Jah Wobble:
Sounds, December 3rd 1983

Transcribed (and additional info) by Karsten Roekens

© 1983 Sounds / Bill Black


Sounds, December 3rd 1983by Bill Black, pic by Martyn Strickland

Jah Wobble's ansafone is a scream. The garbled, slightly garrulous message seeks to undermine the efficiency of the device by playing games with the clichéd format of 'I'm out, so leave a message and I'll ring you back.'

Our Wob's unorthodox answering machine only merits a mention because it holds distinct parallels with the man's music – from the growling, tugging bass he pulled for PIL Mk 1 through the ethnic explorations of his live band Invaders Of The Heart to his latest vinyl offering 'Snake Charmer'.

A five track mini LP (including two versions of the title track), it's a collaborative effort featuring among others U2's The Edge, Holger Czukay and Jaki Liebezeit from Can and Orchestre Jazira's JuJu-wise guitarist Ben Mandelson. At the controls is Noo Yoik's mega mix master François Kevorkian.

But it's easy to get lost in the promotional smokescreen all these big names throw up and miss the point and purpose of the record. Aimed unashamedly at the feet (with Kevorkian involved it would be, wouldn't it?), 'Snake Charmer' benefits from both the assured playing and production – basically what makes good dance music, a fact that the likes of Maximum Joy chose to ignore – and the dehabilitating presence of Wobble's burp-and-pulse bass.

Thus it's dance music with all the sex and sasiness but none of the hi-tech/
low temperature motion-making. And if things are taken just a bit too smoothly on 'Hold On To Your Dreams', there's the comparative rasp and roar of 'Sleazy' to reinstate Wobble's guerilla instincts for shaking things up a bit.

It needs stating at the outset that Jah Wobble is a right charming geezer. Because 1) he pays his way (shepherd's pie and two teas for him, just a coffee for the Invaders' fragile-looking guitarist Animal) and 2) he talks cheerfully and simply about what keeps him going (playing bass, being his own guv'nor) and what gets him going (Cruise, belief in a 'Great' Britain).

So Wob, cheerfully and simply tell us how the all-star cast came together to record 'Snake Charmer'?

JAH WOBBLE: "Island had Frankie" (François Kevorkian) "doing some remixes of U2 tracks [1] and they asked him if there were any other of their artists he fancied working with. He said me, we got together and we got on really well. This was way back last February and the plan then was to record a four track 12 inch 45 sort of thing, but by the time we'd finished it four months later Island had come up with this mini album scam – I think ours is the first – and it sounded like a good idea so we went for it. I like the idea of just releasing half an hour's worth of music, it's nice. By the time we'd finished we recorded maybe twenty-five tracks, but there was never any plan to turn it into a full album or anything because I'm really not into that. A fourty-five minute album is just a nice medium for record companies to make a lot of dough, it doesn't suit what I'm trying to do too well."

BILL BLACK: "So how did you go about recruiting players?"

JAH WOBBLE: "Well, Frankie had obviously met The Edge so we got him in. And I invited Holger and Jaki, they were natural choiced in a way because I'd worked with them before." [2]

One-time PIL drummer Jim Walker and the nucleus of Wobble's Invaders Of The Heart – Animal, keyboardist Ollie Marland (soon to be working with ABBA!) and percussionist Neville Murray – make up the rest of the instrumentalists.

BILL BLACK: "How did you get on with Kevorkian? After all he's best known for stepping in and just doing remixes."

JAH WOBBLE: "Frankie was a major force in all this. I don't really like the producers because they tend to be parasitical, but he was really good. I might be wrong but I think this was the first time he's been in on a project right from the start. I'd thought he'd be just a remix walla, but he's into Hendrix, Miles Davis, geezers like that, plus he's heavily into ethnic things. He's totally into music, it's his life. I'm lucky because I always seem to work with people like that."

Fans of The Edge's distinctive guitar style won't find very much of it in evidence on 'Snake Charmer', so I ask Wob if this was intentional.

JAH WOBBLE: "I think The Edge just approached it a bit differently, as an extension to his normal duties if you like. If you're working in the format of verse-chorus-verse-chorus-middle eight-verse-chorus-chorus repeat-and end, you've got certain restraints. For a start you're thinking all the time of what the vocals are doing, trying to fit the guitar around that. But this album didn't start from that basis, so The Edge was able to flow a bit more. It was no surprise to me the way he played, because I could hear in his playing for U2 that he had the ability to expand on anything."

If The Edge threw up few surprises for Wobble, Holger Czukay did.

JAH WOBBLE: "When I got in touch with him he was doing some work with the Polish Army National Orchestra! He's in the next century, d'you know what I mean? I introduced him to those who hadn't met him as 'He's a far-out old man, just watch him go!' I asked him what he wanted to play on one track and he turned around and said 'Dictaphone', as in offices and secretaries. The man's crazy!"

If 'Snake Charmer' sells well enough – thus persuading Island to put up the money for another low-return mini album – Wobble would like to repeat the collaborative exercise, but this time bringing in different people.

Until then he's happiest promoting his own band Invaders Of The Heart, and to this end he's recorded a single on which he's not even to be heard!

JAH WOBBLE: "The bass synth line worked better than mine, so we dropped the bass guitar out. So I'm not even on my own record!"


[1] Kevorkian did U.S. remixes of 'New Year's Day' and 'Two Hearts Beat As One' in 1983.
[2] Wobble did the 'How Much Are They?' EP in 1981 and the 'Full Circle' LP in 1983 with Czukay and Liebezeit.


Picture Credits: (Top to Bottom)
© Martyn Strickland
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