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Sex Pistols’ Matlock to give noisy songs soft treatment

Thursday, March 14, 2013
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Glen Matlock was the original bass player for the Sex Pistols. The singer/songwriter left the band in 1977. He will play a double bill with Sylvain Sylvain as part of his Acoustic Anarchy Tour at The Linda on Friday. (photo: Roger Sargeant)
Glen Matlock was the original bass player for the Sex Pistols. The singer/songwriter left the band in 1977. He will play a double bill with Sylvain Sylvain as part of his Acoustic Anarchy Tour at The Linda on Friday. (photo: Roger Sargeant)

Glen Matlock is known for some pretty abrasive music — from his ongoing solo work, to bands such as the Rich Kids, The Philistines and, of course, the seminal English punk band that started his career and the careers of many punks the world over — the Sex Pistols.

The singer and songwriter, who played bass with the Sex Pistols from its founding in 1975 until he left the group in early 1977, plus all its subsequent reunion tours in the ’90s and 2000s, is striking out on his own for the Acoustic Anarchy Tour this month and next, which kicks off at The Linda on Friday.

As the tour’s name suggests, Matlock will be tackling songs from throughout his career — including famed Sex Pistols rants such as “Anarchy in the U.K.” and “Pretty Vacant” — with nothing but acoustic guitar and his voice.

Glen Matlock

with Sylvain Sylvain

Where: The Linda, WAMC’s Performing Arts Studio, 339 Central Ave., Albany

When: 8 p.m. Friday

How Much: $18 (doors); $15 (advance)

More Info: 465-5233 ext. 4, www.wamcarts.org

Toning it down

As odd as it might seem to hear these angry, noisy songs in a stripped down setting, for Matlock it isn’t a stretch at all.

“They’re all songs that were initially written on acoustic guitar in the first place,” he said from his home in London a week before the start of the tour. “To me, a song is the lyrics and a set of chords — you’re not really dependent on all the noisy stuff. The noisy stuff is great, but sometimes I’ll do a more intimate thing, something that shows more of my personality, I suppose.”

This even includes some of the Sex Pistols’ more well-known songs. Matlock is credited with co-writing 10 of the 12 songs on the Sex Pistols’ now legendary first, and only, studio album, “Never Mind the Bollocks, Here’s the Sex Pistols,” and had a major hand in shaping the band’s sound in its early years.

“[The songs were written in] kind of jam sessions, but one particular song that I’m doing is one that I wrote on my own on acoustic [guitar], ‘Pretty Vacant’ — I actually wrote that just in the rehearsal studio,” he said.

“I was talking to Ray Davies [of the Kinks] once about his songwriting process, and he said to me, ‘You wrote the Sex Pistols’ songs.’ I said, ‘Well, no, I wrote some of it.’ ‘Somebody’s gotta be in charge.’ He said, ‘I used to write a song and have to fight tooth and nail about how the song’s done; I usually won, and that’s why it sounds good.’ ”

Stepping in for Ramone

The tour will also feature a solo opening performance from guitarist Sylvain Sylvain (born Sylvain Mizrahi) of ’70s proto-punks New York Dolls, who is stepping in for Ramones founding drummer Tommy Ramone. Ramone (born Thomas Erdelyi) was recently diagnosed with jaundice and had to pull out of the entire tour.

“I don’t quite know where he’s at with that — he’s getting some tests done,” Matlock said. “He was looking forward to it and I was looking forward to it, but Sylvain Sylvain stepped up to the plate, and that’s fun as well. I’m looking forward to running around the East Coast with him.”

Matlock has been perhaps the busiest of the Sex Pistols since he initially left the band. And he did indeed leave the band, despite rumors that he was kicked out for liking The Beatles.

“With me and John [lead vocalist Johnny Rotten] the situation became intolerable, so I had to let go of the reins,” Matlock said.

“I was doing a lot of work in the band, and I also felt underappreciated by Steve [Jones, guitarist] and Paul [Cook, drummer]. When you’re 19, 20 years old, you don’t think about it. . . . But I’ve always spent my life doing various things, and when the band re-formed in 1996 and subsequently after that, of all the bass players they asked me, so I kind of felt vindicated.”

Musical forays

After leaving the Sex Pistols, which he helped found with Jones, Cook, Rotten (born John Lydon) and manager Malcolm McLaren, he formed the Rich Kids with future Ultravox guitarist Midge Ure. When that band split in 1979, he continued playing solo and with numerous bands, most notably touring and recording with Iggy Pop in the ’80s. the Sex Pistols continued on with Sid Vicious (born Simon Ritchie) on bass, splitting in early 1978 after their disastrous U.S. tour.

Everything will be fair game at the acoustic show, from his four solo albums to his latest record with The Philistines, “Born Running.”

“If I’m out and about with one of my bands, I feel beholden to the new stuff we’re doing,” Matlock said. “With this I can just do whatever songs I fancy — I throw in a couple Pistols songs, a couple of songs from my band the Rich Kids — we were well-known in England, but people seem to know of it in the States too. . . . I do some cover versions. It all seems to gel together quite well.”

Since those initial forays into songwriting with the Sex Pistols, Matlock has honed his craft (and from the Rich Kids on, he has focused on singing and lyrics as well). In the early days, he helped serve as “song doctor” for many of the group’s songs. “Some stuff you come up with can be quite good, . . .but it doesn’t necessarily end up in the form of a well-crafted song. That’s where I come into it,” he said.

‘I just do what I do’

Still, the actual writing process hasn’t changed much for him over the years. He’s planning to start recording a new album with The Philistines, tentatively titled “S.O.S.,” later in the year.

“I’m really thinking of recording my next album, ‘S.O.S.’ . . . ‘Same Old [Expletive],’ ” Matlock said. “Right, I just do what I do. I’ve always done what I’ve done.

“I still kind of go about it the same kind of way,” he continued. “The way I go about it — an idea will hit as you’re walking down the street or something, and if it’s forgotten, it’s forgotten, but if a few days later it’s still gnawing away at you, that’s when you pick up the guitar and start working out all the bits for the idea that you had. Both of my young sons are in a band, and they’ll ask me sometimes for a tape or a CD, and I’ll ask, why? ‘We need to record rehearsal.’ What for? If you need to record an idea to remember it yourself, how do you expect anyone else to remember it?’

 
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