Dixon: Johnny Rotten!
Johnny: Yes that's my name.
How are you sir?
Good to hear it. How has the tour been going for you?
Very difficult, challenging as you could imagine. Things I'm looking for in young song writers don't seem to be quite out there at the moment.
Originality. But some of these bands are surprisingly good so I'm enjoying myself.
Obviously you're giving away a million dollars here.
Ya well that's a record company deal. You must bear in mind I have no record deal at the moment in North America so recommending a record deal isn't quite what I'm doing at all and in light of my history with record companies it's definitely not what I'm doing. What I'm doing is getting live music with original song writers on TV and to kind of challenge what has been the British domain in the spheres of this world you know talent less offers.
You've never been one to lead people to the lions. You certainly never had anything positive to say about record labels in the past.
No and that won't change.
So tell us about the position you're in as a judge.
One point is it's boring if I'm being negative about them because I think that should be clear by now. I've set many industry standards in this business and they do follow my lead and often with imitation bands to boot which I've often taken as not a compliment. So it's quite nice doing this battle of the bands thing that there's no Pil or Sex Pistols imitators out there because I would find that very annoying. I'm looking for some sense of fun. People can wear their influences but if they enjoy them properly that's alright, it's certainly not a snog fest and I'm not there to humiliate or throw sarcastic one liners on young people because it isn't about that either. If anything I'm trying to be helpful and useful. The point I keep emphasizing to these groups is they have now been given an opportunity on a platter that I never had ever. Right to this current day I've never had any opportunity like it. As we all know, my history speaks for itself. Maybe with a bit of luck what I've been doing over the years is now coming to fruition for others. That's fine by me but if I can help someone along the road that's a bloody good thing to do.
Do you find it difficult in sometimes deliberating with your fellow judges?
You would expect that yes. There are certain decisions that they've made that I honestly cannot comprehend. I judge by what my ears are telling me and not what I think a record company will sign. I think it's a difference of opinions but that's how it should be otherwise it would be 3 identical people saying the same thing.
Everything in life is objective and subjective.
It is and that's why I've never entered competitions because I don't believe in them. But one way or another I don't think there are any losers here because every single one of them gets onto TV.
The further you go through the process are you refining the system through which you collectively judge?
I talked openly and honestly. I go into each session with no advanced attitude other than let's hope I get a pleasant surprise. Always looking on the good foot and quite rightly I'm not often disappointed.
Are you finding that it's difficult to be both an inspiration and a mentor and the person that says. . .
I don't know if I'm any of those things and I've never ever applauded myself that way. I just do what I do to the best of my ability in light of my many handicaps and there have been many. If that's helpful to them then that's all well and fine and if it isn't that's fine too. But what we're looking for here is originality somehow and if you can wrap that into a dam fine pop tune knowing the limitations of music anyway. This way I don't care if it's not perfect or not, I've always thought that has been utterly irrelevant in pop music and is one of the delights of popular music actually that it isn't really about music it is about the message, the content, the fun and power that hits you in the heart.
How did Bodog come up with the unlikely trio?
I have no idea at all. I had no concept of them signing the other judges and paid no attention, utterly irrelevant to me. I just do what I do and that's it and I'm not competing with the other judges or competing with them or anything of the kind, just accepting each other as people from different levels. There are many levels to life and one doesn't necessarily have to look down on the other. I come from a different train of though, as I said I do not see us competing at any level any of us.
Speaking of money and rock and roll as we alluded to in the past. . .
I'll allude to money if you want. Nice to have money in January. Bloody hard to find work in January. I have to say I really enjoy it, it's shocking but it's true. I really like listening to new songs from young people, it's a great refreshing thing. Live music is all but being murdered slowly, we know this. It's one of the reasons the Sex Pistols started some 30 plus years ago was because live music was being murdered and we wont that battle and we got that back and I carried that forth with Public Image and now it's going back to this mediocre miming sessions and people writing songs for you. It's all daft, it's rubbish and fake. It's a very, very difficult thing to write your own song but the rewards are infinite, your heart and sould are ure and I see that relief in the faces of the singers up there and the bands playing and they like what they're doing, they to me are the winners. Ones who procrastinate and run through the motions and think this fraudulent aspect will win are the ones that I just have nothing to do with.
So I bet you appreciate the fact that the bands are touring the hell out of these songs and playing them night after night.
