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A Sex Pistol Goes to the North Korean Border

Bassist Glen Matlock describes the surreal experience of playing the Peace Train Music Festival in the Korean Demilitarized Zone

Sex Pistols bassist Glen Matlock performs at the Peace Train Music Festival in the Korean Demilitarized Zone.

When Sex Pistols bassist Glen Matlock landed in South Korea to perform at the Peace Train Music Festival right below the border of North Korea in late June, he didn’t know what to expect. He’d never stepped foot anywhere in South Korea, let alone the heavily militarized demilitarized zone where festival organizers staged the show. “I wanted to help them to build a bridge and I wanted to meet up with some cool Koreans,” he says. “I wanted to show my solidarity with them and see how the other half lives.”

Matlock was the most famous Western performer on the bill that also included Korean acts like Say Sue Me, Seunghwan Lee and Sanae Kang alongside groups from Scotland (Colonel Mustard & the Dijon 5), France (Joyce Jonathan) and Japan (Mitsume). Before getting out there, Matlock made plans to perform the 1977 Sex Pistols classic “God Save The Queen” with veteran South Korean rock group Crying Nut before joining them on one of their original tunes. “Everyone got off on the fact that a bloke like me from the Sex Pistols was singing a song in Korean,” says Matlock. “I don’t know how well I did it though.”

He also played his own set where he mixed his solo work with Sex Pistols songs like “Pretty Vacant” and “Anarchy In The U.K.” “I didn’t think it was the best thing to play ‘Anarchy In The UK’ at a peace festival,” Matlock tells Rolling Stone. “But nobody seemed to mind too much. In fact, they brought the house down.” The festival was also an opportunity for Matlock to see the sort of performers he’d normally never experience in person. “At one point a dance crew went on and I thought I wouldn’t really like it,” he says, “but it was very moving.”

Matlock took a train from Seoul right up to the DMZ with many other artists from the show.  “It’s one of the most untouched places in the world,” he says. “Right on the border there’s a bird sanctuary where this species of crane migrates to. The vibe of everything was really quite positive.” He arrived thinking the goal was to help move North and South Korea to some future point where they can unify, but he learned not everyone was on that page. “It seemed like that unification is the last thing most people there want,” he says. “They don’t want to take the North Korean standard of living up to their own, which is quite high. They just want to get on with their neighbors and they don’t want nuclear bombs falling on them.”

Now that the show is done, Matlock is focusing his attention on his upcoming solo LP, Good to Go, which he cut in America with David Bowie guitarist Earl Slick. “It’s a very simple kind of album,” he says. “You could call it ‘loud skiffle.’ I was inspired to make it after seeing Bob Dylan at the Royal Albert Hall a few years back. I’m no big fan of his, [but] the band was fantastic. I said to myself, ‘I want to do something like that.'”

As far as the Sex Pistols, Matlock hasn’t spoken with frontman John Lydon since they stepped offstage at the Azkena Festival in Spain on the final date of their Combine Harvester Tour in 2008. He says that any future activity is unlikely at this point. “But we always said that before,” he says. “It’s down to John, really. Some of us are on the wagon and I know some of us aren’t. I know [Sex Pistols guitarist] Steve [Jones] is [on the wagon] and so am I.  Make of that what you like.”

Sex Pistols’ Glen Matlock and Crying Nut Perform “Anarchy in the U.K.”

In This Article: RSX, Sex Pistols

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