John Lydon

Singer/Songwriter — London

Name
John Lydon

Where are you from?
London

Describe your style in 3 words
Integrity, empathy, love.

How important is identity? Finding a voice in life?
It's very important, but what does identity mean? A lot of kids don't seem to go through anything that opens their eyes to the bigger potentials that the world offers. They tend to get absorbed in a fashion movement, and just stick with what everybody else is wearing. Dictated to by their fellow peers. That's incredibly unhealthy to me.

The other way, of course, is just be an oddball for the sake of it. That's equally awful, and pretentious. There's something in between those two extremes, where you just do what you think is right, and you wear what you like. You find yourself in that.

Sometimes our differences are what makes us. That's what brings us together, our differences.

Can music change things?
I would hope so. It's certainly helping me change for the better. As the years go by I find I'm slowly becoming the person that I want to be. I become more and more open, and realise just how many closed doors I had in my mind, even to myself.

That's what music does. It gives me that area of exploration where I can punish myself with songs, and find instant relief in that. Also, I can punish others I think are way wrong too.

What inspires your lyrics?
It's to tell it as honestly as I can. These are my life experiences, my songs. Sometimes a subject matter is involving other people, but I'm really seeing it with a sense of empathy through my own eyes. I'm trying to be an open book. There it goes. That's what I love about literature, the open-mindedness of very good writers.

Do you set out to be rebellious?
I'm an accidental rebel. I just see things should be cleared up, and spoken honestly and openly. That's really not very fashionable. I understand, but it's my way. That's the only way it's ever going to be with me. Is to tell it as it is.

Are intensity and a gang mentality crucial to any really good band?
Yeah, Viking raiding party with better hair-dos.

For me, with the last two PiL albums, I've finally come into my ‘Rosebud' period, really f***ing most excellently. I love the way we view each other. Know each other so intensely, and show so much respect for each other to the point where we're constantly teasing, and edging, and pushing each other into new and more interesting directions. It's amazing the whole ability. They forced me into it really, just by their sheer activity, musically. I'm finding notes, and singing, in ways I never thought possible before.

Anything you miss about Britain?
No, because it still exists inside me. No matter where I am geographically, that's it. That's my mindset.

I think in a British way, analytical. I want the facts, please. I don't follow no one blindly.


Read the full unabridged interview in the Further Reading section below.


John Lydon is perhaps best known as the lead singer of the iconic and disruptive punk band, The Sex Pistols. Performing under the name Johnny Rotten he influenced a generation of British youth - with his brutally honest and incisive commentary on 1970s Britain. His personal style, wit and persona have continued to influence generations of British musicians to this day.

With PiL (Public Image Ltd) - John eschewed both the traditional music industry fascination with media fame and record company obsession with 'the format,' to create his unique vision of what a band could be.

Not content with revolutionising British music once, PiL’s 1979 album ‘Metal Box’ is credited with creating another seismic shift in music. A piece of work that many artists are still trying to catch up with almost four decades later.

Famously outspoken and honest, John Lydon has collated 40 years worth of songwriting and artwork into a new limited edition book titled 'Mr Rotten's Songbook'. Limited to only 1000 copies and available to pre-order.

First record you played on repeat?
Oh my gosh. I know the first record I bought was 'Ruby, Don't Take Your Love to Town'. I bought that because I liked the colours of the cover. My mom and dad were huge music lovers. They always let me play the Dansette. Huge music lovers, but only had about 20 singles.

Repeat would be the order of the day eventually. They loved to have parties, and I loved to be the DJ at them. There you go. Repetitive listening is an absolute necessity. That's where all the jewels are. That's where you discover the intricacies, and the mistakes too in things that turn out to be absolute diamonds in terms of inspiration.

To explain it in a more absurd way I suppose - Captain Beefheart made albums full of mistakes deliberately. Very novel, very rewarding, and very thrilling to listen to.

A record your parents would play?
Oh, lots of Irish jigs. They loved the Beatles, which I always had a problem with for some weird reason. The Kinks. 'You Really Got Me’ was a big one in our house. That kind of thing.

