All posts by The Mouth Magazine

GLEN MATLOCK

GLEN MATLOCK MADE MUSIC HISTORY AS AN ORIGINAL MEMBER OF PUNK BAND THE SEX PISTOLS…

Penning PRETTY VACANT, ANARCHY IN THE UK and GOD SAVE THE QUEEN, Matlock helped create the benchmark for a movement to measure itself against. He left the band before the release of classic album NEVER MIND THE BOLLOCKS, ostensibly eclipsed in the wider public’s eye by replacement bassist Sid Vicious. Matlock, though, had played on the album and went on to forge a brilliant career. He has released several solo records over the intervening years, and was also a member of Rich Kids (with Midge Ure) and has played with Iggy Pop, the reformed Faces and many others. Now, he’s set to play a residency of dates at Boisdales in Canary Wharf to celebrate the fothcoming release of new album GOOD TO GO. It was made with guitarist Earl Slick (from David Bowie’s band) and drummer Slim Jim Phantom (the Stray Cats). It’s an impressively energetic record with a heavy rockabilly vibe and, in this new interview with The Mouth Magazine, we begin by talking about it…

Listen to: SEXY BEAST

 

I’VE BEEN LISTENING TO YOUR NEW ALBUM, GOOD TO GO, AND I PARTICULARLY LIKE THE TRACK SEXY BEAST… THERE’S SOMETHING ABOUT THE ROCKABILLY FEEL OF THE ALBUM WHICH SEEMS NO-HOLDS-BARRED… IT FEELS LIKE IT COULD GO OFF THE RAILS AT ANY MOMENT…
Does it? Oh dear, I’d better go back and fix that then…

I MEAN IN A GOOD WAY. IT’S AN EXCITING VIBE…
Yeah, I know. I’m joking. Ha ha… I think that’s down to the pedigree of the various people I’ve got playing on it, and where they’re coming from. I’ve been mates with Slim Jim Phantom [from Stray Cats] for a long time and we’ve worked on various little projects together. I had a bunch of songs I wanted to record and I asked Slim if he was up for doing it and he said “yeah, for sure”. The thing with Slim is that he swings the beat… That’s part of the whole rockabilly thing. So I could see that Slim was going to lend a different angle to the songs. Also we roped in my mate Jim Lowe, who’s a producer really, he does all the Stereophonics stuff. He plays guitar and he plays bass, so he played bass on this one. I could just strum me acoustic. I said “Well, who else can we get on guitar?” and Slim said “How about Earl Slick?” – and I didn’t know that he knew Earl. I thought “That’s a good idea!” – so we asked Earl and he was up for it. The engineer on the album is a guy called Mario McNulty. He worked on David Bowie’s album before last, THE NEXT DAY. Earl recommended him… We did it in upstate New York. So, yeah, there’s all those different elements to it. I do still like the punk thing, but I’ve been doing it so long I really wanted a departure from that. I deliberately wanted to do a different kind of record than I’ve done in the past. I wasn’t bothered about doing anything complicated, and GOOD TO GO reflects that. I mean, the album sort of does what it says on the tin – but I wouldn’t say it’s totally out-and-out rockabilly. It’s got a sort of strong flavour, but it’s not all the time – there’s a couple of ballads and there’s even a cover of a Scott Walker song…

… MONTAGUE TERRACE…
Yeah. I like Scott Walker. I’d been playing that song live for quite a while, and we were in the studio and Slim broke a drumstick or something. So while we were waiting I just started playing it. They all looked up and asked “That sounds good, what’s that?” and it was MONTAGUE TERRACE. So we had a go at it… We started layering it up and stuff and there was a pair of timpani kettle drums, and I could see Slim Jim was eyeing ’em up. I said “Go on then, have a go”… So there was a bit of an air of adventure on the album, too. But all in all I suppose I’d describe GOOD TO GO as “loud skiffle”… Ha ha ha…

WHEN I SAID “IT FEELS LIKE IT COULD GO OFF THE RAILS” I MEANT THAT THERE’S A SENSE OF DANGER IN THE ENERGY OF IT… I SUPPOSE, IN A WAY, THERE’S A CASE FOR ARGUING THAT ROCKABILLY IS THE ORIGINAL PUNK ROCK…
Yeah, I think so, I think there is. It’s simple and exciting. I think music should have an edge. If it’s all safe and tame it’s muzak not music, y’know what I mean?

