Jah Wobble:
OOR Magazine, Holland, November 3rd, 1984

Transcribed (and additional info) by Karsten Roekens

© 1984 OOR / Ann Bouwma


OOR Magazine, Holland, November 3rd, 1984After leaving PIL JAH WOBBLE undertook a number of musical escapades which weren't always equally successful. He's the first to admit: "The Invaders Of The Heart were an awful mess." But the new creation, Insane Fame, gets his approval. So instead he good-naturedly complains about the inferior quality of spirituality and immature pop music. Is the rebel blasé? By Ann Bouwma. Photos: Kooos.

Everyone who enters the artists' hotel the morning after the first night of Pandora [2] can count on a warm welcome from Jah Wobble. Deadly drunk the outstanding bassist hangs on an empty bench and proclaims apodictically: "Life is a puzzle." While the first guests shuffle by tiredly, Wobble admonishingly raises his glass: "I never drink breakfast." This doesn't seem to be an appropriate point of time for an interview, but it's highly probable that later in the day he will be unattainably lying snoring.

This turns out to be a miscalculation. Around late noon a man complains at the bar: Wobble has moved his party mood to his room and caused a disturbance of peace. After that I hear nothing more about Wobble.


A few hours later everybody trotted agitated around De Doelen again, the second night can start every moment. Quickly over to the canteen, where to my amazement Jah Wobble too sits behind a cup of coffee all cheerfully.

JAH WOBBLE: "I can't sleep. I want to, but it will only work with sleeping pills."

Insomnia comes in handy at Pandora for him.

JAH WOBBLE: "We can run wild here and be zany, it's accepted. In England they would avoid us like the plague, but a festival like this would be unthinkable there. What's more, it's very efficiently set up. But I have told Willem" (Venema, Mojo promoter) "that he should organise one with some musicians from along the Nile, from Arabic Africa."

ANN BOUWMA: "Did you ask him why he doesn't?"

JAH WOBBLE: "It's difficult because these people don't make records. It's a hell of responsibility to set up such a festival, you can't allow yourself too many risks. But I'm sure the audience would appreciate it if there were a few ethnic bands between."

ANN BOUWMA: "This is clearly an all-white festival."

JAH WOBBLE: "Yeah, and from a white rock 'n' roll collection the choice of interesting groups is not as big. My personal taste tells me that the bands that are playing here have nothing to offer musically."

ANN BOUWMA: "Which groups did you see?"

JAH WOBBLE: "Not one. I don't have to see any of these bands, I myself wouldn't want to see one of them perform. Being a musician is a profession like any other, you see. A plumber who's fixing kitchen sinks all day won't go watching other plumbers fixing pipes in his free time, would he?"


Nevertheless Wobble lightly adapts the criticism which could be heard frequently in the lobby: a presentation of developments in current music which would reflect forms of integration from recent years cannot exclude black music.

"All the musicians are so uninspiring," he calls out, looking around the canteen. "They're just clockworks, as interesting as commuters in a subway station. Even the tour managers are less narrow-minded than the band members. Miles Davis had warned us: avoid standard rockers and allround jazzers. At least nobody can say what kind of a musician I am, except a terrible one."

ANN BOUWMA: "There was unusually high energy level at De Doelen."

JAH WOBBLE: "Energy's not enough, it's a means and not the end. Energy is something that you use. Putting some fool on stage is just completely immature, a symptom of Western puberty. Spoilt brats making a racket out of frustration. Sometimes something good comes out of it. The attitude of punk was OK. But now punk is a parody, a collection of very grave, young, serious people who are overall completely ignorant. It's not that I can be bothered, I don't give a fuck, you know? I could just laugh about them for taking themselves so seriously."

ANN BOUWMA: "You don't?"

JAH WOBBLE: "It surely is one big joke, the whole music business is a farce. The bureaucracy has to serve the company principally, just like a post office providing service. But the organisation of our bureaucracy has become more important than the purpose it's meant to serve. The music industry depends incestuously on each other, they are only working for themselves."

ANN BOUWMA: "You expressed that very nicely, but how does the public know you're no brat, and what's more, how do you avoid it?"

