Glen Matlock is an accomplished musician, founding member of The Sex Pistols, and all round person of interest. He began his career as the co-author of 10 of the 12 tracks on iconic punk album Never Mind The Bollocks, Here’s The Sex Pistols, and since the 1970s he’s been involved in numerous musical outfits; including Rich Kids and The Philistines. He’s also played alongside other respected musicians, including Iggy Pop and Ronnie Wood, and recently toured the UK with The British Electric Foundation and Heaven 17. The man doesn’t have a ‘stop’ button.
I only spoke with Glen for a few minutes on the phone, and my knowledge of the original punk scene consists of my Dad’s memories (seeing The Clash at Brixton, girls walking down the street with Mohawks wearing bin-bags) and watching ‘The Filth and The Fury’ at The 100 Club recently. I’m obviously keen to hear more from a man who was there from the start, but it’s his current anecdotes and general interest in the connections music makes that I remember clearest when I put the phone down.
Underscoring all of Glen’s music, whether it’s punk or blues, is a genuine desire to share stories and start conversations, which is why on his latest tour he’s mixing anecdotes with acoustic guitar to provide an evening of personable entertainment. Read on to hear about the BEF tour dates, what to expect from Glen’s solo tour, and what he thinks of modern punk bands like Pussy Riot…
Hello Glen, How are you? What are your plans for the day?
After I’ve spoken to you, I’m jumping in the motor and driving to Bury St Edmunds for The British Electronic Foundation & Heaven 17 show tonight, which I’ve been a guest artist on for most of their tour. Then after that I’m starting my tour in Manchester.
Sounds good. How’s the BEF & Heaven 17 tour been? What kind of reaction have you had from the crowds?
The reaction’s been really good actually. I’ve known Martyn Ware for a long time. He was originally in The Human League and we go back a long way.
Martyn Ware has said it’s been an “honour” to have such talented and iconic artists like yourself on the BEF tour. I take it you’ve enjoyed working with Martyn/Heaven 17? Would you work with him again?
What I like about Heaven 17 is they’ve got the whole electronic thing – I’ve always liked electronic music – but they marry it to a good soul vocal. They cover loads of different aspects on the musical spectrum. As for myself, I just like playing in front of people. I’ve got a wealth of songs that I’ve written over the years and I’ve enjoyed sharing them with different crowds at the BEF gigs, so it’s good. I’d work with Martyn again.
As you mentioned earlier, your own tour [An Evening With Glen Matlock] starts at the beginning of November in Manchester. You’ll be playing an acoustic set and sharing anecdotes from your life and career as a musician. What are you most looking forward to on this tour, and are there any anecdotes you can share with us now?
I’m most looking forward to going out and doing it really. I’m constantly on tour at the moment, and I played Glastonbury and the Montreaux Jazz Festival earlier in the year, and there were really good crowds at both of them. I just like playing really. When you sit at home and write a song by yourself in your living room and then you take it out and perform it to people; it’s a point of contact, you know? They appreciate where you’re coming from and it’s quite a buzz when they encourage that.
I’m not going to tell you any of my stories because that’s like telling you the punch line of a joke…
I did think I was pushing my luck there…
But I will tell you about the time when I played with Iggy Pop in Berlin when the wall was still up. Me and Iggy had a night off and we went down to a very famous pansexual club and we had a mad night out (laughs)…so there will be a few stories like that.
Changing the subject here, but music venues and hotspots all over London have been celebrating the 40th anniversary of Punk throughout 2016. Can you tell me about some of the events you’ve participated in, and what it means to you to see Punk celebrated on this scale?
It was kind of weird really but it’s been good. This year the phone has just not stopped ringing. There was loads of stuff going on, we did a talk about ‘what is Punk’ at The British Library and it’s been an ongoing thing really. I’m proud of what I did in the past but I like to live in the present. I’m constantly writing new stuff and playing new material and getting around. I’ve been so busy.
I can imagine. Do you think these celebrations have made people too nostalgic about punk?
I think they have a little. I’ve never really been an out-and-out punk, but I subscribed to it during that time. I mean, if you go down Kings Road you can buy pictures of old punk rockers hanging out, all sticking their fingers up and spitting at the cameraman, and tourists buy it to take home to their Mums (laughs), but that’s not what punk rock is to me. Punk rock is a bit more forward looking and musically adventurous and questioning.
Do you think modern punk bands like Slaves and Pussy Riot are keeping the spirit of punk alive?
I haven’t seen Slaves. My sons are both in bands and they may have done some gigs with them. Pussy Riot…that’s kind of interesting in that they’re from Russia and unlike us, they really have their backs against the wall. They’ve really got something to rail against so it’s good that they’re doing that. Whether I’d buy one of their records I’m not so sure….
It’s definitely not the most commercial sound…
No, and I think that’s the whole point. It’s what I bought to the table with The Sex Pistols. It wasn’t commercial, but if you’ve got a good tune you can sing whatever you like over the top of it and make it accessible to people. You can make a real difference. That sounds a bit hippy, but you’ve got to have the ying and the yang with things…if that makes sense?
It certainly does. Finally, apart from more touring, what does the rest of 2016 hold for you, and what are your plans for 2017?
2017 will be more or less the same really, I’ve got an album that I’ve had in the can for quite a while, so I’m on the cusp of releasing that. There’s also more punk-based things I’ll be doing, some more stuff with The British Library, but I’ve been really busy this year so I would like to put my feet up at some point.