I’ve said it many times before in the past, how when I was a kid learning to play the bass guitar, there were two bands I specifically cut my teeth to more than any others; punk outfits the Misfits, and the Sex Pistols (to the best of my knowledge, “Anarchy in the U.K.” was actually the first song I had ever learned on the instrument from front to back). So to get a chance to pick the brain of original Sex Pistols bassist Glen Matlock (who was in the band from 1975-77 before being replaced by the infamous Sid Vicious) from his London home last week via a Zoom meeting was as surreal as it gets for me.
Matlock is so much more than simply a bass player though; he’s an accomplished songwriter (Glen had a hand in co-writing the majority of tracks from the one and only official Sex Pistols album, 1977’s Nevermind the Bollocks, Here’s the Sex Pistols) and an all-around talented musician whose first love before he ever picked up a bass was the guitar (Matlock even mentioned in our conversation how playing the bass was more or less a ‘skill,’ but not his ‘art’). And one thing I had not anticipated was how much of a sense of humor Matlock has as well, causing for one of the most painfully hilarious interviews I have ever done.
Case in point, his latest work. Matlock recently released a limited edition, two-song single with longtime friend and collaborator, Earl Slick (best known for his guitar work with the likes of John Lennon and David Bowie) on Stay Free Recordings. Glen informed me that said new single, “Consequences Coming” (which also features a cover of KD Lang’s “Constant Craving”) was recorded last year in his home when he and Slick suddenly found themselves ‘stuck’ together after the lockdown first took effect. He explained; “We were in the middle of the tour in the U.K. at the start of last year, and then all of this started happening. and he got stuck with me, a bit like The Odd Couple. We did a couple of live streams and people started to like it, but you can’t do the same thing every week, so we had to learn four separate, hour-long sets.”
He continued; “So we had all of this stuff, and I figured, ‘well, we’ve got the computer out, let’s just hit record.’ And we did, in a very basement-tapes sort of way. And it’s just me and him, playing, shooting the breeze – I mean there’s some really funny stuff in between songs! We’ve actually got a full album in the can, but it’s not out yet, just the single. And that’s it really!” I also asked Matlock what made the pair decide to cover said KD Lang ’90s hit “Constant Craving,” and he replied; “Because I told him that we were going to do it (laughs)! But no, I’ve always liked that song. You know, it’s kind of about yearning and love lost, and I thought it kind of fit the mood for what’s going on for a lot of people right now.”
Of course I had to ask Matlock some questions about his former band the Sex Pistols – even if he has heard them all before. And his initial reaction to my forewarning of this was, appropriately, “Oh here we go!” (Which of course was proceeded by more laughter!). Still, I inquired what it was like watching the Pistols from the sidelines with Sid Vicious in his place, and he told me; “There’s a good expression in England that goes, ‘If that’s what you want, that’s what’s going to happen.’ I saw the train coming, but I wasn’t that concerned about it. It had all gone a bit, ‘tits up’ to me anyway, and I didn’t like the way it was going. But I was really busy, I had the band Rich Kids quite soon afterwards, and we were off writing and recording a record, so I wasn’t too concerned at that point. They (the Sex Pistols) were out plugging the songs I had co-written, and I was still earning money off of them doing their thing.”
I also wanted to know what he thought of some of the work that came in the aftermath of the Pistols, such as the 1980 film The Great Rock ‘n’ Roll Swindle, and the 1986 hit, Sid & Nancy. He revealed to me; “I thought the Rock ‘n’ Roll Swindle was a load of rubbish, and Sid & Nancy I didn’t think was too far off from that. But I did a little work on that one when I became friends with Alex Cox. He always maintained he should be paid by the government for making an anti-drug advertisement, which seemed reasonable to me (laughs). The funny thing with bio pics though, is everybody can pick holes in it. In a way, the whole Sid & Nancy thing was very Shakespearean, in a Romeo & Juliet sort of way.
After releasing one studio album with his post-Pistols group the Rich Kids, the band broke up, and Matlock briefly played with legendary frontman Iggy Pop. He enlightened me some on how that happened, and why it didn’t go past recording the one album with Pop; “Iggy’s agent was also the Rich Kids’ agent, and he knew they had just broken up, so he suggested me to Iggy and got me the gig. And when I started working with Iggy, he had a proper crew and road manager, and the equipment worked! We never had any of that stuff in the Pistols (laughs). It was fun, the way it should be. But it was great working with him, and I wish I had stayed working with him a bit longer. But he was in his ‘flashing’ stage at the time, and I definitely didn’t miss that at all after I had left…some things you can’t un-see (laughs).”
Fast-forwarding to when the Sex Pistols reunited in the mid-’90s, I asked if it was a sense of validation for him at the time to step back in to his original role as bass player. He said; “Yeah, I got the last laugh! (laughs). I think I actually caused it, because in ’95 I got to L.A. to do a project with a mate, and the guy I was staying with, Calvin Hays, gave me (Sex Pistols guitarist) Steve Jones’ phone number at the time – and I hadn’t spoken to Steve in fifteen years. We went back-and-forth for about a week, and when I finally reached him, he said, ‘I heard you were in town, come on over!’ And when I did, he said, let’s go see (Sex Pistols vocalist) John,’ and I said, ‘Oh, here we go!’ (laughs). And when all three of us were together, we decided to call (Sex Pistols drummer) Paul up in England. And the next thing, we got a world tour out of it, and if I hadn’t made that phone call in the first place, I don’t know if it would’ve ever happened.”
And lastly, I had to ask Matlock that question that will likely follow him for the rest of his days; with all four original members of the Pistols still walking the Earth, will there ever be another tour, or even just one huge ‘farewell’ show? His reply; “Well, I’m not holding my breath. But I liked the James Bond series, and when Sean Connery came back and made one more movie, it was called Never Say Never Again. We’ll see.”Matlock however did assure me, Sex Pistols or not, we will see him on stage again, someday; “We’ve got a festival gig over here (in England) in the summer, and I’m hoping for maybe a U.K. tour by fall, but I really don’t know if it’s going to happen or not yet.”