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/


Wednesday, May 30, 2012

May 9, 2012   LEO COLUMN #12


Every once in a while, a movie comes along that manages to contain almost every story element or scenario you love. I had that feeling recently, watching the new genre-defying comedy/horror film “The Cabin in the Woods.” It’s led me to a reminiscence about the 1984 cult fave/scruffy masterpiece “Repo Man.”
Acerbic and often hilarious director Alex Cox seems to have had no hesitation in throwing everything on his mind into the mix for his first feature (perhaps inspired by the comedy series “Elephant Parts,” produced by Michael Nesmith of The Monkees). The film contains, but is not limited to: aliens, a 1964 Chevy Malibu, L.A. noir, ultraviolent teens, mohawks, supermarkets, crazed scientists, slamdancing, aliens in cars, government conspiracies, rival repo teams, a phenomenal Harry Dean Stanton, generically labeled food and canned goods, illegal surveillance, burning corpses, hippie parents, televangelists, modern art, uptight security guards, hot coffee in the face, car wrecks, car chases, spontaneous evaporation/disintegration, an excellent Emilio Estevez (as the story’s reluctant hero Otto Maddox), and the amazing actor Tracey Walter’s legendary “plate of shrimp/lattice of coincidence” monologue.
Want more? As with other midnight favorites like “Liquid Sky” and “The Wall,” “Repo Man” is driven by its soundtrack. It became one of the great punk-rock compilation albums of the decade, and, for me, a kind of primer for many bands I didn’t know but wanted to. It managed to be chaotic enough to incorporate raging guitars, soul music and even a beautiful instrumental. I absolutely wore out the tape in my 1980 Corolla Wagon — so I was really stoked to stumble on a new copy recently.
The album opens with a hooky hell-riff delivered by guitarist Steve Jones of the Sex Pistols, with Iggy Pop letting his ferocious intelligence run free in the lyrics:
I’m looking for the joke with a microscope / my muscle’s twitching on your words / if you’re on the streets you lose your nerves / divinity throws you a curve / sticks you and then you go berserk / abhorring no inspiration.
Nice start! Then we dive into punk classics like Black Flag’s “TV Party,” Suicidal Tendencies’ “Institutionalized,” Circle Jerks’ “Coup d’etat,” and Fear’s “Let’s Have a War.” We get a great version of Jonathan Richman’s hilarious “Pablo Picasso” from Burning Sensations, and the threatening funk of “Bad Man” by Juicy Bananas, featuring the epically cool repo-man Lite (played by Sy Richardson) listing his “rules” and other important life lessons.
There are great score moments from The Plugz, including a cover (in Spanish) of “Secret Agent Man,” and the Area 51-inspired epic “Reel Ten,” with its twangy desert guitar and triumphant Space Mountain keyboards.
The soundtrack was enough of a hit to help get the film screened in more venues, but it slowly reached its devoted cult audience largely in the new home video market. Despite the film’s meager budget and nearly non-existent marketing (it played in something like three cities upon its initial release), it really does get better with age and repeat viewings, much like “The Big Lebowski.” It was a midnight movie staple for many a night at the beloved Vogue Theater in St. Matthews (rest in peace), and it seemed perfectly made to fill that midnight movie slot we so desperately craved at 16 years old.
Director Alex Cox continued to make music central to his films, with “Straight to Hell” (with a cast including Joe Strummer and The Pogues) and the controversial critical hit “Sid & Nancy” (based on the life of Sid Vicious). After his next film, “Walker,” Cox became disillusioned with anything resembling Hollywood; in recent years, he’s resurfaced with “microcinema” projects — films made for under $200,000 and created without typical commercial pressures.
In 2009, he premiered “Repo Chick,” the semi-official sequel to “Repo Man.” The actors (an almost entirely new cast) were filmed entirely against a green screen, with exaggerated composite backgrounds added later. The trailer for “Repo Chick” has a ragged, brightly colored kid’s show quality, totally crazy and inventive. The new film recalls a little 1984 anarchy in its subversive refusal to remake the original.

