in 1997 Psycho's Path was John Lydon's
first solo album, but certainly not his last. As you'd fully expect
John writes all the material himself, but in a marked departure
from PiL he also plays almost all the instruments himself too. You
name it – keyboards, accordions, toilet rolls, cardboard
boxes – anything that came to hand, and sounded right. He
also co-produces along with Mark Saunders, and if that wasn't enough
he designed all the artwork for the sleeve and packaging. A "solo"
album in the real sense of the word.
After deciding to put
PiL on hold in 1992, and then concentrating on other projects,
'Psycho's Path' was recorded over three years in John's own 'Rotten
Studios' at his Los Angeles home. After an aborted deal with Atlantic
Records the album was eventually released by Virgin Records. Virgin
never fully understood, or backed the project, and poor promotion
and distribution saw it almost go unnoticed. Released a year after
the Sex Pistols 'Filthy Lucre' tour it was largely panned by cynical
critics, and also divided the fans. Especially the fans who thought
John had returned to more 'rockier' roots. You never know what to
expect from John Lydon records, that's the beauty of them.
Something of a rough
diamond 'Psycho's Path' is perhaps John Lydon's bravest work to
date. There's no doubt he put his neck on the block, it truly was
sink or swim. There was no hiding. This was John at his rawest and
most vulnerable, and in turn at his strongest. From sweet melodies,
to full on raging Rotten, 'Psycho's Path' is without question Lydon's
most varied and accomplished vocal work, and musically his most
And that's a fact.
"Although I love working in Public Image Ltd – which
is kind of a corporation of people where everybody contributes equally
– a solo album has to all come from inside, and I think it
results in a less dissipated energy. By its very nature, being in
a band is an act of compromise; as soon as you share your thoughts,
they become diluted. Working solo, I find that I can be a lot gentler,
but also a lot more accurate. This album is more like an angry horse
being held on a leash, whereas in Public Image we let the angry
horses all run wild. The way I see it, I've built four walls around
myself, and I've gone insane inside them. It's organised chaos.
"I'm a really bad musician, but I know how to make the sounds
that I like. The more musicians learn, the less they know, because
they lack their sense of freedom, everything becomes a format. I
love the idea of formats, because I love fucking with them. Turned
upside down, they become incredibly interesting.
"I don't use other people's samples; I create my own, and run
them through the keyboards. This is the way I like music –
you can either appreciate it or dislike it. I'm never going to fit
in some genre just to please the masses. If I ever wasted my time
trying to make records that other people would like, then I'd be
in a very sorry state indeed. I can't fake anything; it doesn't
work. My motivation comes from inside; it's not affected by anything
outside or what anyone else thinks or does. The only advice I would
give anyone is 'go your own way.' And that's not a Fleetwood Mac
The Songs on Psycho's Path…
"It's a sad song, a love song placed in a war torn situation.
I took the idea from the Bosnian tragedy. It's written from the
viewpoint of a man being rounded up for execution. It's a letter
to his wife, a last will and testament. It's a person caught up
in a situation not of his own making, and facing the inevitable".
"You can only create something original if you are confident.
It's also a comment on religion, and people who try to tell me that
the bible was written by god. The bible is as corrupt as any book
out there. What's wrong with Adam and Eve having a bit of sex? It's
a good thing they did, because there wouldn't be any of us without
"It's loosely based around the serial killer John Gacy. I took
the viewpoint that we all have potential to be a serial killer,
but we decide not to, and by that decision we're better than him.
It's not some earth shaking original idea, but I see the potential
for murder in everyone. For instance, far too few religious maniacs
realise that they have caused many a death in the name of the lord.
If that isn't psychopathic behaviour, what is?"
"Here's a track that doesn't really use musical instruments
at all. Just a collection of toilet rolls that I'm honking through,
cardboard boxes for drums, and an accordion that I can hardly play
– and yet it sounds like a very nice song. It could be a big
load of horrible noise, but with restraint it works much better".
"I listen to other people's music all the time, but I just
want to do things another way. I don't want to imitate – that
would be lazy and disrespectful. Rules are for fools. That's not
a flippant statement. You really need to understand the rules and
why they work before you can disrespect them so fully".
"The idea came from a film – I can't remember the name
of it – about how people get themselves involved in these
silly love triangles. I put myself in that position in the song,
although it's not based on personal experience. I'm well known for
being completely loyal; once I make a commitment, it's forever".
"You can take these lyrics quite literally. I'm giving voice
to the self doubt which all of us experience. Of course I want to
be loved, but preferably on my own terms. I won't live a lie just
to be popular. I've never been one to hold a popular opinion, because
popular opinion is usually just mythology by any other name".
A No And A Yes
"The modern world is full of information, and I cannot understand
someone sitting on the fence and not having opinions. People can't
seem to make up their minds. Of course, I can be hesitant too, and
I'm not advocating jumping to ready-made conclusions. But there's
a difference between personal debate – which I think far too
few people actually do – and complete confusion".
"I stand up and tell what's what. Too few people do that, and
they seem to resent me doing it, even though they take a perverse
pleasure out of my actions. They love you and simultaneously hate
you for saying what they themselves want to say. They don't want
to stand out in a crowd, but they wish they could – they get
jealous of the people who do stand up. That's why you have so many
ignorant people that love to spout rhetoric without understanding
a single damn thing they're talking about. That can be anywhere
from The Clash right up to modern times. I'm dealing particularly
with the wonderful world of music, but it's applicable to practically
any politician or street corner loudmouth".
"It's about censorship. "The armies are marching the censors
are coming to cut out your heart". Don't worry, you're
supplied with a lyric sheet. But it's anti-censorship and it's something
that I did in a Walt Disney kind of way. It's a cartoon of a song.
And I'll tell you who the major inspiration was: I think it was
Jeremy Irons when he did the voice for The Lion King and
that really pissed me off, because it was so bad. I thought well,
you know, please, let's get real here."
John Lydon, 1997