Shipping News’ Jason Noble Is Inspired By: “Staying Alive”

One constant over the past 17 years of MAGNET has been the music of Jason Noble. First with the post-hardcore Rodan, then the classically inclined Rachel’s, the post-rock Shipping News and the theatrically concerned Young Scamels, Noble has always been involved with projects that interested and challenged us. Noble has two new releases: a live Shipping News album, One Less Heartless To Fear (Karate Body/Noise Pollution), and the debut LP from the Young Scamels, Tempest (File 13). Unfortunately, creating music is hardly the main concern for Noble these days. The 39-year-old Louisville, Ky., native was diagnosed with synovial sarcoma, a rare form of cancer, 15 months ago and is currently battling the disease with the determination, positive energy and modesty he has always displayed in his two-decade musical career. MAGNET is proud to have Noble guest editing our website all week. Read our Q&A with him.

Noble: Well, I’m more than a little unclear if I should write this one. Hopefully, the Bee Gees reference is funny enough to balance the following subject. When I first mentioned writing a little for MAGNET, my wife suggested this, and I want to be open with people. In August 2009, I was diagnosed with cancer (as my little bio blurb mentions). It’s called synovial sarcoma, and I laugh (a small awkward laugh) because this cancer type usually affects much younger people (and I took it as evidence of my immaturity and kid-like sense of humor). It’s actually not funny at all, but you have to hold on to little things to make you feel empowered, y’know? Since then, we have both been on an incredible adventure. I say that not implying that my journey was unique; in fact, it’s sadly very common and I’ve met dozens if not hundreds of people fighting cancer in the last 14 months. Beautiful people who show me what actual courage means. Through the generosity of friends and family—and an incredible amount of help from bands and artists who have donated and played shows to raise money—I’m somehow here, still on earth. Still loving the movie Alien and still looking into the heavens and seeing only heavens (atoms, stratosphere, milky rings, Laika and whatnot) but no angels or divinity. Although I can see the appeal. It’s really enough for me to say: Nature is amazing. And even include my illness as part of nature’s unpredictable (and ferocious) creativity. Many people have done so much for us, and unfortunately I can’t mention them all here. But, if it wasn’t for all of them … wow. No more nothing! It’d be the great silence for me.

A wonderful surgeon in Louisville stepped in during our first big crisis (in the early weeks) and said he could work it out. This was after we had been told it wasn’t gonna fly and I should punch my timecard for the last time. Yet he and his team, they made it happen. Next, ICU nurses, cardio people, support staff, volunteers. Then there were radiation technicians, x-ray technicians, MRI, CT Scan and I think at least one guy playing Sega all putting their time and life into our struggle. There was my oncologist and also an incredible person who runs clinical trials who choose to help guide us when we were lost. Then we were lucky enough to travel and receive treatment at MD Anderson in Houston. Because of Greg King’s (and also Patrick M’s) family experiences with MDA and their advocacy, we found ourselves at one of the major research facilities in the country. In the last year, MDA has worked tirelessly to control my cancer, which—without being overly “movie of the week”—was rapidly advancing and being generally rude to my body. As Jeff Mueller said, “It wasn’t paying rent and was basically a freeloader.” Chemotherapy, transfusions, then “targeted therapy” followed. We took a breath, then, somehow—I don’t know how—we were still here.

I don’t discount prayer or human kindness or belief in any way. I receive high-tech scans and also get treated with 1,000-year-old Chinese accupressure and Jin Shin Jyutsu. I was in a wheelchair, but now I’m able to walk (most of the time). We’ve found that people are unbelievably good (I don’t know which ones were Republicans or Democrats or Green Party or Knife Swallowers), but they all helped. Helped us onto planes, into cabs, up stairs—they were literally taking a stranger’s hand and saying, “Here, let me.” I can basically eat, sleep and lately have been able to make art again. My friend Christian was just here in Louisville recording with me. We even got to hang with Rachel and our extended family of musicians. Can I be a little obvious? I found out when your life is draining away that you cherish everything. The hem of your sweetheart’s coat or the philodendron that Agostino Tilotta bought for us or a sweet “battle-action” Dr. Lizard action figure from our pal Edward. Perfection, all of it. And I found that art comes from some life force or something because I was silent (on the inside) for the first time in my adult life when I was just out of surgery. To the family and friends to the bands and the printmakers and the person who carved a homemade cane for me, I can only say: You are equally responsible for keeping me alive with the doctors, and your decency and warmth has inspired us forever.

My wife Kristin has experienced this whole year with full clarity. When I had weeks and even months of dreaming (or narco-drifting), she was there. No amount of words can express my gratitude. What can I say but that you hope in your life to have someone actually love you for what you are. When I was battered and bent, she never looked away. When I was sick (and was frankly really gross and stuff), she never wavered. I still don’t know what to say—don’t know how to live a semi public life—without sharing this all. I ask your pardon if I got too personal or made you feel like you stumbled into a bad Lifetime movie. One big thing I would like to say: I’m doing well, right now, and we’re so glad to be able to share that. It’s literally a day-to-day experience. Sometimes we falter. And I hope to walk better. And I hope to play shows someday. And I hope we can one day have a “normal” kinda life again. But, for all the work and sometimes tears, for all the incredible efforts by our community, I know it’s not about what you “deserve” or being special. There are people that work just as hard, and are loved just as much, who can’t overcome this disease. I’d like to say to them: You are in our thoughts and with us everyday. And, always, thank you for listening.

Artwork after the jump.

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