'Anger Is An Energy'
John Lydon nee Rotton

Do you think that narrative, storytelling style of emoting (as a performer) is vanishing from our culture?

Well let me explain, when I was young, being of Irish decent n all that, it matters a lot. The TV finished very early when we were young but there would be always uncles coming over when the pubs closed. There was this great oratory tradition of storytelling, which has rhythms to it, nothing was played but you could feel the pattern in the way the story unfolded, it’s a terrific thing. It may be that I’m just imagining the music in it but that’s stuck with me and that’s kinda what I’m doing. Is telling a story but with a tune, with a pattern We’re human beings. If we don’t work with a pattern then we’re against nature.

Agreed, you can talk about the chaotic sense of nature as much as you like but when you look at anything in micro degree its clear there’s patterns in everything?

Yeah. All chaotic means is that you don’t understand.

But it doesn’t mean that there’s no structure there.

That’s right, that’s right. And that’s the area PiL absolutely thrives in. As for live, it astounds quite a few. Mostly the hardcore PiL fans that never thought they’d be hearing ‘Albatross’ and ‘Death Disco’ in the same set as ‘Rise and Disappointed’. And the other periods of PiL, that they all work well together. Because they’re all part of a bigger picture. They’re all part of the jigsaw puzzle and you cannot remove any one piece.

I’m looking forward to seeing all those elements together, to see an overview of how you’ve grown as and a writer and performer. It’s great to hear that you’re collaborating with people you feel on an even footing with, it can only bring out the best in all of you.

I wish I could describe PiL at the moment a cosy sofa (cackles) but because of the financial burden placed on us…but those are surmountable problems. Insurmountable is not getting along with each other. I know Lu & Bruce from way back when and we’ve worked closely together in the past. It’s been wonderful to revive that and introducing Scot the new bass player. Scott has been no problem at all. We’ve taken to him like a house on fire. Were burning real brightly.

Once we’ve got this tour out of the way, these songs kind of out of the way too, there will be new material. We’re burning down one house to rebuild a brand new spanking one. It’s how I approach life. I’ll never give up playing some of the older stuff. But I want more. I want more for PiL. It’s the heart and soul of me. I don’t see myself doing anything wrong here. There’s no negativity in what we’re doing. It’s quite the opposite. This is about a world of peace. Were truly beginning to understand each other. And forgiving each other. Precious little of that out there. As much as the hippies ruined many aspects of peace and love with their preposterous fakery around it, there is a possibility there.

You are perceived as a performer…dare I say it a ‘vaudevillian’, with a boundless confidence on stage yet I’ve heard you talk about the terror. The stage fright. Has that dissipated in any way?

I’ve learnt over the years that its actually a necessity and I study, almost rigidly, other peoples biographies to see how they explain this away and oddly enough many of the actors out there, Lawrence Olivier, people like that, with his stage fright is that they’ve learned to thrive on that energy, that fear. It makes you better. It means you really care.

It obviously shows that you’re not complacent about what you’re doing…I guess you care what the audience thinks and you want to be at your best. So is it still as terrifying as it has been in the past?

Oh yeah, it’s pretty damn grim. (Do you feel physically sick?) Oh yeah, I cant eat for the whole day until I come off, until the gigs over and then I’m in such a state of anxiety that its hard to eat then too. I don’t drink when I work but I do gargle brandy on stage cause it keeps the throat open.

I remember reading, years ago, that when you were in the states with the Pistols (on the ill fated tour) that you’d never experienced air conditioning before and it really fucked with your vocal chords?

Yeah, very badly. I’m always asking for hotel rooms with windows that open and as the modern world unfolds I finding that more and more difficult. I despise being closed in hermetically sealed tanks. And when we travel on the tour bus I insist there be one window that opens at the back and there at least I can sleep sitting up on a chair with air coming in. The dryness of air conditioning will just destroy your voice. Destroy it. And then you start taking all these weird & wonderful things to help with your throat and you can just end up damaging it. I sing now regularly night after night two solid hours and that’s a long time on stage. I have played two and a half hours. Eventually we’ll work our way into three hours.

That’s a long time…

Well, I’ve been off the road for a bit. Three hours a night to me would be acceptable but it’s all about finely tuning it. Learning how to pace the set. We’re taking a month off now before we start on the European section. I’m very worried about losing my momentum. So I’m practicing howling, much to the detriment of the neighbours.

I’m sure they’re loving that!

My only form of exercise really is swimming and holding my breath for as long as possible underwater. Then I come up and it’s “aaaaahhhhhhhhh” (comedy operatic wail). Too bad they think there’s a nutcase living next door but it’s what I have to do.

I’m sure that’s not the first indication they’ve had that there’s a nutcase living next door.

It’s the nicest thing I’ve bought in my life. Fairly shitty little house but it’s got a swimming pool. We call it the garden shed but it works for us. The pool, me and my wife, we love it, could be out there all day long.

There then proceeds to be problems with my recording device, during which time John is very gracious and keeps on chatting regardless. When I suggest the possibility that we hook up for a chat after the tour to discuss how it went, he suggests I contact his PR.

A great friend of ours called Adam. He’s a young man. I like to see young people like that in higher positions, because it can only help the industry. We form in PiL very firm attachments to the people that really know their work and it pays dividends. PiL on tour, it’s not just the band that I include as members but the sound people, the roadies, everybody, the entire crew, tour manager. It’s a very close knit group of people, all out to achieve the best results they can. And having to do it on a shoestring. It’s notable and I truly appreciate them. I’d like for them to read this and know that I send them my love.

And at that juncture the recording device runs out: to peals of laughter but, I feel, genuine disappointment from both John and myself. I’m sure we could have talked for hours.

His farewell bidding, an entirely appropriate bastardisation of the old Irish blessing (and paraphrased lyric from ‘Rise’) “may the road rise and your enemies always be behind you”.


Monday 19th July – 02 Shepherds Bush Empire
Tuesday 20th July – 02 Academy Bristol
Wednesday 21st July – 02 Academy Oxford
Friday 23rd July – 02 Academy Leeds
Saturday 24th July – 02 Academy Liverpool
Monday 26th July – 02 ABC Glasgow

All regional dates £25 adv, London £27.50 adv

Tickets: 0844 477 2000 (24hr) or ticketweb.co.uk


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