Surviving punk

Ex-Stranglers front man Hugh Cornwell can’t be stopped

Legendary Stranglers frontman Hugh Cornwell will kill the Pyramid with Sex Pistol Glen Matlock. Supplied

Artists forge their way through with hard work and dedication. They snatch up ephemeral ideas from the ether and breathe life into them and render them anew, giving them shape, life and voice.

Elder statesman of punk rock Hugh Cornwell has been doing that for the last three decades and continues to do so.

“The more I do, the more stimulated I get - it’s never ending and it’s a spiral going outwards,” Cornwell says by phone from his Los Angeles rehearsal space.

The ex-Stranglers front man started playing guitar in school and university, continuing with his education and followed his love of music.

“I went to Sweden - there was a lot of draft dodgers there from America, a lot of great talent and creativity,” he says.

Returning to the U.K., Cornwell formed The Stranglers in 1974, a hugely successful punk rock band that played alongside formative bands and musicians such as The Ramones, Patti Smith and The Sex Pistols.

In 1990,  Cornwell decided to forge a new journey and he began his solo career.

He released several solo albums, of which Totem and Taboo is his latest. Cornwell has promoted the album online through, which helps artists and bands design a specifically tailored fundraising campaign to raise money for their next release.

“You have to accept the things the way they are going and to adapt to the situation,” he says. “I can see a good side; anyone anywhere can get a hold of your music as long as they have a link to the Internet, which is amazing for distribution, the potential to reach an infinite large audience. The bad side is you only can get single one-link songs, so you are cutting up the album into 10 to 12 bits and it loses the album’s wholeness.”

Cornwell kicked off his tour in Arizona last week and will be covering the States, Canada and many European dates. Along for the ride (and sharing bands) is ex-Sex Pistol Glen Matlock.

“Glen and I have the same agent; he called me up from New York and asked if I was interested in doing a tour with him, so I jumped on the chance.”

With a tour, shooting a film in Spain and a new book in the works, time is a commodity for Cornwell.

“I have a busy schedule this year - the new CD I recorded in Chicago with Steve Albini, shooting a film in Spain after the tour…”

With all of this, the longtime punk hasn’t had time to settle down.

“I’ve never been married, not by design - (it) just happened,” he says. “I can afford to make changes in my professional life, it is a luxury, and I am exercising that luxury. If you have a Rolls Royce in the garage, you would be stupid not to drive it. Moreover, I have this freedom, freedom to travel, freedom to work, freedom to move between disciplines of expression. The more I do the more stimulated I get; it’s never ending.”

No chance of cooling his jets, Cornwell continues to inspire, create and entertain.

“I have had a great journey so far, and it keeps getting better and better, I’ll keep going into the sunset.”

Published in Volume 66, Number 21 of The Uniter (March 1, 2012)

Related Reads