ROTTEN BANGERS AND MASH
Here as promised the full text of a recent interview, a few weeks (months? who's counting) ago with Johnny Rotten John Lydon who will soon be in Bangor (my plane awaits) which he talks about a little here.
Keep Banging The Door (Flowers of Romance) was about his first (last?) Irish visit, which ended in a Dublin jail.
Of course in the wee north he'll be treated like visiting royalty.
I wonder what the good folk of Bangor will inspire the Punk Bard to do...?
Thanks as ever to (the great) Juliette Jones for the transcription. If you want your tapes transcribed, she's the lady!
Johnny Rotten interview
GM: Gavin (interviewer) JR: Johnny Rotten
GM: It’s Gavin Martin from The Daily Mirror to do an interview. I was given the wrong number, bit late. Okay?
JR: It’s ten nineteen! You’ve got ten minutes. You’d best be quick. [laughs]
GM: Oh, right, okay. I’ve been phoning the wrong number, but God knows why I was given that number. So if you had it all to do again, would you skip the Sex Pistols and go straight to PiL?
JR: No. I don’t suffer from hindsight. I accept what’s presented in front of me, observe the challenge, and then go forth and supply the world with talent.
GM: So what do you take out of the Sex Pistols to what you’re doing now in PiL?
JR: I don’t. I don’t. Let’s not talk about the past, shall we? You’ve only got ten minutes, Gav.
GM: Okay then. What’s your abiding memory of your mother and father?
JR: That’s it.
GM: That’s it. Yeah. So do you and Nora argue?
JR: Yes. Frequently. It’s what keeps our relationship healthy.
GM: And does she have to put up with any petulance from you?
JR: Er, we don’t have pets.
GM: [laughs] Ay! But you’re a bit of an animal fan, you’re interested in creatures but keep them out of the house?
GM: You have done programmes about animals and stuff. But you keep them well out of the house.
JR: Yes, I like my animals wild as they were intended to be.
GM: Okey-doke. And did you ever meet Harvey Weinstein?
JR: No. Should I?
GM: No, I’m just wondered. You meet a lot of people in your time. You did a movie, Sons of Norway, 2011. You must have had lots of offers to do films over the years. But you haven’t done that many. Why did you do that one and why have you not done others?
JR: I don’t naturally take to acting. It’s not in my personality to forget myself.
GM: But why did you do that particular film? Was there something that appealed to you?
JR: Because it was done through friends, and it was to help out a very talented young actor.
JR: Who I think was spectacular.
GM: Right-o. And you are playing my home town of Bangor this summer, you’re playing a lot of places. You didn’t have a very good experience early on in Ireland. Have you been back a lot of times? Is that all water under the bridge? Or how do you feel about going back to Ireland?
JR: I have no idea what you mean by “a bad experience.”
GM: You were arrested and treated horribly in a place in…
JR: Well, I forgot about that. And so should you! [laughter]
GM: Fair enough.
JR: And as for Bangor, I can’t wait, fantastic. That’s going to be a great gig. Bangors and mash all round.
GM: [laughs] Yeah. I mean, Glen Matlock and I did that festival a few years ago.
JR: Sensational. Well, sensational. That means I’ve got big boots to fit into.
GM: Absolutely, yeah yeah yeah. Do you have a favourite poet?
GM: No? No favourite writer?
JR: No, not favourites, but many, and multi-varied. It’s anything and everything with me. Anyone who commits themselves to pen, paper or record or anything at all is interesting to me. I like creative people.
GM: So I’ve been told you’re not very keen on talking about Farage and Trump. But there was a bit of controversy when you expressed some sort of a…
JR: Well, no. Listen. No, no, Listen. I hope they’re very good friends. They belong to each other. The end.
GM: [laughs] Right. Was it just like you would say anything to get noticed when you talked about them in favourable terms?
JR: I’m not very interested. Not very interested at all. And there it is. And people trying to squeak a sort of sarky comment out of me, on an issue that I’m not in control of, doesn’t interest me.
GM: When you did that Nicky Horne show back in the day, was that very important to you to get another side of yourself across? You know, not one dimensional?
JR: Oh wow, we are going back. [GM laughs] This is Capital Radio, wasn’t it?
JR: No, they asked me what my favourite records were at that time. And that’s exactly what I had played. It was a good opportunity to have music introduced to a public who were unaware of a lot of that kind of stuff. And there is it. Like the librarian at work in me.
GM: And Peter Hamill, Van Der Graff Generation was somebody you mentioned. Have you ever talked about doing anything with him? You’ve been quite a collaborator…
JR: No, no, no, I’m not too interested in collaborations. I work mostly with friends.
GM: You must be very proud of the PiL outfit that you’re with now, the longest serving band…
JR: Well, it’s managed to survive all manner of corporate harassments, and still be able to hold its shoulders up high. Loud and proud, we are. Undefeated.
GM: What sort of harassment have you put up with?
JR: Financial, artistic. Those are the two major threats that large record companies throw at you. Continual. And they can be soul destroying. But I have more patience than a hospital. And so I outplay them.
GM: And so have you felt a new lease of life in the last few years? You didn’t make music for…
JR: Well, we’re independent now. We record on our own label. And oddly enough, we find cohesiveness. And a sense of, well, sheer joy. Where all the pressure’s off. The pressure those labels give you is unbelievably difficult. I fully understand why most of the people in my business end up drug addicts.
GM: Yeah yeah yeah.
JR: It can be overwhelming, the demand placed on you.
