We Are The Muzik Makers…

Muzik magazine was my first music press job. I joined as a rookie sub editor a few issues after its launch and worked there for a very happy three years, give or take the odd dust-up. Launched 20-odd years ago, we thought looking back at its origins would make a nice Time Machine piece for Electronic Sound. And well, no one else was going to blow our trumpet were they? This is my first draft of the published piece, which ended up considerably shorter.

Muzik1

There was time when the music press was as essential as the records it championed or chewed up. In 1995, a new title was launched that catapulted underground electronic/dance music into the mainstream. To mark 20 years since the first issue, we track down those behind MUZIK magazine to tell the full story. It wasn’t that hard to find them really.

Every now and again, an idea comes along that changes things. Twenty years ago, to the month, a new music magazine appeared on the news stands that did just that.

In 1995, Muzik was a breath of fresh air for those who’d grown up with electronic music humming in their ears. Until that point, an intelligent publication with well-informed, on-the-money writing about dance music simply didn’t exist. Muzik had a further trick up its sleeves in that it treated electronic music with the same irreverence employed by the rock press. Which isn’t surprising seeing as its Editor and Deputy, Push and Ben Turner, were plucked from IPC’s legendary music weekly. Melody Maker.

To tell the story of how the whole thing came about, we need to cast back to 1988.

“There were a few of us writing about acid house at the time,” says Push, who wasn’t hard to track down seeing as these days he sits in the Editor’s chair at Electronic Sound. “The Maker was pretty quick off the mark and they put their weight behind it, but the next week they’d be back to sticking The Cure on the cover again.”

Frustrated with an increasing struggle to get electronic music covered, a trio of writers – Push along with Andrew Smith and Bob Stanley – went to then-Editor Steve Sutherland and suggested a dance music section. To their surprise he agreed and the paper’s Stone Free pages were born.

“We’d do two or three pages a week,” says Push. “But every time they needed some space it would be the first section to get cut.”

The trio produced the section for a couple of years until IPC decided, on the back of a readers’ survey that offered Guns’N’Roses videos as a prize, that no one was interested in electronic music and the section was scrapped. So it was back to fighting for space in the main pages again. But they were about to be joined by a new ally.

“I did work experience for a week at Melody Maker when I was 16,” says Ben, joining the story down the line from Boston where he’s on an educational tour with Ritchie Hawtin who he manages. Ben followed up his placement with a summer job at the title after which he was offered a full-time gig on the picture desk. With it came the chance to cut his teeth as a writer.

“I got sucked into electronic music very quickly,” says Ben, “and I soon discovered only Push, Andy Smith and Bob Stanley had any idea what I was talking about. I started writing a column called Twilight Zone where I used to rant and rave about the DJs and all the amazing music they were playing. To us, that was as exciting as watching any band.”

There was a brief sea change in early 1994 when Underworld appeared on the cover with Push writing the feature and Ben penning the album review. The same issue, flagged as a dance music special, saw Aphex Twin, The Orb, Orbital and Drum Club all make an appearance. The issue did well, which prompted a revival of the dance music section, now called Orbit and edited by Push and Ben. The pages gained a reputation for having fingers on the pulse, which in turn saw R&S Records book a run of double-page centrespread adverts.

“They were an independent record label from Belgium that no one apart from us had heard of,” says Ben. “It was at that point IPC thought, ‘Hang on a minute, why are these people spending money in a rock music paper?’.”

All roads led to Orbit and it wasn’t long before the pair were asked to look at producing a stand-alone title.

“When it came to putting something together we had total freedom to do what we thought was right,” says Push. “We did two dummies, one with James Lavelle on the cover, which was very much about what sort of artists were going to be in it, and one that was quite clubby and went more out on a limb with Jon Pleased Wimmin on the cover.”

Coming up with a name was problematic though. Orbit was established as The Maker’s dance music pages, so they needed an alternative.

“We had endless meetings trying to come up with a name,” sighs Push. “Someone suggested ‘Dog’ at one point! We wanted to be an NME for the 21st century and we always said by calling it Muzik it opens up the opportunity for us to not be a dance music magazine down the line. It was always going to be about dealing with whatever was the big thing. It was only once we’d launched we realised we had a problem because when you spoke about the magazine, especially on the phone or on the radio, you always had to say ‘Muzik with a Z and a K’.”

