John Lydon:
Musik Express / Sounds, February 1984 (Germany)

Transcribed (and additional info) by Karsten Roekens

© 1984 Sounds


Interview by Anja Svoboda, pictures by Monika Becker

Musik Express / Sounds, January 26th, 1984 © Monika Becker Had he continued as Johnny Rotten, he would have gained a comfortable seat of honour among the great immortals of rock music. But the pope of the punk movement of '76 returned to the mortals, even delighted them with a hit (''This Is Not A Love Song'') - and today has to put up with being treated as a 'bog-standard' rock star. But John Lydon hates the media machinery, hates interviews and hates profound pretentiousness. So his often reluctant answers were mostly short and snappy.

It's early afternoon in Bochum. John has just finished the soundcheck for his appearance on 'Rockpalast' and is ready for an interview. He yells into our general direction: ''Come on, I'm ready!'' John still looks slightly bloated, pale, his fox eyes as piercing as ever. He behaves exactly as expected, constantly making fun of everything, nothing suits him, he doesn't like the food, he is like a spoilt child.
His companion takes care of him, she makes sure Johnny gets everything he wants (he wants lemon juice) and always stays by his side. Later she tells me they are a couple for seven years - and Lydon confesses it's hard work to put up with him for so long. During lunch a terrible video by a terrible German rock band is repeatedly shown on the screens, the TV crew really seem to dig it, until John finally yells at them to turn it off. Even before one of us three can take a seat for the interview he shouts: ''First question, please!''

Svoboda: ''Shouldn't we take a seat first?''

Lydon: ''No, I prefer to keep standing. I'm a nervous guy. I bet you are from the German press.''

Svoboda: ''Yes, why?''

Lydon: ''Because I don't give interviews to the English press anymore. The 'NME' is phony. Full of lies.''

Svoboda: ''So in your last 'NME' interview you actually didn't say every word they put into your mouth?''

Lydon: ''No. You know, they ask a precise question and you give a precise answer. Then they put these little bits inbetween which you never said.''

Svoboda: ''Such as that you hate the Italians?''

Lydon: ''That one, exactly. I don't have anything against the Italians. I have many good friends over there. These things make me angry. It's really the French that I hate. They are so pretentious and snobby. Terrible.''

Svoboda: ''What's the relation between continuity and change in PIL?''

Lydon: ''Constant change. That's my philosophy. No two records alike.''

Svoboda: ''But certain similarities remain…''

Lydon: ''Of course. Whatever. The continuity is me!''

Svoboda: ''But you aren't a musician yourself?''

Lydon: ''I write the songs!''

Svoboda: ''Do you play a musical instrument?''

Lydon: ''Sure I do. Piano, violin, trumpet, saxophone.''

Svoboda: ''Really?''

Lydon: ''Absolutely, definitely.''

Svoboda: ''A few years ago you were quoted everywhere that rock'n'roll is dead, that PIL is no rock band…''

Lydon: ''Yes, and I never saw a penny for it…''

Svoboda: ''…and now you are making music which is closer to traditional rock music than anything you did before.''

Lydon: ''Certainly it's the closest to traditional rock music of anything I ever did, but it's still not traditional rock. It is better. Big difference. The only acceptable category is 'pop'. We're a pop band. In the moment. It may change. This evening. Tomorrow. The day after tomorrow.'' (He points in direction of the stage where the rest of the band celebrate an orgy of noise) ''Does that sound like traditional rock music?''

Svoboda: ''No, it doesn't. Where are you living now?''

Lydon: ''Nowhere. I'm on the move. I don't have a home.''

Svoboda: ''Why did you leave New York?''

Lydon: ''Boredom.''

Svoboda: ''Why don't you live in England?''

Lydon: ''Boredom.''

Svoboda: ''Is there any place in the world that wouldn't bore you?''

Lydon: ''No. I'd get bored anywhere.''

Svoboda: ''When you set up PIL you rejected traditional marketing procedures of rock business, you spoke up against tours, regular record releases and so forth.''

