Poet/Performer Extraordinaire
By: Ginger Coyote
Siobhan Lowe has been dazzling folks with her beauty and wit since she was a young girl. While attending Catholic School in New Jersey she fell in love with David Bowie and everything Glam... The West Coast was calling and Siobhan moved to San Francisco, It was in San Francisco that I met her... We have stayed in touch and I decided that I should do this interview with her. Siobhan aka Shamama touches all she knows. I feel blessed to know her.
Punk Globe: Thanks so much for the interview Siobhan. Can you give us some background on your self?
Shamama: First, Can I just say how Fabulous it is to see Punk Globe's longevity, and to Thank Ya'll for this!! Things were tough growing up with a name like mine!! Catholic School was a nightmare..most of my childhood I was arguing with Priests and Nuns that there was no way I killed Jesus! Needless to say I was a Class Clown in order to survive Bullying!!! I fell in love with David Bowie and all things Glam..I think He saved my life! Living on Incubator Avenue in South Jersey...Shows were 20 minutes away in Philadelphia and I thrived on a magical menu of music!! This Eventually led me to Sf.....The Mutants Loft and The Punk Scene. I've traveled extensively throughout Appalachia working with grassroots housing organizations, helping at birthings, ran my own business and worked with hospice. I also substitute taught at our local alternative school. I now write, emcee, and perform original spoken words.
Punk Globe: Can you tell us about your involvement in the punk scene in San Francisco during it's heyday?
Shamama: You know..I hadn't really "found" myself and was a watcher of people...A supporter..I was out every night for everyone's shows..Danced on many stages, and Emceed a show or two. My Favorite was emceeing Madness and X....Quick lil story about that one. X had just left the stage..the audience was going wild..I just ran out there, and without a word just started grabbing the Energy with my arms like I was pulling ropes!! The Crowd went absolutely wild into such a roar for an X encore and I ran Backstage to see John Doe with his mouth open saying to me "WOW" I have never seen anybody do THAT before!!! I Apologized cos I didn't ask them if they were ready for an encore and John laughed saying, "How could we Not!!?" I lived at First and Mission with Sally Mutant and Chi Chi, who once managed The Dead Kennedys. I also worked with Pam and De Bisou who were in New Yooth who brought The Clash to The Temple Beautiful. I was also a burlesque dancer at The Sutter Street Theatre. It wasn't like North Beach, it was an upscale glamorous tourist attraction. Burlesque is a dying American folk art and back in that day it was magnificent and filled with erotic innuendo rather than graphica. Oh the costumes hunny! The New Yooth girls were always talking about shows and I finally went with them. Fat was in the fire. I quit my job and became a full time punk and a pain in the ass, if you ask my roommates, hahahaha.
Punk Globe: What were your favorite clubs?
Shamama: First and foremost...The Mabuhay Gardens...Deaf Club..The Stone..I-Beam...The A-Hole....Boarding House..Trocadero Transfer..Target....Off Broadway..Just to name a few!!
Punk Globe: Favorite bands?
Shamama: Oh My...The Dk's...Dils..Zeros..Nuns..Avengers..MUTANTS (of Course)..Romeo Void..Silvertone...Units....Tuxedo Moon..VKTMS....Olga De Volga..Flipper...That's just the Local SF Bands
Punk Globe: At what point did you move into The Mutants infamous loft on 1st street near the East Bay Bus Terminal?
Shamama: After being in and around the Scene....hanging out with the New Yooth Girls..who put on shows at The Peoples Temple...I met an artist named Cindy who said she lived in a loft and they needed a cool roommate. I'd always had my own Apt, but the idea of living communally with artists and musicians sounded Mo betta than my little crib..That was late 1980 when I showed Up at 116 First Street....Little did I know how quickly my life would change!! Ha HA HA!
Punk Globe: If those walls could talk... That loft played host to some of the wildest parties of that era... Any certain parties that stick out in your mind?
