The Herald Glasgow (February 26, 1999)
Crest of a new wave
Siouxsie's back - and there's not a Banshee in sight, says David Belcher
WOE. Gloom. Misery. Siouxsie Sioux was having none of it when I spoke to her last week, an angst-free attitude which was commendable for at least three reasons. For one thing, she and her current band, the Creatures, had only days before they played a Glasgow gig which, due to its promoter's worries over poor advance ticket-sales, had been switched from an 800-capacity venue to one 75% smaller.
Secondly, this apparent decline in Siouxsie's popularity must have been given an added painfulness by the fact of Blondie's recent chart-topping success. For hadn't fortysomething Siouxsie and her first band, the Banshees, begun to make their initial impact at the same time as fiftysomething Debbie Harry and Co, 20 years ago at the height of the whole new wave to-do?
More to the point, though, Siouxsie has always been portrayed as the glam godmother of Gothic rock fatalism, having invented the kohl-eyed concept of the doom-struck bad girl. So she'd be triply bound to be enveloped in existential bleakness, wouldn't she?
Wrong. Just as the Creatures' live performance last week had been an absorbing lesson in drum'n'voice, so Siouxsie's off-stage demeanour was the very essence of level-headed realism.
Isn't it depressing, I'd suggested to her, to gaze upon the vapid bounciness of Blondie's No 1 hit, Maria, and know that the general taste for singularity is dead; to realise that all the grating British public want from their music is limp familiarity?
"I don't know that it's down to a lack of taste in the public," Siouxsie replied with thoughtful geniality. "I reckon it just shows you what the industry's become. There's a lot of hype, a huge amount of promotional and marketing machinery - 'Blondie Are Back!' Their label, Chrysalis, will be promoting the band's back-catalogue, and a lot of money will be spent.
"We can't compete with that with our new little label, Sioux, nor with all the tricks and games that the record business can play. If records are at No 1 these days, you can never tell if it's purely down to actual sales.
"Me and Budgie made a conscious decision years ago to do the Creatures, not the Banshees. We decided that we weren't going to continue at that kind of over-inflated level. There are too many middle-men these days . . . too many bloodsuckers and leeches worried about keeping up with the Joneses rather than truly being in it for the music. Videos hold so much importance that some people have permanent stylists in attendance. People are too wrapped up in form and image.''
Your own initial image was as threatening as it was alluring - and what about you in the crowd at the Sex Pistols' first shows?
"It's fun to play with image, but you can never be interested for long in someone who only appears provocative until they open their mouth and start talking like an idiot. My image was at least one that I'd invented myself; that was my form of expression, not a mask that I put upon to appeal to a market.
"Lots of folk in the music industry currently have a horrible stranglehold on something that should be euphoric, that shouldn't be drudgery or a high -pressurised job. In addition, promoters are nervous about putting on live shows unless you've got a Top 10 single. The whole process is a vicious circle at the moment.
"As another example, we wanted to do a Creatures show in London last year before our current album, Anima Animus, came out, and no promoter was interested. We wound up promoting it ourselves, and it sold out. We also did a US tour last year, supporting John Cale, that confused a lot of people because again we didn't have Anima Animus to promote.
"Plus you've got record companies trying to orchestrate everything down to the last detail - when we started in music, it was possible to gatecrash through every situation purely on the strength of your wanting to do whatever it was you wanted to do.
"In fact, just doing it - whatever it was, music, or art or writing - was enough to get you started in the business of doing it. Of course, it all got closed down again pretty quickly."
Plus ca change, as they doubtless say in Siouxsie and Budgie's current marital abode, a village in the rural outskirts of Toulouse in south-west France, near the Pyrenees. How did you end up out there?
"We've been there for seven years. London was incestuous, cliquish . . . we wanted to get away from continually talking with other musicians about what we were doing in music, or what we weren't doing. I vowed I'd never return to the suburbs whence I came . . . so it was somewhere that was a complete change - France. We live in a valley surrounded by farmland on the periphery of a village. People there don't know who I am: 'She's the singer from England, a little odd.' It's not nudge-nudge-stare in the street as it was in London." Only on the couple's first French Christmas Eve were Budgie and Siouxsie reminded that their music had negotiated national boundaries when 10 punky carol-singing local teenagers turned up on their doorstep, singing the Banshees' Israel.
Judging by the fervent twenty-something crowd that the Creatures attracted in Glasgow last week, there's sufficient of a clued-up audience out there to ensure that Siouxsie's future will be a long and creative one.
Contributed by Jerry Burch.