My dad grew up in a mud hut and studied by candlelight. He was 14 when he got a scholarship to Russia. He was super clever - the cleverest person. He landed in 5ft of snow, and was alone at 14, studying science and engineering. He didn't have a bed, and he slept on a table.
Sri Lanka is an island off the coast of India. There's two ethnicities there; one the Sinhalese, which is the majority and the government, and the minority, who are the Tamils. That's where I'm from. And my lifetime sort of began there; I spent 10 years, and I was there during when the war started and fled as a refugee to England.
I feel like people either love me or hate me, which is good, because that was the point of what I do. The point of M.I.A. is to be - it's either to be loved or hated. At least you evoke that much of a strong opinion about music.
In India, you see the way they embrace color in the culture - it's very celebratory of the existence of color. There's no rule of what color belongs together or doesn't belong together. They're not precious about it. It's very full-on.
I don't like the idea of spirituality done the way it's done. The only way I could understand it was through creativity, not by going to an Ashram, or finding a guru or joining a temple. I made work out of it.
I don't intentionally go: 'Ooh, what is provocative,' and try to do that. I just do stuff, and people go: 'Ooh, that's provocative.'
I have no ties to my dad. I had no communications with him; it didn't shape who I am or anything like that. I'm actually a product of my mom.
Matangi's mantra is aim, which is MIA backwards. She fights for freedom of speech and stands for truth, and lives in the ghetto because her dad was the first person in Hindu mythology who came from the 'hood, but had gained enlightenment through not being a Brahmin.
My uncle was the first brown person to have a market stall on Petticoat Lane in the 1960s. He worked his way up from the street. He was homeless, but eventually he got a car so he could sell from the boot. And by the 1980s, he was a millionaire wholesaling to companies like Topshop. So in a way, fashion put me in England.
It's a bit weird, because I don't really know what people expect or think being political is; I just don't get it. What am I supposed to do as a pop star-stroke-revolutionary? Get up and put my balaclava on, go to the grocery store and then invent some Google viruses, and then go to rob a bank to fund my revolution on YouTube?
Madonna did amazing songs. She had an amazing sense of style, without a stylist. And she was flawed, and sometimes she admitted it. I'll fight the fight for Madonna. I think she should send me some chocolates or something to thank me.
At first, I found the music I was making really hard to find a home for. I felt like my attitude was really British, but not the actual sounds I was making. Back in 2003, when I made 'Galang,' there were no clubs that had an 'anything and everything' attitude.
I remember taking my demo to every dance person in London. People were like, 'We don't know what this is!' The first people to champion me were a club in Manchester.
When we moved to England in 1986, I was ten years old and I didn't know anything about punk or hip hop. The only words I knew in English were 'dance' and 'Michael Jackson.' We got put in a flat in Mitchum, and the council gave us second hand furniture, second hand clothes and a second hand radio that I took to bed with me every night.
I'm just so grateful for the 10 years that I had in Sri Lanka when it was in the middle of a war and I was getting shot at, because now and again I remember glimpses of those times, and I just go, 'Wow, I'll never, ever see that again in my life. And I'm never gonna feel that, and I'm never gonna feel for a human being like that.'
In 2004, I went onstage for the first time. They put a mike in my hand and pushed me out the door into the crowd. I did the three songs I had recorded and got out. It was the worst day of my life.
When I first came out, I was a film student, and my mom sewed clothes. I was already doing a million things then, whatever it took to survive. If I had to braid someone's hair to get one pound for my lunch money, that's what I did.
I don't understand why people make me want to make music that's a join-the-dots thing by numbers. I find it really difficult when people say, 'Aw, you should have made a really big hip hop record, that would have been really good for you' or, 'You should have made a song like Lily Allen, that would have been so great.'
In my head, I actually think my songs are pop songs. I think, 'Damn, that's a pop song!' I can practice in front of the mirror with my hairbrush for as long as I want to. But when it finally comes out, it sounds avant-garde to people.
It's interesting, because I named my first album after my dad because I wanted to find him. My second album was named after my mom because I felt like I learned all my creative talents I learned from her. All the survival stuff, too. And then the next album is 'Maya,' which is not my real name. It's fake.