Since founding and subsequently splitting from Public Image Ltd, the band John Lydon joined following the death-and-destruction break-up of The Sex Pistols, bassist Jah Wobble has been releasing dub albums at a stunningly prolific rate.
He’s found the time to collaborate with Natacha Atlas, Bill Laswell, Harold Budd, Brian Eno, Massive Attack, Sinead O’Connor and Primal Scream. He was even responsible for Björk‘s Play Dead.
Wobble is now recognised as one of the most important figures of the dub music scene. With another new album out with Temple Of Sound, we caught up with Mr Wobble for a quickfire round of Q&As about Public Image Ltd, working with Bill Laswell, driving taxis and getting an HGV licence…
musicOMH: The latest collaboration with Bill Laswell (Radioaxiom, which we rather like) was a curious beastie on paper – how did it work with you both being bassists?
Mr Wobble: Easy! It’s well known that bassists are the most reasonable and intelligent of musicians….they also make the best producers!
musicOMH: Have you always been into dub, even when you were in Public Image Ltd?
Mr Wobble: Yes, since around 1974 when I first heard the genre.
musicOMH: Bill Laswell is astonishingly prolific – what’s he like to work with?
Mr Wobble: Bill’s very straightforward and not in the least bit painful to work with.
musicOMH: What did you hope to achieve with this Shout At The Devil album and did you achieve it?
Mr Wobble: A rollicking good Middle Eastern (then again, if we had recorded it in China it would have been Middle Western) styled dub album, with vocals. It’s undeniably mighty! I love working with Temple of Sound.
musicOMH: What’s your next project following Shout at the Devil?
Mr Wobble: There’s a forthcoming live album from the Solaris project/tour of October last year which featured myself, Harold Budd, Bill Laswell, Graham Haynes and former Can drummer Jaki Liebezeit.
musicOMH: Do you mind being categorised by musical genre? Would you prefer to appear in the jazz sections of record shops rather than the pop sections – and do you think splitting the UK record charts up into genres is a good or a bad thing?
Mr Wobble: There is a need for genre names, we need some reference points… however, in the post-modern age, it gets harder and harder to be accurate when categorising. I don’t lose any sleep over what category I’m placed within.
musicOMH: How tall are you?
Mr Wobble: Six feet – and maybe one, maybe two inches…
musicOMH: What would you do if you weren’t a professional musician in order to earn some dosh?
Mr Wobble: Between 1985 and 1990 I was a cab driver, London Underground worker, warehouseman and courier (in a Luton van). I now do the odd book review – however, I think if I needed urgently to keep body and soul together I would be a postman, if they would have me, or maybe do an HGV test.
musicOMH: Which country appreciates your output most?
Mr Wobble: The punters seem as enthusiastic in New Zealand as they are are in Leigh-on-sea. True unconditional music really does transcend conditional notions like nationality. On the other hand, when I really think about it, The Jocks do seem to go double mental!
musicOMH: Are you a Studio Man or a Gigs Man?
Mr Wobble: I was a studio man. However, I now like gigs just as much. In fact gigs are the holiest. Sod posterity, let’s do it now!!!! All we have is the moment.
musicOMH: Who are you listening to just now?
Mr Wobble: Me, an album of music library stuff I just completed. As I listen a payed lackey whispers to me “remember you’re mortal”. Other staff fan me with palm leaves.
musicOMH: Do you have any particular favourite moments on, or during the making of, Shout at the Devil?
Mr Wobble: I enjoyed the vocals going down. I have avoided vocalists for quite a few years now, because they have a tendency to wear me out, what with their constant demands for honey and lemon drinks and all that… However, the three of them, Nina, Natacha and Shahin were very good to work with.
musicOMH: Will the original Public Image Ltd line-up ever get back together?
Mr Wobble: No. Life moves on. Well, okay… my minimum fee is 10,000 per show. 2500 per rehearsal. All sums would be payable in advance. There would be a maximum of nine rehearsals, not exceeding five hours in length. Also a maximum of 10 shows. I want my own hotel and a blue Mercedes and driver on 24 hour call. If that was sorted we could all be chums – yes even with Keith (Levine). While I chat between songs with Keith, the thought of the money would be like those pictures that are stuck to the ceilings above dentists’ chairs.