Shamama: OMG...One never knew what would happen next! We hosted many a band from around the world!The biggest one I recall was when X was in town. I showed up to a line all the way around the Fun Terminal, I had to crawl over kids to get up to the Loft and both floors, 4,500 sq ft on each level was wall to wall... There was so much mayhem and chaos toward the end of the night that someone clubbed East Bay Ray with a metal pipe and gave him a goose egg on his noggin!! I'm thinkin it was Exene's birthday.
Punk Globe: The loft also had alot of live bands that played can you remember some of the talent who performed there?
Shamama: OMG Who didn't? Obviously The Mutants....Every Tuesday and Thursday were rehearsals and song writing.....We had a lot of impromptu jams with the likes of Stranglin, Circle Jerkin, Red Rockin, Black Athletes, Red Crossin jumpers on our couches!! We Had The Boys from U2 stay there, various GoGo's Courtney Love, it was like a hostel for every band coming from the UK and Berlin, Ireland, France...folks from all over the states knew how to find First and Mission!! Especially the LA punks and BC boys.
Punk Globe: What year did you move away from the Bay Area and tell us about your journey?
Shamama: I left the SF as people started dying..drugs, alcohol, the onset of AIDS...The Spirit of Anarchy, in my humble opinion was fading fast and Demon Heroin was claiming the creativity...I knew it was time for me to go. It was Late '83 and Pamela Woods drove down from Portland to take me up to a new scene. Pam was one of the 'New Yooth' girls. From Portland, Seattle was next and I worked in a club called 'The Hall of Fame' on University Ave where I saw what Seattle's scene was all about. Everything paled in comparison to the SF experience, so when my wild aunt called to say she needed me in Kentucky to work on her Ganja growing farm, I jumped on the plane!!!! Talk about goin from the Penthouse to The Outhouse!!! Cow Paddy Daddy! It was culture shock to be on a mountain, in a forest, an hour to town with no electricity! I went from Judy Jetson to Wilma Flintstone over night! It was hard work digging holes, growing my own food, being alone much of the time. Mother Nature had her way with me, I listened to the quiet..felt the truth of nature and was amazed every time I dug into the earth and saw all the roots!!! I became Primordic in my understanding of survival and things shifted immensely for me! It Was like my soul had been 'Recycled' I was no longer a "Pain in the Ass'..God Bless My First Street Roommates.....I know I drove them nuts!! It was in KY I discovered Homebirth and Midwifery amongst the women in the hills. Learned to make baskets, do everything from scratch and learned the secrets of survival from the old grandmothers. They were called Mamaws.
Punk Globe: At what point did you discover your musical abilities? Did it start with your infamous bird calls?
Shamama: Believe it or not, I was actually unsure of having any talent other than that, until Dirk Dirkson let me do a poem before a Mutants show and taught me how to properly use a microphone!! My esteem grew me a pair of balls big enough to say yes to Vicki Schrott in NYC when she demanded I audition for The Slits..which I did. Neneh Cherry got the spot Ari was trying to fill. Nehna is Jazz great Don Cherry daughter! She was Great, and we became pals. I was staying at Ira Abromowitz's loft at Bowery and Rivington a few doors down from CBGBs. And when I saw the shows there, I felt another cosmic nudge that I had something, I didn't know what it was, but I was going to find out. After the NYC trip, back in SF, Chi Chi put on a Tito Puente album and I turned all the pots and pans over, took a pair of chop sticks, and went wild. I discovered I was a mad percussionist and I've been bangin my cowbell ever since. I also did vocals on original songs written by myself and Robert Lansing Jr. AKA Enoch Hain from the Dickies. He really was instrumental in showing me what I had and what I could do with it. Rest in peace, Enoch.
Punk Globe: You recorded your Bird calls on the Mutants LP! Why were you not given credit?
