Ahead of his live date on Friday 9th August at the Balcombe Club (Tickets HERE) with his star studded band The Tough Cookies, the Brighton & Hove News music team get up close and personal with an exclusive interview (on 1st August) with none other than legendary bassist Glen Matlock.
Glen Matlock first found fame in the 1970’s as bassist with the Sex Pistols and the Rich Kids. In the intervening decades he has found success as a solo artist, and I managed to catch up with him by phone before last night’s gig with his current band, The Tough Cookies, in Kobe, Japan, to talk about his career to date.
Brighton and Hove News: What were your early musical influences?
Glen Matlock: All the pirate radio stations in the 1960’s: soul music, Smokey Robinson, Dusty Springfield, The Animals, The Kinks, The Yardbirds, The Who, The Small Faces….. That’s what got me going.
B&HN: How did you come to join the Sex Pistols?
G M: Basically we all met at Malcolm McLaren’s teddy boy shop down the King’s Road in the mid-1970’s. I used to work there. Steve and Paul used to come in. John started coming in a bit later. Steve and Paul had a band and one day their bass player didn’t turn up. I said that I played bass guitar, so I started rehearsing with them. Steve was initially the singer, but that didn’t really work out so he moved to guitar. We were looking for a singer and we found John. He was a bit of a character, we thought we’d give him a shot, and the rest is history!
B&HN: I’ve always viewed you as the most musical member of the Pistols…..
G M: That doesn’t say a lot though does it! I’m joking…….
B&HN: I remain astonished that they didn’t try to persuade you to stay….
G M: Well, everything became a bit funny, y’know….
B&HN: Post Bill Grundy I suppose? (The Pistols effectively became public enemy no.1 after swearing profusely on a prime time TV show)
G M: Yeah.
B&HN: What are your views on Malcolm McLaren?
G M: He was one of these people who was either with us or against us. When I was with the band he was with us, and then he turned pretty sh*tty after that. I’ve got mixed feelings about him.
G M: Yeah – deliberately so. It would have been so easy for me to form a second division Sex Pistols, but I didn’t want to. I wanted to do something different. I really liked Midge’s voice. He’s a really talented guy, and I thought that by getting him in the band it would put the cat amongst the pigeons. We had our moment in the sun! (laughs).
G M: That was just a one-off thing to show that we weren’t arch enemies. That was the last gig he played in England. It was called Vicious White Kids because of Sid Vicious, me and Steve (New) from The Rich Kids, and Rat Scabies, The Damned’s drummer. He’d fallen out with the band at the time and had a band called The White Cats. It was quite good. There’s a bootleg of it (which had a legitimate release on Delorean Records in 1991) but the sound quality isn’t very good. Sid was quite a good singer, but what he didn’t have was the gift of the gab as a lyricist.
G M: Yeah, I made an album with him. We did a few co-writes and he did one of my songs.
B&HN: What was it like working with him?
G M: It was funny you know, because it was the first proper tour I’d ever done. With the Pistols and The Rich Kids we didn’t have proper roadies or anything like that. Iggy had been touring for years, he had a whole team of people and everything worked! It was quite interesting going to America for the first time in my life. The first show in New York we headlined the Palladium, which has a capacity of about 4,000 people. It was Halloween and the whole audience was dressed in Halloween gear. We didn’t celebrate Halloween in England at that time. The support band was The Cramps, and backstage was Debbie Harry dressed as a witch. She gave me a kiss on the cheek which was quite a welcome to New York!
B&HN: There have been a number of Pistols reunions, and I saw you with the band on the 1996 tour. At the time you appeared to be very much like a well-drilled stadium band which I wasn’t really expecting at the time. Do you think there’s any chance of further reunions?
G M: It doesn’t look like it. I’m not holding my breath. You never know. I don’t get up in the morning thinking about the Sex Pistols. I’m more interested in what I’m doing now.
B&HN: I saw you playing with Dead Men Walking in 2001. That looked like a lot of fun.
G M: Yeah, it was just playing with some mates y’know, a little tour. Someone asked me if I fancied it. I like doing different projects with different people. It doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re a band, but it was a loose sort of conglomeration. Mike Peters (from The Alarm) was there, and there were one or two different line-ups. In one of the later line-ups Slim Jim Phantom (from the Stray Cats) was there, and I’d sort of lost touch with him, and then I just got re-acquainted with him. He’s one of my best mates and he actually plays drums on my album that’s out.
