Pablo Cook 2010

Los Monda Bongo, Pablo centre

Much has been said and written about Joe Strummer in the years since his untimely death in 2002.

Film documentaries, biographies, eulogies-a-go-go from famous fans and foot soldiers alike, all contributing to the gradual canonisation of the punk godhead.

Doubtless he would have hated it, but it is perhaps inevitable given Strummer’s evangelical zest for all kinds of music and the right way of living.

“What’s happened since he died is that the internet is everywhere now so it’s real easy for the kids to find old clips of Joe and his music and they get on it immediately,” says Pablo Cook, the multi-instrumentalist who was close to the former Clash singer for the last 10 years of his life and helped him put together his last band, The Mescaleros, in 1999.

Pablo is in Bournemouth on Saturday to play Champions bar in Westbourne with Los Mondo Bongo, the handsomely praised celebration of Joe and the Mescaleros.

“It’s about the music, a lot of it I co-wrote with Joe. So this ain’t no tribute in that it would be weird to be playing a tribute to myself – some of the promoters have put ‘tribute’ on the posters and that’s a bit of a wind-up if I’m honest.”

Joining Pablo on percussion are Mescaleros drummer Steve “Smiley” Bernard, The Alarm singer Mike Peters, ex-Simple Minds bassist Derek Forbes and former Gary Numan keyboardist Steve Harris. Ray Gange, who starred in The Clash film Rude Boy, will also be on hand to DJ.

Joe Strummer and the Mescaleros

“It’s also about celebrating some great old musos who can really play.

“I was thinking about this the other day – I don’t know anything else. If I wasn’t doing this I’d be at home staring into space and it’s the same for the other guys – we’re certainly not doing this gig for the money, we hardly get paid. It’s a bit of hobby, there’s a lot of love in it.”

Pablo, who lives in Spain with his family, is the first to admit his good fortune in not having to chase the next pound note.

A session player for some 20 years with the likes of Pulp, Moby and Madonna, he’s co-written with Robbie Williams and produced much of Lily Allen’s first album. Mixing Mescaleros’ tunes like Yalla Yalla, Tony Adams and From Willesden To Cricklewood, with Clash standards including White Man In Hammersmith Palais and London Calling, Los Mondo Bongo represent a flamboyant alternative to the lazy tribute cabaret that has found favour in live music venues.

Pablo Cook

“I love pubs, right. I love the bare-knuckle approach to drinking – no screens, no fancy chrome bar stools; spit and sawdust is fine for me. When we play them we have to pretty them up a bit, which is why I bring flags and cheap fairy lights, loads of those fibre-optic things, some right old tat. It’s in the spirit of Joe.

“One of the first things Joe taught me was you don’t have to be like everyone else – you live your life adjacent to what’s happening, but always very respectful of others.

“He’d spend hours at the back of gigs talking to people after shows and he’d always make sure everyone had a chair and everyone had a drink. We’d book into fancy hotels and end up building campfires outside and sitting there talking it all out – that’s when the work took place, between the hours of 11 and five in the morning.”

• First published by Bournemouth Daily Echo.

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