Arts: Desperately seeking Siouxsie

She may have disbanded her Banshees, split with her record company and got married, but the queen of punk is back on the warpath.

The Banshees have gone, together with the panda eyes and electrified hair - reminders of Siouxsie Sioux in all her petrified punk-goth glory. These days it's just her and Budgie, the Banshees drummer she married seven years ago. They live in a large house near Toulouse in the south of France, with a garden and three cats - her "babies".

They are in London to promote their latest incarnation as the Creatures - the band that started life as an experimental side project way back in 1981, when the Banshees were at their primitive best. At 41, Siouxsie looks surprisingly young and remarkably beautiful, yet slightly mumsy - a different creature to the spiky waif who rode the first shock wave of punk in bondage gear and swastika armband.

Still something of the old Siouxsie remains. Sat across the table with Budgie by her side, she's chatty enough, friendly even, only there is a certain steeliness about her. Even without the warpaint, she is prepared for combat. She doesn't really like interviews. The trouble with most journalists, she says pointedly, is they only see the surface. She read somewhere recently that she had swapped her wild-child persona for a life of domestic drudgery and that she was planning a family. She snorts: "I don't know where they get that bollocks from."

It is two years since Siouxsie announced that she was folding the Banshees "with dignity" - a barbed reference to the Sex Pistols, who were cashing in on the 20th anniversary of punk with their Filthy Lucre reunion tour.

"I didn't like the idea of it all turning into a nostalgia trip," she says. "With the Banshees it was very hard to get away from that. Maybe it was partly our fault, but a lot of it was other people's perceptions of what we were. And the whole anniversary of punk thing really compounded what I thought was wrong. I was so disillusioned. I remember thinking: `I don't want anything to do with this.' "

Few bands have been so shackled by their history as the Banshees. And few performers have been so personally haunted by the past as Siouxsie. With the obvious exception of Madonna, it is difficult to name another female pop icon of the past 20 years who has spawned so many adoring imitators. You still see them now - all those black-haired, black-eyed Siouxsies, ghostly reminders of a past she'd rather leave behind.

Do they bother her? She hesitates before answering. "It's flattering. But they'll grow out of it and find their own way of expressing themselves. That look came from having no money and enjoying dressing up. It was just a fun thing. It was never `my image'. Also, it was a reaction to when I was growing up, and women were supposed to be all blonde hair, gold suntan and pink lips. It was a real black-and-white opposite of what was considered attractive. I was kicking against something I found really oppressive."

In many ways she still is. She is angry at the way women in the music industry still tend to be judged on their looks rather than their talent and are expected to retire gracefully when they reach a certain age. "It's totally sexist. Nobody comments when Sting hits 40."

She's irritated at the way music is marketed. "Generally with new bands now there's a big campaign straight away. They become this product overnight. And then they only last for one album, or one single, and people wonder why. It's because they've been wrapped in clingfilm so quickly, there's no evolution, no development, no growth."

Among those artists she does admire are Radiohead, Portishead, "and PJ Harvey of course". She used to like Courtney Love, but not anymore. "I loved the first Hole album, but I really can't understand what she's done to herself now. All that cosmetic surgery and restyling, just to end up looking like Goldie Hawn. I don't get it."

There is no big marketing campaign surrounding the relaunch of the Creatures, and certainly no Versace photo shoots. Dropped by Polydor shortly after the Banshees split, they have their own label, Sioux Records. They manage themselves these days, and work a lot from home. No, they don't have anything so elaborate as a home studio - just Budgie's drum kit set up in the dining room and a dictaphone for keeping track of their ideas.

"It's very low-fi," Siouxsie explains. "It's just bits lying around. So it isn't a case of saying `I've got an idea, let's set things up' and then losing the moment. The whole way we work now is a lot more spontaneous than before. I wouldn't call it primal, exactly. It's just a lot less covered by embellishments."

It seems to suit them very well. The recent "Erasercut" EP found them retreading familiar ground with a renewed vigour. They have a single, "2nd Floor", out next month and are putting the finishing touches to an album, parts of which are on a par with anything they have ever done.

And they've been touring. Back in May they performed two sell-out gigs at the Garage, in Islington, north London. More recently, they toured America with John Cale, formerly of the Velvet Underground. In New York they performed the Velvets classic, "Venus in Furs", as an encore. "That song was made for Siouxsie to sing," Budgie says proudly. "Yeah," she agrees. "And not somebody singing it in a rollneck sweater." Budgie laughs and pretends to be shocked by her bitchiness - "Miaow!" She purrs and miaows back, scratching the air with her fingers.

