I’d been given the chance to chat to the legend that is Glen Matlock who’s musical CV is as long as your arm. Amongst his numerous achievements is the co-authoring of 10 of the 12 tracks on ‘Never Mind The Bollocks, Here’s the Sex Pistols’ which is quite possibly THE most seminal punk rock album in the world ever. He also created some amazing music with bands such as Rich Kids, London Cowboys and later on The International Swingers.
I was asked to call him at 1pm on a Sunday afternoon, I wondered if he’d have washed the car, walked the dogs and would be in the middle of preparing Sunday dinner so when I got through to him, I politely asked if I was encroaching on his Sunday dinner plans to which he replied, “No, I’ve not even had breakfast yet!”, how much more rock n’ roll can you get?
I’d advertised the fact that I was to chat to Glen a few weeks before the interview took place and 95% of questions that fans were sending me to pose to the great man were related to his time with the Sex Pistols, I was hesitant to include any in my questions as, after checking recent interviews, I quickly realised that Glen doesn’t suffer fools gladly and I wanted to spend the majority of our time covering his new record and not dragging up the past (sorry folks!)
Armed with this information, we exchanged pleasantries and launched into the questions….
Glen, we bumped into you at Beautiful Days Festival in Exeter last year and you looked incredible, you continue to look really sharp to this day, are you on some crazy celebrity diet or insane exercise regime?
(laughter), I just try to limit the amount of fry-ups and I’ve been on the wagon for a long time so that’s got to have something to do with it! I guess just keeping busy and the luck of the draw helps to keep me in shape!
Congratulations on the release of Good to Go, it was out at the end of September, I’ve given it a good few listens and it’s an incredible body of work encompassing many styles including skiffle, rockabilly and good old rock n’ roll, are these all styles that helped shape your musical tastes when growing up?
Yeah, I think they are, I think the album has a constant style throughout but with different elements to it, there’s that old joke “We play BOTH types of music, Country AND Western”, the same applies to Rock n’ Roll, you can’t have every song sounding the same on the album as that would sound a bit boring.
Do you enjoy being able to play these styles of music rather than what you’re more renowned for having played in the past?
I think I’m at an age now where I’ll do what I want to do, I please myself and if people like it, great, if not, you can’t win them all! It’s annoying when people don’t get to hear your music, there’s nothing worse than spending ages creating a record and then 4 years later people are only just discovering it as it didn’t really get the time of day when it was released. One bloke came up to me recently and said that he has my record in his cab, I asked him if he was a taxi driver and he said that he’s a lorry driver, I asked him who he worked for and he said that he owns a fleet of vehicles, about a dozen or so vehicles and he loved the album so much, he went out and bought a copy of it for each vehicle to play as it’s great driving music. This is a classic story about someone discovering my music a long time after it came out. I just want people to be able to hear it and make up their own minds, if they don’t like it, then so be it but it’s the not actually being able to hear it that annoys me.
Do you find that you get more people delving into your back catalogue when they discover your music?
No, I think it’s going the other way, they seem to be more into what I’m up to now.
So, tell me how you got to work with the amazing cast of musicians that you enlisted for Good to Go?
I’m lucky to have a very varied address book and I can assemble a team of similarly minded peers who don’t mind mucking in and helping me out. I got Chris Spedding playing on a track on the album, we did this after I recorded the bulk of the album and I asked him if he’d like to come and play a track for it and he agreed, I’d played bass on a track for him so we decided to call it quits! That’s what I like about it!
I’ve known Slim Jim (Phantom – of The Stray Cats) for 30 years, I met him when he first came to England on tour with The Stray Cats, we shared the same publicist at the time and we lost touch but I bumped into him again in America and re-established our friendship. We’ve done a few things together over the past ten years, gigs and things and when I came to make this album, I remembered seeing Bob Dylan play at the Royal Albert Hall in London about three years ago, I’m not a big fan of Dylan, I appreciate him but I think he’s a bit odd towards his audience but his band he had with him were fantastic, Charlie Saxman on guitar, Tony Massey on double bass and the drummer played most of the set with brushes and I thought that I’ve got all these songs, I could do something like that.
I asked Slim Jim and he was up for it and he suggested Earl Slick as a guitarist and I’d done a few projects with him in the past and knew him a bit and we got on and I didn’t even realise that Earl and Slim Jim had been in a band together in the late 80’s/early 90’s so it all just slotted together really nicely!
Nice to have a few favours up your sleeve to call upon when required!
Yeah, us musicians are really up for doing something, there’s not that much on the telly these days and we’d much rather be playing than sitting around flicking through the channels, I don’t think we’re any different in that respect. Musicians are quite benevolent to the world cos they’re always trying to put something out there….
It’s great to learn how you came to work with these amazing names on the music scene!
You’ve got to remember, I wasn’t using these names for the sake of it, they’re mates and really good players, that’s more about what I’m interested in!
You played a pivotal part in some legendary bands in the past including the Sex Pistols, Rich Kids, The London Cowboys and even The Damned, which band did you enjoy playing with the most?
Hang on a minute, I don’t know where this thing came from, I’ve never played with The Damned….. the only thing I ever did with The Damned was a session with Rat Scabies and I turned up to the studio and the bass player was there, as I walked in the room, I was chatting to Rat and he said to the bass player, “Okay, Glen’s here now, you can f*ck off!”. I’m not sure if what I did ever came out, it might have appeared on a Damned album somewhere along the way but I can’t be sure!
