Sunday, March 10, 2019

I Interviewed Johnny Rotten - the True Story.

"The saying goes ‘you should never meet your heroes’ because inevitably this person you’ve built up to be larger than life in your mind is going to let you down, and reality is going to punch you square across the jaw." - Cass Anderson

I just spent almost two weeks in London at the world famous "Raindance Film Festival." I was there promoting our movie, "Ghostroads - a Japanese Rock n Roll Ghost Story (Trailer here). Raindance is one of the most prestigious film festivals in the entire world and the film festival with the most Street Cred. I had the time of my life there. I will write about the wonderful experiences I had there, but for now, I want to write about one of the biggest disappointments in my life at that festival; meeting and interviewing one of the heroes of my youth, John Lydon (AKA: Johnny Rotten formerly singer of the Sex Pistols).

L>R: Mike Rogers interviewing Tabbert Fiiler (Director of "The Public Image is Rotten") and Johnny Lydon (Formerly Johnny Rotten of the Sex Pistols)

Our film did very well at Raindance. The World Premiere there was sold out! I was thankful. I guess we did so well that I made such a good impression on the festival staff and management that on the last Friday of the event, one of the organizers asked me to host the Question and Answer period for the movie about the history of the Post-Punk band, Public Image (AKA: P.I.L.) entitled, "The Public Image is Rotten." She added that John Lydon would be there for the interview. 

When I was 19 ~ 20, the Sex Pistols changed my life. If it weren't for the Sex Pistols, I'd have never made my own punk band or gotten into radio and the mass media as my job. I idolized them. To this very day, I even collect original Sex Pistols items, some of them costing me hundreds of dollars.

If it weren't for the Sex Pistols, I may have never come to Japan nor made the movie.

The day when I saw in the newspapers that Sex Pistols bassist Sid Vicious had died, I cried. For me, that was the end of punk at the time (little would I imagine that Green Day would take punk to the Top 40). The Sex Pistols changed my life. They were heroes to me in my youth.

So when I was asked to host the Q&A with the director, Tabbert Fiiler, of the film, "The Public Image is Rotten" and John Lydon, of course, I jumped at the chance. It was a dream come true.

The day of the interview, I spent 4 or 5 hours preparing for what was scheduled to be only a 15-minute post-screening interview.

When 7 pm, the appointed time arrived, I was in the designated meeting place with the staff of the festival. One by one, members and staff with Public Image arrived at the theater. I had studied them so I knew their names and what they looked like, so when they arrived, I quickly introduced myself and became friendly with the band (Scott, the bassist, and Lu, the guitarist, are cool guys)... The other folks, management and entourage (read: paid friends?) Not so much... The others seemed aloof... Or, probably they'd already started partying and drinking before they arrived?

Probably? No way. They had been drinking... Some of them more than drinking!

John Lydon was very late to the pre-party, of course. We all anxiously awaited the arrival of the king. The movie was scheduled to start at 8:15 pm, and he was scheduled for publicity photos, press and a brief meeting with me beforehand to fix the interview questions. 

Finally, more than an hour late, John Lydon arrived. Most of the riff-raff (like me) could not really get close to him as he was surrounded by his handlers and related members. As someone who doesn't follow rules, I jumped the barrier, and went closeby Lydon and tried to introduce myself (I wanted to do a professional interview) but couldn't really get close at first. John was soon rushed off to a to take promo photos on the red carpet.

I was allowed into the photo area and, since time was short, and I wanted a good interview, I forced myself closeby as I just wanted to ask him if there were any questions he wanted asking, or if there were any questions he wanted to avoid... Pretty standard stuff to ask for an interview. But, it was nearly impossible to get near him.

Finally, when I did get close to Lydon, I introduced myself as the host of the event that night and asked the question, he blurted out some one-word grunting sound and then ignored me. 