March 28, 2012     LEO COLUMN #10


Can we talk about collaboration? Specifically, the great duets and recorded pairings that yield an unexpected result? It may be a crossover (country with R&B, a mash-up punk anthem vs. a hip-hop track), but, more often, it’s about human connections. What made Hall & Oates the powerhouse they were, or Simon & Garfunkel? What makes the talents of Kenny Rogers and Dolly Parton seize our hearts with “Islands in the Stream”? When major stars make a duet together, like “Ebony & Ivory,” “The Girl Is Mine,” or Taylor Swift’s recent collaboration with The Civil Wars, “Safe & Sound,” people listen. But I think truly great duets are a mix of personality, songwriting and good luck.
Donny Hathaway & Roberta Flack
A classic example of two incredible voices, they created a series of lovely singles in the 1970s until Hathaway’s untimely death in ’79. These Howard University classmates had an incredible intuition for ballads, with songs like “Where Is the Love?” and “The Closer I Get to You” reaching the deepest parts of our souls. Their cover of “You’ve Got a Friend” will make you smile. It’s more than slick marketing or talent — it’s the sound of friendship, empathy and balance.
Run-D.M.C. & Aerosmith
When the anarchic, hilarious video and faux-documentary for “Walk This Way” hit the airwaves in 1986, I was hooked. I just couldn’t get enough. I didn’t realize that Run-D.M.C. was one of the most trailblazing artists in early hip-hop. Even though the serpentine Aerosmith had already had a huge hit with the song in 1975, the Run-D.M.C. version reached a massive audience. It also helped Aerosmith breathe new life into their careers.
The video is still wildly entertaining. “Accidentally” forced to rehearse next to each other, the bands negotiate their flimsy practice space walls (to hell with ’em!), resulting in a hulk-tastic Steven Tyler busting a hole in one … just in time to belt out his verses. Joe Perry savagely chimes in with the epic guitar line. Run-D.M.C. returns the favor by joining them on stage (which mysteriously appears, as does the audience) to triumphantly finish the song. Many great rock/rap collaborations would follow, but “Walk This Way” was first.
It’s important to note that the legendary Rick Rubin produced this song. It would take a huge amount of space to list his accomplishments; Rubin is one of the most sought-after producers in the world. His early work with LL Cool J, Public Enemy and Slayer showed an unusual breadth of style, and his work with Tom Petty, Red Hot Chili Peppers, even Adele, have all yielded great albums. This also brings us to one of the most intuitive and satisfying team-ups in music history … the American Recordings.
Johnny Cash, Rick Rubin & Will Oldham
Johnny Cash joined forces with Rubin in hopes of moving away from current trends in pop-country music. Largely recorded with a single guitar in Rubin’s living room, the LP was a huge success and Grammy winner. They would continue this healthy collaboration for seven albums, featuring dozens of cover versions of their favorite artists. On the third outing, American III: Solitary Man, they worked with Louisville’s Will Oldham (aka Bonnie “Prince” Billy) on a cover of his song “I See a Darkness.” Whenever luck/planning makes songs like these come to life, we can see the weird workings of the musical universe. In 2006, Oldham, working with Chicago’s excellent Tortoise, released a great album of covers called The Brave and the Bold, which includes songs by Elton John, Devo, and Lungfish.
Pluramon & Julee Cruise
Pluramon, the ongoing digital “band” curated by Marcus Schmickler, harnesses tons of creative potential and the free-flow of ideas. Working with experimenters like Jaki Liebezeit from Can and Matmos, Pluramon makes music that sounds almost like a band. Recently, Pluramon has released two albums with Julee Cruise (best known for her work on the “Twin Peaks” soundtracks). It was a pleasant discovery to find “The Monstrous Surplus,” a blitzed-out blast of beautiful noise and saturated guitars. Highly recommended.
Feel free to email your favorite team-ups. I’d love to hear them … and to share them in a future column.

