John Lydon interview

The former Sex Pistols singer, better known as Johnny Rotten, has come
a long way since his punk heyday

Interview, Music feature

He thinks the British tabloids have psychically brutalised a generation.
‘I think so. I don’t like naming names, but Jordan comes to mind [Laughs].Where you think you can climb up on somebody else’s shoulders and tear them apart, and that somehow makes you appear better. I don’t like that approach. I don’t like scandal or gossipmongering or any of them shows that deal with that, where they involve the public in nonentity situations, where they live vicariously through someone else’s existence. That’s an awful thing to do to yourself. Every single one of us as a human being is an individual: my likes, your likes, every single one of us on this earth will never be seen again. It’s the wonderful thing about us as a species, and we’re gonna throw that away?’

Tours with his post-punk band, Public Image Limited, were financed by Lydon’s appearances in UK TV commercials, as the punk icon still owes his former record label millions.
‘It looks like I’ll be in the perfect position of being in debt for my whole life. It’s Johnny Rotten on the hire-purchase! I see the fun in it, it’s not insurmountable. I’m not one for self-pity. I tried all that for about half an hour and it bored me. I’d much rather go and do something creative.EMI is a label that will quite happily sign up Janet Jackson for… what was it, £80 million? And what did she do after her one hit? She goes and gets fat and retires. But that’s £80 million that could have helped 80 bands. Bands like what I’m in.’

He likes being taught a lesson.
‘I always put my arguments forward after a great deal of thought and many of my songs discuss arguments – “I could be wrong, I could be right” – you have to sum up both sides. Don’t just be opinionated for the sake of it. Opinions are a wonderful thing, but should be earned, and it’s great to be able to accept a correction and think: Yeeeess! Now I’m on it! That’s why I have friends.’

He has a history of violence (being on the receiving end).
‘I ended up in court in Ireland because my face was accused of attacking two policemen’s fists! Very puzzling. Only in Ireland could such a thing be possible. I love Ireland – they have a great way of making a mockery of law. It’s a healthy disrespect for the powers that be.’

Anger might be an energy, but humour is a power tool.
‘I’m baffled when some journalists quiz me for being comical, like that’s to my detriment. It’s actually to my benefit. Through humour, you can solve far more problems than you could by being miserable or “serious”. Serious means you’re eliminating other possibilities, whereas comedy considers seriousness. Because comedy is a serious thing!’

Although there is one exception…
‘George Bush. Because he seriously was a great comedian. But with dangerous results [laughs].I think he’d be quite good as a stand-up. I think when he was away from responsibility he was quite a pleasant chap, oddly enough. But he done so much damage to the world, or he allowed others to – that one’s still open to debate.’

He once channelled Jeremys Paxman and Kyle.
‘I used to run eYada, an internet live broadcaster. It was a great show, because we’d talk to politicians and philosophers and people who worked behind the scenes in government in live debates. Did I have to learn my f***ing skills! Some of these people are way clever! But you can learn an awful lot about what systems such as Epsilon are all about. They monitor European businesses, and that gives a direct advantage to American industry. It doesn’t work the other way round. The information highway is a one-way street!’

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