Emily Bedward catches up with the legendary Sex Pistols chief songwriter about his latest project, Blues Harmonica The Faces, The Funk Machine and more.
Doing a phone interview can sometimes be an unpleasant job, signals can get lost, you can awkwardly interrupt each other and there’s no intimacy of a face to face interview. Doing a phone interview with Glen Matlock however is pleasantly easy. He explains that he’s sat in his favourite coffee shop in London, which is close to his home, having a cappuccino and ready to have a chat with me. We have lots to chat about, which is no surprise having a career spanning over 40 years. He has forever changed rock ‘n’ roll history as chief songwriter with the Sex Pistols. The evolving path walked by Glen Matlock remains unbound by geography, genre or trend.
I begin by asking him about his latest project, ‘Good to Go’ another example of his ever expanding musical output.
“I think that if you keep doing the same thing that you did in the first place, it means that it’s clearly not good enough. Or, if it is good enough, it can become boring. I could have gone for something with more of an electronic element or with a bit more soul, even a punk ele- ment but the musicians that I chose to work with, they bought something else to the table. I bought in Slim Jim Phan- tom, who was the drummer of the Stray Cats.” Slim Jim Phantom is best known for his rockabilly style, which has had an obvious influence on his Glen Matlock’s latest release ‘Good to Go’.
The singer is about to release his latest music and mentions that he is always writing songs.
“I have more than a dozen going round my head at once and it fills your mind up and when they are about to be re- leased into the world, you need to give it some time and let it breathe a bit.”
With an extensive CV in the world of ‘Rock n Roll’ especially with regards to those he has worked with.. ;like The Sex Pistols, Iggy Pop and The Rich Kids, he says that the most influencial artist he’s ever played with is ‘The Faces’..
“I am pleased with what I did with the Pistols but I got to play with my all time favourite band, The Faces, we didn’t do too many shows, we did about 10 shows around the world. They were the band who inspired me in the first place and that’s what got me the gig with the Pis- tols in the first place, where I met Steve and Paul and they were looking for a bass player, it kind of took off from there somehow, they liked them, I liked them”
Though Glen has worked with some of the best Rock n Roll musicians in the industry, he explains that he loves what he’s doing now. .
“I get to play with great people, I am currently working with a great guitarist, Earl Slick. We have quite a funny thing going on. I like playing with Earl be- cause of his American influences. I have
been listening to American Rock n Roll, since I was a really young kid and this influence seeps into the music. It brings out the things I am trying to write.”
Earl Slick is best known for his collaborations with David Bowie, John Lennon, Yoko Ono, and Robert Smith. He has also worked with other artists including John Waite, Tim Curry and David Coverdale and will be playing alongside Glen when he performs at the Purple Turtle.
Glen has been deliberately taking some time out of his busy schedule. This is mainly due to wanting to write and re- cord his new album and he has been do- ing this since the middle of December, trying to finish off some of the lyrics be- fore going back on tour. Glen is looking forward to coming to Reading to play at the Purple Turtle. You would think that with a jam packed schedule, he would get tired of being on the road but the singer obviously has great stamina. “I love being on the road. I think all shows are good. As long as you can get some- thing out of it and give something to the people that are there, it’s an organic kind of thing.”
Although Glen is most well known for being the bass player in the Sex Pistols, he is by no means limited to the one in- struments as he goes on to explain:
“I play the guitar now because you can put on a better show! I can play bass quite well, some people might disagree with that.” he jokes. “I started playing guitar when I was really young but I
didn’t really persevere and picked it up again when I was fourteen, somebody at school had a bass guitar and I thought, that looks a bit easy and that’s how I got involved with Steve and Paul and that’s how the Sex Pistols emerged.. they were looking for a bass player.. I was in the right place at the right time.”
If you could choose one instrument, that you wish you could play, what would it be?
“Well, I do play a few things.. I play guitar, keyboard and also play the tam- bourine” which sparks some excitement where Glen goes onto tell me about a time ten years ago where he went to go and see a band at a festival, The Funk Brothers. “The Funk Brothers were all these older guys who played on every single popular Motown record and we got backstage and I shook hands with the lead man.. who was actually the tambourine player and I only went up to him because he had on a captains hat on.” he goes on to say.. “I would love to play the blues harmonica a bit better.. But, like most things, like singing and playing the guitar..just because I am not great at it, it won’t stop me.” he laughs.
I asked the singer how it feels that he changed a part of history being one of the chief songwriters for the Sex Pistols and he’s refreshingly understated about it.
“It was alright.. It’s a double edge sword, here we are talking about it 40 years lat- er, you’ve been generous to speak about what I am doing now, some people don’t.
It kind of holds you back a little bit.. But, on the other hand it’s a good thing. I’ve never really known anything different.” He pauses for a moment and goes onto explain “I read an interview with Keith Richards and the interviewee asks him “how much is a pint of milk?” Richards replies “I’ve been a rockstar all my life, I don’t bloody know?” “ I can relate, I’ve been in the Sex Pistols for most of my life, I don’t know anything different.”
Glen goes onto say that one of the most defining moments of being in the Sex Pistols was playing Finsbury Park where 36,000 people turned up.
“This when it dawned on us that we must have done something right. It wasn’t even just being part of the band. I had been part of the song writing, I played a big part in that. People were there because they dug something which is a fragment of our own imagi- nation for something I was doing when I was only eighteen years old, that was kind of weird.”
Glen wrote the music to all the Sex Pis- tols classics, including Anarchy In The UK and God Save The Queen, one of the best Rock songs ever. I ask him wheth- er the dynamics of his songwriting has changed since this time.
“It’s still the same old shit.. But, I think one of my strengths is that I know how to put a classic song together. The half of it, is what you are actually singing about and is it worth while? And is it some- thing that people can relate to and that’s what’s telling. In fact that’s the reason
why I don’t listen to alot of music today because when I do, it always ends up sounding like something that i’ve just listened to.”
For someone that has been there and done everything, it’s hard to imagine what possibly more that one could do. However, Glen has lots planned for 2020! I ask him about what he is most excited about.
“Coming to Reading!” We both have a chuckle together but he does really seem excited about venturing down to the Purple Turtle. “Though, I am looking forward to finishing an album, he men- tions that it will be out, just before or after summer, keep your eyes and ears peeled! “I’ve been slogging away.. doing my own thing and people are taking an interest and that’s what’s great!”
Glen performs with his band alongside Earl Slick (David Bowie, John Lennon, Robert Smith collaborator / guitarist)
for a Purple Turtle 30th Birthday special. Sunday 1st March, it starts at 6.30pm and runs till 9.30pm.