OBVIOUSLY EARL SLICK IS VERY WELL KNOWN FOR HIS WORK WITH DAVID BOWIE… WERE YOU A FAN?
Yeah, of course… I mean, another element to the sound of this new record is that I loved The Spiders From Mars… One of the things I liked about ’em, particularly, was the rhythm guitar, sort of driving the whole thing along. That was Bowie on an acoustic. It leaves more room for the lyrics to come through and it leaves more room for the, as we say in the trade, ‘twiddly bits’ on the guitar.

JUST THINKING ABOUT BOWIE, PERHAPS, BUT OTHER ARTISTS TOO… I WONDERED WHAT WAS THE FIRST MUSIC THAT MADE YOU WANT TO MAKE MUSIC..?
It’s simple really. I was born in the mid-Fifties. My Uncle had been a Teddy Boy and when he moved on from that he gave me his old 78s. This is when I’m six or seven years old. So the first records I put on the radiogram were Jerry Lee Lewis, Chantilly Lace by The Big Bopper, Earl Bostic, Elvis Presley… stuff like that. It was all pumpin’ out of this big old radiogram where the volume pot was dirty – so it was either too quiet or miles too loud, y’know? ou could never get it just right… Putting those records on, it was like a firework. Light the blue touch-paper and retire immediately. You’d have to go across the other side of the room, ‘cos if those thick Shellac discs’d come flying off the radiogram they’d have took your head off… So there was an actual element of physical danger to the element of danger music I was listening to! So that was that, anyway – what I heard and how I heard it…

THERE WAS NO REAL YOUTH RADIO BACK THEN EITHER…
We never had a national radio station back then – but the pirate radio ships started coming through. so you heard The Kinks, The Who, The Yardbirds, the Stones and the Small Faces. It’s funny, really – I just did a radio thing earlier on this morning and while I was there I bumped into Kenney Jones. We were on the same show! He was saying similar kinds of thing, really. There’s a connection there, because when I was about fifteen I lived in Kensal Green, which is up the Harrow Road. It’s not too far from Portobello Road. When I started going out with my mates when I was that age – thirteen, fourteen, fifteen or so – we went on the bus, but we always went the ‘wrong’ way. We went to Willesden. We didn’t realise that the other way was Ladbroke Grove and the Portobello Road. When I discovered that, things changed! I actually went in a record store and I was flicking through the racks. I found a record, with a cardboard sleeve with stitching on it and a big hole in the middle, that looked like a 78… So I bought it – and it turned out to be the Faces…

… THEIR SECOND ALBUM… LONG PLAYER…
Yeah. It’d literally been made to look like a 78. I didn’t actually realise, when I bought it, that it was some of the guys from the Small Faces. They’d gone on and they’d formed up with Rod Stewart and Ronnie Wood and all that. So there’s kind of a circle there, y’know what I mean? Your circle was squared even more when, six or seven or eight years ago, I got the gig to play with the Faces. They were my all-time favourite band – and it’s the band where, when I couldn’t even play the guitar, I used to stand in front of the mirror and pretend that I was in ’em!

THE VOCALIST IN THIS VERSION OF THE FACES WAS MICK HUCKNALL… 
Mick Hucknall… Everybody would have loved Rod Stewart to do the Faces, of course, but that didn’t happen for some kind of reason. So Mick Hucknall did it – and when it was announced he got a lot of stick for doing it. But he didn’t have to do it and he didn’t need to do it – he’s a multi-millionaire. He did it because he absolutely loves the band. And he did it really good, y’know? To me the Faces were always a great rock band with a great soul singer. Regardless of what you think about Mick (and I quite like him), he’s a great soul singer. You can’t take that away from him. Mick’s a real aficionado of Etta James and all that kind of thing. When we was rehearsing, to hear him do I’D RATHER GO BLIND gave me goosebumps and made the hairs stand up on the back of my neck. But, on the other hand, it was cold and it was snowing outside where we was rehearsing in this barn in Surrey, ha ha… That might have been something to do with it?

