Johnny Lydon Shows His Rotten Side

Boasts that he inspired much of today's popular music but doesn't want to talk about it.

For John Lydon, the Artist Formerly Known as Johnny Rotten, hanging up on reporters is like breathing. He does it so often and effortlessly, he doesn't have to think about it.

"I think, actually, without me, very many of these so-called 'genres' MTV love to pontificate about wouldn't actually be in existence, without the likes of me," Lydon said Tuesday about his place in the rock pantheon.

"How do you figure?"

"I figure very well and accurately."

"What genres specifically?"

(pause) "Bye."

And that was it. The acerbic former leader of the Sex Pistols had had his fill of the publicity mill, for now. Lydon managed to stick around long enough to explain why his recent tour in support of his solo debut Psycho's Path, exploded after less than a handful of dates, why he hates Virgin Records, why electronica is old news for him and why, well, that's all there was time for.

The album, a scattered mix of electronics and the expected Lydon rambling and ranting, was written, recorded and performed entirely by Lydon nearly three years ago, only to sit on the shelf while he waited for the proper funding. Lydon confirmed numerous recent reports that a major impetus for the Sex Pistols tour, from his perspective, anyway, was to gather money to finish and release the album. "I ran out of money to record the album and, frankly, it (the tour) didn't raise as much as the general public would think," Lydon claimed about the purposely crass, and surprisingly entertaining, reunion of his legendary punk band.

"The record company let me down," Lydon said unapologetically, getting back on the subject of his disappointment with Virgin. "In the most serious way possible, so we had to cancel the tour."

A spokesperson for Philadelphia, Pa.'s 1,000-capacity Electric Factory, where Lydon was scheduled to play on Sept. 7, said the venue was notified a week in advance that the show was canceled. The gig was to be the second on the abandoned two-week tour.

The aborted effort led the irascible one to another abrupt decision.

"I will be parting ways with the company," Lydon announced unexpectedly, referring to Virgin, who released the album with little fanfare over a month ago. "I decided that they haven't properly promoted my album, and done nothing, zilch, zero. It wasn't even available in most record stores where I was touring." Lydon said he was given the "crap excuse" that "someone had left and wasn't replaced" and that he'd been "kind of forgotten about."

"After 20 years I don't take kindly to remarks like that, or that people are on holiday," said Lydon, who plans to take the 15-track effort to "any other label" that will have it. "I think the general public shouldn't be denied the opportunity to hear it. I didn't spend three years' hard work for them to ignore it."

Cindy Greer, Lydon's publicist at Virgin, said she "hadn't heard anything at all" about Lydon's imminent departure.

Lydon added that he was extremely upset at Virgin's treatment of the album since, as far as he's concerned, "on and off I've more or less kept running. And certainly helped found." "Many years back, the Pistols definitely put Virgin on the map," he said referring to the Pistols' stormy relationship with the label, which released the band's controversial Silver Jubilee-slamming single "God Save the Queen." "Before that they were nothing but a hippie label."

Psycho's Path features a 5-year old collaboration with techno band Leftfield on the song "Open Up," remixed by the Chemical Brothers, as well as remixes of "Grave Ride" by Moby, two Leftfield remixes ("Sun," "Psychopath") and a Danny Saber (Black Grape) remix of "Stump." But whatever you do, don't ask Lydon if he's jumping on the electronica bandwagon.

"Oh god," he moaned at the suggestion of the "e" word. "What's wrong with you people? I've been using computers, drum machines and keyboards for 20 fucking years!"

OK, what about working with these contemporary techno artists, then?

"I worked with Leftfield five fucking years ago," he snapped. "I've worked with Afrika Bambaataa, Nelee Hooper (Soul II Soul), and all this goes back 10-15 years. I don't care which end of it I was on, it's just nothing new to me."

A few more indignant huffs, a slag or two at Virgin cash cows Janet Jackson and the Rolling Stones, and then the "click."

His venomous, droll aside, "I've been all around this crazy world," echoes on the dead line. [Fri., Sept. 19, 1997, 9 a.m. PST]