It’s Shark Week on the Discovery channel, which means John Lydon, the artist formerly known as Johnny Rotten of Sex Pistols fame, is glued to the 55-inch flat-screen TV in the Malibu home he shares with his wife loving wife, Nora Forster. , until she died in April after a long battle with Alzheimer’s. Lydon remained fiercely devoted to his wife of 44 years – who was also the mother of The Slits singer Ari Up and heir to a German media and publishing empire – and refused to leave her care to other people.
One of the leading men of the 1970s punk era, “Anarchy in the UK,” has turned to music for solace, reviving his group Public Image Ltd. their eleventh album from 1978, “End of World,” is out today (August 11), with UK and European tours in the autumn. Veteran players include bassist and multi-instrumentalist Scott Firth (who joined in 2009) along with ex-Damned guitarist Lu Edmonds and ex-Slits/Pop Group drummer Bruce Smith, both of whom of which have been members since the 80s.
The release of “End of the World” was preceded by a series of singles earlier in the year, starting with the painful elegy for his wife, “Hawaii”, which recounts an idyllic holiday they both spent there.
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With lyrics like “Don’t fly too soon / I must be crying in pain / You were loved”, he is far from the popular image of the man once known. worse than ever, supporting Donald Trump, if not the person, and, as this conversation shows, he continues to take a contrasting position across the sociopolitical map. On stage, he’s just as animated: Last summer, at Pasadena’s Cruel World Festival, he made his outfit “wider than a barn door” (“It was my Talking Heads tribute,” he says).
You are one of the few rock singers who always makes me laugh. You never take yourself too seriously.
Of course not. If anything, it’s the Irishman in me who always despises (sic). But above all, it is a British music hall. You get up and have fun with people. Anyone can hide behind an intellectual mask. But it’s much easier to share a message with people through humor. That was always my way, gloomy as my surroundings were: laugh at them, laugh at them! There is nothing like show business. It takes a lot of courage to get up there and do this. I am in advance. You are mentally naked when you go on stage, and that’s how it should be. It’s worth all the panic, fear and phobia the world can throw at you before then. You leave your ego in the dressing room and from there, it’s free fall.
“Hawaii” shows a new vulnerability that is not necessarily known.
I had to face this terrible situation in my life personally. There was no other way. I should not be mentally ill when it comes to respecting my relatives. It wasn’t too difficult to write her, but it was difficult to compose the phrases so that they would touch her before she died. And I think it is, so there is joy in all this crying. I am not the only person in the world who experiences loss, but this is the one that has affected me the most. I have lost my parents. I lost friends to drug shit, overdoses… This was hard. We had to play it live on Irish TV, and Nora hadn’t died at the time. I knew I’d be watching it when I got home. It was very, very hard to hold back the tears. Now that he is dead, it is easier for me to deal with him. It took me seven years to see her slowly go away, but I feel some relief for her. And I need to not shock myself for feeling this way, because everything is a problem area. It will be tough for people to judge how I will handle this particular situation. The song has taken off in a way I never imagined. So many people who have lost loved ones want to connect with us, and that’s great. Because I had to learn a lot to be a 24 hour carer. How much he cares, and how restless he is. But I would never give her to strangers. I know there are others who cannot cope as I did. I’m not judging them at all because it was also very difficult, financially.
Are you using new music recording and the upcoming UK and European tour to focus your pain?
Oh yeah, sure. I’m sitting here alone and it’s driving me crazy. I’m sure my beautiful wife wouldn’t want this for me. She will come on tour in my head. I need to get out and do other things and not be wrapped up in self-pity. And the only way I know how to do it is to go out and share with others. It was always very nice with PiL and the audience, because we change the songs according to what I feel from the people. I can see in their eyes if it belongs to them and if it means something personal to them. This is how it should be. Without them, what’s the point? It’s like a church… without religion and hero worship.
“Being stupid again” sounds like your comment on a woke culture.
