PiL interview:
Melody Maker, December 8th, 1979

Transcribed (and additional info) by Karsten Roekens



Melody Maker, December 8th 1979The Public Image Ltd. collective tell VIVIEN GOLDMAN that they want their existence to be "the proof that you can have it on your own terms."

"Well I don't believe it! It's Johnny Rotten, as I live and breathe!" The woman's hair was piled on top of her head in an elaborate Mao-chic coiffure, she was painted and polished to a high gloss. She laughed, a high, nervous tinkle. She didn't stop to say hello, but swept on down to the far end of the restaurant. Not far enough though to have avoided hearing "Shut up, you stupid old boot!" and "What are you talking about, you prat?" echoing cheerfully behind her from the assembled PIL company.

Inevitable, I suppose, that it should be John the woman had chosen to comment on. At the same table was PIL's bass player Jah Wobble, in many ways a more colourful character, certainly more extrovert than the man they used to call Johnny Rotten in another time and another place, with a different face ...

Why, everyone had to be on their best behaviour that night, because it hadn't been long since PIL had been allowed back into this excellent Indian restaurant up to the road from PIL's HQ after Wobble pissed into a few pint mugs he'd just emptied.

"It took us a year to get back in," groans John. "Watch it, Wobble, will ya?"

Wobble's antics are notorious. Until he found himself in a position to channel his awesome manic-depressive energy into formulating some of the most original basslines in modern music, he spent his time being a terror. The high-quality mugshot on Dennis Morris' original album cover for 'First Issue', PIL album number one, does some justice to his matinée-idol good looks - Wobble wouldn't look out of place in a brocade dressing gown, in a lounge lizard vein. But no photo can do justice to those manic light blue eyes, all innocence as Wobble utters another whopper.

We were both watching Matumbi at the Music Machine a couple of weeks ago, when Wobble took time out to tell me that he's a vegetarian these days, and a feminist.

I had to gulp, recalling that it's only a year since last Christmas, when Wobble caused an outrage by forcing his attentions on one female employee of Virgin Records. Lots of people in Vernon Yard haven't enjoyed a conversation with Wobble since.

Still, that was a year ago, and Wobble says it's the last year that's made him see the light, ever since he was disappointed in love, and - hey, Wobble, you can't expect me to believe all this! Still, you can't never tell, eh?

"Honestly, Viv, it makes me really sick. That's one thing I can't stand, seeing all my mates treat woman as objects. I used to be like that too, really disgusting."

Wobble has the rap well down. He explains to me how every man has a bit of woman in them, and vice versa, how the world would be a better place if everyone felt what it was like to be the other sex, and so on. Everything plausible, everything eminently sensible and - almost - credible.

With Wobble's light china eyes staring fully and oh-so-frankly into yours, it's sometimes difficult to remember that it's not lies, it's not even fibs, hardly. Wobble simply embroiders the truth instinctively, just to make it a bit more interesting.

For all I know, Wobble may be an ardent feminist - though if so, why does he crack jokes about finding woman to work for him on a street level? Or maybe he's only kidding.

He's a good lad, our Wobble, and one thing I'm certain - positive - about is that he's one of the most inventive, hardest white bassies working today, as one listen to the solid-state swirl of his bassline on 'Metal Box's 'Poptones' will tell you. A bassline to drown in and to sing at the bus stop too, as is the bassline on the next formidable track 'Careering'. All on the indispensable 2-D side of the boxed three 12 inch set. Hear and you will believe.

Wobble is also the author of thre solo singles released on Virgin. The first, 'Dreadlock Don't Deal In Wedlock', is toasted over a backing track by Wayne Jobson of Native, taken from tapes originally produced by Lee Perry in Jamaica. [1] So Wobble has something pretty solid to deal with - and listening to it again it's remarkably good.

"The original Milky Bar Rasta," John teases him. "Let me see, who else is there now? There's Ari ...," referring to the dreadlocked Ari Up of The Slits.

