Jah Wobble was a founder member of Public Image Ltd and went on to have a successful solo career including the Mercury nominated Rising Above Bedlam album. His many musical projects range from setting the poetry of William Blake to music through to working with Brian Eno and, more recently, the critically acclaimed Chinese Dub Orchestra.
He has just published his autobiography, Memoirs of a Geezer: Music, Life, Mayhem, which I reviewed a couple of weeks ago. It is one of the best rock memoirs you'll read. I am more than a little chuffed to welcome him to the blog today.
SP: One of the strengths of the book is that it is written very much in your voice. You tell it like it is. Was there much you had to leave out of the book for legal or personal reasons?
JW: No, not as much as I feared, in fact hardly anything....I think that initially there were about 40 points raised by the lawyer....these were quickly whittled down to about 10. Out of those half were rewritten in a way that kept the lawyer, myself and John Williams the editor happy, and half, after a bit of debate were left as they were.
SP: How much fun was it slapping Sean Hughes on Never Mind the Buzzcocks?
JW: Actually I felt quite bad afterwards...I was in my late thirties when it happened and I knew in my heart of hearts that that sort of behaviour, in spite of his appalling attitude, was well past its sell by date. It is very difficult, especially as you get older to justify violence of any kind, no matter how many plaudits you get for it.
SP: I am a bit younger than your good self and first came across your work while working in HMV Southend when Rising Above Bedlam came out. My favourite track of yours is a B-side from that time, Josey Walsh. I notice it ended up on the I Could Have Been A Contender collection so presumably is a song you are keen on. What can you remember about how that song came about?
JW: Yes you're right that song is a favourite of mine. The actual name Josey Walsh is fictitious. My lyrics tell the tale of a woman who has had a terrible childhood....suffered all sorts of abuse and ended up as an alcoholic, with her kids taken into care and all that. She makes many attempts to get into recovery, but just cannot make it. In the end she dies a horrible, lonely premature death, typical of chronic alcoholics.. The song tells her that the struggle is over, and that she is loved....indeed she always was. It’s not even a question of her needing to be forgiven or anything.
SP: How do you feel about the changes in the music industry in this newfangled digital age?
JW: Equal measure of good and bad (so far). On one hand it’s helped devalue music in the eyes (and ears) of many people....on the other hand the technology is heaven sent for a maverick figure like me....I have a great deal of autonomy. I can still make an ok living, on my terms. Having said that, in comparison to how it was the economy of the music business is far closer to a car boot sale now than most people would imagine. But at least production costs have tumbled dramatically, to (almost) match the low dealer prices that one now receives per unit sold. I think now that everyone realises that the music business’s troubles were the thin end of the wedge in regard to the internet and copyright infringement. In regard to the internet the genie is well and truly out the bottle. It’s going to be very interesting to see where it all goes.
SP: Your Chinese Dub project has been very well received, will this be something you continue with or is there, as often happens with you, something completely different in the pipeline?
JW: I’ve got a new album called ‘Welcome to my World’ lined up, as well as a digital only EP called ‘Electro Retro vs. Late Impressionist period Dub’ (really)...plus I’m in pre production of an album of Japanese stuff. My wife Zi-Lan and I would love to do Chinese Dub again, however we want it to be even bigger and better than it was....I really want to avoid doing ‘Chinese Dub Lite,’ (otherwise known as the ‘cash in’).
SP: I'd love to get a couple of music recommendations from you while I've got you here. Any good stuff I should be listening to?
JW: Harold Budd’s The Room is my fave at the moment. I tend to listen, when ‘off duty’, to composers like Arvo Part, Gorecki and Tavener. Similar to Harold they are regarded as minimalists....whereas they are seen as ‘Holy’ Harold is one of the originators of the American (Californian) School of minimalism. But funnily enough I would wager that Harold is probably holier than them all! He really is a very good bloke.
SP: And I always ask visitors to my blog to suggest a favourite book, what would you pick?
JW: The Jenny Diski book was the best thing that I read lately . I’ve also been steaming back into the The Upanishads recently. After a dose of the Upanishads I always feel inspired to go about ‘my’ business in proper fashion, i.e. the ‘My’ and ‘Me’ aspects get put in their proper place. Atheists will probably shudder reading that....”oh no!” they will exclaim “Another nutcase thinking that he is doing the Lord’s work!”
Memoirs of a Geezer: Music, Life, Mayhem is out now and if you are thinking of buying it then I highly recommend chucking in a copy of I Could Have Been A Contender, his 3 disc career retrospective, as well. The perfect combination.