January 2012 - Hello! Thank you for visiting this site... a rather rag-tag batch of writing and rambling.
I'm hoping to use this “Public Noise” site for some random expression and freak-outs. It will also collect short articles and reviews I've written for the LEO city paper, Magnet & other publications. Thank you to all the folks who agreed to be interviewed over the last few years - and the editors that have given me a chance to contribute. All the best – JN

PS: I've been in a cancer treatment program since August 2009 and my wife and I have shared some of that story at this address: http://www.caringbridge.org/visit/jasonnoble/


Thursday, January 20, 2011


“Concrete And Crawdads: A Short Conversation With Jeff Mueller”

Jeff Mueller is a musician and artist who currently lives in New Haven, Conn. He’s performed in many bands including the excellent June Of 44. He and his wife Kerri run a letterpress printing company called Dexterity Press. They work with lots of bands, record labels and writers. They’re also great parents.

So, for full disclosure, I have to say: Jeff is one of my oldest friends and the only adult male I’ve ever walked with (naked) down Taylorsville Road in Louisville. Now, it was night time, so no lawsuits were involved. Why were we naked? Well, when we write our own personal version of Going Rogue you’ll get the salient details.

More disclosure? Jeff is a very dedicated musical collaborator and a true confidant. We’ve played together in three bands. With the exception of a two-year hiatus (around 1995), we’ve played together since 1987. Greg King, Jeff and I started our first band in high school (beginning with writing a fanzine/comic book), and it all just went from there. King G And The J Krew, Rodan and now Shipping News, as well as many other visual-art projects and life activities. I may have never played music without Jeff ‘cause I was far too conservative and scared and unsure to even start. Greg and Jeff drew me in and opened up my world.

I realized (recently) that I’d never actually interviewed Jeff, even though we spent all that time making zines and we often share press duties for our bands. So, if you will indulge me a little, here are a few questions I’ve waited 25 years to ask him.

JN: When I first met you in high school, you would carry vinyl albums with you to school. Was it just ‘cuz you didn’t want to be parted from your favorite jams? Did you like the artwork?

JEFF: A little of both reasons that you mention for sure. Middle school was rough; we moved a lot, all to separate neighborhoods in Louisville, I found myself in four different schools prior to high school. Perhaps it’s safe to say that many of the records I carried with me were my “friends”? I dunno. I brought them everywhere I went. Coincidentally, Todd (of Shipping News) and I were pretty close for the first few months of high school. He’d come over to my house with a case of records, and we’d hang out and listen to music. He later threw Hormel Chili Mac on the ceiling of our house and got a mohawk, so we didn’t hang out so much until we re-grouped in Shipping News. I love him.

JN: Again on the subject of music, what was the most significant album of 1987? I feel like it’s Big Black or Van Halen.

JEFF: I’m not sure when the Big Black Headache EP was released on Touch And Go, but it changed my entire perception of music. Van Halen had wilted by 1987; 1984 was my last true connection with them. The Cure Kiss Me, Kiss Me, Kiss Me was released in the vicinity of 1987 I think; it’s a pretty good record.

JN: Touch And Go/Quarterstick Records was our home label from 1993 to 2009. They have now scaled down the record label and are focusing on keeping their large back catalog in print. So much of their financial issues stem from free downloading and the shift in attitudes toward punk music and how to do business ethically. How do labels stay healthy with the incredible wealth of music out there? How do you think artists can keep making a living when so much music has been given/taken for free?

JEFF: In February 2009, when Touch And Go announced its cutback and voiced the general condition the business was in, the news hit an international chord, as Touch And Go itself has a significant following all over the planet. The balance of Touch And Go’s 2009 was primarily geared toward assisting the affiliated labels, as well as its own staff, in finding their own way. At some point, the consumer has to own up and become a participant in the health of the culture it buys into. With the advent of downloading and the simplicity involved with the process in its totality, theft is inevitable. If it can be gotten for free, it will be. It’s not really a matter of Napster, it’s more a matter of what a music listener finds it necessary to pay for. Clearly, regardless of any regulations that may or may not be in place, when Napster came under attack by whomever, it didn’t stop anything. A record may very well be downloaded thousands of times in the weeks prior to its actual release; all it takes is one digital file to make it so. This will obviously affect sales potential, which in turn has an immediate affect on the artist, the label, the record store and, ultimately, the health of the culture.

JN: What are the five most influential rap songs in your life?

JEFF: “The Message” by Grandmaster Flash And The Furious Five, “White Lines” by Grandmaster Melle Mel, “The Breaks” by Kurtis Blow, “Black Steel In The Hour Of Chaos” by Public Enemy and “I Can’t Live Without My Radio” and “Mama Said Knock You Out” by LL Cool J. (That’s six songs. Fuck you.)

