Whether it was being the driving force behind John Lydon’s post Sex Pistols punk band PIL, or his impressive genre spinning solo projects of folk, dance and world music. He’s taken off his Doc Martins and is ready to pass them on to any young scamp big enough to fill his punk sized boots. So take note, Jah’s got some old age advice for all you aspiring rock stars out there.
It’s a state of flux
There’s been times when people have left my band and I’ve moved on to do my own thing and like it or not, it’s got an emotional side. It’s like a marriage and you need to honour the process. You get close, real fucking close. Obviously we were never getting our leg over each other or anything like that, although I’ve known it to happen, trust me. It’s just when you’re together 24/7 you get close so when someone leaves it feels like a break up, it ain’t easy. But what you need to do is deal with it in a proper way; it needs to be amicable. You need to all sit down, have a nice dinner and leave it all amicable. It’s a rite of passage. It definitely isn’t nice and when you’re young it can all get a bit messy but at the end of the day it’s a state of flux, be treated as you would want to be treated.
Push the boundaries
It can be a struggle but if you find the right people to work with then you get the freedom you need. I think the main thing is compromise. They can do whatever they want with the singles, PR, whatever, as long as they don’t interfere with my music I’m willing to compromise. It’s happened a few times where it just wasn’t working at all, there was a real clash and I just couldn’t work with ’em. I just ended up going down another route. If there’s a strong belief of integrity you’ll be fine.
The “Tricky” 2nd album
Well with PIL it was so mental, there was a real lack of pressure. We had no management, no A&R, we basically did what we wanted to. It did happen a few times in the early 90s. The record companies were being complete arseholes, not meeting me halfway, you know! I just went fuck it and waited until I found the right relationship, because at the end of the day, a relationship is what you want from your record company and like in all relationships, if you don’t meet halfway it ain’t ever gonna work.
Cat naps, I’m loving cat naps
As you probably know, we didn’t tour much with PIL. They were too lazy to get off their fucking arses. Although the first gig we played ended up in a riot. There was riot police all over the gaff, bodies everywhere, blood up the walls; we got off to a pretty shady start to be honest. It kinda put a stop to touring right from the off. Now I’m a bloody veteran of the game, it’s all about being professional. My partying days are long gone I’m afraid. Now I need to preserve my energy, I need to get my rest. Cat naps are definitely the order of the day. I’m loving cat naps. I need my own space as well; single rooms are a must. No way am I sharing a room with a bunch of geezers at my age!
Listen to me, I sound fucking ancient. OK, I’ll give the kids some proper advice. Take drugs, get laid and shake your thing. Just have the time of your life. That’s what I did and I’ve turned out half normal.
Beware of the glaze
I’ve had a bit of adulation but I’ve been fairly lucky as in it’s not been a great deal. It can be difficult to trust certain people but I’ve seen enough of it to know who’s real and who’s not. The dodgy ones tend to have this glazed look in their eyes, hang around in dark rooms, talk shit and take drugs. They’re the ones you need to avoid. They know fuck all about you. You talk to ’em and they haven’t bought a record for 10 years. They really get my fucking goat. The best way a fan can be with me is look me in the eye and shake my hand. That’s what I’m like when I meet someone I admire. Someone came up to me the other day and said, “You’re the reason I play guitar.” For me that’s great. It’s the biggest compliment someone can make, because the reason I played guitar was because of bands like Family Man and Hendrix. So if I’m inspiring someone to pick up a guitar I feel like I must be doing something right.
The best advice I can give is don’t take things so seriously. When I was 32, I was told I was too old, slightly overweight and going bald.
TOO OLD! I’m fucking 49 now and I’m still making records. They said I was finished but I’m still here and I’m proud I didn’t listen. The best thing to do is look at things with a level head and don’t listen to every idiot out there. If you keep a close unit and just believe in yourself you’ll go a long way.
INTERVIEW BY DANIEL WADE