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PiL’s John Lydon is a survivor

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John Lydon, center, and Public Image Limited are touring with a new album “What the World Needs Now…” (Courtesy Paul Heartfield)
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John Lydon of Public Image Limited painted the cover of his 10th album “What the World Needs Now…” with a picture of a harlequin-attired fool inspired by a traditional Hopi Kachina doll (who also, with self-referential wit, is sporting his favorite style of oxfords). Lydon also was responsible for the cover of the 2012 release “This is PiL,” the band’s first album in 17 years. But don’t expect a gallery showing from the cynic any time soon, he says, “Because the art world is even more corrupt that any other industry I’ve had to endure.” He adds, “I don’t want to contribute to the nonsense of someone going ‘Is that a real John Lydon?’ It’s all bollocks.”


You’re actually appearing in a movie that’s set to start shooting, “Football Kingdom”?

It should be fun. But I don’t want to talk about it because I don’t like to shoot my load too early, you know? I used to do that in the past — talk before I’d finished a project. And it can backfire on you somewhat. So I like to wait until the finished article is up and running. So I’m not going to talk about the next album now, either, because I haven’t done it.

And you were set to play King Herod in an abruptly-canceled run of “Jesus Christ Superstar,” alongside Brandon Boyd and J.C. Chasez?
Yes, And it’s a shame that didn’t work out, because it was the musical side of it that dragged me in. And acting was very difficult for me at first, but I think I’m grasping it. I’ve got a few friends that give me advice, and I’ll see if it works. But I find it very tiring, because you sit around all day long, stressed, trying to remember your lines, and then you do less than two minutes’ work.

What did your short “Superstar” experience teach you?

The camaraderie in this whole theater world. There were times when I seriously was doubting my abilities, and how they rally ‘round you and encourage you? It’s a great, great thing. So I became King Herod, and that’s what I was going to do nightly. And maybe that’s the essence of acting. But with PiL, I don’t feel like I’m acting at all onstage. I’m re-enacting moments from my life.

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And you just wrote your second autobiography. What did you discover about yourself in the process?
That I’m not so bad after all. And what I am is mostly a survivor. I had a childhood disease that certainly nearly killed me (spinal meningitis), and stole my personality and memories for nearly four years. I survived that, and I think – oddly enough – it’s the greatest achievement of my life.

IF YOU GO
Public Image Limited
Where: Chapel, 777 Valencia St., S.F.
When: 9 p.m. Nov. 27
Tickets: $42.50 to $45 (sold out)
Contact: (415) 551-5157, www.axs.com

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