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Interview with John Lydon from Public Image Ltd



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When you started Public Image Ltd, the Sex Pistols fans were stunned by the different kind of music. Did you expect that reaction?

Probably I did, deep down inside. But mentally I was very secure with myself that I needed to advance, move on and not reimage myself or reanimate what I thought was a dead circus, the Sex Pistols. And because the subject matter  become very much deeper, the music had to acommodate that, so we advance and we took punk into the future. A lot of people at the time resented that, but a lot of people whose since really apreciated it. This is why all moved, if we’ve to doing anything of any importance here on planet earth, that is got to be advancing itself and improving all the time, that is what Public Image do, we study human emotions and they constantly shapeshifting acording to the world we’re living in. Now for a lot of punks, and I’m very sorry for them, they still stuck in my old 1977 record, move on! (laughs). And I want ever have anybody tell me what punk is or isn’t, because I did the work, I stood up, and I was counted. And not many of them alleged punk sold, will it go trough anything like what I had to endure. I mean, I was even debated in the houses of parlament, under the threatens and traition act, which quite frankly was very sentenced at the time, and so here I am! There was just ferocious songs.

In your music, there is no record that sounds like the previous one. What led you to find this constant reinvention with PiL?

Yeah, well, it’s not completely delivered and it’s not completely accidental. As you deal with the subjects, you have to find the music that’s appropriate for that kind of words, so the thing organically changes, and that’s for the better!

In an interview you mentioned that your last albums have the happiest music you’ve ever done…

(Interrupts) Yeah, even though they sound ferocious! (laughs). That is not lack of energy and commitment, being happy doesn’t mean an acoustic guitar and a floral dress with a headband, that’s definitely not my way (laughs)

Why did you decide to compose more cheerful songs?

I don’t know if they are cheerful or not, but they definitely commited to whatever the subject matter is. And I’m expanding all the time, on  angles and areas in songs that could be very useful and helpful for human beings. The first song on the new album (“What The World Needs Now”, 2015), “Double Trouble”, deals with the dommestic arguments that my wife and I have over the reppair of a toillet. You will think “oh, that’s silly”, but no, it wasn’t silly for us at the time, it was major, a major flare up we managed to resolve it. And now, that’s a favorite song we listen to that, and love how foolish we were, this is what you got to do, you got to analize your mistakes and be prepare to commit to them and change them. And there you go, that’s exactly what this song is, and I wouldn’t thinking this is flipping  to what house life is at all. Far from happy, but the end in the songs is completely joy and happiness.

You grew up in a multicultural neighborhood. Did that helped formed you as the artist you are now?

Yes, it did, it did very much, variety is the spice of life.

There was some point in particular that motivates you to be a musician?

I never thought about, until I was ask to join the Sex Pistols. Because of the catholic background that I had to endure, if ever they found out you could sing or play anything, they will incorporate you into the choir, and if you were in the choir, it means the priest have direct access to you, and we know what priest did with little boys, and so… no!  I never thought about performing in any way (laughs), until I did the Pistols. And I very quickly had to find my voice, which I obviously did.

It was too hard to find your voice?

It was, It was difficult, I only had a week or two. But my decission was to discover my gap instinct and sing from the heart, open your voice and just mean it. And there you go, it was the best lesson I’ve ever told myself, because I stuck with that, even now I can shapeshift the tones, notes, whatever, I can do very many vocal things, but I sing from the heart and the commitment is a 100%.

What do you think is the difference beetwen the Sex Pistols and the other bands of the time?

I think they just wanted to be pop stars, wich is alright. We never considered that, we stood up and hoping hell. And I think that lack of innocence has help me through the years. Now I could handled a mass consumption (laughs).

Wen I look at the Grammy awards, I think “thank god I’m not with that kind of people”, because what they selling is false. They selling an imagery and a concept that is corrupted, and it’s planned. That’s not the way I live and that’s not the way that most of the human beings live.

What do you think about the current music scene?

