Glen Matlock is an accomplished musician, founding member of The Sex Pistols and has always remained a dedicated musician who still meets up with his ex band mates whenever the time permits.
Matlock 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
Matlock quit the band, famously, in 1977, making no secret of the fact that he and singer John Lydon couldn't stand each other or for a rumour that he says has no substance. He was replaced by Sid Vicious and carried on making music under his own steam. None of this has quite brought Matlock the acclaim (or notoriety) enjoyed by the Pistols' first three singles, Anarchy in the UK, God Save the Queen, and Pretty Vacant; he still cites these among the songs he's most proud of.
Matlock was in Mumbai to collaborate with Indie singer Alluri who he met in the UK. It was a powerpacked night at the Hard Rock Café in Worli on 10th August to see both musicians create some great musical interplay on guitars and vocals.
Verus Ferreira met up with the ageing bassist s few days prior to his performance, to know more about his career, his music and why he really left the Sex Pistols.
So when did you first start playing music?
I had a guitar given to me when I was like 10 and it took me a long time to learn to play it. In 1966, the time coincided with all the fantastic hard rock radio stations we used to have in England, The Kinks, The Stones, and all that. They had a big impact on me. I mean the years went by and I learnt to play a bit better, and I came by having met a few members of a band and we decided we wanted to do something, but we didn’t know what we wanted to do, but we were gonna do it anyway, so we came out and just played some music.
So how did you learn playing the guitar? Was it self taught or at a school?
Pretty much, self taught. So the funny thing was at my school, there was this guy, and he was like one week ahead of me in playing the guitar, you know, even a chord, coz he had learnt it, and the next week he would show me a D chord, but the funny thing was his name is Steve Jones.
It’s not the same Steve Jones from the Sex Pistols; it’s a different Steve Jones. Ya, and we used to practice. Then I found out that if you learn to play songs, other people’s songs I mean, when you learn them, they are sometimes a little bit too hard and if you don’t do them right, you think actually I’ve got something that kinda sounds like that, but is different. Oh, I’ve got a sound of my own. It works out for a lot of people.
Out of curiosity, do you also sing?
Yes, yes. Not very well, but that doesn’t stop me.
So have you done any songs for the Sex Pistols, besides song writing?
When we first started playing, I used to sing the songs; but these songs never made it to the record. But it was never going to work, coz I would sing and John (Lyndon) was doing backing vocals. He felt awkward, I felt awkward.
But it didn’t make it to the LP?
After The Sex Pistols you had a band called the Rich Kids. I used to sing a couple of songs in there. Back then I wasn’t really aware of keys. You know how important it is selecting the right keys to the song. I used to sing a bit too high. And I’ve made a few albums; a new album is just about to come out. It’s in September. I’m really pleased with that.
This is with the Rich Kids or another band?
No its just Glen Matlock, but the band which is playing on the record is mainly a few of musicians I have worked with before. And I’m really pleased that the lead guitarist on it is a guy called Earl Slick, he played for David Bowie, even John Lennon. Last week he was in London with me.
The Sex Pistols are in the Rock n Roll hall of Fame. As an individual, how would you like to be remembered, besides the Sex Pistols?
I kind of aspired to be a song writer you know, and that kind of drives me, and what also drives me is to become known as one, but I would have to remain as a bassist of the band the Sex Pistols. The Pistols happened 40 years ago, I rather live in the moment now. I’m not gonna think that I’m going to change the whole music world on my own shoulders at the age of 61 and a half, but you know, I have a good team of people around me, I have fun with my music, and make serious fun. It’s interesting.
The Sex Pistols were considered a dangerous band and their albums were a risk to keep in record stores and clubs. Some did not allow you’ll to play in the clubs because of the lyrics and the music, like Anarchy in the UK, so what do you feel about that?
I think that was what was needed at the time, so now as well, everything seemed kinda boring, I think we just went to kinda speak our mind out. And we stood our ground.
