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SIOUXSIE SIOUX INTERVIEW [2002]

I GUESS THE OBVIOUS QUESTION IS WHY ARE THE BANSHEES BACK, AND HOW DID THAT COME ABOUT?

Since the Banshees split in 1986 me and Budgie have been very busy as The Creatures, done a lot of touring and in the last year we decided to do a biography of the Banshees - something that had been missing for a long time, and how the band stopped... me and Severin weren't really getting on to put it mildly, but with time, and kind of with coincidences of us having to talk to each other for certain things, basically harassing Polydor and then Universal to at least get our back catalogue remastered, looked after, and made available so me and Severin were having conversations, and talking about life as it was - and kind of mending some bridges, all the bridges that had been sort of blown up - and nothing was set, and it was actually a call from someone in LA, someone who Severin had kept in touch with and it was an offer to do a festival, and it old make any future plans that we'd been thinking of viable and possible.

I had to think long and hard about doing it. It was almost like a situation of how things were when we first started... I mean the first shows we did before we were signed and the whole 'Sign the Banshees - do it now' thing, and here we were without a recording contract and with our whole back catalogue sorely neglected and yet with us knowing that the influence of the Banshees was everywhere. So it was a kind of throwing down the gauntlet amidst this time of payola press, payola radio, payola TV of just going out there and just doing those songs now.

ONCE YOU'D DECIDED TO REFORM, HOW EXCITING WAS IT TO BE CONFRONTED WITH THE REALITY OF IT?

Well, then it meant actually listening to 'The Scream' and 'Join Hands' because we decided that we wanted to go back as far as possible and to capture the feeling of what it was like to be in a band with no loops and no tapes, and nothing you could actually lean on, and for it to just be the four people making that noise. I got really excited, and I still think 'The Scream' is a fabulous album and as I was listening to it, it felt just as relevant if not more relevant - it just felt very exciting and very fresh...

SO WHEN THE AMERICAN TOUR CAME ABOUT IT WAS A CONSCIOUS DECISION TO PLAY EARLIER SONGS RATHER THAN LATER ONES?

The idea of us looking at the whole catalogue... it would have been too watered down, so that was a conscious decision to go back that far to the beginnings, and I think we went as far as 'JuJu'...

HOW DID IT FEEL TO BE BACK ON STAGE AS THE BANSHEES AGAIN FOR THE FIRST TIME IN SEVEN YEARS?

It felt fucking great! It really felt like a big finger to the industry, it felt so strong and confident, and it was confidence-giving as well. It just felt very powerful and very strong and very addictive...

EVERYONE'S GOING ON ABOUT THE SILVER JUBILEE OF PUNK AT THE MOMENT - DO YOU ACTUALLY LOOK BACK AT THOSE DAYS VERY MUCH?

I mean the past really is the past, and it's constantly being written about, and rewritten about, and I don't know, the silver jubilee... none of us was looking forward to celebrating with the Queen or anything, it didn't feel like that big a deal really. It wasn't a big deal.

OF ALL THE BANDS WHO STARTED AROUND THAT TIME YOU WERE PROBABLY THE ONES WHO WERE MOST DETERMINED JUST TO MAKE IT A ONE-OFF AND NOT TO MAKE A CAREER OF IT, BUT YOU LASTED THE LONGEST...

Isn't that ironic! It's so ironic that it turned about, but I mean we literally formed that night at the 100 Club punk festival, there was a spot free and we just thought 'alright, we'll just form for the night and that's it' - taking the Warhol fame thing to its extremity, literally playing for that one show. The irony as well is that we always distanced ourselves from being a 'punk' group and having that sort of label of convenience, we hated having any label of convenience, of being lumped together with everybody else. So we always distanced ourselves but the irony again, with the longevity, is that the essence and spirit meant what I think punk means in that it sweeps away what's gone before and it creates its own blueprint, and I think that applies to anything - whether it's music, film, art, literature. I think it's ironic that we represent that - none of us could play, it was very spontaneous, we didn't really know what we were going to do... we were give a rehearsal to go to, and that was literally to see where the plugs went, and we just decided that we'd play around the theme of the Lord’s Prayer and we just did it, we didn't really think about it we just did it.

WHAT DO YOU THINK OF THE PISTOLS PLAYING AGAIN NOW?

Well, they must have run out of their money quick, that's all I can say!