I think it’s hardly orchestrated, and the business knows how to manipulate and remove the threat of anything new and exciting. So what we get is that anything new and excited gets down for the same Top 10 people who’re constantly remaking records with each other, it’s very dark indeed. Very few bands get to breakout, the system is more corrupt than ever.

Do you think this is different right now?

I don’t know if there’s any difference. I mean, forever I’m going to be the enemy of it. I think I’m the enemy of this entire world I call “the shitstem” because I do everything right, that’s embarrassing for them. They’ve never supported me, and they made my life hell when I’m doing music for nearly two decades, while they’re on the tv making charity and things like that. I do all for myself to reform PiL, and there’s not any help for the industry whatsoever. If I signed those contracts they’ve never let me go, and that’s not easily. So here it is, I’m still fighting!

You had already published two books, also mentioned that you would like to write about the rise and fall of the record industry. Do you still have those plans in mind?

Oh yeah, but listen, there’s much I miss in working with large companies, when that time was on, wich is very quick, the acountants starts to take over, and everything became about money, money, money. The whole principals and the original ideology of records labels was foolish people and sharing. Just the same commodities being regurgitated with different color hair or whatever, and then is make to make foolish by a media wich function because of the money companies, and by the adverts. And we have the media working against me and an audiencie believing what they read because they can’t see and hear.

Do you think the current musical idols are a kind of product?

Yes, they totally a product. Wether you like it or not, or wether they don’t want to admit it, they know it, they know it!

Who’s responsability of this?

A corporation under a record label understand who they’re signing and why, and it’s a pre-plan in advance: where’s this is gonna go? How much money this is gonna make?, and they catch yourself. Of course, it’s stupid if as a bussiness, they didn’t do that. In the early days, record labels really had not make that, it was full of people from the hippie period, we still floating around, and when they signed someone new and exciting without knowing what the future is gonna be about. No one really wanted to pick it up, except the Sex Pistols, by the time the Sex Pistols were doomed for me, but I didn’t want anything with those labels, because they didn’t wanna let me go, and so we’ve still connected through the record deals, wich I didn’t understand when I signed them. And so the journey begin, and it’s been a long one, I’m still here today without a label, and completely independed from that!

In your book, “Anger Is An Energy”, you talk about your passion for the Arsenal F.C., where our compatriot Alexis Sánchez plays…

(Interrupts) Yes, oh my god! He’s one of the best footballers ever! (laughs)

Would you like to give him an advice for this season?

Yes, my advice to Alexis Sanchez is: STAY AT ARSENAL! (laughs). Stay please (laughs) he’s quite amazing to watch. Win, lose  or draw, you pay the entrance fee just for watch him on the pitch, he’s 100% entertainment value. And there is one thing I have in common with him: commitment, he never gives up, he does while he’s running, I doing on my work. Never give up, ever, he’s always full of new ideas, and that’s the kind of people I love on this planet.

Football was an important part of your childhood…

(Interrupts) It was a social impact that was necessary, because in the early days the first thing my father did was take us to Arsenal as soon as we where old enough and said: This is your neighborhood, this is your team. Win, lose or draw, this is who you support”, and that stay with me. I don’t know if modern football supporters quite have that attachment, but in the early days we got that proper. That was the proper way to celebrate your neighborhood, through your local team.

Football is like music, people get together…

Yes, is very very singalong (laughs)

Also you mention the show with Sex Pistols in our country, in 1996. What memories do you have of that time?

I played Santiago, yeah. I think it was an old boxing hall that they condemned, and when we go, we play like the last gig in them, that was fantastic. The response was truly truly heartwarming, and so, here comes PiL!

Why did you want to bring back PiL?

Because it’s  my heart and soul. It’s where I fully fully understand myself, and not only that, I hope other people too. There’s a lot of songs that have true commitment to make the human race a better commodity.

You’re currently living in the United States. This year you can vote, right?

Yes, I can in this election. I’m so damn bless, look at the choices they give me! (laughs)

Which opinion do you have of the American political scene?

