Tag Archives: rockabilly

Glen Matlock: Tough Cookie

matlock phantom slick

What do you get if you cross a Sex Pistol, David Bowie’s guitarist, and a drumming Stray Cat?

The result is Matlock, Phantom & Slick: a trio of legendary musicians set to serve equal portions of anarchy, glam and rockabilly on their upcoming Australia tour.

The band – Glen Matlock on bass and vocals, Earl Slick on guitar, and Slim Jim Phantom on drums – has been a going concern for around two years, and while former Sex Pistol Matlock is keen to talk about a range of subjects, the band’s live playlist is another matter.

“I’m not going to tell you,” he laughs. “It’s a bit like telling the punchline of a joke too soon. Not that it’s a joke, but you’ve got to have some surprises. But, there are certain songs [to be expected]; if I went to see the sadly-deceased David Bowie and he hadn’t done ‘Heroes’, I’d be going home disappointed. So we all know there are certain songs people expect to hear, and I’m sure you can work out which ones they might be. We do songs from all of our careers. That’s fair enough, innit?”

Refreshingly humble for a co-writer of what is often considered one of the most influential rock albums of all time in Never Mind the Bollocks, Here’s the Sex Pistols, Matlock is keener to talk about the future than his illustrious, if short-lived, punk past.

“We’ve actually got an album in the can of mainly my material,” he says. “We did it about a year ago and have been talking to people about getting it out. We went to a studio in Upstate New York with this guy Mario McNulty who engineered the Bowie album before the one that’s just come out. It’s cracking stuff and I’m proud of it. We do a cover version of ‘Montage Terrace (In Blue)’ by Scott Walker, believe it or not, and Jim plays kettle drums on it. You’ll have to hear it to understand where we’re coming from. It’s hard to describe your own music. The record business is quite different now; everybody is chasing the latest 17 year-old they think are going to be the new Beatles, but invariably aren’t.”

A big fan of Australia, Matlock is looking forward to making his fifth appearance Down Under.

“The first [visit] was in the eighties and the America’s Cup was on in Perth,” he says. “I remember when the sailing started in Fremantle, the boats were so far in the distance you couldn’t see anything, so that was a bit of a washout. That was in ’85, I think. I came back with the Pistols in ’96 for four weeks, then I’ve been over playing with Robert Gordon at the Byron Bay Blues Festival. Then I was there about two or three years ago with a guy called Gary Twinn, who had a band called Supernaut. His mum and dad were Ten Pound Poms. Also I have some relations there; my cousin lives in Melbourne and my ex-wife lives in Sydney. All good reasons for coming, and the weather’s a bit better over there.”

Having individually played parts in many historic moments in rock history, Matlock, Slick and Phantom have direct playing connections to both the recently-departed Bowie and Lemmy Kilminster: a possible hint to that live playlist.

“I knew both of them,” Matlock says. “I was fortunate to meet Bowie quite a few times and I got on really well with him. I met him in ’79 and then in New York in the early eighties and he was fantastic; really magnanimous and interested in people. He sought other people’s opinions and listened to what you had to say and took it on board. But he was a laugh as well, you know? Lemmy – I’ve known him for years. He used to knock around with all the punks not long after he’d left Hawkwind and was trying to get Motörhead together. The last time I played in the States with the Pistols at the Whisky a Go Go he came backstage to say hi and everybody had a lot of time for him. We’re just that generation now where people are shuffling off their mortal coil. I suppose they’re the ones who survived all the immediate excess of being rock stars, but it has ultimately taken its toll.”

While all four founding members of the Sex Pistols are very much alive and kicking, hope remains for another reunion tour.

“[There’s nothing] I know of as yet, but never say never,” Matlock says. “It’s the beginning of 40 years of punk this year, but also 40 years of the Sex Pistols, if you want to hang it on something. It’s down to John [Lydon’s] whims quite a bit, but I know my bank manager would be happy.”

Matlock was famously dumped from the Sex Pistols in 1977 in favour of the chronically-untalented Sid Vicious. Claims by manager Malcolm McLaren the reason was “for liking the Beatles” have been repeatedly refuted over the years.

“That was bollocks for a start,” he says. “It was just something McLaren said. I left because John could be really hard work. When you’re 19 going on 20, you don’t always see the wood for the trees. When we reformed in ’96 I felt vindicated, because of all the people in the world they could have asked, they asked me again, so they possibly came round to my way of thinking a little bit more.”

When it is suggested he might not have been given fair dues for his song-writing contributions to the Sex Pistols, Matlock shrugs it off with characteristic humility and humour.

