Glen Matlock: ‘There are those in life who would hoodwink us. I’m trying to open people’s eyes’

The former Sex Pistol combines playing in Blondie with releasing solo work – including the politics-tinged Consequences Coming

This isn’t our first attempt to talk to Glen Matlock. The first was just before he played a gig at Whelan’s, in Dublin, a couple of months ago, when soundchecks and rehearsals ate up all his time. The second was last month, when a phone call to Los Angeles was scuppered by a misplaced digit. So third time lucky. But Matlock is in transit, and hasn’t much time to spare, as he’s still in LA, prepping to play bass with Blondie, his former punk contemporaries. The one-time Sex Pistol has also recently released his latest solo album, Consequences Coming, so he’s dividing his attention – and, it seems, finding it something of a challenge to keep matters on an even keel.

That said, the California sun is shining, and Matlock is in a chipper mood. What’s the Blondie gig like? “It’s going great, thanks, and the consensus is that I have slotted in nicely. They are a great bunch” – Matlock has been friends with Clem Burke, the band’s drummer, for many years – “they have a fantastic, envelope-pushing repertoire, and Debbie Harry oozes cool. What’s not to like?”

Matlock, who will be 67 in August, is an old hand at fitting in. Apart from his ousting as a key member of the Sex Pistols – he was sacked, so rock lore has it, for being too big a fan of The Beatles – he could lay claim to being one of the few original punks to have read and absorbed How to Win Friends & Influence People, the perpetual best-seller by Dale Carnegie. When the Sex Pistols replaced him with Sid Vicious (who, admittedly, probably better fitted the band’s image), Matlock formed The Rich Kids with Midge Ure.

Later, as well as reuniting with the Sex Pistols several times – obviously forgiven for his Beatles crush – and becoming a member of some under-the-radar bands, he became an assured, amiable session player for Iggy Pop, The Damned, The Faces and Primal Scream, among many others. A constant, however, has been releasing those albums of his own.


With the new record, the Blondie gig and a few other projects he’s involved with, he isn’t afraid of getting stuck in. Where did that work ethic come from? “I’m not sure,” he says, “but I guess it’s partly my working-class upbringing, my desire to not be seen to be living off my wife, and the fact there is never that much worthwhile to watch on television.”

Consequences Coming is a mix of rock styles that oscillate between urgency and reflection. Matlock is aware that it won’t shake the foundations of pop culture in the way the Sex Pistols did (for a while, at least), but you sense he has long since given up worrying about that.

Is his solo work more important to him than playing with other bands or does he get something different from each? “My artisanship is as a bass player and my artistry is as a songsmith,” he says. “My songs are my babies, and I wish them to thrive and prosper, of course, but I am fortunate in that every now and then I get a call to pick up my bass to do something cool. I think both things complement each other nicely.”

Consequences Coming is a political album, tackling topics such as Brexit and its associated turmoil. Does he really think the world is going to hell in a handcart? That question requires a longer answer than he has time for, he says. “The nub of it, however, is there are those in life who would hoodwink us and those who seem to be quite happy to be hoodwinked. I am strongly neither, and all I’m trying to do is my bit to open people’s eyes. There is a lot at stake, and as I have a bit of a platform, I reckon why not?”

Gentleman that Matlock is, he doesn’t sigh with boredom if you ask about the Sex Pistols. As the cowriter – some would say the primary writer – of songs both as bone-crunching and as culturally valued as Anarchy in the UK, Pretty Vacant, God Save the Queen and Holidays in the Sun, how does he feel about the legacy of his work with the band? “It is what is, and it’s not going to change now. Over the years I have learned to roll with it – and, besides, it isn’t the most hideous albatross to have hovering over you.”

What did he make of Pistol, last year’s six-part TV drama about the band? “It was a wasted opportunity that fell into the glitzy ‘Hey, let’s make rock movie’ trap. I thought Danny Boyle, the director, was better than that but discovered he isn’t, which was a shame.”

Matlock does prefer not to talk directly about John Lydon, but he sympathises with his former bandmate on the recent death of his wife, Nora. “That was very sad. I liked Nora, and I know through dealing with my dad’s death that Alzheimer’s is a nasty, insidious disease that steals people’s souls, so I can only wish anybody having to deal with going through that the best.”

I ask what he thinks about Public Image Limited’s attempt to represent Ireland in this year’s Eurovision Song Contest. He isn’t particularly complimentary about Lydon’s involvement. Despite having an Irish passport, Matlock observes, Lydon is pro-Brexit. “A big failing as a pro-Europe Englishman, to be honest.” And their Eurosong entry, Hawaii, which was written about Lydon’s wife? “It’s okayish.”

Matlock is about to jump on to a tour bus, so we have about 20 seconds left. What does he think is his defining moment as a Sex Pistol? He might be busy, but in fairness he has time for a snappy answer. “Writing some toe-tappers.”

Where are the Sex Pistols now?

Paul Cook, drummer Since the 1980s, Sex Pistols re-formations notwithstanding, Cook has kept busy by performing in a lengthy sequence of mostly under-the-radar bands. Highly regarded as a session player, he has long-established working relationships with the Scottish songwriter Edwyn Collins and his one-time punk-rock contemporaries Subway Sect. Cook’s daughter, Hollie, is a successful indie solo musician.

Steve Jones, guitarist Being a member of the Sex Pistols, Jones has said, saved him from a life of crime. Following the band’s split, in 1978, Jones cofounded The Professionals with his former bandmate Paul Cook. After four years that band split, since when Jones has carved out a career as a guitarist for hire, playing with a broad range of rock bands and solo acts, from Adam Ant to Bob Dylan. For almost 20 years Jones has hosted a California-based radio show, Jonesy’s Jukebox, on which he has interviewed a broad range of musicians, actors and music-industry people.

John Lydon, singer Johnny Rotten didn’t waste any time in forming another band after the Sex Pistols split up. Since 1978 he has been the lead singer of and motivating force behind Public Image Limited. He has also been the highest-profile former Sex Pistol, with appearances in I’m a Celebrity ... Get Me Out of Here! and hosting nature programmes on the Discovery channel. Keeping in touch with his Irish heritage – his Co Galway father and Co Cork mother moved to London in the early 1950s – is important to him, as shown by his attempt this year to represent Ireland in the Eurovision Song Contest.

Consequences Coming is released through Cooking Vinyl. Blondie are supporting Sting at Malahide Castle, Co Dublin, on Wednesday, June 28th