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24 April 2024

Jah Wobble Q&A: “Evil spirits shattered my parking sensors”

The legendary post-punk bassist and singer on teleportation, Tube trains, and living with the paranormal.

By New Statesman

Jah Wobble was born in London in 1958. In the late 1970s he played bass in Public Image Ltd. He now runs his own label, 30 Hertz Records, and continues to make music across numerous genres.

What’s your earliest memory?

My uncle Terry – my dad’s brother and a Catholic priest – splashing around holy water and intoning prayers in Latin to scare away the evil spirits residing in our new house. Before we moved in, the part of the house that we lived in had been used for spiritualist meetings. Even after the “cleansing”, paranormal things continued.

Who are your heroes?

Jimmy Greaves was my childhood hero and Bob Marley was my hero as a teenager. I haven’t really had a hero as an adult.

What book last changed your thinking?

It was Strange Life of Ivan Osokin by PD Ouspensky. I read it a good few years ago – a very powerful novel. It weighs up predestination vs free will, habitual tendencies and karma. He was a follower of [the mystic George] Gurdjieff and a philosopher. Ivan Osokin was his only novel.

What TV show could you not live without?

Any of the major HBO series: Game of Thrones, Succession… I was an early adopter of HBO and I avidly watched Oz, the first ever HBO drama.

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What would be your Mastermind specialist subject?

It’s horrible to admit, but I don’t really have a deep slice of knowledge in a specific thing or activity. Not to a Mastermind sort of level, anyway. Even in regard to playing bass, I’m an enthusiastic amateur rather than a knowledgeable expert.

In which time and place, other than your own, would you like to live?

Maybe India circa 200 CE when Middle Way Buddhism was coming to the fore thanks to Nagarjuna. He was a philosopher on a par with any of the ancient Greeks. But, to be honest, I would prefer to go back to London in the 1970s.

Who would paint your portrait?

Jane, who is a trained portrait artist and the widow of my late friend – and an artist himself – John Freeman.

What’s your theme tune?

I love the theme tune to Gomorrah, the Italian TV series – it’s heartbreaking.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?

There’s a price to be paid for everything. You just have to accept it.

What political figure, past or present, do you look up to?

Mick Lynch, one of our own. Some cousins of mine went to school with him.

What’s currently bugging you?

Recently I got charged by a garage to replace my rear parking sensors. They were broken, shattered in fact, but there was no damage to the bumper. Very strange. Possibly the evil spirits mentioned earlier are still at play.

What single thing would make your life better?

Being able to safely undergo matter transference. It would make touring much easier. You would need to be brave and have a bit of luck; you would need to be plucky, when your head appears in Rome and the rest of you is in Kentucky.

When were you happiest?

In my thirties and right now, in my sixties.

In another life, what job might you have chosen?

I would be a Tube train driver.

Are we all doomed?

Yes, undoubtedly. As my old mate Billy used to say: “We’re here because we ain’t all there.” We are both deranged and doomed. It will end badly.

Jah Wobble’s “Dark Luminosity: Memoirs of a Geezer” is published by Faber & Faber

[See also: Tippa Irie Q&A: “I see myself as a cheeky chappie”]

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This article appears in the 24 Apr 2024 issue of the New Statesman, The Age of Danger