Paul Cook, English songwriter and drummer with The Professionals and previously with the Sex Pistols chats with Kevin Cooper about whether the Sex Pistols will ever perform together again, The Professionals’ second album What In The World, the release of three EPs and next year’s tour of the UK.

Paul Cook is an English drummer and was a member of the punk rock band the Sex Pistols.

Raised in Hammersmith he went to school in Shepherds Bush where he met Steve Jones. The pair became good friends and along with another school friend, Wally Nightingale, formed a band called The Strand. Within three years The Strand had evolved into the Sex Pistols.

The Sex Pistols suddenly broke up after their final concert in San Francisco in January 1978, and Cook and Jones went on to record a few songs using the Sex Pistols name, in particular the album version of the Song, Silly Thing. In 1979 they started a brand new band called The Professionals with Andy Allan, but that was fraught with legal problems. Allan had played bass on Silly Things and the first few Professional recordings. However, he did not have a recording contract and has neither been credited or paid. As a result, the Virgin records compilation album, Cash Cows, which contained The Professionals track Kick Down The Doors, was withdrawn.

The Professionals released four singles, recorded a self-titled LP in 1980, and released I Didn’t See It Coming in November 1981. They toured the album but it was cut short in America when Cook, Paul Myers and Ray McVeigh were injured in a car accident. After they recovered Jones and Myers’ drug problems hampered the band’s prospects, and after declining an opening spot touring with The Clash, they broke up.

In celebration of the release of The Complete Professionals three disc set by Universal in 2015, Cook reunited with The Professionals with Tom Spencer filling in for Steve Jones. In March 2017 the band announced via their official Facebook page that the line up of founding member, Cook, along with Paul Myers and Tom Spencer would be releasing their first new music under The Professionals name in thirty five years. The result was called What In The World. In 2020 they released three EPs.

Whilst waiting for a lull in the Covid-19 pandemic so that live venues can reopen and touring can recommence, he took some time out to have a chat with Kevin Cooper and this is what he had to say.

Hi Paul, how are you?

I’m fine thanks Kevin, how are you doing mate?

All is good thanks and before we move on let me thank you for taking the time to speak to me today.

That’s alright, it’s a pleasure.

And I have to ask you, just how is life treating you at this moment in time?

Life at the moment is alright thank you. I suppose you could say that I am climbing the walls just like everyone else at this moment in time. Having said that, it is what it is, and we simply have to get on with it, one day at a time, I guess. It’s that British attitude in times like these; we simply keep calm and carry on (laughter).

Before we talk about next year’s tour, I must take you back to 2017 and your album What In The World. I absolutely loved it and think that it is a fantastic piece of work.

That’s great to hear, thanks a lot. I personally was very pleased with that album. At the time of recording the album, we really were not sure exactly where we were going with it. The band were a three piece at that time as our original guitarist, Ray McVeigh had left the band because things really hadn’t worked out for either the band or Ray, so we decided to part company. After Ray left, I started to write songs with Tom (Spencer) and I have to say that worked out really well and I am really pleased with how the album worked out. It really is fantastic.

At the time your UK fans said that What In The World was your best work to date. Would you agree with that?

(Laughter) what can I say to that, it is certainly better than our first album because, as you know, that was fucking rubbish. So, considering that it is only our second album, I personally feel that it is the best work that I have been involved with since Never Mind The Bollocks to be honest.

I loved Let Go and New Generation; I thought that they were fantastic.

That’s great, thanks for saying that. I just try to keep on being creative, writing new stuff, getting it out there and moving on.

You mention writing new stuff. You actually released three new EPs (Extended Plays) just before the initial lockdown, didn’t you?

Yes, we did, we released Kingdom Come in January, Curl Up And Cry in February and Twenty 20 Vision in March.

What was the rationale behind releasing three EPs, rather than releasing the album?

Well I guess that the rationale behind that would be that it is a much faster and easier way for the band to get new material out there to the fans. Being realistic, if we were going to try and wait to release a new album, then it wouldn’t have been out until the end of this year. As it had already been two years since we released What In The World, we thought that it would be great for us to get some new tracks out there as we go along, and I have to say that it is working out alright. We have got six new tracks out there on the three EPs together with some live stuff on the B Sides, and as I have said, it is going really well. It’s great getting new stuff out there all of the time rather than having to wait another year or so to get another album out.

I have to say that Curl Up And Cry has certainly encapsulated that Sex Pistols feel. Would you agree?

Yes, it has. Having said that, The Professionals sound was the Pistols sound really. Any band that was formed by me and Steve (Jones) was going to be influenced by the Sex Pistols sound. It has carried on from there really, and we are still trying to carry that on now with the new stuff. We have now got Chris McCormack (3 Colours Red) in the band, and let me tell you, you will not find a bigger fan of Steve Jones than Chris McCormack. He just carries on the sound together with the attitude bringing it right up to date with what we are doing with this line-up (laughter).