Very much so, I mean you've got to. You got to applaud any band that's got the balls to get up onstage and sing their own material. It's a wonderful thing and I've always loved it. It's what keeps me alive for live work is the thrill of it. What you're doing is what you believe in and if you don't then you're in the wrong fucking business.
Well speaking of bands and referring we're a punk rock magazine that also features metal.
I'm very curious about the title PunkTV. Could we spin that into corporate punk rules man? Ha ha, because it doesn't.
You know what, it's PunkTV.ca and we cannot find enough punk rock bands to interview but we also interview emo bands and hardcore.
You should vary it because punk is a very, very broad umbrella mate. You got to go back to not the New York scene which was all poetry readers and posers but the actually genuine English lot where bands were original and very different from each other.
Well last year I got to interview the Buzzcocks in person in their hotel in Toronto.
I got to do Youth Brigade, Joe Queer, Henry Rollins.
Well here we go, we're talking about extreme differences with songwriters and these are things that I always accolade. The Rain Coats, X Ray Specs, The Slits; very different outfits. Punk broke all barriers. What we did in that one bitter twisted first year was put women on an equal level with men and it's a shame to see girls going back to miming and trying to look like Las Vegas hookers. It's just daft, it's 10 steps backwards because what they're doing with that stuff is they're parodying. I'm sorry but the Pussycat Dolls is a joke to me.
Well all that karaoke TV is all a joke. American Idol is just. . .
Awful. There's no songwriters in them so what the hell are they standing up there for. How could you be proud fakingly imitating someone else's work?
Well it's no wonder they don't go anywhere once they launch them.
How can they? They have no career.
And they have no strength. It's like building a house on sand.
Exactly and there's the difference. I wouldn't put my name lightly to a show like this and I don't throw myself away and I'm constantly reminding people of that you know behind the scenes of course. If they think they can put themselves on stage and just parody in front of me I will find that very unacceptable. Bring your own tools to the workshop.
Ya and you'll be able to see through them right away.
Yes, it's not hard to be open and honest it really is.
Well we're in a difficult position. We don't make any money, I've been doing this for 15 months.
Well I've been doing music for 30 years and I don't hardly make any money either so you've got a long way to go yet mate.
Yes sir. I've heard a couple of good stories about you getting paid, about you now and how your attitude has changed in that managers and promoters are such pricks that will rip you off at every turn and how difficult it is for you.
It always has been but I win and I do all that without any record company backing and without any financial aid. Anytime we go out live in any format we scrape it together ourselves and it's always been like that. It's always been a do it yourself attitude with me and it doesn't work any other way I find.
At least you've got control over everything.
Somebody's going to win a record company contract out of this, is that a good thing? I'm not sure that's the booby prize. It's up to them, it's up to the band to get to that but for me it's not so much a competition as it's new fresh faces with their own songs getting a chance to be on TV and God only knows I would have killed for that opportunity. The few times I've ever been allowed on TV it's usually been censored, edited or just banned and for what? Not for anything vile and horrible. I've never done anything vile or horrible, I've always just been bang on accurate.
I saw you on Jimmy Kimmel a while back and it must be surreal for you to see how the world is finally catching up to Johnny Rotton.
Is it catching up? I think it's trailing further and further behind. Jimmy Kimmel by the way is breaking some grounds rules with his show so that's why I go on. I like Jimmy Kimmel a lot. I think there's an undercurrent of irony which I truly appreciate. It's very un-American actually, the rest tend to be very dead pan and dreary and he does bring on exciting bands and bands that aren't normally allowed.
I think he had the Dropkick Murphy's for 3 days on there in a row.
Wouldn't be my choice but that's alright. The Dropkicks have played with us; we've done them favors in the past. They supported us at Crystal Palace where we had to organize our own jubilee party because we were banned from every hall and venue.
I saw the advertisement you did for that on your Rotten TV, they wouldn't let you play the jubilee. Do you think at some point there would be a knighthood for John Lydon?
Well not that I'll accept.
Well what if they come with their hat in their hands and they say you were right all along?
Then I'll send them to the Hall of Shame. And the 2 can party together but they'll be doing it without me. I've never done this for those kinds of accolades and I never will. I find them unnecessary and actually they cheapen you somewhat, they lessen your point and purpose, they take away your original train of thought and they make you become mediocre. It's a way of adopting and coaxing you into the shit storm which I will never be a part of.
You just turned down your Hall of Fame nomination.