“I think I’ve managed to claw a bit of that back now,” he says. “I think people have [recognised] my contribution to the band. But I don’t wake up in the morning thinking about how I used to be in the Sex Pistols; there are lots of things to do in life. The phone always rings with interesting projects and invitations to go and do this, that and the other. The only time I think about the past is when [journalists] ask me about it, you know what I mean? So neh neh neh neh neh [laughs].”

Dubbed the ‘Men of No Shame Tour’, the upcoming run of shows will see the band perform seven times along the east coast, with a pre-show Q&A session giving the audience a chance to verbally prod their hosts.

“I would rather have called it the ‘Tough Cookies Tour’ because that’s what we are,” Matlock says. “[The Q&A] is something the promoter dreamed up, but I’m used to it. I’ve done similar things at the Edinburgh Festival; playing acoustic shows, telling stories and inviting questions. That was during the show, but before the show will be a bit different, because you’re usually worried about where you left your eye-liner, you know? I’m a big boy and I can deal with it.”

For The Beat and The Brag

Record review: Lanie Lane – Night Shade (2014, LP)

lanie lane night shade

Ahh, how good it is to have a new album from Lanie Lane. It’s been a long three years since the Sydneysider’s debut To The Horses, in which time she’s supported Jack White and Hall & Oates before falling a little off the radar. Such a break brings with it the chance of new sonic territories being explored, and the first thing that hints at a change in musical direction is the distinct lack of anything rockabilly-related on the cover. ‘I See You’ is the first of several more measured and tender tracks from the 27 year-old, as it quickly becomes clear that this album will go a long way to shaking off the ’50s rockabilly pin-up crown that Lane had previously made for herself. However, while the uptempo bops are seemingly a thing of the past, the restrained nature of Lane’s vocals on a series of ballads and country-pop numbers only serves to make them even more entrancing, as on the soaring ‘La Loba’ and later number ‘Made For It’. Single ‘Celeste’ begins with some wonderfully jangly guitar lines before Lane’s smooth and soulful vocals will make you not give a damn that rockabilly ever existed. ‘No Sound’ is the track closest to the Tarantino-flavoured work of Lanie Lane of old and is most likely to get a bar gig kicking into gear, and while the ten-and-a-half-minute ‘Mother’ perhaps takes the mick, it’s still the slower tracks that sound best. It’ll be interesting to see how Lane pulls these songs off live, and what lies ahead for her in terms of how any future record sounds, but a move this ballsy deserves admiration and support. While Night Shade is a big change in style and might not please everyone, the value of what’s been added is worth many times that of what’s been lost. (Ivy League Records)

For mX

Scott Owen of The Living End: “I guess we just get along as mates and respect each other”

living end

THE LIVING END have just played five Soundwave shows and will headline The Big Pineapple Music Festival next month; not bad for a band technically on a break. Upright bass player Scott Owen explains why the Melbourne trio doesn’t sit still for long.

“Soundwave was fantastic,” he says. “We didn’t know what to expect as it was all very last-minute; we only got added to the bill two weeks before the festival. It was unexpected, but you can’t complain about getting up in front of audiences like that. Everyone seemed to file in there early and there was a really respectable amount of people there. [Short notice] can work either way for us; sometimes we rehearse our arses off before a show and for one reason or another it’s difficult to pull it together, and then sometimes you just have to jump into the deep end without a chance to rehearse, and they can be the best gigs. We went for the middle ground and only had a couple of rehearsals in the week leading up to it, and left it at that; just enough to dust out the cobwebs a little bit, but not overthink it.”

The band will be the top-billed rock act at next month’s second Big Pineapple Music Festival, which also features Dead Letter Circus and Spiderbait.

“Because we’re at a stage right now where we don’t have a new record out, we’re just kind of getting up and trying to tailor our set – and this probably sounds wanky – to please everyone,” Owen says. “We figure with festivals you’re there for a good time, not a long time, so we just try to play things that we think people are going to know and things people can sing along to; I think that’s our job at a festival. We didn’t really think of doing [AC/DC’s] ‘Jailbreak’ until the day of the gig at Soundwave in Brisbane, but every now and then we’ll pull out a cover and it’s normally something that’s planned. We’ve got six albums, so there’s a lot of catalogue to choose from and it can be difficult to try to think of what will please everyone, but that’s why we tend to rely on the songs most people are going to know. It’s not our own show; people are there to see a bunch of bands, so we just try to offer a good time.”

This year marks two decades since the band formed in Melbourne, but Owen isn’t keen to make a fuss of the anniversary.