"Well, Ari's a good kid," says Wobble reassuringly.

I used to be nauseated by Wobble's excursions into mock-Jamaican accent, but at this distance of time it's the accurate social satire, the penetrating pisstake, and the spot-on delivery that stand out. "Naw! Oh God!" Wobble screams ecstatically. "Natty dread don't dabble / Him stay clear of trouble / Him just play scrabble / And listen to Jah Wobble / The man from Whitechapel / That's true, oh God, that's true!" As the fade-out says, this 12 inch single is really rather special.

"I wouldn't buy it," Wobble says modestly. "It's just a laugh, really." But later, away from the typical PIL atmosphere of put-yourself-down-before-somebody-else-does self-deprecation, Wobble reveals that he thinks they're all bloody good singles, genuine outpourings of his spirit. I agree with him. Put together they constitute a sufficiently interesting body of work to grant Wobble respect in his own right.

The second, an EP, contains 'Steel Leg', an echoing wail of misery from a wretched bloke with no friends. [2] On the flip film maker and long-time PIL associate Donovan Letts does a creditable deliberately derivative toast in Patois on 'Haile Unlikely', all about how he doesn't want to go to Africa, thank you, there's plenty enough going on in Brixton. Slightly too restrained, but still memorable and very good sense.

Wobble's most frequent opus, the white label 'Dan MacArthur', is well weird. For no particular reason that I can gather Wobble is doing a Nazi salute on the back, standing at a bus stop.

"Have you ever thought he might be hailing a bus?" asks John sardonic.

On the vinyl is one eerie side of voice treated so you can hardly make out the words over the roughly reggae tune, [3] but there's sadness and desperation in the line "Feeling isolated / Everyone's with everyone / Everyone is ignorant" - whether Wobble would publicly admit it or not. On the flip, Wobble employs his harmolodic bass playing for the first time in his own work, relentlessly thudding through an oblique counter-melody to the synthesizer, with lots of strange squiggles whizzing in and out of the machinery soundtrack, sounds as of flooding toilets etcetera. [4]

Which all leads me eventually to agree with the Dan MacArthur quote on the sleeve: "Jah Wobble never got the recognition that he so richly deserved." By the way - who is Dan MacArthur?

"Oh, it was just a new name. This week the new name is J.J. Palestine."

Prior to joing PIL Wobble used to ride around on buses all day, playing games like 'Spot the War Criminal' and 'French Gangsters'. He'd do that till about 6.00, then he'd go home to his mum and dad on their council estate in Whitechapel and eat a fish supper, usually. Then he'd watch some telly. He used to spend some time down at the job centre too, making out he was interested.

In the past year Wobble's got the bass sussed: "This is the bass. The thicker the string the deeper the sound. The higher up the fret the deeper the sound. It's a very digital attitude. You play bass like a guitar or like a drum. I play it like a drum. The gaps are the most important thing."

And for all you would-be Wobbles, this is how he gets the sound: he puts one track through, say, 15 inch Ampeg speakers to get a deep amp sound, then another track straight through to the desk, so that he gets a two- or three-track sound all at once. He direct-injects a deep bass sound so that he gets a reggae-style bottom end and a Stanley Clarke-type twang, then he puts it through the flanger to get a swirling effect.

On 'Poptones' the bottom string was out of tune, too slack, two notes too low - there you have it, one of those divine accidents.

Jah Wobble still lives with his parents on their council estate. He is 21.

Jeannette Lee isn't sure whether Wobble's a feminist or not, either. She should know, she's the only woman in the PIL collective.

"Leave it out, will ya, Viv?" John shouts. "We're no bunch of commies!"

Jeannette doesn't appear on stage, but she's a crucial member. A long-time associate of PIL, she worked for a long time with Don Letts, co-managing the clothing shop 'Boy' in the Kings Road after running their own shop 'Acme Attractions'. In those days the style was very '60s, three or four years before the '60s sensibility filtered through to your local shopping centre.