JAH WOBBLE: "Very frustrating. You try to be creative on stage. Sometimes you play without a singer, another time without a drummer ... you take a few risks with a big line-up or a small line-up."

ANN BOUWMA: "In short, always something different. Do you get bored quickly?"

JAH WOBBLE: "Yes, yes, exactly. When you'd thought very hard about the reason of living you tend to learn quickly. You're looking for experiences in life and in music which are worth the effort. I have a short attention span and it may be a disadvantage, maybe I'm not going deep enough into my own music or its performance."


Still, Wobble is always good for some surprises, even when some mouths stood open in irritation during a Paradiso gig last year. But at Pandora he's on form. This time his ensemble is called Insane Fame, which with percussionist Neville, keyboard player Ollie Marland and a Linn drum machine, creates a weird mix of fusion music. Wobble makes an impression as if he stands totally uninterested on stage, almost absent. Sunglasses accentuate the expressionless face, just his pelvis rocks behind the bass.

JAH WOBBLE: "I have a very big ego and I think I'm a quite important person, but so what? On the other hand I'm quite humble. Most bands want to dominate the audience, trying to stir the hall up with 'Clap your hands!' Suck my cock is what it comes down to. I'm surprised they don't get their willies out. But I give people something beautiful, I try to keep down my ego so I can concentrate on the music. I'm one with the bass, the bass is eh ... I don't wanna project myself."

ANN BOUWMA: "You're playing quite a strange bass."

JAH WOBBLE: "Neville says that too, he doesn't value my views on music at all, he thinks I'm a brute. And I'm no musician, but that's very clear, I presume."

OOR Magazine, Holland, November 3rd, 1984ANN BOUWMA: "You have worked with Holger Czukay. He actually doesn't play gigs and in this context once made a comparison with Indian musicians who only want to perform publicly after they've reached 50. 'I have two years left, then,' he said."

JAH WOBBLE: "Czukay is crazy as a loon, but he's a good bloke. He taught me respect for the music, no matter what style. Even a three minute rock 'n' roll song he approaches as if it's a Beethoven symphony. Holger is a weirdo, but if I could create a classical piece of music such as 'Movies' I could die happily."


Wobble's interest in different forms of music can be glimpsed in his work, such as the latest example, a voodoo disco single, set to an Arabic melody. [3]

ANN BOUWMA: "In which way are you inspired by different music, do you buy records, do you travel much?"

JAH WOBBLE: "Music doesn't come out of people, it exists in the atmosphere. If the ambience is good you can pick music out of the air. In a church respect is essential. Imagine if everybody chatted to each other, then the holy touch would be gone. That's why it isn't worth working in a professional studio anymore, there's no respect. What's more, the human spirituality is destroyed by the new technologies. Man invented computers to make himself redundant, while at the same time submitting his whole ego into the computer beings. Technology becomes a metaphor for mankind. People don't go to church anymore."

ANN BOUWMA: "You find that terrible?"

JAH WOBBLE: "I was raised Catholic and the political interference of the church is a load of shit anyway, but people aren't looking for a different form of spirituality. Do you know Tarkovsky? Here everybody sits complaining about problems with the next album, but that geezer makes in twenty years only six films. Theres a spiritual life in his work that has largely been lost here. He thinks Western Europeans are indifferent, and he's right."

ANN BOUWMA: "But I can hardly imagine that you're seriously involved in disco music."

JAH WOBBLE: "But it's how you define it. If disco stands for deliberately producing commercial or accessible music then it's indeed a problem. Especially as we now have a record deal for one album, [4] one shouldn't openly indulge in extravagant rituals. If you come up with something like holy music there, they will call a psychiatrist for you. Which won't be good for the budget either."

ANN BOUWMA: "A compromise after all."

JAH WOBBLE: "To some extent yes. Maybe you do something that can be played on the radio a few times. You're in a constant struggle over it, it remains puzzling and distressing. Pop music is a product, always a product again. Simple but sad."

ANN BOUWMA: "Is it so sad?"

