Long pilloried as being too nice for the Sex Pistols, Glen Matlock has finally gone ‘grrr’, ‘grrr’. His latest single, Head on a Stick, forerunner to the up-coming album, ‘Consequences Coming’, is an angry – but tuneful – cage rattling cry for Tory comeuppance. But as Punktuation’s Andy Gray discovered when he met the not-so mild Mr Matlock at his London home, politics is not the only thing lighting the man’s ire…
Name names, Glen. Whose head are you yearning to see skewered to a stick?
Our bunch of nincompoop ‘powers that be’.
Steady on. ‘Nincompoop’? This is a family publication Glen, not the Bill Grundy show.
All those old-fashioned words kind of apply to them (the government): nincompoop, poltroon…
The UK’s had three prime ministers in the past six months. Which one deserves ‘the stick’ treatment in your opinion.
Yeah, they can’t even get even get one (PM) together. They’re hopeless. They’ve got no idea what they’re doing. This whole Brexit thing has shafted their own party. They’re gonna get decimated at the next election and I’m gonna laugh my fucking head off.
Ah, so it’s your head that’s destined for a stick. No? Okay, moving on…
D’ya know what? I think the Tories are the shit on my shoe. I’ve never felt like that (about a UK government) before.
Fair enough. With the new album, Consequences Coming, apart from putting a metaphorical rocket up the government’s fundament, what do you hope it achieves?
Firstly, making the album was important to freeing-up some headspace. As a songwriter, your head gets so cluttered up with songs you can’t think straight. So, making a record is like having a clear out of all those songs from the wardrobe of your mind.
I’ve been making albums on and off over the years, but not with a great deal of commercial success. I thought the last album I did, ‘Good to Go’, and one before that, ‘Born Running’, were pretty darn good, but they sort of fell on deaf ears. That’s maybe because industry-wide, I didn’t have the right back-up.
Consequences Coming is on Cooking Vinyl, an excellent vehicle for the album, I’d suggest.
Yeah. I was gonna put it out on Universal last summer, but I’ve never been mucked around so much in my life. When you deal with some of these (record company) people, you’re left wondering how the companies survive. If you’re not Led Zeppelin or someone like the Sex Pistols, as an artist you end-up falling between the cracks. Anyway. I had to pull the record from them.
Where was the album recorded?
Dean Street Studios in London. I did the bulk of recording just before lockdown. Then I got involved with a mate of mine, James Hallawell, a fantastic keyboard player who plays with the Waterboys and does loads of other things. He’s got a little studio in Richmond where he added keyboards and I sung vocals to two Consequences Coming tracks: Head on a Stick, and This Ship. They sounded better than the original recordings. So, he ended-up putting keyboards on all the other tracks and I sung the whole album in his Richmond studio. Then I sent the album to Mario J McNulty, a mate of mine who worked in the last album, to engineer.
With Consequences Coming, it’s almost refreshing to hear an album that musically, isn’t trying to be down with whatever’s ‘now’. Style-wise, it’s aimed at your generation and the bands you grew-up loving, the Beatles, Who, Faces etc.
I know how a lot of so-called ‘today’s’ music is made because I’ve got a computer. I don’t think there’s a great deal of musicianship involved in a non-traditional kind of song. I think what makes my album modern is what the subject matter of the music is about. And also, I think it’s got some pretty wacky guitar playing on it.
Courtesy of Earl Slick?
Yeah, his guitar playing’s all over the album. Although he wasn’t around for the single.
Any other guest musicians worth mentioning?
Neal X (guitarist, ex-Sigue Sigue Sputnik); Norman Watt-Roy (bass Blockheads and others). Then there’s this Japanese guy, (Tomoyashu) Hotei – who wrote the Kill Bill theme tune – he plays on a track. He’s like the Jeff Beck of Japan. So, there’s quite a cast of people (on the album).