Shamama: It was a Live at The Mab cut of Furniture...You can hear them faintly at the end..even though it was obviously worked down in the mix..the birdcalls still remained! Honey there was so much hoopla during that time..No one was sober and evidently I must have been "overlooked"...LOL..I wished they had gone with 415 with Howie Klein....but evil Bart @ Berkeley Square had 'substances of Interest' that must have 'Sealed the Deal' It's no biggy to me! The big thing was the Mutants really could have gone global! I watched them sweat over writing songs, songs I loved! Good songs. They worked so hard..6 individuals finding agreement within the group and being consistent was miraculous!!!! Damn shame they didn't make it like the Go-Go's did! But the Dead Kennedy's gave me credit on the album "In God We Trust" for singin in the Mickey Mouse Choir!!! And Really, after all it's just another bird call!! LOL. Chi Chi was a true shepardess, keeping the band showing up at the gigs.
Punk Globe: When did you start doing your spoken word?
Shamama: After my Second child was born, I was living in West Virginia, and The Morgantown WVU radio station was playin X's "What We Do"and I became inspired and started writing ..I always kept a journal, even in the SF days. When I moved to Floyd Virginia I read my first book of poems called "The Zen Clotheline" at a Wise Woman gathering. I had never read in public and the response overwhelmed me!! Folks started asking me to read and I searched out open mics. After my fourth child was born, a girlfriend who had a store in a big mall in Roanoke VA asked me to write and read some Valentine poems. While I was there reading, a woman aproached me with an invitation to participate in Roanokes Poetry Slam at The Punk club The Iriquois. I packed up my babies, went over the mountain, read my poem...AND WON!!! I went again the next month and was asked to compete in the Southern Fried Poetry Slam in Asheville, NC at The Green Door and came in Second for Individual by one point! But the Points were not the Point.....The Point was the Poetry!! You Know, Roanoke was where Larry Flint had his Trial!!! They call it the "Star City."
Punk Globe: Who were some of your inspirations?
Shamama: Truly, the life I had lived, experienced and witnessed created a bottomless well of Inspiration! I also suffer form The Curse of the Easily Amused which helps!! I have created people from my body and fed them...I have helped women birth and have been the face people have seen as they breathed their last. I'm a member of the welcome wagon and the bon voyage crew. I draw inspiration from human beings...being human!! And of course the fabulous Lisa Lampanelli who hits the hammer hard! Kathy Griffin never fails to make me giggle, Chelsea Handler and Ms. Lily Tomlin!!
Punk Globe: Tell us about some of your favorite shows or battles that you participated in?
Shamama: OOOh Honey Smack A Hawk Nosed Bitch!!! LoL Child. I remember one night at a party with Micheal who ran SF mag 'The Pleasure Guide,' Chi Chi and I were enjoying hors'derves and mucha champagno! This whack chick named Nancy thought Chichi was paying too much attention to Nancy's date and threw champagne in ChiChi's Face!! I grabbed Miss Nancy by the hair, across the floor and somehow she got my thumb in her mouth and bit so hard....I still carry the scar and I've never fought again.....The shows I loved were Mutants, Dead Kennedys, Romeo Void,U2 and most of the bands at the Mab From 77 to 83! Loved those palm fronds.
Punk Globe: You also have traveled tell us about all your travels?
Shamama: I Travelled extensively throughout Malaysia and Thailand and volunteered on an island off the East Coast of West Malaysia at a Vietnamese refugee camp. I learned more about America over there than I ever did in the USA. I smuggled food to the boat people coming up on the beach, hardboiled duck eggs, powdered milk and rice. There was a Professor from the university of Oregon of Viet descent who had gone back to get his family out and helped them escape taking the boat with them!!! He was the one who told me where to go to volunteer and I took helicopter rides out to the island of Pulau Bidong. Years later, on the show Survivor, the island they filmed on in the first season was the next one over from Bidong. I looked at my kids and said Yo Mama's been there and done that! I also did a lot of traveling as a make-up artist until skin care became my thing. I was always in SF salons like Hot Flash in The Castro selling my little magic potion called Queen Alexandra!! It sold like hotcakes and we were in 78's Gay Freedom Parade. I was riding in a black Silvercloud Rolls with a bag of Brownie Mary's yummys. I travelled to Vegas to do a show with Billy Jean King's Salute to Women in Sports, and did facials on Valerie Perinne , Dorothy Hamill and Hubby Dino, Suzy Chapstick, Bill Cosby and Dinah Shore....Name Droppin and Boppin! I travel in my dreams too! The photos of me in the car are on my Facebook.
