3/24/1984 Record Mirror
The Banshees' Guide To Secretly Having Fun
There is a new breed of supergroup among us, late seventies bands who have run
the gauntlet of chart success but retained enough control to avoid the excesses of
this bloodsucking business.
While the Strummers of the world have their hair cut in a feeble attempt to
recapture the youth we never saw and Sting and his chums play the game with
frightening skill, there are a few who still exist to pursue their own vision, to
make their own music and who are fortunate enough to hit a nerve with record
Siouxsie And The Banshees are such a group. They've come a long way since those
heady days at the Vortex, they make double live albums, play at the Albert Hall -
and get slated for it.
"We'd always wanted to capture a live performance and when the opportunity came
to video it as well, that made it more enticing," says Siouxsie in answer to
critics of the band's 'Nocturne' project. "It's really something we released as a
snub to the bootlegs. There's bootlegs of every live performance we've done in
England and no-one gets slagged for releasing those with their shoddy quality."
Siouxsie puts her case clearly and quietly, happy to explain the ins and outs of
the Banshees' current status. Steve Severin is more cautious. He reminds me that
the Banshees grant only a quarter of interviews asked for (I'm the third RM writer
to request this interview, lovable Jim Reid and Graham K getting the thumbs down),
as he fiddles with his diamante bracelet and points out that Siouxsie And The
Banshees have committed no crime.
"It simply doesn't need defending," he says, staring at the floor. "Everybody
puts out live records whether they're big groups or small groups. Just because
'Nocturne' was a double live album, there's no stigma at all attached to that. It
may seem to people who can't see further than their own eyelashes that it was
anything more than something to do, but it's just nonsense. We did it because we
wanted to do it - the way we've always done things."
Surely there's some stigma attached to playing the Albert Hall, I suggest? Steve
stares on. "Simple Minds are playing a week at the Hammersmith Odeon. I think
that's terribly boring and what could be worse than Duran playing Wembley? At
least we're trying to find somewhere new to play," he points out.
Siouxsie explains the problems the Banshees face when trying to play the capital.
When you've played the Palais and the Odeon what next? Wouldn't they like to play
"Ooh no! All those sweaty people," cringes Steve. "We've never really liked
playing small places, we're not exactly an r'n'b band."
Siouxsie And The Banshees' new single 'Swimming Horses' looks set to follow
'Dear Prudence' into the upper reaches of the chart, but Siouxsie and Steve deny
that the latter was a calculated move.
"People seem to think that all we had to do was cover 'Dear Prudence' and we'd
have a hit," says Steve. "Nothing's ever that simple - it's because of the way we
did it, the way we recorded it, that it was succesful."
But why record an old Beatles tune anyway, I ask?
Steve looks up for the first time. "To be quite honest," he says, "there weren't
any new Banshees songs written and we wanted a new single out and we wanted Robert
to be playing on a new single. It seemed a good way of getting back into the
'Dear Prudence' was the second song Siouxsie And The Banshees took from the
Beatles' 'White' album (the other being 'Helter Skelter', of course). I ask
Siouxsie about this special liking for the Fab Four's first anti-fab album.
"There is a special liking for that album," she admits. "My older brother had
the 'White' album and played it constantly. The Beatles got slated for it when it
was released, it was unbelievable but there's just something about that record.
'Dear Prudence' was almost done as a demo. There's this strange friction on it -
the difference between the cuteness of Paul McCartney and the aggression of John
Lennon which gave it a well balanced appeal."
The success of 'Dear Prudence' meant that Siouxsie And The Banshees came under
increasing pressure to step aboard the media merry-go-round, as Robert Smith told
me at Xmas when the Banshees had just turned down an invitation to appear on the
Russell Harty show.
"We don't do a lot of TV on purpose," says Siouxsie. "You pretty much have to
belong to showbiz either to not mind making a fool of yourself, or to be any good
at it. Also there are limits, the idea of talking about yourself on a chat show...
I mean I haven't done enough yet. They can bring out the baby photos when I'm old
'Swimming Horses' is another fine example of the new found confidence in
Siouxsie's singing now her throat problem has cleared up. She puts it down to not
realising the strain of having to sing so high in the Banshees' infancy, but
admits that it came in handy as an excuse for not doing live work.
