IT is with some trepidation that I pick up the phone to dial John Lydon.

After all this is John Lydon, Johnny Rotten, scourge of the establishment, destroyer of interviewers, a man who specialises in withering put downs.

“Allo,” says the all-too familiar voice on the other end of the line.

Well, there’s no backing out now.

Time to pluck up courage and talk to one of the most influential figures in music over the past 30 years.

In truth the next 20 minutes fly by.

Lydon is funny, outrageous and liable to go off at a tangent at any moment.

He can still rant with the best of them but there’s a warmth and a basic humanity that the thousands of screaming headlines over the years have totally ignored.

With the Sex Pistols, Lydon was vilified. At the vanguard of punk he apparently symbolised all that was wrong with youth culture.

Society was supposedly under threat from his bondage trouser wearing followers.

“I suppose I have always stood up for the disenfranchised,” he said.

“From my earliest days people told me what I couldn’t do or couldn’t be.

“I just thought ‘I’m not having that’ and set out to prove them wrong. I haven’t really changed since then.”

Lydon is due to go back on tour with Public Image, the band he formed after the demise of the Pistols, a band which only in recent years has been acknowledged as being hugely influential on the music scene.

“I love music, always have always will do,” he said.

“There’s so much in music to satisfy myself with.

“It’s somewhere I can truly be myself.”

* Public Image Ltd play 53 Degrees in Preston on Tuesday, June 7. Tickets £25. Call 01772 893000.