The members of P.I.L. had asked me to ask John whether they all wanted to sit in the front of the theater or the back of the theater (I should have been suspicious when the band asked me to ask him instead of asking themselves). After he mumbled something incoherent, he stumbled off. I then asked his wife, Nora, if they wanted to sit in the front or the back of the theater. She smiled at me and her reply, also, was merely a grunt. 

How charming. How intelligent. But, it's OK, I live in Japan, I speak Grunt Language too. No problem.

I told Scott and Lu, the P.I.L. band members, about this grunting reply from John and Nora and they both laughed and said, "Welcome to the club."

I assumed that Nora's grunting meant "near the front of the theater" and told the theater staff.

Me and Tony the event director/manager. This guy was great the entire festival. Polite, smart and professional all the way. Later he'd tell me all sorts of wild stories about how many big stars were total children and assholes. I figure he'll be assassinated before they make a movie about his GREAT and unbelievable stories. Thanks Tony. You are tops!

Just before the film started, the theater director, named Tony (not his real name) walked up to Lydon and said, "Hi, I think we need to get down to the theater in about 5 minutes. Is that OK with you?"

To that, for some inexplicable reason, Lydon sneered at him and scowled like my paraplegic 3rd-grade sister and pointed and said, "I don't like you. I'm not talking to you. If you want to talk to me, you have to talk to my manager."

John Lydon's manager, a questionably slimy guy named John Rambo (who seemed more an Amway or used car salesman than a professional artist manager), was standing right there besides Lydon and, as if nothing was amiss, repeated exactly what Tony had said to Lydon and back and forth. It was like a Monty Python episode: Three guys having a conversation and the guy in the middle saying exactly the same thing the village idiot and the professional (Tony) were saying; astounding behavior for a 61-year-old man... Typical behavior for a spoiled, bratty 6 or 7-year-old at grammar school.

This absurd nonsense went on for a few minutes; Tony asking the questions he needs to ask as a professional and manager; John Lydon acting like a child, and his dim-wit manager, John Rambo (whose name isn't Rambo, but he insists everyone call him that), talking between them as if this was normal behavior for a 61-year-old man.

John Rambo, being an ass kisser, and a useless manager who could never say to Lydon something like, "What the hell? Knock it off and stop acting like a little kid. Goddammit!" 

He couldn't say that like a professional manager would.

I realized that John Lydon is completely surrounded by "Yes Men" and ass kissers. It was a depressing realization, actually. I reckon everyone around him (I mean the ones who aren't stoned) realize that he is scatological, often incoherent, and hypocritical. He has surrounded himself with people who will never tell him when he is wrong or saying something extremely stupid. 

He says stupid stuff with regularity (at least he did that night.) 

Finally, an hour late, we went to the screening and watched the film, "The Public Image is Rotten" which was a film that continued the ass-kissing and glossed over all the problems of the Sex Pistols as well as John Lydon's own ideological as well as illogical inconsistencies and, well, self-serving rationalization and excuses.

I do have to add here that I can't blame Lydon for wanting respect. I get it totally. I have the same desire in Japan where I live and work. One must walk a mile in a man's shoes before judging him and I totally understand wanting respect and status. I desire the same, so I can't fault him for that. 

But I can fault him for being unprofessional, drunk, and incoherent at his own film premiere in the UK. It is the premiere; the first. One only gets one chance at a first impression. So I think blowing it is not acceptable and a source of regret.

L>R: Mike Rogers in interview with Fiiler, Lydon, Edmunds, First of P.I.L.

During the screening, a bunch of the people surrounding him were doing some sort of chemicals by alighting something on aluminum foil (I don't know if John was doing that or not, but he was really drunk at the least.) The stoners were shouting nonsense during the screening like, "Johnny be good" or some other crap. 

After the film, we had the interview and Lydon was talking mostly nonsense... But it seems he thinks it is some sort of genius philosophy, but it was just nonsense..... He continually jumped up and yelled, "Don't be a robot!" "Don't follow the system or the rules." 

Yet he praised the collective of the government-run health insurance scheme.

Right, John... Don't be a robot; don't follow the rules, but join the government-run system just like all the other sheep and slaves?

