Never mind the Sex Pistols: A Q&A with Glen Matlock

Written by Scott Mervis on .


Glen-Matlock-0001It’s not the easiest sell in 2014: Solo acoustic versions of “God Save the Queen” and “Pretty Vacant” ... sung by any Sex Pistol let alone one who is not Johnny Rotten.

Glen Matlock wasn’t even around for the recording of “Never Mind the Bullocks,” having been replaced in early 1977 by Sid Vicious, but the bassist was with the Pistols in the formative years and had a big role in writing the songs on that one and only album.

He’s currently on an acoustic punk tour with Sylvain Sylvain of the New York Dolls, making that a double bill of un-frontmen.

Matlock was an art student who worked at Malcolm McLaren’s London store Too Fast To Live Too Young To Die (later Sex) when he was recruited to play in the Strand with guitarist Steve Jones and drummer Paul Cook. With the addition of snarling frontman John Lydon (Rotten) in ‘75 and the re-branding as the Sex Pistols, McLaren’s creation became the trailblazers of the British punk scene.

They debuted in February 1976 and by July were joined by The Clash and The Damned. The Pistols’ revolutionary first single “Anarchy in the UK” dropped in late November, followed in December by the infamous TV interview with Bill Grundy and the riotous Anarchy Tour.

In February, Matlock was replaced for Vicious, who couldn’t really play but looked more the part of an evil twin for Rotten. Matlock went on form the Rich Kids (77-79) with Midge Ure, among other bands, along with being a hired gun for Vicious White Kids (led by Vicious for all of one show) and the Faces reunion (2010).

Matlock, now 57, has been back as the Pistols bassist for reunion tours since 1996, running up until the most recent in 2008. His most recent album was 2010’s “Born Running” with the Philistines.

His tour with Sylvain Sylvain stops at the Hard Rock Cafe on Tuesday (8 p.m.; $12/$14;

So you’re out with Sylvain Sylvain. How did you hook up with him?
We have been mates for some time. This is the second time we’ve done a tour like this together. We’re in similar boats: Known to be sidemen a little bit, but we’re also songwriters, and it’s a good way of getting our stuff across.

How influenced were you by the New York Dolls and New York punk, in general?
Quite a lot. I think Steve Jones was the one who was more influenced by [Johnny] Thunders and stuff. My thing that got me going was all the early rock bands in the early to mid ‘60s — the Kinks and the Who and the Small Faces. That was my yardstick. But I remember going to see the Faces in about 1973 or something and I didn’t really know or care who was on the bill. The New York Dolls were supporting, and that was fantastic, a real watershed moment, coupled with, I used to work with Malcolm McLaren, before the Sex Pistols, in the store, and I heard them talking about [the Dolls] and it all came together in the melange of what was going on. The Pistols were hip to the Dolls and the Stooges and things like that, and the New York punk scene, although we hadn’t heard it at the time because no one had made any records. It seemed to be filling both sides of the Atlantic at the same time. When the Ramones first came to England, the Pistols all went and we were quite shocked that they were on the same page as us without us hearing them or them hearing us. It was kind of funny. I think everybody got fed up with the same old influences and took a step further back.

Back to the early ’60s rock ‘n’ roll, even the mid ’50s.
Yes. There’s a lot of Eddie Cochran in the Pistols stuff and the Dolls stuff and the Ramones stuff. It’s that little 3-minute-30-second vignette of what’s going on in teenage life with a good beat and a good riff and a good tune — all connects into one. That’s what the best rock was to me. What was going on prior to punk with all the prog-rock bands and operas and stadium rock, that was all very remote from what we were trying to do or what was affecting our lives. People were singing about hobgoblins. I mean, there’s not many hobgoblins in London, I can tell you.

And you guys of course brought that brash political element to it. Were you comfortable with that part of it?
I was very comfortable with it. London was a complete dump in the mid ’70s and [inaudible] were on strike all the time, there was rubbish piled high in the streets. There was a real air of despondency, and the song ‘God Save the Queen,’ although the words were never changed, originally it was called ‘No Future.’ And it really seemed like there was no future. But we wasn’t celebrating that fact. We were trying to point out that you don’t let the wool be pulled over your eyes, you do something about it for yourself. And I wrote ‘Pretty Vacant,’ that’s my lyric. It was about that air of despondency, but we don’t care, we’re just going work through this somehow and come up with something. And it wasn’t a literal thing. Hopefully, the music and the lyrics were more than the sum of the parts. You’re attacking some esoteric thing that you can’t necessarily write out in an article or letter to somebody.

