SIOUXSIE & The Banshees’ bassist and co-founder Steven Severin performs his own score to Jean Cocteau’s avant-garde silent film Blood Of A Poet (PG) at City Screen, York, on Thursday at 7pm.

Dave Taylor, City Screen’s marketing manager, anticipates a memorable evening.

“Cocteau’s debut film of 1930 is ground-breaking – contemporary with the Surrealist oeuvre of Luis Buñuel and Salvador Dali, and we’re exceptionally pleased to welcome Steven Severin to play accompaniment to the film here,” he says. “His score presents an avant-garde musical event steeped in the darkness and light of Cocteau’s seductively surreal images.”

Charles Hutchinson seeks answers from the man that rock books call Steve but Banshees’ record sleeves will tell you is definitely Steven.

Is writing movie scores a new venture for you, or do you have previous form for this?

“It’s something I’ve always wanted to do from way back. From the early days of the Banshees in the late Seventies. It wasn’t until 1989 that I got my first chance and scored the short Visions Of Ecstasy – the only film EVER to be banned on the grounds of blasphemy! Quite a start, really. “Things kicked off in earnest in 2002 when I scored my first feature, London Voodoo. After that I knew writing for screen would be my primary musical outlet.”

For what instruments have you written your Blood Of A Poet score?

“I don’t think in terms of instrumentation at all. Everything is done on the computer and is a mixture of samples, virtual instruments and found sounds. It’s not meant to be played by an orchestra.

No-one in the world of independent film-making has the budget for that. They can barely afford me!”

How does this score differ from writing rock songs, both in terms of content and as a solo rather than group enterprise? Did rock music, with the Banshees, ultimately become too restrictive for you?

“Even in so called rock songs that I wrote with the Banshees I was always interested in where the focus lay, how to subvert the traditional hierarchy of sounds.

“The fascinating thing for me is that with instrumental music without a dominant voice, you can dictate where you want the axis to be and it can be in a constant flux throughout a piece. It’s boundless.”

Describe the experience of performing a score live...

“It still feels like a ritual to me and that’s important. There’s obviously less ‘action’ but that’s not a bad thing because the intensity is still there by my presence on stage. I could quite easily do everything from the mixing desk but I want to retain some links to the past.”

What do you see as the function of a score in a silent movie: simply to complement the imagery or to furnish the story?

“I have to concede that my relationship to these films is the same as an accompanist back in the day because I had no role in their development as I would if I were the composer hired to write the score. I just have 21st century tools and, hopefully, an empathetic touch.

What drew you to this particular 53-minute Cocteau early work? The film is described as a “neo-Romantic study of the joys and agonies of being an artist”. No doubt that will strike a chord with you as a musician?

“This is the third silent I’ve tackled after The Seashell & the Clergyman and The Cabinet Of Dr Caligari. My next project will almost certainly be Carl Dreyer’s Vampyr. Whilst re-watching that film I realised that I must have been subconsciously been drawn to the Romantic ideal of the ‘loner’, the ‘“Byronic wanderer’, as each film features a single male protagonist searching for something they cannot quite grasp. I think it would be fair to say that’s part of my make-up, my drive too.”

Shoot this question down in flames by all means, but what is the significance of the one-time Steve Severin being insistent on being Steven Severin?

“Simply that the first person doesn’t exist. Never has. Look at any Banshee release and I’m there as Steven not Steve. It’s the name my parents called me, the name that suits.”

Other than this film score, what are you doing music-wise at the moment?

“I’ve put out a few EPs this year on various small labels just as an experiment, really. The Blood Of A Poet CD is out any day and after the tour I shall most likely start on Vampyr. Music for Silents is my main priority although I am waiting on a couple of indie features to get the green light. As ever!”

* For Steven Severin: Blood Of A Poet tickets, phone 0871 902 5726 or book online at