JN: From my perspective, you and Kerri have found an amazing way to keep living a creative life as you have become parents. For six years, you have balanced these parts of your life in a way I really admire. Do you guys have any advice for artists/musicians who are just now starting families?

JEFF: If anything, know when to slow down and take time for each other. For us, certainly now that we have Leo, if we don’t recognize each other’s basic needs, we come undone. We are able to be creative because there is natural support for creativity in our lives together. If our lives together are compromised, everything suffers. Kerri recognizes and advocates for music and art in my life, as I advocate for art and creativity in hers. These are the things that initially made us attractive to one another. If we stopped, for any reason, we may not see each other the same way anymore. Similarly with Leo, I will be behind what ever he chooses to do with himself as he gets older, though I hope that when he hears and sees me playing guitar all the time or coming home from the printshop with ink on my hands, it may help to inform some creative choices in him.

JN: On that subject, what are the top five songs that Leo likes?

JEFF: “The Mantis Romantic” by the National Acrobat, ”Funk You Up” by the Sequence, ”Walking On Sunshine” by Katrina And The Waves, ”All By Electricity” by Shipping News and ”No One” by Alicia Keys.

JN: Bob Weston has worked on many of our projects and has been a collaborator in many ways over the years. When you think of the first week we worked together (on the Rodan album), what do you remember most?

JEFF: Many things. The strongest memory is feeling so welcomed by both Bob and Steve at Kitty Empire. Also, how nice and generally unassuming everyone was. To be honest, I was still digesting the fact that we were going in to record an album that was going to be on Quarterstick—still in a bit of shock. But then, being in that place, with those people, it was all such a rush. A non-Bob but worth-noting memory is that I had fallen down a flight of stairs while carrying an amplifier just before we left for Chicago. I remember feeling to see if all my teeth were still there.

JN: What would you say to a 15-year-old who is just starting music? We were that age when we met, and it’s pretty wild to think of everything that has happened since then. What constitutes a “successful” career?

JEFF: Selling physical formats marked a certain bar of success when we were young. We’ve both sold pressings anywhere from 50 cassettes to 25,000-plus LP/CDs. Both extremes have always granted a feeling of success, satisfaction and thankfulness. Seeing the number of times a song is downloaded is supposed to bring similar emotions, I guess, but there is little joy in this for me. I like making records, seeing and holding the art, forming the associations that are made when you can physically see and feel the record and reading from a sheet of paper versus a flat screen. I’m not going to go into the “career” aspects and financial end of this. The contemporary market for selling records is too much of a confusing bummer, and I think I touched on it in a previous question. In a more tactile sense, if you enjoy what you do and are able to play shows—a lot of shows—you will probably find yourself in a seriously positive lifestyle that supports itself. As much of a life as we’ve built around the bands that we’ve been in, I don’t think we’ve ever entirely relied on music as a career. We’ve been fortunate at times to make money with records and on tours, but we’ve always tried to stay somewhat employed elsewhere. My satisfaction with music has always stemmed from playing live, making good friends, the relationships we’ve nourished with the labels we’re on and, above all, writing music.


NOVEMBER 16th, 2010

“Vietnam Kitchen: Louisville’s Treasure”

Louisville is a town with an uncommonly diverse and interesting dining scene. While it might seem like we’re overrun with chain stores and national restaurants, there’s actually an amazing collection of unique places to eat, locally created and lovingly supported. My personal favorite is Vietnam Kitchen, located on the southern side of the city. People from all over town meet in the laid-back and spacious dining room, expanded to about twice its original size nowadays to meet the growing demand. Started by Alex and Kim Lam more than 15 years ago, Vietnam Kitchen is the first place we ever take out of town visitors. Great on a casual weekday, awesome for weekends and birthdays, perfect on a Sunday afternoon in autumn (especially after a robust and chilly visit to the top of the hills in nearby Iroquois Park). Locals hold dearly to their favorite dishes, almost always recalled by menu number. (I’m a J4 with tofu, A12, K6 and K7 guy; my wife loves the F9 green curry.) There’s also the mighty avocado milkshake (we suggest it with coconut milk) and the luxurious Café Sua Da (cà phê sữa đá): Vietnamese coffee with sweetened condensed milk. I trust my more carnivorous friends when they say the catfish in a clay pot is heavenly, but this place is also a vegan/vegetarian paradise. Vietnam Kitchen is located in Iroquois Manor (which features a rather amazing ’50s-era neon sign) and is open everyday except Wednesday, so plan ahead if you can. No trip to Louisville is complete without a visit to VK.