JAH WOBBLE: "The whole life is quite depressing. Our consumer society completely went off course and we're all responsible. The '60s attitude to point out the politicians as the main culprits is hypocritical, we're all to blame for the evils of the world. It's the original sin. Two thirds of the world's population are staving from hunger, you know. All we can do is carry our cross like Jesus, no matter how small and pathetic. I'm not a martyr, it's just how I feel. But most musicians only care about groupies and drugs."

ANN BOUWMA: "And you're drinking along out of chumminess."

JAH WOBBLE: "Just on special occasions, I live sober and clean. I always go to bed at 10 p.m. and never sleep with other girls ... Well, I'm drinking every day, terrible, from early in the morning till early in the morning. Alcohol is my ruin."

ANN BOUWMA: "You said once that alcoholics make the best music."

JAH WOBBLE: "And religious fanatics, they're the absolute top. You must have a listen to Radio Tehran sometime, for the music they have on rotation for the fiery believers of the kingdom of Islam. It's even more extreme than heavy metal."

When I secretly have a look at my watch, Jah promptly rants:

"We're not holding you up, eh? I'm really trying to get a conversation going, but I don't get a word inbetween."


In a following break between companies there he lies as a bundle of grey rags sleeping on the table. Awakened he finds himself surrounded by three beauties, but while the Wobblian irony obviously leads to communication troubles, it goes quite smoothly.

Later that night he met his colleague Jeffrey Lee Pierce from Gun Club, "the only real pop star here." Their appearance he did miss however. "You surely noticed that I slept?"

After the bar maid charming but decisively turns down his proposal to marry him, Wobble has memories of his qualification as a cab driver after his departure from PIL. [5]

JAH WOBBLE: "It's a reasonable job and you serve a function to society. And it suits me fine, because I can't get to sleep at night anyway. You drive somebody from A to B and make a few pounds. Sometimes you get robbed, that's not so much fun, I once had a knife at my throat, but I survived even that. And you're staying down to earth, do you think people care who Wobble is? When you're telling them about difficulties with the recording of your new single they're think you're crazy."

Even later he asks himself loudly if it isn't about time to write a hit single himself.

JAH WOBBLE: "A million-seller, a classic. Well, I've been really lucky really. I've seen the world and I can make both ends meet most of the times. Sometimes I ask myself why I'm so rarely really enthusiastic. Maybe because I'm almost constantly drunk."

ANN BOUWMA: "Or you're getting old."

JAH WOBBLE: "And jaded, yeah."

ANN BOUWMA: "You could have more appretiation of young and promising talents."

JAH WOBBLE: "Yes, but I probably feel threatened. That's it. They're young, fresh and ambitious."

ANN BOUWMA: "They can still become successful."

JAH WOBBLE: "Yeah, and I can't, he he he. They don't know yet the disappointments waiting for them. But I may be old and blasé, but last evening we did a good show, I felt myself a whole man. I'm very macho you must know."

ANN BOUWMA: "I got the impression this morning already."

JAH WOBBLE: "I stayed up all night to make an impression as a heavy drinker."

Jah Wobble, unbreakable. Seriousness and irony are inseparable with him like Siamese twins. He even promises to make a few records to promote his interviews.



SPEX Magazine, Germany, November, 1984

Transcribed (and additional info) by Karsten Roekens

© 1984 SPEX


By Jutta Koether and Ralf Niemczyk

There was nothing new to be heard from Jah Wobble and his band Insane Fame. After his successful appearance in the last year the doyen delivered tried and tested sounds. Outstanding bass playing and percussion galore ruled the scene. Astonishingly Wobble was able to stay on his feet all the way through after his booze-up in the press canteen (Heineken and Cognac). A sign of excellent condition.


[1] This was the last major music press article for the next four years.
[2] 'Pandora's Music Box '84' festival took place at De Doelen in Rotterdam, Holland (21 and 22 September 1984). Among those appearing was Björk's first band K.U.K.L. (Wobble would work with her on her single 'Play Dead', which reached no. 12 in the UK charts in 1993).
[3] 'Invaders Of The Heart' (released May 1983).
[4] 'Neon Moon', to be released on Island Records in May 1985.
[5] Wobble would name an album ('Alpha One Three') after his mini-cab radio call sign in 2006.


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© Kooos
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