Sundance exclusive interview with the Sex Pistols' Steve Jones
Steve Jones hates the cold, which makes it all the more unbearable that the guitarist for the legendary Sex Pistols is here at Sundance since it has been snowing for four days straight. He and his manager’s assistant drove the 12 hours from Los Angeles to Park City, Utah on Friday through fairly treacherous conditions.
He’s here to broadcast “Jonesy’s Jukebox,” his popular radio show from celebrity central here today and tomorrow (Jan. 24). He’s interviewing actors like Wilmer Valderrama and Jason Ritter and environmentalist Sebastian Copeland, most of whom have come to Sundance to, like Jones, flog their current project.
“Jonesy’s Jukebox” debuted six years ago on L.A. radio station Indie 103.1 and quickly gained traction as a must-listen to radio show as Jones played the music he loved and interviewed people from all areas of entertainment. When Indie 103.1 went off the air in early 2009 so did “Jonesy’s Jukebox” until movie producer Ryan Kavanaugh began broadcasting it on his www.iamrogue.com website. The plan is to reintroduce “Jukebox” onto a terrestrial outlet soon.
In the meantime, Hitfix talked to Jones about, of course, the Sex Pistols, his biggest fear, his worst interviews and his surprising musical guilty pleasure.
Q: Why did you drive here?
A: I’m not a fan of flying and I’m not a fan of airports, all the craziness of airports. It was great until we got about 20 miles from here. It was almost a disaster….Don’t tell anyone, but we had to rent a Hummer (laughs).
Q: In addition to the music, the highlight of “Jonesy’s Jukebox” are your interviews with people from all different facets. How did you learn to interview people?
A: I have no idea. Sometimes, I feel like I put my foot in my mouth. Like, my biggest fear of interviewing people is when they first come on is messing up their name or forgetting their name. I try not to have it written down somewhere because I think it’s kind of insulting, although it’s not really, it’s kind of the norm.
Q: One of the best interviews I heard was you and Peter Noone from the Herman’s Hermits. I would not have thought you two would hit it off.
A: He’s actually a bit of a tear-away. He’s a bit of rebel I guess. He was surprisingly cool, you know, because there’s a few that I’ve interviewed… Eric Burdon [of the Animals], he was a dud, man. What a dud. What a dud. He just didn’t get it. ..I don’t know if he was having a bad day or what, but it was one of them ones that it don’t matter what you said, you couldn’t get him to talk about anything. That’s the worst. Jerry Lee Lewis was tough too.
Q: But I would imagine you’re such a huge fan of his.
A: Of course, he’s one of the original rebel rock and rollers, you know. But I made the mistake of putting my foot in about: “So what was it like when you went to England with your cousin/married thing. (Editor’s note: Jerry Lee Lewis married his 13-year old cousin in 1957) “I don’t want to talk about that.” (Jones imitates Lewis) Ok, Fair enough, but he was gone. It was so thick. People said it was great, but not from my perspective, but it was the worst. Oh my God.
Q: What’s your favorite musical period?
A: I love ‘50s music, all that stuff from the ‘50s. The ‘70s was such a… there was so much that happened in the ‘70s. It went through the whole gamut, disco, punk, anthem rock, the whole lot. So I guess if I had to choose one or the other, the older I get, the more I go towards the ‘50s, softer, like croony, the Lettermen, stuff like that.
Q: Have you read Peter Guralnick’s book about Elvis Presley that covers him in the ‘50s before he goes into the army?
A: I never read. I’ve never read one book…I just can’t do it. Something’s wrong with me. I have what they call now is ADD, like I’ll read and all of a sudden I’ll be thinking about shopping or.. I’m not there. I drift off. I get crazy, so I don’t even bother.
Q:. What do you get out of playing guitar now that you didn’t get when you were playing with the Sex Pistols?
A: Well, I guess I didn’t really know what I was doing back then, just young and naïve and thought you had to be a certain way, image wise, in all that. It’s just like anything else; when you get older you see the big picture. Things ain’t as serious… you don’t hold everything so tight like when you’re young. When you’re old, you’re just like “whatever, it’s just life, it’s just the way it is.” You either do something you want to do or you don’t, you don’t just go along with it anymore. I don’t just go along with it anymore.
Q: Would you want to do something like Them Crooked Vultures? After the Pistols, you did Chequered Past and Neurotic Outsiders with artists from other groups.
A: I’d like to do a cover song album with just me and a guitar and maybe a couple of bits and bobs.I think just for something to do, I think a labor of love. A bunch of cover songs.
Q: Would put it out yourself?
A: Yeah. Just cheap and cheerful on a little CD. A bit of artwork. Bang. Whatever.
Q: Give me your top four songs.
A: I hate being put on the spot. I can’t think right now…There would probably definitely be a Cliff Richard song on there.
Q: The Sex Pistols did five reunion shows for your 30th anniversary in 2007 and then did some festivals in 2008.
A: We did 30 shows in ’08 in the summer. All of Europe, Japan, Russia, yeah, 30 shows.
Q: Any thoughts of doing that again for the 35th anniversary?
A: Well, I do need a new roof so maybe that’s coming soon.
Q: So it’s all for the money?
A: Well, I hate to burst your bubble, but that’s all I’m doing it for and I think we all are if we’re really honest, you know. I think it doesn’t matter what we’re doing it for considered what we contributed to music, you know what I mean. If we’re doing it for money, so be it. We changed music in a form with the punk thing and we should be entitled to do what we want to do. We never made any dollar in the day, you know. Art Garfunkel took all the money.
Q: I don’t know that story.
A: Well, he looks like [former Sex Pistols manager] Malcolm McLaren (laughs). I always call him Malcolm McLaren.
Q: Have you ever met him?
A: Who? Art Garfunkel? No, but I love his voice man. He was the best thing about the Rock and Roll Hall of Sausages….It’s an angelic voice. They were great, they stole the show.
Q: Okay, now that you’re brought it up. Four years after the Sex Pistols skipped your induction ceremony for the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, calling the museum a “piss stain.” Any regrets?
A: No, we did exactly the right thing. Without a doubt. Even more now. It’s concrete that that was the right move.
Q: The Sex Pistols were so seminal and now what you’re doing is instead of playing the music, you’re introducing people to seminal acts through your radio show.
A: I love it, man. I remember when I first started doing it. People were like what is this guy doing? He was in a punk band, it should be all about punk, but that’s the last thing...I don’t want to interview punk people or play punk music. I’m doing things that I like and the whole ‘50s thing is, like I said, I was a big fan of. I think it’s great that a guy from the Sex Pistols can jam with Cliff Richards. Like I said before, I don’t care about that image thing. It don’t mean nothing. And things are more mish-mashed now anyways, but at the time people were giving me a lot of stick for playing a Journey song. Because that was like Journey and Boston, that was like one of my guilty pleasures.
Q: I don’t believe in guilty pleasures. You either like it or you don’t.
A: Exactly, but there was a period when I was in the Sex Pistols that I would go home and listen to Boston. I would get lynched if anyone knew it at the time.
Q: You’ve been in L.A. 27 years, but to hear you talk you’d think you just came off Carnaby Street. You still talk full-on British slang with a heavy accent. Is that your thing?
A: I guess so, my voice has never changed. Some people who come over here in two months, they start sounding half and half. I don’t know why. It’s not like I don’t want an American accent and I’m trying not to. I just don’t.