It's Jeannette who does the bulk of liaising with the outside world as far as I can make out, though everyone in PIL refuses to say exactly what they do. I'll bet Jeannette does most of the phone work, arranging the, uh, managing side of things, though the idea of management is anathema to PIL.

Jeannette doesn't talk very much while the tape is on, but afterwards she shows me her new pride and joy: a new Super 8 camera, the first really professional kind. She's already got film-making credentials from working alongside Don, helping him write the very good script for Don's as yet unmade film 'Dread At The Controls'. There's even a part for her, should the darn thing ever get shot.

Jeanette likes working with PIL because she sees it as a unit of infinite possibilities: "Lots of different things that people don't expect," she says, showing me how the film cartridge slots on in a wonderfully new efficient way.

In case you hadn't guessed, Jeannette will be making a film record, a kind of diary of PIL. Jeannette's still shy of thinking of herself as a film maker, but not for long. She'll get lots of practice, because it's all part of one of PIL's master plans: a mobile micro-studio, one that can be taken outside to record gigs, and used by PIL and other bands.

That's a favourite project of Keith Levene's. Keith used to be in The Clash till lifestyle/temperament conflicts separated them. After that "I didn't do anything, I just sat around, went to the odd gig ... There were no bands I wanted to be in, I didn't really wanted to know anyone, anyway."

There's a joke poster on John's living room wall, saying something like 'You may be paranoid, but that doesn't mean they're not out to get you.'

Lydon's image, perpetrated by certain hostile elements within the music press, was of a paranoid wreck cowering in the privacy of a luxury townhouse. Patently ludicrous when you register the worn but serviceable decor and feel the houses' bones rattle every three minutes as juggernaut lorries thunder past.

Hardly a cloisteed residence, and any disinclination to hang out at ligs is more than understandable in the light of self-preservation from death by boredom, apart from anything else. The way John has his domestic set-up arranged, it's like being in a nonstop sound system anyway, and the music (as much disco as reggae these days) is better than you'd hear in a club. There's a constant stream of people dropping in, so you could hardly dub Lydon anti-social,

No - the paranoia tag might be better applied to Keith, a very intelligent man, but equally highly-strung.

"In case you think Keith's difficult to work with - he's not," says John most definitely.

The comment comes when a slight strain appears during the interview. Keith's explaining something, talking about PIL.

"I see PIL, the band bit of PIL, as just me, John and Wobble. That's the way I like it, with no drummer. The mobile micro-studio's going to have maybe an 8-track machine with a 16-track desk. The 8 is the main part, because we're into vision, video. We've got this Super 8 camera. We want to use electronics as special effects, using electronics to condense the quality of the Super 8. It's a metal disc played with a laser, so you can make an infinite number of copies, and use slow motion and make stills ..."

I'm sitting on the floor, trying to digest all this rapid-fire consignment of interesting new information, when Jeannette comes up to me and offers me a Brazil nut plus nutcracker. I nod, turn to her to grab 'em, when Keith suddenly bursts out.

"I HATE talking to people when they look away! It's boring! If you're being like that - I like people being attentive!"

And John teases him: "What's the matter? Didn't your mommy love you enough when you were little?"

Silence across the room as I try to reassure Keith, who keeps on saying he's not being paranoid. The outburst shocked me for a moment, I suddenly saw Keith as a person who's liable to explode at any moment, and thought of Richard Dudanski, ex-PIL drummer, saying how impossible Keith is to work with (although PIL all say the same about Richard, based on his performance at the Leeds Sci-Fi Fest).

Still, after that Keith became very communicative once more. The basic problem seems to be that Keith has very little respect for and interest in 99 per cent of the human population, hence the feeling of isolation.

