SXSW Unauthorized Interview: Steve Jones of the Sex Pistols
At SXSW in Austin, we caught up with Steve Jones, former guitarist with the Sex Pistols. He played an odd little gig far from the SXSW action, at a Best Buy store in south Austin. Because it was out of the way (and out of range for the SXSW shuttles) there were no official badges or wristbands present, just hardcore fans.
Jones is, of course, the self-taught guitarist who stole his equipment from Mick Ronson at a David Bowie gig and with Johnny (Lydon) Rotten, founded one of the most influential rock bands of the 20th century. Since the Pistols crashed and burned in 1978, Jones has played with a number of illuminaries including Bob Dylan, Thin Lizzy, Adam Ant, Joan Jett, Iggy Pop, Megadeth and his band the Neurotic Outsiders.
Since 2004 he has also been a radio personality in L.A., broadcasting his “Jonesy’s Jukebox” from Indie 103.1 until this year, when the station went Spanish. That’s what we asked Jonesy about first.
30 Days Out: Do you have another radio show lined up? You’re not going to learn to speak Spanish are ya?
Steve Jones: Well, I have a couple of irons in the fire right now … there’s another station in L.A. that might be getting something together along the lines of Indie 103.1, and I could do that. I’ve also been talking to Sirius (satellite radio) and could do something for them too. Right now I’m just taking it easy and sort of enjoying the down time, you know?
30 Days Out: You were really involved in picking the music for the radio show, right?
Steve Jones: Oh yeah. If it was just talking between the songs and bits like that, I wouldn’t have done it. All the music on that show, that was music I like.
30 Days Out: What brings you to South by Southwest this year?
Steve Jones: I actually drove down here from L.A. and eventually I’m going to make my way up the East Coast to New York. I did one of these Best Buy things in L.A. and it was very popular, so I was asked to do this one. The past few years I’ve been at SXSW doing my radio show from here, did you ever hear it?
30 Days Out: Well, we were here … but you did a great interview with Iggy Pop a few years ago.
Steve Jones: Yeah, the Stooges reunion in 2007. I have talked with Iggy about doing something with him again, maybe playing guitar in a lineup of the Stooges. Not that I could hope to replace Ron (Asheton, who died earlier this year) but we could mix it up a bit, do a few Pistols songs. You know, we were influenced by the Stooges … the Sex Pistols did “No Fun” on our American tour.
30 Days Out: So is that Stooges thing on?
Steve Jones: Well, it won’t happen this year because Iggy doesn’t want to tour. Maybe next year … don’t really know what form it could take, really, it’s all just talk.
30 Days Out: I saw you play with the Pistols in San Antonio in 1978 … do you have any memory of those shows?
Steve Jones: Yeah, what a hoot. We knew it was going to be wild when we came to Texas, because we played in the most redneck areas. We were like lightning in a bottle … That kind of thing can’t be planned, it may never happen again. Not the same way, anyhow.
This wasn’t really a formal interview, I certainly didn’t tell anyone I was going to write this up. I actually didn’t think I was going to write this up. I asked Steve the questions over a two hour period, just tossing ’em out when he took a break. He answered between sips of bottled tea and loud open-mouthed burps (once into the microphone). He was at the Best Buy to give away a Les Paul guitar, and conveniently playing it while doing (as advertised) a “guitar seminar” where he was to give tips on tuning and stuff. Well, Jones called a Best Buy employee over who held an electronic tuner while he got the guitar in tune.
At first Jones didn’t know what to do, strumming a few chords and whistling a tune and asking people to guess what he was playing. After that failed, he invited people from the sparse crowd (about 25 people at first, it grew later to a throng of 35) to come up and sing. This guy in a three-pointed pirate hat came up and ripped out a wild version of “God Save the Queen” then this other dude who had a cassette copy of Never Mind the Bollocks came up and did a great version of “Pretty Vacant.” Steve also did a solo version of the Pistols’ “Bodies” and threw in all the “fucks” and “fuckings” from the original.
Then Jones invited his running buddy Michael Des Barres to sing “Anarchy In the U.K.” and we had a rockin’ time going. A second guitar and amp materialized, and other guys stepped up to play with Jones. Finally, Des Barres and the pirate guy “Captain Fleabag” jammed with Jones on a nice version of “Everyday People” which segued into a rockin’ “Proud Mary,” while Pamela Des Barres (yeah, that chick) danced. Michael Des Barres is a great singer – he should have been singing all along.
Needless to say, it was a strange and strangely exhilarating Saturday morning at SXSW – in a Best Buy, of all places.