TRIGGER HAPPY – Sex Pistol Glen Matlock On Enjoying Life As A Solo Performer, As He Releases New Album ‘Good To Go’

Sex Pistols – you go years without encountering one – and then three come along at once.

No sooner had EP’s Matt Catchpole finished recounting the exploits of John Lydon and Paul Cook at Camden Rocks, than he got the chance to have a chat with Glen Matlock ahead of the release of his new solo album Good To Go.

Replaced by Sid Vicious – so the legend goes – for the heinous crime of “liking The Beatles“, Matlock has been arguably the busiest of the ex-Pistols ever since.

Shortly after quitting, he formed power pop quartet Rich Kids in 1977, sharing lead vocals with a pre-Ultravox Midge Ure.

The short-lived group made one Mick Ronson-produced album, Ghosts of Princes in Towers, after which Matlock toured with Iggy Pop and played bass on his Soldier album.

A tireless live performer, he’s gone on to have stints in numerous bands including his beloved Faces, along with three Pistols reunion tours.

He’s twice revived Rich Kids for one-off shows and released an autobiography I Was A Teenage Sex Pistol, along with several solo albums with his backing group The Philistines.

Now he’s back with a new band, featuring David Bowie sideman Earl Slick on guitar and a catchy collection of songs, ranging from swampy blues-rock to skiffle and rockabilly.

To celebrate the release of Good To Go he’ll be playing a five-night residency in London, starting on July 30.

But before all that, armed only with an acoustic guitar, he’ll be doing his bit to make the world a safer place by performing at a peace festival in the demilitarised zone on the border between North and South Korea.

A Teenage Sex Pistol – Matlock (2nd left) with Lydon, Jones and Cook

So Glen, tell us about the new album Good To Go

It’s some stuff that I recorded a year and a half, two years ago, in upstate New York with some mates of mine – Slim Jim Phantom from the Stray Cats on drums, Earl Slick on guitar – and it’s a bit of a departure for me. It’s an album I’m kinda pleased with, songs I’ve been writing for the past few years. What I’ve been trying to do with this album is put a band together and instead of just doing the punk thing – just do something different. If I want to play punk music I’ll do it with The Sex Pistols.

How did Earl Slick come to be involved?

I’ve done a couple of little things with Earl, I had a little project with him and Clem Burke (Blondie) that nothing really happened on, but we kept in touch. I was with Slim Jim and I told him I’d like to record in America, so it sounds a bit different.  I said: ‘Any ideas for a guitarist?’ and he said: ‘Well how about Slick?’  I said I knew him and he said ‘Well he’s a big buddy of mine!’ So that worked out okay. We’ve got some gigs coming up. I’m playing a residency at a place called Boisdale in Canary Wharf 30, 31 July and 1,2,3 of August and Earl’s going to come over and play, so that’ll be pretty cool. Chris Musto {The Philistines, Johnny Thunders} is gonna play drums – he’s an old friend of mine and my mate Jim Lowe, who produces the Stereophonics, is going to play bass – he played bass on the album. It’s a bit like trying to organise a cricket team, because not everybody’s always available. I’ve got quite a busy couple of months coming up before that. I’m going to Korea – I’m playing at the Peace Train Festival in the demilitarised zone right on the border, which’ll be interesting and then I’ve got some wacky show on the banks of the Ganges in India. So I’m getting around a bit.

Give ’em enough rope – Glen with Earl Slick and Slim Jim Phantom

Do you enjoy playing in these unusual places?

Who wouldn’t? You get paid to go and show off at thoroughly interesting places. I’ve done about 35-40 gigs this year already. I did a big tour opening for a band called The Dropkick Murphys all round Europe and I couldn’t believe how big they were and I don’t think they could believe it either. I mean we were playing something like 15,000-seaters. There was just me and my acoustic, but it went down really well.

Do you enjoy being a frontman, as opposed to playing bass in a band?

I’ve been doing it a long time, I’ve done hundreds and hundreds of gigs with just an acoustic guitar all round the world and it always goes down really well. I don’t pretend to be The Great Caruso, but I think I’ve got a way of presenting myself that people seem to dig. I’ve made quite a few albums off my own back. I always think nobody’s going to sing a song you’ve written and mean it as much as the bloke who actually wrote the words, so that’s why I do it.

You cover Scott Walker’s Montague Terrace on the new album. Are you a fan of his work?

I think he’s fantastic – he’s got a real particular slant and take on life. I think some of his later stuff is a bit too left field for me. There’s nothing wrong with that, but it doesn’t make me want to rush out and buy it.

I saw you recently playing with Heaven 17 as part of their British Electric Foundation set – how did you come to hook up with them?

