Electronica's siren is back – with kung fu moves

On the eve of Republica's return tour, lead singer Saffron talks to Emily Jupp

In 1997, at the height of Republica's fame, when "Ready to Go" was re-released and lead singer Saffron performed vocals for The Prodigy's "Fuel My Fire", she received some advice from fellow rock goddess Debbie Harry: "Get a bodyguard."

"That didn't sit easy with me," says Saffron, whose real name is Samantha Sprackling. "I thought it was about my band and my music. I wanted to be as close to the fans as possible."

That changed when she woke up in her hotel bedroom after performing at the Roskilde festival in 1998 to find someone sneaking in through the door. "It was like a horror film. I was half asleep, my eyes were flickering and then I saw the door opening. I jumped out of bed and started screaming."

A fan had convinced the hotel staff he was her friend and got a room key. Another occasion, when a gang of men physically picked her up and started to carry her out of a club, made Saffron wary. "It was almost as if they were in a trance, they apologised afterwards but I was really angry. How dare they think that they could do that to anybody? It was really inappropriate."

The red-haired siren's fiery stage manner clearly belies her vulnerability. "It doesn't matter how strong or confident you are... I definitely became more reclusive after that... there was a time when I found it hard to be in crowds."

It's surprising, as she has always loved the limelight. Keen to make it as a dancer, she auditioned for Starlight Express when she was just 18 and had no skating experience. "I always wanted to be in Hot Gossip... I loved these sexy dancers that danced to punk music and Arlene Phillips was the boss of that scene. I knew she'd be at the Starlight Express auditions, so I went along." Arlene Phillips, now better known for her stint as a judge on Strictly Come Dancing, took a risk by taking her on.

"The question she asked me at the audition was: 'Are you prepared to work the hardest you've ever worked in your life?' I trained for six months and [during that time] I didn't know if I had a job or anything – I just had to keep going. I learnt all the parts including all the boys' parts in case someone dropped out."

Republica is about to start touring again after several false starts which began in 1997 when the band's label, Deconstruction Records, folded shortly after the release of Speed Ballads, their second album. So why the long wait for a reunion? Was something getting in the way? "Yeh, me!" she giggles. "I didn't feel in my heart it was the right thing to do... bands are funny, they are kind of like your family… but it's lots of fun being together now." This time round, Saffron is better prepared for coping with over-enthusiastic fans. Five years ago, she began learning martial arts.

"I have always had a call to the east because of my background" – the mixed-race singer's mother is half-Chinese, half-Portuguese and lived in Hong Kong – "and I got into it because I was curious." Saffron knows Wing Chun, a form of self-defence. Her master was taught by Bruce Lee's master – a fact she's very proud of. "It's a female style of Kung Fu designed by a nun. Have you seen Kill Bill? Well, the moves they use are based on Wing Chun. It gives you inner confidence, so if somebody comes into your space you can dissolve the situation. I think its calmed me down quite a lot."

Arts and Entertainment
Kathy (Sally Lindsay) in Ordinary Lies
tvReview: The seemingly dull Kathy proves her life is anything but a snoozefest
Arts and Entertainment

Listen to his collaboration with Naughty Boy

Arts and Entertainment
Daniel Craig in a scene from ‘Spectre’, released in the UK on 23 October

Arts and Entertainment
Cassetteboy's latest video is called Emperor's New Clothes rap

Arts and Entertainment

Poldark review
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment
Arts and Entertainment
Katie Brayben is nominated for Best Actress in a Musical for her role as Carole King in Beautiful

Arts and Entertainment
Israeli-born actress Gal Gadot has been cast to play Wonder Woman
Top Gear presenter James May appears to be struggling with his new-found free time
Arts and Entertainment
Kendrick Lamar at the Made in America Festival in Los Angeles last summer
Arts and Entertainment
'Marley & Me' with Jennifer Aniston and Owen Wilson
Arts and Entertainment
Jon Hamm (right) and John Slattery in the final series of Mad Men
Arts and Entertainment
Arts and Entertainment
Place Blanche, Paris, 1961, shot by Christer Strömholm
photographyHow the famous camera transformed photography for ever
Arts and Entertainment
The ‘Westmacott Athlete’
Arts and Entertainment
‘The Royals’ – a ‘twisted, soapy take on England’s first family’
tv Some of the characters appear to have clear real-life counterparts
Brooks is among a dozen show-business professionals ever to have achieved Egot status
Arts and Entertainment
A cut above: Sean Penn is outclassed by Mark Rylance in The Gunman
film review
Arts and Entertainment
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
James Franco and Zachary Quinto in I Am Michael

