Contributor’s Note: With a perfect combination of global music, reggae and punk influences, Jah Wobble has entranced the world with his hypnotic bass riffs for over four decades and has become one of Britain’s most influential and distinct bass players. The new decade has seen Jah Wobble and his band, Invaders of the Heart, elevate their notoriety as an unstoppable force with a sold-out UK tour in January. The band has then continued their reign and domination over the love of the nation with the announcement of their brand new album titled, Ocean Blue Waves. The seven-track album demonstrates the band at their finest with virtuoso bass lines and acclaimed songwriting abilities that have made them the legends they are today. Highlights include tracks such as mind melting opener “Fly Away” and epic single Take My Hand. Born John Wardle, the nickname was given to him by Sid Vicious following an evening of drunken antics. Sid Vicious then went on to give Jah his first ever bass guitar. As a bassist, Jah Wobble is well known as one of the founding members and ultimately the back bone of the legendary Public Image Limited (PiL) during the early years. Whilst working with John Lyndon, Keith Levene and Jim Walker, Jah’s notoriously powerful low end bass created PiL’s debut album Public Image: First Issue, which included the band’s first Top 10 single as well as their prestigious second album Metal Box, which included the post-punk classic Death Disco. Since departing with PiL, Jah has flourished as a musical genius and has been involved in many areas of the music industry. Jah is now a prevalent solo artist with his band, Invaders of the Heart and was nominated for a Mercury Music Prize for his debut album, Rising Above Bedlam. Following the release of the highly acclaimed second album, Take Me To God, Jah also became a successful entrepreneur by developing his own independent record label, 30 Hertz Records, which is responsible for the release of a variety of renowned records. Additionally, Jah has worked with the likes of Primal Scream, Dolores O’Riordan, Sinead O’Connor and many more as an illustrious session musician. In 2017, Jah Wobble & Invaders Of The Heart released their latest album The Usual Suspects. Outside of his musical life, Jah still manages to inspire people. I was lucky enough to be afforded the opportunity with Jah Wobble(Public Image Ltd., Invaders Of The Heart) for Madness To Creation. Fans can find Jah Wobble & Invaders Of The Heart at the following locations:
Mark: How are you personally coping with the current enforced UK lockdown situation?
Jah Wobble: It’s funny. You’re on lockdown, it’s supposed to be nothing happening. It’s been quite hectic, strange this week. I suppose because everyone, lots of people could work remotely. It’s just been a bit … Sulley’s done great, did a lot of interviews. Just a lot of stuff going on. Plus I suppose, people who wouldn’t normally pick a phone up get bored and phone you. There you go. Anyway, so sorry about that. Fire away.
Mark Interviewer: You’re all right. That was actually my first question. I just wondered how you were spending the time, but you seem to be coping quite well given the circumstances.
Jah Wobble: Oh okay. Let me stop you there. Well okay, let me tell you, it’s really busy here. Part of me, look, I’m terrified of this coronavirus. My accountant has got it. He’s a mate of mine, I broke his arm once playing football, a long time ago. That’s just a bit of a side story right there. He had it really bad. He’s 63, fit as a fiddle. Do you know what I mean?
I’m not taking it lightly. But part of me always likes it. I like the sort of the merry-go-round stopping. I like puttering about thinking … I like living like I’m on a spiritual retreat. I like the overtone of a spiritual retreat. Does that make sense?
I like the merry-go-round stopping. Yesterday I kept my pajamas on all day. I’ve got a pair of pajamas out. I thought, “Okay, this is a pajama vibe situation. I don’t even wear pajamas.” I just got cozy. You know what I mean?
What I normally do, I’m doing a lot of yoga. I play music. I meditate. I’ve been doing this stuff every day. I’ve been bored as shit. I like walking. Take the dog out for a walk, all this kind of stuff. For me, it’s business as usual I have to say. I reserve the right to go stir crazy and mad any time I like. So far, business as usual for Jah Wobble.
Mark: What about your new album release? Did it get released as scheduled or does it have to be put back?
Jah Wobble: No, no. It comes out just as usual I believe. Even the new one I’ve got coming out. My attitude over the years is just fucking, no matter what’s going on, bring it out, just keep going forward no matter what. That’s it. Yeah, it doesn’t bother me at all. My son has got a little album coming out on the same day-on Friday. So I says to him”its either really good,or really bad”…
What would have been your first introduction to music? Can you remember maybe, that first song? Maybe something on the radio?
