An audience with Glen Matlock: “Music can be a release and it can be a rallying cry”

With a fiery solo album ready to roll, the Sex Pistols songwriter talks "Anarchy In The UK", activism and gigging in the DMZ

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Scroll through Glen Matlock’s Twitter feed and there are almost as many pictures of him holding placards as there are of him holding guitars. Whether it’s marching against Brexit or the Policing Bill, it seems that the man who once penned the nihilist anthem “Pretty Vacant” has lately become a bit of an activist. “I’m totally disgusted with the way this country’s gone,” begins Matlock, perched outside a café near his home in Maida Vale. “I’m not the most political person in the world, but we can all stand up and be counted about the things that matter. And I think the only way you can do that is actually turn up and be there. It’s normally quite a laugh as well.”

This sense of jubilant protest energy fuels his new solo album, a collection of crisp rock’n’roll rabble-rousers featuring Earl Slick, Norman Watt-Roy and Clem Burke. The lead-off single is even called “Head On A Stick”. Anyone’s in particular, Glen? “Well, there’s many candidates!” He recounts having a “run-in” with Michael Gove at a recent QPR match: “I told him in no uncertain terms what I think about his stupid Brexit and what it’s done for touring musicians. I was bristling, I really had to hold myself back.”

Matlock is warier about revisiting old Sex Pistols spats, but with Danny Boyle’s miniseries about the band due to air in May, he looks back fondly on his pivotal role in the punk revolution, selling shoes to Mick Ronson and accidentally inventing the new romantics. Turns out there is a point in asking…

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What is the difference in mindset from delivering a new solo record in 2022 versus a new record with the Rich Kids in 1978? Are the goals still the same?

Scott Zuppardo, via email

I don’t think there’s really any difference between what I do now and what I did back then. You go in the studio with all these grand ideas and it comes out how it comes out. I like Nick Lowe’s adage: slap it down and tart it up. The main thing I want to get out of it is that people think, ‘Ol’ Matlock, he still writes a pretty good song – and he’s not a one-trick pony from 1976.’ That’s what drives me. And I think I can back that up.

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