Anyone got a nickname, John?

At the start of the event, John Robb stated that, “There’s a lot for us to get through in two hours”. More like nearly three, John.

It was after two hours that Jah Wobble took the stage and demonstrated how he began playing a bass guitar with several intricate solos on a handily placed bass, whilst regaling an enthralled audience with tales of his OCD, family and band mates.

Youth was first on at the Pavilion and gave a pit stop tour of how he became a bass player in The Stilettos, a band in which he was the only male, or as he put it, “An honorary member”.

By having self-belief that runs through his life, Martin Glover, aka Youth, was confident enough to answer an advert that read something like, ‘No compromises. Total exploitation.’ and ended up as bassist with Killing Joke. His standout feature at the audition was that he was nearly 10 years younger than the other would-be bassists.

Always seeking new avenues, he tried his hand at producing and when James and Crowded House unexpectedly contacted him for production duties – for Seven and Together Alone, respectively – it raised his profile sufficiently to ensure he is always in demand.

Appropriately in a year when Hull is the City of Culture, someone who has always embraced all forms of visual and aural creativity is Christine Newby, someone who has been heavily influenced by her surroundings.

Her formative years were in the 1950s and 1960s, when she had a cold, fractious relationship with her father. As the opportunity came to seek independence, it was gleefully taken.

“Tell Cosmic I want to meet her,” was one of her first introductions to Genesis P. Orridge, and the origins of her moniker, Cosey Fanni Tutti began. Hard may have been her upbringing, but that wasn’t the reason for her getting to know the head of the local Hell’s Angels chapter. More likely it is her ability to embrace all things new and interesting, but it did come in handy when another, London based, chapter of Hell’s Angels turned up at a commune she called home with the sole intention of trashing the place. Negotiations took place and a peaceful resolution achieved.

Cosey Fanni Tutti_photo credit Ged Camera

From creating tie-dye clothing and music to exploring sexuality via naked photography, nothing is off limits as long as it doesn’t get boring. When the band line-up changed, they challenged each other to play a different instrument, so she moved from drums to guitar.

One difference between Jah Wobble’s approach to his musical career by comparison with both Cosey and Youth is that whilst they followed their desires, the man born John Joseph Wardle saw it as a way out of the mundane drudgery of a Monday to Friday life working physical construction industry roles.

His large, physical swagger immediately made Wobble the centre of attention here, even though he was sitting at one extremity of the stage.

He plugged in his bass guitar and demonstrated why he’s so highly rated, benefiting from being self-taught. When he stated that, “The E-string on the bass is the background sound of the universe,” no one in the auditorium was prepared to argue.

MIF Jah Wobble_photo credit Ged Camera

“Fridges don’t hum like they used to,” is another observation.

For about 15 minutes, interviewer John Robb sat silently, engrossed as Wobble reeled tale after tale, even creating tales within tales. Some were about his family upbringing and how if someone attempted to squat in their vicinity, they were then unceremonially ‘un-squat’, which is ironic if you realise that Wobble spent a lot of time in such habitats.

Another story was about going with another member of ‘The Four Johns’, Sid Vicious aka John Beverley, to see a psychiatrist. Between the pair, they had concocted a plan to confuse the therapist about Sid’s depression and the lack of reasons for Sid to continue living. In the end, both Johns agreed on the scarcity of reasons for Sid’s continuing existence, which left the therapist wondering why he was the only one in the room trying to change things.

At one point, and appropriate to nothing that had gone before, he stood up to demonstrate how his OCD allowed him to use a public toilet without allowing any skin contact with a surface. It looked like kung fu expert Bruce Lee on speed.

Wobble is a natural raconteur with a sharp sense of humour. If you’re on the wrong end of it, you mightn’t be too impressed, like his flatmates who were furious when he burnt all their possessions after a drunken event. There was plenty of laughter in the venue though.

Allegedly, he once announced to Tube users during a brief stint as a train announcer, “I used to be someone”. He still is.

The event took place on 11 July at Festival Pavilion, Albert Square as part of Manchester International Festival 2017.

Ged Camera