The Observer (February 14, 1999)

Arts: Music: Pop interview: If you knew Siouxsie; With Blondie at No 1, the time is ripe for a revival of Britain's own punk goddess


Were Siouxsie and the Banshees ever really goths? Back in the early Eighties, me and my 'provincial punk' mates didn't think so. We liked the Banshees, and thought they were punks. Their songs may have been dark and arty, but Siouxsie Sioux (Susan Dallion to her mum) was the original punk It Girl, the one who prompted the Sex Pistols' notorious outburst during their TV interview with Bill Grundy. Sioux went along for a giggle, Grundy made a pass at her, the Pistols tore a strip off him ('You dirty fucker!') and the rest is history. Punk history.

The goth tag came later, possibly around the time of the Banshees' lachrymose JuJu album. When I speak to Sioux, and her partner, ex-Banshees' drummer, and Creatures bandmate, Budgie (real name Peter Clark) in the bar of a west London hotel, they seem unable to pinpoint the exact moment they got lumbered. 'I blame Robert Smith,' says Budgie, deadpan, referring to the Cure frontman, and one-time Banshees associate. 'He took Siouxsie's look and ran off with it. He took backcombing to its ultimate, and we got all the blame for goth.'

'As you get older, you just can't be bothered worrying about labels,' Sioux drawls in her great rasping, rather masculine voice (when I'd rung up earlier, I'd initially mistaken her for Budgie). It's the middle of the afternoon. Sioux, 42, sprawls in her chair, still stunning, still heavily made-up, still wearing the kind of clothes you usually only see in faded photographs of old Hollywood fancy-dress parties. After living in rural France for several years, her accent is a strange mix of barrow-girl and husky Eurotrash.

It's been a stressful few years for Sioux and Budgie, aka rhythm and voice duo The Creatures. After releasing the album Rapture, the Banshees finally split for good in 1995, simultaneously losing their deals with both Polydor and American Geffen, with whom Sioux had been signed since she was 18. 'Losing that deal must have been a bit like being orphaned for you,' says Budgie. 'Yeah,' Sioux nods, 'I was quaking in my boots.' In the end, the couple decided they had to go it alone. 'It was a bit like Reggie Perrin,' laughs Sioux. 'I left my eyelashes and clothes on the beach, and just said goodbye to everything.' Considering the Banshees' tempestuous history ('Fights! Fights! And more fights!'), they managed to split without too much acrimony. 'But things took a long time to sort out,' says Budgie. 'Which was irritating, because we wanted to get on with The Creatures.' The Creatures began as Sioux and Budgie's personal offshoot project, around 1982, a time when the Banshees enjoyed regular chart success. Ovr the ensuing years, The Creatures produced the albums Feast and Boomerang, plus a stream of EPs and singles. Fans might recall the fuss surrounding the video for 'Mad Eyed Screamer', which featured Sioux and Budgie cavorting, butt-naked, in a shower. Apart from that, The Creatures are probably best known for their biggest pop hit, 'Right Now'.

If you listen hard enough, you can hear the Banshees' influence everywhere in the current pop scene, from the obvious steal of Garbage to the more subtle meanderings of Portishead and Radiohead, through to the Sneaker Pimps and Catatonia. Sadly for Sioux and Budgie, the combined legend of the Banshees and the Creatures was not enough to secure them a new deal. 'It was a rude awakening,' Sioux admits.

Now, self-financed, The Creatures release a new album, Anima Animus (inspired by the Carl Jung's concept of transgender), on Sioux Records tomorrow. In the circumstances, it's unlikely that Siouxsie Sioux will follow Debbie Harry, her fellow punk poster-girl, to the top of the charts. Which is a shame because Anima Animus is accomplished stuff, full of grinding beats and echoing sex vocals.

All things considered, was it a good idea starting over? Sioux arches a laconic eyebrow and sighs: 'Obviously, nobody joins a band to do the accounts. But it's important for me to feel that things are ongoing.' So, I ask, what else is important to Siouxsie Sioux these days? And the woman with one of the most copied haircuts in pop reflects for a moment, then chuckles softly: 'At this stage of the game, kinder lighting.' The Creatures play Dublin Music Centre, Tues; Belfast Empire, Wed; Glasgow King Tut's Wah Wah Hut, Thurs; Manchester University, Sat; Leeds Cockpit, 21 Feb; Cambridge Junction, 22 Feb; Birmingham Irish centre, 24 Feb; Salisbury Arts Centre, 26 Feb; London Shepherds Bush Empire, 27 Feb; Oxfoed Zodiac, 28 Feb

Contributed by Jerry Burch.

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