"The problem was I didn't know what key I could sing in comfortably," she
explains. "We didn't know what key they were in anyway, unyil some muso like
Robert Smith told us. The only key we knew was E thrash."
Mention of Robert Smith leads me to suggest that it must be difficult planning
the Banshees' calendar when the Cure have to be taken into account. For example,
Siouxsie And The Banshees' new album is in it's final stages but so is the Cure's.
How do they manage with only one half of Robert's attentions? It seems I hit a
"Put it this way," smiles Siouxsie, "fat boy Smith is nothing to do with the new
album, except that he actually plays on it." "Yeah," nods Steve. "He's off making
another space opera with the Cure."
Don't worry though folks, all this bickering is light hearted. The cock-up is
apparently down to the band's commitments and nothing to do with any rivalry.
"Actually it helps us in a way," says Steve. "If we were a full time four piece
then again we'd have people trying to make us tour for 10 months a year so it's a
way of getting out of that."
Sitting with Siouxsie, quite an intimidating presence until she opens her mouth
and you realise she's a decent young woman and not the moody distant figure she
often seems on stage, it seems strange we haven't yet seen her captured on film.
After all, these days any pop star who can string four words together and look
good at the same time (Bowie does his best), seems to have been slotted into a
"I've had quite a few offers but I'm waiting for something good to come along,"
she says. "It's not something I desperately want to do but I would be interested.
Up till now it's all been shit like 'Breaking Glass'."
She twists one of her munster style bat wing earrings and reveals another source
of harrasment. "I keep getting these clothes designers who say, 'let me do
Siouxsie's wardrobe'," she snarls. "I just tell them to go to hell." "Let Kate
Garner wear it!" says Steve cruelly.
"There's this terrible plot out to make the likes of me dress like a hippy," she
says. "I despair when I pass Oxford Street and I see bondage and leather and studs
everywhere. It's become quite acceptable to go to work like that, it's
Siouxsie and Steve have long been critics of the current music scene, hating the
current video craze and the lack of sensitivity in the music.
"It seems to be getting worse," says Steve. "I can't believe the charts." "Oh
that sounds awful," pleads Siouxsie. "Like we're getting really old and just
complaining it's getting worse." Steve continues thoughtfully.
"I suppose it's when certain things become successful, a lot of people try the
same methods to become successful. You get people like Duran Duran doing it in
such a sterile way and then other people try and copy it and it runs down through
all these new groups."
"It comes back to what we were saying about the Beatles' 'White' album," says
Siouxsie. "That was exactly the opposite, a bit dangerous and risky and that's why
it means so much to us."
The immediate future for the group sees the completion of the new album
(accompanied by a waxwork of Siouxsie in a well known megastore) and a smattering
of live dates in Europe, possibly including some UK gigs in early summer. There's
also a Banshees special on Channel Four, including some live footage.
What ambitions do the group still have?
"I'd love to play in South America," says Siouxsie. "Somewhere like Mexico. We
tried to play it last year but it's hard to organise things down there." Unlike
Siouxsie's least favourite country, the well organised Germany.
"No, I don't like it there," she says. "I always say you are what you eat and
they eat pig's trotters and knuckles of pork." Steve thinks for a moment. "We
haven't done a film soundtrack," he says. "We're still waiting for the right one to
come along. We haven't written a film ourselves and we haven't had a number one -
that's just off the top of my head."
'Swimming Horses' will be hard pushed to upstage 'Dear Prudence' in the charts
but that isn't important to Siouxsie And The Banshees. They are not manufactured
teen idols, they are serious about their music but they don't take themselves as
seriously as it may appear. At their best, The Banshees' music is breathtaking.
What it never is, is mediocre - you are forced to like it or dislike it.
Siouxsie and Steve chat happily away about trips to Japan and ancient
appearances on The Old Grey Whistle Test. I suggest that it might be an idea to
show their fans and critics that they can smile sometimes.
"No," says Siouxsie mockingly. "I like all that... keep it up. Who wants to
share in the secret that we're really having fun?"