Sat, Jun 02, 2012 - Page 16 News List

Rotten no more

The former Sex Pistol on living in America, rejecting anarchy and reviving Public Image Ltd, which released its first album in 20 years earlier this week.

By Dave Simpson  /  The Guardian, London

John Lydon.

Photo: Reuters

Dave Simpson: Hello, John. What’s the view like there?

John Lydon: I’m looking over the rooftop at the ocean. I like America’s diversity and its landscapes. They haven’t made it tacky yet, but they’re working on it. Which is a good thing. [In the UK] I like [seaside resort] Blackpool’s working-class, couldn’t-care-less sensibility. It’s just very hard to deal with the drunken women. “Hello, do you know I’ve got no knickers on?” Yes, I do.

DS: You’re singing a lot about England on the new PiL [Public Image Ltd] album, even though you have lived in the US for three decades. Do the boarded-up shops of recessionary Britain remind you of the country you left?

JH: I hope not, that was a dreadful place. I was banned everywhere. I no longer have that feeling about England that things will be there for ever. Pubs are great social centers but they’ve been replaced by wine bars that are cold and expensive. All these alleged roughhouse communities — like Yorkshire and Glasgow — have always been friendly to me. They are my people. All the supposed hellholes. I do well in hell.

DS: Does living in the US give you an anonymity you had lost in the UK?

JH: I’m in England so often I haven’t really left. But Americans aren’t at all like they are misrepresented through their politicians. The only good political movement I’ve seen lately was Occupy Wall Street. They had no leaders, which was genius. But unfortunately it always ends up with some hippy playing a flute.

DS: Is Occupy a taste of the Anarchy in the UK you foresaw in 1976?

JH: I don’t believe in anarchy, because it will ultimately amount to the power of the bully, with weapons. Gandhi is my life’s inspiration: passive resistance.

DS: There’s a line on the single, One Drop: “We come from chaos.” Is there a balance — are our lives too ordered now?

JH: The structures that successive governments are trying to place on you are definitely to the detriment of creative thinking, and they’re leading to all kinds of fake usurping of that agenda, like teenagers binge drinking. Drinking until you’re crawling around in your vomit isn’t much of an achievement, but I’m empathic to them. It’s a form of rebellion. You can accept these foolish ways or utterly reject them. And I reject! Been in jail a few times. Accidentally, I assure you.

DS: You famously weren’t arrested at the jubilee boat party. How come?

JH: I got away with that because the police stupidly asked me: “Which one’s Johnny Rotten?” I fingered Richard Branson.

DS: When was the last time you had bother with the rozzers?

JH: They kept an eye on me at my last visit to Wembley — Arsenal v Birmingham. They told me to sit down. I said: “We’ve all got hemorrhoids. Unless you can provide hemorrhoids pillows, we’re standing!”

DS: You’ve had a very long marriage. What’s the secret?

JH: Don’t make decisions lightly and, when you do, know it’s the correct one. When you row, after you’ve gone through the angry bit, take the argument into the realms of the absurd. Then the humor comes back and you know you’re back on the right path.

DS: You famously described human reproduction — sex — as “two minutes and 52 seconds of squelching”. Does it get better with age?

JH: Hang me for my loose lips. I’ve learned new techniques. When you’re young, you’re shy and nervous. Probably entering the wrong hole half the time.

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