THERE’S QUITE A BIT OF DIFFERENCE BETWEEN THE PUBLIC PERCEPTIONS OF MICK HUCKNALL AND, SAY, IGGY POP…
Yeah, there is. But they’re both really really good at what they do. That’s always been my yardstick. It don’t matter what idiom it’s in, as long as it’s really good at what it is. If you go through a lot of people’s record collections, you’ll find people have got catholic tastes. I always got quite a bit of stick for liking ABBA – but I think as pop songwriters they’re fantastic. I mean, if you listen to the drums on WATERLOO it could be Paul [Cook] playing it… I think perhaps he’d picked up a bit, subconsciously, on that..? You can’t walk down the street or have the radio on or listen to records, or whatever, without hearing something you might not ‘like’ but which somehow ends up seeping into what you do… Osmosis.

YOU’RE A MAN WHO, MUSICALLY, HAS HAD A LOT OF FINGERS IN A LOT OF PIES OVER THE YEARS…
Well, yeah. But really only two kinds of music. As they say: “rock” and “roll”… But, yeah, I’ve been fortunate that the people I’ve met up with or the people who have, perhaps, deliberately sought me out have always seemed to lean more to the left-field things – and those things maybe keep everybody on edge a little bit more, y’know?

OVER THE LAST FORTY YEARS THERE’S BEEN QUITE A BIT OF CONJECTURE ABOUT YOUR CONTRIBUTION TO THE SEX PISTOLS… BUT AS I UNDERSTAND IT YOU ACTUALLY CO-WROTE MOST OF NEVER MIND THE BOLLOCKS – DEFINITELY THE SINGLES ANARCHY IN THE UK, GOD SAVE THE QUEEN AND PRETTY VACANT… BUT YOU’D LEFT THE BAND BY THE TIME THE ALBUM CAME OUT. THERE’S THIS NOTION THAT YOU WERE FIRED AND REPLACED BY SID, BUT YOU WERE THEN ASKED TO COME BACK AND PLAY ON THE ALBUM. IT ALL SEEMS A BIT… MESSY…
Yeah, ha. But not only that, I was actually asked to play on GOD SAVE THE QUEEN and got paid for it. I got paid but I didn’t do it. Steve [Jones] decided he wanted to do it instead, in the end. So who’s the mug? Anyway, as you say, a lot of those songs are mine and the finished album’s not that much different to how we played those songs when we played live. That’s what it was back then. Y’know, when we was all sat around in the rehearsal studio and people were going “What are we gonna do?”, it was generally me that had an idea. Like that song PROBLEMS. That was generally what was going on. We didn’t have anything, but I had that riff. Steve went “That’s good, let’s do that”, and Paul joined in and off we went. Steve had another bit for it, and John had this bag of lyrics and went “I’ve got this one”, and there we are. That was it. Really, that was the only song we wrote like that – a band jamming kind of thing. I think that’s ‘cos I get bored easily. I’m one of them “Come on then” kind of people…

AS I SAID, THE SITUATION WITH YOU HAS ALWAYS SEEMED A BIT MESSY, TO ME. HAVING READ AROUND IT, AND LOOKING WITH A MUCH LONGER EYE, IT SEEMS TO ME TO MAYBE HAVE BEEN A SEVERE CASE OF MALCOLM PUSHING THINGS – AND SO THEREFORE YOU – AROUND…
Hmm. Nah… I think what happened is that Malcolm had a really short span of attention and he liked to keep things around him in a constant state of flux all the time. But Malcolm never realised the value of the expression “If it ain’t broke don’t fix it”… I could see what was going on, and I didn’t like it, and I thought there was a dishonesty to the way it was. Little things like this thing about us being banned everywhere. I’d go out and be talking to some promoter and he’d say he’d put us on – so I’d go tell Malcolm and he’d say “No, no. We’re not doing that. We’re banned”… It happened a lot and I thought it was dishonest. And then there was that stupid thing about The Beatles…

MALCOLM’S ASSERTION THAT YOU WERE FIRED BECAUSE YOU LIKED THE BEATLES…
Yeah, that was a very dishonest and snide thing that Malcolm sent on a telegram to the NME. He didn’t say it to my face and, in fact, we’d shook hands and parted on good terms. The most annoying thing about it is that I get asked, forty years after the event, if that was correct. It wasn’t true that that’s why I’d gone, and so it wasn’t right to denigrate me.

