Crucially, no one but Noah is in a position to distil as strange a range of experiences into a rock album as ambitious, soulful and fresh sounding as ‘Five Decades Below’. Like Dame Shirley Bassey and Tom Jones, Noah’s story begins in South Wales. Born in Port Mama Road. He grew up in the tough surroundings of Tiger Bay, moving from one council estate to another with his family. Brought up by a performer father obsessed with soul music, and a mum who adored Bob Dylan and Elvis, he was practically pre-programmed to be on stage.
That he was touring the country as a cabaret act at the age of eight didn’t seem odd at the time. “From the first day I heard my father sing and then helped him pack his Epiphone guitar, amps and speakers into the back of his Cortina, I wanted to get on stage,” recalls Noah. “The two of us teamed up and became a duo. I would sit amongst the audience, and dad would ask if anyone wanted to hear his son sing. Then I’d get on stage sing covers and do impressions - everyone from Michael Jackson to Frank Sinatra.” By the time he was in his teens Noah was writing his own songs, but splitting his out-of-school hours between both the stage and the boxing ring.
He had begun boxing as a way to protect himself, but it almost became a career. Though he lost his first two fights, Noah won the next 38, ending up as Welsh Amateur Middleweight Champion. He was set to turn professional when, as he puts it, “dancing came to town.” With dance, Noah could mix his talent for performing with his physical fitness, finding a new niche. He won the World Freestyle Break-Dance Championships, which in turn attracted the attention of record labels, and girls, Lots of girls. “Girls were my main distraction,” smiles Noah.
“Once I had stood on stage and experienced hundreds of girls screaming at me, boxing was bound to take a back seat.” Noah’s singing won him acclaim whilst fronting his first band, a jazz-funk group called Whisper Zone (they won Battle of The Bands contest at the Welsh Rock & Pop Awards) Noah then went solo with his first major record deal. The music was Prince-tinged pop/ rock, but Noah admits his signing had more to do with the singer than the songs. “I was packaged as a pop act,” he says. “I was a dance champion, so the idea was that I would look good, dance, take my shirt off, and get girls to scream. The music was secondary, which I wasn’t happy with.” Still, a debut single was set to chart until the label neglected to put a barcode on the CD, meaning its sales couldn’t count.
The resulting fall-out saw Noah move to another major label, where he recorded an acoustic album. His single ‘Try’ was described by Q Magazine as “genius”. Time Out claimed Noah had “a better voice than Seal and David McAlmont put together.” However it was another change of musical direction that brought Noah his first exposure to a wider audience. Fronting rock band, Ellis, he found himself touring with the likes of Slayer, Lenny Kravitz and Puddle Of Mudd, selling out London’s Astoria and appearing at Reading, Leeds and Download festivals. Despite a growing army of fans and glowing reviews in the rock press, Noah split from the band due to a clash of ideals.
The spell since has been strange, to say the least. “Music and faith have been the two constants throughout my life,” Noah admits. He was intent on entering the priesthood, but his studies ended when his mentor told him he could do more good as a performer than a priest (to be fair, Noah could hardly look less like a priest.). The advice sent the singer picking through his past for a project that finally does justice to his immense, arresting vocals, his magpie array of musical influences, and a charisma that has brought a clutch of A-list collaborators to his table. He spent three years recording everywhere from London’s famous Abbey Road, to 36 Chambers in New York, and to various studios in LA, Paris and Miami.
The result is a collection of songs that are both brutally powerful and startlingly serene, boasting soul, spirituality and lyrics steeped in searing optimism. They pack a punch worthy of a former champion boxer. ‘Immortal’ is a broody rock/hip hop ballad. Featuring Wu-Tang Clan Killer Bees Prodigal Sunn and Shyheim, Jose ‘Choco’ Reynoso (co - producer of Immortal) adds beats and loops, while Noah adds guitar parts and vocals, together they rip up the rules of hip hop and rock. ‘Stalker’ is a stunning combination of soft, electronica-tinged verses and explosive, grinding, guitar-driven choruses.
‘Trickbaby’ featuring Royce Da 5’9”(of Slaughterhouse) DJ Skee and DJ Premier wraps pop, rock and hip hop into funk, and proves Noah is just as at ease getting on a groove as he is howling himself hoarse. The collaborators came on board as word of the songs started to spread. Killer Bees, Prodigal Sunn, and Shyheim heard ’Immortal’ and immediately recognized the relevance of this track, contributing to the evolution of hip hop. Killing Joke also guest on a track. Producers and mixers on the album include Andy Wallace (Run DMC/ Aerosmith, Nirvana, Rage against The machine and The Foo fighters) Bob Clearmountain (Nine Inch Nails, The Who, The Cure, David Bowie), Mike Fraser (ACDC, Metallica, Slipknot) Denaun Porter (Eminem, Dr Dre, 50 Cent& D12) and Chris Kimsey (The Cult, INXS, Yes &The Rolling Stones).
It was Kimsey who introduced Killing Joke to Noah and they were so inspired by the recording session they decided to reform. With ‘Immortal’ out now, the song’s epic video (directed by Noah and filmed at Pinewood studios) is tipped to be an award winning sensation. Noah is set to be the most anticipated debut artist of the year. Read more on Last.fm. User-contributed text is available under the Creative Commons By-SA License; additional terms may apply..
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