Dennis Morris interview
First published Fodderstompf, October 1998 (first
© 1998 F&F Publishing / Fodderstompf.com
Fodderstompf.Com: Excerpts from an interview with PiL / Pistols photographer Dennis Morris; originally conducted for The Filth and The Fury fanzine in September 1998. When we interviewed Dennis on release of his Sex Pistols 'Destroy' photo-book we also took the opportunity to talk him briefly about his involvement in the early days of PiL; circa 1978-80.
What about the PiL box set are you involved with that?
Dennis: I suppose I will be at some point, that's not complete yet is it?
F&F: No, they're still working on it. You must have absolutely loads of PiL photographs?
Dennis: Yeah, I've got a lot of PiL stuff, I did all their photography for them up to the point they went to America in 1980. The only album sleeve I didn't work on was 'Flowers Of Romance', which for me wasn't the greatest of albums...
F&F:I think it has it's moments, but it's a bit patchy isn't it.
Dennis: Yeah, I think for most people it wasn't the greatest.
F&F: You took photos of them at the Rainbow Christmas gigs didn't you?
Dennis: Yeah, the first
F&F: That must have been mental!
Dennis: Yeah, again that was a pretty big breakthrough, because it was the first time a band had really booked a venue on that scale, and organised the whole thing, and the big thing about it was that it was on Christmas and Boxing day.
F&F: I don't know if you saw it but John was on TV the other night talking about the Christmas gigs [Rock Family Trees], and he was saying it was a really big thing because no one ever did anything like that on Christmas Day.
Dennis: Yeah, that was the whole idea.
F&F: Are you still thinking about doing a PiL photo book?
Dennis: That's on the cards, I'm not quite sure
F&F: But it is something you're thinking about?
F&F: Is it true you designed the PiL logo?
Dennis: Yeah, I did the logo. I did the first single sleeve, the one that was in a newspaper. I did the first album sleeve, and 'Metal Box'.
F&F: Metal Box, how did you come up with that idea?
Dennis: The album was called 'Metal Box', that's what they wanted to call it, and my job was to come up with a concept, so basically... it's quite funny really, because the school I went to in Hackney, in the east end, was across the road from this company called 'The Metal Box'! So when John came up with the title 'Metal Box', it jogged my memory to that place. So I said to him it would be a great idea to put the album in a metal box, so we approached Virgin about it, and Virgin said, 'oh no, it would be really too expensive, we'd have to manufacture them', and I said, well I know a company down the road and they may have stock. So I rang the company and it turned out they made film canisters for movies, and it was actually the same size as 12" vinyl, so it was perfect. We bought a job lot off them, and then just got the PiL logo embossed. So it actually turned out cheaper than expected.
F&F: A happy coincidence!
F&F: The thing with the metal box was that at the time it was...
F&F: Yeah, when you look now at the amount of albums and CD's that get released in tins it's unbelievable... Going back to the PiL logo I was never sure who designed it. I know that John Lydon said he done it but...
Dennis: [laughing] John said he designed it?
Dennis: Well it was John's idea, you see what I mean, in terms of, we had a meeting and he spoke about it and he put the idea of public image, but the idea comes from an asprin!
F&F: A pill
Dennis: Yeah, exactly the same as an asprin.
F&F: I think it' s the best band logo that's ever been designed. I think it's absolutely brilliant.
Dennis: Yeah, it's very distinct.
F&F: Do you still see John?
Dennis: I haven't seen him for a while. The last time I saw him was at the Pistols press conference. I've spoken to him recently, he's Ok. I saw... I was over in Jamaica a few weeks ago doing a photo shoot for a reggae artist called Junior Delgado, and John's wife was out there, bit of a coincidence, his wife was out there, and Ari Up from The Slits, she lives out there, it was quite funny bumping into them y'know.
Picture Credits: (Top to Bottom)
PiL on roof of Gunter Grove, 1978 © Dennis Morris
Dennis Morris; circa 1998 © unknown
Public Image music press ad 1978 © Dennis Morris / PiL