CASH FOR QUES­TIONS: JOHN LY­DON

The punk icon puts down his 10x mag­ni­fy­ing mir­ror and bo­gey-ex­tract­ing tweez­ers to talk but­ter ads, wasp stings and more.

Q (UK) - - Contents - JOHN LY­DON WORDS NIALL DO­HERTY PHO­TO­GRAPHS VIC­TO­RIA SMITH

The ex-Sex Pis­tol has strong opin­ions on every­thing from bo­geys to Prince Harry.

“Any­thing that has a pulse fas­ci­nates me. My favourite in­sect is the pray­ing man­tis.”

John Ly­don doesn’t have a morn­ing rou­tine, the Sex Pis­tols singer and PiL leader be­ing un­able to keep to any kind of plan. But chaos of a dif­fer­ent kind has reigned in his Mal­ibu home this morn­ing. “Diar­rhoea!” he blurts out. “It’s got re­ally cold here re­ally quick and caught me and my lit­tle beach shorts by sur­prise. What’s hap­pened now is my bot­tom is trau­ma­tised.” He lets out a shriek­ing, Joker-ish cackle. Ly­don will fall in line to a reg­i­mented sched­ule over the next few months as Pub­lic Image Ltd em­bark on a UK tour to mark their 40th an­niver­sary, a boxset and the re­lease of The Pub­lic Image Is Rot­ten, a doc­u­men­tary pro­fil­ing the band’s ca­reer. “We tour to raise money in or­der to man­u­fac­ture and pro­duce the next record,” says Ly­don. “That’s what we have to do be­cause we live out­side of the ‘shit­stem’. There’s no easy money and we’re not be­ing pam­pered or black­mailed. It’s called free­dom. Free­dom to pay your own bills is the irony of it!” Another ear-rum­bling cackle ar­rives, and then he’s ready to face your ques­tions. “Let the agony be­gin!” What do you dis­like most about liv­ing in Mal­ibu? Pete McMa­hon, via Q Mail The way the pa­parazzi don’t treat me with any re­spect at all and seem to find it end­lessly amus­ing that I do my own shop­ping. The English tabloids love to pick up on these things, too. There’s al­ways pic­tures of me putting shop­ping bags in the boot of a car or walk­ing with a trol­ley. How bizarre! If I’d have known when I was 17 that all I had to do was go shop­ping, I’d have saved my­self a lot of ef­fort.

Where in the world does the best break­fast? John Mor­ri­son, Portsmouth Any­where where it ar­rives on time, mean­ing room ser­vice. But un­for­tu­nately room ser­vice is al­ways shit, so it’s a one half-dozen of the other and, quite frankly, all down to per­sonal taste. “How do you like your eggs? Cold, I hope!”

The Sex Pis­tols’ show at the Lesser Free Trade Hall in 1976 has gone down as a piv­otal gig in rock his­tory. Do you ac­tu­ally be­lieve peo­ple when they say they were there? Mark Mitchell, New­cas­tle There was that film about Tony Wil­son 2002’ s 24 Hour Party Peo­ple], which im­plied every­body in Manch­ester was there. I hope so, be­cause that would be telling me what a small com­mu­nity the Manch­ester mu­sic busi­ness was! A hun­dred thou­sand peo­ple must have gone to the 100 Club gig in Lon­don in 1976]. We only did one. Every­body and their pet dog was there, and good for them. Every­body needs a fan­tasy, that’s as good as any. My fan­tasies, I could def­i­nitely be locked up for. I’m all in sup­port of that!

You’ve pre­sented doc­u­men­taries on bugs, apes and sharks. What an­i­mal do you most iden­tify with? @mi­graine­jones, via Twit­ter All of them. Any­thing that has a pulse fas­ci­nates me. My favourite in­sect is the pray­ing man­tis. There’s some­thing about the shape that seems aw­fully fa­mil­iar to me, I can’t ex­plain it. Ants are the same. And wasps. There’s some­thing about the shape of their heads that I find very at­trac­tive. I was stung by a wasp re­cently, on the beach. I trod on it. In the cold months they’re at­tracted to the salt wa­ter for some rea­son and so the sand can be full of them. You don’t al­ways no­tice them among the peb­bles.

What’s your big­gest re­gret? Keith War­ren, Steve­nage I sup­pose, not be­ing my fault, but hav­ing menin­gi­tis at the age of seven] and as a re­sult] for­get­ting who my mother and fa­ther were, let alone for­get­ting who I was. But not be­ing able to make up for that in the years that came later. They’re both dead and it hits you from time to time. I have a great deal of sad­ness that I never made up for it and told them just how much I ap­pre­ci­ate them just giv­ing me life at all.

