Interview with Mike Noga

Former Drones drummer, Mike Noga, recently released his third solo album, KING, via Cooking Vinyl Australia. “KING is a dark, psychedelic concept album, loosely based on George Büchner’s famous 1830’s play, Woyzeck’. Featuring Noah Taylor (Game of Thrones, Almost Famous) as “The Narrator” and produced by Something For Kate’sPaul Dempsey, KING tells the tale of one mans descent into madness and the bloodshed that follows.” In this interview Noga discusses the collaborative process behind KING, touring life and a few other snippets of his past.

Congratulations on the release of KING! What was it like working with Paul Dempsey in the studio and what kind of recording set-up did you have?

Paul was wonderful to work with. We’ve been friends for a long time and he was my obvious first choice for producer. He’s a technological wizz, plays a mean guitar and is an amazing and thorough songwriter.

My writing style can be a bit loose, so it was great to have Paul there to tighten things up when needed. He approached, what is a pretty “different” kind of rock n roll album with a completely open mind. Up for trying anything. A pure joy to work with. And he pushed me to my limits, which was what this album needed. 

When emailing the narration script to Noah Taylor, how much direction did you provide him when it came to recording his parts? 

I gave Noah a pretty clear idea of what kind of “vibe” I wanted for each part, but that said, I also left it up to him to interpret as much as he wanted to. What I got back was about 10 takes of each piece done in a different style or a different voice. A total pro… and very generous of him. I could then pick and choose which part I thought suited the narration and the feel of the narrative at any given point. I am completely indebted to Noah. He came to the table really into the whole idea of a rock n roll concept album based on an old German play about a man going insane! He didn’t need any convincing. He really makes the album for me. A total legend.

‘Grey To Reds’ incorporates audio of a marching band, with a snippet of what appears to be ‘Nearer, My God, to Thee’ at the end. Was that an intentional conclusion to the piece because of its Christian reference to God as King? 

There is certainly a marching band in there… as for ‘Nearer, My God, to Thee’… I’m not familiar with that piece being a rampant atheist! Haha. But hey, if it snuck in there somehow then I have no problem with that. Something in there for everyone!

What have you learnt about yourself through the process of creating this album?

I’ve learnt I’m capable of a lot more than I thought. I invested so much of my time and energy and thoughts and ideas and self into this album. I knew what I wanted to make. A rock n roll album that is completely different to anything out there right now… and I stuck with it and shut off any doubt filled voices in my head… and I did it. I feel like I finally made the piece of art I’ve always wanted to make. I couldn’t be more proud.

You’re in conversation with people from Dancenorth in Queensland regarding a theatrical interpretation of KING. Have you considered incorporating elements of virtual reality into the mix to create some sort of visual, interactive storybook performance? 

Yeah, I’ve met with the directors of Dancenorth a couple of times. From the moment I first started writing ‘KING’ I always had an eye for it to be turned into something bigger. Something more than just a band in pub bashing out the songs. A stage play or a dance production. Thank fully the amazing folk at Dancenorth love the record and have the same vision as me for it. They’re an incredible company. Really forward thinking and up for trying out crazy new ideas. I love them. And their dancers are just incredible. No talk of virtual reality just yet though. Might need some help in the financial department to get something like that off the ground. But you never know. 

How will you go about translating this album to a live setting for your upcoming shows?

Myself and the band will be playing the whole album in sequence from start to finish. It’s a story with a very strong narrative, so there’s no other way really. We’ll be using visuals and Noah Taylor’s narration to help guide the audience along. But if that ain’t your thing, don’t be put off. It’s still going to be a rock show… just maybe a slightly more crazy one than you’re used to.

Four fast questions for four fast responses:

  • What was the first concert/gig you attended and where was it held? Jimmy Barnes, Soul Deep Tour. Hobart. Shut up.
  • When was the last time you wrote a handwritten letter/card? I just finished writing 250 of them to send to the wonderful people who donated money to my crowd funding campaign for this album.
  • What was your first paid job? Washing dishes. I was very good at it. Still am.
  • Who would you love to see in the audience at one of your shows? Georg Büchner, playwright. Author of ‘Woyzeck’ and the whole reason this album came about. 

When you’re on tour, do you ever keep a diary or take photos/videos to help process or reflect on your time away from home?

I spent years on tour with The Drones and took a photo of every single bed I slept in. I was going to put them into a book with a description of my favourite beds and where they were in the world and what happened while I was there. I didn’t back up my computer though. And one day it got stolen and all the photos along with it. I still think about that and it makes me sad.

Some people praise music streaming services and others think that it’s killing the industry. Where do you sit within this conversation?

I’m coming around to them. It’s certainly the future. Album sales have fallen by 60 per cent in the last few years. As long as they can figure out a way to make it more viable for the artists, I’m all for it.

What have been some of the highlights of your career thus far? 

Patti Smith kissing me on the lips on stage at a sold out Sydney Opera House. Playing right before Motorhead at the Primavera festival, Spain and having their drummer tease me about my “little kids drum kit”. Releasing ‘KING’.

Finally, what is one piece of advice you would give to your fifteen-year-old self?

When you’re about 16 you’re going to be at a party with your friends in Hobart. You’ll be quite drunk. DON’T smoke that joint that Alex gives you. You’re gonna freak out.

This interview was first published on for Amnplify.

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