Venus Zine (Winter 2003)
SIOUXSIE SIOUX AND THE CREW SAY YES TO EVERYTHING ABOUT JAPANESE CULTURE ON FOURTH ALBUM
While fronting Siouxsie & the Banshees for 25 years, punk priestess Siouxsie Sioux was recording tribal beats with her husband, Budgie, the Banshees' drummer. They called themselves the Creatures.
After a final Banshees tour last summer, the Creatures retreated to Tokyo to record a follow-up to 1999's splintering collage Anima Animus. Hai!, the duo's fourth album, gave Siouxsie Sioux and Budgie the chance to work with someone they admired from afar for two decades, former Kodo drummer Leonard Eto. Siouxsie Sioux chatted on the phone from London about the end of the Banshees, the new album, and her observations on Japanese culture. MACKENZIE WILSON
Hai! was completed following the final Siouxsie & the Banshees tour?
It was literally the day after the last Banshees show on the "Seven Year Itch" tour that we were in the studio with Leonard. To work with him is a dream. Budgie and I are huge fans of the Kodo drummers ‹ we saw their performance in London in 1980 or 1981 and we said, "Wouldn't it be great to do something with them?"
How did working with Eto change the Creatures' style?
There were no preconceptions of what we'd come away with. Nothing was planned, nothing was written, and we didn't have any guarantees. It could have been enough to say hello to Leonard ... but we came away with something that was very hungry and very special. I had to bite my lip until we got back to France to digest what we did and add my part to it as well. When it was finished, we sent him a copy of the album, we were a little nervous, but he said it's the best he's heard as far as his Western collaborations go. He said he's never heard his drums so featured.
Is the Siouxsie & the Banshees part of you finally at rest? Do you feel like the Creatures have a new lease on life?
I think we gave the Banshees a good sending-off as opposed to the way it was left in 1996. Budgie and I were comparing it to the way it ended before as a firework that doesn't work, so it was nice to give it a big bang this time around.
Was it different adapting to the dynamics of the Creatures?
It's taken a while because we had to really adapt, rethink, and start again when the Banshees stopped in '96. The industry had changed a lot and we had gotten ourselves in a situation where we did an album that we couldn't get released. After much banging on doors and walls and getting no response, we founded Sioux Records. It was the only way we could survive and after we got over the shock of it, it was really a challenge, It's so satisfying to be at this moment and to do everything ourselves and it's very rewarding to achieve something that's so independent and not really a part of the music industry, which now is like a bad taste in your mouth.
The Creatures have been together for 20-plus years; however, Hai! is only your fourth studio album. Was it a task finding time to give the Creatures attention?
The fact that the Creatures exist is an accident anyways. [Banshees members] Steve Severin and John McGeoch went for a tea break and Budgie and I were playing around. We were working on a part from the Juju album and ended up with an excess of material. We thought, "This sounds really good without guitars!"
Hai! means "yes" in Japanese. What are you saying yes to?
Saying yes to everything actually! It's just a very positive, open thing. We could only make this album now after the things that we've been through. The Japanese aura surrounding the album gives new flesh and vibrance to the Creatures' overall hypnotic sound.
How did you arrive at this sound?
I think there's been an attraction to Japan for a long time ‹ everything from the cinema to the modern Japan and the old Japan. It's a very schizophrenic country in a way. It coexists with poetry and almost religious contemplation and silence and politeness and ritual, alongside modern Japan, which is the child with the gadgets and the animation. It's like a really exploitive child or a wise priest. We were staying in the business district in Tokyo while making Hai! and it's a very fast place with lots of suits. Outside the temple, people stop off and make a prayer. They do that every day and there doesn't seem to be a conflict between the two worlds, I find it fascinating, We choose places we're not used to in order to learn from it.
Like it or not, you're an icon. Has working as the Creatures helped you and Budgie escape some of the audience's expectations?
I suppose to an extent it has, but you can't be dictated by the misinterpretations or people's laziness or the convenience of dumping you under a title that you might not have anything to do with. A lot of people seem to need that for convenience and to have it under some kind of heading and file it away. With the Creatures and the Banshees, I find that our material is very eclectic and there are contrasts in both bands. You have the lighter side and then you have the darker and heavier side, but life would be boring without moods and swings and drama. It's good drama.
Contributed by Bonnie Bryant.