Both dummy issues were well received and in May 1995 the first issue proper appeared with The Chemical Brothers on the cover. In the hands of photographer Vincent McDonald, two ordinary looking blokes who happened to make the most block rocking of beats were transformed into dynamic, vibrant, cartoon-like characters springing off the page. These days making a decent fist of Photoshop is par for the course, back then, when cameras still used film, what Vincent did each month on the front cover of Muzik was more than impressive. Alongside The Chems, early covers featured Daft Punk as frogs on lilly pads and a naked Carl Cox painted red brandishing a water pistol. It was groundbreaking stuff.

“The front covers were hugely important,” believes Ben. “We were treating underground artists such as Dave Clark like proper stars. We had a very reactive audience and it was amazing to see that we could help artists sell records. We were standing up for what was good and to me, the most rewarding thing was we were really helping build people’s careers.

“We knew we wanted to do something different,” explains Push. “Although we were dance music boys, we came at it from the rock angle, we had that attitude. It wasn’t just about patting everybody on the back, it was about having a proper critical approach.”

“I was spending £200, £300 a week on vinyl,” says Ben, “I was obsessed with making sure we were so on the money that you couldn’t not buy this magazine if you wanted to know what was going on. The reason it worked really well was I was this sort of roving reporter who brought all this stuff back to the office and Push would pieced it all together perfectly. I still get emails to this day saying ‘Muzik was my education’.”

It was an education for the staff too. The team, which I joined as a rooky sub editor a few issues in, was small. Alongside Push and Ben, there were two designers, a staff writer, production editor, two subs and an editorial assistant. Issues were often close on 200 pages and overflowing with content. The news section alone was thousands upon thousands of words in tiny print to try and pack in as much information as the pages could hold, often more. It wasn’t uncommon to pull all-nighters, not in a clubbing sense, but sat in the office trying desperately to finish the issue before the presses rolled.

“On about issue three or four, I was walking to work one morning thinking, ‘I don’t know how much longer I can do this’.” says Push of the frankly insane production schedule. “I remember saying to myself, ‘I’m going to see if I can last 40 issues’… and I left on Issue 41.”

“It was all a little bit unorthodox,” says Ben. “We had people above us trying to get us to do things in a more traditional magazine way, but we were supposed to be slightly counter culture. It’s mind blowing when you look at quite how much you could learn from one issue. We would be trying to cram 500 words into a space that would usually only have 250. There was just so much information in there.”

“The Trainspotting pages were terrifying,” says Push of the reviews section, page after page covering everything from soul to drum’n’bass and all points in between. “The level of knowledge those writers had was extraordinary.”

Muzik didn’t so much outgrow their first office, on the 25th Floor of King’s Reach Tower alongside Vox and NME, as get kicked out due to the constant dialled-up thud of dance music. The new home was over the road, in Hatfield House, in an office next door to Loaded.

“A lot of our madness was out and about,” says Ben. “We were actually quite studious in the office and got our heads down to get the magazine out, while at Loaded it was utter chaos, there was always a party going on next door. I think they all thought we were really boring.”

The Muzik staff were anything but. It was quite a collection. Rob Da Bank started out there. Arriving on a week’s work placement, he quickly made himself indispensable and carved out a job for himself running the bewildering club listings pages. Other notables to pass through include no-nonsense tabloid journalist Sonia Poulton, double Mercury Award winning Big Dada label boss Will Ashon and former Dazed & Confused editor Rachel Newsome, while among the writers were the likes of Terry Farley, Slipmatt, Bob Jones, Spoony and Kris Needs.

“Calvin Bush was the funniest one,” says Ben of the magazine’s unpredictable staff writer. “I had this obsession with Glasgow and Slam, and he used to promote their records. He was writing for us at Melody Maker and one night we were at Sabersonic, really drunk, and he whispered in my ear, ‘You do know I write for NME under another name’. I couldn’t fucking believe the front of this guy. I don’t think anyone else ever pulled that off. And then we found out his real name wasn’t Calvin Bush and that all became quite interesting. There were always moments with Calvin around, but he was a great writer.”