Punk Globe: Do you feel that by taking time and having a family was a setback for your career?
Shamama: No. I had more experiencing to do. I believed in what I was doing as a mother, for the world. I wanted to undo the damages that can happen in families and raise happy kids defending their right to have their experience. I married. I divorced. I had four kids under ten. And I found my way in every moment to do the best I could as a single mom. Now that my youngest is 18 I feel chock full of experience and am ready to embark on my new career as the Mother for the Millenium and the Queen of Comments!!! Haha, you know four kids slow a bitch down.
Punk Globe: Tell us about your children?
Shamama: I have four. They were all breastfed. Bout time those titties earned their keep. My son Sean, born in 84, daughters Serena, born in 86, Sofia, 90, and Sady in 92. They are all unique and beautiful and witnessing them unfold from little peeing poopers into proper people just blows my mind. They have been my best teachers. I hope I didn't do too much damage. Teehee. Here's the 411 on my daughters: Serena graduated cum laude from Roanoke College and works as a Therapeutic Day Treatment Counselor in the local school system. Sofia is engaged and decorating her newly refurbished love nest. Sady is a sandwich artist at Subway and smells like pickles. She loves dubstep and is a gangsta. They are all stacked and packed. Marilyn Monroe and Jayne Mansfield can eat their hearts out.
Punk Globe: Your son is a musician. Tell us what he is doing?
Shamama: Sean works at Blue Mountain Organics here in Floyd. He makes all the raw sprouted nut butters sold around the globe. He is a new father. My first grandchild Tobin is 10 months old and Sean's partner Dallas is a roller derby girl punk rocker and the best babymama in the world. He plays in the band Thresher. He plays guitar, dobro, bass, sings, composes and is very talented. He rocks.
Punk Globe: How did you get the name Shamama?
Shamama: Well....there was this little church. They called it the hippie church. And having had a Catholic background and wanting to sing real loud when no one would know it was me and also see the old ladies and folks who believed they were in their holiest moments, I went there. I wanted to be around that vibe. The pastor was really cool. He did sweat lodges, was a nice Lutheran, listened to punk rock, and it was a sweet place for a single mom wanting some community. One Sunday, I was corralling my kidlettes into the door saying "Shhhh, mama said shhh" and one of my friends heard me and said "Oh my godddd, you are so Shamama." With all the trouble I'd had with my name, just like a boy named Sue, I totally claimed it, like Norma Jean claimed Marilyn. By the way, you pronounce Siobhan like Shavon.
Punk Globe: You are currently in Floyd. VA.. Tell us about your life there?
Shamama: Floyd is a rural one stoplight town on the Crooked Music Trail which is big ole time bluegrass. We have a hundred year old Country Store where folks from the mountains get together in the streets on Fridays and play banjos, guitars, fiddles, stand up bass, mandolins. Very conservative, very right wing, very RepubiKKKan. And, on the other hand, we have back to the landers, sustainable agricuture associations, filmmakers, artists, musicians, poets, amazing art galleries, fabulous food and is home to the four day music fest called FloydFest where I had the privilege of emceeing the Garden Stage for years. Its a melting pot of diversity with punks, midwives, fire dancers, gay pride, cheerleaders, football, home and family. Then you got us freaks. We come out at night. Haha.
Punk Globe: You are very involved in the community there right?