In 1996 the Sex Pistols reunited. Was it very difficult, like meeting all the band members after many years.
Many claim that it was because of the Beatles that you left the Sex Pistols. Can you give us your version of the story?
My version of the story is that when some of the band members had their face in the newspaper, it was a bit hard for them to get through the doorway. And it didn’t sit well on my shoulders, and there was a friction there. This shit happens. When you’re younger, your toleration for bullshit is less. But when we reformed in 1996 and 2008, we had done some massive gigs, stayed in nice hotels, we travelled around the world first class, but not even necessarily on the same flight, snd when you can do that, as opposed to sitting on the equipment at the back of a truck with one or no windows, you can afford to come to a better accommodation with each other.
Compared to when you started off.
But I would say though the Sex Pistols have something in common, it only four people in the whole world have and its that when we walk into a room and plug in and start playing, we’re the Sex Pistols, there is a common ground, we learn to play together and we achieve things together. So that is something that can never be taken away.
Are you still in contact with the band members?
Ya, I still speak to Steve and Paul now and then. John well I don’t see him. And I do like what he said. May be a year or two back we would have done, well, we might not be the best of friends, but neither are we the worst of enemies.
So I agreed with him, that one point.
So did you know Sid Vicious before he came to the band and he replaced you?
Yeah, he replaced me. Ya, he was at his peak and was good at it. He was a very good friend of John, and I think he was jealous of the limelight that John was getting, so he would come to gigs and try and create trouble to get some attention for himself.
So how was it playing with Iggy Pop? Was it a different experience?
Oh, that was great. It was great. What’s interesting is that I haven’t played with Iggy since 1979 now he’s old. Everything I had done up to that, you know the Sex Pistols, it is quite different. We were quite small back then. A big tour was the Anarchy Tour, but we got banned everywhere, so we couldn’t even do that. Then I played for the Rich Kids. When a band starts out, you tend to have your mates (pauses……….) I don’t necessarily know how to go about that, these are things you learn over time. But when I played with Iggy, the funny thing about him was they were really professional. They had different things from the Sex Pistols. You know, we went around, made an album and then went to America. The first time I went to America was a part of Iggy pop.
True as the Sex Pistols never went to America
But I did, I played with Iggy and I went to America. First time I went to New York was for playing at this place called Palladium in New York. I remember it was Halloween. The whole audience was dressed in Halloween costumes supported by The Clamps. Backstage Freddy Harry from Blondie, dressed as a witch and she gave me a kiss on the cheek, my first time in New York, I was like 22-23. So yeah, it was an experience.
I always wanted to know what the lyrics I am an antichrist to the song Anarchy in the UK, mean?
I think he means what he says. He’s an Antichrist…. Well that’s in the words. Basically what he is saying. John had a Roman Catholic upbringing as I understand. And that can play with your mind. In England, when you are in school, they ask you, are you Jewish? No. Or are you Muslim, or you Hindu, or are you Roman Catholic. Or are you something else. So that’s what he said by antichrist. I also think it has to do with his upbringing.
So who wrote the song?
I did the music, John wrote the words.
So what do you think of the so called punk bands today? Are they keeping the spirit of the punk of the 80’s, the time when you were playing?
Good luck to them. I think some of them are dangerously making the time we made music. They all have the same sound, same bondage trousers, it feels nice though.
So this is your first visit to India?
Oh yes it is, yeah.
So what have you heard of India?
Oh, lots over the years. All in one. I always wanted to come here. You have to choose between something you came to do and so I did something with Alluri and we made the trip happen. So earlier this year, I co-produced a song with him. And we got on very well. I like what he was trying to do. He seems very accomplished, his writing was kinda interesting, and we kinda, established a good rapport.
What memories would you take from India?
The welcome of the people is just so nice. I had dal for breakfast. (Laughs)
Do you plan to visit any places?
I plan to see as much as I possibly can.
Yeah, you look tired.
No, I’m alright. I’m just excited about the upcoming gig.
Interviewed by Verus Ferreira