April 27, 2023 Interview – Glen Matlock
Life is clearly unpredictable. No one knows what tomorrow will bring, and even the best laid plans never seem to pan out exactly as expected. Beginning while only a teenager, Glen Matlock would find himself joining up with a unique bunch of fellows who would become known as the Sex Pistols. A band out of London, arriving at a time where there was a yearn for change, Sex Pistols would stand out with their aggression and free-thinking attitude which would eventually ignite the Punk Rock movement.
An unforgettable time in the life of Matlock, what happened after the Sex Pistols was a whole different story filled with excitement and intrigue. First launching Rich Kids, which featured future Ultravox member Midge Ure and Rusty Egan, Matlock would be a part of various other projects through the years before launching his own solo career. First beginning the solo artist portion of his journey in 1996, since then, he has put out various albums, with his latest, Consequences Coming, due out April 28, 2023. An exciting time for the seasoned musician, Matlock recently took some time to talk about his career, his time with the Sex Pistols, joining up with Blondie, his new album, plus more.
Cryptic Rock – You have been involved in music for many decades. A key member of Sex Pistols early on, you would go on to work with Midge Ure with Rich Kids, among others. A lengthy, eclectic career, how would you describe everything to this point?
Glen Matlock – I would say it’s been up and down; like a soundwave with a few good peaks, but with a few good drops as well. The trick is to try and rationalize it, and have some straighter line going through it. Looking back, maybe I haven’t done too bad at doing that. It seems unfortunate enough that you are trying to do something and you might feel you are hitting your head against a brick wall… then the phone rings.
That is kind of what has happened, because I’m out now primarily playing with Blondie. That is something that came out of the blue and not something I had even thought would happen in my wildest dreams. I’ve been friends with Clem Burke for a long time, so it wasn’t so outlandish, and they were short of a bass player this time last year, so they asked me to do it. That is cool, and it has coupled with me putting an album out. It’s all part and parcel of being a musician these days.
One of the things that is hard for a guy like me is I don’t have a massive record company backing me up. Even when I keep a regular band together, back in England and here in America, everybody is juggling loads of balls all the time. It must be like, in England, trying to keep a Sunday cricket team together, or in America, an amateur baseball team. Not everybody is in the same place all the time, so everybody diversifies. I couldn’t really afford to fly my guys over for the show I am playing on April 29th; Clem offered to play drums (because we are playing together anyway), and he suggested we get Gilby Clarke in (who I’ve never really met before). I think that’s the good thing about musicians, everyone mucks in.
For every record that comes out that might be successful, or ones that are not even that successful, there are ten times as many cassettes/CDS sitting in a draw with various different lineups of musicians who have gotten together to try and do something to see what comes of it. That’s what I enjoy about being a musician, people are willing to just give something a go… because you never know what is going to become of it.
Now, with The Pistols, going back a long time ago, it was lucky that everybody came together in the right place at the right time with the right initial chemistry. It became big quite relatively quickly for all of us, but that doesn’t always happen like that.
Cryptic Rock – Yes, and life as a musician ebbs and flows. You have stood strong for four plus decades and diversified. You have also worked with Iggy Pop, among many others. What is like working with all these different personalities?
Glen Matlock – I think pretty much most musicians are coming from the same place; for the reason I said before… they want to give things a go. When you become a musician of a certain caliber, you tend to play like your personality a little bit. It transcends the technicality of things. You are sort of getting along with like-minded souls. Being in a band is life in microcosm. Somebody might be a bit grumpy, but means well, or, somebody means well, but isn’t quite so good, but will really give it a go like a dog wagging its tail.
It’s fun, but it’s not always that. I think one of the best things that has ever happened to musicians in the last twenty years is the invention of the mobile phone. Instead of sitting at home for the phone call that doesn’t come, you can go out and have a coffee waiting for the phone call that doesn’t come. (Laughs) It happens to all of us, but then sometimes the phone does ring, and it leads you on a journey.
Every time you play with somebody, you might not realize it, but you pick up something that sort of seeps in there somehow by osmose. Then when you play with someone else, you have a little bit more cents to the dollar that is wealth that is your experience… and you can bring that to the next project.
Cryptic Rock – Makes perfect sense. While you have offered your talents to others, it has been around thirty years since you started putting out solo records. Writing and recording your own music is different from writing and recording with a band. What has it been like for you to write your own records, opposed to working on someone else’s record?
