Sex Pistol founding member Glen Matlock likes big ballads

Glen Matlock says it is hard to move on from being a member of the seminal British punk group

Sex Pistols founding member Glen Matlock will be performing tonight at the Agnes b. Punk+ photo exhibition at The Substation. -- ST PHOTO: LAU FOOK KONG
Sex Pistols founding member Glen Matlock will be performing tonight at the Agnes b. Punk+ photo exhibition at The Substation. -- ST PHOTO: LAU FOOK KONG

British punk icons the Sex Pistols are known as much for their music and influence on pop culture as they are for the string of controversies that dogged them in the mid-1970s.

But for founding member and bassist Glen Matlock, the band was initially formed by four guys who "just wanted to make music".

The 58-year-old tells Life!: "We didn't set out to be an agitprop kind of band, that was secondary, and then it became more important than the music."

Among other things, the band ignited furore through subversive songs that attacked the British monarchy, chaotic live shows, and incidents such as swearing on live television.

Matlock is in Singapore to perform tonight at the closed-door, private opening of the Agnes b. Punk+ photo exhibition at The Substation.

The exhibition, open to the public from tomorrow to Oct 26, features pictures of bands, gigs and personalities of the 1970s punk movement taken by Britain-based American photographer Sheila Rock. All the photos, curated from her book Punk+, are up for sale, as well as related merchandise by French fashion label Agnes b.

While Matlock is still actively gigging and playing music today either as a solo artist or with several bands, he is resigned to the fact that his name will forever be associated with the Sex Pistols.

"It's the way it is," he says. "It was such a big thing. Every now and then, something comes along, a good band encapsulate the time that was then, the look, the sociological consequences and stuff. It happens few and far between in the history of music and we were one of them."

He adds that his time with the band was something he was proud of but was also "a double-edged sword".

He explains: "It's hard to move on from there. I quite like big ballads, and if I did an album of big ballads, people would go, 'It's nothing like the Sex Pistols'."

Matlock was part of the initial Sex Pistols line-up that solidified in 1975 with Steve Jones on guitars, Paul Cook on drums and John Lydon, also known as Johnny Rotten, on vocals.

He and the group parted ways in 1977, with the band's late manager Malcolm McLaren claiming at that time that Matlock was fired for admitting that he "liked the Beatles".

In his 1990 autobiography, I Was A Teenage Sex Pistol, Matlock refuted the statement and stated that he left because he was "sick of all the bull****" and was never kicked out.

"That was Malcolm McLaren lying through his teeth," he says. Late bassist and punk poster boy Sid Vicious took over his place until the band called it quits in 1978.

Matlock would go on to form other bands such as the Rich Kids and play with musicians such as proto-punk elder Iggy Pop.

In 1978, he was part of a short-lived group, the Vicious White Kids, with his successor, Vicious, who died of a heroin overdose the following year.

From 1996, Matlock rejoined the Sex Pistols for reunion tours that took place on and off until 2008. The band was never shy about admitting that they did the shows only for money and named the first tour the Filthy Lucre Tour.

Of the reunions, Matlock says: "It was lucrative, it mended some fences and it was good to play our music with not quite so much the furore or the nonsense (of the early years)."

While he does keep in touch with Jones and Cook occasionally, he has not spoken to Lydon since their last gig together in 2008, saying that they are "like chalk and cheese".

And Sex Pistols fans, do not hold your breath for another reunion. Asked if he would consider getting the band back together, he replies briskly: "I don't know. I won't say no, but I don't get up every morning thinking, when is the phone going to ring? There's plenty of other stuff to do in life."

His music is certainly keeping him occupied. Besides travelling all over the world for gigs, Matlock says he is also working on an album that will be recorded in the United States.

He adds reflectively: "As a songwriter, unless you move to this multimillionaire lifestyle, totally divorced from what's going on in the streets, and lose touch in your writing with what's going on, which I haven't... you become a little bit more erudite as you get older and you've got more to sing about."

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