WHAT GAVE YOU THE LONGEVITY THEN, THAT YOU COULD KEEP MAKING MORE AND MORE ALBUMS?

We were literally self-taught, and we learnt to play in front of an audience, and our first few shows were that, especially our first show... that baptism of fire, of jumping in at the deep end where you either sink or swim, and the Banshees courted incredibly bad luck - the curse I call it! But the bad luck and the negativity that seems to surround us always seems to produce something very positive so it wasn't just the fact that guitarists would disintegrate before our eyes, all other things, like managers, and everything else was sort of fucked up, and we were affected by all those fuck-ups. But it made our kind of resolve stronger, and it made us try to adapt quickly because when you bring another musician in it changes the chemistry of what the group is, and I think in some ways that you can't know, but you wonder when you look back, and you think how the band would have lasted or developed if it had remained the original four-piece.

WHO IS IT WHO CURRENTLY HOLDS THE UNENVIABLE GUITARIST ROLE?

Aha! Well, Knox Chandler is a guitarist that Budgie found - he was living in New York, still is, and works in New York, and I always thought that when the band decided to stop, that finally from the time when John McGeogh left the band, that finally we'd found a guitarist to sort of match and grow with - I thought we'd found the perfect guitarist and Banshee, but unfortunately everything else was fucked and I always regretted the fact that we didn't see what happened with Knox, so me and Budgie definitely wanted to work with him again, and we did with The Creatures.

HOW DOES THE BUZZ OF BEING IN THE BANSHEES DIFFER FROM BEING IN THE CREATURES?

I suppose it's... it's very different, and at times it can get a bit complicated with all this passing of time, and you do have four individuals, but it's really for the music. It's nice to remind yourself of the simplicity and the purity of where you came from, I don't know, it's been very inspiring for me.

WAS THERE A SENSE OF UNFINISHED BUSINESS?

Lots of unfinished business with the Banshees, and I'm sure it's not all positive as well! But yes, I think it's a shame that the band kind of petered out rather than went out with a bang, and we certainly arrived with a bang, and I think we deserved to go out by spontaneous combustion of some sort, so maybe I'm doing something that's quite dangerous at the moment, but I'm very open to what may happen in the future, and I'm keeping it open...

HOW DID YOU GO ABOUT ACTUALLY CHOOSING WHAT WENT ON THE GREATEST HITS, BECAUSE YOU'VE HAS TWO SINGLES COMPILATIONS BEFORE... AND IT'S NOT CHRONOLOGICAL IS IT, IT'S ALL JUST SORT OF MIXED UP?

Yeah, and before that the two compilations had been chronological, but I think the idea was to make it a different adventure, bearing in mind that people had maybe never heard of us, or never heard our music before.

WHAT'S YOUR FAVOURITE OF THE GREATEST HITS?

My favourite of the greatest hits? It's probably 'Dizzy'! It's the newest, and it's hard when something new comes along, and you're blinkered to some extent and with the newest and the latest you tend not to be as objective as you could be... that's the wrong question to ask me because I want the b-sides from those singles, I mean that is going to be my greatest hits, this greatest hits is not my greatest hits... it's something that we're admitting is a tool to get what I think is more important out there!

IF YOU WERE THE EIGHTEEN-YEAR OLD SIOUXSIE SIOUX NOW DO YOU THINK A) THAT YOU'D WANT TO BE STARTING THE BANSHEES, AND B) BE ABLE TO?

Actually would I want to be in a band? It's become a very normal job to have hasn't it, and a very sort of careerist job to have...

WOULD THE INDUSTRY BE ABLE TO LET THE BANSHEES HAPPEN NOW?

I doubt it. I doubt if the industry would let the Banshees happen now... I don't know, but I don't think so... I'd probably open a whorehouse for women! I think that's something that needs to be addressed, I think that female sexuality needs to be addressed and I think a special whorehouse for women, the kind of place where if the man comes first then you get that one free on the house!

AND THAT'S MORE IMPORTANT TO YOU THAN MUSIC?

No! You could deck it out with the music, but I think... you asked me would the eighteen-year old NOW be forming the band, and I don't know because I certainly despise and hate the industry even more than I did then.

DO YOU THINK IT'S REGRESSED?