When was the last time you vis­ited Fins­bury Park and what do you make of the gen­tri­fi­ca­tion of Lon­don? Donna McLaugh­lin, Is­ling­ton Well, they might be gen­tri­fy­ing cer­tain streets but the es­tates are as vi­o­lent and rough as ever. I go down there, yeah; I don’t have any rel­a­tives there any more, but I still have friends there. It’s an­noy­ing to see those pubs we grew up in filled with, shall we say, fake work­ing-class. Which is an ab­sur­dity! Who wants to pre­tend to have noth­ing, when gen­uine work­ing-class peo­ple are des­per­ately try­ing to pre­tend they have some­thing? Some­where in-be­tween, I’m sit­ting.

What’s the clos­est you’ve ever come to quit­ting mu­sic com­pletely? Ted Wel­lard, Black­pool When I had se­ri­ous trou­ble for nearly two decades with the la­bels. On one hand they had me in debt, and to get out of debt I had to do things like tour­ing but they wouldn’t fi­nance the tour and if I raised the money in­de­pen­dently, then that would go back to­wards the debt and I’d be in this Catch- 22. They were very de­spon­dent times for me. I had to raise in­ter­est by do­ing other things. I’ve got to say, thank you Dairy Crest, you def­i­nitely helped me out of that dol­drum. It wasn’t a huge amount of money but it was enough of one lump sum to go against the debt and to help me] think about re-form­ing PiL. At that point, I thought, “Right, the only peo­ple I want to work with again from the en­tire PiL cat­a­logue are the per­son­al­i­ties that are not abra­sive and nasty.” All of us in the band are out­siders. I still feel like one now. At least I’m on the out­side look­ing in. I’ve got a win­dow.

The first Pub­lic Image al­bum is 40 years old this year. What are your main mem­o­ries of mak­ing it? Michelle Wa­ters, Chelms­ford Forty, wow, doesn’t time fly when you’re hav­ing fun and hav­ing ar­gu­ments with record con­trac­tors? The mem­o­ries flood back in when I play it to my­self. Be­cause I was ill when I was young, mem­o­ries like that are vi­tal to me. It’s nice to re-ex­pe­ri­ence them, the pain and the tor­ment of putting them songs to­gether is, oddly enough, an en­joy­able ex­pe­ri­ence to rein­tro­duce your­self to.

When was the last time you got in an ar­gu­ment with some­one? Brenda Am­brose, Wy­combe It was prob­a­bly the plumber! Once you’ve in­stalled your own toi­let, even though you don’t ever wanna do it again, the poor chap that comes around to do it the next time is gonna get your world of ex­pe­ri­ence thrown at them. I re­alised I was do­ing it too, but you know when you en­joy be­ing in­sane? A mo­ment of mad­ness where you don’t bother to rein it in. The plumber was my mate, so he knew what I was do­ing, and just teased me back. Have you kept in touch with any­one you met on I’m A Celebrity…? Hay­ley Samp­son, Brighton No, I haven’t kept in touch. I sup­pose, gen­er­ally speak­ing, I wish all of them the best. The wildlife is def­i­nitely for real. The snakes are not mess­ing about. I re­mem­ber read­ing neg­a­tive rub­bish say­ing it was all done in the car park of a ho­tel with pot­ted plants, this is the stuff I’d be hear­ing be­fore I went in. Nope! I can as­sure you it’s not! It’s real, grotty camp­ing with­out a tent. The ants bite. But then every­thing in Aus­tralia does. I found it dif­fer­ent from any­thing I’d done be­fore. I’d never chal­lenged my­self phys­i­cally that way. The bore­dom got to me, and lis­ten­ing to peo­ple moan­ing about not hav­ing hot show­ers was ab­surd to my way of think­ing. There’s a per­fectly freez­ing pond there full of leeches, what are you moan­ing about?!

Will you be watch­ing Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s wed­ding next month? Vicky Clark, via Q Mail Yeah, course. I love all that feu­dal­ism and flag-wav­ing and aero­planes fly­ing over­head. Pageantry, I’m up for that – but] I’m not up for pay­ing for it!

