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Glen Matlock
in conversation with Phil Singleton

27th July 2003

Glen with Dead Men Walking

Phil: You're in for a very busy few months with the Pistols, Dead Men Walking, and the release of your forthcoming solo/Philistines album.

Glen: That's right.

This is the first Pistols tour since 1996. You must be looking forward to it?

Yes I am. There's a great batch of songs there, and it's always good to be able to play those songs live. In the great scheme of things, I suppose the Pistols were a major success, with or without me, but never really played that stuff in front of a massive live audience. It's yet another opportunity to show the strength of the Pistols as a band. The thing with the Pistols is when me, Steve, Paul, and John get in a room, the four of us have got something in common that nobody else in the whole world has, that we just happen to sound like the Sex Pistols. A lot of people try and emulate it, but come nowhere close. There's a certain chemistry there, and the total is far more than the sum of the parts.

Do you feel that America is appreciative of the band?

Yes I think so. When we did the show last summer near LA, it went down really well. To be honest, I think we played better than we did at Crystal Palace. I don't quite know why, I think you are always a bit more on edge with a British crowd because they can be more picky, y'know? The pressure was off a little bit at the LA show.

With you playing 13 shows, this will give you all more of a chance to really get into it.

Yeah, and also it's not such a long period of time since we last played. When we did those two shows last year we hadn't played live as a band for a good few years, whereas now we're playing just a year later. We should start remembering the songs!

Is the Pistols something you'd like to see continuing? The demand is there.

As long as people want to see us, we will always consider it. I've never been the one to say this is the last thing we'll do. I just think we're kind of too good not to play as the Pistols. I think we provide a yardstick of how good you can be. There's lots of bands around who are alright, but just don't have that certain magic. It's like a benchmark for people to aspire to. It's like in '96 when Alan McGee wrote that article (about the Shepherd's Bush Pistols show), when the guy from Oasis said "Alan, we're not this good!" It's obvious, but unless you keep thowing it in people's faces and reiterating... it was worth doing the whole tour just for him to say that and realise it!

It's also a reminder to the American punk scene, which is quite large now, of how it all started.

A certain aspect of it, yes. But there's this whole thing of Pistols versus punk. I never see the band as a punk band. I don't think anyone in the band ever did. We just see ourselves as the Sex Pistols. To be lumped with the punk thing is a bit of a yawn. The Sex Pistols is the Sex Pistols, and ever more shall be so.

Do you ever envisage any new Pistols product?

It's looking really unlikely. I'd personally dig it. I see it as a challenge, but it's a challenge that not everybody wants to rise to, for whatever reason.

The Pistols are appearing on the Jimmy Kimmel show on ABC. Are there any more TV shows planned?

That's the only one scheduled, unless anything else crops up. I'd like to do some kind of In Concert show with the Pistols. I do think we missed the boat a couple of times. It would be good to have a bit of control over something that we are happy with and isn't a poor quality bootleg version. But unless you actually do it before somebody else does it....We were going to video record the Crystal Palace show, but for various reasons it went pear-shaped. The problem is managing to nip that in the bud. The main way to do it is to get there first.

You have also been busy with Dead Men Walking, just having finished a five date tour. How do you feel it went, and has the change of line-up benefited the group?

I personally miss Pete Wylie's material. I like Wylie's anthemic songs, as you said on your site. But people have different things to do in their lives, and the whole thing about Dead Men Walking is that it's supposed to be a laugh, it's not a pressured scenario. It's people of a similar like-mindedness and position in their careers, getting together, no big deal, and rocking out a bit. It's different to what each of us is doing musically in our own careers, because even though we're doing the same songs, they are approached in a different way. The acousticness of it for a start is a big change and it brings a whole set of different problems and values to it, that you have to cope with, and that's always an adventure.

I think it's the first time that Cult fans have come across Billy Duffy playing an acoustic guitar. It gives a new feel and energy to the material to hear it in its raw state.

Well that was the bottom line with Dead Men Walking. The idea was, because most of the people in the band write on an acoustic, you are getting back to the real infancy of where the songs came from in the first place.

In fact, you were the only musician playing an electric instrument on the recent tour.

Yeah, it's funny me saying that, although I do play an acoustic. When we did it before and it was the four of us just playing acoustic, it was kind of one dimensional, and it needed that bottom that the bass provides. I toyed with the idea of getting an acoustic bass, but basically they're crap. You still need to mic it up, and then it sounds like an electric bass, so you might as well get an electric bass anyway, and they're thinner, and you can get them in the back of your motor easier! It helps when carrying it around!

There is the practicalities to consider! I think it suits the material to have that bottom which the bass gives, it certainly adds to the energy.

And when you introduce drums, I think you need bass, although we do a couple of songs just with acoustic and drums, but to do it all like that would be not right.

