By Clare McCabe
Before there was Sid, there was Glen. Being one of the original Sex Pistols is just one small part of this man’s long and varied career. He’s been a Rich Kid, toured with Iggy Pop, played in the reformed Faces, rejoined the Pistols on tour and travelled the world with his solo tour. He’s even done an interesting cover of Pharrel’s song Happy. I kid you not.
Last week I had a quick chat with the lovely Glen Matlock on all things Iggy, his current acoustic solo tour and some of his musical influences. He was surprisingly chipper on this Autumn evening (London time) and ready to converse. After we got the general chit chat out of the way about when he was last in Auckland (Filthy Lucre tour), we got down to the serious stuff.
Now I’ve been looking at the setlists that you’ve been playing recently on your solo tour – very interesting choices – there’s a bit of Iggyin there, some Richard Hell, even some Kinks. How do you go about choosing what you’re going to play?
Well there’s quite a bit of Glen Matlock in there as well though, I’d like to point that out. Yeah I do songs from all aspects of my chequered career and I also do some songs that are kind of records of what I’ve ended up doing. I mean I do an Iggy song, the song I normally dois one called Ambition,which is the song that I wrote that he actually covered on his Soldier album. So that’s not such a strange oneto do. Kinks, a big influence on me, especially the lyrics of that song Dead End Street. When I was a young lad, and I heard that record on the radio I was living on the top floor of a two up/two down and if you listen to the words, I kind of thought he was singing to me. That was about, well when did it come out, must have been about ‘65, yeah so that’s kind of a big influence.
And in fact it’s even got a connection with Australia and New Zealand. I know they had it in Australia but I’m not sure if they had it in New Zealand, the Ten Pound Poms, where people emigrated?
They could go all the way to Australia for just tenpounds, the whole family. And oneof the lines in the song is “No chance to emigrate,I'm deep in debt and now it's much too late”. So that was kind of referring to leaving England to go to the Antipodes.
Now moving on, it must be hard out there in this world at the moment trying to keep your music going.
Yeah but you know luckily the phone keeps ringing. I’ve been all over this year. I’ve not long got back from Gibraltar, I was playing a festival over there last week and it went pretty well. I’ve done all festivals through the summer and I’m looking forward to coming over your way.
I saw that you also did Glastonbury this year? How was that?
I did Glastonbury this year, I did it last year as well. It was fine. I just did a smaller thing this year with some friends with a company called Earache Records and they had a stage set up. I didn’t know until I go there that it was in a tube train, that somehow they’d got a tube train carriage, which they’d taken the side off and made into a stage. But they got the train carriage down into the middle of Wiltshire, so hats off to them for showing a bit of chutzpah really.So that was kind of fun.
Did you get to watch any other bands at Glastonbury?
Not this time I didn’t, no. I was just there and it was a bit of a schlep down and back and it was a last minute thing you know. We’re too old for camping I must admit. Especially when it’s pouring down with rain and really muddy at Glastonbury, but this year it was actually dry and if anything it was too dusty.Normally when I go to a festival I’ll go and check out the other bands and stuff and catch up with some old chums and things.
Now I was reading about the Anarchy Arias that you were involved in this year. How did that come about?
I only sort of had a small involvement in that. A couple of years back I actually did a version of Pretty Vacant with a string quartet which was kind of fun to do. But the guy who was behind the Anarchy Arias, he saw me doing it and it gave him the idea to kind of go off and do that (Arias) and then they approached me to see what I thought about it. So I was more kind of like quality control then actually playing on it you know. But I thought it was really good and I think all kinds of music, any good song,can be played in any idiom and I think that the Anarchy Arias really shows that off.
And I got quite matey with Stephen Gadd who was the singer on it and he actually invited me to the Mahler Symphony at the Royal Festival Hall. It was like a special concert with a double orchestra and they had a 250-strong choir and you know I’m not a big classical buff but it was quite an event. You know there’s good value in a good tune. And the thing with the Anarchy Arias, not just the stuff that I did but with the other punk bands, they were all really good songs and they were all memorable. You should check it out, it’s quite an impressive sound.
Definitely. There are some really good songs on there, was having a look at the song listing. Did you get to help choose any of the tunes?
