Sture Johannesson and Johnny Rotten exchanging:
Johnny Rotten (John Lydon): That thing scares me. I hate talking to microphones because you can´t tell it the same way as I would normally.
Sture Johannesson: Have you been to Berlin?
JR: Yeah, I went there for a holiday, for a week, just to see what it was like. I had to go there, I had to see the wall...and it scared me. Those Russians, they terrified me. Horrible. I have written a song about it. It goes holidays in the sun.
SJ: Are you familiar with the West German political scene, the anarchist of Bader-Meinhof.
JR: Oh, Bader Meinhof, yes. I don´t know what they are in to. I never bothered to find out. Because it´s like English papers didn´t print it. They started the stories but they never finished them. And I don´t have any other way of finding out. Unless I go to socialist meetings which I´m not going to.
SJ: There have been written some glimpses about
JR: She killed people, didn´t she? I bet, didn´t they?
SJ: Yes, they made attacks it was in solidarity with the Vietnam people. They made attacks on they American headquarters.
JR: Yeah but they killed people and that´s no way to get your point across. Because they killed innocent people. They must have
SJ: In a way you could say that. Because they were military people...
X: They did a thing in Stockholm with the West German embassy, blew up the whole place.
SJ: I was at a literary meeting in West Germany and it was about literature that reflects changes in society and so is it with your texts and your songs...is it a reflection of the society and the political scene that you find?
JR: Well it must be, because I´m part of the society, you know.
JR: I don´t know.... I avoid all that
political stuff because it´s too heavy.
(You will get the flu off me, yes I got the flu and still I carry on like a brave young soldier)
SJ: I would like if you could make a short story, if you could tell a little about your background, it has been written some glimpses in the papers.
JR: There´s been a lot of rubbish written about us but.... You know like they say we´re like a record company owned band and they tell us what to do. That´s not true. We are total English working class. None of us have had what you could call an education. Because in Britain you don´t get one unless you got rich parents or know the right people. We´re the first rock movement, since I suppose the 50´s, not the 60´s. 60´s had it very easy. It was like swinging London, you know, money was all over the place. We´re much much closer to early rockn´roll. That´s where our energy comes from. It´s the same kind of energy, except that our songs aren´t about long tall Sally. They are about being bored to death, nothing to, do nowhere to go after 11o´clock when the pub´s closed. In England they don´t like you to be entertained, because it means your brain would begin to think for itself and this they don´t like. That´s why they are trying to stamp out punk movement. Because it´s a whole generation thinking about everything.
SJ: It´s a fantastic concept you have in your artwork. You have renewed the rock music; you have put it back to cellar clubs like this one.
JR: This is what we are about.
SJ: Yes you have given it a provocative meaning to rock again.
JR: A lot of people don´t like us for that either. But I think that´s because they don´t understand. They don´t bother. I think they should. We are about making people think for themselves once again - if they ever did. Just get up and do it. If you feel like you want to be in the band, you should. When we started, it was impossible in England to play in small clubs. Rock music had died and we started it up again.
SJ: But now your latest record is played on the radio stations.
JR: Not in England. No they won´t touch it.
SJ: So it´s the group more than the record they ban?
JR: It is what we stand for, or what they
think we stand for...
JR: yes, and..the next question.
SJ: In the 60´ s there was a slogan: ìwhen the mood of the music changes, the walls of the cities shakesî. Do you think that with your music you can change society or are you just commenting?
JR: (sighing) Change society, yeah that´s difficult. You see, I´m in a rockband, I´m not a politician. What I am about it´s just letting people live the life they lead. Don´t judge people by their clothes but by what they do...
SJ: I read a quotation from you ìit´s not what you wear, it´s what you are that countsî, that´s why I put my suit and tie on when I went to visit you today.
JR: Well it is. I never judge people ever by their clothes. Our audiences in England are widely different. We get all of them, the lot every kind of person. And that´s the way it should be. It´s not just about people who come in a safety pin jackets and stuff. It´s not just what I miss for everyone, it is just to make people happy about music, it´s to be excited to sing in a live band, I mean it is an exiting thing, it is a good thing, it´s fresh. It is real, it doesn´t like come straight out of a studio and like you never see the people that play on the records. That´s horrible, you should. You should be given the chance. I hope we do give them a chance.