What’s your favourite smell? Liv Walker, Swansea It would prob­a­bly be one of them Eau de Colognes. Any­thing with wood in it. I love san­dal­wood. So any ex­cuse to smell san­dal­wood or cedar is fan­tas­tic to me. Ac­tu­ally, the smell of herbs. I love thyme.

“My am­bi­tion when we first started punk was that I wouldn’t be led by rules. Have I stuck to the rule I won’t fol­low rules? Yes and no!”

Who does Christ­mas din­ner round yours? Andy North, In­gate­stone No one. Oc­ca­sion­ally we go to oth­ers, but if it was left up to John’s wife] Nora and me, no, we wouldn’t bother. It’s too much of a fuss, the or­gan­i­sa­tional skills re­quired for what is ba­si­cally a greed­fest. I’d much rather do drink and drugs, please, fuck the chicken!

Which lyric are you most proud of? Bill Old­ham, Tam­worth Rise, Dis­ap­pointed, God Save The Queen… I could go on. I feel that way about any set of lyrics I put to­gether, oth­er­wise I wouldn’t com­mit them to mu­sic. Most times the words come first and then I’ll be des­per­ately in the stu­dio try­ing to grab on to any­thing that sounds like a melody in or­der to fit them in.

What do you con­sider is the most punk rock thing you’ve ever done? An­thony Brookes, Chich­ester When they ap­proached me for the but­ter cam­paign, it was so an­ar­chis­tic to all of my prin­ci­ples. I got over that and re­alised, “These guys are game for this! They want me to take this se­ri­ous!” I liked the way they bad­gered me into it – and good on ’em for it – cos I could’ve been snotty and turned it down, but they turned my life around.

What’s your pol­icy on bo­geys? Roll and flick or eat? Ron­nie G, via Q Mail Never eat, oh God, no! I lost the lin­ing in my nos­trils years ago and so I’m very prone to crus­ta­tions up there. What I’ve got is a 10x mag­ni­fy­ing mir­ror, a re­ally long pair of tweez­ers and a halo­gen torch and I go pok­ing up there ev­ery morn­ing for the crusties.

Does the term “sell-out” mean any­thing any more? David Crooks, Glas­gow It never should have. If you fill a con­cert hall, is that sell­ing out? It’s no big deal. Some peo­ple pan­der in life and there’s room for all of us. There are those that don’t and those that do. As a species we can’t sur­vive with­out both op­tions, I’ve learned that over the years.

Do you watch many Arse­nal games liv­ing out in LA? El­liot Ma­son, via Q Mail I don’t miss a sin­gle one. I don’t mind the ex­cuse to get up at 4am to watch an early kick-off]. It’s hard to feel too en­thu­si­as­tic these days, to be hon­est, I barely know half the team. I sup­pose I’m fol­low­ing it from a much more tra­di­tional and proper sup­port point of view. The mod­ern fan seems very su­per­fi­cial and the de­mand for suc­cess on a con­stant level is ab­surd.

Do you feel that punk’s work has been un­done when you see how beige and sani­tised every­thing is these days? James Crow­der, Wick­ford Each to his own de­ter­mi­na­tion in life, and you can’t rely on a genre or a move­ment to give you a safety valve. Every­thing in life is self-de­ter­mi­na­tion. Never take all of one con­cept com­pletely, be­cause there’s bits and pieces that might be flawed. I sug­gest to any­body out there, have an open mind. My am­bi­tion when we first started punk was that I wouldn’t be led by rules. Have I stuck to the rule I won’t fol­low rules? Yes and no!

The Pub­lic Image Is Rot­ten boxset is out 29 June. For tick­ets and info on the band’s tour, visit www.pilof­fi­cial.com.

To take part in Cash For Ques­tions, go to Qthe­mu­sic.com, fol­low @Qmagazine on Twit­ter or visit Face­book (face­book.com/ qmagazine). £ 25 for each ques­tion printed! If yours is printed, email [email protected]­mu­sic.com to claim your money.

A pray­ing man­tis: “aw­fully fa­mil­iar” to John.

Sex Pis­tols at the Lesser 1976. Free Trade Hall in John Ly­don “hopes” that ev­ery­one in Manch­ester was there...

Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s forth­com­ing wed­ding. Ly­don will be watch­ing…

“The wildlife is def­i­nitely for real.” Ly­don with fel­low I’m A Celebrity con­tes­tant Katie Price in 2004.

Bread and but­ter: John Ly­don’s 2008 Coun­try Life ad­vert “turned my life around.”

John Ly­don: still punk enough to flout any smok­ing bans.

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