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John Lydon: 'If I can express how I feel, the lyrics will keep coming'

Approaching 60, with butter ads and a stint in the celebrity jungle now on his CV, is John Lydon still as outspoken as ever? Andy Welch talks opinions to the former Sex Pistol

Published 20/08/2015

Going strong: John Lydon is still making music with Public Image Ltd
Going strong: John Lydon is still making music with Public Image Ltd

It's unlikely you could find a subject on which John Lydon doesn't hold an opinion. In a matter of minutes, he has covered everything from plumbing to Scottish independence, and his appearance on BBC's Question Time back in 2012.

"I haven't been invited back on, but I did enjoy it," he says of his time on the panel alongside former MP and novelist Louise Mensch, former Labour home secretary Alan Johnson, Lib Dem politician Ed Davey and journalist Dominic Lawson.

"I wouldn't saddle up with the Labour MP like I was probably supposed to. You don't buy my loyalty, you have to earn it."

In the UK, he's become something of a national treasure, peculiarly for someone who spent so long preaching anarchy.

He even managed to get away with those Country Life butter adverts and an appearance on I'm A Celebrity ... Get Me Out Of Here! in 2004, maintaining a hint of his punk credentials by calling viewers some rude words and eventually storming out of the jungle.

But what he really wants to talk about is, of course, himself, and What The World Needs Now ..., Public Image Ltd's forthcoming tenth studio album.

"It's a question more than an exclamation. It's so typical of me," says Lydon.

"What PiL does is timeless. I don't do that fashion-of-the-moment thing."

The starting point for the album was Lydon's recent autobiography, Anger Is An Energy.

While researching Anger Is An Energy, Lydon focused on his childhood again, but this time looking back on how contracting spinal meningitis as a youngster, and being hospitalised for a year, shaped his life.

"I was putting the book together, and in a bit of spare time, we said we'd do an album," he explains. "There was a danger of it all turning into psychobabble, but talent will prevail. It's quite depressing, analysing yourself."

There's a song on the album called C'est La Vie, which might give the impression Lydon is softening in his old age.

"Aren't you in for a surprise?" is his response to that, adding that some of the songs are as direct as it's humanly possible to be.

The lyrics, meanwhile, come relatively easily to him - and "as long as I have a mouth and can formulate a sentence and express what I'm feeling, they will do, too".

Lydon, who'll turn 60 in January, claims not to be outspoken.

"I'm not opinionated, really, but I do have opinions based on study."

The album was recorded in a converted barn in the Cotswolds.

"I just like to wallow in the work, like some sort of hippo.

"The main thing is, we're a great bunch of people that really do like each other, and that helps," he says.

  • Public Image Ltd release their new album What The Worlds Needs Now ... on September 4

Belfast Telegraph

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