For our ‘dunhill Profiles’ series we sat down with Paul Noble, the founder and Creative Director of Spiritland – a listening bar in King’s Cross aimed at connoisseurs of high fidelity music. This iconic London destination was first established to embrace the energy and DJ culture of the city at that time.
WHAT INSPIRED YOU TO OPEN A VINYL LISTENING BAR IN LONDON? CAN YOU SHARE THE STORY BEHIND THE IDEA?
This journey began with a series of trips to Japan about a decade ago, where listening bars are common, not just in the big cities but in smaller towns. The reverence and appreciation for music was a revelation and led me to wonder what a London version would look like. In Japan, these spaces tend to be separated by genre, but the idea was to create something musically broader with the same care and attention that embraced London’s energy and DJ culture. We started as a pop-up at Angela Hartnett’s restaurant in Shoreditch and then opened our dedicated space in King’s Cross in 2016.
HOW HAS YOUR PERSONAL EXPERIENCE OF BRITISHNESS INFLUENCED THE CONCEPT AND ATMOSPHERE OF THE BAR?
I’m born and raised in London in a musical family – we could hear the strains of shows blowing in from Wembley Stadium. So Bowie, Queen, Elton John and Wham! are all in my lifeblood. I grew up immersed in London’s world of hip hop, rare groove, go-go, jazz-funk and acid house, and Spiritland has always reflected that too – we go from the most iconic mainstream artists to the most obscure and esoteric ones. My creative partner Sophie Uddin is much more of an Indie kid than me, so there’s always a lot of guitars in the mix.
LONDON EXUDES A RICH HISTORY OF ARTISTIC BRILLIANCE. IN WHAT WAYS DOES YOUR BAR PAY HOMAGE TO THIS LEGACY?
We let the music do the talking. You won’t find any framed records, guitars on the wall or musical ephemera in our venues – we just have the equipment to reproduce the music at the highest quality, and a bar and kitchen where the food and drinks are made. There’s a bold interior element to what we do, and we have a design DNA which has evolved over time in our various spaces. From the start we wanted to create a musical paradise of credibility and distinction – that happens through our activity and doesn’t need signposting with artwork.
CAN YOU SHARE SOME MEMORABLE EXPERIENCES OR EVENTS THAT HAVE TAKEN PLACE IN THE BAR, HIGHLIGHTING ITS CONNECTION TO BRITISH CULTURE AND THE LONDON SCENE?
We host talks where creatives come in to discuss their musical passions. We got off to a good start with our first event with Nick Hornby in conversation with Bill Nighy, who has as refined a taste in music as you might imagine. Since then, we have had talks with key British creative forces: Dennis Bovell MBE, Norman Jay MBE, Irvine Welsh, The Art of Noise, Madness and Tom Dixon, who’s obviously famed for his work in the design world but started out as a bassist in a Brit-funk band.
We feel like London is missing a small discotheque and are currently working on a dedicated nightclub space in 2024 where we can go deep into the dancefloor side of Spiritland with our residents and guests.
LUXURY MEANS DIFFERENT THINGS TO DIFFERENT PEOPLE. HOW DO YOU DEFINE LUXURY IN THE CONTEXT OF YOUR LISTENING BAR, AND HOW IS IT REFLECTED IN YOUR OFFERINGS?
Luxury is an interesting one to talk about in terms of what we do. It’s not about the interiors or the drinks. The listening experience has become so devalued in the modern area – to give an album the same level of engagement as you would a book or a film is a rarity now, so to me, it feels like time spent just listening to an album is truly a luxurious moment.
LONDON IS A MELTING POT OF CULTURES. HOW DO YOU INCORPORATE DIVERSE ELEMENTS INTO THE BAR’S AMBIENCE AND MUSIC COLLECTION?
Our music policy is as broad as it is deep. You could come into ours on a night where we’re playing classic rock, AOR and jazz, or you could come in on a night of experimental pop or current electronica and it feels like the most cutting-edge place in London. I’m happy that no one feels excluded from our venues.
Paul was shot at Spiritland wearing selected pieces from our latest collection by photographer Jacob Lillis.
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