Jah Wobble: Yeah. I played Johnny Morris’ Animal Magic feature.
I think that program came on the telly ’62 or something. Anyway, I got that,in my nut,I mean I can remember that was a big moment, a genuine big moment. Another genuine big … So my first single I thought … That’s the great thing about talking to a minor celebrity. You’re asked this so much, you really get your story straight, do you know what I mean? If you go back there, you remember everything. It’s like you’ve got to go into court, and give evidence ….
First single, well it’s my mum who used to get me a single every Friday. At the Weinstein White Chapel off a stall.I got Jim Reeves, Welcome to my World. But another big musical moment was The Beatles, Strawberry Fields, which was about ’67, the year that Tottenham had won the cup that year, so it seemed it’d been like a really nice summer. Up to that point I was aware of the Beatles. Even my mum, and dad, and me mum’s brother, Johnny, liked the Beatles. Everyone liked the Beatles. They were seen as people you could identify with. Even Londoners thought they were clean cut boys. They liked the look of them and they liked the songs.
Something about me deep down in my ancient psyche didn’t really like it, the Hard Days Night, didn’t like it. There was some slight aversion to it. The week Strawberry Fields come out, they all were turning vehemently against the Beatles, because of Yoko Ono, they didn’t like her. Exotic kind of troublemaker, you know?
They were all on drugs. They were getting interested in religion.
But at that point, with Strawberry Fields I thought, “Wow, this is something else.” I remember one day vividly playing on the grass outside the estate and alongside the Duchess Pub in Commercial Road, it’s where my mum’s brother Johnny lived, with his wife Sylvie, and their three kids. I was playing with me cousins on that patch of grass, playing football. I was almost drunk with that song. The parents would go in the pub and we’d have crisps with little packs of salt that you had separately, and we’d have a lemonade. A flat lemonade. That was delicious and fantastic and something to look forward to and to fly home to. You also liked it when your parents were drinking because you had lots of leeway, and I was a troublemaker. I got up to all kinds of mischief. We were playing on that patch of grass and I was almost drunk with that Beatles song.
Mark: When did that interest in music and from those early days progress to something that you actually wanted to pursue as a career yourself?
Jah Wobble: I’ve never looked to stuff like a career. Certainly not at that point, no. I’ve never had this linear kind of, “I’m going to do that and it’ll lead to this.” It’s very intricate because I tend to come at things intuitive and quite a chaotic way. Music actually, when I picked the bass up , it absolutely calmed me down. I was a bit anxious, a bit OCD-ish. It calmed me down. It wasn’t a musical tradition … I mean, I come from a Catholic background. You’re out in Northern Ireland, right?
Mark: That’s correct, yeah.
Jah Wobble: You would understand, that Celtic thing. Whatever side of the thing, divide. That was Catholic. They did every year, they had March in May. Some of our relatives played in that. That was quite a part of my DNA. Those paradiddle drum rhythms-again,
So that was in my psyche, but I never played in those. That was all on the way out. Yeah, again, that was the fair game to a certain culture in east London at that point.
Don’t worry, I’m not a religious zealot. Okay? Not in any way fucking, I’m not having any of that. I’m not in any way kind of connected with Bible bashing in any way in that respect. It’s just like a dreamworld, for actually is what it feels like looking back. Those big processions stopped. Only the Italians keep it up I believe. There was one Italian parish I think that they continued. The Irish parishes in the east end stopped doing it.
Anyway, that was in me psyche. I think those people even, they did a bit of drums. The Irish pipers at that point as well. I do like pipes and all that. I was brought up, my mum would play the Dubliners at home.. My old man was an army veteran. When he’d come back from the war he was quite traumatized and taught himself to play German piano pieces, for I think Commercial Road. He just locked himself away. I would hear Beethoven blaring out of the kitchen. He wasn’t a warm man, you know what I mean?
Jah Wobble: But it’s quite ironic. He’d been killing Germans on the run by then. And then played German ..piano music . He never had a bad word to say about Germans. He had more bad things to say about people about people that were supposedly allies, of Britain in the war …
Anyway, that was it. I never really had the career plan of any kind. Just a bit haphazard. Very different to when we got into punk and even when you talk to one or two of the people that were public school educated, who came in saw there was this theme going on. Analysed the scene, analysed how they could position themselves within this scene They taught those skill sets and they are these kind of people who run the country now. What’s missing is a bit of heart and soul, is missing unfortunately with those people. But whatever.