It's an act they almost didn't pull off. There was a time, immediately after the break with Polydor, when they seriously considered calling it a day. "It was as if we didn't fit a particular category, so we weren't allowed to continue," Siouxsie recalls. "There was a point where I thought: `Oh well, I'll just pack up and open a flower shop or something.' "

Even recently, they had difficulty securing live bookings. "We were just dying to get out and play. We asked around, but there was a real resistance. The music promoters over here are governed by the corporate way of thinking, of tying in tour, album, tour, album.

"The response was: `When's your record due?' All of a sudden you are being told that you can't play because you are not promoting a record. I was so pissed off with that attitude. So, fingers firmly stuck up at them, we went ahead and did those shows at the Garage."

As well as proving that they could still cut it live, the shows marked a return to the intimacy of those early Banshees performances. It's the closest they get to a nostalgia trip. "It's been a long time," Siouxsie says wistfully. "I've missed that contact. With the Banshees, it developed into a situation where you went out on the road when you'd completed a record, and did some big production in a hall or a theatre. There was that distance. And I missed that feeling of starting again, of playing stuff that people don't know." Budgie nods in agreement.

This feeling of rejuvenation dominates their conversation, not least when they describe their plans to release a remix version of the new album. It sounds surprising at first, until you remember that the Banshees were one of the first non-dance bands to embrace the concept of the remix. And with the Creatures' sound relying so heavily on drums and percussion, it was only a matter of time before the world of dance music finally caught up with them.

There's another logic to it, too, something which makes this latest enterprise a natural extension of everything they've done. It's the spirit in which a lot of contemporary dance music is produced - people tucked away in their bedrooms, making records on their computers. It's the fact that, with a little bit of technology, "anyone can do it". To put it another way, the world the Creatures inhabit now is a lot like the one they first sprang from, a lot like punk.

The moment the words are out of my mouth, Siouxsie Sioux's eyes light up. "Yeah!" she says emphatically. "Brilliant! It's DIY. It's back to DIY. That's the key for me. DIY. Do it yourself, with as little interference as possible."

The Creatures play the University of London Union on Friday and Saturday; their single, `2nd Floor', is released on 5 October; Banshees And Other Creatures is the subject of `Rock Family Trees' on BBC2 on Saturday 25 September

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksAn evocation of the conflict through the eyes of those who lived through it
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Dress the Gaza situation up all you like, but the truth hurts

    Robert Fisk on Gaza conflict

    Dress the situation up all you like, but the truth hurts
    Save the tiger: Tiger, tiger burning less brightly as numbers plummet

    Tiger, tiger burning less brightly

    When William Blake wrote his famous poem there were probably more than 100,000 tigers in the wild. These days they probably number around 3,200
    5 News's Andy Bell retraces his grandfather's steps on the First World War battlefields

    In grandfather's footsteps

    5 News's political editor Andy Bell only knows his grandfather from the compelling diary he kept during WWI. But when he returned to the killing fields where Edwin Vaughan suffered so much, his ancestor came to life
    Lifestyle guru Martha Stewart reveals she has flying robot ... to take photos of her farm

    Martha Stewart has flying robot

    The lifestyle guru used the drone to get a bird's eye view her 153-acre farm in Bedford, New York
    Former Labour minister Meg Hillier has demanded 'pootling lanes' for women cyclists

    Do women cyclists need 'pootling lanes'?

    Simon Usborne (who's more of a hurtler) explains why winning the space race is key to happy riding
    A tale of two presidents: George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story

    A tale of two presidents

    George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story
    Restaurateur Mitch Tonks has given the Great Western Pullman dining car a makeover

    The dining car makes a comeback

    Restaurateur Mitch Tonks has given the Great Western Pullman dining car a makeover
    Gallery rage: How are institutions tackling the discomfort of overcrowding this summer?

    Gallery rage

    How are institutions tackling the discomfort of overcrowding this summer?
    Louis van Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players

    Eye on the prize

    Louis van Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players
    Women's rugby: Tamara Taylor adds fuel to the ire in quest to land World Cup

    Women's rugby

    Tamara Taylor adds fuel to the ire in quest to land World Cup
    Save the tiger: The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

    The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

    With only six per cent of the US population of these amazing big cats held in zoos, the Zanesville incident in 2011 was inevitable
    Samuel Beckett's biographer reveals secrets of the writer's time as a French Resistance spy

    How Samuel Beckett became a French Resistance spy

    As this year's Samuel Beckett festival opens in Enniskillen, James Knowlson, recalls how the Irish writer risked his life for liberty and narrowly escaped capture by the Gestapo
    We will remember them: relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War

    We will remember them

    Relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War
    Star Wars Episode VII is being shot on film - and now Kodak is launching a last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

    Kodak's last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

    Director J J Abrams and a few digital refuseniks shoot movies on film. Simon Usborne wonders what the fuss is about
    Once stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover

    Acting in video games gets a makeover

    David Crookes meets two of the genre's most popular voices