This site has limited support for your browser. We recommend switching to Edge, Chrome, Safari, or Firefox.

UK - Free next business day delivery via DPD on all orders.

EU - Free delivery via DPD on all orders over €200.

GLOBAL - Free shipping via DHL Express Worldwide on purchases over USD $500.


In Conversation with Paul Noble - Founder and Creative Director of Spiritland

In Conversation with Paul Noble - Founder and Creative Director of Spiritland

Explore the fascinating journey of Paul Noble, as he shares insights into sound, travel, and the world of music. From his roots as a BBC sound engineer to the inception of London’s popular Spiritland Listening bar, Paul's journey intertwines a love for work, travel and music.  We sat down and chatted with Paul about the influence of travel on his work, on translating the listening bar experience to the London market and on his tips to travelling well and finding inspiration amidst the rhythms of life. 



On Sound and Travel

Before starting Spiritland, I worked as a sound engineer and a radio producer at the BBC on Radio 1, and Radio 2 with a focus on mainly dance music, but also other types of specialist music as well. Afterwards, I moved to doing music consultancy for brands ranging from very high-end fashion houses to more big-name high street style brands. In the few years before opening Spiritland, I worked at Monocle helping them establish the radio side of their magazine.  Here I saw a lot of the world through the Monocle lens, which was really about travel. And that was where the inspiration for Spiritland came from - spending time in Japan - where they found this lovely approach to music and the Japanese listening bar scene.



On Spiritland

We started Spiritland almost 10 years ago as a pop -up in Shoreditch built around the listening experience. The concept then as it is today is the same.  We have DJ’s playing records but it’s not a club nor is there live music.  It begins with the equipment.  We have some wildly high-end equipment built around a bespoke sound system created by a company called Living Voice based near Nottingham.  All the elements - the mixer, the amplifiers, the music sources, the turntable and cartridges – are then selected and built around the sound system. We also have CDJs like anywhere else, have them going through a digital audio converter to get the best sound.   All-in-all it’s sort of a pursuit of sound perfection even if we know we will never fully arrive at that.   

And then comes the programming. We go very deep into lots of different genres – jazz, funk, soul, dub, country, indie, Americana. We also celebrate massive artists like the Beatles, Bowie, Prince, Fleetwood Mac, Kate Bush, who are part of our musical universe. We might have a night where we focus on playing the records of just one just artist – It could be The Cure, Diana Ross, Kraftwerk or New Order.  Between the sound system and the programming – Spiritland strives to be a place where you can celebrate and explore music in real depth. 


On a Typical Day

There's not really a typical day.  There is building out our musical programmes as we always have different DJs playing at the bar. But we also work with a lot of music labels and artists on technical production and album launches.  We are also in the process of opening two new locations next year – one in London and one in Lisbon - so there is a lot of hands-on work – moving equipment around, plugging things.  It’s a mix of staring at a computer screen, meeting people and making things happen.  



On Translating the Listen Bar Experience

The listening bar phenomenon is all over Japan - not just in the cities, but also in some of the smaller places. Lots of people like me have been there and found the whole scene very inspirational and did their own versions of it. They take listening bars, very very seriously and they are deeply about listening. Some of the venues are very small; there might only be six seats and that’s it.  Also many of them charge a cover charge, so you’ve already paid to be there. Usually, the owner plays an album start to finish. You can sometimes request an artist or an album, which is lovely and works in Japan. But in London, there's a certain level of energy that happens when you put people in a bar with music and alcohol – the vibe goes up and the actual listening can sometimes go out the window. Some nights are more focused on the music, other nights are going to have more of a party vibe.  We’ve been focusing on this mix not just at Spiritland but also other venues where we host events.  That’s what we’ve been doing a lot in Lisbon lately leading up to the opening of our new venue. But yeah, you can’t fully emulate the Japanese version, nor would I want to.  In London there is a strong DJ culture and DJ tradition, and on top of that you just have that London energy, which you’d never want to squash.  We’re not the fun police, telling people to calm down or stop talking or stop dancing. There’s inspiration from Japan, but we’ve made it our own thing. 



On Work and Travel

Working as a sound engineer and radio producer has brought me all around the world with longer stints in the US, Caribbean, Asia, you name it.  Also at the moment we are opening the new Lisbon venue so I am over there every six weeks or so working on the venue, putting on events, and so on.  If there’s a chance to travel, I’ll jump at it.  Last week we went out to Zurich just for one night for an opening of a hotel who we're working with. Whizzing around the bars and the hotels, out of your element, then suddenly you’ll see a dish or a cocktail method that becomes a source of inspiration. There’s so many places in London, but when you jump into a new food scene you’ll see something new and exciting.



On Travelling Well

What I've now realised, is that travelling well is about travelling really, really light - as light as possible. So now I’m on the ‘only each of item’ program when I travel, and it all has to fit into one backpack. Commit to one pair of shoes for a whole trip.

Also, like everyone, when I travel, I don’t want to see anything that I’ve seen before, but go where the locals are going, understand the underground, the music venues, the cool bars and restaurants. I am always up for any insiders’ tips or knowledge before I travel.

In terms of the actual experience of work and travel, on the occasions where I've had to go straight from the airport, into a meeting or event I always want to arrive in a decent mental and physical state. So I drink lots of water on the plane and ideally get some rest. Ideally I want to give myself a bit of time to decompress at the other end before diving straight into work, but usually budgets don’t allow which means I’m jumping straight from the plane into whatever I need to do.  


Rapid Fire

Travel Soundtrack

I love listening to Deep Electronica when I travel. Deep, spacey - Boards of Canada, Tangerine Dream, Aphex Twin, Biosphere - anything electronic and trippy that suddenly puts you in your own film….and headphones, with a headphone amp; I’ve gone really far down that road.  

Travel Must Haves

Tomato juice on the plane- every time.  It’s more of a weird superstition than a travel tip, and an eye mask, because you never know what the curtain situation is going to be like at the other end. Otherwise, I’m pretty adaptable.

Approach to Jet Lag

I just steam through it and try to ignore. I've never tried to do anything clever to avoid jetlag.  I’ll usually just watch as many films as I can, so I rarely sleep on planes. Terrible advice, I know.

Favourite Hotel?

Heckfield Place in the UK, which is just a really stunning hotel where every detail has been finessed - amazing cinema, amazing spa.  I love Ett Hem in Stockholm, which is an old ambassador's residence - very homely and cosy.  It’s like staying at someone's house…a really nice and beautiful house. I'm a big fan.

Favourite city to visit on a work trip?

Amsterdam, I love, and the fact it's just 5 hours on the train, direct from London, is a joy. I think that route's shutting down for a while though for repairs, which is a shame.

Plane or Train?

Train. Any day of the week. But there's only so many routes you can do.

Carry-on or Check-in?

Carry-on whenever possible

On a Long Haul - Book, Movie, or Sleep?

All three. I love reading on planes and I love sleeping on planes and I will definitely watch a film or two.  I save the really trashy stuff for watching on a plane.

Booze or Water?

If it’s a long haul, both. Short-haul,  just water.

In-flight meal or starve?

Eat.  Probably out of boredom. I mean what else are you going to do?  Options are limited.

In-flight Wi -Fi or Disconnect?

Disconnect. One of the great joys of flying, no one can get a hold of you and you don't have to deal with any emails, questions.

Packing Tips?

Roll everything up tightly and wear as much as you can on body. Also my secret shame is socks and sandals on the plane. If you're going somewhere hot…you arrive…socks come off…you're in holiday mode. Straight into it.