Do you think that you will carry on releasing EPs rather than albums in an effort to get your new material out to the fans as fast as possible?

Yes, I hope so. Having said that, we might try to get an album out there depending upon commitments and Covid-19 of course. Or we could even release another EP, who knows (laughter). I personally feel that people seem to like EPs nowadays. I don’t think that people have got the attention span for an album anymore (laughter).

Does it keep things fresh for both the fans and the band putting out EPs?

Yes, it does, it really does. It keeps things moving along; it keeps things fresh, and it also means that you have got new material to play live. Don’t get me wrong, it was great doing the album Curl Up And Cry at the time, but I think that doing these three EPs has been great as well. If I am totally honest with you, I’m still not sure. Let’s just say that the jury is still out on that one. We might release another EP or hopefully, we might get enough tracks together for an album.

You were heading out on tour with T. V. Smith (The Adverts) and Stiff Little Fingers before it fell foul to Covid-19. Just how big a blow was that?

To be honest with you it was a massive blow as I was really looking forward to that as I felt that it was going to be really good. However, the good news is that the three of us are going back out on the road next year, Covid-19 permitting, and the tour starts on Thursday 4th March at the O2 Academy in Bristol. It is a thirteen-date tour and to say that I am excited really would be an understatement (laughter). Being honest with you, I don’t really know the Stiff Little Fingers guys, in fact I have never met them before, and so it would have been interesting to have met up with them. Obviously, they are from the same era as us, so hopefully the fans who eventually turn up to see them and are not aware of The Professionals, will get into it. Who knows, we may even pick up a few new fans along the way (laughter).

Does touring still excite you?

Yes, it does, I like playing live, I really do. That’s why we were trying to get out as much as we can. It’s hard to keep a band together nowadays, especially when you put the finances into the equation, you really do need to be out there, on the road playing shows. Prior to Covd-19 we tried to play whenever we could. So, we are all looking forward to the New Year and the tour with Stiff Little Fingers.

What can we expect?

What you can expect is a great band with great songs, which is just what we do, together with a ‘great live experience’ as they say (laughter). I honestly think that we are a good band, and those Stiff Little Fingers fans who are not aware of us will, I hope, be pleasantly surprised.

We all accept that The Sex Pistols changed the face of music. Does it disappoint you when you hear the amount of rubbish that is being written and recorded today?

No, not really (laughter). There is a lot of good stuff being made but I have to admit that I do get rather blasé about it because I think ‘I’ve been there, done that, got the t-shirt’ (laughter). I still take an interest into who is sticking their heads above the parapet these days (laughter). I wish that there were more popping their heads up.

Hindsight is a wonderful thing, and with that in mind, would you have done anything differently with The Sex Pistols?

Yes, I would maybe have recorded another album; that would have been good. I personally think that recording a second album with The Pistols would have been great. We never got the chance because it simply imploded; it was all rather chaotic at the time. We didn’t last as long as we should have done really, but it would have been nice for us to have made another album.

Now, the question which you really must be fed up with being asked, will The Sex Pistols ever perform together again?

No (laughter). I think that we have been there and done that. To be honest there has been far too much water under that bridge. I think that it would look a bit ridiculous seeing some sixty-five-year-old blokes getting up there singing about anarchy (laughter).

The reason I ask is because I have recently spoken to John (Lydon) and Glen (Matlock) and they have both said, “never say never”.

Never say never, well I suppose that’s true; I suppose that it all depends on just how big the cheque is that they wave in our face (laughter). I really can’t see it happening myself to be honest. Let’s put it this way, if they do get back together then they will have to find themselves another drummer.

Putting you on the spot, what would you say has been the highlight of your career so far?

That would have to be the time that I spent with The Sex Pistols. Having said that, when we reformed back in 1996 and played at Finsbury Park, that was really great. That was a truly great moment, it was like a coming home gig and it really was fantastic. I am also extremely pleased with the What In The World album. I am really proud of that.

What was the first record that you bought?

The first record, oh God, that’s going back a while. That would have to be Tighten Up Vol. 2 which was the Ska and Reggae greatest hits which everybody bought back then. It was a big influence around West London, especially with the West Indian kids around here and at school. We were all well into out early Ska and Reggae (laughter).

Who did you first see performing live?

That would have been at the old Hammersmith Odeon, when I was a teenager, and it would have been Stevie Wonder and The Four Tops on a Motown Revue.

What was the last song or piece of music that made you cry?

Wow where the hell did that come from (laughter). You’ve got me there. To be honest with you, I don’t cry at music that often. I must admit that I have cried at a few songs that I thought were really bad (laughter). I will have to leave that one as I can’t remember (laughter).

On that note Paul, let me once again thank you for taking the time to speak to me today, it’s been great.

Thanks Kevin, you take care and I hope to see you next year. Bye for now.