Jim Noir has climbed the ranks of the music industry in record-breaking time. Until recently he was living at his parents’ house in a Manchester suburb. Since then he’s made a critically acclaimed album, played South by Southwest and supplied Adidas with their World Cup theme. Rachael Clegg speaks to Noir about daftness, darkness and his appetite for electronica.
By Rachael Clegg
Jim Noir sits on a shabby couch (many of these interviews take place on shabby couches) backstage at Manchester’s (UK) Bierkelllar. A noisy hum provides impractical background music to the interview. Only a year ago Noir was living at his parent’s house in one of Greater Manchester’s quieter towns and working in a bank whilst ‘messing about’ with music in his room. Since then he has produced the critically acclaimed Tower of Love.
Noir is shy and incredibly polite – this is endearing and entirely sincere. He is genuinely shy and self-effacing. I comment on this, and how his demeanour this evening is in contrast to that I have encountered when reading interviews with him, in which he comes across as something akin to a Dadaist performance artist. Noir replies: “That’s because I get to write them and I don’t have to talk.”
I add that I was slightly worried he was going to speak in Pig Latin – or something equally as off-the-wall for tonight’s interview. Noir laughs: “I remember getting interviewed in Leeds by two students and I think they were a bit disappointed. They were just like ‘Come on, be funnier!’”
Dripping irony, he proclaims, “I’m not a comedian; I’m an artist.”
Tower of Love is not of its time – or place. It certainly isn’t comparable to anything made in 2006 and it definitely doesn’t sound like it was performed and recorded in a bedroom in Manchester. Rather, it’s a solidly crafted pop album with cascades of melodious guitar, swooping harmonies and surreal lyrics.
I comment on the surreal nature of some of his songs, and the juxtaposition between lyrics and music, particularly songs like ‘My Patch’ where up-beat Beach Boys pop harmonies are countered by Pink Floyd-ish dark lyrics like: “If you try and step on my patch I’ll bring you down, I’ll bring you down.” When asked whether he is as daft as his music. Noir laughs: “I think so, yes.”
As I mentioned, Tower of Love was entirely produced and performed by Noir in his bedroom. Asked as to what his bedroom-based studio consists of he says: “I can’t go into detail obviously – it’s a secret weapon! (Laughs) Everything’s done on computer though. There are lots of wires trailing from the computer to things in my room. I bang things out and record.”
Suddenly the annoying loud background humming sound has just stopped. “I feel a bit uncomfortable now,” remarks Noir.
We return to discussing his recording process. I ask him if it takes a long time.
“Not very long,” Noir admits. “It’s all made over a period of loads of bouts of laziness.”
Before he was signed to My Dad Recordings Noir’s music was somewhat esoteric; news of his music was spread solely by word of mouth following the sell-out of limited edition 7”s. His songs remained in concentrated circles amongst cult followers and were fetching handsome sums of money over ebay. What was he was doing prior to his signing to My Dad Recordings and Tower of Love?
“I was working in a bank and I used to play around with music and send it to a little Internet label called Hippocamp. I just thought, fuck it; I’ll try something different. So I just did these tracks of this weird shit and sent it to this guy called Paul - the owner of My Dad and he said OK. I was making really strange electronic music.”
On listening to Tower of Love it is difficult to imagine Noir as a maker of electronic music. Would he like to go back to electronica? “Yes, though not yet. I don’t think it would go down too well. I’ll do that when I’ve established myself, then I can get away with only selling four records.” ###
When I was interviewing Jim Noir I discovered that we used to live directly opposite each other in Manchester, thirty feet apart, for six months - it’s quite embarrassing though - his room overlooked mine and I’m slightly concerned he might have caught me doing ridiculous dancing. If only I’d closed the curtains!