SJ: Yes you have renewed this rock music to run again.
JR: And people say that we are negative. I think we are totally positive. There´s nothing negative in what we are doing. It is negative if they not accept us without even hearing us You know in Sweden there´s a lot of the gangs...I don´t know what you call them...they go around with their flashy cars.
JR: Apparently they don´t like us. But theyëve never seen us live, I doubt they have even heard the record. So what are they basing their opinions on? I think it´s very silly of them. I think they should come and see us...if they don´t like us, well, too bad .
X: It is because they think you´re.... That punk is imitating them in an ironically way.
JR: It´s very silly.
X: That´s how they feel.
JR: But what are they doing? They do nothing. They drive around in cars forever and ever and that´s getting them nowhere.
SJ: Have you seen them?
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JR: They are against themselves basically.
X: Yes, against everybody in society.
JR: That´s silly. Because they´ve got nothing to replace it with. They have no amusement...of their own. And if they want to drive around in their cars the rest of their lives, wonderful...
X: No but they really liked the old rock music but.
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JR: So do I.
X: But they never understood that you are continuing that.
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JR: We are just a different version of rock´n roll.
JR:I don´t have a university degree.
I think it´s very stupid of them. And if anything, they
have got a better education than I ever had....the thing is,
I question what I do, what I like, which I think everyone should do. I don´t accept things blindly...anyway I´m bored with that subject, next one.
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X: That´s the thing you tried today, the red thing, the wine, that´s what they started to drink ,Kir, instead of that.
JR: That´s quite nice, it´s got a nice taste.
X: It´s a substitute. You see that´s why everyone is getting drunk on it. You see, regularly red or white wine is quite hard to drink alone but that´s very easy to drink.
JR: It tastes like blackcurrant juice. It tastes like fruit juice.
X: It´s really strong.
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JR: They just walk the streets. Hell´s Angels, we have no trouble from
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SJ: Your music is an art concept?
JR: I don´t know. I hate art. It´s too institutionalized. Too much big business.
SJ: Yes it is.
JR: It shouldn´t be.
SJ: We have a very small gallery in our town Malm, opposite Copenhagen and we want to show ... the process behind the art, not the product.
JR: It´s the same with us. It´s
not planned what we do. It comes natural; it´s what we feel.
That´s the way it should be.
Not all artists painted the way they felt, they didn´t do it just for money, some of them did, people like Van Gogh and alike...
SJ: Naturally, you have a concept that has influenced not only in music but also in attitudes...
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JR: When I was in school they banned me from the art classes for what I used to paint, and for the way I used to paint.
SJ: Would you like to exhibit your paintings in our art gallery?
JR: No, I have no interest. No, I just do it for my own amusement.
SJ: Our idea was that we saw a man, a photographer in Helsingborg, when we went there and heard your concert. And we thought that this photographer was going with you all the tour. And our idea was to make a documentation of this Scandinavian tour that you´re making, because I think it must take some months before people realize how unique this thing is.
JR: Yeah, but that´s always the way it is, isn´t it? I don´t know. I don´t know, people will appreciate this probably when we´re dead. When the plane crashes on the way back to England or something.
SJ: It will just take a couple of months before people start to realize.
JR: Yeah. Well, you can´t expect everything to be easy. You will always have to fight for what you believe in.
SJ: I´ve seen your portrait in Times, the magazine...there´s a color picture of you in Time magazine.
JR: What´s that, is it English?
SJ: No it´s American, Time international.
JR: No, I haven´t seen it.
SJ: It´s on the front page. A special article on punk rock.
JR: Have you got a picture of it? Have you got one with you?
SJ: I didn´t take one with me. I thought you had seen it already.
SJ: It was published two weeks ago, I think, before you released your third single.
JR: No, I haven´t seen it.
SJ: I read about...
JR: I don´t read much press anymore, because most of it is rubbish and I just say let the music speak for itself and I hope you can hear the words.
SJ: Yes, but the establishment is watching you after only two single records.
JR: Yes, In England it´s very heavy for us. I cannot walk the streets without the police start hustling me. Even leaving England, they check our passports, leaving the country. Which is unheard of.