There'd be a lot of early Reggae. The precursors to Reggae, a lot of the Rude Boys songs. Like 'Dr. Kitch'… will never forget the lyrics to those songs. Hilarious to a young kid, and hilarious to adults. There you go, a perfect meeting place.

When it comes to music we all revert to childhood, which is where innocence lays. For me making music is a childhood I never had, so I view myself as innocent because of that.

A Song lyric that has inspired you?
"Shot by both sides
On the run to the outside of everything
Shot by both sides
They must have come to a secret understanding"

'Shot By Both Sides' by Magazine.

Sums up the trouble I was going through between the Pistols and PiL, and Magazine put out a single called shot by both sides. I just think that's amazing that song. That's exactly how I was feeling. I remember when I first heard it. I thought, "By god, I wish I wrote that because that's where I am." Very, very serious deep love and interest with that song. So important to me. It helped me through a really difficult period. I'd been torn apart.

A beautiful melody, beautiful, beautiful…

A record that influenced you?
'It’s A Man’s Man’s Man’s World' by James Brown.

Oh, I love James Brown and his version. God, I just wish I could dance...

Remember the second line in there, "it don't mean nothing without a woman or a girl". That record was a great influence on me.

Music that defined the teenage you?
I shifted my musical taste as a teenager, between Hawkwind, Captain Beefheart and James Brown and everything else thrown in I could possibly find.

I was oblivious to the fact that none of this would make sense, record collection wise, to most people. Well, f*ck them. That's what really interested me and made me happy. All these different stretches into individuality.

A song people wouldn’t expect you to like?
Yeah, I don't know why, but it just popped into my head. I remember there was a song called 'Ring My Bell'. I thought, "Well, I like that.”

Then I went out of my way to find it, and I got about 20 different versions of it. They're all very different, by different people, and mixes. I find that really thrilling.

It's exactly what I'm trying to say about literature or anything, films. Just try to see the other side of things. A sense of empathy in what's different from you. Take you a long way in the world.

Name
John Lydon

Where are you from?
London

Describe your style in 3 words
Integrity, empathy, love.

How important is identity? Finding a voice in life?
It's very important, but what does identity mean? A lot of kids don't seem to go through anything that opens their eyes to the bigger potentials that the world offers. They tend to get absorbed in a fashion movement, and just stick with what everybody else is wearing. Dictated to by their fellow peers. That's incredibly unhealthy to me.

The other way, of course, is just be an oddball for the sake of it. That's equally awful, and pretentious. There's something in between those two extremes, where you just do what you think is right, and you wear what you like. You find yourself in that.

Sometimes our differences are what makes us. That's what brings us together, our differences.

Can music change things?
I would hope so. It's certainly helping me change for the better. As the years go by I find I'm slowly becoming the person that I want to be. I become more and more open, and realise just how many closed doors I had in my mind, even to myself.

That's what music does. It gives me that area of exploration where I can punish myself with songs, and find instant relief in that. Also, I can punish others I think are way wrong too.

What inspires your lyrics?
It's to tell it as honestly as I can. These are my life experiences, my songs. Sometimes a subject matter is involving other people, but I'm really seeing it with a sense of empathy through my own eyes. I'm trying to be an open book. There it goes. That's what I love about literature, the open-mindedness of very good writers.

Do you set out to be rebellious?
I'm an accidental rebel. I just see things should be cleared up, and spoken honestly and openly. That's really not very fashionable. I understand, but it's my way. That's the only way it's ever going to be with me. Is to tell it as it is.

Are intensity and a gang mentality crucial to any really good band?
Yeah, Viking raiding party with better hair-dos.

For me, with the last two PiL albums, I've finally come into my ‘Rosebud' period, really f***ing most excellently. I love the way we view each other. Know each other so intensely, and show so much respect for each other to the point where we're constantly teasing, and edging, and pushing each other into new and more interesting directions. It's amazing the whole ability. They forced me into it really, just by their sheer activity, musically. I'm finding notes, and singing, in ways I never thought possible before.

Anything you miss about Britain?
No, because it still exists inside me. No matter where I am geographically, that's it. That's my mindset.