With music, you do what you, and it comes out how it comes out. But sometimes you strike the right place at the right time. For whatever reason, when we toured with the (reformed) Pistols, you’d have some people say, ‘It worked better in 2008, than it did in 2003’. But we played pretty much exactly the same through both tours. It’s just people’s idea of what’s going on in their world at the time (that’s changed). And I think it’ll be the same with my latest album.
In terms of the political slant on the single and album, ever thought of going a stage further and actually standing for election at some level?
I’ve thought about it. But dy’a know what? I’m just not cut out to do it. There’s a lot of paperwork involved. I’m not that kind of guy. I remember when Malcolm McLaren stood for Mayor of London and Alan McGee (former head of Creation Records) sponsored him. At the time it was ‘Oh, what a jolly good idea’, but to get enough support you kind of have to be seconded by loads of people in different London boroughs. Now, Malcolm knew everyone in Soho, but nobody in Hendon or Rotherhithe had ever heard of him, so…(laughs).
Speaking of which, any Eurovision-friendly tracks on Consequences Coming? I refer to Johnny Lydon, with Public Image, throwing his hat into the Song for Europe ring with Hawaii, a beautiful paean to his wife Nora who’s suffering with Alzheimer’s. Have you heard it?
I wouldn’t sully myself by changing what I do just to get on the telly. Everything I do, I do on my own terms. I can’t be objective about John. So, if it (Hawaii) comes on, I’ll walk out of the room. But people have said it’s good, so good luck to ‘em. My dad suffered with Alzheimer’s and I looked after him – but I didn’t make too much of a song and dance about it. Sadly, Alzheimer’s is quite a common thing.
There’s barely any mainstream outlet for new albums by artists such as yourself to be heard. So, maybe it’s not-so surprising Lydon went down the Eurovision route. Anyway, how comes you’re only doing a single gig to promote the new album?
We’ll be doing more, but I’m touring with Blondie in March.
You’re back playing with the mighty Blondie! Where?
We’ve got gigs in Mexico City, Lima and Bogotá or wherever. And then we’ve got stuff in California. Then after a break we come back here (London) for about eight or 10 shows through June.
Is there a Pistols song in Blondie’s set to honour your presence?
We always end-up segueing into God Save the Queen from Heart of Glass. But they always did that before I was involved. It was quite funny during the last tour. We do Rapture, which is great song, but we stretch it out a bit. It goes to a little funky bass thing, which I do. Then the guitarist does something, and it comes back to me etc…Anyway, this toing and froing was going on during this really massive gig and Debbie (Harry) comes up to me in the middle of the stage and says, ‘Have you finished yet?’ (laughs).
I presume touring with Blondie is a more affable experience than touring with the Sex Pistols.
I dunno if that’s the case really. Me, Steve and Paul get on fine.
Is now a good time to ask what you thought of ‘Pistol’, the Disney Plus drama series? I thought your character played to the ‘Glen Matlock was too wet to be a Pistol’ lore.
I’m really annoyed about it. It’s nothing to do with the actor playing me (Christian Lees), I liked him. It’s the script I’m annoyed about.
You had no input into the script?
I did have input at the beginning. But my input was ignored, and that’s what I’m annoyed about. It could’ve been really good.
Have you seen all six episodes of Pistol?
I’ve seen five of the six episodes. I had a private screening in a hotel in Covent Garden. Clem Burke (Blondie) was staying with me, so he and a couple of neighbour friends and my son came down to watch it with me. I was embarrassed.
It was the same old ‘Glen Matlock, the Mummy’s Boy’ narrative, wasn’t it?
Yeah. Except you don’t get to be the main instigator, tunesmith and help get the Sex Pistols together, and come up with the (Pistol’s) name with Wally (Nightingale) – who was the very original Sex Pistols guitarist – by being a bit wet.
The TV series was based on (Pistols’ guitarist) Steve Jones’ autobiography (Lonely Boy) which was an excellent read.
