Smash Hits (Oct. 1-14, 1981)
The Creature Feature
Siouxsie (vocals) and Budgie (drums) take a break from The Banshees to get back to basics. Tim De Lisle takes a cold shower.
It's not every day that percussion-and-voice tracks set the charts alight-the last was Cozy Powell's " Na Na Na" in 1974- but Siouxsie and drummer Budgie are confident that their EP "Wild Things By The Creatures" will be the next.
So confident, indeed, that they made a video of the lead track, "Mad Eyed Screamer", two weeks before the record's release. What's more, they persuaded Polydor not only to put the double single out, but also to print 50,000 glossy gatefold sleeves with photos, lyrics and photo labels.
"We wanted the whole thing done properly," says Budgie. "There's no point in going half way with something like this. We had strong ideas and wanted them put across, wanted it to be commercial"
"Wild Things" is very much Siouxsie and Budgie's baby.The project was born during sessions for "Ju Ju", the Banshees' last album. Budgie started playing a beat, Siouxsie sang some lyrics, and when Steve Severin and John McGeogh came back from a coffee break they "didn't feel the need to join in, they just listened" as Budgie explains.
"So Unreal" and "But Not Them", tracks two and three on the EP, were then brought into the Banshees' set for their recent (and final) major British tour. "We felt it was right because the songs were done at the same time as the album; they were a part of those sessions. And live they went down really well. It was interesting for John and Steve because they could sit down and see us as the audience sees us."
Although it's taken five months from start to finish the EP was recorded in a great hurry. Once they'd had the idea there was still "Ju Ju" to finish, rehearsals for the tour and the tour itself. "We had to do all five songs in the three days before the tour, so we locked ourselves away with Mike Hedges (the engineer) and got on with it."
Their main concern was to produce songs, not experiments in percussion, and here Budgie's new Gretsch drum kit made its presence felt. It has unusually thin skins which instead of a dull thud make a sound half way between a thud and a note.
Budgie, who joined the Banshees last year after stints with the Slits and the Pop Group, uses a mixture of rock drumming and funk rhythms, complete with tom toms and marimbas, to give the EP variety. But he stresses that the tracks are not really complicated. "I'm not really a complicated drummer. I had a lot of ideas which I brought in on top of the raw beat, but there's not so much of that I can't play it all at once."
Siouxsie and Budgie's desire for total artistic control meant that their work wasn't over once they'd done the final mix. As the Banshees played to packed houses around the country they found themselves making endless long-distance phone calls to London. The biggest problem concerned the record's description. It seemed that a four-track double single isn't a single at all- it's an album.
One song would have to go. In despair Siouxsie and Budgie tried to decide which it would be. It was hopeless: all were for the chop at different times. "It's the kind of record where one track's your favorite on day and another the next, " says Siouxsie. "We decided we liked them all equally."
And in the end, all was well. Someone discovered that five-track singles are allowed long as they only have one serial number. Siouxsie and Budgie breathed a sigh of relief and turned their attention to other things.
A name had already been coined. "We didn't want to call it Siouxsie and Budgie and when Steve (Severin) suggested The Creatures that seemed to fit. We felt 'Wild Things By The Creatures' sounded right."
For the sleeve they wanted, naturally enough, something suitably wild. They thought of doing some shots on the notorious Reeperbahn in Hamburg with a lot of sailors but in the end settled on a semi-nude shower scene set in a Newcastle hotel with just the two of them. "We wanted it to be close, you know not like Dollar or anything; to be sensual yet funny. We tried to shock and amuse at the same time."
These two qualities proved irresistible to "The Sun" when the photographer offered them some of the less good shots from the shower. Much to the Creatures' annoyance, the photos were accompanied by some wildly inaccurate information. When they spoke to me The Creatures were wondering whether or not to sioux. (That's enough of that- Ed.)
In keeping with the Banshees' tradition, the five songs deal with a variety of subjects. Siouxsie explains: "'Mad Eyed Screamer is about a guy who was at Speaker's Corner on Sundays when I used to go down there, one man in particular that I remember who was just crazed, obsessive and quite frightening."
"'So Unreal' is about meeting someone again who you've known a few years ago, and they're totally conventional and all they care about is their washing machine. 'But Not Them' is about the generation that's getting rid of the old sex roles."
For me the record's strongest track is the entrancing, eerie fourth side, "Thumb", which is about hitchhiking and uses it as a metaphor for the need to move on in life. Siouxsie's singing is better than ever and the marimba sequence is a little reminiscent of the chords on "Hong Kong Garden" and "Christine".
If the Banshees' detractors see this project as a sign of disharmony within the group they can think again: "The group is really , really strong now" says Siouxsie. "That's why we can all do our own things. Steve's been producing Altered Images and John's in Visage so we're all doing something different, but we get on really well together."
With the Banshees' American tour occupying them until mid-November it will be some time before the Creatures get the chance to play live, but they'd like to. " We want to do some really small places, like, say, a few gay clubs, or schools after four o'clock, just playing a short set. Or maybe we'll support someone very big. But we want to do it really differently."
And finally Creatures- is there any truth in the rumours of your, ahem, relationship? "We're in love!" says Siouxsie ecstatically. "And I'm in love with Steve, and I'm in love with John..."
"And I'm in love with them all," adds Budgie emphatically.
"No, seriously, we're just friends."
Contributed by Bonnie Bryant.