no-hopers like Sham 69?
That's one of the things that annoyed me - the way everything was tagged with the same label. As though there was no difference between Jimmy Pursey and someone like me. There was a pack mentality to it and I've always despised that sort of thing.
Would you prefer to be famous or infamous?
Neither, if I have a choice. I remember becoming infamous after the Grundy episode. That was a weird thing to deal with. It didn't quite fuck me up. But it was irritating. People would shout at me on the street: "You're fucking rubbish." Before Bill Grundy, it was a fear of the unknown for a lot of the public. After Grundy, we were recognisable as the enemy.
How many Banshees albums are as good as T. Rex's Electric Warrior?
Electric Warrior's one of my all-time favourites... I'd say there's four Banshees albums that are on a par: The Scream, Juju, Peep Show and Through The Looking Glass. But I don't play my own records for fun.
Is it true you think Bob Dylan's hideously overrated?
Put it this way, I don't hate him, but I wouldn't invite him to a party. I wouldn't imagine he'd be much fun. As for his music... I never bought Dylan albums. When we recorded "This Wheel's On Fire", I thought Julie Driscoll or Brian Auger had written it. I was horrified to find it was a Dylan song. I nearly refused to do it for that reason. Why should I give Bob Dylan a credit on one of our records? Sod 'im!
Didn't you once appear on a kids' TV show surrounded by otters?
That actually happened. I'm not sure why but, around the time of the Tinderbox album (1986), I suddenly decided I should be on kids' television. So, at 7am, it was me and these otters. I don't remember much else about it. Though I vaguely recall eating chocolate bumble bees. I'd been up all night, so the experience was more than a little strange. Never again.
Your husband. Budgie, has a theory that Robert Smith is to blame for goth, although you got the blame. Would you go along with that?
I might. Robert is at least partly responsible. Silly boy. But he wasn't the only one. The whole goth thing appals me. It was, and still is, a terrible pantomime. The idea I'm the queen of goth... please! One of the most distressing things I've ever experienced is seeing girls come to our shows dressed as me. Hopefully, they've grown out of that now.
Ever murdered anyone?
I haven't, but there've been times when I've felt like I might. Touring with a band is an ideal occupation for a serial killer. You could do away with the kind of people who'd never be missed. Like rock journalists.
You recently continued your war of words with Steve Severin by calling him a poisonous old toad. How are relations now with your ex- bassist?
Cold. Or, at best, cool. I have no animosity towards him and I hope our petty quarrels can be buried. It's all very silly. We should both get over it.
Are old ladies still afraid to sit next to you on buses?
It still happens in France. It's only recently that the locals have stopped looking at me out of the sides of their eyes. They see me as all right now.
John Lydon on I'm A Celebrity, a good or bad thing?
It wasn't nearly as sad as seeing the Pistols reform for the money. You wouldn't catch me on a show like that. Can you honestly imagine me and Les Dennis sharing a tent?
Are you looking forward to growing old and mad?
I am old and mad. But I'm comfortable in my own skin now. And I refuse to take things easy. If people expect me to start toning things down, they can fuck off. I'm as single-minded as I ever was and still feel the need to take risks. I've got a solo album out next year. Whatever anyone says, I'm still out on the edge of the cliff, musically speaking.
A two-disc deluxe edition of Siouxsie & The Banshees' The Scream is available now on Polydor
NEED TO KNOW
1 Born Susan Ballion on May 27,1957. Her father was a "snake doctor"
2 Made her live debut at London's 100 Club in 1976, singing a 20-minute version of "The Lord's Prayer". Sid Vicious accompanied her on the drums
3 The Banshees' debut single, '78's "Hong Kong Garden", was written about her local Chinese takeaway in Chislehurst
4 Formed off-shoot band The Creatures in 1981 with Banshees drummer (and future husband) Budgie
5 Came second to Margaret Thatcher in a Sunday Express poll of "The Women Who Shook The World"
Contributed by Bonnie Bryant.