John Lydon says some fresh Public Image Ltd. music — the group’s first since 1992 — will likely “come at the end of all this. That’s definitely the intention.”
“This” would be the touring the reactivated band will be doing this year as it launches its first North American trek in 17 years on April 16 at the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival. Nineteen more dates are slotted through mid-May, with a European run to follow. An April 7 spot on ABC’s “Jimmy Kimmel Live” will mark PiL’s first U.S. TV appearance in 18 years as well as the 30th anniversary of its notorious “American Bandstand” stop.
The concerts, Lydon said, are not only to reacquaint the audience with PiL — the group he launched in 1978 after the demise of the Sex Pistols — but also to raise money for a new recording project. “We’ve got no backing — no record company, no sponsors, nothing like that,” he explains. “The only way we can make money is the touring, and then we can make a new album. It’s sort of like the old days of PiL, when the Pistols went kaput; I had to scrimp and scrape out of my own pocket. Not much has changed.”
The album will likely be recorded in the U.S., he says, possibly in the digital studio he’s created in the front room of his Los Angeles area home.
He doesn’t anticipate material to be a problem. “Yeah, I’ve got piles,” Lydon says. “I never stop writing. Most of my influences have never really come from a musical act. It tends to be things like the poetic beat of a newscast. There’s a rhythm to the way it’s laid out..Movies can do that. Shakespeare and good poetry does that, and a bloody good book does that, or just a long walk.”
Lydon and his mates — PiL alumni Lu Edmonds on guitar and Bruce Smith on percussion, along with new bassist Scott Firth — don’t plan on trying out any of the new songs in concert, but he does expect the shows to be similar to the two-and-a-half hour epics it performed during December in Great Britain — and which are chronicled on the new U.K. album “AliFe.” “We’re almost physically attuned to each other on stage,” Lydon says of the lineup. “It’s a wonderful give and take — no nastiness, no arguing. We experiment sonically. I just love the potential. We truly love what we’re doing.”
Lydon says he was drawn back to PiL by the 2009 death of his father, and by his brother’s subsequent battle with throat cancer. “Death is so hard for me to cope with,” Lydon says. “I had to have a release from that. That led me into going back and listening to (1979’s) ‘Death Disco,’ a song I wrote about my mother’s death. That gave me the lust to get up there, back on stage and express these feelings.” But, he adds, “We’re not the kind to go up there and be miserable, fashionably. It’s about a celebration of life.”
Lydon has other projects he’s working on — most notably a book that he says will be different than the straightforward memoir of 1995’s “Rotten — No Irish, No Blacks, No Dogs.” The Sex Pistols, meanwhile, are staying comfortably on the shelf for the moment.
“It’s always there,” Lydon notes. “It’s great fun to do, but it’s creatively unrewarding. There’s definitely a need for them in the world, but I have to make my own way, too. PiL is my heart and soul, always will be.”