I do think it's regressed, and I think it's closed down even more - it's almost quite scary how wrapped up it is and how much more money-orientated it is, and how nothing is nurtured and how it's all about veneer and all about the stylist, and hiring this and that to make it happen, and the disgusting amount of money that's spent on a small percentage of acts that are going to be guaranteed to get into the top ten... you're talking about two million dollars a video and I find that offensive, really offensive.

SO WHERE ARE THE OUTLETS NOW FOR ANYONE WHO WANTS TO DO ANYTHING CREATIVELY SUBVERSIVE?

I'm pretty optimistic because I think that when things get really crap and bad, there is bound to be a backlash, and I think I'm quite optimistic. I turned on the telly last week and I saw three bands that I actually liked, which is unheard of for me, because I never like anything!

DO YOU STILL GET INSPIRED BY MUSIC THEN?

Oh yeah! Of course I do, it's so important to me, but I can get inspired by discovering Miles Davies... there's such a wealth of music out there and the kind of games that go on with a new band I find really off-putting, I don't think I'm alone in this but when the latest blockbuster film comes along and you see the amount of hype and bullshit around it I find that I never rush out and see that film, I'll wait til I see it on video. Sometimes I'm pleasantly surprised, but most of the time it is just rubbish! I think it's one thing for something to shine out when it's been bolstered and helped - polished like a diamond, and if you take away all the crutches and it stand on its own then I think that's the only way of telling...

HOW COMFORTABLE ARE YOU WITH YOUR KIND OF ICONIC STATUS?

(laughs) How comfortable? I can't help laughing, I think it's hilarious. I mean... I don't know, I just think it's funny, it's ironic!

BUT YOUR IMAGE HAS ENDURED, IT'S A VERY STRONG IMAGE AND A SORT OF BENCHMARK...

I don't know... I'm certainly the antithesis of the popular culture I think, that's probably why - the black-haired one, I think it's probably the negative of what's going on, of what's being held up and lauded by the sort of pastel people!

WHAT'S THE STATE OF PLAY WITH THE CREATURES AT THE MOMENT?

When Severin came through with this offer, and we decided that because Severin hadn't been on a stage for that long that we needed to play a few shows before that one and so it became the Seven Year Itch. Me and Budgie are actually in the process of finishing a new Creatures album, and it's been quite a while sorting out because we're doing everything ourselves - there's no engineer involved, it's been a huge learning curve for Budgie and myself - it's weird, one of the hardest things is in the actual recording process of knowing when you've done a good take, and not having someone in a control room to kind of keep you updated with what you've done and what you're doing, it takes a while to get used to and to take that responsibility over something creative you're doing... so, we've been interrupted, we've stopped mid flow from finishing the Creatures album, but we'll be going back to that after this tour...

WILL THERE BE AN EIGHT-YEAR ITCH, AND A NINE-YEAR ITCH...

I like seven! I do like seven-year itch, but I don't know... 2003? I've got lots of ideas - not just for the Banshees - but I think it might be be very exciting to do something that's all encompassing. I think between the four of us, we've all been involved in so many different things as well, different projects, and I don't know but maybe all under one umbrella we could do something very diverse and encompass all of them. I don't know... not sure...

HOW MANY OF THOSE BRIDGES THAT GOT BURNT HAVE BEEN REPAIRED?

A few have been repaired, but not all of them. There's still a few burning embers, we still need to rake a few things over the coals, but a lot has been mended, but again time tells a lot and the initial seven-year itch has been very exciting and very inspiring and we've just got to make sure that we accentuate the positive and don't mess with mister fucking in-between!

HAVE YOU ALWAYS HAD A DIFFERENT REACTION IN ENGLAND FROM AMERICA?

No, not with the fans... I think I said before that the perception of the Banshees in the media is totally different to the people that come and see us. We have quite a large fan base that isn't reliant on the press telling them whether to like us or not, because they certainly haven't had that in the past ten years!

THERE MUST BE PEOPLE WHO SEE THE CREATURES WHO HAVE NO IDEA ABOUT THE BANSHEES?

When we were playing last time with the Creatures there were kids who hadn't seen the Banshees, so they saw the Creatures first and then they saw us as the Banshees...

DO YOU LIKE THE IDEA OF A SEVENTEEN-YEAR OLD KID GOING TO THEIR FIRST GIG AND IT'S THE BANSHEES?

I think it's pretty apt, I think they should start with the best!

MAY 2002

INTERVIEW BY PAUL MATHUR

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