The Collapse Board Interview: Glen Matlock

The Collapse Board Interview: Glen Matlock
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Glen Matlock is a British musician, songwriter, and producer, best known as the original bass guitarist and founding member of the seminal UK punk band, the Sex Pistols. Following his departure from the Sex Pistols in 1977, he continued to pursue music, collaborating with various artists including Iggy Pop, The Damned, and The Rich Kids, a band he formed after leaving the Sex Pistols, as well as pursuing a solo career. Since 2022, Matlock has juggled his solo career with playing bass in Blondie.

Ahead of Blondie’s appearances at the inaugural Pandemonium Festival in Melbourne, Sydney, Gold Coast, Brisbane, plus a sideshow in Newcastle, we caught up with Glen to discuss playing in Blondie, his solo career, his time as an art school student and his experiences of being a Sex Pistol.


Hi Glen, it looks like you’re in London today. You still live in West London, don’t you?

Yeah, I’m there now. Pretty much never left. I don’t know if you get it in Australia, there’s a programme called Stella Street. There’s supposed to be Keith Richard and Mick Jagger running the corner shop and all that. Around the corner from here there’s a great street where I had a coffee this morning, where you’re always bumping into, like, Chrissie Hynde or Paul Weller or Ronnie Wood or even Baldrick from Blackadder. So I’ve got my own Stella Street going on. I’m in quite a reasonable spot. Where are you?

Brisbane. Have you ever been?

I’ve been to Brisbane a couple of times, actually. I like it there. Do you know what, funny story? I was there with the Pistols. I think it was the Filthy Lucre tour, and Skunk Anansie was supporting us. I went out for a walk. There’s like a park and an old Victorian kind of building, you know, with the boardwalk around it. I walk around there and I walk right round up the front and then I walk past the hotel and I bumped into the bass player from Skunk Anansie and he went, “Hello Glen,” I went, “Hello.” I didn’t know him that well. He said, “You don’t remember me, do you?” And I said, “Well, I do. You’re the bass player in Skunk Anansie. He said, “No, no, no, no.” He said, “I’m famous.” He said, “I went to your school. I said, “Did you?” He said, “Yeah, I’m, a good few years younger than you.” He said, “But I’m famous for being the second person to punch a teacher out.” I said, “Well, who was the first one?” And he said, “You was, wasn’t you?” And there was this whole kind of folklore. I punched out one of the teachers, I did that! So that’s what Brisbane reminds me of!

I read that Clem [Burke, Blondie drummer] called you up and asked you to join Blondie for a tour?

No, he didn’t call me up and ask me. He told me. He made me do it, but it wasn’t such a battle. I’ve enjoyed doing it, it’s been good.

Was it an easy decision to decide to do it?

Well, I had a new album came out middle of last year, which I was working on getting out. It was all very slow, I was waiting for a few pieces of the jigsaw to come together, and it was just coming out of lockdown. In fact, the tour that Blondie did back then was what they should have done in lockdown, but had been put back, which is what lots of bands have been doing. It hadn’t worked out with their bass player. Leigh [Foxx] is very good, nice guy. I don’t quite know why, but they were stuck. And Clem said, “Can you come over?” And I said, “What, in a couple of months?” And he said, “No, next week.” And I was like, “Whoa, hang on a second.” But I did it, and I’m glad I’ve been doing it.

Presumably making a decision like that changes all your plans that you had in place, and turns everything upside down?

Well, yeah, it has become a little bit awkward, because now things are picking up for me a little bit, and it’s slotting it all in, but on the other hand, I’ve managed. Last year we were touring Blondie. They do big shows but you can’t do a big show every night of the week. Debbie is still on the case and on form and all that, but she can’t sing more than one or two shows on the trot. There’s lots of gaps. We did quite a good show at the Roxy in Los Angeles. Clem played drums with me, and we got Gilby Clark, and I was there. So those kind of things happen. In fact, I just got back from America. We did the same thing again in California, and we’ll probably do the same again. So, you know, with a bit of organisation, you can do it.

