Johnny “Rotten” Lydon is quite a character. When he got word that the Six Pistols were going to be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, he fired off a nasty note that called the place a “piss stain.” Lydon, who continues to tour and record with Public Image Ltd, hasn't changed his mind about the Rock Hall since penning that letter in 2006. While Public Image Ltd.’s terrific new album, What the World Needs Now…
, which just came out today, shows his softer side — he contemplates his long lost friends, for example, in the moody “C’est La Vie,” — he’s still annoyed with the Rock Hall. And you can tell the band's induction still rattles his cage.
“The record industry has not done much to help me,” he says when asked to elaborate upon what he wrote in that infamous letter. “When I’ve been in real financial trouble, I’ve gotten even more problems from them. It’s consistently cast me aside and negated and ignored me and yet supported bands. No way am I going to accept that. A secret ballot? What a cheat. Stand up and be counted, I say. And not discounted. The even worse insult of it all was asking us to pay for the privilege of attending. There you go. And hello, I’m very much alive. I don’t know about the other members. I don’t view myself or the others as museum pieces. When you get the bigger picture of it, it’s quite insulting. They’re packaging us away as their special thing. We’re not their special thing. We resent the system very seriously. Always have and always will and have no connection with that.”
To his point, PiL is still going strong. Formed in the wake of the dissolution of the Sex Pistols, Public Image Ltd did take a break but it reformed in 2008 and went back to the studio to issue This is PiL
in 2012. The follow-up album, What The World Needs Now…
, features some incredibly dynamic guitar work and Lydon’s typically snide vocals. The group will return to North America for its first show in three years, a performance at the Voodoo Music + Arts Experience in New Orleans on Halloween night. Following that gig, the band will kick off its North American tour on November 1 in Memphis and continue through November 29 in Los Angeles. (Sadly, there is no Cleveland date). Lydon concluded our interview by talking about the importance of live music.
“If we don’t continue this touring thing, it will soon cease to be an option,” he says. “And then the wonderful rebellion in music will cease to exist. We need live venues and we need people to be in live venues. There’s nothing more rewarding in this world than that up close and personal contact. You don’t’ get that with a DJ who’s 200-feet up in the air with a light show. Someone makes these songs and melodies and tunes originally and all the rewards are going to someone who’s in between the band and the people. It’s thievery in an odd way. I can say that because I used to be a DJ myself. I know. I was never doing that to deny people access to the original artist but I think that’s what’s going on now. It’s going to reduce music to this one beat scenario. World beat is doing that. It’s a stifling of creativity. Everything will eventually become elevator music if we’re not careful and don’t stand up against that. It’s just one of the many ruses I’m fighting against. Yes, I’m full on with the weed killer.”