Interview with Skew Siskin

Skew Siskin is such a strange name for a band (if you’re not from Germany). Who came up with the name for the band and what does it mean? What other names were considered and why didn’t they make the cut?

NINA: Yeah, it is indeed a strange name for a band … and that was the purpose. Especially if someone has a bad pronunciation! Ha-ha. If people have a lisp or don’t know what the hell to think, they also say “Skrew System” or “Screw Sister” …so, it is very funny sometimes. But, the name is not German. Skew and Siskin are both words in the English dictionary. A skewer by example is a metal spike used on meat for shashlik (also known as shish kabob), and skew means simply weird, or not straight. Look it up on Google sometimes. You’ll find there are even software programs named after it. Siskin is a little bird, something like a small finch … and, because I am a bird (in UK a bird is a girl-friend) also, there was a plane named after it in 1950, I think. The funniest name-mates are a rehab center called Siskin! Hahaha … good for Rock ‘n’ Rollers! Also, there’s a Siskin steel/metal factory; it’s actually in the USA. Ah well, I guess we aren’t the only people in the world with a weird name. Look at all the current Pop stars or movie stars from Hollywood. I always take time to look up what names mean on the internet; it’s really interesting and opens up a whole new world often. By the way, my father had a dictionary, which I own now, from 1950. That’s the dictionary I used to look up bird names. Maybe these words lose something in the “modern” translation of the hip people … hahaha. Okay, I am the one to shoot at, because I came up with the name. I confess. Haha. I am hooked on birds you know! I love flying like a bird in my dreams (yeah, read your dream book and looked up what flying means in dreams … lol), I love seeing things from different angles, because it’s very bad to just look at things from only one perspective! Everything that has wings, dragons, dinosaurs, angels, devils, vampires, birds and butterflies, well yeah, flies too … simply fascinate me and give me a kick looking at them. Some of these creatures are so fragile too. Touch the wing of a butterfly and it dies. Also, how could a dragon ever fly with those little wings on its back. In movies they all do.

Before the name Skew Siskin came about I fooled around with names like “Victorian Child,” because at that time I read about the Victorian ages and was taken by it. Although, having given it more thought, I found, that it may sound a little too clean for a dirty Rock band. Because as you know, in the Victorian ages they didn’t have any sex, or at least, it was forbidden and was a very “dirty thing.” Maybe I was stroked by the comparison of the two total diverse worlds. Well let me see … there have been a few names I am sure, but the first name I ever came up with at age 9 was “The Black Horses.” Smirk. Shrugs. You have to start somewhere. Then we had the “Barbarians,” “Mad Machine,” and so on. Somehow we were tickled by the reactions that we’ve gotten on the name Skew Siskin finally. Skew what? Skrew who? One of our first articles was about that and I liked that idea. So we stuck to it.

How did everyone come together to form Skew Siskin?

NINA: Oh, good question. I always wanted to play in a Rock ‘n’ Roll band. So, what I did was I started looking under every rock for musicians, played in a few bands – one was called “Rubberbeat And The Baby Bones.” We played Sex Pistols songs and I played drums and took over the microphone later on. I also performed in a band called “Big Sister” in 1984 – of course, it was because of George Orwell’s book! But, I never achieved my goal until I met Jim through some strange circumstances. And, because I always carry my tapes around (can you believe we are using now CD’s, chips, and mobile phones, iTunes, iPod, etc. LOL) to play for someone just in case, I jumped in front of a very surprised Jim Voxx and starting talking to him about music. On top of that, he had a studio around the corner! That was really cool! He was the guitar player of my ideal vision for a Rock band.

Once, a long time before we met, we were on the same bill but played in different bands. I played with “Big Sister” and he played with “Joy Ryder.” I watched him play and thought “he’s so cool.” Years later I had enough nerve to talk to him and he thought, “Wow, she can speak to me!” He always had the idea that I was too ignorant about everyone and just arrogant; in a good way though, but like “don’t talk to me, I am too cool for this world, you know.” So, we sat in his studio that night in 1988, and had the same thought because he was looking for a singer at that time. He played me a few songs without vocals or old vocal ideas from other people or just vocal melodies played by the guitar. And, it clicked immediately. My vision started to grow. Jim also thought that I am the singer he was looking for. So once the plan was made by us, we started to look for other musicians everywhere. Meanwhile, we recorded songs and I worked hard on my vocals every night in the studio. Skew Siskin was then born: Voila!

JIM: Before Skew Siskin I played in a German Punk band for quite some years. But, by the time the music changed and when the ABC, Europe, and Culture Club department moved into the German radio stations and venues, things became really boring for me and I built my own studio in Berlin (Monongo Studio – the Berlin Bunker). Together with musicians from the Patti Smith Band, Iggy Pop, or Mink de Ville, we composed and recorded a lot of songs for various people. One of the songs even made it on Tina Turner’s maxi-single she put out to promote her famous comeback album Private Dancer. It meant something to me realizing that her guitar player reproduced my solo note by note.