The title oozed attitude, with provocative features on everything from aliens in dance music to clubbing for Jesus, pirate radio, DJ groupies, The Black Panthers and city boy ravers. And of course, it treated the dance music cognoscenti with the same irreverence guitar bands were well used to in the pages of NME and The Maker.

“Ben and I were both schooled in the Melody Maker way and that was to take the piss,” says Push. “It was about having that attitude and being ballsy about it. It was difficult because a lot of people we covered struggled with that.”

Regular features such as Hang The DJ, where each month an artist would be strung up for crimes against music, caused much angst.

“I used to spend hours on the phone apologising, or pre-empting stuff that was coming out,” recalls Ben. “I remember being sat in a hotel in Liverpool one morning with Paul Oakenfold and he just let rip at me. It was really quite awkward. We’d put his picture next to a picture of Fred West as a double egg. We weren’t saying he looks like a serial killer, he just happened to look like a man who was. Paul just couldn’t understand it. There are so many things like that, we were continually poking fun at the people we kind of idolised, but it was all done in a very tongue-in-cheek way.”

“The Chemical Brothers got really upset about that first cover feature,” recalls Push. “Most of the things they said were off the record, but there were a whole bunch of other things that weren’t. They were very critical of the dance music scene, and they were bloody right, and I put it all in the feature. We launched the magazine at Tribal Gathering, which is where Tom and Ed saw the article for the first time. When they saw Ben they so furious about what I’d written they threw the issue on the floor and stamped all over it.”

IPC closed the title in August 2003, by which time Push and Ben had long moved on. Those early issues remain shining examples of what good music magazines should be and the same thinking continues to live on in Electronic Sound. So what do they consider to be Muzik’s legacy?

“There’s still people who say to me how influential Muzik was to their lives in terms of discovering good music,” says Ben. “I think we really shone a light on music that wasn’t being championed anywhere else. The conversation I have the most with people around me is the lack of one influential voice, you have to go to 15 different places to get any sense of anything. I think that’s a real problem for electronic music as a whole, it doesn’t have a focus anymore. There is so much music out there now that no one can keep up, so the route many take is to focus on the positive and as a result criticism is very rare.”

“I think Muzik helped people to realise that electronic music should be taken seriously,” says Push. “The message was that there could be a magazine that was for them. But perhaps the single most important thing we did was we took faceless dance music and gave it a face. We were just trying to do something different. Muzik talked seriously about the music, but it was also interesting and provocative and funny. And you know what? I think we nailed it.”

Foo Fighters


Foos

I worked as a section editor on Melody Maker between 1996-99 and continued as a freelance feature writer until 2000. I wrote countless articles, but I was particularly proud of this cover feature, not least because it was the last-ever inkie cover of the title before it turned into a glossy magazine. This interview with Dave Grohl of Foo Fighters was first published in Melody Maker, 23 October 1999.

IT’S a sparkly autumnal London morning. In a back road off Oxford Street, a band are huddled in a radio production company recording an interview which explains what they’ve been doing since their last sighting on these shores at Reading 98. Said interview will be dispatched as a ready-made package to a squillion local radio stations the length and breadth of the country.

“Hi, this is David Eric Grohl from Foo Fighters,” says David Eric Grohl from Foo Fighters before adding the name of a local radio DJ and the station on which their show appears. This process continues for an age. Each time a different station, each time a different DJ.

“What’s this? Lie-sess-ter Sound?” asks David.

“Less-ter,” helps the interviewer.

“Less-ter? OK. . . Hello, this is Dave Grohl from Foo Fighters, you are listening to Lie-cess. . . shit. Hi, this is Dave. . .”

And so it goes on.

DAVID Eric Grohl was, in a previous life, the drummer in a fairly successful band. They stopped being a fairly successful band on April 8, 1994. Don’t mention it seems to be the go. Too close to the knuckle. Tip-toe around it is best plan.

We’re certainly not going to mention it. Dave Grohl is, in no way, going to mention it. Not when there’s money on it. Namely, a shiny pound coin from yer Maker, one from Dave, one from their tour manager, Gus, and one each from drummer Taylor Hawkins and new guitarist Chris Shiflett. It would have been six pounds, but basser, Nate Mendel is poorly.