Lydon: ''Yes, and I stand by my words.''

Svoboda: ''But now you are on tour. What's the reason?''

Lydon: ''Me. The reason is me. In everything I do. I felt like doing a tour. I think you can and must take advantage of certain business structures, and put them into a different context. You definitely can take advantage of several business elements. But you have to be very careful. Anarchy just for anarchy's sake doesn't make any sense.''

Svoboda: ''You have always been supported by name musicians. Why do you
always break up with them again?''

Lydon: ''No comment. I hate to give these people any credits. Next question, please!''

Svoboda: ''Who do you like in the pop scene?''

Lydon: ''Nobody. No, wait: Michael Jackson.''

Svoboda: ''Do you ever go to concerts?''

Lydon: ''Never. Full stop.''

Svoboda: ''Do you think you will ever be as present in the media again as in Pistols times?''

Lydon: ''I was never that present in the German media.''

Svoboda: ''You had several cover stories.''

Lydon: ''To what effect anyway?''

Svoboda: ''Oh, I think…''

Lydon: ''I believe you. Next question.''

Svoboda: ''Are you interested in politics?''

Lydon: ''No.''

Svoboda: ''So you ignore everything around you?''

Lydon: ''No, that would be ignorant. I could ignore you, that would be ignorant. Can I have another cigarette?'' (He gets a P&S.) ''What's that? P&S, piss and shit?''

Svoboda: ''Did you have any influence on the making of 'Copkiller'?''

Lydon: ''On directing only minimal. I just used my talent as an actor, my skills.''

Svoboda: ''Did you see the German dubbed version?''

Lydon: ''No, but I'm sure it's shockingly bad.''

Nora Forster (John's German girlfriend): ''The German dubbing was pure routine. Completely flat, only clichés.''

Svoboda: ''Why did you accept this film offer but rejected others?''

Lydon: ''Because I liked the role and found it easy to play, very easy.''

Svoboda: ''Because the psychopath's character resembled yours?''

Lydon: ''No, not at all. That would be far too romantic. No, I'm not a psychopath.
It was just easy to play. But of course you must have my kind of talent.''

Svoboda: ''Is there any actor or actress you'd like to play in a movie with?''

Lydon: ''Rock Hudson. Rock Hudson and Brooke Shields. Yes, they are just my style, they have enough wit and charme.''

Svoboda: ''I have to come back to another point. It seems unfair to me if you claim that nobody has ever been any helpful or had a positive effect on your career.''

Lydon: ''Well, maybe I lied. It would just annoy me to praise anyone I have worked with.''

Svoboda: ''You don't need to praise them, but a fair appreciation…''

Lydon: ''…would be totally pointless.''

Svoboda: ''It wouldn't.''

Lydon: ''Maybe for you, but not for me. Wasn't that a good interview…''

Svoboda: ''A bit short.''

Lydon: ''That doesn't matter. Short and precise.''

Svoboda: ''But people aren't interested in you because you're so wonderfully short and precise.''

Lydon: ''Then make something up. Everybody does.''

Nora Forster: ''What the 'Musik Express' wrote about John recently was made up from start to finish.'' [1]

Svoboda: ''What?''

Nora Forster: ''There was an interview with Malcolm McLaren.'' (in which McLaren among other things maintained there was an unrequited homosexual love between John and McLaren.)

Lydon: ''Ah, that piece. I will take Malcolm to court over that one. He has to stand trial at last. It's his wet dream that I'm gay. He can't live without me. That cunt. But that's how he operates. He loves me. He always wanted to be like me. Even in Sex Pistols times. That's why he took singing lessons. But he can't sing.''

Svoboda: ''At least he seems to have found a way to success.''

Lydon: ''Bollocks, he cheats on people. He steals. He exploits people.''

Svoboda: ''But don't you think he was at least partly responsible for the myth of the Sex Pistols?''

