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3am Interview

3AM: What was a young woman from Franco's Spain doing in London in the 70s? And was your father really a bullfighter?

PML: I was searching for FREEDOM, life on my own, and London represented that to me at the time. No, my dad was not a bullfighter, I just have a funny photo of him running after the bull… it was normal for people to have a go at being a "bullfighter" with a little bull, not those 500 kg monsters, in parties and so on.

3AM: People are always fascinated by influential bands that never actually got off the ground like London SS or The Subterraneans. The Slits came from two such bands: The Castrators (Tessa Pollitt) and The Flowers of Romance (you and Viv Albertine). How did you get involved with people like Viv Albertine, Sid Vicious or Keith Levene? Was it through Joe Strummer who was your boyfriend at the time?

PML: Yeah, it was through Joe that I met Sid.

3AM: What was Sid like? Why did he sack you from the band?

PML: He was just a kid full of himself and often high. He did not have musical talent but he could play the mean punk kid pretty good. He had the image. He wanted to sleep with me and I did not want to. That is why he sacked me, I believe.

3AM: Who first called you Palmolive? Was it really Paul Simonon, or Sid Vicious as some claim?

PML: It was Paul.

3AM: Did Paul Simonon and Viv Albertine do some modeling for a Laura Ashley catalogue?

PML: No idea, not important.

3AM: More generally, what were the early days of punk like for very early scenesters like you and Viv? What bands were you into? Where did you hang out? (Did you go to Louise's, to Malcolm's shop and then to the Roxy, places like that?) Who did you hang out with?

PML: At first, it was all so new and exciting. Making up our clothes, a new look, finding a drum set and painting it; finding the people to play with: there was always something to do.

We were mainly into ourselves, The Clash a bit. We were not of the Sex Pistols 'clan', we were more with The Clash although we did hang out together with them at times, but not at Malcolm's shop. The Roxy, and wherever there was a gig; also the squats were we lived. Nora's (Ari's mom) place was a good at suppertime.

3AM: Legend has it that you met Ari Up at a Patti Smith gig. How did the meeting take place? Was she already part of the burgeoning punk scene or did you introduce her to it?

PML: Yes, we met there. She looked pretty straight at first, but she made up by her actions: she was having a temper tantrum right there, swearing at her mom… I thought she would be a great front person. So I asked her to be in the band with me, and she agreed, she liked my pig earrings.

3AM: Is it true that when you and Ari Up decided to form a band you had no idea it was going to be all-female?

PML: No, I wanted and all-girl band. I had already been kicked out of Sid's band, and I knew I wanted an all-girl group.

3AM: When she described The Slits on the White Riot tour, Caroline Coon (1988: The New Wave Punk Rock Explosion) insisted upon your subversion of gender stereotypes: "Much to the surprise of all concerned, the Slits cause more consternation than the Clash, Subway Sect and the Buzzcocks combined; but not necessarily because of what they actually do. . . . It is what the Slits represent, even at their least provocative, that gets up people's noses. They deport themselves like lofty viragos storming through life with the lusty abandon of stage hands at the Folies Bergères. Their earthy arrogance and striking mode of attire -- an organized mess of dressed-up undress -- causes adults to behave with alarming intolerance." One of the reasons why The Slits have been so influential was precisely this brand of feminism (I know you hated the word at the time). Are you proud of having inspired the Riot Grrl movement of the early 90s and some of today's more militant lesbian bands?

PML: We did not want to be used by the feminist or lesbian agenda, not then and even less now. We didn't really fit their mould. I don't hate men. I think the feminist groups have done a lot of damage to our gender; it is great that we can vote, go to school etc. I am not into the Taliban view of women, but I have really discovered the beauty of being a woman. I think, for instance, about the role of being a mother, staying at home and taking care of your family: I think it is an honorable thing to do, and that it is something that brings a true reward. I have experienced that in my own family and the rich relationships that we have.

3AM: I think one of the reasons why you left The Slits was your opposition to appearing naked on an album cover. That cover, at the time, seemed to make a bold feminist statement; it wasn't exploitative: what exactly did you object to?

PML: Yes I did oppose it, and that had a part in me being kicked out of the group. That cover was pornographic. I was not into that. We were selling our music not our naked pictures, as far as I was concerned. Things get so confused. Isn't part of the feminist mindset to oppose that kind of degradation?

3AM: At the time, some people (like Tony Parsons in The Boy Looked at Johnny) accused you of getting on the White Riot tour thanks to your personal relations with The Clash (he mentions you and Strummer and Viv Albertine and Mick Jones). Maybe you weren't as liberated as you made out?