"I don't think anyone out there tunes in to us anyway," he says. "There's no one I can discuss my ideas with, either I'm in fear they'll rip them off and use them wrongly, or they don't know what I'm talking about. There's not many people I want to talk to, and there's very few who want to talk to me. I'm very interested in meeting a new person. When I go to the Rainbow, apart from
wanting to commit suicide I definitely don't want to be in PIL. I'd probably quite like to play the Rainbow just to do a gig, but when I see the audience regard the band, and the bouncers pushing people around ... if you walk from the door to the front of the auditorium you encounter so many guys who check your ticket. All that humiliation - music doesn't come into it. The people who go there should buy the albums and go and listen to it quietly at home on their fucking quiet stereos. It makes me sick. It makes me think I must be into it for something else, apart from doing gigs."

What is Public Image Ltd's public image? At this stage, where their visibility hasn't been very high, much of it probably rests on the slender shoulders of John Lydon. You remember him – he's the one on the radio ads: "The Metal Box - twelve tracks of utter rubbish from Public Image Ltd."

After a baptism of fire in which - other than artistically - he made a high percentage of all the mistakes there are to be made, John Lydon emerged from the easily identifiable chrysalis of Johnny Rotten to set up a situation which would avoid the cleverly disguised pitfalls and booby traps laid by the music business.

Public Image Ltd. is the result: a unit of five, three public (Wobble, Keith Levene and John), two private. A unit set to confound all expectations by moving independently and thus obliquely.

"PIL doesn't fit into normal procedures. In these times things are very one-way. We have to be wiped off. No, I'm not being paranoid, it's a fight, all the way," says John. "PIL should be proof that you can have it on your own terms, it's very easy. I must admit it's not exactly like I was Joe Bloggs, but when PIL started we were bankrupt in a very bad way. No money whatsoever. But if you're determined enough, you get what you want. But it's not easy. I had a fucking great albatross round my neck."

People's expectations?

"More like demands! It's not easy to cope with, but fuck 'em. I'm no one's puppet. The record company follows the same slavish position. What they expected PIL to be and what it was didn't make signing a contract too easy. Plus, I come hand in hand bankrupt and in debt from the past lot. It'll be years till that's sorted out. Just going through the motions and, God, there's a lot of them. I mean, that court case with Malcolm McLaren had to start because when PIL began Malcolm wanted 25 per cent, with him coming in as manager!"

Are you geting ready for the '80s? All over England loins are girded and people put on into more streamlined suits, or armour, as they step out.

This Heat sit at home and make tapes, occasionally sit in front of other people trying to come to terms with "performing".

Crass stay in their North Weald community and send out messages in the shape of magazines and astonishingly cheap recordings. They would play, "perform", but they are scarcely allowed to.

2-Tone grapple with the octopus, so far they appear to be winning, forcing Chrysalis under manners by refusing to play footsy unless it's a collective activity embracing spirits of like-mind.

Mayo Thompson and The Pop Group find their dance steps don't match with Radar/WEA's and waltz off into the welcoming arms of Rough Trade, where scarcely any bands have managers or intermediaries.

One step, two step, find a new step in the dance of 1) making a living, 2) moving your ideas ahead, 3) communicating with other people via records and other means. Which includes the current dilemma: to play live or not to play live, and if you do, how do you go about it? Many people working with music have spent many hours trying to crack these various practical, ethical and creative problems.

PIL appear to feel very strongly that tthey stand alone, but in fact they are one strand in a very dense weave. However, they're a very crucial strand, because to anyone who cares about the survival of conscious, conscientious musicians (though PIL will doubtless roll on the floor with laughter at being so described), the moves that Johnny Rotten made after the Sex Pistols were very important.

The Clash are what they always wanted to be: a straight-ahead rock 'n' roll band (to me a yawn), the other ex-Sex Pistols have emerged as full-blown straight-ahead rock 'n' rollers (likewise), but PIL are an obstinate vanguard who insist on making new music that, while there is nothing new under the sun and everything's an extension of everything else, is pretty damn new -
they sound like no one else.

