Glen Matlock – Never Mind The Trivia

I never wanted to interview Malcolm McLaren, the shapeshifting one-time Sex Pistols manager, because as a would-be and sometimes successful manipulator of the media of his day (wouldn’t he have loved Twitter, SnapChat et al?) I feared garnering responses reflecting solely his own agenda, rather than The Truth..whatever that is. But a chance to converse with a great musical survivor of the punk era, still creatively active and edgy decades on….well that’s another matter. Here I meet Glen Matlock, Pistols bassist and perpetual songwriter and performer…

Supplied By PR

Glen, we’re coming to see you at The Boisdale, when Earl Slick will be on guitar and the drummer will be?

Chris Musto. The bassist will be Jim Lowe and I will be strumming the guitar and er..singing. Well, they call it that. Earl’s coming over end of the week so we can start rehearsing.

One of my great influences, that man…when you’re writing songs, do you ever find that an early composition put on ice can go very neatly with say a new chorus to create a decent new number?

Oh totally, yeah! That happens a lot, if you’re regularly writing. (Emphatically) Because we’re not allowed to have one good idea, all in one go..

Unless you’re David Crosby

I don’t know ALL his stuff but possibly you could pick one bit that fell into this process, I imagine. It’s a bit like cars, though – remember when they had that Renault that had a rounded back..now I thought that rounded back looked pretty good but the rest of the design was rubbish, til they had a go at revamping it..OR do you remember that Mk 2 Jaguar and they called in the S type? The back was rubbish! I went to my local pub once and I had a hat on, a plastic beanie type, cos it was raining down, looked a bit like a trilby, had two holes in it and a zip pocket. And my elderly mate who’s from Fleet Street said “Hmm..that hat..looks like it’s been designed by a committee..”

Ah yes! The camel is a horse designed by a committee isn’t it?

Exactly. But yes I do think we don’t get one great idea in one hit, most of the time. Then something occurs to you on the lines of ‘that’ll fit’ and on you go.

When you’re writing a song, I get the feeling that sometimes it’s very ‘in the moment’ and at others you can sense that something more durable is coming together

I write most of my songs just walking down the street. You see something, someone..you get an idea in your head. I get the kids hanging round, as I’ve got a little studio, computer gear and ProTools and they’ll go ‘Oh please can I record something quickly, while the idea’s in my head ?’ I say ‘Look if you can’t remember it, your own idea, then you can’t expect anyone else to !’ If the idea doesn’t persist in your mind, it won’t be what we would term memorable. If it makes you pick up the guitar and shape it up, you’re likely on your way with it

My own filter is: it has to work with a vocal and an acoustic 12 string. If it does, then I can work out an arrangement pretty easily. Otherwise, no.

When the home recording thing started, it would sound kind of authentic-ish and you could get sucked into this syndrome where it might sound proper. But it don’t mean you got a song ! It took me quite a few years to realise that and also this thing where everything defaults to 120 bpm. You can get sucked into that template or whatever and then 128 bpm sounds really fast. I always try to write three and a half minute songs BUT with a band you soon lose a bit of time and I had loads of three minute songs that needed another bit..

That’s why even fifty years on, a record like Love’s Forever Changes still sounds daring, they would shift tempo within a song in a flash

Yes – when I did The Faces thing we did a song off their first album called ‘Flying’. And it’s got this bit in the middle where it goes dang-dang ! dang-dang ! and I said to Kenney what is the route to getting this down and he just said, there wasn’t one !

In rock’n’roll, talking of writers, I am convinced that a lot of the greats have a big streak of stubbornness..which stops them jumping on bandwagons and just mine their own sound. Lou Reed, Johnny Cash, Neil Young…how much stubbornness is there in Glen Matlock?

(Ponders) Quite a lot, really. Is it stubbornness? A thick skin? stupidity? I know I am going to do what I think I should be doing. I’m a musician. If you’re a car mechanic and you don’t fix cars or a fisherman that don’t fish, then you’re full of **** ..a musician writes songs and performs them in most cases. So, you have to keep going, keep creating. And as long as the phone rings and you get invitations to do this and that, heading to weird and wacky places then as long as they grease your palm with silver reasonably well..it’s worthwhile doing. I wouldn’t do it for nothing, not all of the time. There are exceptions, say a cause you believe in.

There’s quite a nice Gibson in your current promo shots. Is it yours?

Yeah. I’ve brought it with me.

The black acoustic. It’s got a Johnny Cash look

That’s what I was trying to find. Do you know what? I had a guitar stolen, out of my car. Had a new car and hadn’t quite figured out the buttons. Anyway someone had my really nice Guild out of it. Which was my spare guitar, my backup. I usually use a J45. So then I needed a spare and I wanted to get – what is it? – a SG200, the jumbo one. Couldn’t find one in all Europe. So I bought a Dreadnought. A Hummingbird. I went to the States and I’m in this guitar store, just like three days after I’ve bought one. They had a black SG200…..hmm

Was Johnny Cash an influence on you?

