Jason Noble is an essential part of Louisville's indie-rock music scene, and beyond. He's been a staple behind the counter at Ear X-tacy for years, a welcoming host for touring bands seeking a couch on which to crash and a musician whose influences cross genres. He's also, everyone agrees, an awfully nice guy.
In the fall, Noble went to a doctor because of a sore hip and — after a series of tests — was told he had a rare form of sarcoma. He's since relocated to Houston to enter a clinical trial for treatment.
Noble's illness provided an opportunity for the local scene to pay him back for all his support. Shows to help raise money for his mounting expenses have included notables such as Chicago noise rockers Shellac, Wax Fang, The Gold Jacket Club, Lucky Pineapple and many more. In May, the influential hardcore band Endpoint will reunite — something band members said they'd never do — to raise money for Noble, who says he's ever grateful to everyone for their kindness.
“It's actually kind of blown my mind,” Noble said, adding that recent treatments have shown progress.
Noble's involvement in Louisville music reaches to the mid-1980s, and he's created as formidable a body of work as anyone over those three decades. While he mends, Noble took a moment to discuss some of his projects, and we've left them in his own words. If you didn't own Rodan's album “Rusty” in 1995, this might give you a sense of the love and the music behind the outpouring of support.
King G and The J Crew
This band started at duPont Manual High School with my friends Greg King and Jeff Mueller — who I've worked with since 1985 on almost every project I've done. We'd made a zine together for a few years and we all looked up to the local bands. Honestly, we made that band for a talent show at school and we had no idea we'd spend years working on rap music together. Our friend Alan Lett took pity on us and added “actually good” guitar playing to the songs. After we graduated we went off to school but music drew us back home. Later on, the very talented producer and engineer Aaron Frisbee stepped in to help us make an album — and it ended up taking nine months of our lives. Back then, it was Public Enemy “Fear of a Black Planet,” Skinny Puppy, Big Black, The Clash, The Police, Ice-T, 808 State — and of course Run DMC, who we saw live at Louisville Gardens in '88, which remains one of my all-time favorite shows ever.
I don't ever expect people to get into our music; I'm just happy if it connects. I think the fact that we were goofy white guys making rap music threw people and they may have seen it as fake or a knock off of Beastie Boys — but we genuinely love hip-hop, and I think that I learned more from that single album than any other.
Jeff and I were living with the folks from Crain in Old Louisville as we finished the King G album. Jon (Cook) and Tara O'Neil started playing with us, and we mutated into a rock band. John Weiss from Sunspring helped us continue and helped us write music that would eventually become “Rusty.” Kevin Coultas — who had worked with us on King G — became our permanent drummer, and we began to really tour. None of us had been around the country or overseas and it was a huge experience for us. I think playing live and being in the presence of truly amazing bands — Codeine, Bastro, Kinghorse, Slint, Crain — was the main inspiration for us. A desire to be good, to practice as much as possible was the central intention. Jeff and I had a lot less musical experience than our bandmates, and we had to learn quickly. I was listening to Crain's “Speed,” Slint, Philip Glass' “Mishima,” Screamin' Jay Hawkins and James Brown's greatest hits on cassette.
I am very thankful that people remember us and have remained interested. That band is very close to my heart and I can only say that … maybe that band benefited from its mistakes. I mean, there were many aspects of music that we just didn't know about and sometimes what you make, including jagged songwriting or making unpleasant sound, is very pure because you haven't edited the soul out of it.
In 1989 I met Christian Frederickson in Baltimore. He and Eve Miller were studying at a conservatory there. We all became friends and eventually did some recording together. I moved back to Louisville — getting involved with JCrew and Rodan — but we kept working together long distance. We didn't become an actual band until Rachel Grimes joined the project in '93, when she was still playing in the band Hula Hoop. Greg King and numerous rockers from Chicago became involved, too. Quarterstick Records gave us an opportunity to make an album and we have worked together since then.
It's funny because — with all these bands — there are very strong and different tastes in all the folks involved. And that seems to be a great thing. Contrast or cross-pollination or whatever is very, very good in my opinion. In the case of Rachel's: we all love classical music and experimental sound material. Philip Glass, again, was a huge inspiration for me. Gastr del Sol, Bill Frisell, composer Kevin Volans, Kronos Quartet. My single most played album in '92 may have been the Michael Nyman soundtrack for the film “Prospero's Books.” But I have to say that rock and rap music has always influenced Rachel's. I think hip-hop in particular makes me really question how to engineer and create songs. Hip-hop has advanced the way songs are recorded more than any genre, because DJs can draw on every style of music without getting hung up on tradition.
As with other projects, we were surprised and excited by the response. I think we owe a huge debt of gratitude to Quarterstick. They gave us total freedom and support — which allowed us to grow without huge pressure to sell tons of records.
Jeff was living in Chicago and was approached to make some music for the NPR show “This American Life.” He kindly asked me to help him and we were like, “Hey, let's do this again and forever.” In the three years after Rodan we'd toured with each other — Jeff in June of 44, me in Rachel's — but had taken a total break from playing together. Kyle Crabtree made the project band into an actual band about three months later. We made our first record in a house on East Broadway then finished it with Bob Weston, who has worked with us on almost everything we've ever recorded. For years and years we courted Todd Cook, and we were amazed when he joined the band in 2002.
We're music obsessed, for sure. Including the bands above as influences, I'd also say Uzeda, Polvo, Moonshake, Evergreen, The For Carnation and Shellac all really inspired us. Tortoise, Tones on Tail, Public Image Limited. Man, it actually requires some diligence for us not to rip these bands off. We start every practice with an “open jam” and sometimes we realize it's turned into someone else's song. The only difference then is that we play it for an hour instead of all day. Music wins.