Well, I would like Donald Trump to have his wall, and I think everyone in South America all the way up to Canada will put a dollar each in, if he builds it around himself (laughs), and with that protect the world from Donald. Listen, he’s your typical loud mouth, selfish, but basically,  insecure business person from America. He’s an ugliness! He’s the kind of people who make things wrong, not right. He want to stop people come for the country for job, Oh god, please come more! (laughs). That’s how the society succeed, it’s why they continued supply jobs, and that’s just improved everything for everyone. He has a particulary dislike for Mexico, I don’t understand it because I have family members who are mexicans, for my brother. He married a mexican descendent, I have no problem to told that, the thing I most value about them is his hard working.

Do you have recording plans with PiL?

Yeah, eventually when we finish this tour. We have South America now, we take a month off, and then we continue around the world. When I’m on stage I put so much energy into it through three or two months, so I get completely run down. I need to take a break and get completely recovered. I’m not doing this to kill myself, but I don’t mind coming so close to the edge that I be almost dead in commitment.

It is difficult to make a record on your own?

It is and it isn’t, the fear you go through the first few days is quite overwhelming, and then you find the confidence in each other. Now we have the respect, and a life long friendship with the members of PiL, they’re my true friends, we never let the other down and we’re join by the music,  the commitment is more intense. It’s how I always wanted PiL to be, and how I always wanted the Sex Pistols to be, you know, that was an operation that I didn’t create, everything requires  patience in life to work properly with total respect for your fellow human beings, requires time and energy, things I have a lot of (laughs).

You have one solo album, “Psycho’s Path” (1997). Why did you want to make this on your own and not under PiL name?

Because I wanted to. I just build a studio on my house and I just “well, how is it to make a record on my own?” (laughs). That wasn’t the first record I made completely alone, also “The Flowers Of Romance” (1981), you know, it wasn’t complete uncharted territory for me. But it was just unfortunate the record labels didn’t like that album at all, also didn’t like “The Flowers Of Romance” either, and both did quite well.

I know you love the literature, especially Oscar Wilde. How did you approach to literature?

Is not “specially” Oscar Wilde, it’s just he came out with one of the best line I’ve always read when facing death. I think it’s one of the bravest things I’ve ever heard, he die with a sense of humor, that’s the Irish in me, that’s why I like. He was on his deathbed in Paris, and he look to the wall and said: “Wallpaper is atrocious, one of us has to go” and then he died! I think that’s just hilarious, very very brave, leaves off survivors who are waiting for a death a sense of hope, it took the fear out of death, I completely acknowledged that as one of the bravest things ever. Show no fear! (laughs), show no fear! (laughs)

What is your favorite PiL record and why?

I don’t have a favorite, I remember all of them mostly for the work in the studio and the atmosphere there. Also for taking those songs to live performance, they’re all pieces of a jigsaw puzzle. Im truly grateful that I got the opportunity to do this on the first place, I can’t ruined o rubishing because of money making pop songs, it’s just hits or misses, that things makes me irrelevant in front of the audience. It’s music, that’s why we all care about.

What do you expect about the next South American tour?

Joy! Complete joy, as been did always. PiL shows are wonderful entertaining evenings, it’s as I say often, like opera in a church, but without the religion. (laughs).

What do you think about music festivals? Do you like to play them?

Yes I do, I use to be very frightened of it because of the enormous capacity of the audience and how you communicate so far back. But I find a way, it’s just be yourself, that’s not easy when a 70 thousand people are screaming at you. (laughs)

Do you  prefer smaller shows?

Smaller shows, yes I do. I love the intimacy and the integrity of it. It’s a wonderful and dangerous thing to put your head on a shopping bag and doing that every night. In the early days was more dangerous, and my problem was always be too much different for the norm, I don’t understand why sometimes those gigs are very very good.

Would you like to say something to your fans in Chile?

Hello, see you at  the show!


Well, John, sadly the time is over.

Ok, thank you for having me! May the road rise to meet you, may your enemies always be behind you, may you scatter, flutter, butter and shutter!

Ok, thanks for your time.

This is PiL, leave your enemies outside, cheers!

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