Sounds, December 5th, 1987
Transcribed by Karsten Roekens
© 1987 Sounds / ROBIN GIBSON
PSALMS ON THE UNDERGROUND
JAH WOBBLE is back from the clutches of the bottle with a new album and a new attitude. ROBIN GIBSON reports. Pic: GREG PAVELY.
Diamond geezer is Jah Wobble. But where did he go? Though a cursory memory scan may suggest he's been missing without trace for ages, the last of his erratic solo records was in fact 'Neon Moon' in 1985.
And this month he resurfaces on his own WOB label with a new LP 'Psalms', which is fairly diamond itself.
Between '85 and now Wobble found himself slogging through mindless continental tours and gradually slipped into alcoholism. A foggy, foreboding track on 'Psalms', 'Alcohol', echoes his experience.
"The old downward path came quite quickly," he grins, chain-smoking. "Shudderingly quickly. I had a real struggle with it for a couple of years … Alcohol is a wonderful drug, I still wouldn't knock it, but for other people, not for me. It's a great drug for release, the way they advertise it is perfectly correct. The shame is, it stops bloody working!"
Wobble hasn't touched a drop for twelve months, and since the beginning of the year has been very much "in the real world", earning his living as a tube driver on the London Underground.
"Yeah, well, there's worse things in life. I've got no God-given right to be a performer, you know. But I've got this funny feeling now, like when I was in my teens I used to think 'Yeah – I'm in the right place at the right time!' But over the last three or four years that just stopped happening. Life seemed very frustrating and dead. Nothing to do with music, I just didn't feel any excitement. I'd see a sunset or a football match that I should've been drooling over, and they didn't excite me."
The Wobble with me today however is visibly excited about almost everything and eager to discuss anything, from the match he's just attended to the futility of the current British condition of yuppie aspiration.
Like his new LP he lurches amiably from one extreme to the other without becoming even slightly self-conscious. The man is relaxed, though still passionate enough about creating music to refer to the "humble feeling" it sometimes gives him. In fact, for a Spurs supporter he's incredibly well-balanced.
'Psalms' is a welcome return of a fairly true original, someone who's always done music like "a release, like sex or having a shit, a function in a true sense."
But one other thing: doesn't it get lonely driving a tube train?
"It can be, but I dunno. You just get through the day. I used to be incredibly lonely in pubs, giving it all that 'Allo Mickey boy', all that performing. You usually catch a little romantic glimpse of yourself in the mirror behind the optics and think 'Oh, hold on …' That's loneliness. You don't have to be away from people to feel that. It's not a bad thing, physical loneliness, cos you can get into yourself, and you don't need to go to an analyst, y'know, so they can tell you what you wanna hear and charge you two grand … hahaha! I thought about doing that, as it happens …"
Going to an analyst?
"No, being one!"
Picture Credits: (Top to Bottom)
© GREG PAVELY