PUNK legend and former Sex Pistols front man John Lydon is heading for Southampton.

The music icon has announced The Public Image is Rotten tour to celebrate 40 years of his band Public Image Limited PiL and told the Daily Echo he plans to get “eyeball to eyeball” with fans in an intimate gig at Southampton’s Engine Rooms on Saturday June 30.

The 61-year-old singer - known as Johnny Rotten in his Sex Pistols days - was just 20 when he released the debut Pistols single Anarchy In The UK. which opened with the line: “ I am an anti-Christ, I am an anarchist; don’t know what I want but I know how to get it.”

He rose to notoriety in 1976 when he and the Pistols swore during a live TV interview and they caused further upset by provocatively releasing God Save The Queen at the time of the Queen’s Silver Jubilee, scoring a number two hit.

The scathing Never Mind the Bollocks – a nihilistic antidote to everything that preceded it – became a landmark album that saw the singer branded as a threat to society. By 1978, the band collapsed under the weight of constant controversy and mismanagement. Bassist Sid Vicious had died and after a disastrous US tour Lydon ditched the ‘Johnny Rotten’ name, forming the more experimental Public Image Ltd with bassist Jah Wobble and former Clash guitarist Keith Levene.

Over the years he has gone from being considered an enfant terrible of the music business to becoming a familiar face to millions of viewers - albeit an affably cantankerous one - after taking part in I’m A Celebrity ... Get Me Out Of Here!, hosting wildlife shows and, bizarrely, starring in a TV ad for butter.

Now, to accompany the tour PiL will release a career–spanning box set and a documentary of the same name, the latter of which premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival in New York and then had its European premiere at London’s Raindance Festival in 2017. Directed by Tabbert Fiiller, it will be released later this year in select cinemas.

Frequently cackling with laughter during my 25 minute phone call to LA - just as in his famous intro to Anarchy in the UK, John told me: “Yes I’m in La LA land! I’ve been here about 25 years.

“I’m deep rooted.Time flies when you are having fun – even the miserable hard times. But I’m not one for self pity. If tragedy is in your life it’s there for a reason.”

Certainly he has had his ups and downs in life and I ask him why PiL had a 17 year hiatus, before the money from his butter adverts helped them get back on the road.

“It was due to the record company’s lack of involvement; they wouldn’t support us but they also wouldn’t let us off our contract – how rotten!”, he said, almost laughing at his play on words

“I did TV for nature programmes and rediscovered myself – like Jesus in the wilderness and now I know a different pulse to life. It’s always good when forced to think outside the box.

“ I’m not one to rest on my laurels. I just happen to be making the best music of my life because of it - a good soul-seeking clear out and a lot of child- raising all well and truly adds to things ...and I’m as incompetent as ever!”

He has step-children and step grandchildren with his wife Nora Foster, the German publishing heiress he married in 1979.

His step daughter Ari Up, a punk star with The Slits died in 2010 from cancer after refusing traditional treatment. Family life has obviously mellowed the former angry young man.

“You have to take on responsibility looking after others and having step grand kids certainly helped.”

Referring to involvement with the Parents Teacher Association he quipped: “ I’ve gone from PiL to PTA and back to PiL again!

“It’s another discipline. You can end up thinking relatively selfishly in the music business about things, be so grandiose and self important.

“Looking after other people’s lives knocks some sense in to you. And friends, family and Nora provide heavy chastisement and keep you in check or you could come seriously unstuck!”

He also shared his views on his deep bond with Nora.

“We’ve been together for 45 years. Once you make a decision it’s for ever. I’m not that 16 year old any more.

“We have our own bond and we call it marriage. What’s there is the sense of values I have.

“I don’t have morals because that suggests a religious backdrop and I’m not one for mass consumption. It’s about values.

“Always I am inclined to help the disenchanted and that’s probably due to looking after my mother when I was young and bringing my brothers to school; that’s my way- I’m practically a house maid,” he laughed.

Added to this, John also suffered childhood meningitis which put him in a coma, erased his memory and left him unable to recognise his own parents.

The four-year ordeal, which began when he was just seven and living in London, was “cruel and tortuous”, as he believed it was all his own fault.

“Not being able to remember your own name or your mother and father, or anything at all, and for little bits of that to be coming in over a period of four years, was pretty close to torture.

“I had to believe these were my mum and dad. They were kind. They seemed to want me.”

But he looks on his time as a young carer as a positive experience:

“I was young and it was great as it kept me occupied. It was a great thing, even though I didn’t know them because I’d lost my memory. I was still a good person and that’s great being able to look at each other outside in. I looked at my illness as a bonus.

“It took about four or five years and gradually my memory came back with all the guilt trips about how could you forget your parents.

“You have to make the best of things. I could have grown up a dullard. It makes me a stickler for the truth. I hate liers. I feel pity for them but not empathy. I have empathy for most people in life but not liers…ha! I picked the wrong industry there!But then music picked me, not me it.”

Of his music he says writing is an every day thing for him: “I write anyway – it keeps my brain occupied. There’s no organisation in it. It comes in bursts. You could call it inspiration.

“I like my songs to be accurate portrayals of real things so I’m very much an open novel and write about things personal to me and people I know. There are certain songs where I tear myself to pieces when I’m on stage. I think, I’ve tried hard. I’m not perfect but I’m working at it. I’m a slow learner!”

Despite confessing to on-stage doubts he says he is proud of his work and has no desire to stop.

“It’s an incredible body of work. I’m fortunate it’s so influential.I’m quite young mentally so here’s to the next 40 years! “

As regards the running and organisation of the band he says the are now a steady ship, adding:

“I try to organise the un- organisation. I’m a stickler for time. If I meet someone it must be to the minute- I don’t like letting them down; I don’t want them to go away with any pain.

“The band has had various changes of line-up in the past but is now very settled. There’s a great sense of loyalty with us these days . I’ve always wanted that good bond of friendship.

“That’s not always been the case but this last 10 years has been excellent. I used to think you should hate everyone in the group - and them you, but it’s not true!

“It’s an excellent world of openness – I love being this alert and confident in myself.

“I’m not blaming previous members or record labels for the past- that’s the way this business is.

“It’s very healthy for us now. I don’t pick people because of their musicianship but for their personality; a lousy person isn’t going to adapt and most people are not very adaptable.

“You have to get on – it’s a good lesson in life, but who knows what will happen in 10 years – nothing is permanent.”

Of his audiences he said: “PiL audiences come from a great variety of backgrounds, races, cultures and ages. It’s quite frankly a church without religion, from very young to very old- it’s very heart-warming.

“It’s important to be able to see your audience right up close. If we don’t get that eye ball to eye ball experience I’m not happy.”

And he much prefers smaller venues rather than stadiums for that reason, unlike today’s top bands of whom he said: “Most of them are mime artists – even at festivals, it’s scandalous.

“I hope to get decent eye ball contact in Southampton. At any age I always give 100 per cent and probably more. I don’t like walking off stage until I’m exhausted.”

Will he play Sex Pistols material?

“There’s no need for it really. I don’t think the PiL crowd really appreciate it when you have all those really good PiL songs.”

Is he proud of the Sex Pistols?

“I’m proud of all of it because it was a very difficult thing to go through because I was thrown in the deep end at the time and it was sink or swim and I came out of it pretty unscathed.

“I irritated all the right people for all the right reasons.”

For tickets visit: www.pillofficial.com