RE: Steven Severin
~by Mistress Catherinna with DJ Slowdive
Have you ever found yourself wondering
what happened to Steven Severin, a key component of the legendary Siouxsie
and the Banshees? If so, look no further, and if interest has suddenly
sparked, you have wound up in the right place! Steven is rapidly creating
and producing new music and other multimedia projects, which have shed
a new light on the Steven many of us thought we knew. Look out world hear
him ROAR! The following feature covers three CD reviews, some light discussion
about the RE label and an interview. Please enlighten yourself into the
world of Steven Severin.
RE: The label
Steven Severin has successfully created an online label www.stevenseverin.com , which is a brilliant concept and idea. The label is completely Internet based and does not have to concern itself with typical label stereotypes and stipulations, which are obsessed by music charts and top singles, which in many instances is the case with labels. This type of environment, allows for more artistic control and freedom of expression, rather than someone dictating what you can and can't release, as well as giving mass publicity for the world to access via a web-link, promotion, searching, or stumbling upon by a fortunate mistake It currently houses archives of Steven's past, present, and future collaborations, including his works with the Banshees and writings for various magazines. There is current information and reviews of his past and future projects, as well as an online submission place for artists interested in production by Steven Severin, and an online store to order any projects represented by his label. It is very informative and quite extensive. A highlight of Steven's site is Interior Exterior. It's an interactive hypertext fiction project in which visitors to the site have the opportunity to intertwine their work with Steven's in an erotic textual maze. If you have the time, I highly recommend sitting a spell and meandering through the eleven subtopics he has included representing his label RE:
RE: garding Visions~
Visions was originally recorded in 1989, with the intent of producing a soundtrack for a short film written by Nigel Wingrove, called "Visions of Ecstasy". This film was based on the life & vision of Sixteenth Century Carmelite, St. Teresa of Avila. Subsequently, the film was banned form public viewing, under the grounds of 'blasphemy's, due to it's portrayal of this religious figure and religious subject matter.
Steven was contacted by Nigel several years later to discuss the possibility of a commercial release of the CD "Visions", at which point, he returned to the studio to re-master the recordings. Steven spent the next two years, polishing and fine-tuning the original tapes, as well as the addition of new material. "Visions" was released on RE: in 1998, almost ten years later.
While instrumental soundtracks are not exactly my idea of everyday listening, I found 'Visions' to be extremely fascinating. Mainly, it was my experience that developed that feeling, along with Steven's musical brilliance! The first time I attempted to listen to these recordings, I was driving to work. I realized shortly thereafter, that this *was not* my type of driving music, but listened to it nonetheless. Once I had finished, I felt rather moved, but really couldn't explain why at the time. I didn't end up listening to it again, until several weeks later.
Before listening to it the second time around, I decided to read the liner notes and became even more intrigued. In by doing so, I learned that Steven had written these songs based upon a script he was given without a dialog. His inspiration was based solely on a quote used in the preface of the script. The quote left me awe struck, feeling somewhat reminiscent of the how I had felt the first time listening, but was unable to identify. The quote is rather long, and worth reading, but I will leave that a mystery to the reader, invoking a minor attempt to promote further intrigue of this particular work!
The next session of listening to "Visions" was particularly mood provoking. I felt that between the quote, what little knowledge I had of St. Teresa, and the track titles, almost as if I was visualizing the movie in my mind. Maybe it was influenced by the quote, but regardless, Steven's sound-scapes and song titles portray the story, as I would imagine it, had I been watching the film itself...
"Visions" is comprised of mood setting and under the right conditions, thought provoking melodies which Steven's ability to manipulate sound implies to his audience. The music uses the looping of varying tones created on the synth and reverbances of many different layers to convey this feeling. Martin McCarrick, a former fellow Banshee, contributed the Cello sounds you will hear in these works as well. Although the music is soft, and somewhat subdued, Steven doesn't have any problem expressing to the audience the mood that might well go along with the scene or track title. I found myself continuously feeling one way, then referring to the liner notes to take note of the particular track I was listening to, and found myself in agreement with the mood. To fully describe this album would be unjust, as I think each person's interpretations could and will vary. The album is mellow yet invigorating. I highly recommend taking some time for yourself; open a bottle of wine, and letting go, while "Visions" takes you on a journey. Nigel must have known what Steven would bring to life, when he asked him to write the soundtrack for his film.