B&HN: Is that ‘Good To Go’?
G M: ‘Good To Go’ yeah. He played on ten tracks out of twelve, and then Chris (Musto) played on the other two. He’s sitting with me here in the café in Kobe.
B&HN: I saw Slim Jim Phantom with The Stray Cats a few weeks ago.
G M: Yeah, that’s why he’s not here with me in Japan. He’s playing big shows with them. We played the Fuji Festival here the other night, and headlined one of the smaller stages, and they seemed to like me. Now we’re doing some club shows here. I like coming to Japan. Although it’s about 100 degrees at the moment! You just have to get on with it!
B&HN: You played with the re-formed Faces…..
G M: Yeah. In fact the last show I did in Japan several years back was at the Fuji Festival. That was great. The Faces are my all-time favourite band and I was in them! I like playing with them because they’re such a great bunch of guys, and they all play great. Mick Hucknall sung, it wasn’t Rod Stewart. It was a great rock band though with a great soul singer. That’s what it was with Rod Stewart and that’s what it was with Mick Hucknall as well. He’s into the blues and all his soul stuff.
Through all of that I’ve been forging my thing and putting albums out. Some have been taken a bit more seriously than others. I think there’s a continuity to my songwriting and I seem to be able to attract decent musicians to play on my stuff: Earl Slick from David Bowie’s band. He’s here in Japan with us. He’ll be playing in Balcombe with us and we get on pretty good.
B&HN: You’re playing in Balcombe next week, aren’t you?
G M: Yeah. We’ve got a show tonight, a show in Kyoto tomorrow, Kumamato and then Balcombe! (laughs). We’re then playing in London, then the following weekend we’re playing at Kenny Jones’s polo club, which should be interesting. The band’s really cooking. There’s some good songs there. We’re not a po-faced miserable bunch of shoegazers – we know how to put on a show. We’re having serious fun! There’s your headline: ‘serious fun says Glen Matlock’!
B&HN: You played in Hastings in March didn’t you?
G M: Yeah. Neal X (from Sigue Sigue Sputnik) played guitar. People like me, it’s a bit like running a cricket team. There’s loads of really good musicians, but they’re not always available for a one-off here and there. Earl lives in America, and unless someone wants to fly him business class from Brooklyn, New York to Hastings it’s not really going to happen! Neal’s a great player though. He plays on a track on my album as well. I like Neal. He’s kind of busy though. He’s doing his own stuff with Marc Almond a lot of the time.
B&HN: How did you get Earl Slick involved in your current band, The Tough Cookies?
G M: I did a project with him about eight years ago. We got on and had a laugh. It didn’t really come to anything, but we kept in touch. When I asked Slim Jim (Phantom – from The Stray Cats) to play on my record, I asked if he had any ideas for a guitarist, and he suggested Earl Slick. I didn’t realise that Slim Jim knew him, but they’d had a band together in the 1980’s – Phantom, Rocker and Slick. Also the engineer who recorded the album was the guy who did Bowie’s last album. We all got on and we were a good team. We’ll probably do the next album which I’ve been writing songs for, although I doubt that’ll be out until next year. We haven’t started recording yet but I’ve been demo-ing stuff. I think I’ve got a good bunch of songs.
B&HN: You seem to be pretty prolific……
G M: I always say that there’s not that much on the TV!
B&HN: What does Glen Matlock do when he’s ‘off duty’?
G M: I don’t really know if I’m ever ‘off duty’ really. There’s always gigs to play. I’m travelling around the world fighting jet lag, drinking too much coffee, hanging around in cafes. Where I am now, I’m sitting in this little café in Kobe, there’s a beautiful Shinto shrine, I’m watching all the people coming and going to work. The support band have just turned up to have a coffee with us. There a fantastic band that I’ve just produced actually. They’re an all-girl punk rock band called The Tomboys. They all look like Mary Quant in the 1960’s. They’re waiting to say ‘hello’. Life’s quite interesting at the moment.
With that I leave Glen to get on with his coffee, and indeed, his interesting life. What came across to me during the interview was how incredibly modest he is. He seems somewhat surprised that so many musicians want to play with him. He’s clearly a very talented man and a ‘musicians’ musician’. Hence his popularity.
Glen Matlock and The Tough Cookies play The Balcombe Club near Haywards Heath on 9th August, 229 The Venue, London on 10th August, and Hurtwood Park Polo Club on 17th August. Glen’s current album ‘Good To Go’ is available on Peppermint Records.
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