IT is with some trepidation that I dial the number for John Lydon. After all this is Johnny Rotten we're talking about; the godfather of punk, a man the tabloids once believed was a threat to civilisation as we know it.

After three long single rings (I'm calling him at his home in the States) the great man picks up.

"It's alive," he chuckles down the line, "coming to a town near you."

He most certainly is.

With Public Image Limited, the band he formed after leaving the Sex Pistols in 1978, Lydon will play King George's Hall, Blackburn, as part of a European tour in June - and he's genuinely excited by the prospect.

"I love playing towns like Blackburn," he said. "They are my people, they get it. They see me without hatred or prejudice. You can get up close and personal which is a brilliant way with connecting with people."

Connecting with people is something Lydon has been doing quite a lot of recently.

Last year PIL released their tenth studio album What the World Needs Now which made the UK album charts. And Lydon released his autobiography, Anger is an Energy, a wonderfully frank account of his remarkable life.

In it he talks about his harsh upbringing in London. The conditions were so bad he contracted spinal meningitis from the rats that could often be found around. This left him in a coma for several months and as a result he suffered total memory loss.

"It made me the person I am today," he said. "I wouldn't change any of it."

His illness certainly shaped his opinions on life.

"Because I couldn't remember anything I had to trust that what people were telling me was the truth," he said. "If they said I liked bananas then I had to believe I liked bananas.

"I didn't realise that some people actually lie and when I did discover that I was so hurt. I'm pretty tolerant person but the one thing I cannot abide is a liar."

Outspoken - certainly, controversial - occasionally, Lydon is also disarmingly charming and extremely intelligent with a voracious appetite for knowledge.

"I could read before I went to school," he said, "then when I got to school I had to just sit there to let the other kids try and catch up. The teachers were hopeless."

Thanks to his teachers lack of action and his illness which meant he had to learn to read again, John developed a passion which remains to this day - a love of libraries.

"I adore reading," he said. "When I went into the local library there were all these brilliant people there who were so helpful and recommended books. I'd come from school not having learned anything all day and then spend all night in the library improving my education.

"Libraries are a great institution and I can't see how so many of them can be under threat, they are so important."

The current line-up of PIL featuring guitarist Lu Edmonds, drummer Bruce Smith and bassist Scott Firth have been together longer than any previous incarnation of the group and with What the World Needs Now being released on the band's own label you sense that Lydon has never been happier in his music.

"I always thought the security blanket of being on a record label would help us and in certain aspects it possibly did," he said. "But the problem with record companies is that they can't resist trying to take over. But I don't do dictators, I have to speak as I find and do it my way.

"The record company was reluctant to let me go so I had to go and get myself a little bit of telly to buy my way out (Lydon famously went into the jungle on I'm A Celebrity).

"Now I'm in a position with the band that I'll sink or swim by my own efforts and it's given me a flexibility and freedom I've never had before.

"I think band members get confused by big labels whereas now no-one is at the top of the pile barking orders. It is very liberating."

Having lived in the States for over 30 years it's not surprising to find that Lydon has an opinion on the presidential race which has seen Donald Trump making all the headlines.

"There aren't many more groups of people more untrustworthy than politicians," he said, "apart from businessmen.

"There is so much aggression and hatred creeping in to politics.

"I liked Obama before he became president and I still do even if he has become a ponderous bureaucrat along the way. But Trump is a great pyramid salesman which relies on him being at the top. I just hope common sense prevails in the end."

Public Image Limited, King George's Hall, Blackburn, Thursday, June 2. Details from 0844 847 1664.