When I was in high school, I started seeking out more indie and underground bands, so me and my friend Mateusz would go to the record stores in Detroit and Royal Oak because the selection was much more extensive. On one cross-border venture, Mateusz bought Slint’s Spiderland and I bought Rodan’s Rusty. Close to twenty years later and they’re still two of my favourite records of all time. Rodan had all the visceral energy, emotion, and angst a 16 year-old kid could dream of, not to mention those off-time changes, guitar interplay, and amazing drums. Rusty was my first introduction to the music of Kentucky native Jason Noble, who would later go on to play in other revered indie outfits like Rachel’s, Per Mission, and Shipping News.
Sadly, Jason lost his three-year battle to cancer on August 4th, 2012. Details of his passing can be read on his Caring Bridge Blog.
It’s always a strange feeling to lose an inspirational musician in your life, because even though I met him only once at a Shipping News show in 2005, I feel like I have lost a friend. Mainly because I’ve followed his life through his music for close to twenty years, and read his articulate posts on the Shipping News website for over a decade, hell, I have one of his old Per Mission cassettes I bought at a Rachel’s show, and even own a VHS copy of “Half Cocked”, the indie film Noble starred in with his Rodan bandmates in the early nineties. That soundtrack still kicks ass.
What I remember most about seeing him live was that he was always smiling – even when playing Rachel’s more melancholy material there would still be a faint grin on his lips. His music was incredibly inspirational for me as a young musician trying to find my own style, and in the beginning I ended up completely aping Rodan and Slint’s compositional structures and time changes, but Noble and his bandmates helped teach me how to play hard yet melodic and to always have fun. One website is calling him a “patron saint of independent musicians”, and I find this fitting, although I’m sure he’d tell us all to fuck right off if he knew he’d been dubbed that. Jason was a humble artist, yet one who helped develop the post-rock movement with all the other bands coming out of Louisville, Chicago, New York and Chapel Hill in the days when grunge was exploding in Seattle.
Jason Noble, you will be greatly missed. My thoughts go out to his family and friends during this time. Donations can be made by purchasing a benefit mixtape here. Or you can also buy Shipping News and Rodan T-shirts here.
Below, you can watch a drunken video I made of Shipping News playing “Louven” at the Sala Rossa in Montreal in the spring of 2005. RIP.