Did Blondie make you audition to see how it was going to work out with the whole band or did Clem vouch for you?

No, no. I’ve done loads of things with Clem over the years. They were really stuck, you know. We rehearsed and then the first gig I did with them was at the SEC in Glasgow, which was about 20,000 people.

When you take on something like that, do they give you the charts, or is it like, “Here’s the list of songs, learn how to play them”?

I made some charts myself, and I went over, and then the charts that I’d looked at, they were either not doing those songs, or they were in a different key. But we got there. To me, I like something like that. It’s a challenge, you know, and it gives you a chance to rise to the occasion, and it’s not like you’re joining Weather Report or something like that. They’re pretty straightforward songs. What is interesting is that a lot of people who work in that sort of pop, rock, and even disco idiom, with Blondie, the songs aren’t that different, but there’s always a little twist and a quirkiness that you have to get your head around. But it’s also an eye-opener, how somebody writes a successful song that is a bit different from the way that you do it. So you’re kind of getting another drawstring to your bow.

You’re the only non-American in the band…

Yeah, but they did have an English bass player before.

… but in terms of the cultural fit, being on the road, it’s all fine?

I’ve spent a lot of time in the States. Blondie has spent a lot of time in England. In fact, don’t tell anybody, but Clem’s in my spare room at the moment. He arrived yesterday and he’s sleeping off his jet lag. We’re mates, you know. He’s always been tuned into that whole Who, swinging sixties kind of thing over here. It’s not such a stretch to fit in with each other. I’ve known the Blondie people a little bit for a long, long time. In fact, I did a gig with Sid Vicious, a one-off thing, in 1978, and I think, as I remember it, all of Blondie came to the show when they was in London and had the night off. Your paths cross a little bit. If you’ve got an affinity with people, you click a little bit. So, you know, it’s not like I was the apprentice.

A long time ago, you went to St Martin’s School of Art? What made you want to go to art school?

I went to art school because I wanted to get in a band, and I’d read that all the bands that I liked had gone to art college. So I went there to try and find a band, as well as being interested in art. But it’s kind of funny that I met the band I ended up with, which was the Sex Pistols, outside of art college, but then introduced them to the art college scene and we did our first shows there. It was a very formative time for me. I actually, I got in to do a degree in fine art painting, which was quite a big deal at St Martin’s, which I didn’t really realise it at the time. I did a foundation course where you do a bit of everything, and then in the summer, we decided to take the Sex Pistols seriously, so I didn’t go, which I’ve always kind of regretted.

St Martin’s was right in the middle of Soho. At the age of 17, it was fantastic. You’d walk down the street to go and buy a pencil in the shop, and you’d see Lucian Freud and Francis Bacon going into the Colony Room. There was a vibe there, and somehow, when I got in there, I felt part of it. I’ve always regretted not doing my course, but that was tempered a year ago, I got made an honorary fellow by Grayson Perry, so I was quite chuffed about that.

I was about to ask if you ever went back and finish your course. Did you ever get back into art in your spare time or was it just music from then on?

Bits and pieces. I pick up the pencil and do a little bit every now and then, but it’s something you’ve got to do every day, really. And my art now, I kind of get a bit disappointed and I’m busy gigging, and there’s not really enough time.

But what it has given me is if I walk into an art gallery, I know exactly what’s wrong with everybody else’s work! In fact, talking about Australia, a few years back, I was in Sydney, walking along by the Rocks and there’s a big modern art museum and there was a Grayson Perry exhibition in there and they had all these tapestries in there, which I’d never known he’d done. They were fantastic. And some of his ceramics. I found myself putting on Twitter, “Saw Grayson Perry today, down by the Rocks go along. Wit and willies.” You know, if you see some of his ceramics close up, there’s some pretty heavy stuff going on in there.

If you do have any downtime in Brisbane, the Gallery of Modern Art is pretty much the best thing in Brisbane.

I’ll check it out.

You mentioned it briefly in passing earlier, your latest album, Consequences Are Coming was inspired by Brexit. Do you think consequences will ever come for Brexit?

