Despite her perennial status as the youngest member of Gorillaz, Noodle seems to have lived enough for a hundred lifetimes already. While most pop starlets spend their formative years dealing with the challenges of poaching their peers’ social media stans, balancing brand sponsorship with performative wokeness, and recording unconvincing country-pop albums in a bid to get back to their roots, Noodle’s journey has been rather more, shall we say, high-octane.
Since joining the animated group as a 10-year old guitar prodigy (and unwitting product of a super-soldier training programme gone horribly awry), Noodle has been shot at, stabbed, blown out of the air by nefarious pirates, replaced by a homicidal robotic doppelganger, strangled by cyclopean worms and generally pestered by unfathomable horrors from the depths of hell.
Throughout this, she has remained the cool, collected epicentre of her group’s collective consciousness, enduring the chaotic antics of her bandmates Murdoc, 2D and Russel while constantly using her platform to champion the output of other creative women.
When Clash calls her up in her Swiss hotel, Gorillaz have just begun a huge run of European festival shows armed with songs from new album ‘The Now Now’. As we talk, she initially seems suspicious of the concept that a person’s existence can be reduced down to nothing more than a collection of songs, insisting that “The rich tapestry of life is made up of a thousand different melodies that overlap and harmonise to form your own unique song in this ocean of noise.”
But when she thinks about the songs that have defined her own action-packed existence, her scepticism begins to melt away and her voice sparkles into life.
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What was the first record that you played along to on guitar?
‘Boris the Spider’ by The Who. At super-soldier camp, playing guitar was actually part of the training as it improved weapon skills and manual dexterity. I played Boris the Spider three hours a day for six months. My dreams were dark, and eight-legged.
What records did the other members of Gorillaz introduce you to after you joined the band?
2D – ‘Oscillations’ by Silver Apples. He would play this track while practising self-hypnotherapy, a strange technique that I believe 2D pioneered himself. After entering a trance state, he would stand very still and drool, for many hours. Murdoc often took advantage of the situation by picking him up and driving his unconscious body to various parts of the city before he woke. He once even put him on a flight to Morocco. For a long time 2D was convinced he could teleport. TBH, I think he still does.
Murdoc – ‘Fear of Music’ by Talking Heads. He once told me that listening to this album was more exhilarating than eating a hundred space cakes and then parachuting naked into Balmoral. I was 11 at the time so didn’t really understand the metaphor. But having got to know Murdoc over the years I now realise it wasn’t a metaphor. Still, you get the idea. It’s a great record.
Russel – ‘Ready To Die’ by Biggie Smalls. Russel really opened my eyes to hip-hop when I was a kid. The fact he was possessed by the ghosts of dead rappers didn’t hurt either. It made him like an early version of Soundcloud, only more spooky.
Which album are you most likely to put on in the Gorillaz tour bus?
‘In the Sun Lines’ by Tara Jane O’Neil. She writes songs that spirit you across the horizon to a far gentler realm than this crazy one we inhabit.
What was the last record you bought?
‘+371’ by Domenique Dumont. It’s the first track on a compilation album called ‘Five Years of Loving Notes’ and transcends the boundaries of language, instrumentation and convention.
What record could you listen to for the rest of your life without getting bored?
That sounds like a CIA torture technique. One record for the rest of my LIFE? I think anything would be ruined after that long. But maybe for a month I could listen to ‘Tobimasu’ by Hako Yamasaki. She summons a new tear with every note she plucks.
What about a record that fills you with fury every time?
Anything insincere and badly played. Or by Muse.
Which record would you say has influenced you most as a musician?
‘Green Rocky Road’ by Karen Dalton. Every time I listen to it I am reminded to play for the audience that listens closest: myself.
Which record would you most like to destroy?
To me, music is like energy. It can neither be created nor destroyed, only discovered and abandoned.
What record would you want to have played at your funeral?
These questions are getting dark. I like you. Um, either ‘Who Wants To Live Forever’ by Queen, or Mozart’s ‘Requiem Mass in D Minor’. Can I have both? I like the duality of joy and sadness that defines us as humans, first in life and then in the memories we leave behind for others. There was actually a memorial service for me when everyone thought I was dead after the ‘El Manana’ video. Murdoc performed Ozzy Osborne’s ‘See You On The Other Side’ in nothing but a pair of leather wings and full skull makeup. I’m honestly glad I missed it.
What record should soundtrack a film of your life?
A recording of my entire life, as no one record could ever tell the whole story.
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Words: Josh Gray
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