“We did a retrospective tour the year before last, where we went out and played all of our albums for seven nights in each city, and that was a good way to look back over everything,” he says. “I think we’re more into looking forward than looking back now, although the plan is to do nothing for pretty much the rest of the year, apart from a few gigs here and there, and then sometime next year we’ll get together again and start thinking about the next record. This is the first time we’ve all not lived in Melbourne. Over the last couple of years we’ve all moved in different directions; Chris [Cheney, singer-guitarist] is over in America, I live in Byron and Andy [Strachan, drums] is down the coast in Victoria. There’s a bit of a distance between us and we figured it’s a good opportunity to just chill out for a reasonable amount of time. Fortunately we’ve never had any major difficulties with each other and we’ve been lucky to continue to get people to want to watch us play. I guess we just get along as mates and respect each other, and just enjoy getting up onstage and playing together. I really don’t know how to read it any more deeply than that.”

The band’s sound includes elements of rockabilly, rock ‘n’ roll and punk; a formula that has worked well for the trio, although Owen’s ‘bass stunts’ – primarily standing on his instrument mid-performance – wasn’t always the polished party-piece it is today.

“When Chris and I were in high school we were only interested in’50s rock ‘n’ roll and rockabilly,” he says. “Getting up on the bass was always part of the act; it was happening from day one. The funniest time was when Chris and I started playing; we were only about 16 or 17 years old when we started playing pubs around Melbourne. One of the very first times we played a proper pub – and we were still just doing rockabilly covers at the time – Chris climbed up on my bass to play a guitar solo and it all went horribly wrong and we ended up in a pile on the floor. It was devastating; we were thinking we could never get up onstage and show our faces again after such an epic fail. But we got over the hurdle. Luckily it hasn’t happened in front of an enormous audience.”

THE LIVING END PLAY THE BIG PINEAPPLE MUSIC FESTIVAL SATURDAY MAY 17.

Interview: Jerry Only of the Misfits

Jerry Only

AS iconic and influential a band as you’re likely to find still touring today, horror-punk Godfathers the Misfits are known as much for their genre-swapping music as they are for their Halloween-themed image. With line-up changes, legal battles and reunion tours behind him, bassist/vocalist Jerry Only continues to fly the band’s flag as loudly and proudly as ever. I spoke to the energetic frontman from his tour bus near Pensacola, Florida.

Hi Jerry, how are you? What have you been up to recently?

We’ve been up to just about everything, to be honest, I guess. We have a whole bunch of new releases all in different categories, we’ve been working on our label, and doing a world tour right now. We’re just finishing up the last leg in the United States and then we’re down in New Zealand and Australia after the new year break.

Tell me about the current line-up of the Misfits. Who have you got in there?

The current line-up of the Misfits has been around for going on thirteen years now. We have Dez Cadena, who was originally Black Flag’s frontman, and he was guitarist when Henry Rollins came on board. In 2001, I brought him out as a special guest for our 25th anniversary, he’s been with me ever since, and we’ve been doing some really great stuff together. He adds a dimension to what we do that we didn’t have earlier. He’s very fluent and has the ability to do some very fancy chords and stuff like that; his dad used to run a jazz and blues label. Dez basically grew up around the studio, so he’s got a really great ear, so when we do a cover of Elvis’s ‘Blue Christmas’ he can add some guitar over the top of it that’s still very punk rock, but fits very well with what we’re doing. He’s also working on a thing called Flag right now, which is the original members of Black Flag minus Greg the guitar player, and that’s going extremely well for him. I tell him that he must be a professional musician now, as he’s got more than one gig going at a time! Then we got Eric Arce, or as we call him ‘The Chupacabra’. He joined up with us back in the day when we had some issues and he was in Murphy’s Law, who were on tour with us at the time. When the band kind of melted down in the middle of the tour he filled in for us, and in the early 2000s he kept filling in for Robo every time he had a problem with his Colombian passport, and he would fly in and do the job. He’s young, hungry, and really aggressive with his very strong double-kick drumming, so he gives us this extra element of surprise. Now, we’re right up to speed with the tools needed to pull off some really thrash-y stuff these days. And me, I’ve been doing this shit forever!

What can Australian fans expect from your shows?

We try to be consistent, you know? I mean, for those of you who’ve seen us before, we have some new material which we think is amazing. We’ll be bringing that all with us, and as far as the fans go, they can expect pretty much more of the same. I tell people that every day we get a little better, and one day we’re going to be the best, so it’s a work in progress. It’s not something I’m going to change; I’m not going to try to come up with some sort of new gimmick for you. Our material speaks for itself, and you’re getting what you expect when you come, and we hold no reservations there. It’s just a matter of if you like the Misfits, come on down, and if you don’t, stay the hell home.