Was there a defining moment with the Pistols where you saw that it had taken off and people were behind you?
Yeah, we did this famous TV show, the Bill Grundy Show, and we thought it would be no big deal one way or another, but it turned us into Public Enemy No. 1, and the next day everything changed. And all these bands popped out of the woodwork almost overnight, because they were looking for something. Everybody always knows what they don’t want, but they don’t necessarily know what they want until it’s put in front of them, and we were put in front of them in a big way. Prior to that we’d been on the pages of a lot of the music papers so we’d already been making inroads there. But, I always aspired to be a songwriter. I always dug people like Ray Davies who’d written these fantastic vignette/slice-of-life songs, and that’s what I continue to do, so while the Pistols, I’m proud of that, it was a long time ago and it’s just one thing to my boat.

Watching you do your own thing, I’m reminded more of a Nick Lowe type approach.
Possibly so. I like Nick. I don’t try to be like Nick. There’s other people I prefer more. But I am a singer-songwriter. That’s what I’ve always been and when we do our set, we both do songs from all aspects of our career, but they actually hang other. A Pistols song against a Rich Kids song against something I’m doing now, they all hang together because it was written on an acoustic guitar and they have my same kind of sensibility all the way through. The main thing that does kind of change is the lyrical content. I saw a good interview with John Lennon, where he was talking about ‘Double Fantasy’ or something, and they asked him, ‘Are you still trying to write for kids?’ And he said no, but he thinks he’s writing for the kids who grew up with him, and I suppose I’m doing the same kind of thing. As you get older and go through life, you have a different set of life experiences that you don’t have when you’re 17, 18 years old.

Jumping back, was it difficult for you to leave the Pistols when you did?
No, it was just so intense. It was the right thing to do. And then we did reform in ‘96, of all the bass players in the world they could roust about, they asked me, so I feel I had the last laugh.

How did you only play on 'Anarchy'?
Because most of the record was made after I left, but the majority of them were my songs. Certainly the first three singles. I didn’t write them all, but all the riffs and all the tunes ... and ‘Pretty Vacant’ was my song, so if anybody in the world had those songs, they’d be doing all right.

How long have you been doing acoustic versions of them?
I’ve been doing acoustic sets for the past 15 years. Not all the time. A friend of mine, who’s now a top lawyer in Dubai, he used to live near me and to celebrate his birthday, about 17 years ago, he said why not do a few numbers for him in the local pub where I live in London. And it went down really well, and people started asking me to do it. I was a bit nervous about doing it at first, because I’d never really done that. You’re really on the spot when you’re doing acoustic shows. It’s just you. I get far more nervous doing an acoustic show than I do playing in front of 20,000 people with the band. But that’s a reason to do it, it’s a challenge, and I got better and better at doing it and I think I do a pretty good job. It’s fun. I’m not a po-faced musical musician. There’s some serious content in my songs, but when I play, I like to have a laugh with the audience and I like everyone to go home with a smile on their face. Which they do normally ... unless they’re miserable old gits.

Has Johnny ever given you a hard time for doing these acoustic versions?
You know, I haven’t spoken to Johnny for years and I’m not that interested what he thinks, to be honest. Good luck to him in what he does and hope he thinks the same of me. He’ll probably moan, because he’s a moaning kind of bloke, but I’m not really interested in what he has to say. Sorry, but do you think because Johnny thinks I shouldn’t be doing it that I shouldn’t be doing it? Then you’re very wrong, mate!

What did you think of the decision not to go to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction [in 2006]?
I think it was a unilateral decision by Johnny Rotten and I don’t agree with it. So there you go. I would have done it. What got me is, we turned that one down and then about two weeks later there was an English one that he went and accepted, so draw your own conclusions from that.


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Juicy J: Talkin 'bout Wiz Khalifa, Katy Perry, Three 6 Mafia

Written by Scott Mervis on .


JuicyJuicy J does a gig Wednesday night at Club Zoo and if you’ve ever seen Juicy J live, you know he’ll do his part to turn it into one.

The rapper from Memphis is a wild one with no shortage of raunchy club bangers, and there’s no doubt he’ll have the room bouncing on his Never Sober tour.

Juicy J is the rare Oscar-winning rapper, having won in 2006 with his former group, Three 6 Mafia, for the song, “It’s Hard Out Here for a Pimp,” from the movie “Hustle and Flow.”

