PB : ‘Identity’, your third single, suggested that fairly quickly you had become disillusioned with being a pop star and a pop idol. About the time that single was released there was a famous Rock Against Racism gig, in which you turned up with your head in a towel and removed it to reveal that you had shaved all your hair off. That has often been described and seen as a symbol of you rebelling against your pop idol status. Is that true ?

PS : I wasn’t disillusioned by the time of ‘Identity’. A lot of the time when I write it is not necessarily autobiographical, although people sometimes think that it is. You observe things and you see things and it may not be something that you have personally experienced, but it may be sparked by a situation that you have heard or seen. You write something around it. That is really how I write.

I wrote ‘Identity’ after I saw this girl Tracey slash her wrists at the Roxy. She was a sales assistant in Vivienne Westwood’s shop, Seditionaries. I didn’t write that song about myself at all. I think the idea that I did came from Jon Savage and 'England's Dreaming'.

I wasn’t really that disillusioned at that time at all. Not really ! I had had a bad experience on tour just before I did the Rock Against Racism gig. I was going through a personal trauma, but it had nothing to do with that song.

PB : Why then did you shave your head ?

PS : I had said in the press right at the beginning that if I became a sex symbol I would shave my head. I wasn’t a sex symbol, but that traumatic experience was of a sexual nature. I had a breakdown and I went down to John Lydon’s house and shaved my head. Everyone there thought that I was mad, but it was just some kind of symbolic thing. I just felt that I wanted to shave my head.

PB : Shortly after that there was another incident in July 1978 in which you saw what you described to Jon Savage as an “energy.” You decided to take a break at that stage. Was that part of the breakdown ?

PS : That was on tour in Doncaster. I saw a UFO. It was all around the same time. After that traumatic experience I was pretty hyper. Our roadies used to give us a little bit of marijuana before we went to sleep because after a gig you are really buzzed up. You can’t really sleep. You’re too excited, so they always used to give us a little bit of that when we went back the hotel. I don’t think they gave us anything hallucinogenic but that night I was really stressed. I had just come back from America and New York and I had gone straight into doing a tour, and then obviously I had that whole traumatic experience. Rather than deal with it, I went into denial and then ended up doing another tour, and after that I started to go into something else which was even more far out.

I kept going on about this UFO, but I do believe even now that I actually saw it. It wasn’t a machine. It didn’t have aliens in it. I saw an unidentified flying object fly past my hotel window that was like a fireball. It shot in and out of view really quickly. My friend’s father had been in the army and she said that it could have been just something that the army were experimenting with that I had seen, but I got fixated about that and started speaking to everyone about that because I was in denial with the other stuff.

I wasn’t mad, but I went into hospital after that. I didn’t tell them anything about the traumatic experience. I just kept talking about the UFO and then the doctors misdiagnosed me as being schizophrenic. It was only later that they said that I wasn’t.

PB : That’s awful.

PS : I was dealing with a lot and then to be given a label like that, only to find out later that I wasn’t and that they had got it wrong, was really difficult. They said to me “You’re a young girl who has got out of her depth and you will never be able to work again.” That is a very hard thing to be told at 21.

PB : What happened then ?

PS : I started making a solo album, ‘Translucence’, which was very different to what I had done with X Ray Spex. I suppose that one of the reasons for that was when I was in hospital I was on very large amounts of tranquillizers. The music had, therefore, mellowed as a result. I wrote some of it when I was on a health farm. I was doing yoga every day and after I did yoga I used to write these songs that were a bit too Goody Two Shoes for some people. They were therapeutic though and came about as a result of what I was experiencing at the time. I wrote ‘Sub Tropical’ from that album, for example, in the garden of the Sanctuary in Covent Garden, which was tropical and had ponds with fishes and parrots.

I got a bit slated for it. It was like “Look what happened to her. She was this gung ho punk revolutionary. Where it’s all gone ?”

PB : You went through all these traumas in late ’78. X Ray Spex, however, limped on until mid 1979. One of the reasons that has been cited for the split was you wanted to go in acoustic direction which is basically what you did, while the rest of the band wanted to remain electric. You had problems with your manager as well. Was that another factor ?

PS : We had moved on and had now split up as a couple and I think it was an ego and a stress thing for my manager. I was getting too big for him and he didn’t like it. He wanted to be the big guy in the relationship, so the way to do that was to write me off with a little solo career and move on and work with these other bands, which is understandable. Men do have these kinds of issues in relationships. He wasn’t being especially mean to me. People have relationship issues sometimes and that is how he dealt with his. I wasn’t too happy with it at the time though.

PB : Had you and the rest of the band moved away from each other by that point as well ?

PS : We were still friends at that point. I still used to do some demos with Jak, but Jak was still very connected with my manager. He used to block everything that I used to do. He didn’t let much come out except for that first album. I think that was more to do with an ego issue rather than a business problem really. It was a male ego problem. Men naturally like to place themselves as superior over women.

PB : When did you first become interested in Krishna and the Krishna movement ?

PS : It was after I saw the UFO. I remembered them from when I was teenager and my hippie days. I used to go and chant with them at festivals. We would let them stay in our communes. They had a temple in Soho Street at the time. It suddenly came into my head one day to ask them if they could help me work out what I had seen.

