Lydon & McGeoch:
Cut Magazine, November 198

© 1987 Cut

Here's Johnny

Two great comebacks, one great story. John Lydon returns with John McGeoch in tow, as PiL try the new album tour routine, again. J.B Berstein & Martin Cunning are back as the ever popular Good Humour Guys. There's nothing new under the sun, is there?

Hey! You! That's right you! Citizen… the one with horlicks and their fingerless gloves. Leave yourself alone a minute. Both hands where we can see them. That's the ticket. Here's your chance to shine in a sea of sludge. Cosmo gives it's girls the big breaks: write-ins, fat farms lifestyle co-ordination… why should CUT Critters miss out… no reason so far as we can see, so-o-o… what we're gonna do, is leave these pages blank and let you, Joe Blow (we should be able to name our parents, eh, Joe?) take your crayon and write in your best joined up hand, the latest installment in that long-running saga of the mystery and discomfort, The Johnny Rotten interview.

Oh. We're not going to do that? Okay. Shame. Shame, because even the most maladjusted of Cuts demographically desirable catchment area (that's you, Joe) could of made a creditable stab at this one.

Ten inky years have laid out the form for you, the bug-eyed stare, the pop-eyed leer, the malevolent 'I speak your weight' delivery. The conspiracy theories, the state operation pronouncements, the . . . ahem. . . splenetic quips. And lest we forget, the interminable IQ-friendly reinforcements: 'I am dangerous. I am a threat.' The onus, natch, is on the rheumy eyed press weasel to close his prose with a choked-up sniffle of: 'John . . he's . . (sob) . . just a bloke . . (wistful). . . just a bloke. . . '. Ironically enough, even though we had to plough our way through the familiar wreckage of yer tour, yer album and yer podgy new guitarist (John McGeoch by name - the post punk Skunk Baxter himself, now atrophied into a kind of one-man Flock of Seagulls), your Good Humour Guys, played on this occasion by Chuck Barris and Seth Brundle, found themselves with a lot of fellow feeling for the 'bloke'. Big of us, eh?

Up until this moment, the worst segments of PiL's hamster-wheel promotion rounds for the new product were their Uncle Grumpy appearances on Kids' TV. Naturally we break the ice with this...

John Lydon: Yeah, you saw some on that awful Get Fresh. The Director chucked me off the show . . complete idiot.

INT: It's hilarious watching bands on these shows drown in self- loathing as they try to get their 'big artistic statement' across to nine year olds who couldn't care less.

JL: Nine year olds are human beings too, and shouldn't be denied the privilege of seeing us on the telly. Is unfortunate that it's really only those type of programs that we get on. There's the Roxy...but how they promised it would be and how it's turned out... It's just Top Of The Pops part two. They let us all down.

INT: It's a sin. So you're back on the boards - never struck us as the kind of guy who lives of the hour onstage.

JL: Lives for what? What do you mean?

INT: Well this is the first night of your world tour. Shaking with nerves?

JL: Why should I be?

INT: Well this is the first night of your world tour. . .

JL: Mmm... Don't worry, my nerves will come just about one hour before I hit the stage.

John McGeoch (who will chip in time to time): And, believe it or not, I, for one certainly do live for...well, it's two hours onstage, actually.

INT: That's VFM (value for money, Joe)

JM: There's no point otherwise. Why sit in a bus for eight hours driving from London to Edinburgh.

IMT: When you could fly up in an hour.

JM: Can't afford it.

INT: Thought you'd re-signed to Virgin. Top Dollar, too...

JL: Well, it ain't no huge amount of cash - we're not Duran Duran. In order to be rolling in it you need to lot of number ones and, let's face it I've never had a great deal of them.... yet.

INT: Is there a number one on the new LP? Is there another single?

JL: Yes, I see every song on that album as a potential million seller...

INT: So it's still important to have hits?

JL: It's nice when you have a hit record and yes but is not the be all and end all of it. What we do, I know, is quality work and that in itself is justification for continuing, regardless of what the British Press tells us.