GM: What’s the best drug experience you’ve ever had?
JR: Er, I can’t remember the name of it, but it was allegedly a hangover cure.
GM: Right! [laughs]
JR: And it was so successful, I forgot what it was.
GM: That’s always good. And so do you ever listen to Steve Jones’s show out there in America?
JR: I didn’t know it was still going on. I thought he was having problems.
GM: Did you read his book?
JR: There’s not much to read, really. It’s a nice piece of fantasy, but not my thing.
GM: No. No. And so you must have enjoyed the recent tours you’ve done. You’re doing a really big tour this summer. Has it been a kind of a new lease of life? Is it still people the old people coming to see you?
JR: I enjoy the hard work a bit. It’s where PiL excel, is my performance. And that’s the point and purpose to this band, really, is to communicate to an audience. If that was to die to us, we would cease to exist.
GM: And is it a challenge? I mean, surely the audiences are very partisan, it’s on your side?
JR: To share your emotions with an audience is always a challenge. And that’s indeed where the pleasure is also.
JR: And the joy.
GM: And so you told me that you wanted to live to a hundred, and be making music then. So it’s your hundredth birthday…
JR: Well, I thought about that a little further. A hundred’s not enough.
GM: [laughs] Okay. A hundred and one.
JR: Yeah. Listen, as soon it gets too much of a struggle with incontinence pants, I’m happy.
GM: [laughs] Your hundredth birthday party. Who’s on the guest list?
JR: No-one. I don’t believe in birthday parties. [GM laughs] I stopped having them at twenty-one.
GM: Right-o. And so what’s…
JR: And so for me, I’ve been twenty-one ever since. I’m not inviting anyone over to contradict that fact.
GM: [laughs] And so have you read any of Viv Albertine’s books? She’s had two now.
JR: No, I don’t need to, really. Everybody fills me in.
GM: Yeah yeah yeah. Of course. Of course.
JR: And that’s the way it is. The Chinese whispers sometimes can be better than the reality.
GM: Yeah yeah. And Vivienne Westwood, she’s done all right since the Sex Pistols. Do you begrudge her her success?
JR: Why would I do that? More power to her, I say. Good heavens, no. I’m never, ever resentful of anyone who has any kind of talent at all. Whether I like what she does or not is beside the point. The point being, she likes what she’s doing. That’s great by me.
GM: Cool. Cool. Could anything like the Sex Pistols happen again, a band or a thing that could shake culture up as significantly as they did, or was that just a time and a place?
JR: Well, it could. It could. But I’d rather stay with PiL. Thank you. I know what you meant. I know what you meant.
GM: Yeah yeah.
JR: To be a voice of rebellion in the youth of today, they have to learn to get away from Facebook and Twitter.
GM: Yeah. You’ve got no truck with any social media?
JR: I find them to be anti-social. I’d much rather meet real people than putting up a Facebook presentation to other Facebook presentations. And that’s my understanding of Facebook. So it’s really two-Facebook. That’s what it should be called. Because most of the people on it are lying.
GM: Well, yeah. You can pretend to be anybody you want. So yeah, what do you forsee for this tour? People that haven’t seen you before that are going to come and see you. And what can they expect?
GM: Amazement, yeah.
JR: And honesty. And the honesty and the integrity of this band. It’s quite awesome. And sometimes even for us, overwhelming with the emotions we deal with. We’re not shy of fully investing ourselves into a project of each particular song. What we do is we explore not only ourselves, but everybody else’s emotions. And it’s vital we do that. And that’s where the songs lay. And if you want to run the full gauntlet of joy, anger, pain, everything that you can mention including the seven deadly sins, here it is.
GM: Yeah yeah. And you wrote a song for your father, recent album. Is that a particularly difficult one to perform, or do you perform it with joy?
JR: Yes. They all are. Of course they are. And I try to remember the good. And so there it is. But the sadness is in there too. I loved his sense of humour. It was dry, poignant, and excellent comedic timing. It’s quite impressive from my memory of him. And indeed my mother.
GM: Yeah. And so who were your favourite old school TV comedians? Did you watch them with your family, or…?
JR: For me, I think Steptoe and Son should run continuously forever. It’s one of the best written situation comedies I have ever experienced, and as a very young child, recovering from major illnesses, that brought me back to my senses as much as everything else.
GM: Right, right. Wilfred Brambell, a bit of an influence in…
Above: Key Influences
JR: Oh, and Norman Wisdom, always.
GM: [laughs] Norman Wisdom, yeah.
JR: Frankie Howerd. Frankie Howerd. All of these people, they were groundbreaking.
GM: Yeah. And…
JR: And Hattie Jacques. And Hattie Jacques. I loved Hattie Jacques.
GM: Yeah, brilliant.
JR: Excellent approach to life.
GM: Yeah. And an important influence on what you’ve gone on to do?
JR: Yes. Comedy I think I’ve learned more than any intellectual waffler. Yes.
GM: Yeah yeah. So, fantastic. Okay. Well look, you’ve given me fifteen minutes, that’s fine Johnny.
GM: Good stuff. Yeah. Sorry about the mix up.
JR: We zoomed through that, Gavin. Ha ha!
GM: Hey hey.
JR: Well done.
GM: Fifteen minutes, that’s fine. Yeah yeah. Good.
JR: No brakes. That’s the only way to drive. [laughs]
GM: Yeah yeah. All right, man. Have a good one. All the best.
JR: Yeah. Peace.
GM: Yeah, peace. Bye.
[End of interview]