… YOU AND JOHN DIDN’T SEE EYE-TO-EYE, EITHER…
Yeah, on top of all that with Malcolm, me and John was always chalk and cheese. We did do enough together to come up with that whole body of work – but we was totally different people. I’m not the only person to say this, but I thought once he’d got his boat-race in the paper he changed. It became too much hard work to deal with. Another expression is “It’s more trouble than it’s worth” – and I was having so many difficulties with John at that time, that that’s what the Sex Pistols became to me…

A COUPLE OF YEARS AGO YOU PUBLISHED FILTHY LUCRE, A BOOK OF PHOTOS YOU TOOK AROUND THE TIME OF THE 1996 REUNION, WHICH WAS A REALLY SUCCESSFUL TOUR. THE BAND HAS ALSO PLAYED AGAIN SINCE THEN… SO I WONDERED ‘WHERE THINGS ARE AT’ BETWEEN YOU ALL THESE DAYS..?
Steve’s doing his thing and he lives in Los Angeles… As does John, I believe, though I haven’t seen him for a long old time. When I was over in LA about this time last year I saw Steve, and we got on fine. Paul, I see a lot more ‘cos he lives in London. But… Just because you work with someone for a bit it doesn’t mean you’re mates. You’re not necessarily still mates with the guy you worked at the Gas Board with back in 1973, are you? So, the Pistols… I think we’re acquainted just about enough. We’re not a gang…

WHAT WAS DIFFERENT, TO BE ABLE TO DO THOSE TOURS?
There’s a big difference when there’s a good few quid involved. There’s a difference when you’re sitting at the front of the aeroplane, and there’s a difference when you’ve got a decent hotel room. There’s a difference between all of that and sitting on the equipment in the back of a dirty transit van with no windows, all squabbling with each other. We could afford to come to an accommodation with each other and get the job done.

… AND WAS THAT ACCOMMODATION EASY?
Well, here you go. When we was touring in the States we had a tourbus for some of it. And then we had two tourbuses… I said to Steve “This is gonna cost us a fortune”. And he said “Yeah, but it’s John’s idea, so let him have a coach to himself – and we’ll be able to finish the tour and then we’ll get paid” – and I thought that was good thinking.

LOOKING BACK…
Do I have to?

… A LITTLE BIT MORE, YEAH…
Go on then…

… LOOKING BACK, WITH YOU IN THE EYE OF THE STORM, WAS PUNK TO YOU THE SAME THING AS WAS BEING PROJECTED TO THE PUBLIC? 
I think so. I subscribed to it… I think the thing is, punk actually came after. We were the Sex Pistols first. We didn’t form the group and set out to be a punk band – we just set out to be the Sex Pistols. The punk term didn’t even really exist when we started. It didn’t exist for a good year or more… Anyway, at that time there was important things that needed to be said. Punk was the right thing at the right time. But I never thought the Pistols was an out-and-out political band. We just spoke our mind and did that with an openness and an honesty that people happened to find shocking. I don’t even think we deliberately set out to shock people. It all just came out that way – and when it did we stood our ground and we wouldn’t back down. It was anti-establishment. That’s maybe what was political about it… but I do think the Sex Pistols was extremely apolitical, in a way…

I THINK IT’S IMPORTANT TO REMEMBER WHAT THE CLIMATE WAS IN THE MID-’70s… I WAS WATCHING THIS DOCUMENTARY ON NETFLIX THE OTHER NIGHT, ABOUT DONALD TRUMP, TRACING HIS HISTORY IN THE PUBLIC EYE… BEGINNING IN THE MID 1970s IN NEW YORK. IT WAS SURPRISING TO SEE FOOTAGE OF THE PLACE FROM THAT TIME – IT LOOKED A COMPLETE SHITHOLE, REALLY DEGRADED AND DEFEATED, REALLY… AND I THINK YOU CAN EQUATE THAT TO WHAT WAS GOING ON IN THE UK…
That’s right, yeah. Things was on the slide. I know Marky Ramone, his real name’s Marc Bell. I always really rated him ‘cos he played on BLANK GENERATION [by Richard Hell and the Voidoids], which I think is actually the best punk record, y’know? I remember doing something together, an interview or something, and I was being a little bit arsey with him about America and the Americans and I was sort of saying “You lot’ve had it easy”… He launched into this whole impressive spiel about what a state New York was in during the early to mid-Seventies… I just didn’t realise…

