The International Swingers: "The First Punk Bands . . . Were Just Bands"
Four punk legends walked into a bar. That's not the setup to some lame knee-slapper, but rather a precise description of what transpired Tuesday night in downtown Phoenix. The bar in question is renowned English pub the George and Dragon, and the aforementioned punk icons are exponentially more famous, having been a part of some of the more influential bands in rock 'n' roll history, like the Sex Pistols, Blondie, The Eurythmics, and Generation X.
Dawn Laureen The International Swingers (from left): Glen Matlock, Gary Twinn, James Stevenson, and Clem Burke.
They're Glen Matlock, Clem Burke, James Stevenson, and Gary Twinn, and right now they're more interested in talking about their current band, The International Swingers, that's brought them to Phoenix (in a van) for a show tonight at 910 Live in Tempe. "We're not on a big tour," one of them says. "We're on a little big tour." Up on the Sun was granted an audience with these members of rock royalty last night at the G&D. In the first of a two-part interview, they spoke about what it is they have left to prove, what punk means to them, and Matlock's previous gig as a guest DJ at a William Fucking Reed dance night.
Why just a little tour?
James Stevenson: To be honest, we're just kind of building the profile of the band, you know -- we're out playing for fun, and we just want to stay in the local California area, where we play. KROQ just started playing some of our records, and we're just kind of testing the water, going out here and there, and seeing how it goes.
Are all of you based out of California?
James: Glen and I both live in London.
Clem Burke: We're International Swingers.
Of course. What's the signifigance behind the name?
Gary Twinn: There isn't any. The story is we first came together because I had a career as a pop star in Australia, years ago, and I used to go there to play once in a while. Not wanting to do it any more, I was hanging out with my friends, and we decided to start a band and go to Australia on holiday and play some shows.
We had to come up with a name, and James told me that years ago, he and Glen had talked about having a band called The English Swingers.
James: It was just The Swingers.
Gary: But you said the English Swingers. And I said, Clem's American, so we have to be the International Swingers. [Laughs] Probably I'm lying, and everyone's got a different version.
Clem: We actually all travel around the world quite a bit, you know; Glen's been off doing a bunch of solo gigs, and I'm about to go to Moscow next week, and Gary goes back and forth to Australia. James lives in the UK and the US.
The band's kind of like a satellite we revolve around. We're all good friends, so it's really the camaraderie -- it really has the essence of what it's like to be in a band.
How far back does that camaraderie date?
Clem: We met in the late '70s. I've known Gary for 30 years . . . Nobody answered an ad to be in this band, it just kind of evolved -- we're all good friends.
Glen Matlock: When Gary was putting this thing together to go to Australia he just asked the three of us, and said we were the obvious choice, because we were all good friends anyway. We'd never played together, and it was kind of overdue. And it's worked out, the chemistry . . .
Clem: And being that we're all independently wealthy we don't care about the money, so we can do whatever we want. So we choose to do this; we like to play music.
[Laughs] So punk rock really paid off?
Clem: Relatively speaking, I suppose, yes.
After the jump: What punk means, and whether they're going to bed at a more reasonable hour.