INT: But...but... the British Press. . John. . (sob). . is just a bloke. . . they kiss your ring. . they venerate your vomit. . . they still think you built this city on rock and roll up... (Uproar as he regards this one...)

JL: Have you read the string of reviews? Unbelievable. They didn't even mention the damn record, it's just a personal tirade. I'm so sick of these pansies. . . spoilt middle-class public schoolboys . . talentless. . frustrated musicians.

INT: So this is bad time to play the sure-fire smash we wrote for you? These reviews, though, they're calling you the guest who doesn't have the good grace to leave when the party's over.

JL: Of course I am. Yes, of course the industry's scared of me because I don't tell lies.

INT: Tell lies about what? Giving Spagna the kicking she'd apparently been begging for. Is that the mark of a man? Look here, Mr Johnny so-called Rotten...

JL: Well, if you just shut up for a second. I'll tell you. . Right, bastards. . . this business is completely corrupt from top to bottom . It's all about image, nothing to do music or talent or any of those things I suffer greatly from. By the very example of the way I manipulated record companies I would hope that other bands would take heed and follow suit instead of following the same old corrupt format. I won't let record companies dictate to me. I dictate to them, I use record companies merely to distribute my records. Otherwise, I take absolutely no notice of them. Music papers work for the record companies, not the bands - this I have pointed out. It may not be a perfect world but I damn well do my best to make sure it's as good as it can get.

INT: So you've started touring again. Thought you'd given that up?

JL: I stopped doing them when I got bored with them. At that certain time, I wasn't very happy with the people I was working with, so I had to change the situation and re-evaluate my life. Now I enjoy performing, I like audience response. Too few groups at the moment bother about entertaining people. . you've got this goth-rock crap which is all about depression and gloom and it is REALLY mediocre.

INT: Too true mate. Got a lot of stick for going to America, didn't you?

JL: Yeah, there's a real American phobia in Britain that I don't understand - is it based on their flash American tourists? I went there quite simply because I was hounded out of this country by the police. The next thing I did was to go to Ireland where ended up in jail within 45 minutes. In less than three months, I was raided four times and they absolutely destroyed my flat. And during all of this, none the press people lifted her finger.

INT: We sent a petition into Brian Ford. Listen, there was this kind of vision of you 'cross the pond as a John Self figure, bleached cathode ray white, pizza fat, only twitching to pop a six pack or replace the vid. Sure sounds like Heaven to us. .

JL: Yeah, it might sound like heaven, but, let me tell you, when you don't have much money it's not quite as it appears. It's much tougher to be poor in America than is here. And the beer and pizza isn't free...

INT: WHAAAT? We've been misinformed - cancel our flight reservations! So what did you do for gratification?

JL: TV really - that's about it for me. I don't like nightclubs and tend not to like Americans either, but I by like the country. I like the desert. I like Utah, I like Arizona. . all the places they used to do those cowboy westerns. .

INT: And you luv New York and LA. Must do, two years in each location. . .

JL: Mmm. . more or less, poncing off friends which I recommend to everybody in the world is a good thing to do. It got me out of England and it stopped me thinking small time. It's very easy to be British and to be trapped in your own insular little way - to think this little island is the centre of the universe.

INT: So why come back?

JL: For sheer hell of it.

JM: To try and get me into the band.

INT: In your dreams, John. In your dreams.

JM: Ha ha. . . No, in reality. And there's living proof.

INT: Yeah, a man whose toiled under three of the barmiest bosses in popdom: mad old Baldhead Deveto, gruesome old Siouxsie and now this wack...

JM: He's not a wacko. He's the best person I've ever worked with.

INT: Compared to what though?

JM: Well, you can't compare people and I don't intend to, really.

INT: Sounds like this is a permanent line-up...

JL: Yes, we're much more organized now than in the past. All my chit-chats in the past about PiL being an umbrella and very businesslike have now come to pass. It's taken a long time but it's very difficult to do those things unless you have the right people with you.

