LONDON — For Steve Jones, direct has all the time been best. The Sex Pistols guitarist is understood for rejecting what he describes as fancy “Beatle chords” in favor of a sound without frills, and for drunken retorts on prime time British television.
This approach is on the fore in his 2016 book, “Lonely Boy: Tales From a Sex Pistol.” Within the introduction, he writes, “I’m not gonna come out of this smelling of roses,” before detailing the rampant kleptomania of his late teens and his sex addictions. There are also details of the sexual abuse by his stepfather, his descent into addiction after the band collapsed and the near illiteracy that hampered him until well into his adult life.
The book forms the premise for “Pistol,” a six-part series directed by Danny Boyle and arriving on FX/Hulu on Tuesday. The show stars Toby Wallace as Jones and Anson Boon because the Sex Pistols’ lead singer, John Lydon, referred to as Johnny Rotten.
Within the series, tensions abound between the exceptional and the odd, and dramatic license often overcomes fidelity to Jones’s experience. Preparations have been tense, too, with Lydon losing a lawsuit to the remaining of the band over the usage of Pistols music within the show.
In a recent phone interview, Jones discussed what he would do if he bumped into Lydon, how his story got modified to suit a TV format and the impact of the band’s manager, Malcolm McLaren. These are edited excerpts from the conversation.
What motivated you to put in writing the memoir?
There was just a whole lot of stuff I desired to get on the market, even the dodgy stuff. It was weird at first, but I got such a whole lot of feedback from it — from men, young guys, who experienced a whole lot of similar trauma stuff as kids. I didn’t realize that form of thing happens so much. Most guys don’t tell anybody, they take it to their grave, and it’s very unhealthy to try this. You possibly can’t carry that stuff around with you, you’ve got to maneuver on.
Within the book, you say you hadn’t minded playing second fiddle to Lydon, but when Sid Vicious joined the Pistols, you were left playing third fiddle. How does it feel to now be the dominant voice in “Pistol”?
I mean, it’s OK. I’m a team player, I don’t really like being the focus. I’d fairly be playing guitar than singing, I’ve all the time had that approach. I don’t really like all of the highlight at this stage of the sport, at 66 years old. But it surely is what it’s.
But surely that was a consideration when Danny Boyle approached you, that you simply’d be thrust into the highlight?
Well, in fact. But Boyle liked the proven fact that it was coming from my view. He said I used to be just like the engine room of the Sex Pistols, and liked coming from that angle, versus the apparent angle.
Through the eyes of Lydon?
Exactly. That’s normally the best way it goes. I got a shot at telling my story, based on my book. But you’ve got to recollect, it’s not a documentary. It’s a six-part series.
“Lonely Boy” is a reasonably frank tale that asks for little forgiveness. How well do you’re thinking that that comes across in “Pistol”?
Like I said, it’s based on my book. You’ve got to showbiz it up a little bit bit, you’ve got to make it interesting — even the connection between me and Chrissie Hynde, the “love interest.” She watched it the opposite day, and she or he was surprised: She said, “I didn’t realize I used to be about this much.”
“Pistol” presents that as a recurring relationship. Is that quite the way it happened?
I knew Chrissie, we did hang around a bit within the early days, she desired to be a musician, and I form of brushed her off, in order that is all true. But she was shocked when she saw it last week.
But I do think it’s a very good story. Even when it wasn’t so long as that, my relationship along with her, I just think the best way it’s been written makes it interesting. If you happen to’re a train spotter, you’re going to hate it, since it’s not within the timeline, but whatever.
One other unexpected narrative is the best way Malcolm McLaren (played by Thomas Brodie-Sangster) and Vivienne Westwood (Talulah Riley) are presented as parent figures. What was your relationship with the pair of them like?
That they had a flat in Clapham, and I used to go and stay over there. That they had Ben and Joe [Westwood’s children], but Ben didn’t stay over much, so I might sleep in one in every of the bunk beds with Joe. I just used to hang around with them, at Cranks, the vegetarian restaurant in Carnaby Street. I used to drive Malcolm around to the tailors within the East End because he couldn’t drive.
[Meeting them] was an actual turning point for me, and that’s where my loyalty lay. Malcolm showed me a unique side of life — that whole avant-garde, Chelsea “posh toffs” scene. And I loved it. I used to be not headed anywhere good the best way I used to be going, so I’m all the time grateful for him and Viv for that. Regardless that you couldn’t trust him, I still didn’t care.
Early in your relationship, McLaren helped you avoid a jail sentence. Repaying that debt seems to justify a whole lot of your actions in “Pistol.” Did that weigh heavily in your relationship?
That was just one a part of it. I actually liked hanging out with him. One minute he’d be talking like a toff, and the following like a cop. In all honesty, he really made all of it occur, and he doesn’t get enough credit for it. I don’t think it could have happened without him.
Did it trouble you that Lydon didn’t need to be involved in “Pistol”?
We wanted him to be involved. It might have been good if he had been on board. If the shoe was on the opposite foot, we’d have all been thrilled, if it had been his book and Danny Boyle desired to do something similar. At this stage of the sport, we’re grown men, I don’t know why he’s not interested. But it surely’s par for his personality for him to not need to be involved. Possibly he’ll secretly watch it and have a chuckle.
Is the “Pistol” fallout the ultimate straw in your relationship with Lydon?
I don’t know, I haven’t considered it. It’s not like we hang around anyway. I live in L.A., he lives in L.A., I’ve been here 35 years, and he got here just after me, and we’ve never been occupied with hanging out. The last time I saw him was in 2008, after we played a load of European gigs. We don’t need to hang around, I’m good with that, we don’t should be pals. But I do have respect for him, absolutely.
What would you do when you bumped into him on the shops?
I’d probably run and conceal behind the baked beans.
Danny Boyle has said “Pistol” imagines “breaking into the world of ‘The Crown’ and ‘Downton Abbey’ together with your mates and screaming your songs and your fury in any respect they represent.” When did you realize you had the facility to shake things up?
The Grundy thing [a notorious interview of the Sex Pistols by Bill Grundy on British TV in 1976] took it into a unique sphere. The facility got here from having a label, then them giving us the boot, getting a label, getting the boot again. We were calling it on our terms, which was unheard-of back then.
The Grundy thing was the start of the tip. So far as making any more music, the creative side was out the window. The best way I checked out it, then it became the leather-jacket brigade all over the place. It became mainstream, it lost its originality. Before Grundy, you had the Clash, the Buzzcocks, a bunch of bands that were very creative in their very own ways.
The tip of “Pistol” ties things up quite neatly. Were you joyful with where the series ended?
I did like the best way it ended. There have been a pair of various endings that I wasn’t keen about; [this one] left you with a feel-good-y form of way versus not being cheesy about it.
What were the opposite endings?
There was one where the solid were interviewed about their experiences, and one in every of those “Where are they now?” form of endings, which was horrible to be honest with you. I’m so joyful Danny ditched that one.
It does pass over the third a part of your book though, the fallout of the Pistols and your quite tragic personal aftermath. Were you OK with that?
It could have gone on, but it surely would have began getting boring afterward. You don’t want to go to sleep listening to what I’ve been doing after the Pistols.