Siouxsie Sioux

Susan Janet Ballion (born 27 May 1957 in Chislehurst, London, England), better known by her stage name, Siouxsie Sioux is a singer, best known as the vocalist of Siouxsie & the Banshees between 1976 and 1996, and of its splinter group The Creatures. She also sang with artists including Morrissey and John Cale.

Siouxsie is considered to be one of the most influential British singers of the rock era. Her music has been praised by PJ Harvey, Garbage and LCD Soundsystem among others.

In 2004, she started a solo career.


Teenage wildlife

She was the youngest of three children, born at Guy's Hospital in South London. She attended Mottingham Secondary Modern School for Girls in Kent. Her mother was a bilingual secretary, her father a laboratory technician who milked serum from poisonous snakes.

When Sioux was 14, her father died from complications of alcoholism. At age 15, she suffered ulcerative colitis, an experience she described later as "surreal": "it completely de-romanticised the body for me."

While growing up, Sioux was often left to look after herself in an undisciplined atmosphere. Before his death, her father's alcoholism kept him incapacitated, forcing her mother to work full time. The garden at their home north of Petts Wood grew into a jungle, with high hedges and rambling roses, until the neighbours complained.

During her teens, she was a self-confessed loner, was into the music of David Bowie, Lou Reed, Roxy Music, T. Rex, The Velvet Underground and The Stooges, and she started visiting the local gay discos. She became very-well known in the London punk scene for her glam, fetish and bondage attire, which became staples of punk fashion.

In the mid-1970s, journalist Caroline Coon created the Bromley Contingent term to talk about a group of eccentric teenagers devoted to the Sex Pistols. Siouxsie was a member of the Contingent, along with fellow Banshees founder Steven Severin.

Sioux's first gig was with her group Siouxsie and the Banshees, as an unrehearsed fill-in at the 100 Club Punk Festival - two nights in September 1976 - organised by Malcolm McLaren. The group didn't know or play any songs; they improvised as Sioux recited poems and prayers she had memorized.

The same month, the Bromley Contingent followed the Sex Pistols to France, where Sioux was beaten up by someone for wearing a cupless bra, black vinyl stockings and a black armband with a swastika on it. This was used to shock the bourgeoisie, not as a political statement. To stop controversy, she later wrote the songs "Metal Postcard (Mittageisen)" (to the memory of the anti-Nazi artist John Heartfield) and the single "Israel".

One of Sioux's first public appearances was with the Sex Pistols on Bill Grundy's television show in December 1976. In the course of Grundy's interview with the members of the Sex Pistols, the presenter tried to flirt with her. In reaction, Pistols guitarist Steve Jones called him a "dirty fucker", which created a media furor that had a major impact on the Pistols' subsequent career.

The Siouxsie & the Banshees years

In 1976 Siouxsie formed the band Siouxsie and the Banshees with her friend Steven Severin on bass guitar. Two years later, they released their first single, "Hong Kong Garden", which instantaneously reached the top 10 in the UK. Their first album, 1978's The Scream, was described by Nick Kent in the NME in the following terms : "The band sounds like some unique hybrid of the Velvet Underground mated with much of the ingenuity of Tago Mago-era Can, if any parallel can be drawn." At the end of the article, he added this remark: "Certainly, the traditional three-piece sound has never been used in a more unorthodox fashion with such stunning results."

Further key albums Kaleidoscope and Juju included the hit singles "Happy House" and "Spellbound".

In 1981, Siouxsie formed the group The Creatures with Banshees drummer Budgie, to record music more based on percussion.

In 1982, the British press greeted the Siouxsie and the Banshees album A Kiss in the Dreamhouse enthusiastically. Richard Cook in the NME finished his review with "I promise. This music will take your breath away."

In April 1996, after recording a series of 11 successful studio albums, Siouxsie and the Banshees announced their split during a press conference called "20 minutes into 20 years".

Solo career

In the middle of the 1990s, Siouxsie started to make one-off collaborations with other artists.

Morrissey recorded a duet with her in 1994: they both sang on the single "Interlude", a track that was initially performed by Timi Yuro, a female torch singer of the 1960s.

In 1995, she released the song "The Lighthouse" on the French producer Hector Zazou's album Chansons des mers froides (Songs from the Cold Seas). Sioux and Zazou adapted an excerpt of the poem "Flannan Isle" by English poet Wilfred Wilson Gibson into lyrics. The song included the incantations of a female Nanai shaman recorded in Siberia, and musical performers included Budgie and Mark Isham.

In 1998, John Cale was the organizer of the "With A Little Help From My Friends" festival that took place at the Paradiso in Amsterdam. The concert was shown on deutsch national television and featured a song of Siouxsie especially composed for the event and still unreleased, "Murdering Mouth" sung in duet with John Cale. The following year, she performed another duet with this time Marc Almond on his Open All Night album. The song was called "Threat Of Love".

In 2003, Sioux was asked to compose and sing the title track to Basement Jaxx's album Kish Kash. One year later, she toured for the first time as a solo act combining Banshees and Creatures songs : a live DVD called Dreamshow captured the last London concert of September 2004 performed with the Millennia Ensemble. Released in August 2005, this DVD reached the number one position in the UK music DVD charts. Due to that success, Universal signed her on the W14 label. Her first solo album MantaRay was released on September 2007, preceded by the "Into a Swan" single. The album gained critical acclaim. The influential site Pitchfork Media wrote "She really is pop" before finishing the review by "It's a success".