The penalty they pay for sounding like no one else is that the majority of record buyers are accustomed to liking more familiar sounds. They penalty they pay for maintaining their no tour policy is that they seem removed to the audiences who like saving up to go out and see their favourite bands.

PIL still haven't reached what to me seems their ideal stage: sending out a constant stream of communiqués, records or otherwise, that would remove them from the pitfalls of the 'PIL album - an event - articles in the music press soon come' syndrome, of which this article is merely one manifestation.

All the best things happen when the tape's off. John says that when the tape's on, his self-consciousness quotient rises by around 300 per cent, and thus I can't give you the exact wording of what he said to me after the interview, but the essence is definitely there.

As Anita Ward's 'Ring My Bell' flowed into the immaculate Blood Sisters version on the very high fidelity cassette machine, he talked more emotionally about PIL, said that from the outset they all thought they were going to fail in some way, they'd accepted it a long time ago, but that failure's nothing to be afraid of, because it only means you've tried. It was up for all the other Joe Bloggses to learn from PIL's mistakes. PIL is the kind of agent, John is sure, that could eventually destroy the absolute power record companies traditionally enjoy over artists in their employ.

"That's what ruined the Pistols. It was too much the opposite of what had gone before, thus it was too easily identifiable, too easy to understand and assimilate. No threat. All that idea of changing the system from within - I've been through it and I know it doesn't work. Maybe it's our fault that we suffer from no feedback. When you're inside something, working, it's very difficult to see your own mistakes. You've got to understand that's why it works, because we've known each other for years. I was at college with Wobble and Dave, known Jeannette and Keith for years, so none of us can fool the others. You've just got to be totally honest. But it's a challenge, every day is a miracle. But we're sick of being laughed at."

That's actually a very Keith remark really, not that Keith is a paranoid wreck as such. In fact, in his brighter moments he volunteers that he feels sure that PIL will meet up with kindred spirits. He cites Robert Rental, Daniel Miller a.k.a. The Normal, and Thomas Leer as musicians he feels might posibly be
kindred spirits.

John, incidentally, refers to Donna (of Donna and The Kebabs, a Fatal Microbes offshoot, author of 'Violence Grows') and Killing Joke as new outfits he sees as "very determined, into themselves in a proper way: people doing what they want for a change, instead of slavishly following patterns."

I hope that Keith loses his sense of alienation, hooks up with inspirational souls, otherwise it's a waste of a highly original musician, overflowing with enthusiasm and ideas. He's the most articulate about the way PIL functions, reiterating their creeds of "no manager, no touring for no reason" (although PIL lay claim to several unannounced gigs around the country over the past months).

About six months before PIL started, Keith started doing some video work with The Slits, and when PIL began he finally got his hands on a synthesizer, a long-time ambition.

During half the interview Keith's in the basement playing synth. When I arrive I see a rarity: Keith practising guitar. He says he never rehearses, though he's happy to spend endless hours in the studio putting down all his ideas on quarter-inch tape so they don't get lost. That was the genesis of 'Radio 4', the lush, sweeping, melancholy synthesizer instrumental that surprise-ends 'Metal Box'. The NME reviewer thought it was a joke, for some reason. I simply found it emotional, as touching as a Satie composition, as thoughtful if not perhaps as soulful as a Charlie Haden solo. A great mood piece, rocking gently on a wave of gentle bass.

"I'm totally into production. I've never been into rock 'n' roll."

"That's one thing we've all got in common," John adds. "We all hate rock 'n' roll."

"I've always been into something new and different," Keith carries on, "and when it comes to PIL's music, I think it is. Instead of adding to the sound we take away. We have a totally open approach. We get the sound at source, so it's mixed in advance, though this lot don't help me to get a guitar sound ..."

I mention that it's almost invariably the guitaring that makes me annoyed/ depressed in bands. There still aren't enough people experimenting to get away from the disgusting guitar clichés that rule most guitarists' ears.