Film review Michael Glatze biopic isn't about a self-hating gay man gone straight

Arts and Entertainment
A scene from the movie 'Get Hard'
tvWill Ferrell’s new film Get Hard receives its first reviews
Arts and Entertainment
Left to right: David Cameron (Mark Dexter), Nick Clegg (Bertie Carvel) and Gordon Brown (Ian Grieve)
tvReview: Ian Grieve gets another chance to play Gordon Brown... this is the kinder version
Arts and Entertainment
Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman in the first look picture from next year's Sherlock special

Arts and Entertainment
Because it wouldn’t be Glastonbury without people kicking off about the headline acts, a petition has already been launched to stop Kanye West performing on the Saturday night

Arts and Entertainment
Molly Risker, Helen Monks, Caden-Ellis Wall, Rebekah Staton, Erin Freeman, Philip Jackson and Alexa Davies in ‘Raised by Wolves’

TV review
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    War with Isis: Iraq declares victory in the battle for Tikrit - but militants make make ominous advances in neighbouring Syria's capital

    War with Isis

    Iraq declares victory in the battle for Tikrit - but militants make make ominous advances in neighbouring Syria
    Scientists develop mechanical spring-loaded leg brace to improve walking

    A spring in your step?

    Scientists develop mechanical leg brace to help take a load off
    Peter Ackroyd on Alfred Hitchcock: How London shaped the director's art and obsessions

    Peter Ackroyd on Alfred Hitchcock

    Ackroyd has devoted his literary career to chronicling the capital and its characters. He tells John Walsh why he chose the master of suspense as his latest subject
    Ryan Reynolds interview: The actor is branching out with Nazi art-theft drama Woman in Gold

    Ryan Reynolds branches out in Woman in Gold

    For every box-office smash in Ryan Reynolds' Hollywood career, there's always been a misconceived let-down. It's time for a rethink and a reboot, the actor tells James Mottram
    Why Robin Williams safeguarded himself against a morbid trend in advertising

    Stars safeguard against morbid advertising

    As film-makers and advertisers make increasing posthumous use of celebrities' images, some stars are finding new ways of ensuring that they rest in peace
    The UK horticulture industry is facing a skills crisis - but Great Dixter aims to change all that

    UK horticulture industry facing skills crisis

    Great Dixter manor house in East Sussex is encouraging people to work in the industry by offering three scholarships a year to students, as well as generous placements
    Hack Circus aims to turn the rule-abiding approach of TED talks on its head

    Hack Circus: Technology, art and learning

    Hack Circus aims to turn the rule-abiding approach of TED talks on its head. Rhodri Marsden meets mistress of ceremonies Leila Johnston
    Sevenoaks is split over much-delayed decision on controversial grammar school annexe

    Sevenoaks split over grammar school annexe

    If Weald of Kent Grammar School is given the go-ahead for an annexe in leafy Sevenoaks, it will be the first selective state school to open in 50 years
    10 best compact cameras

    A look through the lens: 10 best compact cameras

    If your smartphone won’t quite cut it, it’s time to invest in a new portable gadget
    Paul Scholes column: Ross Barkley played well against Italy but he must build on that. His time to step up and seize that England No 10 shirt is now

    Paul Scholes column

    Ross Barkley played well against Italy but he must build on that. His time to step up and seize that England No 10 shirt is now
    Why Michael Carrick is still proving an enigma for England

    Why Carrick is still proving an enigma for England

    Manchester United's talented midfielder has played international football for almost 14 years yet, frustratingly, has won only 32 caps, says Sam Wallace
    Tracey Neville: The netball coach who is just as busy as her brothers, Gary and Phil

    Tracey Neville is just as busy as her brothers, Gary and Phil

    The former player on how she is finding time to coach both Manchester Thunder in the Superleague and England in this year's World Cup
    General Election 2015: The masterminds behind the scenes

    The masterminds behind the election

    How do you get your party leader to embrace a message and then stick to it? By employing these people
    Machine Gun America: The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons

    Machine Gun America

    The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons
    The ethics of pet food: Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?

    The ethics of pet food

    Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?