Shamama: Yes. I sat on the Board of Directors for New River Community Action as a Target Rep and on the Executive Board of Directors for Community Action. I was a challenge and a voice for those who could not speak about needs for local programs that truly addressed housing and poverty issues. I have battled brow to brow with brainless Baptists and other Billy Joe Bob Jimmy Jack representatives that the peoples' needs are more important to be communicated than them communicating to us what we need. I raised half the kids in the county so parents could work. When they didn't have money, I bartered for organic meat, vegetables, one mama sewed me some cool skirts. I was always open, 24-7 like the 7-11. The local social service called me when a kid was in jail and needed someone to vouch for them. They could be released in my custody. I also have had legal guardianship over kids thrown out of their homes til they turned 18. There's always room at Shamama's table. I speak for those who cannot.
Punk Globe: Are you still performing?
Shamama: Yes. Last night, actually I sang two a capella torch songs. People are used to me emceeing and they're used to my poetry. Last night I let them see my vulnerability and sang without music. They were blown away, or so they say. I emcee frequently at local venues and incorporate my sassy schtick whenever and wherever I can. Such a ham.
Punk Globe: You are also writing your memoirs am I right?
Shamama: I have already completed a novel, ready to go today! New York Times bestseller list, here I come! LOL I need an agent. I'm the million they're not making. I'm working on a new one now called "Facebook Saved My Life: The Queen of Comments Comments." I also have eight different poetry chap-books. I need a publisher. Haha, don't we all. Let's make bank. I am putting together notes for more in depth memoirs, particularly SF punk scene from my point of view considering the resurgance of interest in all things Punk. I know a few people that are squirming right now, haha. Some of my chap-book titles are "Erectally Correct Pubic Innuendo," "Eve Knew First," "Reefer Mommies," "What About the Babies," "Sacrifice," "The Zen Clothesline," and "The Motheright Family Sacrament."
Punk Globe: Tell us what is in the future for you?
Shamama: Hopefully I'll have a future. Here's to good health! Coming to the end of my years on the nest I am ready to complete the task of getting the 18 year old settled in her own autonomous deal. My older kids are all independent and set. I'm ready to travel and share my experience and kiss every microphone known to man. I said to my kid "The nest is getting thin, I'm sprouting wings, and you gonna have feathers for dinner."
Punk Globe: Tell us about your Facebook profile?
Shamama: Well, Wilma Flinstone got Judy Jetson and got on Facebook in August. Before that I didn't know how to turn on a computer but I could take someone on a weed walk and show them what kind of yummies growing wild they could eat and build a fire with two sticks, ahhaha. By September 30th, I had 3700 friends. It got crazy. Chi Chi chided me that I was being too open and I must admit when your profile picture shows a rack like mine every horny horndog comes howling. So I cut back to 1000 but Shamama's already for more people who want to be real and not just smut up my chatbox. My wall is the roulette wheel of reality. If you can handle it, holla: Siobhan Shamama Lowe.
Punk Globe: Who are some of your current favorites?
Shamama: Well, of course Fancy! All my punk rock friends, my celebrity pals, my gays, lesbians, transgenders, hip mommies who need help, and other people who want to change the world. I have a vision of a giant punk reunion tour for those of us still alive to beat the pants off Bob Geldorf's Farm Aide in support of human rights, lifting of prohibitions of life, liberty, and the pursuit of our happiness, not our crappiness. Haha.
Punk Globe: Any parting words of advice for up and coming people who are involved with spoken word?
Shamama: You are the landlord of your own head. Don't give free rent to fear. Be bold in your truth of experience. Feel the room before you speak your words and say it how you feel it, however you want to say it. The words that can come out of your mouth can change the world.
Punk Globe: Thank you so much for the interview Siobhan? You do rule the East Coast..
Shamama: Ginger once dubbed me "Presence" and I didn't understand back then, but she did. And she knew. And she believes in me. I thank her deeply. And for all Ya'll out there in Punk Globe land, come up and see me sometime. Shamama sez. You Know I Love You!!!