So that’s five pounds for the person whose guess is nearest to the total number of times interviewers mention that previously fairly successful band during today’s umpteen radio interviews to let the UK know that the Foo Fighters are back.

And are they ever. After a year out, Foo Fighters are <i>back<i> with a new single, the fizzy swoop of “Learn To Fly”. In November they’ll be <i>back<i> with album of the year contender “There Is Nothing Left To Lose”. In late November they’ll be <i>back<i> to play a handful of live shows. Back. Back. Back.

OUR first port today is Radio 1 for a pre-recorded record-playing session to be aired the following night on Mary-Ann Hobbs’ rock show, then Dave goes it alone for a live interview on Jo Whiley’s lunchtime show.

Radio 1 is nothing like you’d imagine. You get an idea as to how far below the streets you are when the floors shake every time a tube train passes underneath. Once in the lounge, from which you can peer into the studios coo-eee Mr Mayo, – Dave Grohl paces about like a caged lion.

“I woke up this morning with so much energy,” he explains. “The first thing I did was to lie in the dark, smoke a cigarette and listen to Motorhead on my walkman.”

The whole time he’s talking, he’s fidgeting, illustrating his story by drumming out a rhythm on his legs, singing lines from Motorhead songs. His eyes are everywhere. Nobody moves without him clocking them. Nothing happens without him noticing. Surely having to sit still for an hour should put a lid on things.

Nope.

After an hour of chat and playing records with Mary Ann Hobbs – herself no stranger to boundless energy and enthusiasm – Dave is still in full bounce.

“That’s once,” he grins after the first show of the day is over. “She only mentioned them once, man.”

Bet up and running, then.

With barely a second to catch breath, Dave has flopped into Jo Whiley’s studio.

“Stop staring at me like that,” she laughs on air.

“Like what?” asks Grohl leaning across the desk, bugging his eyes out. “Are you going to play another song from the album?”

“We’ll play something another time,” she laughs.

“Go on then, play some Whitney Houston crap instead,” beams Grohl knowingly. Having already played the single and used up her free play with album track, “Breakout”, from here on in, it’s playlist only. Although, to be fair, the whole album would’ve got an airing if she’d had her way.

“Oh I know,” she admits off-air. “It’s so frustrating.”

But not nearly as frustrating as trying to tell Grohl what to do. His new label, RCA, insist that he can’t announce the forthcoming tour dates. Moments after he is on air, he’s announced them. Spends the rest of the day announcing them in fact.

MUCH has happened in the Foo Fighters’ camp in the year they’ve been away. Dave’s left LA to move back home to Virginia. The Foos have built a recording studio in his basement. They’ve jumped labels. As a three-piece, they’ve recorded the new album. In the new studio, natch. And to top it all they’ve recruited a new guitarist.

In a nutshell, that’s everything everyone wants to know today. In a nutshell, the above is what they’re told in a myriad of different ways. Don’t they get sick of answering the same questions over and over and over again?

“The funny thing is,” begins Dave, “once you’ve done a few interviews, you kinda know which questions are going to be asked. We’ve learnt to answer the first question by also answering the next eight. You can see people crossing them off as you’re talking!”

RADIO 1 duties done for the time being, and it’s off for lunch. A delightful Italian eatery in which, famously, Radio 2 jock Johnny Walker was collared by News Of the World for, erm, having a bit of a runny nose. “Johnny Who?” asks Dave as the smell of pizza, pasta and garlic bread fill the air. This is not food to sniff at we explain. Ahem.

Next stop, XFM. Despite the fact we have a car to ferry us around, Dave is still bursting with energy.

“I wanna walk” he says. “Can we walk?”

We can. Up towards Oxford Street, across, down through Carnaby Street and into Golden Square, left along Piccadilly and into Leicester (Less-ter, Dave, Less-ter) Square.

“You know what?” he says as we cut through the London bustle, “Before I decided to get a house and build a studio, I almost bought a farm. Then I realised I don’t even have time to comb my hair let alone farm anything. I figured I could grow something that wouldn’t take up too much of my time. Maybe Christmas trees. All I’d need to do was cut them down each December and sit by a road selling them.”