I made a few sort of suggestions and I think most of them were taken on board. The bloke had done a lot of the work already you know. My favourite one though is the Sound of the Suburbs, which was written by my mate JC from the Members. That is the only example of the doppler effect in pop music songwriting. You know what the doppler effect is, that sound when you hearsomething like an ambulance coming towards you going nee-naw and it goes past and goes nee-naw (getting louder) and they’ve got that line in the song “Every lousy Monday morning, Heathrow jets go crashing over our home”… you know, I quite like that.
I saw the Members when they came here a few years back and they had Rat Scabies drumming for them at the time.
Oh Rat was doing that at the time, yeah I like Rat. Was it going to work? I’m not sure if Rat was the right guy for the Members but I don’t think he’s doing it now.
I think it was just on that one tour. I interviewed him at that time and he was actually quite enjoying it. And he did like coming to New Zealand.
Yeah who wouldn’t?
Indeed. Speaking of Rat, you did a one-off gig with him and Sid back in the day, Vicious White Kids wasn’t it?
Yeah and Steve New, that’s a long while ago. Vicious White Kids, yeah we did that for a laugh really. But it was good. We sort of decided to do it on a Monday and played on the Friday or Saturday. We had a massive full house and did the same setthree times. The only thing was they recorded it, or someone made a bootleg of it, but they recorded like the last set that we did and we’d all had a bit too much by then so it wasn’t as good as the first time we played it. So if you listen to it, bear that in mind. It was fun. Sid was actually a good singer.
Yeah I think so. And that was just before he went to New York?
That was just before, yeah. It was the last gig he did in England before he went to New York.
Have you played much in New York?
Yeah, many times. In fact after New Zealand I’m going straight there to do something with some mates, with the band the Heartbreakers. They do a benefit concert, like a celebration concert, every year with Walter Lure, he’s the only remaining member of the Heartbreakers. There’s been a little bit of talk about Billie Joe from Green Day doing it, I’m not too sure if that’s going to happen. And Clem Burke from Blondie.So why not?
Exactly. Why not? Sounds like a great idea.Now I had another question I’ve just been watching Motorhead doing their cover of God Save the Queen on YouTube. What are your thoughts on bands covering the Pistols’ songs?
As long as they’ve filled out the royalty forms, I really don’t mind.It’s always interesting to hear. In fact the best version around of Anarchy in the UK, I don’t know if you’ve listened to the soundtrack to the Rock n Roll Swindle movie which is not very good, but there’s this French guy called Jermizy who does Anarchy in the UK but he sings it in French. And it’s in waltz time with an accordion. And it’s fantastic, I love it, it’s really good.
Oh yes, I love that too.
On the other hand you know any song that’s any good can be done in any idiom and I actually do quite a reasonable version of Pharrell Williams’ Happy. But it doesn’t sound anything like his version. I’d quite like to know what he thinks of it. In fact you can check it out on YouTube. I’m doing it with Slim Jim Phantom and Earl Slick from David Bowie’s band.
Excellent, will check it out. Now do you ever see anything of Paul Cook and Steve Jones these days?
Yeah I saw Paul down the Portobello Road about a month ago. And we threatened to have a coffee together. I saw Steve, Steve lives in Los Angeles, I saw him when I was over in February. Yeah we’re all kind of chummy from a distance you know. Well we’ve all just turned 60 so you know, we’ve all got lives to lead, we all do our own things.
Did you just say all turned 60? Wow.
Yeah actually I just turned 61. But there’s life in the old dog yet.
Of course there is. That’s why you’re still touring. Are you still enjoying doing the acoustic tour?
Very much. I mean I do play with bands. I like doing solo shows just as much maybe even a bit more. Somehow it’s kind of more immediate you know. You don’t have to worry about if somebody in the audience shouts out for a song, since I know how it goes I know I can do it. But you don’t necessarily know that the rest of the band knows the song. It’s like I can chop and change with stuff a bit easier.
But you know this solo thing I’ve been doing it all round the world for a long time. I did a Denver festival a couple of years back and it went down really well and I’ve done it all round the States. I tend to have fun and make it very audience participatory and I haven’t got a band so I’ll get everybody singing along. I’m quite a hard taskmaster but it’s fun.
So you quite like the smaller venues where there is more audience participation?
Yeah. Well I like bigger venues and all. You get what you get asked to do. The life of an older musician is a bit of a roller coaster up and down so you just do whatever comes up you know.
Now let’s talk about the Faces reunion. How long since you’ve played with them?
