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/


Saturday, December 31, 2011


* Artwork by JAKE EARLY

Published : December 21, 2011


An old joke: Whatever doesn’t kill you … just really, really hurts you. While there’s a surplus of painful subjects both international and local to discuss, I’d like to focus on gratitude. Thanksgiving week offered moments of human goodness and warmth, despite a political climate so vitriolic that writers are actually using the word “vitriolic.” Our week of giving thanks also included a bittersweet farewell to one of Louisville’s most important businesses — though calling ear X-tacy an “important business” doesn’t convey the incredible sense of family and creativity that this one little (epic) record store could inspire. It seems that what often constitutes victory these days is a rather ruthless “last man standing” mentality that many Americans seem to love. We like a good fight … but ear X-tacy fought for many things outside of pure profit and prestige.

Just to be upfront, I worked at the store for seven years and feel honored to be a small part of the story. I always believed our primary role was to build community and give all musical genres a chance to be heard. We aspired to treat every person who walked in fairly and decently, and wanted to offer a social forum for ideas to be debated and expanded. I thought these things because that’s what everyone on the staff requested of me each day. They also gently reminded me to be on time and wash my clothes (many ear X-tacy employees were also working musicians).

No one worked at ear X-tacy to make a killing. We simply loved music and being surrounded by it. Sure, we didn’t always agree, but that made it interesting. I was humbled and inspired by the musicians (from many continents) who shared their talents during the years of free in-store concerts … not to forget the amazing people in this town who showed such loyalty and support for decades. Seeing the Louisville Independent Business Alliance come together was so encouraging. More than ever, we seriously need small businesses to keep our city vibrant and original. We can all debate what the store’s closing means for the music industry, and what that says about surviving a radical change in entertainment technology (coupled with a gnarly worldwide recession), but I mainly think of people coming together in one space, sharing something elemental with each other.

No, ear X-tacy wasn’t perfect. We stumbled sometimes, dropped the phone, missed the beat, couldn’t always special-order the Australia-only 12” remix of “Bootylicious.” I did see people of every background, age, wealth and experience gather and express their personalities. I saw the organic exchange of ideas and ambitions, often scented with dragon’s blood incense or perhaps the less than optimal “wet-dog-hemp-burnt-plastic” smell endemic to good record stores. Fuck — we even sold ceiling fans for a while.

John Timmons was kind enough to share his store and his dream with our town. People from all over saw that Louisville had a space to celebrate the everyday, the everynight, the shaven and shaggy, the devout, the confused, the breakdancers, the turntablists, the acoustic, the virtual, the freaks, the ironic, the mutants, Madvillains, dispossessed, the Lovecraftian, the Funkadelics, the Slints, the white-gloved, the purple-caped, the classical, the romantic, the Gwars, the no-depressed, the dreaded, the undead, the Ut Grets and Vrktms and Nellie McKays and the Nappy Roots and Indigo Girls and those wearing Morning Jackets and all other lifeforms not visible without black light.

I truly believe in the resilience of the music culture in Louisville. There are many people working to expand creativity here (and throughout Kentucky). Louisville Public Media is an incredible asset that needs our support, as do local concert venues, new and surviving record and book and video stores — any place that lets humans come together to share a few urgent thoughts or just vent. We also need you, dear readers, to join the fracas. A diverse, compelling music community won’t just thrive on its own. It requires the rush and energy of being out in the open to grow, not just nibbling on digital packets in isolation. You may be lucky enough to create something that lasts 26 years in the flesh and 10,000 years in the soul.


Published : October 26, 2011


Welcome, fiends. I’m terribly happy to celebrate Halloween with you. This is my favorite season. The smell of sweet decay in the air, the sad scratching of withered hands on mausoleum walls, never to be opened again … and all the candy! This holiday brings out a crazed streak of creativity that really helps people and allows us to express some ancient and purifying impulse (without going full “Wicker Man”). Many of my favorite memories of family and friends involve fake knives in the head and blasting spooky sound effects out the front window. In some ways, Halloween publicly condones dreams, nightmares and catharsis … even confronting our darkest fears.

Which makes me think of Michele Bachmann. With all due respect, dear readers, Bachmann denounces and attacks people so often it scares me. Like her 2004 speech warning educators to avoid Elton John’s soundtrack for “The Lion King” because it could lead to “normalization (of gayness) through desensitization.” She’s also urged audiences away from such corrupting influences as “Sex and the City,” “Aladdin” and Melissa Etheridge.

What about Rick Perry? Ted Nugent recently told Billboard magazine: “As dear a friend as I consider Gov. Rick Perry, I won’t be surprised — and he and I have talked intensively — if I’m not given an authorized position in the campaign because I’m too divisive.” He later clarified, “If I scare them away … then I’m being counterproductive … (but) on a rock ’n’ roll stage, I can tell Hillary Clinton to straddle my machine gun.”

To make some attempt at balance, here’s another political horror story, squarely in the Democrats’ camp. With a year of historic and deadly weather changes, President Obama is debating the Keystone XL pipeline, proposed to transport synthetic crude oil and bitumen from Alberta, Canada, across the Midwest to the Gulf Coast. Rolling Stone reported, “The pipeline wraps up every kind of environmental devastation in one 1,700 mile-long disaster … If you do the calculations, explains James Hansen … it would mean ‘it’s essentially game over’ for the climate.”

Environmentalists have launched a sustained “reminder” to President Obama, recalling his words from 2008, when he promised to free future generations from “the tyranny of oil.” In August, more than 1,000 concerned citizens gathered for a massive act of civil disobedience in Washington, D.C., one of the largest since the 1980s nuclear test protests.