Keith says: "When I joined PIL I hated guitars. I thought they were redundant. But I just make sounds on it. I play three tunes on it at once, they may be pretty tuneless tunes but I'm definitely making them on purpose. All the noises the engineers want to cut out I have to say 'It's taken me half an hour to make that noise!' People in studios, it's always a battle, you have to make them think they thought of it, or shove them out of the way. Now I'm totally into synthesizer. I learnt the guitar the way everyone learns, I played along with records and got really good at lead, so I knew lots of chords - and I hated it! But it was a very good databank for me, so I could use the guitar. I didn't exactly de-learn the guitar, but with the synthesizer there's all these knobs, infinitely variable, and it's the same with guitar for me. So I don't make tunes,
I make sounds that go with Wobble's basslines. I use harmonics a lot, things that most people clean up on the EQ I normally bring out, like on 'No Birds Do Sing' ..."

Wobble: "He'll play a chord, then play another string which sounds really good because it creates a harmony - then the engineer goes 'You hit a bum note.'"

Keith: "With 'No Birds', I recorded it, then I did an overdub on one string which didn't go with it. Then I treated the sound, I'm into treating sounds a lot. I call it 'insect stick' because it sounds like a load of insects in the back, or hydraulic machinery. But it's guitar."

As Keith himself said at another point, he's not trying to do things with the guitar, he is doing new things with the guitar.

Wobble modestly describes his classical as-Robbie Shakespeare bass on 'Poptones' thus: "It's all harmonics, the same note in different octaves. It's a bit old fart, but it does take it to a certain extreme."

That kind of pioneering attitude, meeting with Keith's manic quest for excellence plus forwardness, is responsible for the instrumentation behind PIL's sudden surge forward on 'Metal Box' from the excellence of 'First Issue'.

John says: "The songs are a direct progression from the first album. It's all part of an ambition that shouldn't be talked about ..."

I'll talk about it, even if he won't. Apart from the superb 'Public Image' single, which had everyone think that PIL were going to be an insanely catchy poppy group, PIL's first album is a wild yowl, all whiskers and fangs. When Dennis Morris first visualised the sleeve he talked about reversing people's expectations of John's punk band with a sophisticated high-gloss satirical fashion sleeve. The result was a perfect visual expression of the confusion engendered by the record's contents.

Keith: "When we made the first album the feedback did affect us. Since then I think there's a real lack of interest in PIL, which bums me out. I'm not in it for myself, I need feedback. The more interest we get, the more interesting we'll be."

The album may have alienated Pistols fans, but it certainly attracted a new hardcore section of PIL admirers, though Keith seems unaware of the fact. Many couldn't fail to love it for its boldness alone, the portrayals of angst and hatred of self and others, ripping through conventions of 'good singing' in a great primal scream, the ominous basslines, forbidding while they hypnotise/ pummel your natural rhythms, and Keith's guitar ripping through the sound.

The process is refined, purer on 'Metal Box'. The same elements, fencing more delicately, probing more certainly.

Lyrically John's gone deeper. His delivery is immaculate, all first takes. He makes the most of a limited range by injecting infinite subtleties of inflection. Mostly, John writes from other people's viewpoints, if you didn't know that you'd think he was a complete prat. He's not, but he's a great satirist. He's
responsible for the most lethal nicknames I've ever heard, and he's an old hand at the one-liner that wilts the opposition.

Lyrics, which had the 'Metal Box's critics extending themselves in directions that roused the PIL camp into a frenzy of their favourite hobby: intellectual-baiting in my vocabulary, they mean "pseuds" (why, even Wobble admits that true intellect is a wonderful thing), represent a personal vision, personal but
precise, and not incomprehensible.

Sometimes John continues the narrative style of 'Annalisa' from the first album, based on the girl whose parents starved her to death because they thought she was possessed. [5]

Here, 'Poptones' is the story of a man who was raped in the woods. "It's straight out of the 'Daily Mirror', so I can't guarantee its authenticity," John quips.

