John Wardle, aka Jah Wobble

“Everywhere I am is here, and here should be home.”

A little story – a tale of my own to tell. I don’t come out of it as the sharpest cutter in the cookie drawer, but that’s nothing new.

I’m in Liverpool to interview the gracious and generous Zi Lan Liao, Chief Executive of the Pagoda Arts Centre and to talk about possible contacts with members of the Chinese-Irish community in that city. After all, Liverpool is not just an Irish city, it boasts the longest-established Chinese migrant community in the country.

Zi Lan is also a musician, a player of the Gu-Zheng. “My husband’s Irish,” she says and I think – Bingo! Well done, Doug – you’re hitting the target here. A few minutes pass and I learn that her husband is a musician too: a bass-player no less.

She finds a YouTube video and announces “he played on this”. The video is Falun Gong Dancer by Telefis, a remix with playing by Jah Wobble. The video is incredible, the music unlike anything I’ve heard coming from Ireland and its Diaspora and – hey! – they got Jah Wobble on it.

I make a note to try to interview Zi Lan’s husband, clearly the bass player with Telefis.

When I discover that Telefis are on Dimple Discs, itself something of a Diaspora record label, I congratulate myself even heartier. Bravo! Encore! Excellent work, Doug – you’re slaying this whole heritage journalism thing.

Zi Lan’s husband’s name is John.

I remind myself to  get in touch with this bass player – maybe he can put me in contact with the rest of the band.

How long do you think it takes for the penny to drop?

Whatever you’ve guessed, double it.

It’s about a month and a half later and I’m in the back of a cab when I decide to Google search Zi Lan Liao.

I don’t applaud myself this time.

People like Jah Wobble don’t exist in my orbit, I’ve told myself. People like Jah Wobble are resident in some other stratosphere, making music and being generally legendary.  Metal Box is one of the most remarkable albums on God’s earth, even if it does make me physically nauseous at points – that’s a tribute by the way, such is the power of Jah Wobble’s bass.

But people like John Wardle do exist – open, funny, and slightly clumsy with glass bowls (more of that when you listen).

They exist in Stockport. And East London. And in Liverpool, Birmingham, Durham, Bristol or anywhere you care to mention and call home. They are us. We are them.

Putting food on it.


Jah Wobble Interview

Book: Memoirs Of A Geezer

Jah Wobble Website

Irish Stew Podcast

Damian Shiels

Published by dougdevaney

Doug Devaney is a writer, performer and journalist. He is the presenter of The Plastic Podcasts. The Plastic Podcasts have been supported using public funding by Arts Council, England

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: