JOHN LYDON HEADS FOR NOTTINGHAM Former Sex Pistols frontman John Lydon is back in Nottingham on Thursday. He chats to KEVIN COOPER
It terrifies me. I have a dreaded fear of letting people down before I trot on to that dreaded stage
How is life treating John Lydon?
It’s all right, it’s fine. We have our ups and downs but doesn’t everybody? I mustn’t complain and I mustn’t grumble because, quite frankly, there are a lot of people out there suffering a lot worse than anything that I can ever come up against.
We last spoke prior to the last PIL tour here in the UK. Were you pleased with the fans’ reaction?
I have to say that Public Image Live is always a pleasant experience, always. It’s great that all of the audiences understand that we are sharing real emotions with them, and that always makes for a human evening. The only person who really suffers from doing a live performance is me because of the nerves before I go on.
We must mention your recent book tour, I Could Be Wrong, I Could Be Right. Did you enjoy it?
Yes, I did, very much so. The book tour really was an overwhelming experience because you don’t expect to be able to fill small theatres and halls with people just to be able to talk about a book. And yet, that was the experience.
Nearly every night felt completely different, all in a good and different way. It was very much like going to a social club where you know everybody; one of those marvellous celebratory parties, or a really good country pub with all of your friends. It really was excellent. The questions, the fun, the jokes, and we even managed to turn it into karaoke some evenings. I even had a bit of a sing song from time to time to some old Abba songs and that’s just how it should be (laughter). Are you still collecting vinyl records?
Pil’s UK tour has 13 dates in June. Does touring still excite you?
It terrifies me. There is a lot of hard work that goes into it and that is all good enough. I have a dreaded fear of letting people down before I trot on to that dreaded stage. However, I suppose that it is an enlightening experience because it reminds you that you are, in fact, fallible (laughter).
Writing, recording, performing, which one do you prefer?
That’s easy, that would be the writing. In fact, I am writing all of the time, plus I read all the time and that’s why my eyes have gone. That’s all down to me burning the midnight oil, but before you ask, not in any celebratory way, it’s just me writing out lyrics.
PIL have now released ten albums, as well as the material that you made with the Sex Pistols. Is it getting harder for you to put a set list together?
Oh God, yes because the library just keeps on expanding. Having said that, that is not a problem, it’s more like “what a relief”, because I am overwhelmed for choice. Of course, there are certain songs which we could never do live because it simply would not be possible, they are just too fast, too uptempo, and they will exhaust you for the rest of the set.
What can we expect on the tour?
Oh, that’s easy, you can expect a wonderful world of dreariness, selfpity; the bar will of course be full, where we will all be drowning our sorrows (laughter). Honestly, and being serious for a while, it will be a rollercoaster of emotions. The most amazing thing for me is the eye contact with the audience, because believe it or not, I am a naturally shy person, but I get to lock eyes and you can tell that they really do appreciate just what it is that I am doing.
Will there be any new material?
No, simply because that would open us up to a breach of our copyright, and we would never ever do that. We did that once many years ago now, and it ended up being sold on bootlegs and that was unfortunate because it was a total waste of a song. Until songs are properly recorded and published, there is no chance of me ever being that stupid ever again.
You have been in the music business for almost 50 years now. Have you enjoyed it so far?
No (laughter). It seems to me that I have never had a childhood and I simply went straight into the wonderful world of music. Looking back, it has been difficult, it has been a struggle, it has been harsh at times, and I have met a lot of very vindictive and spiteful bitter jealous and twisted people, so I would not say that it has been a pleasure at all.
The only real joy that I get is when I met a handful of celebrities who have turned out to be decent after all, which was a major surprise. And, of course, the audiences themselves, which are always like a good slice of humanity.
I can’t talk to you without mentioning the Sex Pistols and in particular the Danny Boyle miniseries. Why do you think that you were kept out of the loop?
Honestly, I have absolutely no idea, but they all spent an awful lot of money to ensure that I would be kept out of this which resulted in a ridiculous court case, which I personally wasn’t seeking. They are all telling me that it is not about the Pistols – it is supposedly about Steve Jones, and yet in the publicity hype they are using a picture of me and Nora. I am most shocked and disappointed with Danny Boyle.
It has been widely publicised that you lost the court case. How has it affected you?
Well, the end result of me losing the court case to the Disney Corporation is that the Sex Pistols have now turned into a Mickey Mouse Production.
Has all of this hurt you?
Oh yes, very much, very much indeed.
Did you ever think that people would still be talking about the Sex Pistols; still buying the album 45 years later?
No, but I am so glad that they do. I don’t think that the bad attitude of these three should not really affect the pure honesty and content of that record. That album contains work that I am immensely proud of.
Is there another book inside you waiting to see the light of day?
Well, as long as I live, I will carry on writing. And it is usually good enough to talk about. I can’t help that, my life is a natural fiasco really, full of
difficulties, trials and tribulations.
In Public Image you actually sing “I will not be treated as property.” Do you still think that is the case?
Well, what can I say, that is the attempt. I am taking every possible opportunity to stop that, loud and clear. And thank God by talking to people like you I am being given that opportunity because, quite frankly, I have to fight for myself here because things are already being twisted. I can see it happening already out there.
■■John Lydon appears with Public Image Limited at Rock City on Thursday, supported by Brix Smith. Tickets are £30 from alttickets.com/ public-image-ltd-tickets