John Lydon and His Rotten Past
Getting back to music, toward the end of the book, you wrote, “The one thing I hate the most about what I do – having to listen to the influence I’ve had.” Do you feel punk has gotten stuck?
It’s very much become a coat-hanger’s nightmare. A lot of bands are coat hangers: just put a leather jacket on over the hanger and stand there. And I don’t like rigidity and uniform anyway. For me, punk was everything. We’d grab everything and have everything and share the world, not isolate ourselves.
I always thought your vision of punk was individuality.
Yeah. And the treasure of course of four or five individuals in a band being able to combine and find a common ground. That’s incredibly rewarding, while not losing your individuality. For as long as it works. When a thing stops working, you stop it and you move on. Don’t get comfortable.
Many bands have covered “Anarchy in the U.K.” over the years, especially American metal bands like Megadeth and Mötley Crüe. Do you think they “got” it?
I don’t think they did it any better than the original, and I don’t think that’s me being too precious about it either. No, listen, heavy metal understood us, oddly enough. Although the fan base resented our music, the bands themselves liked us. And surely that’s all that counts in the end.
Do you like Green Day?
No, I’ve never been a fan of them, I just don’t understand it. I think it’s kind of a tinny, two-bob version of something that was far deeper and carried more significance. And, uh, that for me, as a band, they’re not very significant. They’re a mélange. They’re closer to Billy Idol than myself.
This year they entered the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
Did they?! Oh, no doubt they took that [laughs]. Itchy fingers [laughs]. I don’t keep up with those kinds of things, so I wouldn’t know.
You dedicated the book to integrity. What is the worst lie you’ve heard about yourself?
That this is all some kind of an elaborate joke that I’m practicing on humanity. There was implications in the British press years ago that I was having a laugh at their expense. Well, no, I’m not. This is a damn expensive laugh to be having if that’s the case. I’ve invested my entire life into this, not to mention my money, too. Everything goes into PiL. Everything. It’s the center of my universe and I love and adore it and I won’t let it ever become corrupt. I’m doing my utmost to maintain a purity, so integrity it is.
It doesn’t seem like you’ve gone off to live an opulent lifestyle.
I’d be just too bored with that. Who the fuck needs a Lamborghini when you can have a Volvo? I don’t need to impress in that way. You couldn’t say that Mr. Rotten is a summation of his purchases – that’s not him. You can find me in my music.