Since then, he’s mostly been working on his solo career, with his biggest success coming from the 2012 stripper rap song “Bandz a Make Her Dance,” which turned up on last year’s “Stay Trippy.” The latest single, “Talkin’ Bout,” features Chris Brown and Wiz Khalifa, his partner in Taylor Gang Records.

Juicy J’s biggest exposure to date might be happening right now, with his feature on Katy Perry’s chart-topping hit, “Dark Horse.”

I don’t think I’ve ever seen anyone have as much fun as you on stage. How do you gauge what’s a really good show?
When I see the tweets, many, people having fun, that’s all I care about. No fights. Everybody just kickin’ and smokin’, drinkin’, know what I’m sayin’? Life is all about fun. Have fun with your life. Forget about the stress and the madness.

How did things develop with Wiz and what’s the working relationship like with Wiz?
Everything’s good, man. He made me a third owner of his label. I’m a third owner of Taylor Gang. My best friends, man. We’re just pushing the artists that we got right now, like Tuki [Carter], Berner, Chevy [Woods] and Courtney [Noelle]. I like trying to break new artists, bring something new to the table, something different. Like, ‘Oh wow, who’s this guy?’

Has this Katy Perry thing put you into a whole different commercial strata?
Oh yeah, man. Took me to another level. I’m getting shows, phone’s ringing like crazy. Woman are calling [laughs]. I can’t complain.

Did you do it together or mail it in?
I emailed my verse in and then I went into the studio and I changed up like four bars and she came in the studio and she heard it and she loved it.

A lot of stations that won’t play Juicy J will play that.
It makes me more familiar. A lot of people probably weren’t familiar with my voice, my sound, my name. Now I’m more familiar in the pop world. I’m definitely familiar in the urban world. It just takes it to a whole other audience. I just dropped a new single called ‘Talkin Bout.’ It’s definitely an urban record, but it has that sound to go rhythmic and maybe on the pop chart,s as well. People are familiar with me now, so maybe they aren’t so nervous and scared to play my record, like, ‘Oh, that’s Juicy J, put it on.’

Do you see doing more of those?
I’m an urban guy but if a song can cross over, that’s good. I don’t go into the studio trying to make pop music. I love pop music, but I just try to do the music I’ve been doing. “Bandz a Make Her Dance” crossed over to pop radio and it was just neat. I don’t try to change anything. I just do me.

How close are you to finishing [the next album] ‘The Hustle Continues’?
I’m 90 percent done with the album. I’m just doing a few tweaks to the singles. We 90 percent in, man, it’s a crazy album. It’s not going to have too many features. It’s just going to be me. I have a lot to say, a lot to get out to the fans.

What happened with the Three 6 Mafia reunion plan?
Nothing’s in the books right now, but you never know in the future. After I’m done with this album, we’ll see.

Were there legal and label complications with that?
Nah, nah. The group was just kind of put on hold and I just kept doin’ my thing. I just kept working. And it popped out for me, so I just took advantage of this solo thing. But, definitely, man, I’m the guy that started the group, so I would definitely do something with that group.

Where do you keep your Oscar?

Aw, man, I got it in a safe place

Is Wiz going to be around for your show?

I think he’s doing some gigs in a different place, but the Taylor Gang will definitely be in the building.

Juicy J, with Travi$ Scott and Project Pat (his older brother and Three 6 Mafia member) at Club Zoo. Wednesday at 8 p.m. $28 and up.


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Pittsburghers in Austin respond to SXSW tragedy

Written by Scott Mervis on .


medvedMike MedvedSinger-songwriter Mike Medved, one of the many Pittsburgh artists in Austin this week for SXSW, didn’t know about the tragedy until the next morning.

“I woke up to a lot of text messages [Thursday] making sure I was all right. I was obviously pretty upset to learn what happened.”

Veteran LA punk band X was on stage at The Mohawk early Thursday morning when two people were killed and 23 injured out front after a suspected drunk driver trying to evade police crashed into a crowd on Red River Street. Some were waiting outside to see rapper Tyler, the Creator, who was scheduled to perform after X.

Witnesses told the Houston Chronicle that the music outside was at a volume that it made it hard to tell what was happening as the Honda Civic was plowing through barricades. In the videos that have been posted online, you can hear X, unaware of the incident, playing “Nausea” in the background as first responders attend to victims.

