Glen Matlock is not clinging to his punk days but has maintained the raw energy and knack for using simplicity as power when it comes to songwriting. His recent crowd-funded solo album, “Good to Go” is full of tightly-crafted and catchy rock songs that at times have a rockabilly edge. Matlock recorded it in London and upstate New York, collaborating with Earl Slick (David Bowie) and Slim Jim Phantom (Stray Cats).
Matlock was first known as the original bassist for The Sex Pistols. While his tenure there didn’t last long, he is credited as the co-writer for most of the “Never Mind the Bollocks, Here’s the Sex Pistols” album. He then went on to form Rich Kids, a group that also included future Ultravox member Midge Ure. Over the years, he has been part of many other projects, including collaborations with Iggy Pop, The Damned and The Faces.
What made you decide to do a solo album now?
Glen Matlock: “I had the songs for it and everything fell into place. When you write songs, once you have more than 14 or 15 songs in your head, you can’t think straight. You need to get them out, to clear out the cupboard of your mind. I’d been working with Slim Jim on a few projects, and I’d done stuff with Earl Slick before, and I didn’t realize the two of them knew each other. It sort of fell into place, really. I would have liked it to be a band, but everybody has to do different things these days, and whenever I do a band, everybody puts down ‘Ex-Sex Pistols’ on it, so I thought I’d just call it Glen Matlock.”
Over what timespan did you write the songs?
Glen Matlock: “It took about 6 or 9 months. I tend to write in batches of songs. You write something, and you think, ‘Oh it’s going in this kind of direction’ or ‘There’s this song I wrote ages ago that never came out; that might fit in if I change it around a little bit.’ You just start somehow by doing something and end up with some kind of blueprint in your mind. But what inspired me to make a record sounding the way it did was that about 3 years ago, I went to see Bob Dylan at the Royal Albert Hall in London. Now, while I can appreciate Bob Dylan, I think live, he’s dreadful. I think he should give up. But the band he had was fantastic. And I thought, “Oh, maybe I can apply that lighter sort of rock sound to my songs.’ And that was the starting point, really. That’s when I called up Slim Jim [Phantom].
“I’ve been doing loads of acoustic shows around the world. So, I wanted a band on it, but I didn’t want it to be too overbearing. Not heavy rock. I’ve done that with the Sex Pistols. That’s about as heavy as you can get unless you’re talking about death metal, which isn’t really my bag these days. And I don’t think it’s very dignified coming from a 62-year-old guy.”
As it seems that you had an intended direction going into making it, did it change or evolve at all once you started recording?
Glen Matlock: “I always tend to write really straightforward songs. Then it came to the people who were playing on it. You kind of give those guys a bit of room to do their thing. Then you all sit around in the studio and listen back to it and you think there’s something working and there’s a consensus and opinion that it’s working well, and when something’s not working, everybody realizes it too. It’s not always like that, though. You can be in the studio and be butting heads with people and it’s really hard work, but this [album] came quite easily.
“The instrumentation changes according to the people playing on it. What I really like about it, though, especially playing with Slim Jim is that it’s the difference between a heavy weight-boxer and a middle-weight. He’s a bit lighter on his toes. I kind of think that when Slim Jim is playing. It’s tough but not too bombastic; there’s a finesse to it.”
Did you stick to that initial batch of songs, or did you write any new ones as you were making the album?
Glen Matlock: “There are a few songs. It was recorded quite a while back, in America. When I came back to London, I listened back to it and I thought, ‘Hmm,’ and then I wrote a couple of other songs in the meantime. So, the first two songs on the album and the last song are newer ones, and I think they make it work as an album, really.”
How did it go using PledgeMusic for this album?
Glen Matlock: “It’s kind of interesting. I wasn’t sure about it at first. I do see the value of it now, that you can reach out to people all around the world. It took a while to get the artwork and what I was going to call the album. It wasn’t as quick as I initially envisioned. But when I was in New Zealand, people were saying, ‘Well, where’s my record? We ordered it.’ It was kind of weird. I got orders from China and Russia and India and Iceland and all around Europe and America. It’s a good way of reaching out to people. But I don’t think I applied myself as much as I could have done, because I didn’t really understand the value of it initially. Now, it would be a different kettle of fish. So, maybe I’ll make another record like that. I don’t know yet.”
Was PledgeMusic the obvious approach for releasing the album, or did you consider the label route?
Glen Matlock: “A few people made suggestions, and I saw other people doing it as well. I ran it in tandem with some other things going on, so it all worked symbiotically together somehow. I could make the record I wanted and didn’t have to penny-pinch too much. It didn’t cost a fortune, but it didn’t cost peanuts either.”