“Safe As Houses: Session 9, The Haunting And The Shape That Moved So Slowly Down The Hall”

Noble: Session 9 is a “haunted house” film that subverts the kinda boring tendency of modern horror films to dwell on cheapy shocks and extreme violence/torture or flappy computer flappery. Not that it’s easily digested or for the faint of heart (it has its own icky flow). The setting is the real-life “scariest building in the USA”: the Danvers State Hospital, built 17 miles outside of Boston in 1871. The fictional plot concerns a small crew on an asbestos-removal project inside the abandoned mental institution—human tensions and insecurities in full swing. (No spoilers to follow). Brought to life by talented and innovative director Brad Anderson (who has directed episodes of The Wire and created The Machinist and the sweetly crazy sci fi-romance Happy Accidents), the film uses its low budget and oddly beautiful digital video (no, really) to capture the remarkable Danvers Hospital. Anderson recalls the creeping sense of dread of The Innocents (Jack Clayton, 1961), Kubrick’s The Shining (1980) and the genre-defining The Haunting (1963, directed by Robert Wise from Shirley Jackson’s magnificent novel). In a recent interview, Anderson talked about the influence of the legendary Val Lewton, a director who created the thrifty and meticulous classics The Seventh Victim and Cat People (1943). Sleight of hand, preying on the audience’s imagination and the “sound down the hall” are powerful tools. In fact, Session 9 uses sound so specifically that it’s often entirely based on aural terror—much like those earlier films. The film’s title comes from the battered collection of psychiatric interviews on reel-to-reel tape (sessions one through nine) that one character finds in the basement. The soundtrack is a real masterpiece of musique concrète and recycled noise, a doomscape of ambient rumblings that actually seems to be stitched together from decayed analog material. Composed by Climax Golden Twins, the score is one of many unusual aesthetic choices that elevate this film. While the pace and quiet tone may turn some modern horror fans away, most fans of suspense and psychological terror will be in dank heaven. One of Anderson’s later projects was a super grotesque (but strangely beautiful) episode of the TV series Masters Of Horror called “Sounds Like,” which used the notion of hearing (and internal terror) in a really unique way. It’s satisfying to see a director pay so much attention to the aural landscape. Thankfully, several virtuosic directors have made horror films in the last 10 years that defy current trends. The Devil’s Backbone by Guillermo del Toro, Let The Right One In by Tomas Alfredson, They Came Back (a.k.a. Les Revenants) by Robin Campillo, Spider by David Cronenberg, Wendigo by Larry Fessenden and Timecrimes by Nacho Vigalondo all break ground in their respective genres and show a truly independent and often humanistic vision. Many of these stories deal with the horror of the everyday, of social repression or the persecution of the “other.” And all of them draw us in with rich characters with identifiable problems and normal human faults. Wait until the last line of Session 9—it haunted me for days if not months—rumbling in a troubling brain loop. But maybe that was just imagination.

Also, there’s a great Lou Barlow song ("CHOKE CHAIN") used in the movie.


November 15th, 2010

There are lots of wonderful albums in the world, new and old. And picking a small handful (to share this week) is actually kind of tough. I’m often amazed at how diverse and innovative music can be. Despite the media overload we often live in, pure expression can still manage to cut through the noise. So, of any band I can think of that has brought joy with every spin … At the top of the list is Extra Golden. This multi-national collaboration fuses a D.C. punk-rock (and psych-rock?) sensibility with Kenyan benga (including members of the Orchestra Extra Solar Africa). While the biography of this band is fascinating (even inspirational, not to get too misty), the songs alone say so much about what is possible when music is approached with an open mind. Their entire discography is filled with lively, inventive playing and writing, and their most recent album, Thank You Very Quickly, is a fine example. My wife Kristin and I share lots of records, and honestly, their 2006 debut, Ok-Oyot System, was really the soundtrack to our lives for quite a while. We were helping out with a street fair in our neighborhood, and I got to play DJ for most of the day. Of course, we rocked Extra Golden. I can’t think of many records that would have made the day more beautiful. Not sure anyone noticed this music was a thrilling example of cross-cultural harmony and experimentation. They just thought it jammed. Did I mention the record has awesome bass? And the drums sound super great? Did I say the lyrics manage to include tough political ideas and yet come across as a total celebration? They also wrote a song of thanks to (then presidential hopeful) Barack Obama, who helped them with travel visas to tour in the U.S. To catch Extra Golden live is a real treat. We’ve seen them twice, and despite their personal challenges (and the tragic loss of one of their core band members to liver failure), the band was incredibly upbeat and made the crowd totally lose their reservations. Few bands capture the feeling of sunlight on water or really make people dance. Extra Golden, thank you. (A big shout to Stylus, Exclaim!, Thrill Jockey Records and NPR for providing information on the band.) Suggested Tracks: “Ilando Gima Onge” and “Obama (Live On NPR)”