I was still in a dilemma. I had just been told I was schizophrenic, but I knew that I had seen it, so I went to the temple and started telling them I had seen a UFO.

Their philosophy proved to be really in tune with that. They had these really good scientists from Harvard who were writing all these books on quantum physics and all kinds of other higher things. Some of them were even developing aeroplanes to go to other planets.

There were also these ancient scriptures called the Vedas. They were 5000 years old plus and had all been translated into English. These ancient scriptures talked about all these demi gods coming to visit on celestial airways and inter-planetary travel which could be achieved through yoga. There were also all these Krishna books like ‘Easy Journeys to Other Planets’, so all of a sudden I wasn’t mad. There was a whole science about other beings and other planets, so I got into it initially because of that.

PB : And Krishna is something you have stuck with ever since ?

PS : I have done. It felt right to me. When I started reading Gita I felt like I had read it before. It was in tune with what my common beliefs already were. All at once it was like having confirmed what I had felt all along.

I have kept the philosophy, but I haven’t stuck with the organisation. Philosophy is one thing, but organisations and corruption are other things. I am not saying that the Krishna movement is completely corrupt, but there was some strange stuff happening, and I decided to disassociate myself from it.

That is where I can actually separate. Some people would get deadly disillusioned with the philosophy whereas I don’t. I separate philosophy from human behaviour and nature.

Human beings are fallible and they are not perfect. Just because they are in something or wearing a gown or a robe doesn’t mean to say that they are holier than thou.

PB : X Ray Spex came back in 1991 at a sell out gig at Brixton Academy and they then came back with a second album ‘Conscious Consumer’ in 1995. What did you do during the 10 years you were away from the public eye ?

PS : I was in the Krishna temple for a number of years. I was there for maybe five years. I actually did ‘Conscious Consumer’ because the Guru asked me to do it. The reason why I was in the temple and why they wanted me there was so that I could go to lectures, and listen and learn and then embody some of that philosophy in music. I was given a service to do it. We had our own recording studio in the temple, and I did some initial recording there.

‘Conscious Consumer’ was written because the Guru had said to me “I want you to write a song about the hypocrisy of peace meetings while they are killing cows.” I had thought okay. He was a German Jew so I wrote a song, 'Peace Meal', and I compared the slaughter houses to the equivalent of the concentration camps of Nazi Germany and he liked it. He thought that it was really cool, and I, therefore, felt that was my service to put it out into the ether and the air waves (Laughs). In other words it was like covered missionary preaching work.

PB : ‘Conscious Consumer’ fits a middle ground and paves the way between ‘Germ Free Adolescents’ and ‘Flower Aeroplane’, doesn’t it ?

PS : It does. I had actually already written much of ‘Flower Aeroplane’ before I started work on ‘Conscious Consumer’. It was too much of a jump from X Ray Spex to putting ‘Flower Aeroplane’ out. I remembered the negative reaction when I put ‘Translucene’ out after X Ray Spex, so I felt I needed to do something in between. I thought that I would make ‘Conscious Consumer’ the third album and that it would be like a progressive thing, but then there were a lot of problems within the band and I decided to put ‘Flower Aeroplane’ out under my own name.

Everybody had let me down quite a lot. I had tried to work with the other members and then they had started fighting with me and I just felt that I couldn’t go there again. I tried to be as fair as I could. I was just about to make all the mechanical royalties equal, not that we would get much from the record companies, but I was just about to do that for them and then they went off with this manager woman, Ellie. It is not that I wouldn’t help them individually now , but it was very soul destroying. You’ve worked hard on an album and you want to go out and promote it and then they are fighting with you and amongst themselves and calling you names and accusing you of all sorts of things which you are not trying to do.

PB : They went out on tour with another singer Poly Filla in the end, didn’t they ?

PS : They did. It was all down to Ellie, She was from the temple, believe it or not, and I called her in because I had had this tour offered to me. I needed someone to do a bit of the admin work. She was in a way like a PA and she all of a sudden stuck this contract in front of me in her apartment. I had had some experience of dealing with managers by that stage and I rang my lawyer while I was still in her apartment because I was unhappy about signing it without advice. It wasn’t as if I couldn’t have worked something out with her, but I didn’t sign that contract there and then and she got really uppity and nasty.

I had already had this work offered me to. It wasn’t like she had found this work for me and because I wouldn’t sign the contract she turned them all against me. I was quite strict backstage. I was like “No alcohol because we are rehearsing” and she immediately said “Beers for the boys” and they thought “This is cool”, but she just ended up ripping them off as well. None of them got a cent basically. Anyway you live and you learn. Sometimes you just make bad decisions, and that’s what happened there.

PB : There’s a story that the other reason you were not able to do that tour was that you were hit by a fire engine and had broken your hip. Is that true ?

PS : That’s true. I was staying in the temple at the time. I had been out for a body day at the Sanctuary and I had to get back to do the next offering on the altar, so I was rushing back and I was hit by this fire engine.

I am lucky to be alive really. I was in a lot of agony and pain. I was in hospital for a couple of months, but there was no real damage. The record company said “ Just get well ! Don’t do any work !” so I didn’t promote the album, but that wasn’t the real reason why we didn’t tour. I would have done if I hadn’t had all that other stuff going on at the same time with the band.

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ie London, England

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