Yeah I’ve another one coming up with them at a festival in Skipton at the end of the month. I just like doing different things – it makes life interesting. They’re a good bunch of lads. I’m quite fortunate that through doing what I did many years ago, I’ve kind of got to know and to play with people who influenced us and who we influenced. It’s a nice little position to be in – to straddle both worlds.

You’re always described as the technically proficient one in The Sex Pistols – how experienced a musician were you when the band started?

Oh do you know what? I was about two weeks ahead of Steve, but don’t tell him that! Everybody had their own way of going about things. Steve was really keen, originally when I joined them, he was the singer and there was another guitarist involved. It wasn’t The Sex Pistols then, it was their kind of school band and then the other guitarist left and Steve started getting better on the guitar and he realised he wasn’t going to be the right singer – he was like a cross between Tom Jones and Steve Ellis {Love Affair} – and that’s when we went on the lookout for a singer and found John. And then it all kind of clicked. Steve was like a character out of Jean Genet book – he was a real livewire scoundrel, unabashedly so. To me Steve was really the spirit of the Sex Pistols and when we found John he could put that spirit into words. He had the gift of the gab. But John didn’t write all of the words. Steve wrote Lazy Sod that was his idea originally, Pretty Vacant was my song, Submission me and John both wrote the words together and I worked out the music and then Steve and Paul both put their stamp on it.

When you left the Pistols was it a relief to get off that rollercoaster?

Yes it was – it seemed like quite a good idea at the time and to be honest I didn’t stop. I got approached by a guy called Mike Thorne, he’s still a big friend of mine, he was the junior A&R guy at EMI and he said: ‘Look, can I take you out for a curry?’ I said: ‘Who’s paying?’ and he said: ‘EMI’ and I went “Oh all right then!” He said: ‘Listen, we know there’s a problem between you and John in the band and as a record company and a friend we hope you sort it out, but if you don’t, both myself and EMI would be more than interested in anything you come up with.’ I was having so many rucks with John at that time, I thought to myself this is more trouble than it’s worth. All the record companies were chasing us trying to get a slice of punk rock.

Rich Kids – (L-R) Midge Ure, Rusty Egan, Glen Matlock and Steve New

So you left and formed Rich Kids with Midge Ure?

Yeah, I’m proud of that band. Maybe we could have waited a bit longer – the album we made, I think the first side is great, but the second side maybe we could have had a few more songs – but through that I met and worked with Mick Ronson – he kind of appreciated my bass playing and he roped me into playing bass with him and Clive Bunker and Ian Hunter on the You’re Never Alone With a Schizophrenic sessions. So this band thing opens up doors to things.

You reformed Rich Kids recently, any plans for more shows?

I enjoyed doing it and Gary Kemp (Spandau Ballet) stood in for (guitarist/vocalist) Steve New, who sadly passed away about eight years ago now. We just did it for the hell of it really. We could possibly have done more, but everybody’s got their individual things going. I like that band and who knows? But it looks unlikely.

He ain’t heavy – Glen and Sid

You, Steve New and Rat Scabies backed Sid Vicious as Vicious White Kids – do you think he had potential as a singer?

We just did a one-off gig for a laugh more than anything else, just before he went off to America. I actually enjoyed doing it and we did it to show the world that we weren’t enemies and Sid was actually a good singer. He was a rotten bass player and he was a total liability, but he was a good frontman. The thing is he didn’t have that lyrical style like John had.

Why do you think there’s still so much interest in the punk era now?

There were so many things that came together. The look, the graphics, the art, the fashion. There was the anti-establishment stance. It just all came together in a way that hasn’t really happened since. It just clicked – the right thing at the right time. People were looking for something.

Stuck in a ruck – John and Glen

Could it happen again?

I don’t know, but if you speak to heavy duty hip hop kids, from Detroit or somewhere like that, they’ll more than likely say it’s already happening! Just ‘cos it’s not happening in some white, safe, European way, doesn’t mean it’s not happening somewhere. Who knows?

Did you ever imagine you’d still be playing after all these years?

Rightly or wrongly, I never really looked past the end of the week and I still don’t. I’m too old to change horses now, but as long as the phone keeps ringing and Twitter and Facebook keep going I’ll be happy.

And just before I let you go, should fans hold out any hope of another Pistols reunion?

I’m not holding my breath. If I got a phone call I’d entertain the idea, but I can’t see it happening to be honest. But there’s plenty more fish to fry. I’m happy with what I’m doing at the moment.

  • Good To Go is due to be released on August 24th.
  • Info and tickets for Glen’s residency at Boisedale of Canary Wharf here
  • Keep up with Glen Matlock on Facebook and Twitter

 

 

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