It's the details, like "I don't like hiding in this foliage and peat / I'm wet and I'm losing my body heat", that get people confused. It's so precisely evocative that surely he must be talking about himself. Wrong, of course.

As Wobble says: "It's all lean lyrics, no fat on 'em. He's not some cunt writing about his hangups."

John tells me that he identifies with Bob Marley's lyric on 'Heathen': "He who fights and runs away / Lives to fight another day." A line which Marley also feels is very important to him, incidentally. Both men have survived attempts on their life, which I guess gives them something in common. John can't roll a decent joint to this day, following an attack in North London around the time of 'God Save The Queen', which left him with a damaged nerve in his hand.

John may reckon he's lying low in some way, but he's right there in the front line as far as music and the production thereof goes. I've heard lots of people complaining about how difficult it is to get records out of 'Metal Box', a film-can lookalike which reminds John of a landmine: "I've seen them on telly."

But PIL regard it as a triumph for their organisation. The making of the box itself was an endurance test, involving renovating defunct machinery. PIL took a deduction in their £27,000 advance and fought for more protective wrapping, which they didn't get, and for more than 50,000 being made. The first album sold more than 50,000, but John says Virgin regard that as a fluke.

"Bear in mind, it's not an album. You don't have to listen to the songs in any order, you can play what you want, disregard what you don't. Albums have a very strict format, the eight tracks, difficult to find, I hate all that. The quality is usually appallingly low, almost unlistenable. We can't get our sound on a normal record, you can't get the depths and heights. Virgin didn't like the first album. They're determined to get me back with Steve and Paul."

I say I find that hard to believe.

"They've thrown money down the dustbin on that trashy film," crows John. "Or else why do we get so many hassles financially? Virgin will tolerate you screaming and shouting 'Anarchy!' till the cows come home, because it's not really doing anything. But as soon as you start changing the business techniques they don't appreciate that at all. They don't like bands to have control over their own destiny. That wouldn't help their pockets."

PIL isn't a band, Keith insists, it's a company. They supply Virgin with finished artwork and records and promotional stuff, and Virgin get it out.

But plans for PIL don't include new members. It's for the five directors - three band members plus Jeannette and assistant Dave Crowe - to take an equal percentage and expand themselves into new areas. Video, for example.

"There's not much point in having your own label," says John. "You'd still have to go to the record companies in the end, it would be the end of all six of us."

Including here, presumably, new drummer Martin Atkins, a 20-year-old from Durham, still bedazzled at being in PIL after two years of trying to gain entry.

"I'm not a drummer, I just hit things," is his introduction.

"We're all quite capable of messing about with cameras, it's just as easy as a string synthesizer. It would end up with secretaries and floors and floors of boring offices, people you don't really like typing out ridiculous letters."

PIL's position may seem isolationist, but it's a valid survival technique. The last word on the subject is left to Wobble, who while I wasn't looking sneaked up to the tape recorder, wound back the end of the tape and said:

"PIL is basically ... basically, PIL is all about ...“

Melody Maker, December 8th 1979

[1] The backing track ('Black Tracks', written by Wayne Jobson and Faybiene Miranda) was finally released on the compilation album 'Rockstone' by Native. 'Black Tracks' was recorded in late 1977 or early 1978 at Channel One Recording Studio in Kingston and produced by Wayne Jobson. Wayne Jobson did vocals and guitar, the backing band was The Black Disciples, featuring Robbie Shakespeare on bass.
[2] Vocals on 'Steel Leg' by Vince Bracken, an old schoolfriend of Wobble.
[3] The b-side of 'Dan MacArthur', 'Beat The Drum For Me', was actually recorded with PIL drummer Dave Humphrey during the 'Metal Box' sessions at Townshouse Studios, London W12.
[4] 'Dan MacArthur', the a-side of the single, was actually the very first track that Wobble recorded completely on his own (according to Wobble's ZigZag interview June 1980).
[5] Anneliese Michel died of starvation on 1 July 1976 in Klingenberg, Bavaria.


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