I notice you’ve made a Christmas record…

Yeah! I haven’t got one in my hand yet. I’m getting my first one tomorrow, and I’m very excited. I grew up watching all kinds of Christmas shows; as a kid Christmas always started around Thanksgiving, and I’d be looking in the catalogues thinking about what I want for Christmas, and The Grinch would always be in there. We re-did the song for that; it took a little while to figure out the formula to make it really, really cool, but it came out great. Then we did a cover of Elvis’s ‘Blue Christmas’. Now, back in the day when Glenn was in the band we had done a quick spurt of ‘Blue Christmas’ in Max’s Kansas City one night. I always wanted to redo it, and I always thought it was a cool song, and that’s where Dez comes in and shines. If you listen to it, it’s a punk song, but it has all the little Elvis innuendos that really make it amazing. We also did a song called ‘Island of Misfit Toys’; now I don’t know what Christmas programmes you have down below, but we have what’s called Rudolf the Red-Nosed Reindeer, which is kind of an animated cartoon with clay puppets, and they have what’s called the Island of Misfit Toys, where all the toys that have been fucked up, have got something wrong with them, or nobody wants them, or whatever the problem is, go to this island, and this song is based on that idea from that Christmas show. For me, it’s like being a kid in a candy shop again. I get the songs about all the stuff I liked as a kid, and use them, and I’m very happy with it. I was thinking of pumping gas, but this might have changed my mind!

You’re often credited with inventing the horror-punk genre. When you started out, did you have any idea that you were starting something like that?

Well, I’ll put it to you this way. I thought we did the same with speed-metal and hardcore as well. We’re a very diverse band, and our subject matter and our image is definitely a horror and science-fiction based image, but our musical extravaganza is all over the board. We go from songs like ‘American Nightmare’, which is a pure rockabilly Elvis Presley/Gene Vincent kind of a song, to something like ‘Earth A.D.’, which is pretty much the speed-metal bible when it comes down to it. We got songs like ‘Halloween’, we got ballads, we got thrash, we got metal, we got it all you know? A lot of time that leaves us in a position where we’re kind of in a class all of our own; it’s really hard to lock us down. A lot of people tag that horror-punk thing on us. Are we a horror-punk band? Of course. But do I think a horror-punk can sustain itself without having great songs? No I don’t. The longevity is in the music, not the look. We’re almost finishing up our fourth decade, we’re going into our 38th year, and my job is to try to keep the band together for fifty. In that time, I’ll build my catalogue to a point where I have stuff all over the place, so when people make movies in the future, they can come back to a Misfits catalogue and pick a really great song that fits any application. I’m not limiting myself to being a horror-punk band. Did we father it? Sure. But we also fathered the Metallicas and the Anthraxes of this world. We have a lot of influences, and it’s based on simplicity and tasteful vocal melodies. I think Glenn really struck a chord when we did something like ‘Earth A.D.’ and he’s really crooning through this stuff, you just realise that it’s a matter of doing tasteful stuff, and I like to think we have a little bit of taste.

What would you like to do in music that you haven’t yet done?

Right now it’s funny, because I kind of covered a lot of things with this Christmas record. Covering ‘Descending Angel’ again, which is a song I wrote for my dad about 1999 when he was sick, and he just passed and didn’t get to hear the song before it came out, is important. I’ve realised the importance of trying to get things done as quickly as you can and not put things off, but the B-side of that is ‘Science Fiction Double Feature’ which I’ve always wanted to cover. We’ve always wanted to do a fifties project; we’ve done that. The new album, I’m very happy with. Right now, I want to go back into the studio and do a lot of the Elvis tracks that I’ve always wanted to do. Also, with the Christmas record, we missed the shelf time for it to actually be bought, and we’d like to get a full-length album out of it for next year, and really go for the Christmas angle with some really cool artwork. We also have images of Marilyn Monroe wearing our T-shirts all over the country now; that’s something I always wanted to do. I mean, if you can align yourself with Elvis Presley and Marilyn Monroe and people like that, I don’t see how you can’t be recognised as a force, you know? And we’re doing it in a tasteful way too. People who see our skull on a T-shirt know exactly what it means, and those who don’t are still attracted to it. It’s like a moth to a flame; we’re just trying to make that flame as big as we can to get as many of those little moths in there as possible.

What are you most looking forward to about coming to Australia?

The only throwback about coming to Australia is the distance between cities, so for us to actually make it economical, we need to fly between shows, so we do kind of come bare-boned. In saying that, if there’s any band out there who can come and take it to the hoop for you guys, it’s us. We’d love to come down and do some of the big festivals in the future, where we can bring all our stage gear, lighting and set. At the same time, seeing the Misfits in our raw form is what it’s all about anyway. We haven’t been there in three years, so I think it’s going to be refreshing for those who have seen us, and for those who haven’t it’s going to be an experience. So, I hope that does you!

MISFITS AUSTRALIAN TOUR DATES 2014:

Thursday, 16th January
The Zoo, Brisbane

Friday, 17th January
Corner Hotel, Melbourne

Saturday, 18th January
The Factory Theatre, Sydney

Sunday, 19th January
Amplifier, Perth