In the 30 years since Never Mind The Bollocks hit airwaves, not much in the way of pop culture has changed, in Johnny Rotten’s opinion. And Johnny has many opinions. He feels bad for Britney Spears (he thinks you’ll be surprised to read that), hates plastic surgery and hates celebrity baby adoptions. Those two last opinions aren’t really that surprising.
Currently, the front man — now 50 — for the groundbreaking punk band The Sex Pistols is a judge on Fuse’s Battle of the Bands. And when OK! caught up with him at his suite in the New York Palace Hotel, he doesn’t think the Pistols would have made it very far in the competition. “They would have never got on. As soon as they heard the words, that would have been it. You can’t put that on TV. After 30 years, it’s still about the same.
He continues, “If anything, the record companies have learned to avoid bands like mine. But then we always avoided them and their rules and stipulations. We made up our own gigs.”
But would you have gotten John to compete on this show? “I absolutely never would have put myself on the line quite like that,” he jokingly adds, “But then again, if I knew I was the judge I most def would have.”
Now, the bands aren’t on TV anymore and they are out on their own trying to make it happen for themselves. And Johnny sees just where things might go wrong for them: “The TV aspect of it shaded them on the grimmer, uglier reality of having to tour. Because the cameras have been off for a bit I think the bands will find it hard to find that energy again. So that last show is like the telling ground.”
He adds, “Let’s see how many of them have broken up, because that’s what usually happens. Jealousies creep in. Someone’s mom is telling them they’re better than someone else. Or, well, the girlfriend problems.”
The girlfriend problem is something Johnny knows a lot about. Fellow Sex Pistol Sid Vicious had an infamous affair with groupie Nancy Spungen. He allegedly killed her and overdosed on drugs shortly after. So if anyone knows about girlfriend problems, it’s Johnny.
But he’s not living in the past. Aside from his gig as a talent show judge, Johnny is working on new music. “Any different part of the country can influence me, usually from a folk music aspect. It doesn’t seem to show in my music. But what I really seem to consider myself is a folk singer. I’m one of the folk and I’m singing for the folk.
It is about changing things and altering minds perceptions. Have I achieved some kind if fame here? Yeah…but not deliberately,” he adds.
But he does not have words to describe the music he’s working on: “Although I’m a bit of a wordsmith, I cannot describe what music feels like. It’s all the best emotions we have that we don’t have words to put to them. Words are an abstraction.”
His new music is a solo effort. But, will there ever be a second Sex Pistols album? “I have no idea,” he said, “I wouldn’t like one. I don’t feel that mood. But then again I might. It’s not a business maneuver. In a really exciting world there should be no place for the sex pistols."
Perhaps he wants to change perceptions with his new music, but he’s quick to clear up the biggest misconception about rock’n’roll. “There’s this thing in rock’n’roll and it crept in with that Who song: I hope I die before I get old. That nonsense from Pete Townsend. I mean he should be embarrassed for writing such a terrible line. It’s the silliest thing ever.”
Even sillier is the idea that Johnny has no idea why anyone is fascinated with him. As a man who was at the forefront of the punk rock movement, it’s revolutionary he doesn’t see himself as revolutionary.
“I don’t have any idea why I’m famous. I never did. There I am looking in the mirror every morning going I can’t be the face, must be something else.
I used to be terribly shy. Awfully. When I was young I wouldn’t speak to anyone really. And then I went and joined the sex pistols. Not there’s a crash course education in eliminating shyness. When you give yourself a challenge, you overcome it.”
But, even for an icon as well known and accomplished, as Johnny there doesn’t seem to be a reason to stop. He hasn’t achieved everything he’s ever wanted to. “Any author can tell you that, to actually write a thing you can 100% tear yourself to bits for and to tell is as it is and to expose yourself to humiliation is the reward It’s so overwhelming to be that honest with people. I’m not there yet. I got another 50 years to go on that one.”
The finale airs on Fuse Wednesday, Sept. 5 at 10 p.m. EST. By Jocelyn Vena