INT: We're sure you caught up in their Madonna mania a while black. . .

JL: Of course not. See I get very annoyed when I hear journalists saying, why don't I go away. If I went away of all you have left is . .

INT: Bejeezus, John. - talk about press paranoia! Why d'you think . .

JL: They can say what they like, but . .

INT: In interviews though...

JL: PLEASE. I can't deal with this. This frantic pace is like running against the racehorse. You're wearing me out - I've got a gig tonight. .

INT: Ah - so you are nervous. . .

JL: Course I'm nervous - I'm fucking petrified. I always am. In fact, it's not unusual for me to vomit through sheer fear.

INT: God, that's touching - and some people think you're your a hard callous git. What was it Clive James said, 'A human cuttlefish'...

JL: Well, yes. . I do give that image. It's my protective shield, my suit of amour to keep the bogeymen away. And it's part of my nature - I don't want pity, I want respect.

INT: Are you a Good Guy trying desperately hard to be a Bad Guy?

JL: If that's your opinion, that's your opinion.

INT: You give good face - why haven't you done more films?

JL: Err.... because the offers have been appalling.

INT: Like?

JL: Critters, Miami Vice . .

INT: These are appalling? We don't follow...

JL: I wanted to do Love Boat - do you get that here?

INT: Love exciting and new... Yeah, we've swooned many a time to that camp tragedy.

JL: But they wouldn't let me on. Also, years ago I wanted to be on Crossroads - I'd even worked out a nice little part of myself.

INT: Daft old dead old Meg Mortimer's long lost son...You could have managed the motels' fearsome punk rock group - The Four Men!

JL: Yeah, but not as a punk. You see a lot of these film offers want me to be a punk and and I want something completely different to that.

INT: Something like Order Of Death?

JL: That was good fun, I mean a role like that is just too good to turn down. That was in at the deep end with people like Harvey Keitel.

INT: Killed his career stone dead, though.

JL: Not in Europe. They love him over there...

INT: We were talking before about the patented Johnny Rotten interview and that queasy moment when you're asked - because you're just another prancing pop tart after all - to take some time out and deliver some thoughts on the State of the Nation...

JL: Well, to speak frankly Britain is now third world country. It's is a one party state and I'm doing my bit to make a collapse.

INT: Say what? By making Virgin profits? Hello?

JL: Yes, I am one way or another... but this is part and parcel of it. I am not a communist.

INT: Thanks, But . . the thing about helping Britain's collapse we didn't quite. . ?

JL: IT WAS A JOKE. Don't take what I say quite so literally. I don't believe in national pride or any of that crap , so I live where I find it most convenient. I'm a bit of the gypsy. America cleared my mind for a while but it got boring so I just packed my bags. I live in Britain now because that's where my business is based but that's about it. I hold no great affection for this country and definitely not it's government.

INT: How are you planning on filling in those long winter days ahead?

JL: With intense boredom.

INT: But...but... there's practically 24 hour TV. What more do you want?

JL: I'm only truly happy when I'm working.

INT: Really?

JL: Tes, really. I do this for love, no other reason...

INT: Much like ourselves, but ten, doesn't the past weigh heavily on you?

JL: Hardly - I'm not the type of person to live in the past, that's not my style. It's unfortunate that there's a minority of people out there who expects me to plod around in a leather jacket and gob all over the place.

INT: Must have been moved to tears by Drew Schofiled's heartfelt portrayal of you in Sid 'n Nance, then. .

JL: A classic case of miscasting. A dreadful, dreadful movie, but I wasn't anywhere near as upset as Paul Cook.

INT: Really, we thought the little bald chap from The Benny Hill show had some good moments. As for the rest of you, though, could you stomach it?

JL: No, it was quite shocking, quite shocking. Repo Man must have been an accident because Alex Cox as next two films have been absolutely unbearable. That cowboy thing was awful. . .

INT: Straight to hell? Straight to video. . .

