FIEND No. 2 (Feb/Mar/Apr 2004)

tokyo pop noir


Whilst known more immediately for their twenty plus years stint as punk/goth supergroup Siouxsie and the Banshees, husband and wife duo Siouxsie and Budgie have been making original and high quality music as their "other" project, The Creatures.

On the release of the latest album Hai!, Tim Harris and Budgie shoot the breeze.

The voice on the other end of the phone is gentle and friendly. There is no reason for it not to be, considering who owns it; but perhaps it's not quite what you'd expect. The voice in question belongs to Budgie, the drumming powerhouse behind Siouxsie and the Banshees and The Creatures, proving that there is no law dictating that legendary figures sound like demigods. A career that spans decades and genres makes Budgie and wife Siouxsie Sioux nothing if not iconic.

Despite being a hemisphere away in the south of France, Budgie is very easy to talk to. So much so that most of the allotted phone time is lost in affable chat about things other than Hai!, The Creatures' new album.

The first diversion comes early. Legendary female punk band The Slits, whom Budgie recorded with, is mentioned. Straight away he recalls that he recently ran into front woman, Ariana Foster, first time since the sessions for The Slits' first album. This leads to a question that has to be asked of someone who was there when it all happened first time around: what is his view on what is being marketed as 'punk' today?

"It's a bit naff when you just kind of copy the style. It all sounds a bit power-poppy, you know, that awful phase that came somewhere between Punk and New Romantic. Every band that wasn't getting anywhere started turning their amps up and started making really fast songs. There's a lot of posturing." But on to the matter at hand...

Hai! has been generally well received. More directly that the rest of The Creatures' back catalogue, it reflects the surroundings it was recorded in. While Hawaii helped influence the 'tribal' sound of Feast, and Spain had a hand in shaping the tone of Boomerang, Hai! is Budgie and Siouxsie's response to Japan. It began quickly and spontaneously at the end of the Japanese leg of the Banshees' Seven Year Itch tour.

Think of Japan: geishas, samurai, workaholic salary men and weird cartoons are among the first things that spring to mind. Somewhere down the chain of thought, bloody big drums may pop up < these are called taiko drums. Leonard Eto is an acknowledged master of taiko drumming, and someone Budgie has admired for a long time. Through a series of fortunate happenstances. The Creatures and Eto were able to be in a studio together, and via a sort of musical dialogue, generate the raw material for Hai!.

For Budgie, the experience of working with someone he was in awe of was more than memorable: "We just seemed to hit a mutual level, a note, an empathy so quickly in the studio that I was totally stunned by it. I felt so honoured and humble all at the same time, I was feeling one hundred miles high."

While Budgie and Eto were laying their percussive foundation, Siouxsie was having her own creative rush, but she held on to her lyrical and compositional ideas until the initial recording was completed to prevent interrupting their spontaneity. The final product was assembled at The Creatures' home studio in France.

For Budgie and Siouxsie, Hai! " not an homage to Japan. We couldn't begin to understand it" - but rather it is a conglomeration of their strongest responses to aspects of it. Thus, as in most foreigners' perceptions of Japanese culture, there are contradictions. Amongst the soundscapes of the album, moments of Zen-like tranquility sit side-by-side with tributes to Toho Studios' ever-popular fire-breathing giant lizard. "I think the things that have touched us are things like [Akira] Kurosawa's films and the writing of [Yukio] Mishima, but also the craziness of Godzilla, B movies and animation... the love of craziness and the love of gimmick."

The Creatures are in a position that many bands would envy. They have been able to make the DIY Punk ethos a practical reality. They are self-sufficient, with their own label and their own studio. 'We can do what the hell we want, because there are no rules. Certainly, we're not having to pander to an A & R man somewhere.' That has to be liberating, to say the least.

It's not hard to find out what Budgie and Siouxsie are up to. They maintain a very comprehensive website, which is a useful part of their approach to the business of being The Creatures. "It means we're in touch with a handful of fans... some people who've followed us from very early days, other people who've only known The Creatures for maybe a year or two, not really aware of what we've done before. It's great seeing what people are talking about, what interests them... and mostly, you're seeing a very real idea of the demographic you're reaching, which you've never had the ability to do before."

As useful as his efforts on the Internet may be. Budgie is well aware of the trade-off he has to make. "You suddenly realise that if I was writing on the Internet as much as I'd probably want to be, then I wouldn't be in the studio as much as I should be. You do have to pull yourself away and remember what's most important... and the music is the most important thing. C'est la vie." Hai! is proof that it is in no danger of being neglected.

Contributed by Bonnie Bryant.

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