He (Steve) could’ve had more to do with it – it would’ve been better. As far as I can understand it, John was peeved right from the get-go because it (Pistol) was about Steve’s book. And since it was Steve who really formed the band in the very first place, he should’ve been allowed to tell his story. Anyway, it’s done now, so…
With the existence of a few great documentaries in which the band themselves give their no-bullshit view on the Pistols story, why the need for this hammy, cliched Disney version of ‘the truth’? I think most fans see it for what it is…
Well, I bumped into Paul Weller the other week, and he said, “I saw some of that (Pistol) thing last night. It’s Rock Follies (thespy 1970s all-girl pop drama) innit?’ Which is exactly how I see it.
In an interview with Steve Jones for his ‘Jonesy’s Jukebox’ podcast you let your displeasure be known about aspects of Pistol.
He asked me what I thought of the series and I told him: “You’ve got a shocking memory, Steve,” (laughs).
As for the lighter side of the Jonesy interview, I enjoyed listening to the pair of you reminiscing about your old London haunts. Do you still enjoy the capital?
My hobby is looking at apartments in New York, France or somewhere. One day I’ll get it together and buy a place, but I’m leaving it a bit late.
London is conveniently placed for what I do – Heathrow Airport’s only 20 minutes away. Where I live, the streets are wide and it’s quite quiet. Quite a few musicians, actors and DJs live around here. There’s not really a ‘scene’, but there’s a king of hipness to it. I actually live less than a mile from Paddington Hospital, where I was born. But I’ve been around the world since then.
Does the travel aspect of being a global musician still appeal? I mention that because hasn’t Chris Stein stopped touring with Blondie?
We recorded a Blondie album (last year), and Chris was involved in that. But touring is hard work. That’s why I’m impressed with Debbie. We pretty much have a two-hour show and she does it, aged 77. And at some point during the two-hour show, she’ll say to me, ‘Glen, have you finished yet’? (laughs).
On tour, does Debbie ever tap you up for Sex Pistols stories?
No, not really. I think she and Clem (Burke) already know all that’s worth knowing about the Sex Pistols. I think the very first time I met ‘em was when I did a one-off gig with Sid Vicious at the Electric Ballroom (London). All of Blondie were there and they were part of the scene.
That’s the thing about being in a band. When you’re visiting another town, you can’t sit in your hotel all night. So, you say ‘Right, what’s going on? Let’s have a look-see’. That was particularly the case when everything was new and we’d just started out. It’s how you get to know other bands and musicians. I mean, if I’m in New York. I’m out all the time. But I don’t go out like that in London unless my mates or my kids are gigging or doing something.
Your son (Sam) makes a cameo in the Pistol series (as lead singer of Bazooka Joe, headliners of Sex Pistols’ debut gig)
Both my sons are in it. My eldest son (Sam) is in America at the moment on a boat going around the Bahamas as part of a rock tour. It’s quite a big thing over there, so he’s doing alright for himself. My younger boy (Louis) has just put a record out. But anyway, I won’t go on about them too much because they wanna be their own men, which I respect.
In the Steve Jones interview, you talk about how when you meet someone new in whatever context, the conversation always comes back to the Sex Pistols.
I think that’s the same for all of us who were in the band. We were such a big thing.
The Sex Pistols, like Elvis and the Beatles before them, not only tore the music history books a new one, they changed the world. Their influence will outlive us all and generations thereafter. It must be a continual mind-blow, knowing you helped create such a legacy.
I’m not that kind of guy. I’m always more interested in the next song I’m gonna write; the next gig I’m gonna do. I always say this: I like to live in the present, doff my cap to the past and look to the future. Even though I had my own band, the Rich Kids, and then played with Iggy Pop, my whole career I’ve never been allowed to forget about it (the Pistols).
With so many of your punk-era contemporaries sadly passing-on, does it feel as though time is ticking by and that maybe you should get a move-on with stuff?
It makes me think they should’ve eaten more vegetables (laughs). Eat up ya greens.
I mean, yeah, I feel time is running out a little bit. What has been a frustration is getting records out. I could’ve made twice as many records by now if I’d had a bit of back-up. What is annoying as well, is people trying to pigeonhole you.
How are you pigeonholed?
