Interview: Jim Noir

Jim Noir is a cult artist in the most reverent sense of the term, creating vintage pop psychedelia for audiences after the turn of the century. For the last 16 months, he’s released one EP per month, digging deep into his back catalog for inspiration and creating new tracks to give to his Noir Club”. His latest album, Jimmy’s Show, follows suit, with Jim digging back into the archives and emerging with a handful of upbeat, 60s-throwback gems.

We got the chance to ask Jim a few questions regarding his latest album, his upcoming tour, plans for the future, and the music industry at large.

Your latest album, Jimmy’s Show, borrows material from your ambitious, 16-EP, 16-month ‘Noir Club’ releases as well as old demos from your entire career. Why did you choose to revisit this material now?

I was just looking for usable bits on an old hard drive whilst making a song. Found a lot of old songs that I’d forgotten about and thought it would be fun to compile some of them on some kind of ‘early songs’ style EP. I didn’t think I would end up using ALL of them, but that’s the way it went. There’s only a limited number of terrible tunes left which will make up my ‘completely run out of ideas’ album in 2013.

You’ve moved four times in the last year. How did this affect your songwriting/recording process?

Not much really. New environments are always exciting when get bored of the wallpaper. I have a lot more stuff to trek about now, though, so that is the ball ache. I’ve decided now that I like the wallpaper a lot, and will not be moving ever again because it is a nightmare.

Songs like “Tea” and “Praise for Your Mother” seem like a throwback to 50s and 60s pop, while songs like “Fishes and Dishes” and “The Cheese of Jim’s Command” almost seem like pop reworking’s of progressive, 80s electronic pieces. Were there any large influences on this album, in particular?

I don’t know really, as each song was written on completely different dates and years. The 60’s-y ones will have been quite early-days ones when I would have been hammering Beach Boys records and the like; the later ones are influenced probably from things I hear on the radio in the car. I don’t really know who the band on the radio is, but I might get home and try to rewrite a sound I heard from memory. I recently realized “The Cheese of Jim’s Command” might be me trying to do “Hey Ya” by Outkast. As you can hear, I failed miserably. “Fishes and Dishes” I remember is quite an old one with my first equipment: an old Akai sampler and an Atari 520. Gonna start using that stuff again soon, as I wrote a lot better then.

What was the inspiration for your wonderfully odd music video for “Tea”?

Nye Best and Lianne Pierce conceived and directed that one, so better to ask them as they might know more about its meaning. I know I had to walk around in the middle of winter in nothing but a thin suit and a rubber magpie head for many days. The old man puppet was great to work with, and I’m sure he’ll go on to have a full and exciting career after a sterling performance.

Your music is layered with tons of vintage synths and gear. What’s your favorite piece of studio gear?

I’ll always go back to my Korg Mono/Poly, as I can just set it going while I make a brew or do a toilet, and usually when I go back in the room its written half the track on its own. It’s magical, almost haunted.

Do you buy vinyl? If so, is it important to you to have a medium like vinyl that’s tangible and you can hold in your hands, in an age where everything is digital so easy to throw away?

I do generally buy vinyl but haven’t bought any music for a couple of years. I’ve sorta got my collection now and could be happy with it for the rest of my life. I’m not one for having millions of obscure records or anything. Usually my favorite ones are given to me by mates who’ve got 2 copies of something.

I do think it’s important to have a physical copy of the music, especially if it’s an old band, to listen to it as it was intended is a really nice thing. Maybe not so much with current music as it’s all a bit throwaway nowadays and doesn’t really have time to be put on before it’s onto the next thing. I’ve rarely been to a party these days when the track playing doesn’t even get to the end before someone puts something else on. Angering. 

If you could create a musical genius Frankenstein, which parts would you pick from who (John Lennon’s voice, Mozart’s fingers, Frank Zappa’s ‘tache, Michael Jackson’s feet, etc…)?

Viv Stanshall‘s hair, Ron Mael‘s moustache, Michelle Phillips‘ talent, and Keith Moon‘s various personalities. In fact, forget the rest; just Michelle Phillips, please.

If the entire music industry was a city, where would Jim Noir be (lounging at the coffee house, holed up at home, DJing at the club, always working, etc…)?

Probably annoying the bands in the studio/dressing room whilst they are trying to work/relax. I don’t know why I am so stupefying uncool, but that’s the way it goes.

Who is your favorite new artist or group?

Plank! are really amazing. I got them to support me at my Manchester gig early in the year and they are difficult to follow. So they won’t be supporting me again, because they are actually rubbish and I hate them.

What’s your stance or position on file sharing? Do you think it has a place in the music industry?

I usually sit down on the couch, laptop on the table, sorta hunched…

Yeah why not? I generally buy the album on vinyl if I download anything I like, really. I don’t see the point in downloading hundreds of albums and sharing them wholesale like some sort of brownie points “look how many albums I’ve got” thing, but as a general “try before you buy” thing, it’s good. With me, I’m happy if someone wants to listen to it so they can steal it from my actual record collection if they are that bothered.

What do you see as the biggest challenge facing the music industry at the moment and if you were able to, how would you fix it? 

I haven’t been involved in the music industry for a very long time so I wouldn’t know what the state of it is even in these days. As long as the money-burning, champagne-lunching, music-ruining fuckwits who decide if young bands are any good disappear, that can only be a start.

Back in a January interview with MacWorld, you mentioned that you didn’t know where the Noir Club was going next. Are there any plans for that, currently?

I think that will be it for the time being. A couple more albums proper now I think before I do any more EPs.

Are you planning on touring after the release of the album, and after that, what’s next?

Yeah, I think we are touring early next year 2013. Up until then, we are going (as a band) to try and write an album. It’ll be the first one I won’t have played everything on, so it will be interesting, and probably better. More quality creeping in, as I’d like to use proper studios for a change and see if we can’t make Jim a little more hi-fi. If it ruins it and fails on its arse, look out for more dusty old crap when the “Noir Club” reconvenes.

Jimmy’s Show is out September 17th. Listen to the single “Tea” below:

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