That’s going on for five years ago now. That was the biggest buzz I think I’ve ever done. I preferred doing that to doing the Pistols stuff. It was a band that I used to stand in front of the mirror when I was like 13/14 pretending that I was in the band when I couldn’t play. And then the last show I did with them we did a Festival in Japan in front of like 50,000 people and that was kind of cool you know. Rod Stewart didn’t do it,it was the bloke from Simply Red, Mick Hucknall. It was Ronnie Wood, Kenney Jones and Ian McLagan who’s sadly no longer with us actually, he passed away going on for two years ago now, so that’s kind of put the kybosh on there being any more of that. But it was fun. They’re such great players and they seem to have a laugh about everything all the time, always, which is quite a good attitude I think to have.
And playing some of old Faces songs would be amazing. Especially with Ronnie.
It was, it was, but you know we also did that Paul McCartney song Maybe I’m Amazed and there was Big Bill Broonzy’s I Feel So Good, and then they’re quite famous for doing a cover of the Temptations song I’m Losing You, that was great to play.
For me The Faces opened the doors to lots of music, you know the blues, soul music and Bobby Womack and the Staple Singers. They were the doorway to all that kind of stuff. They were quite important.
Yeah, very important. Now let’s go just quickly back to Iggy Pop. What sort of years were you touring with him, was that the late ‘70s?
Yeah it was. I toured pretty much all of ‘79 and ‘80 with him and we made an album in the meantime, his Soldier album. I kind of wish I kept playing with him a little bit more but I kind of got sidetracked into doing something else which meant I didn’t get to play with Iggy again. But I think he’s great you know I think he’s a fantastic sort of American poet almost in a way, his lyrics are great, he sings great.I went to see him earlier this year at the Royal Albert Hall with that band that Josh Homme put together.
Oh yes how was that?
It was great, it was one of the Top Five gigs I’ve ever seen, he’s something you know. He had the whole of the Albert Hall in the palm of his hand, hats off to him. And the band were great. The drummer was fantastic and all. I thought it was the guy out of the Queens of the Stone Age but it turned out it wasn’t because I met his uncle back stage and it was the guy out of the Arctic Monkeys. He really kept the groove together. I don’t know what the bloke’s name is but his uncle was a nice bloke. He said my nephew is up there on stage playing. And I said well how can it be because you’re from up North and he’s American, he’s the guy from the Queens of the Stone Age. And he looked at me and said tis not, he’s out of the Arctic Monkeys. That was quite funny.
That told you. I’ve seen Iggy a few times and every single time it’s been amazing.
Yeah he’s good you know. I mean his kind of whole mantra is that if you don’t get any reaction, there’s no point in doing it. And it’s a good yardstick, that’s kind of what I do when I do my acoustic set. So watch out Aucklanders, what do you call people from Auckland?
Aucklanders, that’s right. So that’s in November you will be coming to play for us?
In November yeah.
Ok well we’ll be here ready for you. Do you take requests?
Well you can try. You should always give it a good go.
There’s no harm in trying. Ok well thank you so much for the chat and we look forward to seeing you in November. Enjoy the rest of your tour.
Yep come on down and say hi won’t you.
And that was a wrap on the interview. Thanks so much Mr Matlock. We’ll see you in November for a rousing sing-along to Pretty Vacant. I’ll be the one in the audience requesting the Kinks.
Glen Matlock Australian and New Zealand Dates
Friday 10th November 2017: Prince of Wales Hotel, Brisbane QLD - Buy tickets here
Saturday 11th November 2017: Airlie Beach Festival of Music, Airlie Beach QL - Buy tickets here
Sunday 12th November 2017: Coolangatta Hotel, Gold Coast QLD - Buy tickets here
Wednesday 15th November 2017: Lizotte’s, Newcastle NSW - Buy tickets here
Thursday 16th November 2017: Lansdowne Hotel, Sydney NSW - Buy tickets here
Friday 17th November 2017: Enigma Bar, Adelaide SA - Buy tickets here
Saturday 18th November 2017: Yarraville Club, Melbourne VIC - Buy tickets here
Sunday 19th November 2017: Barwon Club, Geelong VIC - Buy tickets here
Friday 24th November: The Tuning Fork, Auckland - Tickets via Ticketmaster
Saturday 25th November: Valhalla, Wellington - Tickets via Ticketmaster