As the bloke who was slung out of the Sex Pistols. That’s what a lot of people’s perception is. I think my whole career has been trying to reel that back in somehow. And I do that by writing, you know, pretty good songs and showing I’m a contemporary-ish artist who can attract great players. The people that I play with end up doing it for a sticky bun and a cappuccino, despite being promised the earth (moneywise). But they still do it. Then, just when you think you’re getting somewhere, the Danny fuckin’ Boyle thing (Pistol) comes out. And you think,’ Aghh, no’.
Have you spoken to Boyle (Pistol director) about how you were portrayed?
Yeah. They invited me to all the red-carpet events. I didn’t even know if I wanted to attend, but I thought I’d would go to the one (Pistol premiere) in Los Angeles when I had a night off from the Blondie tour, mainly to back-up Steve. My son was there, he was friendly with some of the cast, and along the way I saw Danny Boyle. He came up to me and went (affects soppy tone) ‘Ello Glen’. And I said (cheery tone) ‘Danny…you’re a cunt’. I said, ‘If I hadn’t backed you up on giving you the rights to use the (Pistols’) songs, you wouldn’t have been able to make the series. We had all those discussions and you ignored them all.’
Playing devil’s advocate here, perhaps Boyle thought portraying you as being sacked from the band somehow made for a better story.
But it’s not a better story – it’s not true. There was much more going on (in terms of Matlock’s departure) than was shown in the series. But anyway…
Did you and Boyle shake hands and leave on decent terms?
Nah. He was kind of frosty. It was quite funny actually. I got talking to this journalist after the premiere. She asked me about my involvement with the series, so I told her and shared a few thoughts. Anyway, there was a post-show Q&A with Danny Boyle and others, and it turned out this journalist was hosting it. Her first question was: ‘Danny. How many people have you pissed off during the making of this series?’ And he was like, ‘Whoa’…(laughs).
Revenge is best served cold on a warm night in Los Angeles, it would seem. Change of tact: are there any musicians that you harbour a longing to perform with?
None that I ‘long’ to play with. But I’m fortunate in that I bump into people and something will happen. I’m not only doing my own stuff; I’m always doing little sessions and things. In fact, the other night I was at a housing estate in Tottenham. I’d played on a record by this guy Avelino. He’s like a grime-based rapper and he asked if I wanted to make a cameo appearance in this video they were doing. It was cool – really fun. I was kind of out of my comfort zone, but that’s one of my favourite places to be. It’s like Bowie’s said of locating the creative sweet spot: ‘If you’re in water and your feet can still touch the ground, you should move out a little further’.
When you’re not creating or touring, what fills your time aside from supporting QPR? You don’t drink anymore, right?
Yeah, I just stopped – went cold turkey. It was hard work. I did some playing with The Faces a while ago and I met Ronnie Wood. He’d just stopped drinking and everything. He said he was a week into his abstinence and asked how long it’d been for me. I said, ‘About 20-odd years, Ron’. Then he looked at me and goes, ‘How’d you do that’? I just looked him in the eye and said, ‘Ronnie. I was fed-up with making a cunt of myself.’ (laughs)
Music aside, you also enjoy art, which you studied at St Martin’s College before giving it up for rock and roll.
I actually got into St Martin’s to do fine art painting, which I didn’t realise was a really big deal. But in the summer holidays I decided to take the Sex Pistols seriously. And even though I could’ve possibly studied art and done the music for a year or two, I didn’t. And that is my one kind of regret. I was given an Honorary Fellowship by St Martin’s. It’s probably a reward for all the foreign students that sign up to the college every year because of the Pistols connection. It makes them money.
Where you live is Blue Plaque Central – so many great and gifted people have dwelt and died around there. What’s the chances of you being awarded ‘Glen Matlock Live Here’ recognition?
You’ve got to be brown bread to get one of those, and I’m not ready for that yet.
Glen’s new album, ‘Consequences Coming’ is available to pre-order now: https://glenmatlock.lnk.to/newalbum.
Main photo of Glen by Martin Eaves
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