Glen Matlock at Camden Rocks festival: ‘I’m no second division Sex Pistol’
PUBLISHED: 08:00 02 June 2016
Glen Matlock was not a Pistol for long, but even after 40 years, the label has stuck. He talks to Imogen Blake about performing solo at the Camden Rocks festival, his relationship with John Lydon, and the possibility of a historic reunion...
Camden Rocks festival highlights
The Cribs: The indie rockers from west Yorkshire begin their upcoming festival run with a headline spot at Camden Rocks. After forming in 2002, the famously lo-fi group quickly became a cult favourite among indie fans, and by the end of the ‘00s, they had become a commercial success too. Often compared to The Libertines, the band released their seventh album, For All My Sisters, last year – their third consecutive album to chart in the UK’s Top 10. With the band only playing a handful of dates this year, it’s a good chance for nostalgic indie lovers to catch them live.
Carl Barat & The Jackals: The Libertines’ co-frontman (he shares the role with Pete Doherty) is no stranger to Camden Rocks, having last played a DJ set in 2013. This year, he returns with his two-year-old band The Jackals, who released their critically-acclaimed debut album, Let it Reign, last year. If you missed the spate of impromptu Libertines gigs in Camden in 2015, here’s your opportunity to see the charismatic musician in the flesh.
Billy Bragg: The fact that the UK’s answer to Bob Dylan is on the line-up signals a slightly
mellower festival than last year, when Bullet for My Valentine and Skindred headlined. Bragg will
bring his left-wing activism and protest songs to the stage, and also perform tunes from his upcoming joint album with singer-songwriter Joe Henry, Shine a Light:
Field Recordings from the Great American Railroad. The pair travelled from Chicago to Los Angeles by train, reconnecting with railroad culture and the music inspired by it. Journeying 2,728 miles in four days, they recorded classic railroad songs in waiting rooms and at the trackside.
More than 200 acts will perform at 20 venues across Camden.
Glen Matlock’s Sex Pistol days were over quickly – but the co-writer of some of the most iconic songs in British music history will always be named in the same breath as the ‘70s band that sucker-punched the punk movement into life.
The bassist famously left the Pistols before the band’s one and only album, Never Mind the Bollocks, Here’s the Sex Pistols, was released. He went on to forge a solo career and start the recently-reformed seminal ‘70s new-wave group, the Rich Kids, with Ultravox frontman Midge Ure and Rusty Egan.
Even so, he will never escape the Pistols label – indeed, he’s billed as ‘Glen Matlock (The Sex Pistols)’ at the Camden Rocks music festival on Saturday.
“I’m 60 next month, and I haven’t managed to get rid of [the label] yet,” laughs Matlock, who lives in Kensal Green. “I’d rather people be talking more about what I do now. That’s a hard thing to push for, but it’s the same with John [Lydon]; he’s been doing Public Image for years, but he’s still ‘Johnny Rotten from the Sex Pistols’.
“You can either get uptight about it or roll with it.”
The reasons for Matlock’s departure from the Pistols vary according to who you speak to.
Their manager at the time, Malcolm McLaren, told the press that he was thrown out for “liking the Beatles” – something Matlock says is completely untrue.
In his autobiography, I Was a Teenage Sex Pistol, Matlock says he actually left because he was “sick of all the bullshit”.
That was due in part to his and Lydon’s tempestuous relationship, which, despite several Pistol reunion shows between 1996 and 2008, is still rocky.
“But I’m not the only one!” protests Matlock. “I really like what John said in an interview: ‘we’re not the best of friends but neither are we the best of enemies’. I quite like that.”
It all sounds rather civil, really. Does this mean another Sex Pistols reunion show could be on the cards?
Tantalisingly, Matlock says: “I don’t know – but what I do now is that it’s 40 years of punk next year, there’s no getting away from it.
“But it’s not down to me and I don’t wake up in the morning thinking about it.”
Instead, he’s focused on an upcoming gig at the O2 Academy Islington on June 23.
The historic gig will not only see the Rich Kids perform for the first time in six years, but it will also be the first time ever that the band share a stage with punk band The Professionals, founded by former Sex Pistols, Paul Cook and Steve Jones.
Jones won’t be playing, but with Ure, Cook, and Matlock all on one stage, it’s still set to be a historic night.
Matlock had the idea for the double headline bill after chatting with Ure at the Kerrang! Awards last year. They reminisced about their last performance in 2010 – a benefit concert for their terminally ill guitarist, Stella Nova, otherwise known as Steve New.
“I thought Midge wasn’t interested in reforming,” Matlock remembers. “But he seemed to ask leading questions. About that time, I went to see The Professionals play at The 100 Club and I thought: ‘Ooh, perhaps we could do a double-header gig.’
“When you’re in a band with people, and you toured with them, you played, and shared rooms, it’s a connection that you can’t just forget about,” Matlock adds.
The Rich Kids are sometimes described as a Sex Pistols off-shoot, but to Matlock, they were an entirely different beast.
“I’m proud of The Rich Kids,” Matlock says. “It was a punk thing, but I’d already done the Pistols by then and I definitely didn’t want to be seen as a second-division Sex Pistols.
“I wanted to try and do something a bit different, which is why I got Midge in. He’s not the Great Caruso but he’s a great singer.”
The band’s run was short-lived, though, lasting only two years between 1977 and 1979. In that time, they only released one album and three singles.
“Possibly we were a bit ahead of our time,” Matlock shrugs. “But Midge and Rusty went on to start – with Steve Strange – the birth of the New Romantic movement.
“Whether you like that or not, and I always like to rock out a bit more, but those bands like Duran Duran and Spandau Ballet cited us as big influences.”
On top of his solo work – he’s due to release an as-yet-untitled album soon – Matlock also performs semi-regularly with his friends, rockabilly icon Slim Jim Phantom, and Earl Slick, David Bowie’s former guitarist. That’s not to mention the countless albums Matlock’s sessioned on as a bass player over the years.
“They’re just mates and I play bass as a session just for fun.
“To me, playing bass is a bit like being a plumber. You need a bit of bass on that? Yeah I can do it, and how much?”
Tickets for the Islington show.