In “Kill Your Pet Puppy” fanzine Issue 3, from 1980, Honey is asked if she has any aims…
“Like everyone else, when you start, you believe you’ve got things to get across. As far as I’m concerned, music is about big houses in the country and swimming pools and having lots of money. I’m not going to believe anything else and anyone who does is stupid”.
Donna Tracy Howse, or Honey Bane, was born in London in 1964. At the age of 14, she formed the band Fatal Microbes with the then 11 year old Gem Stone, Gem’s brother Pete Fender and Scotty Barker, who aside from Eater, were one of the youngest Punk bands around. Gem and Pete (Gemma and Daniel Sansom) were the children of Vi Subversa, so it was no co-incidence that Fatal Microbes appeared on a shared release, “Violence Grows”, with the Poison Girls in 1979.
Their youthful enthusiasm for each other however soon petered out, and the teen band split – the Sansom’s forming Rubella Ballet, and Honey deciding to go it alone.
A real life stint in a juvenile detention centre simply bolstered Honey’s punk image, and then while still on the run from social services, she holed up at Dial House, the house of Crass.
At Dial House she would encounter some of the most original and fearless minds in the whole of Punkdom, and inspired by her surroundings, she started collaborating with the resident band. Crass released Honey’s “You Can Be You” EP in 1979, with backing band Crass, billed as, Donna & The Kebabs on the sleeve credits. The release was completed with distinctive Gee Vaucher artwork, and is still the most instantly recognisable and iconic of Bane’s vinyl offerings.
Honey delivers the songs including the autobiographical “Girl on the Run”, in a shrill, shouty style (a la punk) with plenty of street cred enhancing “ain’t’s” thrown in for good measure. The single reached number 3 in the UK Independent charts and brought the teenage singer to the attention of the media, as well as, you’d think, “social services”.
In tandem with her solo offerings, in 1980 Honey went on to sing live backing vocals for Killing Joke on “What’s The Matter”, and teamed up with Sham 69 singer Jimmy Pursey who then became her manager. With major labels now actively on the prowl for the acceptable face of Punk’s “next big thing”, Pursey signed her to EMI subsidiary, Zonophone Records (already home of the Angelic Upstarts and the Cockney Rejects) on a five year deal. The country house was getting closer. As was the new “Toyah” re-style…
In 1981 Honey re-appeared, with the jaunty, poppy, ska-lite single “Turn Me On Turn Me Off” which zoomed into the UK Singles Chart at No. 37. Having smoothed the edges off her previously punky vocals, Bane, the solo artist, looked both confident, and at the same time, a bit lost as she Toyah-ed around on Top of the Pops, in an over-sized pak-a-mac.
There wouldn’t be many Crass proteges who could have made that leap, from Poison Girls to prime time, but Honey seemed to take it in her stride, and Honey was still only 16 years old.
After several other non-charting singles, and untold quantities of stylists and ozone depleting hairspray, Bane left her contract with EMI and turned her attentions to acting, appearing in a play with Richard Jobson at the London Arts Theatre in 1982. By 1983 Honey was cast alongside Kathy Burke, Pam St. Clement, Robbie Coltrane and Miriam Margolyes in the film “Scrubbers”, where she played the role of Molly.
Bane has been in and out of music, films, acting and “glamour work” since she was 14 years old. Although not as commercially successful, or with the same consistent level of exposure as some of her contemporaries, (like the country house dwelling Toyah for instance), Honey is a magnificent example of someone who used the freedom and energy of Punk as her springboard, and it took her from teenage runaway and Crass collaborator, to Top Of the Pops, in the space of two years.
Honey still makes music, and in 2015 released her first full studio album “Acceptance of Existence”, alongside a retrospective anthology (1978-2015), both of which can be found on her website HERE.