The charismatic Tom Noble has been immersed in so many different projects for the last decade that it’s almost daunting to get acquainted. His work over the last couple of years sits atop a foundation of digging, producing, and slanging records to enthusiasts across the globe. He co-founded a seminal reissue label, Lotus Land Records which has just been renamed and relaunched; while his latest work with People’s Potential Unlimited and Whatchawannado has thrust him to the forefront of contemporary disco, boogie, and funk revival.
Last year’s raw and infectious In Liger Vision on Clone Loft Supreme Series has become an instant favourite while his upcoming work is set to outdo that of his past. We were put in touch with the man himself and he was gracious enough to answer a few questions about his musical history, his days as the co-owner of a renowned record shop and label, as well as his future projects.
For the uninitiated, can you give us an idea of what it is you do?
Okay, here we go. Basically, I am a person who has been in bands since high school. I got into records around that time (mainly Jamaican rocksteady and soul), discovered DJ-ing after being in gigging bands, and decided I liked that more. I became an uber record collector, started a store and record reissue label (Lotus Land Records). Focused for years on rare indie funk, soul, disco, and boogie records from the U.S.A. Being away from bands for a long time, I decided to start producing my own shit, which at this time is heavily influenced by all of my favorite records, or shall I say music.
Tell us a little about relocating from Milwaukee to Los Angeles.
Milwaukee was great, but 28 years of greatness led to me being completely exiled and isolated from any and all peers. It was oddly enough on a trip to Vancouver to dive into J. (Jason) Lev’s collection that I realized I needed to get out. Just coming out of my cave if you will. L.A. seemed to be the only city in The States that made sense. I almost forgot about the fact that the weather is set to perfect, and that I’m basically living in Mexico (with better restaurants). I wish I grew up with all of the Mexican punks in Echo Park, Salvadorian kids in metal bands, 16-year-old punk rock Mexi chicks with beehive hair. Pretty wicked place to be a skate rat, which I was.
How has your day to day changed since the move? Any early morning rituals? Afternoon delights?
Drinking great coffee as usual; just made the switch to decaf. Started juicing and rocking farmers markets. I jog outdoors now, which I couldn’t do in Milwaukee. Surrounded by sunshine and beautiful people, thinking beautiful thoughts about being beautiful.
Is there anything you miss from home?
El Rey tortilla chips, both original and lime, as well as Giordiano’s hot peppers in oil—a religious experience when poured over melted provolone and tomato.
You’ve got your hands in a few different things at the moment. Are you looking to focus on anything specifically in 2011?
2011 is going to be a busy year musically. I’ve been getting into my comfort zone the last couple of years. Still don’t have an ideal studio, but I’ve got some nice session people to work with—great mixing talents—and I’ve recently been bitten by the gear bug so now I have a pretty wicked arsenal to make tracks with. I don’t need much, but when I get new sounds, I make new sounds. Basically my mind is loaded with stuff I want to do; it’s just a matter of the time to sit down and do it all. If I had financial freedom, I would be making music all day long every day, only taking breaks to talk to soul artists about old master tapes.
I’ve heard whispers about a disco LP and a project with Dâm Funk, any word on that?
Ha, whispers eh? Truth is, there is no project in the works. I’ve been down with Dâm since day one of moving here; just met him through a friend when the boogie funk scene was totally underground, pre-Stones Throw intervention. Dâm gave me his card, on the back it mentioned that he was a session drummer and he happened to play keys. I had him over a couple of times and he laced me with some keys. At the time I had no funds for paying session musicians, so our collab-ing ended and soon he was busy taking care of his own career at Stones Throw. Talk about having him do keys on this Leroy Burgess cover tune I’m working on right now with Carmen of “Time To Move” fame. That will rule! I’m going to be finishing an insane disco LP with all live musicians cut to analog tape and I’ve got tons of reissues coming out on my new label Superior Elevation.
How did your record store, Lotus Land, come to be?
My brother and I lived together and shared a collection, we DJed… yada yada. Our building had a storefront space in the front which had been a bohemian slacker den of iniquity for years. One day when the space cleared our landlord asked us if we’d like to open a record store there. Rent was $250 per month, we were down. Took about 2 years until we actually started making money but we learned the ropes big time during those years. The shop was awesome for a while. After five or six years I got tired of sitting behind a counter and being partnered up in a small shop like that means no money. So, as I shoved off to L.A., I sold my share and went solo.
Any standout days that you can tell us about from your time at the shop?
So many. Smoking loose joints with Sharon Jones. Recording flute with Neal Sugarman in the basement after an Antibalas soundcheck. Talking shit with Phillipe Lehman of Desco and Soul Fire about collecting and how his rental car had a Japanese robot voice that guided him around various ghettos looking for records. Getting attacked by skinheads who threw our turntables on the floor. Prostitutes making collect calls on our shop phone whilst sitting on our toilet. Having Third Eye Blind tell me what band they were in whilst my punk friend erupted into laughter at the other end of the store. Two copies of Richard Caiton’s “Where Is The Love” walking into our store. Watching armed robbers size up our store, decide we didn’t have enough money to risk getting sent back to the joint, then asking if we had any Slick Rick. Great moments in record collecting history.
You sell records on your online shop, are you still doing a lot of digging?
Yes, I dig everyday. I find crazy shit too. Gloria Ann Taylor M-shape (in mint shape) found yesterday morning in Inglewood. I cover the entire hood of L.A. in a usual day. The hood here is pretty tame for the most part, nothing like the potency of an ice cold hood on a day the gas got shut off on any street in Milwaukee. Records are way more plentiful here than any other city I’ve spent time in. So many great local treasures to pep up a lukewarm storefront or half-baked record show. The scene here is pretty cool too. Lots of people with good taste, we all come up!
What five records would you never part with?
As I’ve gotten older I’ve realized that there are two distinct different categories in my brain relating to records. One is the ”fishing story” records, the other is the “records that changed my life.” Both are things I won’t be giving up, but the fishing trip stories make better copy than saying Curtis Mayfield & The Impressions Greatest Hits reissue from 1983. So here is a combo of both categories:
Gloria Ann Taylor – Deep Inside of You Selector Sound — SS3080 | 12″ EP | 1973
Dreamscape – Outer Groove Soul-TBC — White Label | 12″ LP | Detroit
Bobby Williams – Get Into It R&R Records — LP330 | LP | 1974
Master Force – Don’t Fight the Feeling Rain Forest — RF001 | 45 RPM | 1979
Flight – No More Part Time Loving Fly Records — FLY004 | 45RPM | 1981