Sioux performed the song "Careless Love" with the composer Angelo Badalamenti for The Edge of Love film soundtrack. The record was released in June 2008.

After a series of summer festivals, Siouxsie performed the last show of the "Mantaray and more tour" in London late September : this concert was filmed to be released on DVD in a near future. The singer will be performing at the "World Soundtrack Awards" in Ghent in Belgium on 18 October 2008: she will be singing on three numbers.

Influence on other artists

Siouxsie's influence, particularly as a member of Siouxsie & The Banshees, has been considerable. Her work has been covered and hailed by many other famous acts.

Covered by :

Hailed by:

  • Shirley Manson of Garbage stated that her all time favourite singers are Sioux and Frank Sinatra. Manson also wrote in the foreword of the official Siouxsie and the Banshees biography in 2003 by Mojo magazine journalist Mark Paytress : "I learned how to sing listening to The Scream and Kaleidoscope." The singer of Garbage also told the Melody Maker that she has a special liking for the first Siouxsie album.
  • Morrissey stated in 1994: "None of them are as good as Siouxsie and the Banshees at full pelt. That's not dusty nostalgia, that's fact."
  • Johnny Marr from The Smiths stated on the BBC Radio 2 in February 2008 that he rated very high McGeoch for his work on Siouxsie's "Spellbound".
  • PJ Harvey put on her website Anima Animus by Sioux aka The Creatures in her top ten favourite albums of year 1999.
  • Radiohead bassist Colin Greenwood claims that while recording their song "There There", producer Nigel Godrich tried to get guitarist Jonny Greenwood to sound like the Banshees' John McGeoch. .
  • The Cure were influenced by the band. In 2003, Robert Smith declared in Mark Paytress's Siouxsie biography : "Siouxsie and The Banshees and Wire were the two bands I really admired. They meant something. He also pinpointed what the Join Hands tour brought him musically. "On stage that first night with the Banshees, I was Blown away by how powerful I felt playing that kind of music. It was so different to what we were doing with The Cure. Before that, I'd wanted us to be like The Buzzcocks or Elvis Costello, the punk Beatles. Being a Banshee really changed my attitude to what I was doing. He also talked about the band to Steve Sutherland in 1985 to describe The Head on the Door : "It reminds me of the Kaleidoscope album, the idea of having lots of different sounding things, different colors."
  • U2 selected "Christine" for the track listing of a compilation made for Mojo's readers The Edge presented Siouxsie with an award at a Mojo ceremony in 2005.
  • Dave Navarro of Jane's Addiction made a parallel between his band and the Banshees: "there are so many similar threads : melody, use of sound, attitude, sex-appeal. I always saw Jane's Addiction as the masculine Siouxsie & the Banshees.
  • Ana Matronic of Scissor Sisters said at the 2005 Brit awards that she wouldn't be a singer without Sioux. She also stated in Metro that Siouxsie and the Banshees is her all time favourite band.

Musical genre

Shirley Manson of Garbage declared how she considered the band musically.
(In 1981), the press began to describe them as a goth band. I never thought of them as goth. Goth has never been particularly angry, just a little dismayed. It had a weak, submissive side to it. Siouxsie & The Banshees always had a real edge to what they did. There was so much articulated spite, humour, politics with a small 'p' there that I never felt they went down that simple, gloomy path. People try to pass them off as a goth band because they find them dangerous and don't understand them. Today, I can see and hear the Banshees' influence all over the place.
Shirley Manson, excerpt of the Foreword of the Siouxsie & The Banshees biography by Mark Paytress (2003)

Personal events

Sioux married Budgie in 1991. The following year, ostensibly "fed up with fans staring through the windows of their basement flat" in west London, she and Budgie moved to France. They lived in a converted farmhouse in a small village in south west France, where they had "a garden, cats and mountains of books."

In June 2005, she won the Icon Award at the Mojo Honours in London.

In 2007, she appeared in advertising materials for a line of false lashes from cosmetics company, Shu Uemura. She recently announced on BBC Radio 2's The Weekender that she and Budgie are not musical partners anymore. In an interview with The Sunday Times in August 2007, she clarified that they had divorced. In an interview with The Independent, she said, "I've never particularly said I'm hetero or I'm a lesbian. I know there are people who are definitely one way, but not really me. I suppose if I am attracted to men then they usually have more feminine qualities.


For her works with Siouxsie & The Banshees, see Siouxsie & the Banshees discography. For her works with The Creatures, see The Creatures discography.

Solo album

Solo singles


Collaborations with other artists

Film appearances of songs include The Punk Rock Movie (Don Letts, 1977); Jubilee (Derek Jarman, 1977); Out of Bounds (Richard Tuggle, 1986); Batman Returns (Tim Burton,1992); Showgirls (Paul Verhoeven, 1995); The Craft (Andrew Fleming, 1996); (Grosse Pointe Blank) 1997.The Filth and the Fury (Julien Temple, 2000); 24 Hour Party People (Michael Winterbottom, 2002); Marie Antoinette (Sofia Coppola, 2006); Monster House (Gil Kenan, 2006); Notes on a Scandal (Richard Eyre, 2006); Doomsday (Neil Marshall, 2008)


External links

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