I get the feeling from the latest shows that there is the potential for the band to become bigger than perhaps you actually wish to be.

It's better to be bigger than you wish to be, than to be smaller than you wish to be! I can't see what's wrong with that! It's better to be bigger than you could possibly envisage than to fail miserably!

Is there the possibility of any new material from the five of you as a band?

Well you never know. The beauty of the line-up, even with Pete, is it sprung about because everybody knew each other, not collectively, but I knew Kirk and Mike and Pete, and I didn't know that Pete knew Mike and Kirk, and vice versa. It's kind of the same again with this line-up. If you are musician you have quite a field of people that you bump into constantly. I mean, every time I go to the States I'm always bumping into Slim Jim. I see Mike. I bump into Billy because Billy knocks around with Steve Jones in the States.

In the studio 2003How's your new solo/Philistines album progressing?

It's done. I'm not on a major label, and I'm not the best business man in the world, but the album will be coming out pretty soon. When you do things off your own back, it just takes a while to get the business side of it together. The album's done and I'm pleased with it. I think there's a good record there.

It has a lot of energy, I felt, from what I've heard. You'll be doing some Philistines shows to promote it?

The idea is to get the album out soon to coincide with the Dead Men Walking dates, and once we've done them, for me to do some Philistines shows around the country.

On Something is a track I've been raving about for quite some time.

I think On Something is going to be the title track. We've done a video for that.

Piece Of The Action was a new one to me when I heard it in this studio earlier this year...

A cry from the heart.

What's the point you're putting across lyrically?

That you see all these Herberts doing well for themselves, and you wouldn't mind a little piece of the action yourself. It's on your own head to do something about it.

In some ways that sums up the Pistols with all the hard work that was put in by yourselves in the early days, only for other people to make money out of it.

It's the same as No Future - God Save the Queen. There is no future unless you do something about it. That's the sentiment behind the song which people get wrong a lot of the time. That's ultimately what it means, your future is in your hands, not anybody else's.

Better Start Getting Used To It is another song where lyrically you're being uncompromising.

Yeah, do what you're gonna do regardless. I'm at that stage now, not that I particularly have done in the past, where I don't try and colour my output to what people think, I just do what I want to do. I've never had any success whatsoever by slavishly following any trend. I'm now at that position where I'm never going to be a part of the trend, just because of my age group, so why start now.

It gives you a bit of freedom as well.

It does, yeah. Having said that, it's not in me to be totally avant-garde. I think some people who say they're avant-garde do that because they can't write a song. The last refuge of the scoundrel!

Whose Side Are You On is another of your uncompromising songs in terms of its message.

I wanted to write a 12 bar blues kind of format song, and I coupled it with what's been going down the past couple of years in world events. People only get away with things because they're allowed to, you've got to come down quite firmly for what you stand for.

You put a lot into your lyrics, you see them as a very important part of your songwriting.

It's the song, it's what you're singing about, it's not just about a little catchy riff.

OK Kiddo is perhaps one of the more traditional songs on the album.

Musically, it stems from my love of The Faces, it's got that kind of vibe about it. Lyrically, it's about where are you at these days in your life. It's personal but there's also a tongue-in-cheek-ness about it as well.

Live!The album sounds to me almost like an extension of Open Mind, but if anything slightly tougher. Do you feel that?

Yeah. I've learnt a couple of little lessons from Open Mind. I was really pleased with the Open Mind album, but I've been gigging more, my guitar playing's got better, and I play a lot of the rhythm guitar on the album as well, and I like that kind of big rock sound. I've been working with a really good engineer this time, who has a fantastic pedigree.

Coming back to the Pistols tour, you're going to be celebrating your birthday during it.

Yes I am, we going to be playing in Cleveland on 27th August.

You should do something special to celebrate it.

It was my 40th birthday when we played San Francisco last time on the Filthy Lucre Tour. The record company promised me a cake which I got. But they didn't tell me that I had to share it with people who had won a competition to come backstage! I've got some mates in Cleveland so I'm going to hook up with them this time.

The Japan dates are obviously not happening at the moment?

I think that's the big qualifier at the moment. The thing is with Japan, you are tied to a particular point in time, i.e. the summer and the festivals. When everything was up in the air, we couldn't make a 100% decision. But there will be more festivals again next year.

Well, best of luck with the forthcoming Pistols tour, I'm sure it'll go well. Maybe we'll have some more Pistols in the future, perhaps in Europe?

The maxim with the Pistols these days is 'never say never', y'know?

Text / photographs ©Phil Singleton 2003 /
All rights reserved. Not to be reproduced without permission.

God Save the Sex Pistols

God Save The Sex Pistols ©Phil Singleton /