A bit. I respected him, put it that way. What I’m doing on this album I wanted a band that can go with the fact that I play a lot of acoustic these. About three years ago, I went to see Dylan at The Royal Albert Hall. I’m not a big Dylan fan, I can appreciate him, he’s written some great songs. He didn’t even play guitar.

No he sits at the piano

But the band he had were fantastic. Charlie Sexton, a double-bass player..

Sexton lurks around the song like a shark and at the right moment he will let loose..so similar to Earl Slick!

(Laughs) A lot of English players, you’ll say put some lead in the second verse.and they’ll play nothing then play all over your singing! Earl automatically plays out in the right place. He listens to what’s going on

Did you see him with The Dolls? Under Waterloo, in the Tunnels?

No I didn’t see that

They made a live album at The Bowery round about that time. Earl was fabulous to say the least. When you played bass in The Pistols, your lines are pretty distinct within the wall of sound, somehow. How is that so?

I’m not on a lot of Never Mind but I am all over the Spunk stuff. I suppose I thought the band was a bit too black-and-white and the bass could provide some colour, within the group sound. I like McCartney as a bass player, I like all the Motown players.

I thought you imported a bit of Mink de Ville, in there

(Firmly) Can’t see that. But I do like that boom….boomboom rhythm, yes..now in fact there’s a track on the album called Speak Too Soon. My re-write of Spanish Harlem!

Kind of musically, anyway. I used to get the chords going then Steve (Jones) would get that sorted and once he’d learned what I was already doing I’d try the odd counterpoint. Not all the time.

Counterpoint is the word I was looking for there..it can 3-D the sound. It’s why I found The Ramones samey but The Stooges far deeper

Yeah well I’ve played with Iggy …cantankerous old git, but I love him ! ..and say on Search And Destroy that dynamic is there for the taking. I wish I’d continued playing with him for longer.

You’re on some live recordings

And on the studio set Soldier

Yes, after New Values!

I got roped in to do the New Values tour ..the guy who played bass on the album is the black chap Jackie Clark and he was going to play second guitar on the tour, so they were short of a bass player. John Giddings suggested me so Iggy came down to see me. Then I got a phone call. I’d only met him very briefly at The Lyceum.

Tell me about this new record

It’s jolly good. I’ve written all new material for it. Over the past four or five years. It was recorded about two years ago.

You played at Under The Bridge, didn’t you?

Yeah ! with those guys..Slim Jim and Earl and a double bass player

I love that place, the sound, the sightlines, the graphics, the photo gallery…

It’s like a proper American club, that’s right. Which is why I’m looking forward to doing Boisdale in Canary Wharf. It reminds me of City Winery or similar.

You don’t have to play loud there, the room carries the stage output really well

Do you still get any revenue from The Pistols?

Yeah. Not a fortune, but always welcome.

How do you choose a setlist? You’re at the point now where you have the history, the era’s…

I have to nod to The Pistols..but in my mind and I think in the audience’s mind they all work cos they’re from the same hand.

Like a painter. They’re allowed different periods of inspiration, materials…

Forty years after that time I still get asked the same old questions..to be fair, you put a different slant on things! I know if I’d gone to see Bowie and he didn’t do Heroes then I would have been disappointed.

Do you write on keyboards?

Rarely, to be honest..BUT! The original riff to God Save The Queen I played on a little keyboard at Lansdowne Studios!

Your music to me has a very City vibe..often New York City

Does it? I’m a city boy but I’ve never really thought about that

It’s close at time in feel to Talking Heads, I venture

Ah! I went to see Talking Heads at Radio City Music Hall (NY) this was after I’d been playing with Iggy. I bumped into Chris and Tina and we went backstage and there was a bar there and I bumped into CoCo who I’d met when with Iggy, David Bowie’s PA..and she said ‘David’s there! Go and say Hello ‘ then he saw me and came over and got me so we watched the Heads show and he sang along every word in his best David Bowie voice! Adrian Belew was on guitar. A good night…

Pete Sargeant



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Glen Matlock

(Thanks to Sacha, Rosalia and Glen M)

Glen Matlock Photos Supplied By PR (Except Photo of Earl Slick Which Is Supplied By Earl Slick and The Photo of  of Glen Matlock and Iggy Pop which was taken at the Old Waldorf in San Francisco and credited to Jenny Lens, 1979. You can find the photo here: http://bit.ly/2NWasG3)

You can watch a video supplied by The Boisdale of Glen Matlock performing ‘Pretty Vacant’ at The Boisdale in Canary Wharf in this article.

Glen Matlock’s new album ‘‘Good To Go’ is released on Friday 24th August 2018 on Mighty Village Records. 

In addition, Matlock will perform a five-night residency with Earl Slick at Boisdale in Canary Wharf, London, United Kingdom from Monday 30th July 2018 – Friday 3rd August 2018. Tickets are available to purchase here: http://bit.ly/2KZbV0K