IN SWEDEN WITH THE PISTOLS PART 194


THE ROTTEN
INTERVIEW


BY GIOVANNI DADOMO



Sounds. August 27, 1977.


I DIDN'T even wanna come on this tour," Rotten begins. "Felt miserable and sorry for myself. I was pulling a tantrum. But I came. " All of which confirms Virgin's statements to the effect that Rotten had been far more deeply hurt emotionally than physically by the sadistic razor attack he suffered a few weeks back.

This tiny glimpse of Rotten's more introspective, vulnerable side is quickly sealed over as he returns to the subject at hand. All he had time to pack were a couple of cassettes of reggae, he says.

"If I had my way this entire case would be full of nothing but tapes," he explains. "That's the only thing that keeps your sanity - music.

"I mean, what else is there? F------hell, entertainment-wise this place is dead. Vile. Died years ago."

John Rotten's relatively recent media confessions on the subject of music - primarily via the radio show he did with Tommy Vance a few weeks back - surprised a lot of people. As if the 'I hate everything' slogan of the early days had suddenly been discarded, a worn out hallowe'en mask, to reveal a bona fide hooman bean hidden away underneath.

Not so, says John . Says nobody was ever interested in those things before.

"I told them.. like.. journalists. But nobody was interested. That's not what sells to their readers," he says with a vaguely familiar breathless urgency.


'All my songs have the same philosophy, which is FUN. But there is an element of seriousness...'


"Either that or they use quotes in the wrong context," says Rotten. "Like, you can say something that's quite important that, put slightly out of phase with the rest of it, can make you sound like an ace prat." One final glimpse of the bitch before Reason takes control:

"It's a very clever way journalists have of slagging things off for their own amusement," moots The Bitch.

"And yet," Reasonable John counters, "half the time they probably don't even mean it. It's just sloppy writing.

"And there's a lot of sloppy journalists around, " he concludes scanning the room meaningfully. "Does he mean me?" mutters a hoarse voice from half-way down Rotten's throat, quickly giving way to a malicious little cackle.

"I bet I'd make a really sloppy journalist," he admits at last.

Not that he'd want to be one anyway, right?

"Nah. S'not my style," says John Rotten. Once again though the humour's turned inward on a double sided blade.

"I'd like to be something in the music business ," he sighs . "'Cause I really like it. It'd be good."

Lost count of the times laughter's been a regular part of the last couple of days and tonight's no exception. Odd that no-one's ever said too much about the Pistols' sense of humour in the press, when they spend so much time creasing up, both at their own expense as well as that of outsiders.

"It's like that last 'Melody Maker' interview," says Rotten. "We were taking the piss all the way through. And it read so dead-pan. Weugh! Couldn't believe it when I seen it..."

Enough. What about the projected movie with Russ Meyer, a cool information topic in between opinions. John says the original suggestion was Malcolm's. "Then I went to see his films.

"God! They're terrible! Yeah, let's have 'im! The man's an absolute nut case !

"But how it came about was when we couldn't play . . . the only way like, now, for people to see us in England was on film, in cinemas. Sort of have a live gig-cum-history of the band on film. And we don't want some dead pan serious producer because we're not like that at all ."

It certainly sounds like a great combination, Meyer's tongue-in cheek, frequently hilarious soft-core cartoon sensibility and the Pistols' . . . well, you know about them. Providing it works, of course . . .

"If it works, yeah. If it doesn't, well, it's unfortunate. It's worth trying anyway. You should give everything a go . . .

"It's just the way people are waiting for it to fail, they can't wait for it to fail," says Rotten. "Which is very stroppy of them."

The counterweight, of course being that there's as much pressure on the band to succeed now as there ever was . Not a bad thing, eh John ?

"Yeah . 'Cause that's your main reason to succeed. Because people are always trying to put you down . It's not the only reason . . ."

"And Rotten folds his clothes neatly and places them in his bag," says John, busy doing exactly that.

And those 'other' reasons, is he just going to leave them handing in mid-air?

"Yes, I've just done it," he snaps, an impatient edge creeping into his voice. 'There are other reasons and I think they're blatantly obvious. I think people have had enough time to work that one out for themselves . . ."