JL: Absolutely right - that film was so sad, the joke's on him. Sid and Nancy did a lot of damage in America because there's a whole cinema audience who didn't really know too much about me and who take that as the truth and the whole truth. What I despise most about that movie, though, is that it seems to glorify heroin addiction and I find that utterly disgraceful. That man is responsible for murder, 'cos the young kids watch that and think that's the rock 'n' roll life-style, find it entertaining a copy his version Sid, then that's murder.

INT: Do you seriously think that final half-hour of shivering squalor would attract anybody?

JL: But he goes to the rock 'n' roll heaven in the end, doesn't he? Sid's downfall was that got very impressed by the Velvet Underground druggy New York scene and this film, of course, purports led to that very same cliché - it's not a helping hand, it's a slap on the face.

INT: Ever run into Sammy Hagar's spitting image Steve Jones?

JL: Yeah I know you very well. We hang around together, these are my friends.

INT: Heard the LP? (Mercy. The as hook is: To Hell And Back. You can hear it in every groove.)

JL: No, but again the reviews of quite dreadful - I felt sorry for him. It's not fair, leave him alone 'cos the poor boy's doing what he wants to do.

INT: And Malcolm. Do you ever run onto him?

JL: Only in court?

INT: Do you hate him? He thinks you do.

JL: It's not true. But the man tried to run away with my life. I won my court battle against him. That doesn't mean I hate him. AM I to let this man walk all over me? No. I have no feeling about Malcolm McLaren whatsoever. He's just a shyster and that's all he'll ever be.

INT: Who do you think your public are?

JL: Varied, thank God. It's nice to get a variety of people. That's when you know you do something important and relevant. When it's just a load of cloned punks then you know you're trapped in a time warp. These people can't accept the future, they're landlocked into what they think I was doing ten years ago. It's a bit of the tragedy and reflection on their own mediocrity.

INT: But you're still sweet with this band?

JL: We're a very clean outfit. We don't lie to each, there's no deceit. We not in it for the money, we don't partake of the corruption. Although we do like to be paid.

INT: When Keith Levene left . .

JL: He didn't leave, he was removed. He was connected to the hard drugs so he had to go. I spent many years trying to get him off it, but it was a waste my time - I tried to do the same Sid. I've tried to the same with other people, but it just ended up me running a hospice for eternally afflicted....come on you two, talk to John.

INT: Hi, John. . Album was quite far sighted, in that, six months later, a whole plague of Brit bands made Led Zep Four their reference point.

JM: Yes, particularly, surprise surprise, Mr David Bowie. He came to see us last year, breezing in with his entourage about two minutes before we were due to go onstage which, I thought, was an incredibly rude thing to do.

INT: Can you imagine us wanting to get backstage to see him? Huh. No chance. What annoyed him is that his son's a PiL fan - this infuriated him. It's funny when Bowie's asked what bands he likes, he only mentions those which imitate him.

Lydon, McGeoch and Good Humour Guys (as one) PSYCHEDELIC FURS.

INT: Old Dick Butler still keeps a candle burning for you, Johnny/

JL: Yeah, I know, embarrassing isn't it?

INT: Still enjoy studio life?

JL: Yes, but we don't have the money to ponce and fart about in one. They're ridiculously expensive. For new bands, it's terrible. Years ago, I thought 'I know, I'll help new bands' but all the ones I've helped have turned out to be nightmares of jealousy.

INT: Give us a name, throw us a bone!

JM: Anyway we only went into the studio when all songs were written - Seattle was written in Seattle.

INT: Which is why it's called Seattle.

JM: It's true. I know someone who bought it in Seattle, so they're selling it in Seattle as well.

INT: Thanks...BAD.... worth the wait? Say yes.

JM: Big Audio Dynamite?

INT: Er... the Michael Jackson album.

JL: Oh that, nooooo! It's really bad.... he wasn't joking - he he he.

INT: Am finally... Happy?

JL: Well, I won't be bogged down into clichés of music. All that wonderful noise is there for me to manipulate and use. But happy? No . . . never. . complete happiness means senility.


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