Surely Johnny Rotten has a good reason to reconvene with his bandmates for the Sex Pistols' first North American tour in seven years.
The seminal punk quartet's original lineup — Rotten, guitarist Steve Jones, bassist Glen Matlock and drummer Paul Cook — isn't taking it to the streets for three weeks beginning August 20 to promote a new album. Nor are the four of them traversing the country for a change of scenery from their native Britain.
If the Sex Pistols do have grounds for taking their show on the road, Rotten's not exactly forthcoming about it, which, for anyone at all familiar with the forever-acerbic singer, isn't exactly surprising.
"It's none of your business," he bit back at the question. "Look, it's the Sex Pistols, mate. I don't need to answer to anybody. We're the disenfranchised. It's historical enough that we're still here. Nobody's ever helped us. This industry is dead against us. And we have no record label, no record to sell. No product out there, and I think that's wonderful."
Now that's the Mr. Rotten (nee John Lydon) anyone who's ever worn a safety pin in his or her ear has come to expect. Ranking high on Rotten's current list of gripes is the political climate of the music industry coupled with the fact that the Pistols, which have not been elected into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame (unable to join the Ramones and Clash, let alone the scores of bands they've influenced), do not get the credit they deserve.
"And if any young band out there is listening," he continued his rant, "they should take by example that you do not need a record label to survive. That's why record labels are falling apart; they've missed that part. They are there for a service, to serve the client: the artist. Not the other way around. I'm not there to amuse them and manufacture pop pulp to suit the masses.
"You have an entire music industry, and every aspect of it has taken from the Sex Pistols," he continued. "Right down to my hairdos. Now that's all well and fine, imitating the stance, but no respect has been given back. We've changed the world of music."
And they did so with only one album, 1977's Never Mind the Bollocks, Here's the Sex Pistols. Following his last U.S. appearance in September for a one-off show in Los Angeles, Rotten has been working on some new songs, but if you're thinking along the lines of Bollocks Vol. 2, think again.
"There's no need [for another Sex Pistols LP]," he said. "None at all. We do things like that if we feel right about it. We're under no obligation to no one ... never have been. What we do is correct and truthful, and we don't fake it. And to force out a second album would be faking it."
Instead, Rotten has spent the last year or so working on the new album for Public Image Ltd., the group he formed after the Pistols self-destructed in early 1978. He described it loosely as dance music, but not the kind heard thumping in Jay-Z's 40/40 Club.
"It just doesn't sound like anything else," he said. " [It's not like] 'oh, I want to be like Shirley Bassey on this one.' It isn't like that. I write from my inner heart, my emotions, and my inner spirit does not lead to imitation."
He's also got a movie in the works. Penelope Spheeris, the director of seminal L.A. punk documentary "The Decline of Western Civilization," is helming a movie based on Rotten's memoirs, "Rotten: No Irish, No Blacks, No Dogs," which is coming along "as quickly as we can, in the slowest industry in the world."
"Penelope is the best person in the world to work with because she's like me: keep it honest or don't bother."
The last time the Sex Pistols embarked on a Stateside jaunt was for 1996's Filthy Lucre Tour, which also marked the return of original bassist Matlock. Sid Vicious, who died of an overdose in 1979, had taken over when Matlock was fired just before the release of the "God Save the Queen" single.
Although Rotten looks forward to visiting the 13 cities he's lined up, there's a particular city not on the itinerary that he hopes to drop in on next year: Baghdad. Rotten's idea is to show the Iraqis that, like mostly everything, democracy has its downsides, and the Sex Pistols have made a quarter-century career out of pointing them out.
"I am definite about it," he assured. "The red tape is lining up thick and fast, and the more they put up, the bigger the scissors.
"If you are going to offer these people democracy, then offer it to them in their fullest extreme so they fully know what they're walking into. Because democracy has a few problems, mate, and the Sex Pistols know that, but at least we can shout out about it, and that might be of some use to them.
" 'Do you want to come join our world?' " he asked rhetorically. "I don't blame you if you don't."
Sex Pistols tour dates, according to their publicist:
- 8/20 - Boston, MA @ FleetBoston Pavilion
- 8/21 - Wantagh, NY @ Tommy Hilfiger at Jones Beach
- 8/23 - Atlantic City, NJ @ Trump Marina/Grand Cayman Bllrm
- 8/24 - Washington D.C. @ 9:30 Club
- 8/25 - Toronto, ON @ Molson Ampitheatre
- 8/27 - Cleveland, OH @ The Scene Pavilion
- 8/28 - Detroit, MI @ Cobo Arena
- 8/29 - Chicago, IL @ Aragon Ballroom
- 8/31 - Englewood, CO @ Fiddler's Green Ampitheatre
- 9/3 - San Francisco, CA @ Warfield Theater
- 9/5 - Las Vegas, NV @ Hard Rock Hotel/The Joint
- 9/6 - Los Angeles, CA @ Greek Theater
- 9/7 - San Diego, CA @ San Diego Street Scene