This interview was conducted during the winter of 2000, over a six week period over the phone
through EYADA.com which hosted a show called "Rotten Radio". Johnny Rotten wasn't anything
like I thought he would be and was a very accomodating, pleasant, honest, and even a very
funny guy. Much like yours truly, Dick Vain! The Sex Pistols really did change my life and getting
the chance to talk to the man behind the microphone was an experience I'll never forget. It's the
closest Dick Vain has ever been to being humbled. With this interview and the subsequent
release of 'The Filth and The Fury' the myths behind the Pistol's were put to rest.
Dick Vain: Obviously, I wasn't in London during the time but I wondered how you could best describe the
atmosphere going on at the time in 76 and 77 around the sex shop and stuff like that?
Johnny Rotten: It was very violent; very hateful; very frightening There wasn't any really huge big punk thing at that time.
Were basical-Jy just starting at that time, so the animosity from all the old longhairs and deadpan shit was quite disgusting
and very, very violent All the knifings that went on. You know, I got myself hacked well and truly. All of us, at one point or
another, were jumped by gangs of louts. There were lots of ... you'd expect to call them skinheads, but really its football
hooligan types. Straight type casuals! You know, when they're in the streets just looking for like, the one punk that the 20
of em could beat up.
DV: All I ever saw of the violence towards punks of that time was portrayed in The Swindle.
JR: Yeah, my cartoon snippet, which is in The Filth and the Fury documentary.
DV: What about in your own personal experience. What was the affect of this violence
on you and the people you associated with?
JR: Well, you would think that would make us closer together, but that wasn't happening! It was a very difficult time really,
and I hope I've explained that in the documentary. Just when we should've been the closest and pulled together, we were
pulling apart from each other and allowing ourselves to dissipate and thereby playing into the hands of the people that
didn't want us to exist. But it seemed inevitable, you know. There's nothing we could do really to change that!
DV: Which is sad!
JR: Well it's reality; it's reality, you know.
DV: A lot people I've interviewed have said that during their era, things couldn't have been better amongst
associates. Everybody stuck together when being attacked. Everybody helped each other out in any way they
JR: For a lot of other bands at that time I suppose it was great, because they weren't the actual targets, you know. You
have to bear in mind that I was the figurehead; the whipping post! You know, I might as well have had a neon sign saying
'kill here' and a brass band advertising my coming down a high street!
DV: What was the atmosphere like in the studio when you're were recording 'Bollocks'? What was it like for
JR: Well, we'd been in studios before, so going in to record 'Bollocks' wasn't a huge, difficult problem. And we've got to
thank here Chris Spedding who sometime before took us to a studio and showed us how everything worked, and that took
all that pressure off. Cuz a recording studio at that time was a really frightening thing. You know, we didn't know what all
those fucking coloured knobs were for? And it was very helpful to us that someone like Spedding spent some time and
effort and energy on us.
DV: I've heard about Chris Spedding helping out bands a lot in the past and even recently.
JR: Yeah, that's Chris Spedding's nature, see, to be open minded and to help people That's the way he is, and I just
DV: There was always the rumour that he played guitar on the Bollocks album and not Steve?
JR. (burrp) Yeah, but that's a lie, and he'll tell you that's a lie too.
DV: I didn't think much of it, but people say shit so...
JR: Yeah, I know. People like to put words in other people's mouths and pretend it's the truth But there's not much you
can do about that but except it is a lie! And again that's really trying to take away from what the Pistols were. So if anything
looks like it's good or has a bit of quality, oh it must be somebody else that did it!.
DV: I read that Chrissie Hynde was going to sue you for what you wrote about her in your book. Did anything
ever come of that?
JR: (Ha ha ha) Chrissie doesn't bother to read proper I don't know what on earth she was yapping on about sueing me,
cuz I let her say exactly what she wanted in the book. And you know there was nothing edited out. If she doesn't like what I
say, that's tough fucking tits, but you know that's the nature of our relationship. You know, we are very volatile people and
tend to do this and scream loud. She would never seriously sue me because' one, it would rubbish her, and two, she
wouldn't have that ongoing malice thing. Chrissie's very, very quick to get involved in a big, huge affray, but there's no
long term resentment going on with her. Very odd woman. Very violent for a vegetarian; she's frightening! Ha!
DV: The Christmas gig you did in Huddersfield in '77, you got
cake pushed in your face by a bunch of kids. Can you tell us
JR: All true. Right, well Huddersfield was at a time when we were
banned from playing any normal gigs. So what we did on
Christmas day was we rented a venue and invited the kids from the
local orphanages down and also the children from the striking
firemen and garbage collectors. We did two performances, one for
a regular crowd that night, but in the day for all those kids. And we
set it up that there'd be like Christmas cakes and all of that and
the kids just went wild with it, and why not? It was the best gig I
think I've ever done. You know, to be playing to ten or eleven year
olds really getting yak and dancing to songs like 'Bodies', and not
finding it offensive at all. They saw it for what we were, a hilarious
laugh; not frightening, not monsters from hell.
