Poly Styrene of X Ray Spex

I was extremely saddened to hear about Poly Styrene’s death a few months ago. She was always one of my favorites… didn’t stick to the punk formula. And she certainly was unique in the late 70s London punk scene, being one of the few black women around (‘cept maybe Pauline from The Selecter).

I got to speak with her via email in the summer of ’96, after the new Spex put out their record, Conscious Consumer. We talked about eastern religion, the Pistols reunion, and more. Shame I never got to meet her in person. -JM (2011)

Interview by Josh Medsker

(from Noise Noise Noise #11, Oct. 1996)

(note: after their appearance at the Holidays in the Sun Brit punk reunion-fest this summer, the Conscious Consumer lineup has split.)

What have you been doing, since the breakup of the original band? I heard that you put out some solo records in ’80 and ’86? Have you done anything other than music?

I’ve been writing songs, and a diary and a book on Bhakti Yoga. I did put out a solo album in 1980, called Translucence, which was a therapeutic retreat from electric music, and was mainly for my personal development as an artist and a human being. I also put out an EP, called Gods and Goddesses, that was a fusion of styles.

spex95How would you say going to India changed your personal life, and your musical outlook and ideas?

I’ve been very much influenced by Indian culture and philosophy, which has had a profound spiritual significance in both my personal life and music and has helped me introduce mantra therapy in my work and private life.

How do you think the new album, Conscious Consumer, fits in with the other X Ray Spex material?

It’s a progression but still carries quite contemporary concepts of social issues, which aims to se the listener free from consumer bondage. I’m no exception to this rule. I like to hear the messages transmitted as much as I like to sing them. I think Conscious Consumer was more an exercise in communication.

What happened to the original band? Who’s in the new band?

The original band tried to do X Ray Spex without me, unsuccessfully. So I went solo for a while, and then re-formed Spex with new people. The new band is me and some friends.

What do you think of the Sex Pistols reunion tour?

I haven’t seen them. Paul Cook said he gave all his tickets away for Finsbury Park. Everybody who sees them says they sound great. Shame they haven’t any new songs.

You keep up with music these days? Which bands interest you?

The band Shelter have a good message, but musically, I like instrumental, chill-out music. I hope to put on a one-day event once a month, in London and LA, of all my undiscovered bands.

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