I think they’re beginning to already. What’s happened to Boris Johnson? He’s persona non-grata, you know. I think what’s going on with Trump, I mean, whether he gets in or not, because there’s some pretty gullible people around, I’ve discovered, but it’s less easy for him. I wrote those songs quite a long while ago, and then it takes a while to get a record out. In the meantime, with that, there was the whole lockdown thing, which put things on ice a little bit. But yeah, the world is a funny old place at the moment.

There’s two things I do. I’m like the bass player, which is my artisanship, and then my art is my song-writing, which is the most important thing to me, really. I think as a songwriter, you’ve kind of got to reflect the world around you a little bit if you’ve got a little bit of a platform, otherwise it’s an abrogation of responsibility. I mean, I’m not Taylor Swift, but I am Glen Matlock!

What’s the latest on the next Blondie album that you’ve been contributing to?

Well, it’s in the can. I’ve recorded all my bits, quite a while ago now. It’s being tweaked and fiddled with. I’m not in the driving seat on that, but it was sounding pretty good, so we’ll see.

When you left the Sex Pistols, there’s a lot of stories about what happened, even when I was reading the music press in the 80s, and even now, they’re still connected to the mythology of the Sex Pistols. But how much of an impact did those stories about why you left have on you?

Well, they didn’t kind of help. They weren’t true, which was more galling. If they were true, it would have been different. But I was pretty busy. Even before I finished with the Pistols, I started getting the Rich Kids together. We had a modicum of reasonable success over here, we were well-respected, people are still going about to this day. We didn’t have a runaway success.

Did that, and then that kind of ran its course, and then I was straight off playing with Iggy Pop for a year and a half, two years. I’ve always been a busy boy, so I don’t have too much time to ponder and think about the whys and wherefores of what went wrong or what went right. And, after all that, as everybody knows, we reformed in 1996. In fact, we came to Australia and have done stuff subsequently. And out of all the people in the world they could have asked to play bass, who did I ask? Matey, you know. So I felt kind of vindicated, really.

I’ve often wondered this about people, because you get people like Paul McCartney and Bob Dylan, and their lives have been so documented to such an extent that everyone knows what they did on every day of their life. There have been so many books and documentaries about you and about times in your life. Is it weird having that done? Does it help you recall all those memories, are you straight back into the room, or are you like “I can’t remember that happening”?

I don’t really watch those things, really. I mean, I’m one of these people, you do an interview, or you make a recording, or you do a filming thing, but I’m a Virgo, and I’m kind of somebody where everything’s got to be just right. I’m always worried if I watch something, it’ll put me off doing it again, so I don’t, you know. And then things kind of come out, and you go, “Oh, well, if you think that, you think that. I know the difference.” But you mentioned McCartney and Dylan. People think they know about their lives, but I bet they don’t, really. You only know what they allow you to know. So I kind of subscribe to that a little bit.

I’ve got a couple of books out, one I wrote years ago called I Was a Teenage Sex Pistol, and then I’ve got a new book that’s just coming out. It’s come out in England, it’s just about to come out in America, I’m not quite sure about Australia, but you can get it on the World Wide Interweb thing, whatever it’s called. It’s called Triggers, and it’s lots of stories about the songs I’ve written, the stories behind them. You can read that and read between the lines and think what you want about me and where I’m coming from. It’s all what I’m allowing to get out. In fact, I think a good title, I just thought of it, for somebody’s biography would be Don’t Be So Nosy! But, you know, I kind of do what I do. I kind of try and do it with a good heart, do my best in my ability and have a laugh with it, and there you go.


Saturday 20 April – Caribbean Gardens, Melbourne – TICKETS

Tuesday 25 April – Cathy Freeman Park, Sydney – TICKETS

Saturday 27 April – Broadwater Parklands, Southport – TICKETS

Sunday 28 April – Eatons Hill Hotel , Brisbane – TICKETS

Pandemonium Sideshow:

Tuesday 23 April – Alice Cooper + Blondie + The Psychedelic Furs + Wolfmother – Newcastle Entertainment Centre – TICKETS

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