The British punk veteran talks his solo career and time with the controversial group ahead of his Dubai show tonight
Anarchy in the UAE: Sex Pistols bassist in ‘Never Mind the Opera’ line-up
When Glen Matlock began playing with the Sex Pistols in sweaty UK clubs in the 1970s, the idea of performing a gig at a regal opera house in the Middle East 40 years later was never part of the equation.
Then again, a decade after the last reformation of the seminal punk band, the group’s former bassist can now be found singing his solo tunes in different venues around the world.
Earlier this year, Matlock played a solo acoustic tour in small UK pubs, while in July, he performed at the border between North and South Korea as part of the DMZ Peace Train Music Festival.
“Now that was a lot of fun,” Matlock, 62, recalls.
“I teamed up with a South Korean band and we played a bunch of songs, some which people knew and a few new ones. That was a rather interesting experience. I am open to most things, and when it comes to Dubai, I remember spotting it on the plane 30,000 feet up, so I am looking forward to seeing it on the ground this time.”
Matlock is fond of the understatement. Speaking from his home in the UK, he is unfussy when detailing his time with the Sex Pistols, a band that arguably changed the face of rock music and best embodied the anarchic, passionate spirit of 1970s punk music.
Despite the rowdy gigs, which were an equal mix of adrenalin and aggressiveness, Matlock recalls the group’s first year in 1975 as “normal for that time”.
It was only after the group’s infamous expletive-filled UK television interview a year later – which resulted in a public furore that made the group notorious household names – that Matlock realised he was part of something greater.
“Everything changed after and nothing can really prepare you for that,” he says. “And not everything was for the better. Whatever cracks that was within the group was also magnified.”
The dissolution of the Sex Pistols in 1978, which was hastened by Matlock’s departure the previous year and the enlistment of tragic drug addict Sid Vicious as his replacement on bass, has been well and truly covered in a plethora of music books, memoirs and the brilliant 2000 documentary The Filth and the Fury.
However, I suggest to Matlock that one aspect of the Sex Pistols that has yet to be fully appreciated is his songwriting contribution to the group.
While the snotty, venomous vocals (now a standard for punk groups) of frontman Johnny Rotten remain front and centre of all Sex Pistols songs, it was the melodic nous and open chords of Matlock that made classic tracks Pretty Vacant and God Save the Queen much more potent.
“Well spotted, and I would say that is a fair appraisal,” Matlock says. “I have always been a fan of the melodic end of the guitar, and what I believe, and still do, is that I am about doing the simple things well. That’s the yardstick I used to write those great songs and which I still use today.”
Which brings us to Matlock’s present day material. The Dubai Opera crowd are set to be among the first people in the world to hear tunes from Matlock’s latest solo album, Good to Go, which will be released the day after the show.
Referring to the catchy groove-ridden single Keep on Pushing, Matlock recalls how he was inspired to create the album after attending Bob Dylan’s performance at London’s Royal Albert Hall five years ago.
It was not so much the legendary singer that caught his ear, but his backing band. “I loved what they did and this is what I wanted to do with my album,” he says. “It is a simple album, but there is some really great playing on it. It has rhythm and swing and its own flavour. It will be fun to play live.”
Glen Matlock will perform at Dubai Opera, as part of Never Mind the Opera, on Thursday. Tickets begin from Dh150 at www.dubaiopera.com