As for which band I enjoyed playing in the most, that’s a hard question because everything you do is a sum of where you’re at in your life and the people that you have fallen in with at that time, I always apply myself 100% (sometimes more) to whatever I am working on at the time, obviously the Pistols were the most successful but I think I’m the happiest now doing my own thing! I’ve also come to realise that when you’re in a band you’re kind of stuck with those people but now, everyone I play with are busy doing other things as well, you can’t always get those people so you tend to have a floating group that all bring something slightly different to the table. I did a gig at The 100 Club a couple of weeks back and Earl Slick played there, I was in Dubai a few days ago and Earl had gone back to America and wasn’t available so I called Chris Spedding and he agreed to play and it was equally as good, just a bit different, I guess that’s how it works but I’m the common thread through it all. So this is why I say that I’m having the best time now I’m doing what I want to do!
I read that Good to Go it was recorded in upstate New York and London, how long did the album take from start to finish?
A couple of years, that’s why I called it “Good to Go”! I’m 62 years old and people don’t really know what to make of me as a solo artist and all the record companies want you in their offices as they want a member of The Sex Pistols sat in front of them and they tell you what you want to hear and then you never hear back from them again! It’s frustrating, so I thought “sod them” and I did it my way! It’s just taken a while for it all to come together. What they don’t realise is that I travel all over the world playing to crowds who come to see me and all they’re interested in is the next big thing that (might) fill Wembley! If I had a bit of assistance along the way, I could no doubt be doing a lot more than I am but I feel that I’m doing okay as I am.
In the studio, are you a ‘hands on’ musician or do you tend to let the engineers do the knob twiddling?
If you ask someone to do a job, they do the job, I asked Mario McNulty to do my album because he has a great reputation and you know you’re in safe hands. Earl Slick suggested Mario because he worked on Bowie’s album (The Next Day) and that was that. We’d not met before and this was the first time we’d worked together and unless people are complete assholes (and most people aren’t) I tend to get along with them just fine and we made it work! Working with Mario was great, he sat back and allowed me to do my thing and I did the same with him, I showed him the chords and the tune and the riff and the rest was up to him! It sounded great so I was happy, I think that when you’re in the studio, you tend to know if something isn’t working and if that happens, you try something else until you’re happy.
You mentioned earlier about having played shows in Dubai, you also played in Korea and India and some in Scandinavia, do you find you get a different reaction from country to country?
No, I think it’s pretty much the same wherever I play, everyone’s up for hearing some good music and are there to have a great time and have a laugh and a few drinks and joining in on a few songs, I’m a bit of a totalitarian when it comes to audience participation, I like interactive music and if I see someone NOT joining in, I wanna know why! I’m not averse to stopping the song and picking on people and making them do it, I shame them into joining in and when they do, they have a great time! I personally can’t see the point in going to a gig and watching some po faced recital of the record, I want people to go home with a smile on their face and some great memories!
How did you find India, is this a country you’ve visited or played in before?
I’d never been before, I was asked to produce a guy called ‘Alluri’ earlier on in the year and I did a track with him and we got friendly and he said that he had this thing coming up, I’d been thinking about visiting India but it’s never really been on my radar before so we agreed and I went out there, maybe I’ll go back again!
India is such a vast country, it would be good to explore it a bit further!
I only saw a very small piece of it…..
I went to Goa years ago and had a great time, very cultural and certainly a place I want to visit again
Me too, one day!
On the subject of touring, will you be hitting some venues in the UK anytime soon?
I’m working on some dates now, I hope to have some available before the end of the year, the next thing I’m doing (and you’re more than welcome to tag along) is a trip back to Korea later on in the year and onto Tokyo to do an in-store show and more press for the album. (I checked my calendar and sadly, I’m a bit tied up, otherwise I would have been tagging along, carrying Glen’s suitcases for him!)
I read in an interview that you like to keep up to date with new music and wanted to ask if you’ve heard of a 5 piece punk band from Bristol called IDLES?
I can’t say I have….
They’re incredible, they recently released their 2nd album which reached #3 on the album chart and they’re really making a mark on the scene right now, if you get 5 mins, please check them out!
I’ll give them a spin when I get a minute! Is it IDOLS?
No, it’s I-D-L-E-S…..
Okay, I’ll give them a spin!
Lastly (and please tell me if you don’t want to answer this question), is there any truth in the rumours that when The Sex Pistols got back together in 2006 for the London shows, you recorded some new demos?
Yeah there is actually, we were rehearsing and Paul Cook and I came up with a couple of ideas, I’ve got the DAT tape somewhere with the two songs that we laid down but sadly John (Lydon) wasn’t up for writing any words to go with them so that’s the end of that! He thought that the music sounded too much like the Sex Pistols…..
Glen, thanks so much for your time, I’m really looking forward to any future UK live dates and I wanted to thank you for all of the music that you’ve been involved with in the past and look forward to plenty more of it in the future
Believe me, there’s plenty more where that came from! Thanks very much, great to chat!
And that ladies and gentlemen was our time with Mr Glen Matlock, an honest, polite and colourful character who has put so much into the music scene and helped to shape thousands of musicians along the way!
You can purchase his new record Good to Go below, remember to keep an eye on his Facebook page for future live shows.
Interview by Steve Muscutt