AT XFM, Dave sees the video for “Learn To Fly” for the first time (“The music at the beginning is supposed to be lounge version of ‘Everlong’. It wasn’t, was it? We’ll have to get that changed.”). As is traditional with Foos videos, it’s laughing out loud funny. Won’t spoil it for you, but you do get to see what Dave looks like as a girl. And a fat person. And who is that convincing mincing air steward? Like we said, wouldn’t want to spoil it for you.

There’s two jobs to do here. First, Paul Anderson is recording an interview for a Foos weekend (at time of press, broadcast date was unconfirmed). During the interview Dave explains why the new Foos stuff feels so natural, so full of life.

“We didn’t have anyone else involved, just us, this basement and some old recording gear,” he tells Paul. “It was nice to be a band for the sake of being a band. I’m sure a lot of people feel restrained or tied to contracts. We had a clause in ours which said if the president of the label left, we were free to go as well. He went, so we went. After that, we could have done anything, we could’ve called it a day, broken up. It was a challenge because we really wanted to prove to ourselves that we could do all of this on our own. That’s why we called the record ‘There Is Nothing Left To Lose’.”

At one point, he talks about the new single: “‘Learn To Fly’ was one of the first songs we recorded, lyrically it just has to do with starting over, a new beginning. The song has to do with this search for inspiration, something that will make you feel alive, looking for a break for this new life.”

He pauses. For a moment, you get the feeling he can’t actually express exactly what he means. And that is the Foos to a T. They write songs which touch you in a way that we all understand without it being spoken. The new album especially is full of songs like that.

“Did that make sense?” asks Grohl, glancing in our direction, wrestling with his explanation. “It wasn’t actual horse shit was it? It <i>was<i> horse shit wasn’t it?”

It wasn’t. But we know what he means.

WITH the mentions-of-his-previous-band-o-meter remaining firmly at one, it’s high-time <i>someone<i> mentioned it. Thing is, the rules state Dave can’t mention them himself. Not directly anyways. Drastic measures are needed.

If the XFM interview were held in a courtroom, our brief would have been up and down like a yo-yo. Watch. . .

“I grew up in Virginia,” Dave tells Paul. “I never really intended to move to Seattle, I just kind of wound up there. . .”

“Objection your honour! Leading the witness.”

“I stayed inSeattlefor six years, then moved back to LA. . .”

“Objection!!”

“That’s the thing about bands from Seattle. . .”

“Your honour!!!”

“My previous band. . .”

“OBJECTION!!!!”

Next, Dave is live on Robin Bank’s drivetime show. For those who are out of XFM earshot, Robin Banks is your indie Chris Moyles. Something you’d probably gleaned from his hilarious name. Neither party is quite going to realise what’s hit them over the next 15 minutes. . .

First, much to Dave’s bemusement, Robin tells a story about how his ex-girlfriend fell asleep to the Foos’ debut album, Dave explains how he was tricked into snogging Brian Molko (What, you mean there’s another way? Ed.) before talk turns to Dave and what he does in his time off. What does he do? Goes skeet shooting. Like you do. “That’s rock and roll,” blearts Banks. “It’s actually not,” replies Grohl. His quips continue to fall like lead weights. Drugs. Nope. Ozzy. Nope. Girlfriends. Not a bite. Time to move on. Swiftly. “Would you mind if I played you latest song?” chirups Banks.

“Sure,” smiles Dave. “Actually, no. You know what? Don’t play it. It’d do the record good so you might as well leave it off.”

BACK at Radio 1, two interviews to go; a news piece and another pre-record. Bizarrely, the news interview travels right around the houses in order to talk about a box-set which Dave’s previous band will have out in the new year. Bizarre if only for the fact that their name is never mentioned. Curse you Danny O’Conner.

Despite Grohl’s admirable efforts, there’s only been one mention of his previous band. <i>One<i>. And with Dave himself holding claim to a mere three mentions, his guess is closest. Time to wheel out our secret weapon.

All the Maker needs is a piffly five more mentions and it’s show us the money time. This has got to be a cert. . .

“We’re talking to Dave Grohl of the Foos about what is possibly one of the best modern rock records of the late Nineties,” begins Steve Lamacq. Come on my son.

“Hi. You put me off with that,” laughs Dave. “I’m all a blush.”

“Has it been a learning curve for you since the end of Nirvana?”