DV: A bunch of eleven year old kids getting into it! It's a
good laugh. And the so-called adults getting offended by
it; that must tell you something?
JR: Yep, and they look at Mr Rotten and go "great let's sling
some cake at him. That's all your good for, you're Rotten you
are!" (ha ha ha ha)
DV: I want to ask you about the Sid and Nancy film. Did the
guy who played you in the film ever meet you to try and help him form your character, and did he ever give
you any idea how he was going to portray the character in the film?
JR: Well, yeah. Look, my problem with him was that it was set up that he wanted to learn my character, and he wanted my
contribution to the film. So I thought, well why not, you know? It's better than ignoring it and letting it go away. Well, what
became really fucking, glaringly clear after ten minutes was that the film had already been done and was finished! So it
was a fake set-up thing. It was just to use my name to say I had something to do with it. And that's when it went very
fucking crooked quickly between us.
DV: Did he say anything else about how any other things were going to be portrayed besides you?
JR: No, no they couldn't tell me anything. No, you know, he got drunk very quick and blurted it out that it's already been
done. As you can imagine I exploded on that!
DV: Now, in the film it shows you at one of Sid's solo gigs in New York. I figured it was incorrect, but I thought
I'd ask anyways. I presume you never saw Sid after you broke up, or ever again.
DV: You didn't see any of Sid's solo gigs?
JR: No, Cuz the only place Sid played would've been New York, right. And I was in London by then so that was all fake.
Just made up to pad the film out. That really pisses me off, cuz that's a lie, see. Why chuck in a fake, lying scene and
pretend that this is a documentary?
DV: Well I'm assuming here that if you did see Sid solo, maybe you would've had the same reaction and
walked in disgust.
JR: Yeah I probably would've, you know. Well, all he could do at that time, cuz he had no songs of his own. was to sing old
rock n roll cliches.
DV: Yeah, stuff like New York's Dolls, the Stooges.
JR: Well, not even that, you know; 'C'Mon Everybody' and stuff like that. Really lame to my mind, even way back then.
Even 20 years ago that was lame! That was horror shows from the fifties and even my parents turned their nose up at that
stuff! You know, two stages backwards and the only thing that I can compare it to that I've seen recently is Billy Idol doing
the same kind of thing. Getting up and singing rock 'n' roll classics in night clubs, and that's fucking repulsive. There's a
lot in that film actually that really annoyed me. There's the scene where we're on the boat, where some of the crowd have
mohawks - there were no mohawks in London at that time!
DV: There wasn't any till the Exploited came around.
JR: Yeah, exactly and I put that whole mohawk thing down to the Exploited. That was their fucking bravado thing. So to try
and steal from them is a cheek also.
DV: When the Exploited played Top Of The Pops back in '81 and the audience were all new romantics not
knowing what the Exploited were on.
JR: Yeah, "oh no, we can't get into that it's bad for our image." Ha ha ha. I've always had a warm spot for the Exploited
though, and I've always liked them.
DV: What did you think of bands like Crass?
JR: Crass I've always liked, I think they're hilarious. The Fall, I've always had a thing for them too.
DV: What did you think of the whole thing behind Crass, Conflict, and the whole Anarcho punk scene?
JR: You know, it started off alright, but it kind of went into the new age traveller lot, which was really the old hippies. It all
amalgamated into some kind of tribal thing and it just became a cliche thing for the dirty unwashed. I don't see any great
delight in dirt as an image. And they do tend to make themselves look filthy.
DV: Yeah, I remember it was a big fashion to be dirty when I was over in England in 87', and they all used to
make fun of me when I took a bath. They called me clean-core. Ha ha ha. I was curious though, about what you
thought of the later punk stuff that came out of the UK and the states in the 80's.
JR. Well, it all has a certain progression to it. But when I look at the likes of, say Green Day I don't see anything there at
all. You have to understand to, at the time we never called ourselves punk, it was a name given to us. It's something that I
never really celebrated, "hello, I'm a punk." I've been called a lot of things in my life. I've also been called cunt and
asshole. I don't run around bragging about that either. I don't like titles and cliches and appendages
DV: But if some one met you and didn't know you, they'd ask you what you're into. What would you tell them?
JR: Very simple, I'm a human being.
DV: I think that since the Pistols and that whole era, there hasn't been anything in my opinion that has come
out to give the music industry a kick in the arse.
JR: I don't agree with that, i think the music industry can fuck off to hell. We can all do without it It's become a cliche. I
know what you're saying, there's no voice of rebellion in the youth of today. They tend to rush to the gap. They all look
like they're wearing prison uniforms, which seems to be the thing, and that's fine That's the generation's problem, being
dull and uninspired. It seems the most their little minds can work on, but something else will come around. And we all won't
like it cuz we're old farts. That's nature. I do want to see a major rebellion, and I'm not seeing it, so I'll agree with you on
DV: No, there isn't at all. And for me it was the greatest thing that happened. Anyway, I was watching a bit of a
sequence from your Rotten TV show and I was wondering, will it ever be available over the internet
considering I can't get VH1 in Canada?
