Mike Noga has been present in the Australian music scene for a while now and is probably best known as the drummer for that little indie rock band that just keeps on giving (both in itself and via its many spin-off projects), The Drones. After the release of his second solo album last year, The Balladeer Hunter, Noga enjoyed a run of shows throughout Australia including support for Band Of Horses, Okkervil River, Paul Dempsey and Glenn Richards, Noga jetted off to the UK with virtually no plan and very little expectation.
“I went over to the UK with no agenda whatsoever,” Noga says. “Nothing sends me to sleep quicker than a musician talking about moving to London/Berlin/New York to write their next album, and that certainly wasn't the case with me. It was more a case of going on an extended holiday, perhaps playing some shows, and if the mood struck me, starting to write my next album. As it turns out, I ended up playing
some great shows and writing a lot more than I expected. It's always inspiring and refreshing to play to new faces. It's easy to feel a bit like you're becoming part of the wallpaper after so many years playing in Australia. It's good to remind yourself that you're still 'new' to many people out there. I fell in love with London too. It's taken me years and years, but I finally succumbed. I also became obsessed with
the history of that city and spent many of my days searching for the Roman ruins that are hidden throughout the city, as well as my endless quest to find London's oldest pub. Basically I just walked around pretending I had the plague and swept chimneys for a living.”
With a band as successful and seemingly harmonious as The Drones, I am compelled to ask Noga exactly what he gets out of his solo stuff that he doesn’t within The Drones and vice versa. Of course stepping out from behind the drums is an obvious conclusion but there is surely more to it than just that. “They're two completely different worlds,” he says. “Obviously I don't write the songs in The Drones so it's nice to have an outlet for my own stuff. But I consider myself very lucky. I'm in a band that I love and I get to tinker away on my own thing when it's downtime for the Drones. I've always been a songwriter; since I was a kid. But technically drums are my forte, I guess. I just enjoy getting together with Gaz and Fiona and Dan and creating something together. And we've been doing it for so long now that it's become second nature when you put the four of us in a room together we can read each other's minds. But at the same time I absolutely love standing on a stage, alone, with just a guitar and playing my own stuff. So there you go – best of both worlds.”
Noga has been quoted as saying recording an album is a little out-dated (well a part of him thinks that, anyway). I ask whether that is because, as a product, the album is becoming harder to sell or that the romanticism of the album as a collective story is a bit of bullshit? “Yeah, a part of me really believes that writing 12 songs, going into a studio, recording them, releasing them as an album, doing long lead promotion, then a tour, then a follow up tour, etcetera, is a little outdated and unnecessary,” he says. “But it's such an ingrained process now – right across the board – that it's hard to swim against that flow. I'm not sure what form my next batch of songs will take. Perhaps I'll just release them one by one. If I've got three songs written then why not just get those three out there? Or maybe I'm being a stupid idiot and the 'industry' will punish me. Time will tell.”
Art is a reflection of time and place, both of the artists and the world around them and Noga is no different. Like most musicians, his music undergoes sonic, melodic and thematic evolution and his new music is taking yet another new form. “The new songs are shaping up to be a lot more dense than my previous stuff,” he says. “I've always gone for a pretty stripped back approach in the past. There's bugger all over dubs on my last record, and zero electric guitar. But these songs are lending themselves to a more involved approach. I won't be recording fifteen piano parts whilst sitting in a sand box, but there'll be more going on.”
BY KRISSI WEISS
MIKE NOGA & BAND will play at The Northcote Social Club with special guest Sweet Jean on Saturday June 30. The Ballader Hunter is out now.