I’d just to say, for me, it was I picked the bass up. It had a healing kind of a quality to it and that was it. I just absolutely wholeheartedly loved doing it. I didn’t do any of the things people do when they learn an instrument. It’s completely intuitive. That was it really. I only started playing because of punk, because punk had been … and I knew Johnny Lydon and that’s how it happened. Simple as that.
Mark: Yeah. Do you still have the record label? Is that something that you still have and actively pursue?
Jah Wobble: Well, it had been great running the label but it got tricky right about 2014, ’13, ’14, because of streaming. Streaming really started to affect it. I sold the label. No regrets, all good. Then what did I do? I started another label. The new record is on my label so yeah, I’ve started another label.
Mark: What role do you enjoy most, playing music, playing bass, or actually having that label and maybe finding new talent, nurturing new talents?
Jah Wobble: The label’s always been me in collaboration with other people. I’ve never released anyone else’s music simply because I don’t want to be in the position, I know I’m not going to be able to do a 100% job for any other artist. I was managing another act-someone I knew which and it’s not for me. That was many years ago.
I am very much into me being in collaboration with other people. It’s a vehicle for me. Well, first I had 30 Hertz Records, which is the label I sold. The idea was, it was a refuge away from the business. It was away from the suit, away from corporatism, put it there. Which is the fucking bane of us.
It might be one of the things after this, I mean, what I think is the end of western civilization. No big fucking deal, but like, “Oh it’s the end of western …” it’s just it’s the end of a 300 year period. In terms of Hindus and Buddhists they think we’re coming to the end of a Kalpa, which is a long period of time. Buddha’s part of this Kalpa as far as they’re concerned. They deal with longer periods of time. We’re coming to the end of stuff and that’s fine. The music goes on, do you know what I mean?
This is all the state of flow that we’re in,
So, everything just flows and that’s the thing with this. Maybe we’ll go if that’s the end or something, that … but if it’s the end of something it means it’s the beginning of something. This whole corporate thing just doesn’t work. It makes me laugh at this time but, “Dow Jones index is going down by three points,” or whatever the fucking stock market’s gone down.
It’s just all a bit bonkers. Maybe corporatism’s had a rise maybe and that will fall now for a bit because it just doesn’t work. Anyway, I now live in a socialist country. America’s now like a socialist country, really, essentially.
Everything’s nationalised. In fact, I live in an East German type thing where we’re all under house arrest. (we laugh)The whole corporatist thing, suddenly everything’s collapsing. Anyway, that’s just an interesting one We’ll see what happens with it. I wanted to be away from that corporate, dead eye, boring, unsexy, fucking dull!
Mark: And of course, you took a break away from music, yourself. I just wondered what prompted that?
Jah Wobble: No, I didn’t really … The reason people say that, I probably gave people that impression. I stopped drinking in 1986, yeah?
October ’86, because I only stopped when I worked on the underground for a few years. I . Actually, that really happened. I was finishing an album called Psalms. I was halfway through it. So I got sober, finished the next half of it in sobriety. Couldn’t wait just to leave it, get the fucking thing out. Then I got a job as a courier, because Christmas was coming up as I recall,working for a pair of brothers-I didn’t like them,public schoolboys- a bit like inner city London. I did that for a while. Then I left there and I had two job offers, one for the post office, one for the underground. I went on the underground.
I started on the underground and in March of ’87, around that time, anyway Neville Murray a percussionist – kind of knocked on for me and said, “Do you want to … Are you going to do another tour?” and I thought “Wow, I could do” ” So I put a band together. I was putting a band together by the spring, summer of ’87. And I was listening to lots of music anyway at that time, planning and thinking about music a lot. For a while there at the end of year, I couldn’t bear to listen to music. Which you’re awful sick when you’re in the throws of addiction. It gets so closed in on you.
But then I started listening to lots of Anita Baker. I listened to Bryan Ferry.
Bryan Ferry’s solo stuff for some reason. Yeah. That track that started with a typewriter kind of sound on it. I was listening to a lot of world music. There was a lot of great music coming out of Paris. I never really took a break to be honest. I just cracked on with it. I was part-time. That was part-time, and then came back full-time into the business a few years later.
