Johnny Rotten Praises Battling Bands, Trashes Internet Liars
By Eliot Van Buskirk 09.03.07 | 2:00 AM
John Lydon -- aka Johnny Rotten, the legendarily outrageous Sex Pistols singer -- is one of the judges on Bodog Music Battle of the Bands, a hard-rocking older brother of American Idol that revises the talent show formula by featuring contestants who write music and play instruments.
During the show's upcoming live finale (Sept. 5 at 7 p.m. PST on Fuse TV), fans will text votes to pick a winner from three bands vying for the top prize -- a $1 million recording contract from the Bodog gambling site's music division.
Lydon recently spoke to Wired News about judging the show, the importance of live music, an apparent lack of innovation on the part of major labels, what went wrong with punk rock, and how the internet is full of liars. (This interview has been edited for length and clarity, but not profanity).
Wired News: What have you been looking for in these bands while judging the show?
John Lydon: Originality, humor and people that can actually cope with pressure. Not at all note-perfect musicality and perfection, but the ability to write a song and believe it and live it. In other words, genuine honesty, and isn't that a shock in the music business? There are three judges, and we all have very different opinions. A couple of bands were voted out very early that I felt shouldn't have been, even though they were young and possibly musically ill-equipped. That's exactly where I began, and I've never looked back.
WN: How do you think The Sex Pistols would have done in this contest?
Lydon: The Sex Pistols would never have turned up. We wouldn't have bothered with it in the first place. And ah, dude, you've got to look at the world differently then, it was a different time.... You'd get seen by playing live in pubs, clubs, bars or anywhere else you could scrounge a quick living. And guess what, we were underage. We weren't allowed to drink in these places, but we were certainly capable of having bottles thrown at us.
I grew up in a world of boo boys (soccer fans who boo games). No matter what we did, it wasn't good enough, and (we played to) generally an older crowd. We eventually brought our own crowd, and changed the world because of it. Generally, the hippie lot from the previous generation were a spiteful bunch of fuckers. They didn't want to share the world with us.
WN: These days, people seem to read only the news that applies to them, and culture is getting more fragmented. Do you think it's still possible for a band to come along and change the world the way the Sex Pistols did?
Lydon: It's a different world, but look: You have to do your part to try to introduce live music -- people who write their own songs being a bit above the rest, you know. Absolutely above the rest of it, because there ain't no Paris Hilton going on in any of this. So, if anyone sneers, or spears, at our little show here, they're doing it for all the wrong reasons. I've had to tolerate two examples this morning (of reporters) trying to compare this show with American Idol. The biggest, fucking most glaring difference is, look -- these people write their own songs. That's it, the end. Alright? It's not, like, clothes horses all trying to be Whitney Houston.