Over the past three decades or so, Jah Wobble has ploughed his own furrow as a prolific solo artist as well as becoming a well-respected session musician, with a genuine passion for Eastern and Global music. He has worked with a diverse range of musicians, including Baaba Maal, Bjork, Primal Scream, Brian Eno, Sinead O’Connor, Julianne Regan, Dolores O’Riordan, Holgat Czukay, The Edge and Chaka Demus & Pliers.
The man born John Wardle began his musical journey when he met John Lydon, John Grey and Sid Vicious at Kingsway College, London, in 1973. It was Vicious who not only nicknamed John ‘Jah Wobble’ after a drunken binge but also loaned him his first bass guitar. During punk rock’s mid-to-late 70s heyday, Wardle earned himself a ‘wild man’ reputation. His introduction to the bass stemmed from his long-term obsession with dub reggae. Combined with the D.I.Y. punk ethos, Wardle eventually created an original rock/reggae hybrid of his own.
Lydon asked JW to join Public Image Limited (aka PiL) in spring 1978. Wardle’s distinctive ‘low end’ bass became the backbone of PiL’s pioneering sound, introduced via Top 10 hit single ‘Public Image’ and their eponymous debut album. After its follow-up, the exploratory yet sinister soundscapes of Metal Box, Wardle became disillusioned by politics within the band and their reluctance to play live. He eventually split from PiL in mid-1980 and embarked on a prolific solo career.
In 1986, after a long battle with alcohol, Wardle unexpectedly walked away from the music scene to work for London Transport, but eventually returned with a revitalized line-up of his band Invaders Of The Heart. By the 1990s, Wardle finally achieved public acceptance, including chart success and a Mercury Music Prize nomination for his critically acclaimed Rising Above Bedlam album. However, after releasing the top 40 album, Take Me To God and Heaven And Earth, both for Island Records, Wardle returned to making more experimental records. In 1997, he started up his own independent record label, 30 Hertz Records, a set-up which has so far resulted in well over 30 albums. In 2004, he signed to legendary reggae label Trojan Records, resulting in the best-selling box set, I Could Have Been A Contender, and two studio albums, Mu and Heart And Soul.
Wardle is now a dedicated family man with a documented interest in spirituality. In 2000, he received a BA in Music and Philosophy. Until 2009, he wrote regular book reviews for the Independent On Sunday. Since then, he has written book reviews for The Times newspaper. In 2008, accompanied by his wife Zi Lan Liao, he toured with Chinese performers (‘mask changers’ and dancers as well as musicians). An album which documented that period, Chinese Dub, wonSonglines magazine’s ‘world music award’. Also that year, he made an acclaimed radio documentary about his old friend Sid Vicious for BBC Radio 3.
In 2009, Serpents Tail published JW’s acclaimed autobiography Memoirs Of A Geezer. Since that time, Wardle has made yet more records, including Japanese Dub and a Jah Wobble and the Modern Jazz Ensemble album. In 2011, Wobble signed with Cherry Red Records for two collaborative albums – Psychic Life with Julie Campbell (aka LoneLady) and Ying And Yang with his old PiL bandmate Keith Levene. Other recent projects include Anomic with Manchester-based ambient duo Marconi Union. Last year, he published Odds&Sods&Epilogues, a book of poetry set to music that contains a CD.
This February, Jah Wobble celebrates his illustrious, 36-year career in music with an ambitious 6-CD box set entitled ReDux. It’s a multi-faceted project. Alongside the 6-CD itself, Disc 1 will be released separately as a ‘Greatest Hits’ while Disc 6 comprises a brand new album of exclusive cover versions, which will also appear on a limited vinyl LP. Each of the other discs is themed, concentrating on Wobble’s explorations into Dub/World music, Ambient/Spoken word and Jazz, with another disc given over to his pioneering and eclectic post-punk work, during and after his tenure with Public Image Limited. Plus there’s a brand new single in there, too, ‘Let’s Go Psycho’.