Interview
Steven Severin



as the deluxe reissue of Blue Sunshine bobs sedately into view, Stylus caught up with one of the chief scientists involved in its conception. Punk Pioneer, Banshee Bassist and now Soundtrack Sorcerer, Mr. Severin was kind enough to answer all our questions; from the hypothetical to the hirsute. Even when they started to dangerously resemble paragraphs.

First up, can you enthuse a little about any superb basslines which are shaking your house at the moment?

I absolutely adore The Thin White Duke’s remix of Fischerspooner’s “Just Let Go.” Quite possibly it’s because it sounds like me! Maybe I should join Fischerspooner. I could think of worse fates. I’m also loving Secret Machines “Nowhere Again” but that’s just a great song.

Following that theme, do you have any particular Banshees basslines which you favour or are especially proud of?

I tend to favour the Tinderbox / Peepshow era because I was doing a lot of things with delays and different tunings. Things like “This Unrest” & “Scarecrow.”

The punk era has developed a kind of generalised narrative in which people around the country picked up instruments and slew the twin dragons of ten minute drum solos and wizard capes. As someone who was there, how close to reality do you find this retrospective view to be? Are there any aspects of punk which you find over-mythologised?

I think the only thing that needs reiterating is that by grouping everyone under the label “punk” implies that there was some kind of solidarity. Nothing could be further from the truth. It was every man & woman for themselves.

Is it still possible for anyone to be truly "punk" in this crazy, mixed-up world of ours?

It is always possible to subvert, to rebel. A strong idea can be a salve, an inspiration to some whilst the very same idea is an irritant, a disruption to others. I just try to do things that move and excite me and hope I am capable to transmitting those emotions in the most eloquent way possible.

If you'll allow me another question about genre tags, the Banshees often incorrectly attracted the pesky "goth" one. Can you set the record straight and give lazy journalists across the globe a handy word or phrase which could be applied to the band instead?

No.

Various online channels now give fans the ability to chat freely with musicians. You seem to have quite warmly embraced all this with the forum on your personal site—was it a conscious decision to use the internet as an opening for discussion on your past and present work (as well as life in general), rather than, as others often use it, just a promotional tool?

I’m often reminded that I grew up straddling both the analogue AND digital worlds. I love that! It’s absolutely brilliant seeing what people think about the Banshees IN HINDSIGHT. I’m not sure how it would have affected us and the work if we had access to all the varying opinions as we were making the records. The Banshees were very insular…we didn’t listen to anyone. That’s not always a good thing but it made for some great, singular music.

Places like MySpace feature thousands of bands and probably contain enough free music to last anyone a lifetime; does this "anyone can now record a track" feeling capture the true spirit of punk, 30 years on? Alternatively, are we in danger of reaching a saturation point where anything of quality is buried amongst mountains of awfulness?

As I have said many times regarding THE PUNK DIY ETHIC “Clearly, not everyone can do it!” On balance though, I do feel that everyone should have access to a soapbox. Brilliance does shine through and the censored alternative would be intolerable.

I've noticed that a couple of Glove videos have been uploaded at MySpace—where is this footage from, and have any similar visual goodies been included on the reissue of Blue Sunshine?

The two songs featuring Landray are from a BBC Arts programme Riverside and the version of “A Blues in Drag” by Robert and I is from a Channel 4 thing called Play at Home which is featured as an extra on the recently released Nocturne DVD. Rhino in the US have expressed an interest in making this footage available as a limited edition. Universal haven’t.

Blue Sunshine is a double-disc affair, as was The Scream. Other Banshees reissues like Join Hands have been single-disc releases. Was this simply a matter of whether there was enough available material for a full disc of bonuses, or is there a more complex process at work? Will any of the later parts of the discography be released as "doubles"?

There’s certainly a complex process at work—Siouxsie’s veto! To be fair though, in the majority of cases, there isn’t enough good quality extras available to stretch to the two disc format. It is still possible that Juju will surface as a deluxe some time soon. No other albums are earmarked for similar treatment though.

For a while I was aware of a mooted Siouxsie & the Banshees: BBC Sessions release—is there any chance of something like this still appearing?

Most definitely. We are talking about it now. All the sessions plus some In Concert recordings—we are pulling up the tapes to have a good listen.

The "fish-panning" method used to mix Blue Sunshine definitely gives the record a unique sound. Are you able to reveal any secrets of this technique and how the final mix was achieved?

The “fish-panning” technique was erased from our minds in Mr. Waverley’s Alpine lab.

I've read a quote attributed to your good self which suggests that Robert Smith "saved his best guitar work" for Blue Sunshine, rather than donating it to the Hyaena album. If this is accurate, why do you think that was?

I very much doubt that I actually used the expression “rather than.” He made a conscious decision to write with us on piano for Hyaena. He didn’t want to offer up song ideas that were too close to what he would do with The Cure. He just wanted to try a different approach. What I did say, and still believe, is that Blue Sunshine contains some cracking guitar work.

The liner notes seem to suggest that the snippets of audio between certain tracks come from The Man from Nowhere. Can you recall any particular reason for doing this, and should I watch the film in order to gain deep and mysterious insights into the record?

Everything was done for a reason. Or do I mean on the Edge of Reason?

Can you recommend any other films which may offer deep and mysterious insights into life, the universe, and everything?

Apart from anything referenced on the Blue Sunshine sleeve, I’d say anything by Tarkovsky, anything by Jodorowsky and anything with Vincent Price in it.

On the cover there is a confused lady holding a knife to your shoulder. Is this in some way symbolic, or perhaps a reference to a similar "mystery knife" depicted in Da Vinci's "The Last Supper"?

Robert insisted that Jackie O stab me in the back. Little things…

Finally, it seems rather unfair that after years of backcombing, Mr. Smith's hair remains relatively lush and full. During your time working with him, did you notice any devious hair care routines he used (legal or otherwise) which could be passed on to a great number of balding men?

Sorry. Robert’s hair regime is a constant source of mystery to me and, probably, himself.


Related Links
Blue Sunshine Review
Official Steven Severin Homepage
Steven Severin on MySpace
The Glove on MySpace


By: Peter Parrish
Published on: 2006-08-16
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