Jah Wobble ‘Bomba’

Jah Wobble talks us through his 1990 Invaders Of The Heart epic ‘Bomba’

“We’d completed the ‘Without Judgement’ album in the spring of 1989 while on tour in the Netherlands. ‘Bomba’ was the first thing that we did when we got back, with the new line-up of The Invaders Of The Heart.

“We recorded it at Alaska Studios, which was a complex of rehearsal rooms on Alaska Street in Waterloo, near the station, on The Cut. It was a classic little demo studio really. The desk would have been a Fostex 16-track. I’d been working in a glass warehouse around the corner from there under the same group of railway arches. Buster Edwards, the guy from the Great Train Robbery, used to sell flowers just over the road.

“We’d been using Alaska as a rehearsal space since back in the days when I was still drinking in the mid-80s. It was a pretty rundown kind of place. Our guitarist Justin Adams lost an original Gibson Les Paul there. He left it outside the studio one day, and somebody just walked off with it.

“It was our percussionist Neville Murray, who sadly died last year, who convinced me to reform and make The Invaders Of The Heart mark II. He was the one who found Justin. I’d told him that I wanted to do something more Middle Eastern and Neville said, ‘I’ve got a guitarist who gets what those scales are about, the only thing is he’s an Old Etonian’. That’s like the archetypal toff for me, so we were like, ‘Oh no!’.

“But you should just take people as you find them. I mean, when I met Justin, he was super amenable and bright-eyed and enthusiastic – he was an important part of it back then. David Harrow had gone, Mark Ferda was there by that time and Nick Burton played drums. They joined via Ned Morant, a London boy of Anglo-Indian background – a lovely geezer.

“Mark and Ned had been in a band together called Savage Progress. Mark was a programmer – in the days when you had a programmer! It was exciting for me because the issue had always been finding a good solid drummer. It was always a bloody problem to get someone who could groove, so drum machines were getting used a bit more. We were programming and then bringing real percussionists in around that.

“Then there was Dawson Miller, who I knew via Annie Whitehead – Annie was in the first Invaders. Dawson had studied Middle Eastern percussion. He played this Algerian instrument, a darbuka, and I really wanted that sound in there. And finally, I met Natacha Atlas through Kath Canoville, who ran the record label Nation with Aki Nawaz. When I heard her voice I was like, ‘What the fuck! I’ve got to work with this person’.

“‘Bomba’ was the first track that we did with Nat. It was that exhilarating time when everything’s in a state of flux, you’re just putting this new team together and everyone’s really keen. It was the beginning of the realisation of this vision that I’d had.

“Whereas ‘Without Judgement’ had this dark, European sound, with ‘Bomba’ what I had in mind was something quite colourful. It was a bit like, ‘Right, I’m going to cook a fusion dish and I’m going to utilise a bit of chilli, a bit of coriander, a bit of smoked paprika… you know, this is gonna have a tang to it, yeah?’.

“We probably recorded it in a day – in an afternoon because I don’t like to start in the morning. I had a bassline, the groove worked out, the sequences, the changes. I put the basic track together and then I got the others to come and play and do their thing on it.

“I paid for the session, but was so happy with the results that I spread the publishing equally between everyone. We were working with loops, maybe more obviously than we had before, and the track’s very textural. I wanted an ambient vibe. The dreaminess. Sort of like the Steve Hillage records that I used to listen to in the 70s.

“We did a tour with that line-up, which was very good, but we couldn’t get arrested. I thought, ‘This is a really great sound and it’s a great band’. I just couldn’t understand why anyone wouldn’t want to sign us.

“David Jaymes, who’d been in Modern Romance and who was helping to manage us, was trying to get us a deal with Charlie Gillett at his label, Oval. But a friend of mine, Bobby Marshall, had given a copy of the ‘Bomba’ demo to Andrew Weatherall.

“I knew Bobby through Adrian Sherwood. He was Gary Clail’s manager, and had been getting me to do stuff with Gary. Andrew heard it, loved it, and immediately was like, ‘I want to do a remix’. That’s how it all happened.

“Nina Walsh, Andrew’s girlfriend at the time, was working with their label, Boy’s Own, and she pushed things along. When I heard the remixes I was really delighted and just thought, ‘This is fucking great!’. I mean, selfishly I was thinking, ‘This could really do a job for me’. I was surprised to hear Miles Davis in there. Fucking Miles!

“It was great for me, because I’d been through all that corny drink and drugs bullshit where you self-destruct. It had been a dark time and then suddenly I was in demand. People wanted me for sessions – at the time it was that new generation of musicians, that acid house thing. It was a lovely feeling. I remember we were at Dingwalls in Camden when Andrew played the track and the place went potty. People were coming over and saying, ‘This is your song? I love it’, and I was like, ‘Fucking Hell!’, because I’d been out in the wilderness for a little while and it felt like, ‘Wow, I’m back again!’.

“Andrew was a big part of me getting back in the game. He was a real enthusiast. With his help, ‘Bomba’ turned out to be an absolutely key track. It got me the album deal with EastWest. When I look back, I’ve got very vivid and very happy memories of it.”

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