I rolled my eyes. Is this guy so messed up he doesn't realize the hypocrisy of what he just spouted out?

Many people in the audience were taking videos on their cameras but, after Lydon began talking for a minute or two, many of them stopped and dropped their cameras down. He was spouting incoherent nonsense. It really was very sad.

I tried my best to control the interview for the allotted 15 minute time-slot (but, as a robot too, I tried to follow the schedule for the convenience of the audience - as opposed to Johnny who was an hour late and the screening was an hour late, and people had to get home as it was after 11 pm... But we shouldn't follow the rules yet we should be joining the collective???)

At one point, when Lydon was rambling about something or another, the floor director of the event signaled to me to cut it off, so I interrupted Lydon and went to a question to the audience. At that point, his manager, Rambo said to me, "Oh no, now you've done it... You've interrupted him!"

If looks could kill, Rambo would be dead as I shot him a look like, "Shut the F-up! I'm doing him a favor by interrupting his stupid crap!"

There were a few questions from the audience with Lydon giving his self-serving answers (just like the film) but the interview was drunk rambling. 

At the end of the interview, as time was short and late, I said, "We have time for one more question..." To which John's manager said to me, "No. No one kicks John out of a place!"

Oh really? 

Lowly underpaid bouncers wouldn't even allow John into his own after-party as he was so stumbling drunk. Even the famous UK newspaper, the Sun, wrote about it: ROTTEN LUCK Sex Pistols star Johnny Rotten got barred from his own party — after security refused him entry for being too drunk (

Photo from the UK newspaper, The Sun, claiming, "Johnny Rotten looked pretty glum after not being allowed into his own party." (

Finally, Lydon stood in front of the entire audience, waved his arms wide and said something like, "I want you all to know that I love you all and want you to come down here to the front and take photos with me."

Of course, the only people who could get close to Lydon were his team and invited fans, so that statement was bullshit too. 

If he really wanted to meet the regular fans, he'd have shaken their hands as they came into the theater. But he didn't. It was all bullshit.

I did that for my movie; I met and shook hands with everyone who came to the film. I also gave them guitar picks or badges and said, "Thanks."....But, then again, I am working class riff-raff and not royalty.

A few people from the audience came down to the front, but they couldn't get really close to Lydon. He was surrounded by his posse.... Most of the audience sat in bewildered silence. I grabbed the mic and said, "It's OK, folks, it's late so if you want to go home now, please do."

The king and savior of the working classes had spoken; all animals were equal but some were more equal than others.

After the interview was over, P.I.L. members were really apologetic to me for Lydon's behavior (I figured he delivered what everyone expected so I wasn't mad) and they invited me to the after-party. I agreed to go.... But after all the nonsense and standing in the rain, I went home. 

The Sun article is not exactly true that he wasn't allowed into his own party. He was after fifteen or twenty minutes of arguments and being rejected several times.... But it was packed and the members of P.I.L. and I left immediately and they asked me to go drinking with them someplace else. We went to several clubs but they were all packed. After walking a long time, I said "Goodbye" and I went home.

Like they say, "you should never meet your heroes’ because inevitably this person you’ve built up to be larger than life in your mind is going to let you down."

Here's a video of the interview. He insulted me before and during this interview...It was cool. He was a total asshole... Did any of us expect any less?

But... It was sad...



Andrew Joseph said...

So... did it suck, Mike? Meeting your heroes and all that? Would you do it again?
Have you had to interview (on your radio show) drunk or stoned performers before?
Was he really drunk or stoned or just being a dumb ass or was he just a punk?
Sounds to be like he is truly living the role that was carved out for my him by the group's original manager.
But... he's 61... Jello Biafra wasn't like this... Iggy Pop nee Stooge isn't like this, at least not now...
I'm not sure if it all wasn't just an act... like a WWE wrestler who can't stop being in character. What do you think?

Anonymous said...

That is unbelievable... Or maybe its not.

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