It is a helping hand: “Come on, let’s laugh about this together,” instead of directly against anything that contradicts your indoctrination. High schools are producing robotic creatures with artificial intelligence. It scares me that they cannot stand the concept of debating issues that are so important to members of the working class, of which I am still a part. I don’t want “us and them”, just “us” in the world. Many of my friends have very different opinions on these things, but we are friends because of those differences. And I understand that that is being taken away from all of us, slowly and surely.
He called himself the Donald Trump of rock and roll.
I have made that comparison, yes. When you keep pillorying, victimizing and accusing someone for so long and so intensely, there needs to be a penetrating methodology to it. He is a thoroughly unpleasant man, no doubt about it. But he is not a politician, and I hate politicians! Fuck everyone. I prefer a maniac … a real estate shark. There will be no world as long as we continue to apply dogmas. They are not really ours to impose.
Are you anti-vaccination?
I was very worried about Nora’s vaccination. She did not want to be vaccinated because it was too risky in her condition. Of course, the authorities insisted and threatened them, and in the end they vaccinated her. They wanted to move her, but I wouldn’t let them. If he were to die, he would die happy with me. I am not particularly anti-vaccination. I hope there is something good, but as the information comes out. Trust science? I guess I’d better rely on my sweat socks. We all have to make these decisions for ourselves, but please have the right information?
Given his history with the monarchy in “God Save the Queen”, he had a very unexpected reaction to the death of Queen Elizabeth II.
He is a person. That’s what I wanted to say. Don’t schedule it; to have feelings. That person has a family. Empathize with them and don’t trample on their opinions. I had a very nasty argument with the remaining Ex Pistols about it. Of course, they wanted to cash in and release “God Save the Queen”. But it is his death: where is his humanity? This is how I am. Institutions hinder me, but the human race never, never…
As for Charlie’s coronation event, I used it to celebrate Nora’s death, like an Irish rescue. Where we laugh at funerals and cry at weddings. She put her favorite teddy on a stool and I hosted a coronation party for some close friends and neighbors. We were in Union Jacks for 24 hours, drinking beer. You can’t turn down a party. She loved it. Deep down, he was enjoying her.
The Sex Pistols sued him for using the group’s music in the Danny Boyle biopic series, “Pistol.”
It was very unfair when they tightened the nuts on me. I felt pretty cheated at that. It wasn’t fair to Disney. I lost two million pounds on that, and that’s money I could have spent on making Nora’s life more comfortable.
What do you think?
I thought they had thrown the real, serious story overboard in favor of this fake-low media story. This joke shows us sitting in the student union discussing social issues. Fuck off. Never happened. It took them three years to do it and they gave me eight days right after Christmas to approve it. They didn’t let me see any footage or commentary, but they let me know it would be appreciated if it was favorable.
Shame on Danny Boyle for being so subversive about it. When it comes to real people and real feelings, he has gone the rogue way. Imitation is not the best form of flattery. All the actors looked like they had taken ballet classes, on bars. crap. This is a gang that was a serious threat to society. Let’s not forget that. I addressed all the institutions. Parliament called me part of the traitor and treason law. Which carries the death penalty! How can you ignore that?
Are you in a current relationship with Steve Jones?
I never liked him and never will. He is not very intelligent and does not seem to know how to learn or progress, beyond basic prejudices. A very ignorant man. Very sad. It’s been like this since the beginning. The things he’s been saying and doing behind my back for so long, it’s very hard to see how I can make it up to him.
Do you regret how you handled your induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame?
Nothing. fuck them They have a secret meeting to decide who gets in and who doesn’t. In the future! I want names. It’s kind of an underhanded compliment. He’s like Oliver Twist, hat in hand. “Please, sir, may I have a little more?” You are isolated! That is my sensible approach. I didn’t write these songs to turn them into museum pieces. That is cold and indifferent. And I’m still very much alive, motherfuckers!