(Top photo: Jill Furmanovsky)
When I rang Chrissie Hynde at her Portland hotel she was just as dry and gravelly as I'd hoped. The 65-year-old frontwoman of the Pretenders, who are currently on a world tour with Stevie Nicks, was coolly dismissive of today's conservatism, but had a softer side than I was expecting, revealing that she misses her house plant when she's on the road. I spoke to her about vegetarianism, Vedism and conspiracy theories.
VICE: What would your parents prefer you to have chosen as a career?
Chrissie Hynde: My mother just said, "I just want you to be a lady." I don't think that worked out very well…
Which memories from school stand out to you stronger than any other?
My extra curricular activities. Listening to records with my girlfriends. We even had a little turntable we took into the girls' restroom and listened to Paul Butterfield on it. All I can really remember doing was listening to the radio and listening to records when I was at school. I wasn't very academic and I certainly wasn't a very good student.
Any fashion choices that you regret now?
Never. I did make a lot of my own clothes. I used to love to sew, so I made my own shirts and bell bottoms and modified my own clothes, which is what we did during the punk period. We got stuff from Oxfam and modified it. This is way before there was designer gear. When I was growing up, and ever since I got in a band, people like us would never be in Vogue magazine. That was more for straight establishment types. In fact, I met Cher—I told her I was making some bell bottoms like the ones she had back in the day—and I said, "I was down in the basement sewing them," and she said, "I was up in the attic where I lived sewing mine!"
What would your specialist subject on Mastermind be?
I like religion. I would like to talk about religion, I suppose. I don't know if it's my specialist subject, but I'm certainly more interested in it than most people. Especially Vedic culture and Vedic religion.
Complete the sentence: the problem with young people today is ....
They spend too much time in front of screens. I think it's adjusting itself slowly. People are pulling back a little bit. I know people who had Facebook accounts and they cancelled them. A friend of mine said she was becoming too compulsive. It was turning her into a stalker.
Do you believe any conspiracy theories?
Yes, I do. Well... these are my own theories. I don't think that Gianni Versace was killed by Andrew Cunanan. I don't think he was killed by a serial killer. I think he was assassinated by the Mafia. I don't think that Michael Jackson died. He's probably dead now, but I don't think he died when they said he did. I think he wanted out of the game anyway, so he just disappeared. I don't think anyone in their height of powers could have done 50 days at the O2 like that. That was a very ambitious thing for anyone. Even if you were 23 and very capable. So the whole thing didn't ring true to me.
What's the nicest thing you own?
Well, maybe my guitar that I use on stage. I'm not a big collector and I don't know what year it was built, but it certainly serves me well and I'm very fond of it. I bought a Stella McCartney jacket in Salt Lake City. It's nice. It looks like a pea coat. I love Stella's stuff, so wherever I go in the world I will always go in and buy her stuff. And wherever I go people will say how cool her stuff is. That makes me happy because I know Stella and I knew her mum and everything. I knew how thrilled Linda would be to hear that.
What would be your last meal?
Probably some nuts and raisins. I don't think I'd want to die on a real full stomach. Would you? I guess I just want to be a little more slimmed down and ready to go. And I wouldn't want to think of all that stuff churning around while I was decomposing, if you want to get graphic about it.
What film or TV show makes you cry?
One of my favourite films was called The Twilight Samurai. The Samurai's daughter is narrating the story, and in the end—when it gets to the conclusion and she's talking about her father – I think I cried then.
What have you done in your career that you're most proud of?
Well, I don't know if it's related to my career, but it would be anything I've done to encourage a vegetarian lifestyle. If someone comes up to me at an airport and says, "I listened to an interview of yours and I became vegetarian," that fills me with joy. Much more than people commenting on the music. I mean, the music's great, but that actually means something.
if you were a wrestler, what song would you enter the ring to?
"Prisoner of Love" by James Brown. It has a great line: "From night to night you'll find me / Too weak to break these chains that bind me / I need 'no shackles to remind me / I'm just a prisoner..."
Do you have any pets?
I don't have any. I travel too much. I have a plant, nothing special. For me, it's very special. It's got three leaves. I don't even know what it is. It's a little thing. It is like my companion plant. When I was away I got very worried because I thought no one was in to water it, and it kind of upset me. And I thought, 'Well, that's pretty sad if I'm getting upset over my plant.'