April 25, 2012   LEO COLUMN #11

PUBLIC NOISE PRIVATE NOISE: So fresh, and so clean

Radio is one medium that has continued to thrive despite the huge changes in our music-consumption habits. We’ve been very lucky to have DJ-driven shows on Louisville’s WFPK like “World Force Reggae,” “Roots ’N’ Boots,” “Woody’s Roadhouse,” “Relics,” and “The Weekly Feed.” Many of you already know DJ Matt Anthony, with his classic radio voice and gift for digging through record crates to assemble the perfect playlist. Matt hosts “The Friday Night Sound-Clash” Fridays at 8 p.m. and “Jazz Pulse” Sundays at 1 p.m.
“Sound-Clash” has presented major shows on the history of sampling, retrospectives of R&B and soul artists, and the music of the Civil Rights movement, plus guest spots with numerous local musicians. Matt also co-hosts the live “Meat on Mondays” (at Meat), “Girls vs. Boys” (bi-monthly at the Monkey Wrench) and “Rock Star DeeJays” (monthly at the Mag Bar).
LEO: How would you define the new “Jazz Pulse” show?
Matt Anthony: My major was in history, and I’ve heard jazz referenced as museum music. But I love museums — I travel great lengths for exhibits. There really isn’t anything that regularly showcases the last full century of recorded jazz. Great music is timeless — Billie Holiday and Charlie Parker will never sound passé. I like to play stuff from the ’20s and this millennium, or Africa and Brazil in the same show; interconnectedness is a running theme in both shows. It’s had me really explore jazz.
(Hip-hop) is the evolution of the jazz movement and explorations in rhythm, kind of reducing music. James Brown basically stripped Western music of its melody and concentrated fully on rhythm. That’s the heart of funk music. And rap got into stripping it down. You think about music — most lyrics rhyme, so rapping is basically just rhythmic singing. Plus, when you strip melody away from music, it gets real danceable.
LEO: Absolutely.
MA: So funk is also dance music. That evolved into disco, which was too monotonous, so the rappers started to further explore funk, and rhythm, polyrhythms. Latin musicians know all this stuff. In the early ’80s, New York public school funding for instruments dropped, music programs got cut during the time of Reaganomics. These New York kids didn’t get horns at 10 years old, or saxophones at schools. So they just developed music with what was around them — turntables and a microphone. They were doing it with vinyl records, then they began to do it with keyboards and drum machines and utilizing all the new technology. That was what all brewed into early hip-hop. And this was done by primarily the children of Caribbean immigrants. I like to explore all this on “Sound-Clash.”
LEO: To be a good DJ, you have to be able to appreciate all kinds of things. So, a whole new generation of people discovers Ornette Coleman or something new to them. A lot of pop music culture likes to pretend like it has no background, but with hip-hop, there’s a level of respect, a knowledge of history.
MA: That’s why I go back to the exploration of rhythm. That’s what the DJs would do. They would take anything, whether it be rock, jazz, and find the tightest rhythm, the tightest hook in it, and then play it into the ground. What Grandmaster Flash and Afrika Bambaattaa were doing with early samples was stripping everything else out of the music to find something new. Run-D.M.C. probably spelled it out most succinctly … Everyone knew “Walk This Way,” but if you took that first riff and repeated it, it just got crazier, people got more amped. When the early digital samplers/keyboards were created, they found new rhythms everywhere. Look at the samples on LPs by A Tribe Called Quest and De La Soul. I mean, they found the funk in Hall and Oates! They could find the funk anywhere (laughs). Don’t leave any funk on the ground ’cause a hip-hop sampler will find it and make a song out of it!
Jason Noble is a Louisville musician who has performed with the bands Shipping News and Rachel’s, among others.