Interview with The Sex Pistols’ bass player Glen Matlock

Sex Pistols Live 2 CD

Sex Pistols Live 2 CD

If you were born in the 1980s and have not bought into the following generation’s rap music, unearned self-entitlement and ridiculous flood pants, it may well be that you regret that your life hasn’t started even earlier and that everything you are aware of when it comes to the coolest people, music and events in history was either recorded, rewritten or remastered by someone else.

You weren’t born yet when The Beatles were rocking out, you are too young to remember Freddie Mercury and the likes and you have no first-hand memories of how the punk movement rebelled against social injustice and economic inequality just to end up collapsing in drug overdoses – and all these occurrences together leave you with a feeling of missing out.

Glen Matlock by Tina K ©️

Glen Matlock by Tina K ©️

It’s as if the music being produced today it’s just too undisturbing: notes and lyrics have lost meaning and purpose for the most part, and songwriters’ once inner political commitment has been transfigured into social media pursuit of consent.

But the younger the greatest musicians of all time passed away, the fewer chances they had to disappoint us, so we can’t reasonably be sure that if John Lennon was still around he wouldn’t post selfies and make trap; these days, rare are the ones who are not afraid to share unpopular views on politics, rare are the artists who strive to create a better world for real – not on Instagram.

Glen Matlock, who famously acted as a bass guitarist in the first line-up of the legendary British punk rock band The Sex Pistols in the mid-1970s and co-authored most of the songs belonging to their first and only studio album, Never Mind the Bollocks, Here’s the Sex Pistols has always had the guts to go for what he believes in, and he has been one of the very few UK artists who spoke against Brexit together with Steve Hackett of Genesis, Jah Wobble formerly of Public Image Ltd., Amy Macdonald and Skin of Skunk Anansie.

The talented Rock and Roll Hall Of Fame inductee left The Sex Pistols in 1977 while their record was being made and was famously replaced by controversial punk rock star Sid Vicious, who died of a heroin overdose two years later, aged 22 – just months after his also drug-addicted girlfriend Nancy Spungen had been found stabbed to death.
Here’s how punk may not be dead but everyone else is.

And so, although The Sex Pistols have been an important part of Glen Matlock’s career, he has eventually followed a different path and, since going solo he has performed in several other bands and has teamed up with artists like Iggy Pop and Spandau Ballet.
He rejoined The Sex Pistols in 1996 and then again in the 2000s for a number of high-profile reunions, tours and shows, such as the concert for the Golden Jubilee of Queen Elizabeth II in 2002.

His 2023 album titled Consequences Coming came as a breath of fresh air: rebellious, turbulent and so very political to be officially presented as “a call to arms to tackle this current diabolical period of governance“.
If you ever have thought that diabolical is actually the most accurate word to describe what humanity has witnessed, suffered and unlawfully tolerated from 2020 on, this album will definitely make your day for many days to come.

Embed from Getty Images

Embed from Getty Images

Glen, are you angry?

I’m lividly dismayed.

Consequences Coming brings up a “diabolical period of governance”. What should people expect from the album?

Some taut songwriting and critical thinking with catchy tunes and immaculate musicianship from the starry cast of musicians I assembled. As for the catchphrase, I think all you really have to do is think the opposite and read between the lines of what the media foist on us. It’s pretty self-evident.

You mentioned the media. What do you think of the way journalists are currently operating in the Western world?

I think they have been mainly keeping their heads down and taking the oath of least resistance and we all suffer as a consequence of that.

What do you think of the way personal freedom and civil rights were treated by Western societies during Covid?

While I don’t deny the existence of Covid as a particularly nasty health hazard in the beginning, it was a perfect smokescreen for right-wing subterfuge.

What do you think of cancel culture?

It’s a right-wing trope to be ignored and laughed at.

The first single is titled Head On A Stick. How many heads on sticks are you seeing around, and what sort of ‘consequences’ will be coming for people?

Not enough, and the consequences should be that our glorious leaders who have barely scant thought for the general populace receive their comeuppance hopefully with a spectacular fall from grace.

Do you think musicians have some sort of political and social responsibility? 

I think they do, indeed. They don’t necessarily all have to be Che Guevaras but they should reflect the mood around them.

But how can they avoid being forced to take a stand about whatever is written on the global political agenda these days?

Say they don’t want to politely, but regarding my previous answer, I think they should want to, in some way.

What do you think of today’s youth?

Keen, articulate, browbeaten and easily distracted.

What do you think of TV talent shows such as The X Factor?

I never watch them. Never. But when I was a kid there was a TV show called Opportunity Knocks, hosted by Hugie Greene. There was a person who won all the time whom I loved when I was about ten years old, and that was Muscle Man. You had this music during the programme that was like du du du du-ru-ru-ru, and his muscles would ripple following the music and it was great, that would be a talent show for me. You know, the one or two times today that I have watched a talent show, it was supposed to be about music, but it’s not: they don’t even sing a song all the way through, they pick one version, do the chorus and that’s it. But I think when the media goes on about these talent shows all the time, it makes it harder for the people who have something maybe a bit more important to show, it makes it harder for them to come through. But it’s always been like that, I never really knew any difference.

What was your dream job as a child? Did you have a plan B?

