Destroy All Monthly (April '02)
Siouxsie and The Banshees
Siouxsie and the Banshees is a long time favorite band of mine that were actually putting out records before I was listening to them. Their first record The Scream came out in 1978. I don't know about the rest of y'all but in 1978, I was 10 years old and listening to KISS. I first became aware of Siouxsie and other "Post-Punk" bands at about the age of thirteen. For those of you keeping count that's a little more than three years after they had put out their first record and that would be about 1982.
I had just started high school and thought I was already listening to punk, ( via the South Bay scene) I was not up on what was happening in England (Batcave and such). Meanwhile Death Rock (or now called Gothic) was really hitting the L.A. scene hard, with bands like 45 Grave, TSOL (now improved with eyeliner and pirate shirts), and Christian Death.
These bands were just what the doctor ordered. The mood, the music, it all seemed right back then as Reagan was in the White House and things did seem black. As a kid in the eighties, it was very hard to get to a show, or anywhere. I had no car and most of the shows in Hollywood were usually 18 & over. The one place you could go (if you could get there) was the dance clubs. I know now that this sounds real lame but back then that's where I would meet my friends, get wasted in the parking lot and take acid or other mind-altering substances and surprisingly enough, dance. The tow big clubs to go and hear the tunes were the Odyssey and for a while The Fetish Club; these were the ones we frequented and I was at the mercy of the guy who had the car.
This was the beginning of the end for me. The end of doing well in school, hell it was the end of going to school, at least on a regular basis anyways. The bands that mad the hits we danced to were either already different bands (Bauhaus had become Tones on Tail) or not even together a nymore but it didn't seem to matter. The queen of the whole scene was definitely Siouxsie Sioux. She had the right clothes, the right look and a band that had so much material it was hard not to find something you liked. As stated earlier their body of work began in 1978, followed up by numerous singles that would and still do make the pasty-faced kids catch the spider webs.
As I grew a little older around fifteen, sixteen (83-85) there were more and more shows and I had more and more friends with cars. One of the first shows I remember going to was at Perkins Palace in Pasadena. The bill was: The Cramps, Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds with Saccharine Trust opening. At last, a place where the music was live and not as many gay guys (the one drawback of gay clubs for sure, though they did have the good drugs, hmmm?) trying to pick up on you.
After that, the shows just kept coming; Specimen at Perkins, Alien Sex Fiend at Perkins, Sisters of Mercy at the Palace, Christian Death at The Roxy and finally around 1984 Siouxsie and the Banshees were playing the Santa Monica Civic. This was a must go! None of my friends had seen her before, and neither had I except in videos (generously played in the aforementioned dance clubs), the backs of albums and of course press photos. My friends and I wasted no time getting the money from our parents and buying tickets for both nights. One night The Gun Club opened for them, the second night was Test Department (who at that time completely blew my mind). The show was great Siouxsie and the Banshees knew how to write songs and had a lot of great hits that they delivered live!
Time was passing Death Rock turned into Glam and the L.A. Music scene was changing. At this point, I had the opportunity to see Siouxsie another time and, this time I got paid to see her. How did this happen you may be wondering, well it was about 1989 and I now had friends that ran dance clubs. One guy ran one called Plastic Passion and another called the Dirt Box, they were filming a movie (Out of Bounds with Anthony Michael Hall) at the Dirt Box and Siouxsie would be performing there. I got hired as an extra, and I was stoked. When I arrived I found out she would only be performing one song (Cities In Dust). You get what you pay for. It would be a long time before I saw Siouxsie and the Banshees perform again. In the interim, I now had friends at Geffen, and they sent me every one of her CDs. (Thanx Cali!) I have always liked music with a pop aesthetic even if it was made to make people dance, I am a stickler for structure, and I guess that's why Siouxsie always appealed to me.
Flash forward into the mid-nineties. Music is different, only kids from the 818 are into Goth and Siouxsie hasn't put out an album since Peepshow (1988). Lollapalooza '91 (the first one!) comes around and Siouxsie and the Banshees were playing there. I was already planning on going but this made it much sweeter. I hadn't seen them in a long time and once again, they delivered. This was a very different band than I remembered, much more mature and touting a full six-piece band. The lighting, the costume changes and the overall package was so moody and surreal, their set flew by like one fluid motion. Their performance was the best I had ever seen and, with the sun going down in lovely Irvine, they stole the show.
Flash-forward once more to February 2002, my friend Rick tells me Siouxsie and the Banshees are reforming and will be playing Coachella. At that time, I was with Jen (Destroy All, Editor Extraordinaire) and of course, we inquired about putting them into the magazine. Assured by Rick that this would be no problem, we proceeded.
I would be speaking with Steve Severin on the phone, the original, and still bass player for the Banshees. I was certain if anyone could give me the real scoop about what it was like to be a Banshee this was the man! We first began to speak of my experiences with the band and we both recalled the Santa Monica Civic show fondly. I next asked him if he thought this band would enjoy such longevity, and be around some twenty plus years. He answered, "No, we usually formed for twenty minutes." We both laughed, and without further comment, I knew he meant it was hard to be in the band at times. Steve continued to tell me that their last show was in 1996 and after that, he wasn't sure they'd ever play again. I thought this was another comment on how sometimes volatile the band's relationship was.