I WONDER IF THERE COULD EVER AGAIN BE SOMETHING AS VITAL AS PUNK COMING UP FROM THOSE SORT OF CONDITIONS? THINGS SEEM SO MUCH DIFFERENT AND SO SORT OF CLEANED UP AND CONTROLLED – BUT, EVEN SO, I CAN FEEL SOMETHING IN THE AIR, I THINK… MAYBE WE’RE RIPE FOR IT.
Maybe we are. There’s probably lots of kids thinking something’s going to happen. But it’d be hard, I think. When the Pistols came through there was only two or three TV stations and there was only Radio One (‘cos the pirates had gone). To get into music you had to physically go and buy the NME or the MELODY MAKER or whatever. Nobody had mobile ‘phones… So there were actual places that people went to, and that’s where you’d meet each other, that’s where you’d get on and find your common ground. If you liked a band you’d go and buy their record – you made a… commitment.

THAT MIGHT BE WHAT’S MISSING..?
Yeah, I think that might be what’s missing a little bit, yeah… I think it’s that lack of having to make a physical commitment that nips in the bud what you’re suggesting… I might be wrong. I’m a bit older and I don’t go to gigs as much as I used to – I’d rather watch the football on the TV ‘cos I’m knackered from globe-trotting… If I do go to gigs it’s usually to see me mates play or I’m playing the gig myself. I mean, that’s just me. It don’t mean it isn’t going to happen. My sons are in a band, they’re playing, and I’m sure there’s a live music scene that they go out and do – but it’s a bit kind of different from what it was… I do hope something comes through – but who knows?

THERE WAS NO INTERNET BACK IN THE PISTOLS DAY EITHER, WHICH IS SOMETHING THAT’S HAD A HUGE IMPACT…
Yeah, it has. We had no internet, no… It’s had a huge impact. The other thing about the internet is… things go on. You had the Arab Springs because of the internet… But it can be kind of hidden, in a way. You don’t necessarily see it. You know like we just said about physical things? Sitting at home by yourself you might know there’s this thing going on somewhere – but it’s not a physical conglomeration of the meeting of people.

SO, TO ROUND UP, GLEN… THE ALBUM GOOD TO GO HAS BEEN A COUPLE OF YEARS IN THE COMING, BUT IS JUST ABOUT GOOD TO GO… WILL THERE BE LIVE DATES TOO?
The couple of years is not down to me – that’s just down to…

… ‘THE BIZ’…
Yeah, eaxactly. The nature of the record business these days – and me being an older bloke. But yeah, we’re in the process of setting some things up at the minute. First of all, as a sort of launch for the album, we’ve got this five night residency in a really quite nice club called Boisdale, down in Canary Wharf… Slim Jim’s not actually available for that (though I’m going over to Dubai in August, to do some things with him and the guitarist Chris Spedding). But Earl Slick’s available and so he’s coming over to do this residency… So it’ll be good. If people like the new record then hopefully that will lead on and I can do bigger gigs. So it’s all quite exciting, yeah.

I DON’T DOUBT THAT BECAUSE YOU’RE RIGHT IN THE MIDDLE OF THE LAUNCH OF GOOD TO GO YOU MIGHT NOT KNOW… BUT WHAT’S NEXT FOR YOU?
More of the same, really. I do all sorts of stuff. It’s like, somebody I’ve never heard of sends me a message saying “Do you wanna come and do this gig?” and if I fancy it I go do it – so I’ve been doing loads of solo shows. I’ve done hundreds of gigs all round the world with just an acoustic and it goes down well. Earlier this year I supported Dropkick Murphys all round Europe. That was in 15,000 seater kind of places. I think I went down kind of well, just me and my acoustic. Off the back of that I’ve got a little tour of Scandinavia coming up. Recently I played at that LABOUR LIVE thing in Haringey and I got everybody singing, which was kind of cool…

DID YOU MEET JEREMY [CORBYN]..?
Not at that, but I’ve met him before. Other people came up – all the important people behind the scenes and that… I’m not an out-and-out Labour supporter – but I’m certainly not a Tory. I think anything we can do to move the country on from this bit of a morass we’re in at the moment is definitely for the better… Thus spake Chairman Matlock. Ha ha ha ha…

 

Pre-Order GOOD TO GO here
Tickets for the Boisdale (Canary Wharf) residency here