I then thought it was time to escape from Germany and moved to New York for a couple of years, playing the local club circuit with musicians from Patti Smith, Iggy Pop, New York Dolls, and Wayne Kramer from the MC5. Those guys were my music teachers really because I learned a lot from them. Wayne Kramer wanted the two of us to form a band together, but got busted a little while later because of drugs and did a few years in jail. That would have been something because the MC5 were my heroes and I was amazed that he offered me that position.

Originally I tried to form SKEW SISKIN in New York, but it was really hard to find musicians. I mean all the guitar players seem to be into Eddie Van Halen or someone faster. Also, everybody in New York seemed to be so busy that it was just impossible to organize some rehearsals, or after one or two rehearsals they said “sounds good, see you at the gig.” But, it wasn’t good enough.

When I met Nina, she had just recorded a duet with a famous German Rock star called Udo Lindenberg. It was a song from Bert Brecht I think. Udo Lindenberg took the tapes to Paris to Marlene Dietrich and she did a part on that record as well. There you go; the Punk girl, the Rockstar, and the goddess Marlene Dietrich on one record. That’s something to remember – trio infernal. It turned out that this was the very last appearance of Marlene Dietrich to the public before she died. It was also around that time when Nina gave up on the idea to join a circus and work on the trapeze, high up in the air as a contortionist.

As Nina said, at first we were exchanging song ideas. The idea to form a band happened a year later and came out of nowhere. I knew that Nina had a good voice, but I was really impressed with how much energy she had and that she was working on herself to make things even better by watching every video she could get from Janis Joplin, Robert Plant, Bon Scott, and even Tina Turner. The bass player and drummer joined much later through advertisements.

I’ve noticed that your band has gone through many changes over the years, especially drummers and bassists. Each member, however, seemed to do an excellent job on the albums where they appeared. Why were they all replaced?

NINA: Spinal Tap!? No, seriously, they all replaced themselves — sort of. We never told anyone to leave the band. They always threw the towel in because of a combination of many things. I have a long list written on a piece of paper of why musicians won’t make it. Top priority is they pity themselves too much and get nothing done. And, because I am a hard worker, I give 100% and more always, all the time. There’s a fine line between people who are “just Rockstar dudes,” you know? I had my lessons, I swear! I have seen the downside of the business; all the wanna be friends and people who just kissed ass so they could be around us and snake eye me to get rid of the rest of the band, etc. It’s a very hard and tough place if you want to Rock ‘n’ Roll! So the reason why they have left the band had nothing to do with the way they had played. It was the person inside their mind; the one we didn’t see at first because we only worked with them as musicians first. It took months to find out that there was an unfixable personality clash coming our way. But yes, you’re damn right, the old line-ups have been very talented and always had their chances. But, look who’s still running! I still have a lot of energy and I am ready for more action. So, if people want to jump on the bandwagon, that’s great, but please keep your brain focused in the right direction and your heart in it too! It’s more to a band than just music, money, and time when the curtain goes down!

JIM: I think they became frustrated about the business too fast. Skew Siskin went through three long interruptions and it takes something out of you to go through that. But, what else is new? “It’s a long way to the top if you wanna Rock ‘n’ Roll” and especially in Rock ‘n’ Roll. You cannot expect to become rich overnight.

Jim appears to be the leader behind the whole operation. Not only is he a great guitarist, but he has produced, recorded, and mixed all of your releases from day one. Do other bands ever try to snatch Jim up, or at least ask for help from him?

NINA: Ha, you have not met me, I am the bitch behind the curtain hahahaha! But yes, Jim of course, plays a main role in that whole thing. He’s a great person too. As for operations, we are a boss with two heads, so to speak. He is my main man, my partner for a lot of questions in management, but mainly he is my partner for songwriting. And, because I have been looking so long (around ten years!) for a guitar player and/or a band, I still feel blessed to have found him. And yes, when I am tired of fighting the whole day, he is still there and I can be the bitch behind the curtain. Basically he gives me a summary of the day’s events and I throw in my two cents worth. We then discuss what and how to do whatever needs to be done. So, in a way you’re right, he holds the strings in his hands and I gladly let him do that, because he is great at it!

With the recording of Album of the Year I jumped in and did a lot of co-producing and rearrangement of songs with him. He said he likes the way I was going about it, so it was easy to work together. But, believe me, we had our moments and fights. I guess everyone who works so close together must disagree sometimes. Luckily this happens only 10 out of 100 times, so the good stuff happens! A band or partnership is such a marriage — everyone has moments, or it can get complicated all of a sudden. It’s a question of good timing, I can tell you. Like music, good timing and good manners are everything. It helps a lot when people lock away their ego. The ego is useful, but not in a team.