"We were already thinking along these lines..." Steve Told me when I asked about the reunion. " We've been trying to get together and write some new material, we've also been truing to get Polydor/Universal on a greatest hits type thing. So in the course of this we decided that we should go out and play some songs," Steve continued. We spoke about the greatest hits albums that were out now (Once Upon a Time and Twice Upon a Time) "Those are just collections of our singles, so the idea would be to get together and put out a definitive greatest hits," Steve told me.
"We had a sort of acrimonious split, and we hadn't been talking too good for a few years. But we started to patch that all up and it became apparent that we all missed working together," Steve said. As I thought, his earlier comments did have something to do with the tensions between Siouxsie and himself but we did not delve into this any further.
The next subject I was interested in knowing was how from 1981 to 1983 the members of Siouxsie and the Banshees had managed to put out six albums of material (that's and average of two a year, whoa!). Siouxsie and the Banshees putting out four and The Creatures (Siouxsie's side project) putting out one, while Steve's own side project The Glove (which was formed with Robert Smith) also put one out. " It had a lot to do with the fact that the industry's a lot more regulated. You can't just write songs, record an album, and put it out in two months. You have to schedule these things now. We couldn't have possibly done what we did back then (putting out all that material). We wouldn't be allowed to do it," Steve informed me. "Because marketing is king and they have to have their six month run-up, the single, the video," Steve said, somewhat frustrated.
I wanted to find out what the audience could expect. I'd seen Siouxsie as a four piece and as a maybe six or seven piece (can't quite remember how many people were on stage at Lollapalooza, but it was more than four). " This reunion business is sort of a bolt out of the blue, as much as I said earlier we were headed towards this, we hadn't really set any deadline," Steve told me. I answered, " Rick from Goldenvoice kind of sped this process up by adding you to Coachella, huh?" "Yep, yep (we both laughed) so I just rang Siouxsie and she said, 'Oh you got the phone call from Faust huh?' and we knew we had to get this together. (Siouxsie is referring to Goethe's Faust, a story of a man who enters into a deal with the Devil. FYI.) "We ran around like headless chickens for a few days, ringing people to find if we could seriously do this. Everything started falling into place so we said yes let's do it," Steve said vibrantly.
From his comments, I could tell this wouldn't be one of those we got together for the money type things. He seemed genuinely excited and told me, "Choosing the set list will be a nightmare." I thought to myself, and shared with Steve that they are supposed to relish nightmares and a lot of the songs I want to hear never made it onto any set list I've heard. "Of course, as long as you don't remember you've missed them until we've left the building," Steve joked. "As long as you've enjoyed the selection weave put together that's all that matters to us. This tour will be quite different, we are going out as a four piece, and we will relying much more on the earlier guitar driven songs. Much less production and very much a return to our roots as a band," he informed me. "This should be really good fun," Steve said. "And a good barometer on how the band is getting along?" I asked. "We've got a few dates before Coachella, so if we arrive there, then we're getting on," he said with a very hearty laugh.
Unfortunately, Siouxsie Sioux was unavailable for a phone interview but she graciously agreed to answer a few questions that Mr. Severin delivered to her via e-mail.
Niler: How does it feel to be rehearsing and getting ready to go back out for a live stint after so long?
Siouxsie: Exciting and spontaneous, which is how I like to keep things. We're not promoting or anything, just a massive seven-year itch I'm dying to scratch! Budgie and I have toured extensively as The Creatures in that time, but Severin's not stepped on a stage in the 7 years. Fasten your seat belts!
N: Steven told me this is a much more back to basics Siouxsie and the Banshees, can we expect a lot of old favourites?
Siouxsie: We're doing this show as a 4 piece, which is how we started, so certainly there'll be a lot of our favourites, maybe some we've never played live before. It all feels very fresh...like a new beginning.
N: Did you ever think your band would enjoy such longevity?
Siouxsie: Well we blew our original idea of literally lasting for 15 minutes when we debuted in 1976. So, if it wasn't to be very short lived it would be very long, taking the original intent to its other extreme.
N: Do you like playing Los Angeles, what are some of your favourite places to go and things to do here?
Siouxsie: I love playing in LA, but not the long flights getting there and back. We've all got friends here who I never see in Europe, so mostly I like to catch up and hang out with them, going to museums, exhibitions and of course see as many new films as I can.
N: Lastly, what do you like to listen to, or your top five records of all time?
Siouxsie: At the moment, I'm finishing a new Creatures' album with Budgie in a studio we've built ourselves- It's been a bit like writing, directing, producing, editing, performing, scoring, and financing a film with a cast of 2! Very challenging and exhilarating- D.I.Y. or what? In between that and preparing for this show. I'm listening to some Dvorak, Beethoven, and Arvo Part.
Siouxsie and the Banshees will be touring with a few dates in the United States (New York, Chicago, and San Francisco) before Coachella, and if they can get a good spot, they will be hitting the European festivals. "If all goes well, I'm sure this week of shows (in the US) will not be enough and if the Internet and other sources are correct I have not received one single negative bit of feedback. Nobody has said don't do it. In fact quite the opposite," Steve said. Speaking from my personal experience (and why should I stop now), if you haven't ever seen Siouxsie and the Banshees, go to Coachella! These guys (and gal) can play and have always performed at an excellent level and I am a tough critic. For more information on Coachella go to www.goldenvoice.com, or for more info on Steve go to his site www.stevenseverin.com
Contributed by Bonnie Bryant.