I didn’t know what I wanted to do, I was interested in painting and design, but I was also always interested in music, and I went to art school because I read that all the bands that I liked had been through art schools in the 1960s, so I kind of went there to form a band, but then the guys I ended up forming a band with were from outside the art school. And I didn’t really have a plan B, it was all or nothing, really. I guess I got lucky, somehow. And I don’t know what I would be doing if I wasn’t a musician, I’m very interested in quantum mechanics, I visited CERN in Switzerland and it was quite funny when the scientists take turns to take people around and then they see you for lunch in the canteen. There was this Italian girl, who is a scientist, who wanted to come and sit next to me for lunch because it turned out that although she was a top scientist at the CERN in Switzerland, she also had been a drummer in an Italian rock punk band! So I thought that if she became a scientist after having been in a punk rock band, then I could become a scientist too, haha.

How does it feel to have been part of a punk rock band that has made history?

I don’t really know any difference as it has always been like that. I’ve never thought that they would be talking about it all these years later. I’m just always been interested in being a musician, I’ve worked with a lot of different people, I do a lot of things, and –  more than everything – I’m interested in writing new songs.

Was there something about punk that got overlooked by the general public and maybe this is why it’s dead?

A lot of the punk movement has become quite right-wing, a lot of punks in England have voted for Brexit, and I find it very hard to stand. The whole idea for me, of being a punk, you know, regardless of the music and the trousers, was to have the questions and attitude and move between the lines and not be taken for a fool, but they are: people are being taken for fools, for as far as I can see. And I’m a bit disappointed by those people, you know, I’m an anti-Brexit, don’t they understand that the right wing is so stupid and fascist? I do understand, you know, how Brexit is going to affect people, especially musicians and people in the arts who have to travel a lot. It is going to be a really big problem. I speak to people, to musicians, in the UK, and after these years, it’s terrible, I think a lot of people voted it as a protest vote. I would never vote for something made to cut off somebody else, and millions of people have, and they don’t care. It’s very selfish.

Do you think Brexit plays a role in how the UK is currently perceived abroad? 

Yes, I do and on my travels, I find the UK has become quite a bit of a laughing stock because of it. I think it is dopey, doomed to failure and will slowly be rescinded piece by piece ending up pretty much where we started before the whole sorry episode. It will have been a colossal waste of time, money and effort. Imagine if all the energy expended on it had been applied to something worthwhile.

Do you think there might be room for a renaissance of the punk rock movement today?

Today? Yes, of course, but punk rock isn’t really punk rock; I mean, punk rock is just an attitude, but I think all younger people should have to question an attitude. To me, punk rock is something else, there’s nothing wrong with punk rock, with people rebelling against things, but I think punk rock today should be in some little rehearsal room in Clifford [a village in Herefordshire, England] I think that’s where it should be.

A lot has been said about The Sex Pistols and why you left them. What is your truth? 

I haven’t got the solution, really, because, at the time, it became something that wasn’t supposed to be in the first place. To me, it was supposed to be the band by the kids, for the kids, like the early The Who, and from then it became this kind of media exercise and I didn’t really want to be part of that. John [Lydon] really changed – I got on great with John at the beginning, that’s where lots of the songs came from, and then they just became something that wasn’t me. But I was pleased that, when the band reformed in 1996, they could have asked anybody else in the world to be their bass guitarist, and they asked me, so perhaps they realised they made a mistake.

Will you ever write another book, after publishing ‘I was a teenage Sex Pistol’ in 1990?

Someone suggested I write an updated version of it, I’ve been thinking about it but I’m not desperate to do it, and I don’t know if John should be allowed to have two life stories, haha, he can have one life story, but can he have two? But probably you can because there’re a lot of things you didn’t put in the first one, and then your opinion on what you did back then changed and you have probably forgotten a lot about it…

What did you think of Sid Vicious and the way he is still portrayed by the media?

I don’t have a lot of things to say about Sid, I just thought he was a likeable idiot.

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Aren’t there any memories from your time with Sid Vicious you would like to share at all?

Well, not particularly. We didn’t spend a whole lot of time together but what I gleaned from him was that he was misguided but a bit of an affable nitwit.

What kind of music do you listen to, and where do you draw your inspiration from?

I get my inspiration from just walking down the street and the ideas come, and then when it comes to listening to music, I like to listen to bebop jazz. It is great. This songwriting guy called Moses Alison is one of my favourites, really.

Do you still listen to punk rock?

Not really, no.

What should people expect from your live shows?

When I do shows, I kind of put together lots of things from all aspects of my career, and I also put together all the songs that I’ve written, and I’m always fortunate enough to manage to attract some great players… well, it’s my chance to show off, if you want to come and see us! You know, I am never more than a phone call away to take part in an interesting project. It may sound like a bit of a scattergun approach but I only really ever do two things – play rock and roll. My challenge now that I’m in my sixties is to make music in my own way, to still write good songs, to put songs in a good show, having something to say sometimes. I am always doing different things, I have travelled a lot over the lastest years and collaborated with artists in South America and Korea, and I am always doing something different. Also, I would like to say that I’m not desperately trying to sound like The Sex Pistols, I’m a songwriter and my music is not supposed to be like The Sex Pistols: The Sex Pistols were The Sex Pistols – this is something different.

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