Rock veteran John Lydon, also known as Johnny Rotten, will host a virtual event on June 7 at 5 a.m. EST to celebrate the digital release of the 2018 documentary “The Public Image Is Rotten,” which arrives today (May 14) on Vimeo On Demand in both English and Spanish subtitles.
The one-hour, 43-minute film about his years with Public Image Ltd (PiL) was directed by Tabbert Fiiller and features interviews with Lydon and several current and former bandmates along with Thurston Moore of Sonic Youth, Flea of the Red Hot Chili Peppers and Adam “Ad-Rock” Horovitz of Beastie Boys. The online gathering, to be hosted by the band’s official Facebook page, will give fans a chance to ask questions of Rotten, Tabbert and executive producer and PiL manager Rambo Stevens.
Lydon formed PiL in 1978 after the dissolution of seminal punk band Sex Pistols and debuted in the UK on Christmas Day just before the release of debut album, “First Issue,” which hit the top 20.
“We were really thrown into the deep end right from the start,” Lydon says in the film. “It’s not very much fun being in a band like that. Having to deal with a management that was more into the sensationalism aspect of the thing. I wanted immediately to start a new band. And one that would approach it without that media mockery attached. So I used the term Public Image Ltd. We started rehearsing and the songs just flowed.”
The band was marked by changing lineups (“The list was damned well endless,” Lydon says in the movie) as well as musical variety, including rock, folk, dub and dance.
“We were quite a wild band,” original Public Image Ltd. drummer Jim Walker remarks in the doc. “There was always a huge undercurrent of danger.”
“The media wanted to bury me,” says Lydon. “I really really had to fight for my survival.”
In 1993, Lydon announced he was shifting attention to his solo career and publishing his autobiography, which was titled “Rotten: No Irish, No Blacks, No Dogs.”
Following the release of an interim PiL compilation, “Plastic Box,” in 1999, the group got back together in 2009 and returned to the stage for their first live shows in 17 years with Lydon joined by former PiL members Lu Edmonds on guitar, Bruce Smith on drums, and new member Scott Firth on bass. The following year, they returned to the States to headline the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival.
Besides the film, 2018 also saw the release of a career-spanning box set. The group also went on a 40th anniversary European-Japanese tour.
Asked to comment on the digital release of the film, Lydon tells Variety, “From America’s favorite immigrant, thank you for having me and being oh! so kind.”