Rotten luck

Liz Nicholls

Public Image

Liz Nicholls chats to Johnny Rotten, AKA John Lydon, 62, ahead of The Public Image Is Rotten Summer Tour of Europe and Japan, marking Public Image Ltd’s 40th anniversary

Q. Hello! Which date on this world tour are you most excited about?
“The first one is always the most fearful. But then often your first gig is your best, because of stress. I’m always nervous; I leave myself practically naked when I go on stage. All my defences and ego, I leave in the dressing room… it’s a hard parting! But as soon as you see their eyes, you’re being human together and I love that. That’s why I love these small, intimate venues.”

Q. Are you enjoying making music more than ever?
“Yes! It’s 40 years rewarded well, being in PiL now. I’m happy to say I’m working with real friends. We respect each other; we’re not laying down booby traps to make each other look foolish. And I’ve had that from bands [chuckles]… no doubt I’ve done it myself, too! But you can’t live in that world of adversity and animosity all the time. You just gotta stop it; start being reasonable. It’s a surprise to me!”

Q. How does London today compare to the old Kings Road days of punk?
“Well it’s more Topshop than interesting and avant garde. But I’ll always love a British pub. If there’s a bunch of old people, all the better, thank you.”

Q. Who’s your favourite author?
“Dickens; he gives a child’s view of a cruel world; there’s hope. Look to the children; they’re the ones closer to God.”

Q. What makes you angry as you get older?
“Little things, like my knackered big left toe can annoy the hell out of me. But it’s always bigger issues. The disenfranchised. The rich getting richer. So here I am, fully armed to combat that!”

Q. Is anger an energy and does politics anger you?
“Yes. There’s fake news on both sides of the agenda now, all around the world. Everyone has a personal vendetta which they’ve transferred into an agenda a la politics. As for politicians, is there a football pundit who doesn’t talk absolute b*****s? It’s the same with politicians. They separate us into ‘camps’. That’s why I loved punk initially; it broke down barriers like the north vs south, same with rave. I see the world as us: all of us. Now I’m only nasty to subjects and topics, not human beings.”

Q. You live in LA – what’s the buzz like over the Royal Wedding there?
“The Americans go mad for all the pomp, in a very Walt Disney, childlike way. I see no harm! I love a royal wedding because I get to see the old spitfires and bombers flying over Buckingham Palace… that is a sight for me!”

Q. Do you have much vinyl?
“An enormous amount; to the extent I’ve damaged the structure of my house. I had to put RSJs in! My collection’s the weight of a baby elephant, maybe two. I love vinyl, same as I books; I love the texture, the feel.”

Q. Who’s your favourite artist?
“Kandinsky: free-flowing vivid images. I also love Hundertwasser; taking ideas from the canvass into architecture.”

Visit for details of a new 40th anniversary box set and gigs on the tour.