I think in a British way, analytical. I want the facts, please. I don't follow no one blindly.


Read the full unabridged interview in the Further Reading section below.


John Lydon is perhaps best known as the lead singer of the iconic and disruptive punk band, The Sex Pistols. Performing under the name Johnny Rotten he influenced a generation of British youth - with his brutally honest and incisive commentary on 1970s Britain. His personal style, wit and persona have continued to influence generations of British musicians to this day.

With PiL (Public Image Ltd) - John eschewed both the traditional music industry fascination with media fame and record company obsession with 'the format,' to create his unique vision of what a band could be.

Not content with revolutionising British music once, PiL’s 1979 album ‘Metal Box’ is credited with creating another seismic shift in music. A piece of work that many artists are still trying to catch up with almost four decades later.

Famously outspoken and honest, John Lydon has collated 40 years worth of songwriting and artwork into a new limited edition book titled 'Mr Rotten's Songbook'. Limited to only 1000 copies and available to pre-order.

First record you played on repeat?
Oh my gosh. I know the first record I bought was 'Ruby, Don't Take Your Love to Town'. I bought that because I liked the colours of the cover. My mom and dad were huge music lovers. They always let me play the Dansette. Huge music lovers, but only had about 20 singles.

Repeat would be the order of the day eventually. They loved to have parties, and I loved to be the DJ at them. There you go. Repetitive listening is an absolute necessity. That's where all the jewels are. That's where you discover the intricacies, and the mistakes too in things that turn out to be absolute diamonds in terms of inspiration.

To explain it in a more absurd way I suppose - Captain Beefheart made albums full of mistakes deliberately. Very novel, very rewarding, and very thrilling to listen to.

A record your parents would play?
Oh, lots of Irish jigs. They loved the Beatles, which I always had a problem with for some weird reason. The Kinks. 'You Really Got Me’ was a big one in our house. That kind of thing.

There'd be a lot of early Reggae. The precursors to Reggae, a lot of the Rude Boys songs. Like 'Dr. Kitch'… will never forget the lyrics to those songs. Hilarious to a young kid, and hilarious to adults. There you go, a perfect meeting place.

When it comes to music we all revert to childhood, which is where innocence lays. For me making music is a childhood I never had, so I view myself as innocent because of that.

A Song lyric that has inspired you?
"Shot by both sides
On the run to the outside of everything
Shot by both sides
They must have come to a secret understanding"

'Shot By Both Sides' by Magazine.

Sums up the trouble I was going through between the Pistols and PiL, and Magazine put out a single called shot by both sides. I just think that's amazing that song. That's exactly how I was feeling. I remember when I first heard it. I thought, "By god, I wish I wrote that because that's where I am." Very, very serious deep love and interest with that song. So important to me. It helped me through a really difficult period. I'd been torn apart.

A beautiful melody, beautiful, beautiful…

A record that influenced you?
'It’s A Man’s Man’s Man’s World' by James Brown.

Oh, I love James Brown and his version. God, I just wish I could dance...

Remember the second line in there, "it don't mean nothing without a woman or a girl". That record was a great influence on me.

Music that defined the teenage you?
I shifted my musical taste as a teenager, between Hawkwind, Captain Beefheart and James Brown and everything else thrown in I could possibly find.

I was oblivious to the fact that none of this would make sense, record collection wise, to most people. Well, f*ck them. That's what really interested me and made me happy. All these different stretches into individuality.

A song people wouldn’t expect you to like?
Yeah, I don't know why, but it just popped into my head. I remember there was a song called 'Ring My Bell'. I thought, "Well, I like that.”

Then I went out of my way to find it, and I got about 20 different versions of it. They're all very different, by different people, and mixes. I find that really thrilling.

It's exactly what I'm trying to say about literature or anything, films. Just try to see the other side of things. A sense of empathy in what's different from you. Take you a long way in the world.

Sometimes our differences are what makes us. That's what brings us together, our differences.

John Lydon - Full Interview

John Lydon Archive Gallery

Sex Pistols | Anarchy in the U.K

PiL | This Is Not A Love Song

Mr Rotten's Songbook

A Message From John

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