JR. Well, as soon as that website comes together the way I want it, we will be airing all of the episodes on it, and a lot of
the outtakes from a very early demo that we never planned to air. But we'll be airing it on that website.
DV: What happened with that Rosie O'Donnell TV Show? Did you get thrown off the show or never got on the
show, because I never saw the episode?
JR Yeah well, both of those things' I didn't get on her show. She didn't have the fucking balls to say hello. She had me
hanging around for an hour and then threw me out!
DV: I just saw the bit when they said you weren't appearing because of fear that you might offend her in some
JR: Fucking childish, you know, presuming you'd go to all that effort to go there just lo be a nasty arse You know, cuz that
ain't my way. They shouldn't, cuz I'm nasty when people are nasty to me. I don't begin that process, but this is one of my
DV: Getting back to the Sid and Nancy thing, did you ever meet Gary
JR. No, I haven't. I'd like to, cuz I think he's a damn excellent actor. I've
always liked his stuff!
DV: Yeah so have I. I was just curious.
JR: No, and I've said this, I was quite impressed with his representation of
Sid, given the two-dimensional cardboard cut-out thing he was left to
DV: I thought his portrayal of Sid was pretty good considering what
he had to go with.
JR: Yeah the showbiz side of Sid. The stage persona.
DV: What else could he work with, unless he talked to you or some
one else who knew the guy.
JR: It's amazing that they can put a film together without considering
talking to any of the fucking original band. Very bizarre stuff! And I've
said this before; look at the two experts, apparently, they used in that film:
Iggy Pop and Joe Strummer. You know, you couldn't "doom" the truth any
worse than that, could ya'.
DV: I just got a book the other day called 'Vacant', have you seen
this one yet?
JR: Called what?
DV: 'Vacant'. Its a diary of the Punk years 76-79' done by Nils Stevenson and photographed by Ray Stevenson?
It's got Sue Catwoman on the cover.
JR: Oh, I think that might be a re-release of something they released years ago, and it was a yellow cover I can't
remember the title of it but it was all Ray Stevensons photos all the way through.
DV: I've just been looking at this picture of Sid with this Auntie Sue doll. Was that something you gave Sid?
JR: What was it?
DV: Some little doll with 'Auntie Sue' on the forehead?
JR: Oh, I think that was a pun on Sue Catwoman. It was an old Barbie doll we hacked up. If I remember rightly, and it is
hard to remember everything completely clearly, but I think I gave Sid that present one Christmas. He was a soppy sod
and he always did enjoy silliness like that. Who else could you give a Barbie Doll too? Sid Vicious; perfect!
DV: You played with the Buzzcocks in Finsbury Park?
JR: I think they were on' (Ha ha)
DV: What did you think of em?
JR: A band I've always liked. They had a charm about themselves; definitely individuals You know, nothing ever sounded
like that before, and always, always, whether it be Howard or whatever his face..
DV: .. Pete Shelley...
JR: Pete Shelley, the lyrics are always good. You know, songs that mean something, not just yelling or screaming.
DV: Back then, the punk scene in England, or where it was happening, everybody was different. Nobody was
coming from the same angle, and unfortunately now these days every band seems to be going through
whatever cause they are trying to copy; that's all that they do now.
JR: Yeah well, they seem to all be going just for pop fests and loud noise. And you can smell the fireworks displays
coming In the arenas. And they're all heading into Ozzy Osbourne territory, (ha ha). You know, you can hear in the tracks;
you can see what their clearly going for.
DV: What did you think of American punks like Cherry Vanilla and Wayne County and others who didn't make
much of an impression in the states but did in England at the time?
JR. Yeah, I remember Cherry Vanilla, but Wayne County I liked-that was certainly entertaining. You know, particularly
when he became Jayne County and declared that he just did these mad fucking songs like 'Cream In My Jeans' just to get
money for the sex change. I thought it was brilliant, how could you not like that?
DV: The book was good too.
JR: In a weird way, when I look back on that it's like, you know, cuz I bought the record at the time by Wayne County and I
paid to have his willy cut off-or at least contributed to it (Ha ha ha).
DV: I wanted to ask you about the women who were involved in the 76-77' punk movement in England like Sue
Catwoman, Debbie Juvenile, Jordan, Linda Ashby, Sophie Richmond. How did you get on with them? Do you
know what any of them are doing now?
JR: Well, all of them used to be friends of mine. The only one who isn't at the moment, is Siouxsie Sioux because she
invited Jeanette (worked with PIL- ed) and I over to look at her washing machine, and I was suitably unimpressed and
she's never forgiven me for laughing at her. She looked so ridiculously house-wifey there in her Siouxsie Sioux regalia with
her washing machine.
DV: I was just curious, because these people are always mentioned in punk rock publications about the
Seventies UK punk scene.
JR: I know that Debbie ended up as Jon Savage's secretary (author of 'England's Dreaming'). She went to elocution
lessons to change her accent so that she could speak more like the Queen. Who wants to speak like the Queen? Ah,
Jordan runs a cat farm in Brighton. She raises pussies, (ha ha ha) Meow. It's funny what they turn into.
JOHNNY ROTTEN - PART TWO