KER-CHING. Barely 30 seconds in and the mention-o-meter stands at two. Ha-ha-ha-ha-ha. And then not ha-ha-ha-ha-ha. Scuppered with not another flippin’ mention all interview. Sheesh.

With the fiver firmly tucked in the pocket of Grohl, guess it proves a point. Guess it proves the Foos are finally a band in their own right. Guess it proves they can now hold their own without riding on the coat-tails of, oh, what was their name again? Guess it proves they’re well on their way to being one of the greatest rock bands of the Nineties. You think not? Grohl <i>was<i> in one of the greatest rock bands of the Nineties and today, nobody wants to talk about them. Yet it’s not out of respect and it’s not because it’s a no-go. It’s because Foo Fighters have finally arrived. Proof? Thank you.

YOU’D think, that after a day like that, the only thing on your mind would be an early night. Especially seeing as more interviews are scheduled for the morning before the band catch a flight to Australia in order to do it all again.

You’d think wouldn’t you? You’d be wrong.

This is The Water Rats in London’s King’s Cross. We’re here, oh Jesus, to see a band called Spirit Caravan. Of all the places, one of Grohl’s favourite bands from back home happens to be playing tonight. Such is Dave’s admiration for their blend of low-down dirty rock riffing, the Foos have, fact fans, covered one of their songs.

And does Dave Grohl stand at the bar throughout the set? Does he heck. Right down the front. Which is exactly where the Foos are in the grand rock scheme of things. And not before time.

John Lydon

When The ‘Filth And The Fury’ film was released in 2000, Lydon agreed to do three press interviews, of which Melody Maker, for some inexplicable reason, was one. Melodious Mucker he called it repeatedly. The resulting feature was a typical Maker piece during that period – essentially a list, bite-sized chunks. It looked exciting, but didn’t offer much insight.

The Maker also had a regular feature called Psychobabble where we’d ask Smash Hits biscuit tin type questions… with a psychological bent. Unsurprisingly, Lydon’s was more interesting than most. I like the flow of the conversation, which I put down to my skill as an interviewer, natch. This extract wasn’t published in its entirety.

pistols

“I see no reason for being a thick cunt in the world. There’s no excuse. None at all. I had the same opportunities as everyone else. Probably less, but I will not be put down by it.”

How do you rate you physical attractiveness?
“Zero. I don’t know, fucking hell, do you think I care? I know there’s people who love me and I love them and that’s it.”

How many times a day do you look in a mirror?
“Very rarely, unless it’s a photo shoot and then vanity takes over. I’m as conceited as anybody else when it comes down to it. You know, we all like to look our best, even the grunge idiots, they perfect their trashy look too. It’s part and parcel of being a human being. Conceit is a wonderful thing if you can use it properly. I must say, one of the greatest moments is Sid declaring himself as handsome. I love that. That’s exactly bang on Sidney. He-he-he-he-he. He might not of actually known how funny what he said is, but it’s also true… It’s not true that he’s handsome, but true that he believed it.

Was he a funny bloke?
“Very. Very. Very, very funny.”

Knowingly?
“Most of the time. He had a great sense of humour, he was very easy to get along with. The drugs made it all sardonic. The drugs took the wit right out of him.”

What did he do that made you laugh?
“He was a very good mimic, very good at pointing out inadequacies in others. He-he-he-he.”

Have you ever hated anyone?
“From time to time, but only very, very briefly. Anger is an energy, but hate is not. It’s like this, I don’t hate the person, I hate the idea of someone trying to tell me they’re better than me. I hate repression. I hate thought patterns that are inaccurate and wrong, but I don’t hate the actual person. I don’t hate The Queen, I hate the institution she’s the figurehead of.”

But “God Save The Queen”…
“Well it’s true that the Sex Pistols made attacking institutions personal, but we were not attacking one person, but the institution itself. There is a difference. She’s as trapped as the rest of us and from time to time actually shows it really well. I loved her moody look when we were going down that silly advertising bus going down The Thames. She shows her displeasure no end.”

Do you believe in ghosts?
“Used to, but I think that might have been the amphetamines.”

Ever seen one?
“Instances, but I think those are self delusionary. I have no great holding for the afterlife, it’s hard enough to get through what we have already without trying to plan one for after.”

