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THRILLS AND BELLYACHES
One of the most iconic figures in popular culture, John Lydon is currently back in the saddle with the reconvened PiL. He talks to Stuart Clark about Malcolm McLaren’s funeral, the group’s controversial Israeli gig, his Irish background, Bono, Bob Geldof and Madonna. Oh, and that much-discussed butter advert.
Stuart Clark, 06 Sep 2010
A point made a few years ago in Hot Press by MC5 founder member Wayne Kramer.
“I’m both a realist and a romantic – I understand why everything the Pistols stood and still stand for has been commoditised, but I don’t have to like it. A bit more respect for the elderly please!”
The catalyst for Lydon reconvening PiL – “It’s not a reunion because we never broke up” – was the death in January 2008 of his Dad, John Sr.
“Even though we’ve not made a record in 18 years, PiL has always been in my head,” John Jr. proffers. “‘Death Disco’ was about my mother dying and when my Dad joined her it really resonated again. I don’t like using the word ‘therapy’, but it’s a great way of getting all the grief and anger out. I just thought, ‘I want to sing these songs again on stage.’ The question then was, ‘How the fuck do we bankroll it?’”
Lydon was still mulling that one over when he got the most unexpected of phone calls.
“Hurrah for Country Life butter! Those commercials are probably the most anarchistic thing I’ve ever done. They’ve not only paid for this tour, but given us the option of making a new album if we want to. We’ve no fucking record company to write cheques on our behalf, so that’s how it has to be done.”
John Lydon has a reputation for being a prickly customer, but today at least, he couldn’t be any more personable. He’s also good value for money, insisting that our chat last for a full hour.
“I’m not into this fucking ‘soundbite’ nonsense,” he explains. “If I’m going to engage with gentlemen of the press, I want to A) Teach you something useful and B) Work out if you’re a moron or not. In case you’re wondering, you’re doing all right at the moment.”
Please, my ego’s already big enough as it is! Given how confrontational he can be, is Lydon surprised that he sometimes gets a rough ride from journos?
“For 30 years I’ve always been treated with suspicion by the media. A lot of it is because I don’t come from the public school shit-stem, and therefore they don’t know much about my background or life story. I don’t suffer fools gladly and I do bite sometimes, but overall I think I’m a pretty fair-minded sort of a bloke.”