It looks like Steven has a knack for the ebb and flow or yin and yang of musical projects. Yet again, Maldoror is another project that began in 1993, overcame obstacles, only to unite again for completion and release in1999. Maldoror is Steven's second solo instrumental project and first in the RE: Play series. This album was originally written for Os Satyros's theater production of "Chants de Maldoror". Steven met Saytros in 1993 and by 1994 had already written three tracks for the production. Steven traveled back and forth to Portugal for rehearsals and wrote an additional two tracks. Satyros's Theatre group had to move back to Brazil, due to lack of funding, consequently losing contact with each other and by a twist of fate, Steven contacted them by running a search on the internet, four years later, and they started rehearsals for Maldoror once again. Maldoror has been performed twice in Brazil; performances were in 1998, and then again in 1999. Again, I will save the plot of the play to the audience to further investigate. I can say that based upon my findings, we can only hope that this play makes it to the states someday! The plot reminds me somewhat of the works of Poe, Gorey, and Shakespeare's darker pieces.
All of the recordings for Maldoror were created using the computer, there are many different types of instruments included in the production of this work that the listener will hear, and even though computer evolved, are quite genius in the orchestration of the presentation. Many of the sounds you will hear in this works include, but are not limited to: bassy piano chords, the violin using both staccato and plucking violin strings rather than using the bow, percussions such as bells, some drumming, organ pipes, rattling and many others. Again, the music varies, but is intense in many ways
The first track, "Prelude: Europa" uses many sounds to set the mood, but the one that stands out most was a fast paced heartbeat type placement of sound, which felt as if it was building some type of mood and response from the audience. There are some underlying chants occurring in the first track as well, and some noted sampling in other tracks. The 3rd track "Theme #1", is eerie yet uplifting with lots of re-looping of simple, yet at times complex sounds. Track 5, "Crushed (The Glow Worm)" uses sampling, the looping of sounds, along with really complex textures with an amazing underlying background music using sounds which are similar to bells, organ pipes and rattling. Track 6 "Head of Rain", consists of distorted clock chimes, bells, synthy samples and looping, along with repetitious haunting melodies making use of more chime orientated phrases. Steven's work for Maldoror is a masterpiece when it comes to a newer, alternative look at the production of new artistic design and talent in an older medium of entertainment!
RE:garding The Woman in the Dunes~
"The Woman in the Dunes" is the second work in the RE: Play series. Shakti & the VasantaMala Dance Company commissioned Severin, for the production of the music for this dance representation of Woman in the Dunes. The Women in the Dunes, is based on a novel by Kobo Abe. The only guidelines for Severin' work on this particular piece, was that the music shape the scenes from the story. Steven's only preparation before entering the studio, one week later was to review the last two pages of Shakti's preliminary notes, his knowledge of the book, and a film version put out in 1964. The world premiere of Woman in the Dunes was in May of 2000, with performances in France and Scotland from July to August of last year to follow. There are also discussions of a performance in Japan set for February 2, 2002, almost a year from now!
The works of The Woman in the Dunes is much more upbeat than the other two works reviewed in this feature. Severin seems to have mastered the art of envelope looping, using deep, consistent musical phrases, which are a little bit more upbeat than his other features, yet it is still pulling off a mood to be set, and again, provoking thought, creativity and mystery in the listener. Track 4, "The Dance of Eros" is rich and reminiscent of Siouxsie undertones with hints of a somewhat "Lunar Camel" type style to the piece. I also found it similar to some earlier works by This Mortal Coil's self-titled album. Oddly enough, I have discovered while writing this feature that more people who have reviewed Steven's work, felt that Siouxsie fans would find Maldoror more reminiscent of his work with Siouxsie. I feel the opposite and find those feelings when listening to this release more so. Especially in track 6, "Dance of Ecstasy" and track 4 "Dance of Eros". Often times I felt a small twist of influences from Love and Rockets, "Hot Trip to Heaven" as well, especially in track 7, "The Sunset". The L&R reference could be completely the mood, which was set from this work, maybe taking me to a place where it reminded me of the other, but regardless, the mood took me to the same place. Track 5, "I Put a Spell on You" was recorded with Jarboe for vocals and using a piano piece written by Nick Pagan of the Changelings. The tantalizing voice of Jarboe, combined with the piano works of Nick and Steven's subtle rolling synthetic sounds, proves to be one of the best songs on this album and definitely one of the better covers of this song I have heard!
RE: The Interview~
Catherinna: What inspired your new musical direction?
Steven: It's hardly "new" - the ground work for 'Visions' began back in 1989. I've always had the influence of instrumental music right throughout the Banshees. From 1969 onwards - starting with Terry Riley's 'A Rainbow in Curved Air' then on to John Cage, Brian Eno, Steve Reich, Philip Glass, Wim Mertens and of course, Glenn Branca.