PML: We were friends, and friends help each other. That is nothing to do with being liberated or not. I have to add that they were lucky to have an opening group like us.

3AM: In spite of your rebelliousness and shock tactics, you were also from wealthy or comfortable backgrounds, weren't you?

PML: I came from a family of 9 children. We were not wealthy, at one point we had the 5 girls in one bedroom in our apartment in the city, although when you compare it to the rest of the world we were very well off. We had food and access to education. Ari did come from a wealthy background, but Viv and Tessa were middle class.

3AM: Do you see a contradiction between your current Christian beliefs and your days in The Slits? Or was there already a spiritual element in the band (Ari Up's fascination with Rastafarianism, for instance)?

PML: By the end of my experience in the groups -- both the Slits and the Raincoats -- I started searching for something else, something spiritual. Before it really did not concern me very much. A Christian is a repented sinner; I stole, I was angry, I followed my own lust. Now I don't, through the power of Jesus. I would not call it a contradiction, simply a life change.

3AM: The Slits had two famous managers -- Don Letts and McLaren. How did they differ? Malcolm McLaren tried to turn you into the female Sex Pistols, didn't he? What was his strategy? Did he really want you to go disco? Was this when you left the band?

PML: I did not want to work with Malcolm, the other members did. It created tension but I managed to persuade them. In his intro to us he informed us that he hated women and music, and that he thrived on hate. That was enough for me. Don Letts was different he was coming along and helping out, but he was not really like an official manager that we listened to.

3AM: Many people claim that one of the best things on Cut -- the album that was recorded after you'd left -- is Budgie's drumming. Does this bother you? Did you ever regret leaving the band?

PML: I have no regrets. Some people say the best was the Peel version. It doesn't really matter.

3AM: The Slits were a very international band, Viv Albertine being half French, Ari Up part German and you Spanish. Do you think this had some bearing on your attitude and music?

PML: Yes I do. I thought Ari was full German!

Paloma (3rd from right) today with her family

3AM: I believe you met the Guilty Razors, a Franco-Spanish punk band based in Paris: is this correct? Did you take any interest in what was going on in Europe? Were you interested in La Movida which, to a certain extent, was Spain's answer to punk?

PML: Not really.

3AM: Gina Birch and Ana da Silva formed The Raincoats (the band you joined after The Slits) after being influenced by The Slits: what link do you see between the two?

PML: They both had a passion for being on the cutting edge of things.

3AM: Both bands were important, but which one do you look back on with most fondness?

PML: I had good times with both of them and I care for all of them, but I had a closer friendship with Tessa in the Slits and Gina in the Raincoats at the time.

3AM: What sort of music do you listen to today?

PML: I love a group called Selah and also Kirk Franklin: they are both Christian groups. I listen to rap too because of my kids, they are all in bands: Sandy and Macarena are in 'Last Call' and Hannah is in 'True Witness'.

3AM: Why have you launched a new website? Why now?

PML: I want to reach people with the message of the Gospel. I want my experience to count for others I believe if I can give a true account of it, people could learn from my struggles.

3AM: Tell us about your Christian beliefs: how did you become a Christian in the first place? What church do you belong to?

PML: I was in a desperate place, I felt as if I had given myself to everything that had caught my fancy and everything had left me emptier than before. I went from the hippie experience to punk to Hinduism, yoga and new age. Dave and I were already married and had two kids, but I lacked direction and purpose in my life. I believed that there was a spiritual world, but I didn't know God. At this point someone came to me -- a girl call Gillian who was studying to become a nurse -- and she just told me that I could speak directly to Jesus, that He was God and that He would make himself real to me if I asked Him to. It was that simple. The moment I did, it totally revolutionized my whole existence. That was 20 years ago and it gets better and better.

I don't believe in Sunday-morning only Christianity. I believe in a radical Christianity. My heart and my focus is to reach what I believe is a screwed-up and lost generation and to be a testimony for God. That is why I did the web page.

I love my church. It is called Victory Chapel and is part of a group of around a thousand churches that has spread all over the world, we have missionaries from our own congregation that have gone to China, Africa, Europe and in this country. I am very involved in it, doing video and outreaches.

3AM: Are you still in touch with the other members of The Slits and The Raincoats?

PML: I talked to Tessa on the phone and met with her on my way to Spain not that long ago. I invited Ari to come to my house and we had a great visit. She spent a couple of days and brought her son Wilton. I hear from Gina through my brother in law Richard, who visits London at times.


More on Paloma/Palmolive at her new website.

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