Lydon: ''No, no, no, no. Not in the slightest.''

Svoboda: ''Not even the media attention?''

Lydon: ''No. We did something scandalous. And afterwards he pretended he had arranged it. His whole work was to run after us and then claim to have shown us the direction.''

Waitress: (clears the table) ''How did you like your food?''

Lydon: ''It was terrible.''

Waitress: ''Oh, I'm sorry.''

Lydon: ''Terribly good I mean. Hahaha!''

Svoboda: ''What's your favourite food?''

Lydon: ''Japanese. Raw fish.''

Svoboda: ''How did you like the Japanese audience?''

Lydon: ''Good, they taste wonderful - but I haven't had very much Japanese audience yet.''

Svoboda: ''Were you surprised by their enthusiasm?''

Lydon: ''No, I expected it, I deserve it.''

Svoboda: ''Why?''

Lydon: ''Because I'm so talented!''

Svoboda: ''What are expecting here, this evening?''

Lydon: ''Exactly the same.''

Svoboda: ''Will it disappoint you if it doesn't work out?''

Lydon: ''I don't have any expectations, I don't care as long as I know I'm good. That's all that counts.''

Svoboda: ''Where did you find your new band?''

Lydon: ''Hotel bars. They played in bands in hotel bars. They are cabaret musicians, I thought it would be a real good joke, and it is, hahaha.''

Svoboda: ''Will this be a permanent line up?''

Lydon: ''It's permanent enough, or not? We are here, that's all that counts, to hell with the future.''

Svoboda: ''Which means you could fire them again tomorrow?''

Lydon: ''No, that's not possible, they are much stronger than me. I employ people who fire them.''

Svoboda: ''Why do you play just one concert in Germany?''

Lydon: ''I never played in Germany before and I thought a TV appearance would be a good way to reach a lot of people in one go. You can wait, patience is a virtue, possess it if you can, seldom found in woman, always found in men.''

Svoboda: ''Oh really. And afterwards? Will you go back to New York?''

Lydon: ''No. I'm going to Australia.''

Svoboda: ''To do a tour?''

Lydon: ''Yes.''

Svoboda: ''Do you know any Australian bands?''

Lydon: ''No, I don't.''

Svoboda: ''Do you know any German bands?''

Lydon: ''No, I don't.''

Svoboda: ''What kind of music do you listen to?''

Lydon: ''I don't, I don't.''

Svoboda: ''Which kind of films do you like?''

Lydon: ''French movies. Really ominous bad French movies.''

Svoboda: ''Such as?''

Lydon: ''The Diary Of A Chambermaid.''

Svoboda: ''So you rather read a lot?''

Lydon: ''I can't read.'' (A nice little song follows, sung with a Cockney accent) ''We can't read, we can't write, it don't really matter, we just come down from Ipswich town, and I can drive a tractor…''

Svoboda: ''How will your new songs…''

Lydon: ''Love songs. A lot of romance.''

Svoboda: ''Real proper love songs?''

Lydon: ''Yes, proper love songs, absolutely.''

Svoboda: ''And musically rather like…''

Lydon: ''…early Bob Dylan.''

Svoboda: ''Oh come on, be serious.''

Lydon: ''I'm totally serious! I mean it! I intend to make the worst music the world has ever heard.''

Svoboda: ''So the new songs will be more like 'Blue Water'.''

Lydon: ''No. I'm sorry, 'Blue Water' is a very good song.''

Svoboda: ''What drugs did you take when you recorded that song?''

Lydon: ''I don't take drugs.''

Svoboda: ''Nothing at all?''

Lydon: ''Nothing at all. Just beer.''

Svoboda: ''But you smoke a lot.''

Lydon: (Oh my, he takes it personally and puts out his cigarette. When I say I don't mind he says) ''No, I notice when someone gives me a hint.''

Svoboda: ''If you could invite a dead person to tea or to dinner, who would you choose?''

Lydon: ''A dead person? Okay, Ronald Reagan.''