Which brings us, finally, to Skinny Puppy. In the 1980s, I sought out music and “Swamp Thing” comics to help me evolve. The Reagan-Thatcher era was heavy on nuclear winters and dreaded communism. I looked for an alternate viewpoint on cassettes and scratchy vinyl (played on my “Clarinette 90” Radio Shack stereo, via huge Koss headphones). Many bands arrived at my tenuous time of metamorphosis (see Cronenberg’s “The Fly” or “Altered States”), but few had the acerbic power of Skinny Puppy. Emerging from a music scene that would eventually be caulled (ahem) “industrial music,” the sounds were a mash-up of screaming, horror movie samples, keyboards, anti-vivisection speeches and punishing drum machines. Skinny Puppy collaborated with Ministry, Severed Heads, some or all of Throbbing Gristle, Nine Inch Nails, Pigface, Tool and many more around tumultuous break-ups and reformations. I wore out my LP of
Remission and the tape of Bites — and Mind: The Perpetual Intercourse still rules my teenage heart.

With loving titles like “God’s Gift (Maggot)” and “Dig It” (less on bellbottoms, more like shovel), I found an escape to whatever mental terrors, doubts and awkward self-hate that would (mostly) be conquered. I recently requested that my friend The Soft Pink Truth remix the track “Love,” showcasing amazing dialogue from the 1973 “Legend of Hell House.” Skinny Puppy became more politicized and experimental, commenting on chemical warfare attacks in Iraq and animal abuse, while straddling a grotesque stage show fusing real and fake violence (inspiring a 1988 disorderly conduct arrest in Cincinnati for “assaulting” a fake dog/prop). They also led me to Big Black, Public Image Limited and Public Enemy, all of which shared static-y late-night video shows or were suggested by the incredible people at local record stores. It’s truly fitting that their new album,
HanDover, is released (exhumed?) this hallowed week — when creatures crawl in search of blood, to terrorize y’alls neighborhood.

For Andy Mercer



“If I should die and leave you here a while, be not like others, sore undone, who keep long vigils by the silent dust and weep. For my sake, turn again to life and smile, nerving thy heart and trembling hand to do something to comfort weaker hearts than thine.”
—From “Turn Again to Life,” by A. Price Hughes & Mary Lee Hall, read at the WTC 10th memorial

While our country, and the world, paid their respects to lives lost on Sept. 11, 2001, many turned to music as a way to heal. The World Trade Center, the Pentagon and Shanksville, Penn., are part of our collective identity now. Music has offered some relief from the confusion and dread, but also chronicled our troubled thoughts for these last 10 years. During the WTC memorial, performances by Yo-Yo Ma, James Taylor, Paul Simon, Emi Ferguson and the U.S. Navy Sea Chanters chorus helped express the complex emotions of those gathered. The songs were changed, linked with the national soul in a new way. Paul Simon’s “The Sound of Silence,” written in 1964 as a response to JFK’s assassination, seemed necessary. James Taylor’s “You Can Close Your Eyes” was equally transformed: I can’t sing the blues anymore/But I can sing this song/And you can sing this song when I’m gone.

We struggled with Sept. 11, and musicians struggled to express those chaotic feelings: national pride, rage, kindness, intolerance, fear. For many, Bruce Springsteen’s elegiac album The Rising captured New York’s spirit, while others related to Toby Keith’s “Courtesy of the Red, White and Blue (The Angry American).” Neil Young released “Let’s Roll” (a phrase from United 93 passenger Todd Beamer), and an all-star tribute to “What’s Going On” was embraced by radio. Country star Alan Jackson’s “Where Were You (When the World Stopped Turning)” received wide acclaim. While critics and fans reacted differently to these songs, they undeniably resonated with people. New Yorkers like David Byrne and Laurie Anderson performed concerts, and Sonic Youth (whose studio space was two blocks from Ground Zero) released Murray Street.

Sometimes, we couldn’t find the right language. What was appropriate? Critical favorites like Massive Attack and I Am the World Trade Center found themselves questioning their band’s very names.

Clear Channel sent a lengthy list of songs to suspend from their 1,000-plus radio outlets. Without describing the resulting debate and censorship concerns, examining the songs on the “no play” list is a glimpse into how people interpret music. A few songs make literal sense — Tom Petty’s “Free Fallin’,” Talking Heads’ “Burning Down the House” and Lenny Kravitz’s “Fly Away,” but others are curious, like The Bangles’ “Walk Like An Egyptian” and Cat Stevens’ “Peace Train.” John Lennon’s “Imagine,” Louis Armstrong’s “What a Wonderful World,” Neil Diamond’s “America” and Frank Sinatra’s “New York, New York” were on the list, yet were ubiquitous in other media.

On Sept. 11, the world bonded together. More than 90 countries lost citizens in the attack and rose to help. Sonic Youth’s Lee Renaldo was quoted by the New York Daily News: “It’s made it easier for us to feel sympathetic to people in places where terror is a matter of course. If nothing else, it opened us up.” Still, many Americans are uncomfortable discussing our foreign policy and the possible causes for Sept. 11. When singer Tony Bennett, a WWII veteran, recently discussed these topics on Howard Stern’s radio show, there was controversy. Is it unpatriotic to examine these things?

Yo-Yo Ma performed a selection from the Bach cello suites during the 10th anniversary — the same music he once played for his father before he passed away. The cellist shared a deep part of himself, as many did on Sept. 11. We showed our generosity, strength and selflessness. But we’ve also seen deep divisions and anger that may never be calmed. What will the next 10 years of music and art celebrate? Will we have room in our hearts for something as ephemeral as a song? The lives lost that day are now our collective responsibility to carry. Two wars, ideological differences, the debate over interrogation methods, immense changes in the Middle East, rebuilding … these are our challenges. Maybe a simple act of creativity will help us hold on — give us that small (but elemental) comfort in the face of darkness.