Catherinna: What did you do doing your break from the Banshees, before starting your own project?
Steven: I deliberately took a year out then my girlfriend got pregnant so one year became two. I did a bit of writing for the Guardian in the meantime and hatched a plot.
Catherinna: What does 2001 have in store for you and RE: in general?
Steven: Working hard on the first 'outside' RE:lease:- Alan Moore's "Highbury Working" and it's follow-up and developing other projects/artists for the label. As for myself, my book "The Twelve Revelations" has just arrived @ the publishers ONEIROS so that's top of the agenda. Later in the year I will be producing a Martyn Jacques/Tiger Lillies album of Jacques Brel/Edith Piaf songs and completing my two unfinished albums "ErosPlusMassacre" and "Diary of a Vanishing girl". I've also been approached to work on a Kenneth Anger tribute project which should it happen, will be very exciting. It will give me the opportunity to work with a variety of interesting collaborators. I'd like to complete two other projects:- an EP with Jarboe & a Severin vs. Black Dog RE:lease.
Catherinna: You are now working with several different types of media, were these types of media planned, or a spontaneous result of your artistic direction?
Steven: If you have any success or exposure with your work you have to master many different 'media'. The nature of culture is that to bloom - you have to adapt. You need skills to deal with the press, the medium of video, the business, live performance and the constant demands of an evolving digital music technology that mutates the way music is created, delivered, consumed and appreciated. Given all that, it is sometimes a real thrill just to put pen to paper!
Catherinna: What is the status of your newest album 'Eros plus massacre'? and What can we expect from it?
Steven: It's about half complete. In other words - it's festering - I don't know what to expect yet. I like to leave things for a time until they force their way back to the forefront of my attention.
Catherinna: You recently worked w/ Jarboe and Nick Pagan of the Changelings for your cover of "I put a Spell on You" How did you come to work with the both of them and do you like the Changelings?
Steven: Jarboe's choice of pianist. I have no knowledge of "The Changelings".
Catherinna: Rumor has it that you will be working with Jarboe on the 'Living Jarboe' project is this true? If so, tell us about it.
Steven: Not sure where you heard this but I'm the bass player in Jarboe's 'Dream band". There was talk of doing the Treffen festival with Bill Rieflin on drums. That would have been very cool but it's a logistic nightmare so it has amounted to nothing, so far.
Catherinna: If you could collaborate w/ one person, who would it be?
Steven: Brian Eno - 20 years ago.
Catherinna: You played bass w/ the Banshees for 20 years. Do you still pick it up from time to time or does it sit dormant in your flat?
Steven: My three year old daughter likes to get it out and bash it. I have little to no interest.
Catherinna: Late last year it was alluded to that Polydor was finally getting their heads out of their asses and were going to release a box set of b-sides etc for the 25th anniversary. Are you able to elaborate any more on this such as what we may see and a release time-table?
Steven: First there will be a greatest hits compilation in order to seduce the young 'uns and RE:mind everyone else how spectacular the Banshees ARE. That will probably have a limited edition CD attached with The Thorn & some 12” mixes. The box set comes later. Universal/Polydor have to be convinced of our continuing worth in the market place. Crazy but true.
Catherinna: Have you heard the Massive Attack song "Superpredators" which borrows heavily from the song "Metal Postcard" and what are your thoughts on it if you have heard it?
Steven: Of course I've heard it - had to agree to let them use it! I think it works great in the movie (in fact the opening credits are the best part of 'The Jackal' - the rest stinks)
Catherinna: What work are you most proud of and/or satisfied with?
Steven: Most of it - I think the catalogue is very strong and getting stronger.
Catherinna: What do you do in your spare time? Or do you have any spare time?
Steven: see below
Catherinna: Sex or foreplay?
Steven: kiss me...
Final thoughts for Catherinna: Blush, if only ;)
I want to personally thank Starvox and Steven Severin for allowing me to write this feature. It was quite a challenge, and I know that I will never rest feeling completely assured that I have represented Steven as he so truly deserves ! His works both in the past, present and looking into the future, should be inspirational to all of us who desire to grow artistically. Please check out the RE website @ www.stevenseverin.com. I know I will personally be looking forward to hearing any new solo musical pieces and collaborations with others, as well as reading Steven's poetry, and anything new and relevant to RE. Keep up the amazing work and serius kudos to you and your visions!