I mean, to be honest, I still miss the underground. I liked it. I went to the wrong depot, about a year or so in, and that was a mistake. If I hadn’t gone to the wrong depot maybe I would have stayed there.
Mark Interviewer: Okay, just a couple of general questions then to finish. You’ve created a lot of music over the years, many different styles and genres. Is it possible to single out maybe the most influential musician that you’ve worked with or would that be just too difficult?
Jah Wobble: No. Well, for me, it’d probably be Bill Laswell simply because he was really influential to me in … I was aware from the very beginning of his career . I always had my eye on him over the years. I ended up going with the guitarist, he’d done a lot of work with him at that time.
And they got me over to play on the Ginger Baker Album, Middle Passage. I was not allowed to meet Ginger. It was considered it would be like some dangerous chemical compound being mixed that the studio could explode, so he kept me away from Ginger. I met Ginger a few years after and I think Bill made the right call on that point. That’s why I end up overdubbing on Ginger’s drums.
Anyway, he then started getting me over for stuff. That was just a really good feeling for your self esteem. You’re flying to New York and you’re playing with Bernie Worrall and then we played … we even got Pharaoh Soul was on the track
Bill was somebody that really made you like, “Wow.” Was a really, a guy … I was talking to him last night. We were talking. We had a chat last night. We’re supposed to play together this summer. I guess it’s probably … I don’t know if it’s going to happen or not, I don’t know what’s going to happen to the shows. But we had a chat, he’s very relaxed with things. We were having a laugh about it all. He’s a very phlegmatic very capable, very serious and sensible, and somebody who’s just got a similar aesthetic sense I guess to what I had. That’s one.
The other one is Jaki Liebezeit He’s just so deep. Just a master drummer. And a guy that would just go so far down a path dedicated to a path, and let go of so much that he actually qualified him as a zen master basically, with what he’d let go of, from the piece that he had within him. He’d let go of so much, and actually music, is similar to a spiritual path. It’s the closest thing you can get to a direct spiritual … because you do emendation all the time.
You’re dealing with the formulas all the time, and you’re making sense of the formulas. Wondering where the formulas comes from, has it always been there? All this stuff. When you get to that deep level. Jackie really had that.
When Jackie played, he’d hit the snare 100 times. Every beat was purposeful. I never heard Jackie play a beat that wasn’t completely mindful and focused and yet relaxed.
- Check out “Ocean Blue Waves” via Spotify below:
Mark: Yeah. Just a couple then to finish. Do you still have career or even life goals that you haven’t fulfilled as yet? You’ve still got hopes,dreams,and ambitions?
Jah Wobble: Yeah. I want to be free of being … I suppose you’ll want to get to the point that you’re, I don’t want to use the word enlightened, but in life you get to the point that you completely let go of all the bollocks. Many people used to say, “We’re here because we’re not all there.” Human beings. I want to let all the vowels go, all my bullshit that is encrusted, cracking your fucking mind.
Go, “Yeah, that’s the thing.” To have an ambition and the determination to continue with that, what goes on into the next life or wherever it goes on into, whatever other dimension, because there is another dimension.
Great meditators and people tell you that. There is another dimension you’ll go into, that isn’t in terms of time. It’s now but it’s not in the present time, the clock stops. You’re not on the clock. You’re outside of everything relative. That’s what you touch on with music. Sports stars will not even touch on that because they say that they are”in the zone”.
And of course, the whole point with this, you don’t wrap this thing, “My experience, I’m going to use that to become an even greater person,” like some pathetic, it would tend to be a cult or something, but you actually … that’s just more fuel to the fire with really not being a fucking asshole. Does that make sense?
Just so you just like … let this be a nice fucking person. Really. From the highest goal of this great dimension, this other fucking dimension, is actually tied in very much … How do you achieve that? Basically, just be a nice guy. Be a nice person, be nice to people. Actually, I don’t really have any, “I want to achieve, make a record like this and sell this many records or I want to do that.” None of that now, not at all, which is nice. Nice feeling. Yeah. totally, it’s intention to do stuff. Obviously, you have the kind of goals and you’ve relaxed and you just try and facilitate every fucker going in that peace of mind, if you can’t linger within whatever, everyone you know. Just try and be helpful to people the best you can.
Mark: Okay, that’s great. That about wraps it up for me. Thank you very much
Jah Wobble: Good, good. Nice one. Listen, hope that’s all good. Thank you. See you. You have a good day!