Alex first met PJ Higgins in 2007 when he came across her Myspace page The Black Stripe. He thought her vocal sounded great and that the name was hilarious. She also hosted two other sites named Princess Juliana and PJ Higgins, all of which illustrated her different styles and talents, from Garage Rock and Blues to Reggae and pop/soul. He contacted PJ Higgins with little hope she would ever return his message – but she did! Because they were quite busy, they initially never managed to hook up until it turned out that by chance a mutual friend was doing PR for both Alex and PJ Higgins.
When they finally met at Alex’s Space Eko Studio, it turned out that PJ Higgins had been there a few years earlier when an advertising company was holding auditions for a singer. Despite there having been about 50 singers that day, Alex remembered PJ Higgins well as the best candidate. From then on, they started to work on various collaborations, such as The Future Shape Of Sound and Son Of Dave. Alex would also record her lead vocals on her various song-writing collaborations with other people. They also did a couple of ads together and always kept in contact.
One day in 2011, Alex got a call from his mate Marc Layton-Bennett, the drummer in Jah Wobble’s band, asking Alex to do live sound that same night at The Vortex in London because Jah Wobble’s regular engineer was on holiday. Fortunately, Alex was able to help out on short notice. When he got talking to Wobble over dinner, the subject turned to singers that had ‘got away’. Jah mentioned PJ Higgins- he had seen her perform with the group Temple of Sound in the late nineties. McGowan laughed: “You won’t believe this, but she’s working with me at this moment in my studio doing vocals on an album for me.”
Both men felt that PJ Higgins had great potential – so it was a wonderful moment of serendipity. Jah Wobble explained to Alex that he had first seen her perform with Temple Of Sound in 1998, when they appeared on the same bill at a festival at the Acropolis in Athens. He thought that she had a lot of potential. However, he thought it would be wrong to steal the singer of another band and so he left any eventual meeting to chance. A good old small-world-scenario had occurred and the possibility of doing collaboration was loosely mentioned that night.
Out of courtesy Jah Wobble contacted Nick Page (Temple of Sound/Dub Colossus to clear the way in regard to working with PJ Higgins. When approached she happily agreed to work on the project and commenced soon after at Alex’s studio. Wobble and Alex had separately written some instrumental tracks with Dub, Blues and Soul elements that were used as starting points and developed further in the studio, co-produced by the two musicians. With PJ Higgins’ lyrics and melodies, the tracks turned into songs with their own strong identity and sound.
Jah Wobble explains: “Once Alex and I had decided to work together, we talked about possible singers. PJ Higgin’s name slotted easily into place. She greatly impressed me with her lyric writing and ability to quickly harmonize and arrange her vocals. Before beginning this project, it was a mystery to me as to why PJ Higgins had remained undiscovered. I suspect that situation is about to change.”
Alex says: “It was created against a backdrop of an increasingly difficult music industry and our creative attitude was defined by a feeling that really, we can do whatever we like, with no commercial or corporate pressures and to an extent little expectation of even getting an acceptable deal on the table as labels are also struggling. Therefore, we didn’t worry about any of those things and did whatever we felt like. As there was no deadline and we were using my studio, we could do exactly what we wanted and work on the material until we decided it was finished. From my point of view, it was purely about the music and I was thrilled to be co-writing with people of such great talent. The fact that it will be released on a good label is an absolute bonus.”
Jah Wobble: “Apart from backing tracks, (‘Kings Of Illusion’ and ‘Watch How You Walk’), which I recorded in my studio, everything was done at Space Eko. My part in the project was, for all intents and purposes, done and dusted within a matter of weeks. The location of Alex’s studio and his good nature, (never mind the fact that he’s a terrific producer/engineer), were the key factors in my involvement with this project. Alex’s studio had a vibe that reminded me of my time working with Holger Czukay and Jaki Leibezeit in Can’s famous Inner Space studio. It had that relaxed, open plan vibe.”