- 20 Oct 17
Post-punk legend Jah Wobble talks about his groundbreaking work with PiL, his Irish roots, and collaborating with The Edge and Sinéad O’Connor.
Over the last 40 years, Jah Wobble has remained at the cutting edge of music. Whether laying down throbbing basslines with Public Image Limited, or ploughing his own eclectic furrows in various guises, he has continued to push the boundaries.
The Manchester resident is Ireland-bound this month with his Invaders Of The Heart, who have just unleashed their latest opus The Usual Suspects – a cogent reworking of some career-spanning cuts.
“I have a really hot band at the moment,” states Wobble when queried on the background to the project. “People at the shows come up to me and say, ‘I want to buy exactly what you have done on the stage tonight.’ So that was the idea of it, to capture one of our two-hour sets. There are some new songs too, because we’re always doing new things anyway.” The legendary bassist is enjoying a new flush of creativity, born it seems from the chemistry in the current line-up. His next collection will be a collaboration with Youth of Killing Joke fame.
“We’re working with a great group of musicians,” he notes, “including Holly Cook, Andy Weatherall, Alex Paterson, Aurora Dawn – a lot of good people. I’ve been busy on the live front lately, so it’s still a work in progress.”
The current album was preceded by the single ‘Public Image’ – Jah’s vocal is remarkably defiant on this version of the PiL classic.
“It’s a very petulant performance,” he agrees. “The music business chews you up and spits you out. John (Lydon) wrote those lyrics after his experience with The Sex Pistols, they’re easy to identify with. It’s a lot of fun to sing, because I’m not usually petulant on stage and I am on that track, it’s almost a punk vocal. I quite like that.”
The collection also includes a new take on ‘Visions Of You’, on which Wobble originally worked with Sinéad O’Connor.
“I was hanging out with a lovely London-Irish guy called Kevin Mooney who was friends with her former husband, John Reynolds,” he recalls. “I did some work for Sinéad and she really liked my band; she made it clear that she would love to do something with us. So I had the luxury of being able to go away and write a vocal very much with her in mind. I knew she would get that mantra-type thing.”
Another Irish luminary with whom Jah has collaborated was The Edge on the Snake Charmer EP, which also featured recently deceased Can legend Holger Czukay.
“That came about through the producer Francois Kevorkian. He wanted to marry a dance sensibility using very early drum machine technology with a rock anthem thing. He’d done a few U2 remixes at that time, so he wanted to use The Edge. His sound is actually not a thousand miles away from Keith Levene – really big and saturated. He wanted to capture a post-punk/PiL sensibility. It worked really well.”
Boasting Irish lineage himself – his grandparents hailed from Cork – Wobble jokes he may be taking up his option of an Irish passport given the current political turmoil in the UK.
“The Anglo-Saxon world is having a massive hissy fit at the moment,” he sighs. “I’m really against Brexit, it’s so self-defeating and retrogressive… you start to destroy an ecosystem of sorts. A lot of people realise they’ve voted the wrong way. What I hate about it is that it makes the English look like a very arrogant race, which they’re not.”
Also on Wobble’s colourful CV is a one-year stint as a London Underground train diver. His odd career choice was a necessary change of direction.
“I’ve got the Irish disease, haven’t I?” he laughs. “I like to drink too much. I burnt all my bridges in the music industry so I got sober. I’ve been sober for 31 years. I loved drinking!” .
Ever the maverick, there was an unexpectedly surreal moment during Wobble’s stint in public transport.
“I was on the circle line going eastbound,” he reflects, “and there was a delay, so we were stopped for a while. Something snapped, so I announced over the intercom, ‘I used to be somebody, I repeat I used to be somebody.’ There was a gentle swaying like you get in Stephen King films like Cell, a movement in the flock. Nobody said anything though!”
Jah Wobble and the Invaders Of the Heart play The Grand Social, Dublin (October 27) & The Maple Leaf Club, Belfast (28)