Glen Matlock – Well, it’s been a bit of a struggle because people seem to pigeonhole you that you’re the bloke who used to be the bass player in a famous band. If you are a bass player, they want to pigeonhole you that you shouldn’t be the lead singer. I have never accepted that, so through bloody minded stupidity, and possibly thick skin, I just do it anyway.
The thing is, if you write songs (which I do), once you have twelve songs knocking around in your head, your brain is full. You have to have an outlet for it which normally turns into you making a record. I have a bit more of a team around me now and I think that makes more people aware of what I’m doing now. I like to live in the present. I will tip my cap to the past, but I like to live in the present and look toward the future. I’m always more interested in a new song than anything else really. Maybe now I’m seeing the benefit of that. The label I’m with now, Cooking Vinyl, is actually going to reissue my last couple of albums which may have fallen on stony ground, but I think are kind of good. Maybe that will get a new lease of life too, so life is kind of cool!
Cryptic Rock – Yes, and it is great that some older stuff might get some more exposure. Let’s talk about the new album, Consequences Coming. This new album has a clear observatory, political undertone to it.
Glen Matlock – Yes, and quite deliberately so. You don’t put a record out because you recorded it a day before that, and wrote all the songs the day before that… there is a whole gestation period. The gestation period was what was going on in Britain just before the very convenient lockdown thing happened. Then there was Brexit, and the sort of lurch to the right to the conservatives in our country, and how they curtailed our freedom of movement in Europe. As a musician that is a pretty bad thing, I wasn’t happy about it, so I thought I would write some songs. Well, I didn’t actually sit down and decide to write songs about it… that was just what was on my mind and what came out, really. I don’t think it’s good enough and I’m trying to call a few people out; and I don’t think I’m the only person who is doing it.
I did want the songs to come out earlier, maybe last year, but when you are a bit older, and you’re not Taylor Swift, no one is giving you a million dollars to be on the Letterman Show or whatever it is; it’s a bit of a struggle to get things out. I got it out and I was beginning to think I missed the boat, but I was recently in New York and I had to go uptown to Rockefeller Plaza, meanwhile, coming down Fifth Avenue from Trump Tower was Donald Trump going to the courthouse to be arraigned. I thought I had missed the boat with what I was trying to say, but I actually hadn’t at all and the timing has been pretty good. I’m not sure what your politics are, but he’s not my flavor of the month.
Cryptic Rock – (Laughs) Well, no matter where anyone stands with any political views, we can all agree this is a very unstable, strange time in human history.
Glen Matlock – Definitely, everything has become very polarized. I think it’s wrong and I’m just trying to do my little bit in whatever way I can to call it out. I think in England there is beginning to be a little bit of a dim light at the end of the tunnel; people are seeing that they have been hoodwinked and are wising up to it.
Some of the songs I wrote a few years back wishing that would happen. Like the single “Head on a Stick,” which is what I would like to think metaphorically happened to some of these people. They should be held to account. Boris Johnson got slung out of Parliament as Prime Minister. He dreamt being Prime Minister of it all his life, but with nothing particularly good for the common man.
Cryptic Rock – Well, there is certainly a lot of turmoil, more to come, and this record touches on a lot of it. Musically, this album has a mix of styles from Blues, Rock, and even a little bit of Country Rock. Where did the musical direction come from the album?
Glen Matlock – I’ve always liked Motown stuff and bands like the Small Faces, and I think it has an element of that in it. I don’t know if there is Country, but maybe people hear that because I sing in a slightly mid-Atlantic accent; I don’t know why, but that’s the way it comes out. I think there are some bluesy elements heard in there; like “Speaking in Tongues.” To me that could be, riff wise, something off The Stones’ Exile on Main St (1972)… which I don’t mind, but I didn’t try to copy it.
Sometimes you have these grand ideas for songs, and it is going to sound like this, but it comes out sounding like that. You don’t really have much control over it… it just comes out how it comes out. I think the best adage for song production is Nick Lowe’s, “what you do is go in, you slap it down, and then you tart it up.”
Cryptic Rock – That is a good way to look at it. The album comes out on April 28th. In the meantime, you will be touring with Blondie. So, will you have time for some solo shows?
Glen Matlock – Yes, I’m doing a one-off solo show on April 29th at The Roxy in Los Angeles, CA. Then I fly back to England on April 30th, then I have some shows, then I have more Blondie stuff through June in England. Then after that, my album will be out, and hopefully I will start touring a bit more. I would love to come back to The States and do a full tour; we’ll see what happens.
