A Conversation With Steve Jones

Steve Jones has been, during his 61 years, one of the Sex Pistols and a fire starter to all that is punk rock, a session guitarist for Iggy Pop, a member of best-forgotten supergroups the Professionals and Chequered Past, an actor on Californication and, presently, a Los Angelino radio host on KLOS 95.5. Less illustriously, Jones has been a sexually abused child, a kleptomaniac, a lover to Chrissie Hynde and a multi-chemical drug addict. Recovered from all those ills, Jones is alive and well to talk about it in his new autobiography, Lonely Boy: Tales From A Sex Pistol.

I don’t mean this as an insult, but I never got from you that you were any sort of a reader. Are you?
You’re right there. I never read as a kid, ever. The only two books I ever did read was William S. Burroughs’ Junky and my own new book. The Burroughs book was naturally something that I got turned onto when I was in rehab. I don’t remember it. I couldn’t tell you one word of it. I did read the whole thing, though. My own book—really, I only read it because I had to just to make sure i’s were dotted and t’s crossed.

Do written reviews matter then, or even that great big coffee-table book that critic Jon Savage penned, God Save Sex Pistols?
Well, I’m a human being who gets affected by what people say about you. My advice: Stay away from comments from social media.

Before I ever had one chance to open your book, Britain’s Daily Mail hit readers over the head with your accounts of sex abuse by your stepfather. I won’t bug or bore you further—people can read Lonely Boy for the sordid details—but was that a hard thing to commit to paper, or are you that pragmatic that you just wanted the facts out?
Yeah, I mean it wasn’t news to me. I became more aware of myself during therapy, and it was no big secret. The only thing was that now the whole world could know—which is OK. Some people look at you differently when shit like that happens to you and you admit it. I got core friends who don’t care.

Some people struggle with the confession of it all, yet yours is a matter-of-fact revelation.
Why bother with shame? I was 10 years old for fuck’s sake. I didn’t have any part in it.

What was funny in Lonely Boy was the discussion of your kleptomania. Do you still nick things?
No, I quit about 30 years ago now. It was part of me program: quitting all bad behavior.

Did you ever apologize to David Bowie for taking his Ziggy Stardust stage gear?
In a roundabout way, yes, and apparently he thought it was funny. I made amends to the drummer, Woody, on my radio show several months ago, and the keyboard player last week. Who I needed to apologize to was the bass player, which is a shame as he’s dead. What I stole was a bass-amp head, some cymbals and some microphones—it wasn’t like they were Bowie’s. I stole a lot more gear from less-famous bands, but I wasn’t proud of it. I couldn’t help myself.

Do you know which of your parents you are more like?
I only met my real dad once, and I spoke to him on the phone a few times, so I don’t really know about him. My mom, though, I definitely see a lot of my personality traits in her, and I definitely got the music from her as she was always dancing down at Hammersmith Palais with the teddy boys. I know she has a musical sense in her head.

Glen Matlock wrote his book. John Lydon wrote his autobiography twice. You’re not really old men, and it’s hard to fathom pulling two stories from one life, but John’s smart and verbose. What say you about him finding so much to say?
Well, I haven’t read either of them, have I? He’s a bright guy; very intelligent, good with words. Whether they’re all true is another story. He’s an intellect. I don’t think I have another book in me.

So many others have written books about you or managed to release additional music beyond Never Mind The Bollocks. What say you about having people outside the Pistols profiting from your work with Lydon?
It’s incredible, really; the fact that so much can be pulled from that one record and that short, short time. I don’t think there’s another album or story like that. Definitely, it was one of those albums and one of those times that shifted gears from the norm. I’m proud to have been a part of that for sure. It’s not every day you can be the thing that started a cultural shift or a musical one on a revolutionary level. What was the question?

I mentioned Savage’s book, not the first he has written about the Pistols. There’s an industry that has grown out of that single Sex Pistols record.
I think you’re right. The only dough that I made out of the Pistols was when we did that reunion in 1996. Back when it first happened, it was pennies and peanuts. Which was fine, even now. I live a basic lifestyle. I’m not on a park bench. I’m all right.

More than all right. So why land and live in Los Angeles?
I don’t know, man. You end up where you end up. I love the sun—not as much as I done when I came out there. I like the open space. The chicks were better, and like so many other limeys, I just got here and never left. There are a few that roam around here and can’t wait to get back to that miserable drizzle.

Throughout Lonely Boy, you don’t seem nostalgic despite how vivid the book’s recall is.
You are absolutely right. Whenever I look back at the past—any past—it bums me out. So I don’t do it. I don’t know what that means, save for that I’m just miserable all the time.

—A.D. Amorosi