X: Did it happen in Sweden, that they checked the passport when you were leaving?
JR: No I mean, like, they kept us waiting.
X: But the reason why they checked your passports here was to check that you have a passport.
JR: Well they wanted to know, our names and addresses before we left and when we were coming back, you know, obviously so they can be ready for us.
SJ: But you have experienced a more positive attitude from the public and the people in Sweden than you have in England?
JR: No. In England our audiences are very big. We could sell out easy ten fifteen thousand every town. But we don´t want to play huge big cinemas and concert halls, because, the people at the back just don´t feel anything. I mean, whenever I used to go to big concerts I just didn´t feel anything. It´s not on. I much rather play 20 nights a row than a huge auditorium. The only problem with that is my voice wouldn´t be able to take it. Already it´s gone, can you tell? From playing every night. That´s alright. I don´t mind. I don´t mind wrecking it. If it´s for a good cause I will do it. You only live once .
SJ: What are you going to do when you´re coming back to London again?
SJ: What are your plans?
JR: God knows...(laughs) I don´t know. London...We are gonna rehearse a bit, we are gonna make a film. A proper feature film, since we´re not allowed to play in England ... we are gonna make a proper movie and have us playing live on the film and show around cinemas to people that can´t see us normally. I hope it takes off.
SJ: Are you going to produce the film yourself?
JR: Yes and ... Russ Meyer, have you ever heard of him? Well he´s a loony.
JR: We only like people working with us who have a sense of fun. Some of the songs are really serious, but they have a moment of fun at the same time ... because music is for fun, not sitting down and being miserable. Fun, it´s rock´n roll...it´s...get up and dance. That´s what I want. And as soon as we get to be boring out farts, then we quit, I quit, anyway. I mean I´ve done that very clear. I don´t want to be like Mick Jagger. You know the untouchable, who wouldn´t talk to you unless he has forty bodyguards around him. This I don´t like. I think it´s unnecessary and stupid. And, what creates a lot of trouble. We have to break it all down, bring it back to reality. Just make people happy. I´m no superstar, I never will be, I´m just like anybody else.
SJ: You´re a superstar in your own way...
JR: I hope people understand that...it won´t
effect my lifestyle. I don´t want to clothe myself in loads
of money and hide away, that´s not me. I couldn´t
live like that; I´d gotten completely insane from the bottom
of it. If I ever did have a lot of money, the first thing I would
do is that I would buy probably a recording studio and let new
bands recording there free, so they could hear themselves when
they start. That is a good thing to do, I don´t see why
the Stones don´t do that. They have the money - Led Zeppelin
and all those bands, What do they do with their money? They don´t
help new bands. They should. That´s music, that´s
what it is supposed to be all about.
JR: It was like having a new family. They couldn´t appreciate or understand, because it was kids doing something for themselves. This always frightens any kind of government because they think...oh look, they are doing that for themselves, What are they really up to? What do they want?
X: You mean, instead of being commercialized something...
JR: We are totally anti commercial. When
we had a number one single,that wasn´t even played on the
radio and advertised very little.
SJ: It was only sold in the small underground.
JR: That´s where they sell most of our records, we sell hundreds of thousands but the charts weren´t acknowledged...
JR: They sell a bit of reggae, a bit punk a bit rock´n roll, a bit of everything, music is music. It´s only certain idiots who like separating it up to different categories that destroy it. Music is music either you like or you don´t. You shouldn´t have categorizations or limitations; you should be there.
SJ: But you have managed to provoke the society and knock them off at the same time, your record are the best sellers in England.
JR: mm... Which is good...because times they are a changing. And let´s face it, they had to.
SJ: Very few artists can manage to do this today to provoke the society...
JR: I think it has to do because they don´t try. We don´t set out to provoke society, we set out to do what we want to do and say what we say without people interfering, you should be allowed free speech after all England claim it´s democratic. I think we have proved that wrong, it is not. It is a very very controlled state.
SJ: Would you say it´s a fascist regime?
JR: Yes, I would actually, yes. I really believe that. There are so many police on the street and gangs and kids that are...
(god save the queen)
The conversation between Sture
Johannesson and Johnny Rotten from the band Sex Pistols took place
in 1977 at Barbarella in Växjö.
X is an unidentified person.
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