You might be skeptical about going to see a band that is playing only their 10th gig. But The International Swingers isn’t just any band.
Clem Burke was and continues to be the drummer for Blondie, and he has played with Eurythmics, Bob Dylan and The Ramones (as “Elvis Ramone”). Finally, singer Gary Twinn’s resume includes Supernaut, Twenty Flight Rockers and Speedtwinn.
The following is from a phone conversation with Matlock and Stevenson, who called from Los Angeles. Click here for the full interviews, with lots more on the Sex Pistols, Chelsea, etc.
Jeff Moehlis: What can we look forward to at the upcoming show?
Glen Matlock: It’s a good, fun night. The musicians — some of them [laughs] — are at the top of their ability, they’ve reached the top of their technical prowess. We’ve kind of knit really well as a band. A good band is about the chemistry, and having the whole be better than the sum of the parts. And we’ve got that. Basically we’re a covers band, but we cover our own songs. I think we’re allowed to do that, you know?
James Stevenson: We do a set of the greatest hits of all the bands we’ve ever been in. Then we’ve been trying to work on some original material, so we’ve got four original songs that we do, and then a couple of other songs we do that we just all love, that we just do for fun.
JM: And how did you come together? It sounds like you guys all knew each other.
JS: We all knew each other. I’ve been with Glen on and off. I played in his solo band, which is called The Philistines. It was actually Gary.
His band Supernaut had a huge hit record in Australia about 25 years ago, and he used to go over there with his band. The rest of them are Australian. His agent had thought that he should do something new, maybe you can get some friends together and come over with a different band. So he rang me, Clem and Glen, and asked if we thought it was a good idea. So we came to L.A., rehearsed the set, and we just found that we really enjoyed playing together. So the first gigs we did were out there in Australia in December.
JM: Are there plans beyond this tour, maybe an album?
GM: Some bands, everybody’s like, “Oh, we need a record deal. You’ve got to love us because we’re great and we’re gonna change the world!” Well, not really. And that comes across. People are trying, they’re really desperate. But we’re not desperate. We’ve all done stuff of reasonable acclaim. We’re not resting on our laurels, but we’re relaxed.
We don’t have to prove anything. So we’re gonna have fun. And that fun comes across — it’s a natural, organic kind of thing. Unless you’re having fun doing it, and actually do it for the love of it, there’s not much point, really. You can tell when it’s real and when it’s posed, and it’s certainly not posed for us.
JM: Glen, at the time did you have any idea how influential the Sex Pistols were or were going to be?
GM: Well, I never even thought past the end of the week, and I rarely do now anyway because I normally make plans and those kind of crumble. But we kind of knew we had something. Eventually we had time to rationalize it, and we stuck out like a sore thumb with what was going on at the time. I do think that the only way of doing anything is just by sticking to your guns and sticking your head out. Luckily it worked. Lots of people rallied around us. Everybody was looking for change at the time. But, yes, it is surprising that people still go on about it.
JM: Do you want to set the record straight on anything about your music, your career or the punk scene?
JS: I think one of the misconceptions is that none of the punk bands could play their instruments. Most of the people in punk bands, both in the America and in the U.K., were all actually all really good players.
We think of The International Swingers as kind of a punk band, in a way. It’s just about getting up and having a go, playing, entertaining the audience, without thinking too hard about it.
— Noozhawk contributing writer Jeff Moehlis is a professor of mechanical engineering at UCSB. Upcoming show recommendations, advice from musicians, interviews and more are available on his Web site, music-illuminati.com.