As for other bands, he did a lot of other things with other bands, hell yeah! His studio is a wonderland of technical toys. Everyone wants to die here. It’s very vintage on one side, but on the other side full of Pro-Tools etc. You know, the vibe in his studio is so 70’s, the sound is huge because the walls are stone. You can see the studio at When we pull the carpets away for drum recordings, the sound of a John Bonham or a Phil Rudd becomes evident. Because I am a drummer girl since the age of 11, I always rely on a great drum sound. Jim is an awesome soundman and he’s got great taste in music and sound. His way of guitar playing is rare also.

Along with Jim, who decides on the important decisions when it comes to the band and the musical direction?

NINA: Me, Me, and Me, of course! But, because I can’t speak for other people, Jim also talks to everyone in the band about things, and he manages many things regarding the band. But, the last word is always going to be confirmed by me. I was stepping up to the plate years ago, but realized quickly that it is too much for me to handle alone. Also, it’s so much easier logically to have one person representing the others instead of two. People seem to get confused very quickly when they have to talk to me and to Jim, so I gave up on that and am the bitch behind the curtain. But, I think I’ve said that already.

JIM: We do everything ourselves — always did, and especially now with our own label it is impossible to get everything done by just one person. For me, it is the first time that I am able to work with an equal partner over such a long period of time without interruption. Even during the times when Skew Siskin was in hiatus, we never really stopped working on our music. I am really glad to have Nina as a partner.

What are the tour plans for Skew Siskin in the up-coming year?

NINA: We have plans, yes, but not clear plans yet. I mean, not anything is confirmed yet, but things are piling up. I hope we will know soon because the earlier the better. I hate things last minute!

JIM: Currently we are doing quite a bit of promoting and trying to get distribution to other European countries. I also think we should re-release our back catalog. Right now we do not have the finances to do that, but it should be done somehow during next year because all of our other CD’s are not on the market right now. It’s really a shame.

What countries have you toured in years past and what are some of your most memorable moments?

NINA: We have toured the US, UK, France, Germany, and even played a few gigs in Holland. We want to go to Spain, Scandinavia, Italy, and maybe Czechoslovakia and other countries as well. Most memorable moments? I am wearing a tattoo from an artist that saw our show in Berlin in 1994 who saw how I was about to beat up an asshole during the show. He liked that so much that he got someone’s attention backstage to let me know that he wanted to give me a big tattoo for free. It was all because he loved that killer moment of mine so much. Unfortunately, I heard that he is sitting in jail now. The tattoo is a dragon bird holding a peal in its beak. Now I am wearing my strength painted in my skin. Another weird moment was when I totally flipped out in New York; when we were on our support tour for Black Sabbath. I smashed the toilet badly enough that it cracked. I had bad stage fever! It was my very first major tour and it was just the second show.

JIM: But then she was alright and did a great show. You see, the solution can be so easy.

Where have you not toured yet, but hope to tour someday?

JIM: I would love to go to Japan, for example. I know we have an audience there and some of the most influential journalists love the band like Captain Wada, for example. He even visited us in Berlin to do an interview. Then, we were never in Scandinavia — it’s about time. So many Scandinavian bands come to Germany to play here. We should visit those countries as well since we do have fans over there.

Lemmy (Motorhead) is a close personal friend of the band. He has somehow always been involved in collaborating with the band in one way or another for quite some time now. Have you ever given it any thought to him becoming a permanent fixture in the band?

NINA: Ha-ha … he is a permanent fixture in SKEW SISKIN, what do you think? He is my partner for writing lyrics. He is one of my best friends. He comes to visit Jim and I every now and then and hangs out with us. At the moment Jim is working on Lemmy’s Solo album. Skew Siskin is also part of it. Jim is producing and mixing the material for Lemmy.



  • George Fustos

    George was a reviewer here at Metal Express Radio. He has engineering degrees in Chemical and Electrical Engineering. He favors Metal, Rock, Hard Rock, Classic Rock, Blues, and even some Jazz and Motown (depending on the tune). He used to dabble with the bass quite some time ago. His most influential bassists are Jaco, Billy Sheehan, Stu Hamm, Geddy Lee, and John Entwistle (RIP Ox). Band-wise he's really into Rush, Tool, early Metallica, Pink Floyd (including Waters and Gilmour as solo artists), The Who, Iced Earth, Iron Maiden, Halford, Joe Satriani, certain Judas Priest, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Albert Collins (Blues guitarist), Motörhead, and a German band called Skew Siskin that Lemmy says in an interview as being "the best band out there today."

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