Having been involved with so many different projects, what is your approach to assembling setlists?
Glen Matlock: “I know that if I’d gone to see David Bowie and he didn’t do ‘Heroes,’ I’d have gone home disappointed. So, I know there are certain songs people will want to hear. But I also know certain songs people might want to hear won’t necessarily work with the guys I’m planning with. So there’s a tradeoff there. What I tend to do live is just try to pick what I want to do now, a couple of crowd-pleasers; ‘Pretty Vacant’ is I suppose my piece de resistance. Equally, people want to hear songs I did with the Rich Kids. I wrote a couple of things with Iggy Pop when I played with him back then—some covers that I feel are instrumental in leading me to where I am now. But somehow, luckily or deliberately, it all fits together because [other than the covers] those songs were all written by me and my acoustic guitar in the first place, so there’s a continuity to them.”
You reunited with the Rick Kids a few years back. What was that like?
Glen Matlock: “We did one as kind of a fundraiser for Steve New. He was still alive, kind of in his last stages. We played to raise a bit of money for him and his family. And then for the hell of it, we did a show with Gary Kemp of Spandau Ballet standing in for him. Gary Kemp was a big Rich Kids fan. He said he use to see us play at clubs in London when they were starting out. In fact, he said to me, it was quite sweet, he said, ‘You know what, me doing this must have been what it was like for you playing with the Faces,’ which I did a few years back. A couple of years in rock ‘n’ roll makes a lot of differences in the music that you’re listening to and what your influences are.
“They are songs I’m proud of, playing them with most of the original members, who are now all good players because they’ve been doing it for years on other projects. It was great, it was a buzz. And the other thing I always say is, there’s so much on the TV so you might as well go do gigs and get paid for it!”
How was it performing as part of The Faces?
Glen Matlock: “It was great. They’re a band I loved as a kid; I’d pretend I was in their band. And there I was. We didn’t do that many shows, but I just love that band. It’s my all-time favorite band, and I was in it. I thought I brought something to the table musically, realizing that what makes those songs work is Ronny Lane’s basslines, which is what I learned to play just by copying the record. That’s how I learned to play. In fact, I had a laugh with Ian McLagan who said, ‘Will you be alright doing it’? And I said, ‘Do you know what, I know these songs backwards.’ He said, ‘Oh, that’s great,’ but then I said, ‘but it’s forwards that I have trouble with.’ He laughed, and I got the gig. It was an important band to me, because they opened the doors to lots other music for me, the blues, Bobby Womack, The Staple Singers, taking the Temptations more seriously. It’s all in that mix somewhere.”
You seem to do a lot of touring. Do you nave any particular favorite countries to perform in?
Glen Matlock: “I find audiences around the world are all pretty much the same. And I’ve been to the Far East quite a lot, I like paying in Japan. Everywhere is pretty cool, really. If they dig what you’re doing, it doesn’t really matter where you are.”
Looking online for recent live videos of you, the first things that come always seem to be Sex Pistols songs rather than new material. What are your thoughts on that?
Glen Matlock: It annoys me, to be honest, because I play that song for the people who are there, at that moment, and I feel it’s a personal thing. And I feel they betray me by doing that somehow. It’s annoying when you’re doing a gig and there’s someone filming all the way through. I make them put their phone down and join in sometimes. You don’t have a lot of quality control over it, you don’t know what it sounds like, you don’t know if that night was the best version you did. And then there are all the other songs that you do, and they always put the same old ones up. Ce la vie. That’s the way it goes, but how can you change it? Arrest everybody?”
Is there anything in particular you do in an attempt to separate yourself from the Sex Pistols?
Glen Matlock: “Well I think just turning up with an acoustic guitar is a big difference, for a start. I can’t claim to be the Sex Pistols. I’m just one guy who was involved with it. But I was heavily involved with those songs, and I don’t see any reason why I shouldn’t play them.”
Was there any hesitation in taking part in the Sex Pistols reunions?
Glen Matlock: “No. It was a bit of trepidation, which is a different kind of thing. But I thought, why shouldn’t I do it?“
Is there anything else that you’d like to add?
Glen Matlock: “It’s all kind of much ado about nothing. I just like something that is really simple, straightforward and easy, but with hopefully some kind of decent message or something of consequence about the lyrics of the song. Someone was interviewing Lou Reed who had put a new album out. They were sort of taking a mickey out on him, ‘Oh Lou, you’re still using the same old 3 chords you’ve always done.’ And he said, ‘Yep, and you know what, if I could get away with 2, I would.’ I think that’s fantastic.”