It’s been 20 years since Public Image Ltd (PiL) entered Eldorado Studios to record That What Is Not, the band’s eighth and final album with John Lydon and a lineup featuring guitarist John McGeoch and bassist Allan Dias. The band would go on permanent hiatus when record label Virgin refused to shell out money for a promotional tour.
Earning the cash pitching Country Life butter, Lydon financed a PiL reunion in 2009 consisting of earlier members Bruce Smith, Lu Edmonds, plus multi-instrumentalist Scott Firth (John McGeoch died in his sleep at the age of 48 in 2004).
“It’s important to realize that in all the years I’ve been in the music industry the only people who have treated me with any real respect wasn’t the record companies it was a butter manufacturer. A BRITISH butter manufacturer,” Lydon recalls.
John hinted new material would surface from PiL but only if the money was there IE: the band raised enough through touring or a record label stepped in.
Things got off to a rocky start for the new album when John’s house burned to the ground while the band was touring Europe three weeks ago.
“My wife rang me up just before we were going on stage. She said ‘Oh John, I don’t want to disturb you. The house has burnt down.’ I hadn’t been in the house for two years. First time I tried to get clean the house goes up in flames,” he told the BBC.
“All my lyrics got burnt. I had to start again from scratch and try to remember ideas.
John continued, “I like the panic and the fear of having to go in [the studio], having to come up with something. It’s a really exciting environment we’ve put ourselves in.
At this point in his career, John admits he’s the happiest he’s ever been. The creativity is flowing with nearly 30 tracks down.
“I’ve been trying to hone it down to something like ten.
“It’s the most accurate songwriting I’ve done. I’m talking from somewhere deep inside myself and I’m sharing. That’s something I wouldn’t have been doing when I first started. I mean, God bless the Pistols, I love them to death. I learned to write songs there. But we hated each other and that wasn’t a great place to begin soul searching and you’ve got to do that. You’ve got to learn to sort yourself out before you’re pointing fingers at everyone else’s bad behavior. It was a good beginning. It freed me up in so many ways because I had so many problems when I was younger.”