Today’s lockdown tracks chat is with Saffron Sprackling, the second of our contributors to have performed a walk out song at the Stadium of Light and, let’s be honest, it’s not just the original, it’s the best.
Do you remember when you came to the Stadium of Light for the last game of the season?
Yes! Absolutely. It was an incredible day. Wonderful memories of the whole thing. Meeting some of the players and Peter Reid, getting to hold the trophy, and of course playing Ready to Go on the pitch. The sound was incredible. The fans singing it too creates a kind of slight echo. It’s unique. I remember some of the roadies, hardened roadies, welling up on the pitch. It was unforgettable. And we’ve had a lot of Sunderland fans as Republica fans ever since. One of our superfans, Kerrie Moorhead, was a ball girl that day against Birmingham. I had footage of that day for a long time and it’s disappeared. If any of the readers have any, I’d love to see it.
Did you know that song was special as you wrote it?
We knew we had something. No idea quite how big but, yeah, we knew we had something.
And now you hear it everywhere.
Yes, we were once touring in Columbus, Ohio and we walked into a Walmart to buy socks. I’ll never forget it. Walking around in this massive shop and then our song came on. Wow. It’s mad when that happens. And, for a while, Eastenders really liked us. Our posters were up in Albert Square and they played the song quite a few times over the years. That was an amazing feeling.
And it’s still happening with Marvel now picking it up.
Yes, it’s the track on the new Captain Marvel trailer! That’s a real honour.
Has music always been part of your life?
Yes, my parents listened to Fleetwood Mac, The Beatles and liked rock and roll, proper old rock and roll so a bit of Elvis and things like that.
And what were you up to then?
I loved performing; I was in a church music group but I think my mum knew that was the only way to get me to go to church! And I loved dancing. I was learning ballet and tap, modern, contemporary, everything. And playing the guitar too from primary school on and singing of course.
The dancing must have fed you a lot of musical influences.
Yes, I was getting into punk in some ways but then at the same time I loved Gene Kelly musicals, Tchaikovsky, all sorts.
And did that continue?
Yes, I was very lucky to get an Arts Council grant, I think they only gave one a year and I got into Bush Davies School of Theatre Arts with it. I danced, sang, acted, it was a brilliant education. But at the same time listening to the Jam, the Clash, Blondie, Siouxsie and the Banshees. Actually, I performed Stravinsky’s Rites of Spring while I was there and, if you look at the music and also his personal life, he was quite a punk in his own time so, maybe it was all punk!
Do you remember buying music for the first time?
Oh yes, it was my favourite thing! I got a job working in a local pub when I was 13 as a waitress to make money to buy vinyl. I bought London Calling by The Clash and Blondie’s Sunday Girl first but I bought so much.
And how about live music, were you seeing bands live when you were young?
Yes, too young probably. I lived near Brighton and travelled by myself to see The Jam. I was right at the front and, when Paul Weller came on stage, it was mesmerising. The way he dressed, walked, everything. He was incredible. Radio 2 played a medley the other day of Jam and Style Council songs – Malice, Down in the Underground, Eton Rifles… it was brilliant. And I was right back there as a teenager in Brighton.
Have you played with him since then?
Yes. We supported him at Crystal Palace in 1997. That was really nerve wracking because that’s my back garden pretty much and the Gallagher brothers were there, Skunk Anansie, lots of people. Huge relief when I saw Weller fans since and they say they were impressed.
Have you played with any other heroes?
Loads, I’ve been very lucky. Jeff Beck, Gary Numan, The Cure, Carl Cox, The Shamen, The Lightning Seeds, Doves, The Cocteau Twins, so many. And then, I don’t really get star struck but, I was asked to duet with Robert Smith and that was massive for me, a great day.
And the Prodigy? You go a long way back with them.
The Prodigy have been friends from the start really, with my first band, N-Joi. We were probably the first live acid house rave band. We played hundreds of underground raves and electronic dance festivals and, obviously, The Prodigy were a big part of that scene too, we’ve been friends ever since. I performed on the Fat of the Land album, on Fuel My Fire. That was great to work with such good friends and on what became such a massive album for them, it sold 26 million albums!
That must have been amazing. So, you were spending your time on the underground acid house scene and around the same time performing in Starlight Express?
Yes, quite different scenes! I loved both. Starlight was choreographed by Arlene Phillips who was one of my idols growing up. I either wanted to be a rock star or in Hot Gossip.
And you got rock star! Or did you? I’m not sure I’d say N-Joi or Republica or any of your work is just ‘rock’, its more than that.
No, there’s been some real differences. The acid house raves, the West End, and then, with Republica, Tim and Johnny grew up together in Windsor listening to Simple Minds and OMD, Kraftwerk, all sorts of things. We never tried to follow a particular route. We always did our own thing, even building our own recording studio, buying our own equipment, everything. Even as a girl I didn’t want to be like everyone else. I wanted to be different. In a way we didn’t want to be liked! Malcolm McLaren said hate me because I’m relevant and there’s a lot in that. I was given some amazing advice by Mick Jones from The Clash and I thought, if he believes in me, that we can do it, then we can. I remember really wanting to annoy NME and show that I didn’t care. I ended up on the cover of Melody Maker so that probably did it! It was about getting noticed and get air play.
But that must have been OK for Republica?
Back then it was actually hard to get played on radio with a female lead singer, especially in the States, it just didn’t happen. The radio had only just started playing No Doubt and then Garbage and that modern rock sound, with a female vocalist, came at the right time for us.
And you’re still together and still doing everything yourselves all these years later.
Yes, still recording, still working and also looking at some of the earlier music again. We’ve a deluxe special edition reissue coming out on Cherry Red Records which I’ve worked hard on, I did the artwork and all sorts. It includes the original Chemical Brothers mix and loads of tracks people will enjoy. We’ve also got new material coming out with an album called Damaged Gods.
I guess lockdown has held up finishing things off.
Yes, but it’s all close. The first thing that people will see will be the remix of Hallelujah, that’s an amazing sound, then New York will follow it. The remix means a lot because it’s been done by N-Joi. My friends have returned after all those years to do that so it’s a great honour. It really shows the love and friendship we share that their first new work is to remix our new song. There’s loads going on which is great! We’ve a Facebook page which all the details will be on. Looking forward to getting back out there and performing.
Actually that’s my final question. If you could be out of lockdown, where would you go?
Performing! With the band, that’s where I’d like to be. But, if that’s still not allowed, there’s a beach on the South Coast called Birling Gap, it’s one of my favourite places in the world. It’s actually where they filmed some of Quadrophenia. It’s a beautiful place.
So, we finish where we started, you enjoying places on the south coast linked to parkas and mopeds! Thanks for chatting, keep well and thanks for writing the best walk out song in sport.