I didn't just turn it down, I think I did more than just turn it down. I made it clear where I stand with them and you must understand too the very first night of this battle of bands was in the hall of fame so I was listening to 22 bands all performing 2 original songs, 44 songs I heard on the very first night in the hall of shame. Fantastic, young, new bands, new songs, original songs great. For me that's teaching the hall of fame a lesson; don't be morbid in turning us into museum pieces. Music is about being alive and I don't want no grotty dusty fucking monument in any museum wrapped around me, I don't want it. I don't know who those farts are either to put that stuff together but none of them have been very busy signing me up. As I keep saying I don't have a record label in North America at the moment and I haven't for a couple of years and I couldn't give a fuck because for me I can work without it.
Tell us about anti institutionalism and anti commercialism and what kids need to know about how institutions like this are ruining the world.
They don't need to ruin the world, they just need to be taught how not too and you do that by example. Every band I've ever been in and every single thing I've ever done whether it be TV or anything at all has shown another way, a fresher, cleaner approach. If you speak your mind and you speak it correctly that's good enough. To say that's not sellable is ridiculous. It's a challenge; for every original concept there are 44 billion out there ready to rip it off and copy and milk it and water it down, they're the enemy. That's where corporations fail; they fail to move on he first original thought and they wait to pick up the clich é imitate fakers that come after. There were the Sex Pistols then there were Public Image and then there was Massive Attack. It's not that I'm knocking Massive or anything like it but the don't give a nod and a wink to where the doors were opened for them and they go on and they maintain their record contracts etcetera and I still after 30 years get problems for record companies for having what they casually or carefully phrase as too original. It's ridiculous, I mean bloody hell I made a record with Left Field a couple of years back called open up and I could not get anylabel in America to pick it up. They didn't want it and they wouldn't touch it and I had to sneak it on the backside of my solo album and even then it wouldn't play on the radio because no format was available for that kind of music. Well as long as I'm ahead of the format to play my kind of music I think I'm doing well.
Ya that's never been your goal anyway.
Will there be a new John Lydon album this year? I know that you released the "Rabid" song on the best of one pound notes on Virgin/EMI.
Ya I couldn't get it picked up in the States so again it's about money and finance. When I finish with this and a couple other TV projects I have in mind then I'll go back into the studio and finish that. I have about 10 songs ready to just straight out record because it's always the writing first that takes the time. The recording is just like I think icing on the cake and a good fun time but it's the writing of it and the putting it together in your head.
At 50, is there a big different between the evolution of the music and the philosophy behind it? Has the age mellowed you?
Not at all. As I've always said I think Pete Townsend was the silliest man on earth when he said he hoped he died before he got old. What a crazy statement. I don't feel old, in fact I like old people. I don't feel any of these concepts, the agisms and fatisms. If I want to go and get myself a beer gut I'll go and get one and I don't care who the fuck thinks I shouldn't have it. It's my personal choice.
Well you're aging well. You happen to be fortunate enough that you're aging well.
Well that's because I'm not corrupt. I think these things show in people's faces, at least that's what my wife tells me and she who must be obeyed.
Well look at Ghandi.
Ghandi was a very good philosopher.
Look at some of these great people that you can't really tell how old they are. Marin Luther King was another great example.
I think that's how you're going to be remembered in history.
I think that's mad. I could be remembered for better things than just having a wrinkle on my forehead. Besides I don't care and I never have. I really don't care what the general public want to make of me. I do what I do and if it's respected then that's fine but many a times it's iconed and it shoudn't be. I just do what I do because too few people get up and do the same. I should by all rights in a very good society be as dull as dishwater.
Nah, I don't think so either. I just like to hear the sound of it. It's something I've written in a song. When you pick this up next year you'll laugh, you'll understand what I'm doing. It's irony mate.
Will you put the Pistols back together to get paid and get the Pistols out on the road again?
We tried to for Christmas. We were going to do a Christmas special in London but all kinds of silliness came up and just ruined that. So I think I've just in my mind put the knockers on it completely. I find it so hard to get certain members to get off their fat asses. A lack of concern bothers me and I don't want to ever share a stage with people that I don't think care. And that's not knocking the drummer at all.
And that's the part that suck the most because obviously you want to do it and the world wants to do it but everybody's got to share the same paradigm.
I couldn't do it correctly if I thought one or two of the band were not interested because that smirkiness going on behind is an insult to an audience and I wouldn't allow it. Alright look I've got to wrap up now, we're off to be popular.
Interview by: Dixon Christie, PunkTV.ca