John Lydon Interview: ‘Who On Earth But Me Could Start A Butter War?’

Hello, John. What’s the secret to a good comeback?

“I don’t suppose a magazine as interesting as NME ever really went away. I always rated it. Some of the writers, of course, were complete monkeyholes, but who cares? They come and go — but me, I’m a joy forever. I have sustainability.”

For anyone who’s picked up a copy of NME for the first time, can you explain what it’s all about?


“Well you’ve got a good tractor section.”

Are you trying to plug butter again?

“No! Unfortunately when I opened the door on butter I walked in on ‘butter wars’ [between UK and New Zealand butter manufacturers]. That was very weird. Who on earth but me could start a butter war?”

But you did increase British butter sales by 85 per cent, which was impressive. I mean it was a good advert but it wasn’t that good.

“Well it was that good, because I was in it.”

What can you see out of the nearest window?


“I’m in London. I can see a hedge that’s overgrown. But it’s a very nice hedge.”

The opening lines on your new album concern a broken toilet…

“Well anyone who’s ever had a domestic dispute will recognise that straight away.”

I was going to ask if it was a metaphor, but you’re literally singing about a broken toilet?

“Well it could be of use to the UN but it is quite literally about an argument about a broken toilet. Arbitration came in the form of a plumber. This is what happens when you’ve installed a toilet all on your own four years earlier: it sets a precedent.”

You installed your own toilet?

“Yes. This is what created the expectation that I would fix it. I’m in my bathroom now. I’m having a wee-wee. I’m sitting down – I’m one of those.”

You named Sid Vicious after your pet hamster. My pet hamster is called Mr Potato. Would that have had the same impact?

“It might do. It would sum up modern-day punk perfectly. The original idea came from Syd Barrett, and I passed the tradition on via a little white fluffy thing.”

After calling Russell Brand a bumhole for urging people not to vote, what do you make of his decision to take a step back and learn more about the situation?

“It should be applauded that he wants to justify some of those unreasonable points of view of his. Very good.”

I do quite like the idea of someone in the public eye just going, “Actually, I don’t know what I’m talking about, I’ll get back to you.”

“That’s quite brave of him. I’ll stand up for him in that respect, that’s very brave indeed. Anybody who knows they talk rubbish should be able to fess up to it. He’s earned some serious respect from me there.”

Have you finished pissing now?


What have you changed?

“My underpants.”