What’s your biggest insecurity?
“Letting people down. That’s why I’m always so sick before I do gigs. I get very, very nervous. I used to try and hide in alcohol, but I stopped that. I want to do the best that I can because I don’t write these lyrics trivially and I don’t put these songs together with some kind of sense of piss take, it isn’t like that. There’s comedy and humour, but it’s not piss take. I’m not vindictive and I’m not spiteful.”

Do you feel like you done the best you can?
“Yes.”

Do you feel like there was there more to come from the Sex Pistols?
“I don’t know. I don’t know because hindsight is something I refuse to have. There’s no point in looking back and saying I wish. Although I would have liked to help Sid out more. There’s very many people I would have liked to have helped out more… but I don’t think I had the tools at the time.”

In your position, most people would wish that wouldn’t they?
“And for it to be the truth. You know, you cannot deny the truth. I’ve never run away from helping people. I’m basically good natured, shock horror.”

That’s not a big surprise is it?
“I don’t know, how can I say that? Isn’t he the one who spat and vomited at airports? Dur, you can still be good natured and do that dear.”

Can you urinate in front of another person?
“Nah… well, have to sometimes, desperation. He-he-he-he. I don’t see the need for it. I don’t see it as a privilege. I’m not into golden showers. I don’t have much shyness about me, I used to when I was younger, but I just don’t care, I just don’t care how people view me at all, my body, it’s of no importance to me or what I wear or the shape of me or anything about me. I have given up completely the idea of having to make excuses for myself. I did that from quite an early age.”

Why?
“I suppose it’s just sheer laziness.”

Did you ever piss on stage?
“No. I was sick onstage and I’ve even had diarrhea onstage, but not in the Pistols…”

When did you lose your virginity?
“Hard to remember. Something to do with a bicycle shed. Around 15, quite late. No, it was probably 16 and a half, very late. I remember being incredibly mediocre. Very disappointed with myself and the whole situation, a fiasco. Utter confusion, a complete mess and lack of information. You see, I think most unwanted pregnancies in teenagers come form a lack of information.

There were girls at my school who thought you couldn’t get pregnant doing it standing up…
“Yes, I remember that one and sitting in a bath of gin, mother’s ruin. Load of bollocks. All disinformation, when you deny people information you get these problems.”

Talking of disinformation, how did you get the name Rotten?
“Oh, from Steve. . . ‘You’ve got rotten teeth you have’. But that stopped, it was actually at The Screen On The Green gig where I stood on the microphone stand and the microphone slammed me in the face and knocked my two front teeth out. The two green fangs that Steve used to find so disgusting were replaced. I’ve only got three real teeth left in my head. That’s lack of dental hygiene. That’s one thing the Irish weren’t very good at.”

What about the story about Sid being named after your hamster.
“That’s true? Yeah, of course. This is the art of disinformation and it comes down to does it really fucking matter?”

Was it a laugh being in the Pistols?
“In the long run, yeah.”

And at the time?
“At the time, it was very, very hard. To always want to do the right thing, but not quite knowing what that would be and being so accessible to judgment, in the slightest thing would be blown up into a real major problem, that was very, very tough… to survive that, you can survive anything.”

Do you feel like you’ve survived?
“I’m here. I’m alive. It’s made me a better person.”

Has it?
“No… yes. I don’t think any band has ever gone through it quite like that. And bearing in mind how bloody young we were… we had to make our own decisions, when it came to the crunch we had no one to run to… for help. No-one. We were left alone. Isolated from the management, isolated from the world. To survive that is quite an achievement.”

Did you ever feel in control?
“No.”

Never?
“In control of writing, yes, but not in control of the. . . is there a word for it? The paraphernalia that surrounded it.”

It seems remarkable that you couldn’t do anything about it doesn’t it?
“That’s youth isn’t it? And now I’m older. I still feel exactly the same way. The point is not to waste any energy on trying to dictate to a population, it’s just lead by example. . . not lead because that implies followers. . . just to set up the point that you are an individual and you’ve worked things out. And right or wrong prove me either way, but don’t just like try to steal that and water it down.”

You could be wrong, you could be right?
“I’ve been proved adequate, which is more than most people can say. At last I care. I can’t see too much of that in the world.”