Svoboda: ''But he's not dead yet.''

Lydon: ''Oh, he isn't? That's a matter of opinion. As far as I'm concerned, he's dead. Go on.''

Svoboda: ''You're quite fast.''

Lydon: ''I'm just totally intelligent, that's all.''

Svoboda: ''Well, at least that's one good reason why you once were one of my

Lydon: ''Oh, thank you. Oh, I'm so excited I don't know where to look.''

Svoboda: ''How is your name pronounced correctly?''

Lydon: ''Lydon. Rotten Lydon. Lydon is Rotten.''

Svoboda: ''That's still one and the same?''

Lydon: ''Yes. Rotten Lydon. John Rotten Lydon.'' (Another ditty follows) ''Lie down girl, let me push it up, push it up, lie down girl.'' [2]

Svoboda: ''I thought you stopped using your old name when you started with Public Image?''

Lydon: ''No, no, I had to win a lawsuit to get the name back, that's why I was not allowed to use it for a year. Why doesn't anybody in this world know that? Well, I never talked with anyone from Germany before - I didn't do anything at all in Germany yet, except getting drunk.''

Svoboda: ''You didn't want to have anything to do with Germany?''

Lydon: ''I did, but it was too difficult to get it together, it's really difficult to get into a country like Germany, it really is.''

Svoboda: ''Come to Berlin and the masses will be at your feet…''

Lydon: ''I don't want any masses at my feet, I want nothing from Germany at all,
I just wanna leave!''

Svoboda: ''What's your favourite country?''

Lydon: ''Germany.''

Svoboda: ''What's your favourite song?''

Lydon: ''Springtime for Hitler and Germany.'' (And he sings again - the title song from the Mel Brooks film.)

Svoboda: ''At least one film you like!''

Lydon: ''No, I hate it!''

Svoboda: ''Say something nice to your German readership!''

Lydon: ''Well, boys and girls, obviously I love to make music. That's why I do it. It's the only reason why I do it, because I love it. I love this business, if I may call it so, it's a pure joy for me. I love to make records, it's as simple as that. I don't like to tour, I don't like to be on the road, but I do it for my fans, from the bottom of my heart. Isn't that a nice pack of lies and cheat?''

Svoboda: ''What do you think, how many fans do you have in Germany?''

Lydon: ''About three, I think, I counted three, two waited at the hotel and one at the airport.''

Svoboda: ''What about me?''

Lydon: ''That's four! God, I tell you I'm spreading like wildfire, soon I'll take over the country.''

Svoboda: ''What would you like to do most?''

Lydon: ''Sex with a red carrot.''

Svoboda: ''And with which person?''

Lydon: ''I find carrots quite amusing.''

Svoboda: ''But that's no person.''

Lydon: ''Of course it is, you don't know Joe Carrot, I do.''

Svoboda: ''Actually I meant what would you like to do musically?''

Lydon: ''I'd like to sing Frank Sinatra songs with a full orchestra. But I have to find the world's worst orchestra yet - I know they must be somewhere out there - a German brass band, humpapa… They have to be German, absolutely, Germans don't have any sense of music, there's so much heavy metal here, and Nina Hagen, huhuhu.''

Svoboda: ''That's not true at all, there's much more heavy metal in England, Reading Festival and so on.''

Lydon: ''Don't talk to me about England, I don't live in England, I'm Irish.''

Svoboda: ''But you don't live in Ireland either, do you?''

Lydon: ''No, I don't, I don't live anywhere, I'm a gypsy.'' (And a small ditty follows again.) ''And I played the world over for many a year, I spent all my money on whiskey and beer.''

Musik Express / Sounds, January 26th, 1984 © Monika Becker 

[1] 'Musik Express/Sounds' magazine (Germany), issue September 1983
[2] 'Wet Dream' by Max Romeo (1968)


Picture Credits: (Top to Bottom)
Musik Express / Sounds, January 26th, 1984 © Monika Becker 
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