South Haven Daily Tribune, April 10th, 1992
© Ralph Heibutzki 1992
"15 Years Later, Lydon's Still Howling"
by Ralph Heibutzki
Of course, like
any good fledgling entertainment reporter, I figured some kind of advance
write-up for the State Theatre show was in order; as an entertainment
page editor, I could make such things happen (even at a small town newspaper
far removed from the likes of Lydon and company).
I could sense some tension on the PR front, when the publicist laid down a warning: "Don't ask John about the Sex Pistols...and, especially, anything about Malcolm McLaren."
Naturally, I had to pose the wise guy question: "Gee, what happens if I do?"
Cue the inevitable laugh: "Oh, he just hangs up on people!"
However, I had nothing to worry about; as the transcript shows, we had an entertaining conversation, one that managed to cover some serious ground, too. (Hence, my comment: "Caught at the Quality Hotel, in Salem, Oregon, Lydon proved easy to talk to, concise, and quite witty, as this interview shows.")
Unfortunately, for space reasons, I had to cut out a good portion of the stuff I'd planned on running, so here is the uncut version:
ME/SOUTH HAVEN DAILY TRIBUNE: John McGeoch (guitar) and Allan Dias (bass) have been featured on the last three albums. How does that compare to past line-ups, which changed a lot?
JOHN LYDON (JL): It's more structured, less hit and miss, more purposeful. We don't have any hard and fast rules. We all write individually, and put in the best ideas. I've kept it that way since the beginning, because you don't get into that (feuding over publishing) – I think that's awful, so greedy and pointless.
ME: You've complained about what Virgin Records isn't doing for you, in terms of promotion. Is it getting better?
JL: What I've done, clever old me, is forcing them to do what I expected of them, by complaining about it before they did it. I embarrassed them into cooperating.
ME: Given your problems with major record companies, are independent labels an alternative?
JL: No, because you need the distribution. If you're signed on an indie, you'd better look at it again – when you join a small label, it just puts you further down the line.
ME: You did something like that, didn't you? With Public Enterprises Productions?
JL: Yeah – I ran out of money in the end. The big guns just blew me away.
ME: What inspired "Acid Drops?"
JL: Censorship – that particularly relates to America, because there's a lot of vested interest groups, like all these religious fanatics. They're saying the human body, and everything connected with it, is dirty – that's wrong. I don't believe in censorship of any kind.
ME: How was your producer, Dave Jerden?
JL: I'd recommend him to anyone – he's the best producer I've ever worked with. He's a rarity, in that he speaks his mind. He doesn't do things for fashionable reasons.
ME: You've said a lot about the current music you dislike. Is there any you do like?
JL: Practically everything ever released! What I don't like is the nonsense that bands surround themselves with. I collect reggae, and a lot of folk music, from all over the world. I'm finding it hard to turn to CDs, because the bloody thing never seems to stay in the container – and we tend to get less royalties from CDs than from albums, which is a nice little con they're running.
JL: You were offered the ten-minute cameo part William Burroughs played in 'Drugstore Cowboy." Would you like to try acting?
JL: I wanted to do it, but I was on tour in Australia at the time. If a good offer comes along, I'll consider it, but there's very little.
ME: Is the budget album Renovations (featuring new recordings of old PiL songs) ever coming out?
JL: We put that on hold, then Virgin slapped The Greatest Hits (So Far) on us, which was an annoyance – it was, you couldn't have both albums out at the same time. You'll just have to be patient. It'll be unleashed soon, because some of those songs could stand the treatment.
ME: Does "Think Tank"s warning against tampering with history extend to those who've written about you, such as Jon Savage?
JL: Yes, my history, in particular. I know Jon very well – I just don't like the slant of his book (England's Dreaming), with that upper-class attitude of those who know everything, while us working-class bums know nothing. I can't stand people with an upper-class education – they're prigs and snobs, parasites, the lot.
ME: You're working with Virgin on a Sex Pistols boxed set, or compilation – for what reason?
JL: I'm trying to stop them from making it as cheap and nasty as possible. I want to make it as least offensive as possible. There may be live tracks on it, particularly from the (1976) European tour, which is a period you don't hear much about.
ME: Is that why you're writing an autobiography (due in December)?
JL: Yes, because all of the nonsense, but it's not going to be a sex scandal nonsense. There are some things that I'm going to tell, you can read between the lines – I'll be dropping huge hints!
ME: What would you tell up and coming bands?
JL: If they're really good, I'd tell them, don't bother, I don't need the competition! You can't tell anybody anything – they just think that you're making it all up.
ME: They only hear you have three houses, not that PiL was 60,000 pounds in debt during its first months together, or that your original contract demanded seven albums...
JL: They don't realize those houses are just tiny flats – and that debt is still unrecouped, for frighteningly large sums.
ME: So, what keeps you going in music?
JL: The sheer enjoyment of it. You're only responsible to yourself. There's no rules, no limitations, only your own laziness – which is very important for a chaotic mass like me.
ME: If you got hit by a bus tomorrow, how'd you like to be remembered?
JL: Squashed and bloody on the front window screen!
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