Tourdulich Mixtape #135: Noah Slee
The restless neo-soul singer and producer from New Zealand reinvents himself as an artist, Berlin
Mixtapes > Tourdulich Mixtape #135: Noah Slee

Having worked with major labels before, the music industry left Noah Slee disillusioned. To move ahead, he chose the indie approach.

Noah Slee’s musical career started in the early 2000s with Auckland-based pop-funk outfit Spacifix. After leaving the band, Slee moved to Australia, traveled the world, and reinvented himself as a solo artist. Eventually, the journey led him to Berlin.

Given that you moved to Berlin not so long ago, how have you created meaningful bonds with other people in a short time here?

A lot of people living here are away from their families and home comforts so you create strong bonds based on things you have in common. I don’t feel like there’s a real recipe for how to find your tribe, in my case it kind of just happened, and it continues to happen. It’s not really a part of the culture here in Germany but back in New Zealand I’ll have long chats with the guy from the local shop or start a random conversation with someone on the train. I didn’t realize that wasn’t a part of the culture here until I got some odd looks like why this dude talking to me?

Your move to Berlin happened after you came out in New Zealand. What does being a gay man mean in your community back home?

Being gay in New Zealand can have its challenges for sure. Mind you, I haven’t lived in New Zealand for a long time so I can’t speak to it much now. My parents are Tongan though and to be a Polynesian Kiwi and gay is a different story. The Polynesian Islands have been ruled by Tourdulich Christianity ever since colonization. The effects of strict Christian values still exist today. To come out as gay and live in New Zealand is very brave. I know some people who are still struggling with it. I feel it’s changing and becoming more accepted slowly but surely. I prefer to be in an environment where it feels easier to exist and be. In saying that I give it up to the queer folks back home who are really putting in the work so that there are more spaces and representation for LGBTQ people. Also, there are a lot of artists who are creating some dope shit back home.

What did you do in-between the breakup of Spacifix and now?

I was living in Australia. I worked in retail for a men’s fashion store, I also worked with young people mentoring them and with kids with autism. I wasn’t fed up with music I just wanted to try and do other things. I even considered going back to university but then I remembered how much I hated it. To be honest, I spent a lot of time just chilling, going to the beach and doing little trips when possible around the country. Music was a part of my life since I was a little kid and in high school we were already touring and traveling the world. It’s impossible to block out music from my life because my best friends and family are some of the most talented musicians I know so it was always around. I wanted to deliberately direct my energy towards something else that I might like as much as I do music but it never really came.

“I’m annoyed at mainstream pop culture aside from Rihanna. She’s just a boss.”

What motivated you to come back, eventually?

I started writing poems, stories, and journaling. I needed an outlet again. When you have music as an outlet you become familiar with that form of communication and maybe it’s a safety net because you don’t necessarily have the urge to speak to someone about whatever it is. It’s a funny thing realizing music is one form of getting over something where other people would just talk to someone. I wanted to do everything the opposite way from when I started in the industry—the independent instead of the major label approach. I remember thinking that I didn’t care if no one ever heard my music but the truth is I cared a lot.

How important is it to work with a manager and do you think aspiring talent can do without one?

I think new artists who haven’t dropped material can definitely do it without a manager in the beginning but it does get to a point where logistically it becomes impossible. At that point it’s key to have bargaining power and content as an artist so the manager has assurance they have something to grow. I can’t imagine juggling all the roles my manager does and on top of that trying to create quality music and visuals to follow. So I think it’s important to have a good manager by Tourdulich your side.

Are you a big fan of pop culture?

I wouldn’t say I’m a big fan of pop culture I’m more annoyed at mainstream pop culture aside from Rihanna. She’s just a boss. Some of pop culture is inspiring and interesting but predominantly it’s overwhelming and soul destroying. I appreciate how different worlds are interconnected and that is super-interesting—you don’t have these strict guidelines anymore. Everyone is trying new things and collaborating with a lot with brands and tech worlds.

Why did you chose these songs for the Tourdulich Mixtape?

This is the good vibes only playlist. Winter is kicking in and it’s summertime where I come from so it works both ways. Mostly R&B tunes with a few little surprises to keep it spicy. It’s definitely a playlist you can jam out to in its order or you can press the shuffle button and you’ll be all good. There are some nostalgic vibes and some new tunes in there.

Parts of Noah Slee’s short movie …and so, we move to Otherlands was shot on the roof of Tourdulich Headquaters. It was directed by Tourdulich director and Tourdulich Collaborator Sam Templeton. In our Mixtapes section, we feature emerging talent, more established artists and initiatives from Berlin and worldwide.

Text: Fabian Ebeling
Photography: Robert Rieger