Sorted magAZine managed to grab a few rushed moments with two legendary figures in rock who are still very much alive.
"The great yardstick is the London taxi-driver who says, I thought you were dead!"
Budgie laughingly describes the pit-falls of being out of the public eye for a while. He's back now, in the Creatures - a band that needs no introduction. OK, maybe they do, but that's only if you don't realise that the Creatures are Siouxsie Sioux and Budgie, one half of the late Banshees. Both were at the centre of the punk rock explosion in '76, Siouxsie was originally the Suzie of the Banshees, while Budgie was in the Slits before joining up with her, both in the band and in matrimony.
Back in the early 80s, they both took a break from the Banshees and recorded an experimental album based around drums and vocals. They called the project the Creatures and continued to release material every now and again, using the Creatures as a side-project to the Banshees. These days, the Banshees are no more, Steven Severin is doing his own thing with RE: and the Creatures is Siouxsie and Budgie's full-time band.
They now have the problem of trying to and show people that they haven't joined the great choir in the sky and they have to publicise their new album, "Amima Animus". They have a pretty big job ahead of them, because, as far as many people are concerned, they've been away much longer than they actually have been. A lot of people were surprised when the Banshees split up in '96, but that's only because they thought they'd broken up years before.
"There was an album our in '95, but they didn't see it on Top of the Pops. People think that if they don't see it in the press or in the news, then it doesn't exist."
Unlike Mr. Severin, who has withdrawn from the whole rock n' roll circus, the Creatures have simply gone back to basics and started afresh. Getting out of the biz was not part of their plan.
"We never intended to go anywhere," Budgie explained. "All we wanted was to do it on terms that made more sense to us. We were getting enthusiasm from parts of the industry, but they were getting knocked back by the guys who make the decisions. It became apparent that we were going to have to rethink the way we do it. It wasn't really to escape, we'd already done that by hoppin' out of London - hightailing it out."
When people with as much experience as they do decide to do things their own way, there's no doing things by half. They've now got their own label, Sioux records, and are doing a lot of things the 'wrong' way around. Siouxsie said that it has opened up a lot of possibilities of breaking out of the predictable pattern of the music biz. However, they have met with some resistance.
"We toured last year against promoters. We were told, you can't tour without releasing. 'Oh, is there a single or is there an album?' And we said, no. They said, 'Well, come back when there is.' And we said, sod you, we'll do it ourselves. So that's what we started last year, last summer. We toured the States last year with John Cale."
Even the set-up of the band is a change; gone is the traditional bass, guitar, drums and vocals set-up of the Banshees. In its place is a band that centres round Siouxsie's singing and Budgie's drumming, which was the purpose of forming the Creatures in the first place.
"We started off with something as basic as drums and voice and that's when we decided to call it something different," Siouxsie said. "It was very unique and the possibilities were very open. You could leave it like that, as naked and raw as that, or you could add anything you like to it. It didn't have to fit in with the bass, guitar realm; a rock realm. You could add brass to it, as we have done, you can add anything to it. And there's a lot of Eastern percussion that we can add to it, something that I personally really like."
>From the initial break from the norm came certain elements that weren't quite expected. As most music is based on set melodies and keys as defined by instruments, they didn't have the same restraints when it came to music based around percussion and voice. Budgie explained that it was like the early days of punk.
"When we started, we didn't have tuners, so nobody knew what key we were supposed to be in. We were in tune relatively, but out of tune with anything set. And that's what's nice when you just start off with drums and voice, the vocal can find its own comfortable emotional pitch and I would use the drums with the tune more and more, in sympathy with that. I'd also use things like marimba and tubular bells."
"They're approximate to me," Siouxsie added.
The punk rock connection continues, but in a very 90s way, with the way the tracks are mixed and produced. Rather than complete a product and then send it off to be mixed, Budgie described the two-way-flow of ideas and inspiration.
"That's what's interesting about the way people are using sampling and cut-ups and things, there's an almost irreverence for things like, wow, is this in the wrong key, it shouldn't go. What does it matter? With the people who've had the experience of working with a lot of remix artists and DJs and stuff, they're getting tracks from our album and remixing and givin' it back to us. It gets us really excited about the next thing you wanna do. Rather than just do the usual thing of finishing the track, now let's see a really interesting remix and starting with them, it's brand new stuff."
All of this together has obviously given them a new interest and enthusiasm for what they're doing. They have reached a point far enough away from what Siouxsie describes as the cynicism of major labels, where they were very aware of the business side of things. She said that it was very bad for the music and the business to go hand in hand. Now, it doesn't affect what they're doing, because they can just shut their ears to the negative influence and ignore it.
"It's just distracting, it shouldn't come into the music at all."
When Budgie describes it, he uses phrases that probably haven't been heard since punk was sold out from under them.
"It's nice bringin' it back to a one-to-one thing, it's almost DIY, and it's ignoring those kind of orthodox pitfalls. You know, the establishment. It's music, it's a form of expression, it shouldn't be pulled down to rules and what you should or shouldn't do, it should be what you can be."
You can almost feel the last two decades of heavily commercialised music fall away when you find that there's some people out there who still hold by the reasons they started playing music over twenty years ago. Siouxsie believes that it's a fallacy to think that, just because you've been doing it for so long, that you can get over it.
"There's no way I'm over it, it is a part of me and you're always finding out new things about yourself or about other people, whether it's old classics, or discovering something new. Quite often you rediscover things later that you liked in your youth and you'd forgotten about. It's great to see stuff that's still relevant. Now, I hate this whole tide of the retro thing and just looking back on something for the sake of it being safe and tucked away in that nostalgic trip. I really don't like that kind of sentimentality, I like looking back at something and knowing it's still got its power and its strength, that it hasn't been diluted over time. That's a sign of anything that is really worthwhile."
It's very hard to think about Siouxsie Sioux without the g-word springing to mind - Gothic. Not only were the Banshees, along with the Cure and the Damned, among the punk bands that came up with the look and sounds that developed into what's called Goth, but Siouxsie is also regarded as the person who came up with the name. These days, there is the view abroad of Siouxsie as the grand dame of Gothic music, casting a critical eye over the new upstart in the so-called "Gothic Revival". Budgie thinks the whole idea of a Goth revival is really weird, while Siouxsie just tries to ignore it.
"It's lazy journalism really, I don't know what they mean by Goth. Are they talking about the make-up or the hair colour or the music? It's really hard to know what the fuck they're talking about."
This is the kind of journalism they experienced in the States. When they played with John Cale in the States, they were asked who he was. However, it got worse, as Budgie related.
"We had the idea of setting some of Samuel Beckett's words to music and collaborating with Cale on an interpretation of a Jacques Brel song. So, the Americans got hold of it and someone said, Beckett and Brel are the two new bass players they've got in! Our two bass players were both saying, I wanna be Beckett. So we wanted to get T-shirts with the names Beckett and Brel written on them!"
You've got to laugh, 'cos otherwise you'd be crying. Siouxsie and Budgie are laughing, a sure sign they are happy doing their own thing. But then again, you do have to worry about Siouxsie sanity when she talks about their label.
"The majors have pretty much swallowed up a lot of the small labels, but Sioux Records is tiny, tiny, tiny, just starting, a virgin label. We're just out there, stratosphere, satellite, biddy-bip, bibby-bib."
by Donnacha DeLong
Quick note: Major thanks to Uaneen Fitzsimmons and the No Disco crew for their help in getting this interview together. Without that, this would have been the shortest interview in history.