"It’s almost a religious experience you’re sharing, it’s very intimate and you’re sharing those experiences with other human beings. It’s a celebration of life and that is the true essence of PiL.
We’re celebrating life, we’re not wallowing in morbid death goth rock because that’s not an alternative. I’m sorry but I don’t need to pretend to be a vampire. That’s again, being led by the system."
Lydon’s distaste for the idea of uniformity was at the heart of PiL’s initial formation. Being part of the Sex Pistols, Lydon felt that punk very quickly became about little more than one look of the studded leather jacket and one sound. PiL, in contrast, with its ever changing line-up have been ferociously inventive with their sound and image.
"We don’t believe in the limitations of structure. It happens naturally and instinctively because the more you learn, the more you unlearn and that’s a good point of focus," he says.
"A lot of alleged punks had a problem with me for thinking in a large broader spectrum with much more of a sense of variety, but that’s their problem because these people that back chat and bad mouth me have not done anything like I’ve done."
Lydon believes in 2011, he is the only artist truly representing the essence of punk through his music.
"Punk is not negative and never has been and PiL is a progressive exploration of those themes. It’s a place where anything is possible. Where musical formats can be played with or thrown out of the window at will.
"We don’t have to fit a systematic idea of what punk is. Punk is freeform, it can be anything you like, so long as it’s honest and demands integrity and respect because of that."
Lydon is the only consistent thing in Public Image LTD, a band that had seen some 49 different members.
"For me that means 49 careers launched through PiL and that can only surely be to the betterment of music, and mankind," he says without irony.
It also means 49 pay packets to fill for Lydon, who is self-funding the band, raising money from the tour to pay for studio time to record the album, which he says will be his best to date.
Having to raise the funds for his passion explains Lydon’s incurable zest for one butter brand in particular. Amazingly however he seems genuinely proud of the Country Life ads.
"I loved the sheer anarchy of the idea and I genuinely liked the people that approached me. They gave me pretty much a free hand so we went at it like we wanted to make entertaining little short movies. It was basically experimental theatre and very very enjoyable.
"It hurt no one, people were entertained and Public Image was funded. The only thing I put in my back pocket, was a pound of butter."
Because PiL haven’t recorded the new material yet, Lydon says the tour won’t showcase all their new material, not until he gets some copyright control.
"PiL is a band that’s been copied so often by so many that I don’t want to give them the song before it hits a record. I’m wary of that but it will happen, because it’s just the way we are.
Imitation," says Lydon, is not a form of flattery but an expression of thievery and says the bands that have taken ‘inspiration’ from PiL are those that sound nothing like them but have learnt from their ethos of individuality.
Not only will he not be showing us the album material on the tour, Lydon can’t explain what it sounds like either.
"I couldn’t tell you what any PiL song really sounds like, other than it’s trying it’s hardest to sound exactly like the emotion it’s trying to convey. It’s a magnificent blend of literature and noise.
"Some of our songs are highly structured and others are completely unmusical and I think that’s an accolade. They all get down into the root core of how your brain functions they use tone correctly. We go beyond intellectual, we go into a world of emotion and instinct."
The reformation of PiL came off the back of a highly emotional time for Lydon, who last year lost his stepdaughter, the year before lost his father and whose brother is in remission from throat cancer.
The list of friends he has lost too, Lydon says, is endless. Amongst them was Malcom McLaren, the former Sex Pistols manager who died 12 months ago, and with whom Lydon had an ongoing feud.
"Me and Malcom didn’t resolve things," he admits without regret. "Why should we?" he laughs. "That’s what kept the pot boiling and that’s what made it entertaining."
Before we say goodbye, there is just one more question I’m itching to ask the infamous anarchist. Did he watch the royal wedding? He did, and watching the Lancaster Bomber, the Spitfire and the Hurricane, for him made it worth it.
"That’s the only times my heart went a flutter," he explains, "because it was harking back to World War II. They were bitter times but oddly enough, better times because there was a sense of unity in the population.
"England is dissipated, divided, fractured and rather stupid, a place where alcohol binging is the only real energy expended at the weekend.
"You’ve got a social system there that’s taken all the best drugs off you and they’ve left you with wine coolers. They’re just selling you cack to keep you all drunk and stupid."
36-years on from his initiation into the music industry and the formation of the Sex Pistols, Lydon still believes music is the best form for communicating this dissatisfaction.
"You have to relate immediately to your environment and that’s what I do, that’s what the Sex Pistols is/was/will be, and that’s what Public Image most defiantly is."
PiL will be playing Fifty Three Degrees, Preston on 7 June. For full tour dates visit http://www.pilofficial.com/shows.html
FemaleFirst Antonia Charlesworth
Tagged in John Lydon