Sex Pistols drummer Paul Cook talks ahead of his Roundhouse gig
PUBLISHED: 11:42 12 March 2020 | UPDATED: 11:42 12 March 2020
Punk veteran’s band The Professionals join Stiff Little Fingers on a rocking line-up at the iconic venue
It seems odd that Sex Pistols drummer Paul Cook has only played the Roundhouse once - and that was with ex-Orange Juice frontman Edwyn Collins.
But the veteran punk rocker has always loved the venue, ever since he was a teenager starting out in the music business.
'I'm not sure why it never worked out that the Pistols played there, but it's a great place to see bands,' says the west Londoner. 'I remember seeing The Ramones there.'
Now the 63-year-old is set to grace the legendary rock venue with his band The Professionals - on a bill that includes Irish rockers Stiff Little Fingers and 2Tone star Neville Staple.
Asked why he still puts himself through the slog of touring, he explains: 'I like playing live, first and foremost.
'A couple of years ago we made an album which has done well, we have three new EPs, so it's not just going back to the old tunes all the time. It's good to be playing new stuff around the country, and getting a few new fans.'
Cook is the only original member of the band, formed in 1979 with Steve Jones from the ashes of the Sex Pistols.
It was Jones and Cook, working class boys from Shepherd's Bush, who originally formed The Strand in 1972, which later evolved into the Pistols under the guidance of manager Malcolm McLaren.
Now Jones is based in the US, and Cook has pulled together a less combustible mix of musicians for the Professionals line-up.
'Originally we only lasted a couple of years before it all imploded for one reason or another,' he says.
'When we started again it was a bit of fun. it sounded great and that motivated me - being creative, writing - we are like a new entity, moving forward, doing something that we love.'
The songs are co-written with singer-songwriter Tom Spencer: 'We bounce off each other, writing about life in general, getting older, experiences you've had along the way.'
There's certainly plenty to mine from those heady years with the Pistols, then reforming in the 90s - and everything in between.
But you can forgive Cook for ruling out a Pistols reunion - and sounding weary about all the fighting and drama, from Sid Vicious' notorious overdose to John Lydon's combative behaviour.
'With the Pistols the split wasn't surprising with what was going on. The publicity was hard for us to cope, with, it all got a bit chaotic.
'Looking back, a lot of my job was as peacmaker. But I have given up those roles, well I still do it a bit, but you get pretty frustrated after a while.'
You may also want to watch:
He adds:'Personalities. That's the devil that splits up bands. At this stage of the game you don't need the negative energy.
'It's hard enough as it is without all that. These guys (The Professionals) are great, a lot of fun.'
That's not to say he's not proud of how influential the Pistols were - their gigs at Oxford Street's 100 Club and Manchester Free Trade Hall inspired members of The Buzzcocks, Joy Division, The Fall and The Smiths to form bands.
Cook laughs: 'I don't remember a lot about that Manchester gig but if everyone who said they were there was there we would have filled Wembley stadium..but it's nice that people want to be part of it. Knowing that we were the inspiration for lots of bands - and good bands - feels good.'
As for him, it's a Pistols reunion in 1996 in north London that sticks out.
'When we reformed the Pistols in '96. After all those years away we played a homecoming gig at Finsbury Park Festival our first in the UK for 25 years. It was pretty special. We realised how receptive the crowd were and what we were missing.'
These days Cook lives in Hammersmith, around the corner from where he was born: 'I have tried everywhere else and ended up back round here, my roots are here. I feel comfortable.'
Back in the early 70s he and Jones were schoolmates at Christopher Wren School in White City.
'There was a gang of us who grew up together, we always loved our music and would see all the gigs. All the bands from the Glam Rock era David Bowie, T Rex, Mott The Hoople, me and Steve Jones had aspirations, then one day the lightbulb went on.
'why not form a band?' So we did.
'People like us didn't start bands at the time, but we were lucky, the moment was right, the planets were ligned up.'
Cook agrees they benefited from a shift in the national mood.
'The single basic message of the punk ethic was if you want to do something have a go, see what happens.
'It turned into something. Everyone went out and had a go. Good stuff came out of it not just music but it inspired so many people across the arts.
'When we started, we didn't know where it was going, but we soon found out there was a generation of kids and we tapped into that feeling of unrest in Britain at the time.'
Then he pauses, to defend the Pistols from charges of just being chaotic chancers: 'People overlook it, but we were a great band, we had great music.'
The Professionals play The Roundhouse on March 28.
If you value what this story gives you, please consider supporting the Islington Gazette. Click the link in the orange box below for details.