I’ve been getting some good feedback on the record, which is encouraging, and it’s kind of a kick in the backside to get on with things. We all need a bit of that every now and again. I was listening to an old interview with Little Richard and they asked him about wearing makeup, and he said, “Sure, everybody needs a little cream in their coffee.” We all need a little bit of a kick to get on with what we are trying to do.
Cryptic Rock – Yes, we all need a little bit of a kick generally after the last three years. It has been a bizarre time, especially for musicians who could not tour.
Glen Matlock – Yes, but on the other end quite a few of us did get on with doing stuff behind the scenes. There were a lot of collaborations online where people were recording whole records, concerts, etc. Also, what was kind of good about lockdown (if there was anything good), was it made everything a level playing field. Everybody in the whole world was in the same boat; they all had to withstand restrictions. I think it was a test for everyone to mettle and see how you rolled with it.
Cryptic Rock – Correct, and if anything, it made the average person reevaluate what is really most important in life. You have the new record coming out, some shows, and the tour with Blondie, so you have a lot going on. Let’s look back briefly. You were in the midst of the Punk movement, a part of Sex Pistols. Did people realize it was a real movement at the time?
Glen Matlock – I think you look at it now and it was a movement. I don’t want to be big-headed, but I remember there was a big article in the magazine called The Melody Maker that came out one week, and the word ‘punk’ came out. We had never heard it apart from the fact that it might have been in a Jimmy Cagney movie; if you look it up, it isn’t particularly flattering. There was another magazine called Sounds, and they both did big pieces about the Punk movement; this was after Sex Pistols were up and running. I remember sitting and reading it through with Johnny Rotten, and I said, “Well, I understand what they are saying, but I don’t get the whole gist of the thing.” John said to me, “Glen, it says we were the first.” It’s true, we were going a good year before bands like The Clash, or maybe The Damned who were starting to do a few gigs.
It wasn’t really a movement; it was just us. Then as soon as we stuck our heads above the parapet and waved our little Punk flag, people were looking for something a bit different. If you go shopping, you might want to get some trousers, but you don’t know which ones you want until you see them; we were like that. People wanted something different, didn’t know what it was, then we came along, and it was like… we’ll have a bit of that. It was a total antithesis to the kind of bloated Prog Rock thing that was going on in England that really didn’t mean anything to any working-class kids from West London. That’s how it came about.
No, there was no movement until we did, and the movement came afterwards. I am now fortunate enough to travel all around the world to some quite outlandish places and Punk has become a byword for people whose music is maybe a little bit clever, reads between the lines a bit more, and won’t kowtow, be told and do exactly what is expected of them. So, that isn’t a bad thing. There is loads of music, but I think the spirit or intention behind it is the important thing.
Cryptic Rock – Yes. This is an interesting discussion. To some Punk was about the fashion, others about the message, but isn’t it really about the attitude? It’s about the non-conformist way of thinking and the acceptance of other people’s opinions. It is about the idea that we are all free thinking and we should think freely.
Glen Matlock – That is kind of right on, I can’t disagree with it. It is what I think too. Yea… you summed it all up. (Laughs) Well done!
Cryptic Rock – Thank you. Wrapping things up here, let’s shift to movies. Do you have any favorite films?
Glen Matlock – I’m not a very good contemporary movie fan. I’ve got Netflix at home to watch one particular thing, but you scan through it, and there is nothing that appeals to me. I do like a good old Arthouse movie though.
Once lockdowns were lifted a little bit, I was dragged to the east end of London to an Arthouse movie. I never heard of it, but it is one of the best movies I have seen in recent years; it is called Qui êtes-vous, Polly Maggoo? (1966) If you translate it, it is Who Are You, Polly Maggoo? Polly Maggoo is supposedly this American supermodel in the ‘60s. It’s the most French movie I’ve ever seen. There are a few scenes in, where David Bowie had obviously seen it, and it is where the “Ashes to Ashes” video comes from; it is like an a-ha! moment. I firmly recommend it; it’s funny, French, and quite poignant.
I like things like that. I like Federico Fellini stuff, and I’m a big fan of an English guy named Anthony Newley who made some pretty wacky stuff. There is plenty of that to see and things of that ilk. As a rule of thumb, I like some of the less Hollywood things. I think one of the best Hollywood things I saw in the most recent years was The Nice Guys (2016) with Russell Crowe. I also think one of my all-time favorites more modern movies is Galaxy Quest (1999). It’s a fantastic premise for a movie. It’s really funny. I even bought a t-shirt. The only thing is it was American size; I’m normally a large in England, and it’s only a medium size, but it’s still too big. I put it in the wash a few times and it still wouldn’t blinking shrink! (Laughs)