Says Rotten, folding the black jacket with the red 'CHAOS' band on the sleeve?

"Of course! How'm I gonna get all this in ," says the packer to himself. "Anyone want a rubber t-shirt?"

Time for another silly one, I think . How's this, straight out of the dummy-run ghost interview in my notebook: Q. Do you ever have the time to think?

"HAHAH! I never stop thinking. How's that for an answer?"

Neat'un .

"Yeah, of course ," comes the more considered reply. "The day I stop thinking's the day I won't even be able to answer you . "

What I'd been thinking was how earlier this year a new Pistols song had emerged as a result of a brief visit to Berlin . . .

"Oh, no doubt we've got lots of wonderful inspiration from this hole. No, actually I can't think of a single thing I'd like to say about Sweden. Scandinavia . . . I mean, how the hell can you get so much boredom into a song? It'd be so depressing people'd kill themselves. Two minutes of complete silence would sum it up," says John at last. "That's just about the most anybody could say."

Strange that, even with all this wealth. Like John points out, they've got the highest standard of living in the world.

But then someone else had told me about the series of high rises on the city's southside. How they started out bright and cheerful and wound up the colour of mud. Which is where they keep the immigrants stashed . . .

"The great hypocrisy," says Rotten knowingly. "Poverty exists everywhere. I mean, even at the gigs there's kids who've never seen money. So it's not true - poverty exists all over the world no matter how much the government might try and cover it up. People are poor.

"Or if they're not they're stinking rich but they're still bored."

Like the Rags, right?

"Yeah. They tend to be the richer ones. Got everything on their doorstep and it's too easy; they've got nothing to live for.

"They would if only they'd open their stupid fucking eyes," he concludes.

Cut to the much more tolerant attitude towards the Pistols from the Scandinavian authorities. It's either because they're relatively content and therefore don't need scapegoats the way our own petit bourgeoisie do . . .

"Or because they're too bloody stupid," suggests Rotten.

"I'd say the second myself. And the next time around we'll get beaten to shit hounded all over the place," he laughs.

And what if the Swedes are merely amused at this very British outrage? What if England's just a joke to them, The Sex Pistols just a bunch of clowns?

Rotten says he'd thought about that one too but it doesn't seem to have worked out that way. "The younger kids understand. The older ones the 25 year-olds from last night, they're rich. 'Cause you gotta be stinking rich to go to university. They were probably bemused . . . apathetic load of arseholes."

A brief track switch towards the 'Suicide' people, how disappointing to find everything so derivative. "I dunno, they'd sort themselves out in the end," Rotten says. "They've got so much of their own they could use. And if they don't then someone else will . . ."

Johnny Rotten, Optimist?

"Oh, no! Only when I think about nice things to moan about. I'm very optimistic about that. There's going to be lots to complain about," he enthuses. "The world's only going to get worse - and I will only get happier.

"I'll have lots to complain about when they put me in prison," he says with a sound half-way between a shudder and a laugh, "I can really nag!

"If I'm allowed to," he continues.'Prison'd kill me, it really would. I couldn't stand that, being locked away . . . it'd completely destroy me. Such a vile thought, locking human beings away . . .

"But when you're naughty boys," he continues a little more flippantly. "Must expect this sort of thing . . . "

Heavy Corner, what? Let's break out quick. Like how someone told me a couple of days back how vain the Pistols were, how, despite this stated contempt for clothes, appearance remained a very important thing to you,

"Well, I'm not gonna go out in something I don't like the look of," he laughs. "I think everybody's like that. I'm just as vain as everybody else.

"Clothes are fun things, they're fun. They're there to have fun with. But this doesn't mean I look in the mirror and go 'How can I impress someone tonight? It's an important gig and there's some important people coming, I must wear my best togs . .'

"No . I wear what I want purely for my own amusement. If I didn't like it I wouldn't wear it.

"I don't like that, "he says casting another garment onto the rubbish pile. "And I'm not gonna wear that no more. But I like the zip on it . ."

"I don't do that either," insists Rotten when it's suggested that there's contrivance of a sort even in being as succesful an anti-stylist as he undoubtedly is.