Austin police arrested the suspect, 21-year-old Rashad Charjuan Owens, a rapper there to perform under the name KillingAllBeatz or K.A.B254.

Fortunately, none of the Pittsburghers are in Austin were injured. Festival organizers decided it was best to go on with the 27th annual music conference, which showcases hundreds of acts, from new buzz bands to the likes of Lady Gaga and Kanye West.

“It was such a sad and unfortunate thing to have happen,” C.T. Fields, of Pittsburgh band Lovebettie, said Friday. “It scared a lot of people. The city and venues have really come together to take care of everything.”

By Friday morning, he said, “There was a big bounceback and new energy at SXSW. I think in some way it reminded people to be more grateful for life.”

Steve Soboslai, a Pittsburgher now living in Nashville and best known for fronting Punchline, is in Austin with his latest band, Blue of Colors.

“We noticed a heightened sense of caution among the crowd,” he said Friday. “I expected the hit and run would be an inescapable topic of conversation, but no one brought it up. You could tell though that everyone was thinking about it.”

Young Pittsburgh rapper Devin Miles was at a show two blocks away from the incident. He said Friday, “Everyone wants to be safe. Everyone is in high spirits.”

“To walk down 6th Street,” Mr. Medved said, “it would be difficult to tell anything bad had happened a few days ago.

However, he said, “Most of the musicians have mentioned the accident during their set and took a second to remind the crowd how important and fragile life is.”


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Pittsburgh makes list of Top 15 D-baggy cities

Written by Scott Mervis on .


danecook200Dane Cook: We're No. 1!Just last year, Salon was asking, "Is Pittsburgh the new Portland?"

Now, we find out -- to the surprise of no one that's been on the South Side at 2 a.m. -- that Pittsburgh makes the cut of "The Top 15 Cities Where [D-bags] Live."

How did the real estate Estately come to this conclusion? They took the 100 most populated cities and crunched numbers on male Facebook 'likes' of such d-baggy things as Nickelback, Monster Energy, Axe, Ed Hardy, Vin Diesel, Chris Brown, Tosh.0, Mixed Martial Arts, Bluetooth and Dane Cook.

Does anyone care to argue with that criteria?

Didn't think so.

Here are the results

15. Anaheim, California
14. Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
13. Bakersfield, California
12. Wichita, Kansas
11. Tucson, Arizona
10. Norfolk, Virginia
9. Toledo, Ohio
8. Milwaukee, Wisconsin
7. Colorado Springs, Colorado
6. Glendale, Arizona
5. Corpus Christi, Texas
4. Aurora, Colorado
3. San Antonio, Texas
2. El Paso, Texas
1. Laredo, Texas

Whoa, Texas.

When you look closely at the numbers, what put Pittsburgh over the top was its No. 1 ranking for Dane Cook. We also hit Top 10 on "Tosh.o" (5) and Ed Hardy (10).
How much do we like Nickelback? No. 29. Chris Brown? About the same: 26
Estately theorizes that there's a hipster/d-bag axis. "Cities with the fewest [d-bags] (San Francisco, Seattle, etc.) are cities known to have large populations of obnoxious hipsters."

Maybe they haven't been to Lawrenceville on a Saturday night.




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Stage AE lineup adds Tyler, The Creator; Boston; Ray LaMontagne; Steel Panther

Written by Scott Mervis on .

Tyler-The-Creator1Stage AE dropped four new shows on us Monday, including a sensitive folk singer, an insensitive rapper, a serious classic rock band and an insincere metal band.

You may notice in the Ray LaMontagne info the words "seated lawn ticket." Yes, chairs on the lawn. This will be a first for the venue, which started its outdoor series in 2011.

May 28: Steel Panther: Over-the-top hair-metal band from -- where else? -- the Sunset Strip. $25 advance; $27 door. On sale Friday.

June 4: Tyler, The Creator. Rapper/producer and main man in hip-hop crew Odd Future. $25; on sale March 12.

June 6: Ray LaMontagne: Impressively bearded singer-songwriter from New Hampshire best known for the single "Trouble." With The Belle Brigade. $45-$55 seated pit ticket; $35.00 seated lawn ticket. On sale March 14.

July 15: Boston: Tom Scholz-led '70s rock band with Brad Delp-sound-alike Tommy DeCarlo on vocals. $35 advance/$38 day of show. On sale March 14.

Tickets at all Ticketmaster locations. Charge by phone at 800-745-3000 or online at



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