"I don't give a shit. And I don't care what anybody says about the way I look. It's the way I want to look and I don't care. It's not done to impress anybody or depress them or even affect them . It's purely my own little thing."

Yet other people are affected . . .

"Unfortunately, yes. I don't like walking around and seeing thirty thousand imitations. It shows their low mentality level . I always used to laugh at the Bowie imitators and the Brian Ferry imitators. It was just a joke. They're people without minds of their own, without directions or anything. The great un-thinking majority . . ."

This intolerance for imitators won't be mellowed at any price, it seems. Can the pseudo-Rottens be blamed for what they are? Yes indeed.

"Of course it's their fault. It certainly ain't mine."

But aren't a lot of Pistols fans likely to be upset when they read something like that?

"Bollocks. I don't condescend to no-one. That is my fucking opinion. If it upsets someone so much that they can't like a record by someone who's slagged 'em off for wearing the same clothes I . . . who needs them? Damn cheek ! That's like admitting that they own me or something.

"Nobody owns me!"

And yes, the album's almost ready says John "Except for two songs that ought to be done again. EMI's one of them . Really like that song, a nice chant.

"Of course EMI don't like it!"

A possible '45 then?

"But all our songs could be singles because they're all very dancy. We are a dance band. We're not prolific geniuses who sit on our arseholes . . ."

Rotten holds up the aforementioned peasant smock for inspection.

"Good this, ennit," he laughs. "Right piece of rubbish. What are you meant to do with an old sack with sleeves sewn on it.

"Shoulda seen the geezer who give it me. What a wanker! He was into Bader-Meinhof and all that lot. He was trying to get me to join the Anarchist movement," Rotten laughs. "Give me all this Communist China gear," he adds, pointing out a jacket and cap in khaki.

A couple of shirts join the rest of the rags and then the packing's finished everything packed away with an almost soldierly neatness. Rotten grunts as he struggles to close the suit-case.

"This is the bag the Customs are gonna smash up and ruin . . . Oh damn, I 've left my seals out!

"Aren 't they sick ? I think that's really bad. They just brought a law in to stop it. It's vile murdering animals just for some fat Yankee bag's mantelpiece.

"Aren't they just the cutest things you evah did see?" drawls Johnny Rotten in a coarse falsetto.

And finally they're packed away and Rotten's thinking 'Holidays In The Sun' may well be the next Pistols '45. He offers a snatch of Iyric in bouncy plum-in-the-mouth English, Noel Coward-style . . .

"I want a holiday in the sun, I want to go to the new Belsen. I want to see some hiss-ter-ee, 'cause now I 've got a reasonable eco-nomee!

"Good words, eh? Great! Really gets the point there . . . Socialist implications, the lot. Wow! Whameroo!"

Rotten says he writes all the words himself. "I have to, 'cause I sing 'em." Mention of Glen Matlock's name a rumoured author of 'Anarchy' elicits a minor flurry of pejoratives. "I'm sick of hearing that. 'Anarchy' was two songs put together. One was called 'Mindless . . something or other and I can't remember what the other one was called.

"I've got loads and loads of old songs and I just piece them together. Bits are relevant and bits aren't. But they all basically have the same philosophy, which is called FUN. But there is an element of seriousness, you must understand," he adds with mock gravity.

And no, nothing dates beyond the start of the Pistols. 'I had no thoughts of being in a band until the day they asked me, none whatsoever," says John. "It never even occurred to me.

"I had other things to do then, other ways of killing myself slowly," he concludes mysteriously.

The conversation trickles towards silence . One more interesting bit in the form of the word 'naive', coming in out of the sidelines, almost from nowhere.

With which I disagree.

"Oh, you've gone and spoilt it for me," he whines. "I thought I was young and naive. That's what everybody keeps telling me.

"Or, more to the point - boosting my ego, ha ha - what would you say I was?"

We're just about to call it a night when Sid bounces in. "Got three birds next door. Couple of 'em ain't bad either.

"Trouble is, I'm too tired to do anything about it," says Sid, falling face-first onto the bed.


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