The Sounds Of A Champ
Noah Francis is a modern day Renaissance man. The 34-year-old is a Welch Amateur Middleweight Boxing Champion, a World Freestyle Dance Champ, an evolving student of mixed martial arts, and the next musical star who is about to invade everybody’s cool pair of Skull candy designer headphones. The singer, who looks like Vin Diesel’s stunt double, is on the verge of releasing his debut album, Five Decades Below, which features a quintessential styles clash of electronica, pop, modern rock, and hip-hop sounds.
Francis has taken the same type of discipline, energy, and passion that he has learned from fighting and has applied it inside the recording studio. “It’s exciting. Just lots and lots going on,” he says. “I use the same kind of focus for my boxing and MMA as I do for my music. Alot of focus has gone into this album.”
Though Francis currently resides in London, England, he grew up in the rough surroundings of Tiger Bay in South Wales. Since brawls occurred quite frequently in the area, Francis’ father sent the eight-year-old aspiring singer and his siblings to a local gym to become versed in the Sweet Science.
“My dad sent me and my two brothers to a boxing gym to learn how to defend ourselves initially, but it became a part of us because we were so young,” he explains. “When we’d get into a fight, you’d know from a guy’s stance if he can fight. You try to look around and talk him down, but if it gets into a ridiculous situation or whatever, you got to fight him.”
The more Francis trained, the more he recognized just how much potential he possessed in his fists. In fact, he had sharpened his skills so nicely, that he had beaten everybody in the gym. That’s when he decided to compete on an amateur level. Although he lost his first two amateur contests, Francis bounced back to win his next 38 matches and took home the Welch Amateur Middleweight Boxing Championship in the process. At the time, he was 17 years old. In his next fight, he defeated the British Amateur Middleweight Champion and earned the opportunity to turn pro, which he declined. Francis’ eye was on something else—break dancing, something he discovered while out on a morning jog.
“I was running eight miles a day, every day, and traveled to all the relevant spots where people would be dancing, and I copied the moves I loved from each individual,” he says. “I’d interpret that into my own moves, and fighting is the same thing. People train you and you interpret moves. It’s individuality, which we all have.” Five years later, Francis would win the World Freestyle Dance Championship and more female attention than ever before.
But amidst those fine accomplishments, Francis wanted to follow in his father’s footsteps and become a recording artist. In 1993, right around the pinnacle of his boxing career, he was a member of the jazz-funk outfit Whisper Zone. Five years later, after he became a dance champ, the Welch juggernaut broke away from that group and released a solo acoustic EP with Sony.
Francis returned to his band roots in 2000 when he fronted Ellis. Former Bush drummer Robin Goodridge joined the group in 2002, and despite touring with major artists like Lenny Kravitz, Puddle Of Mudd, Slayer, and Ted Nugent, the hard rock machine never released an official studio album. Unsatisfied with the band’s direction anyway, Francis parted ways with Ellis and now has reemerged as a solo artist to perform the type of music that made his heart dance. In the process, he launched his own record label, Last 10 (a reference to a fighter going for broke in the last ten seconds of a fight), and he is prepping the release of his official debut album, Five Decades Below.
Throughout the full-length offering, Francis, who pulls his vocal influence from the likes of Marvin Gaye and Bob Dylan, mixes elements of electronica, pop, modern rock, and hip-hop to create a hybrid that has plenty of crossover appeal. Songs like “Taught Me How To Lose” featuring industrial rockers Killing Joke, “Trick Baby” featuring the lyrical Royce Da 5’9”, and the single “Immortal” featuring Prodigal Son personify this tasteful styles clash.
For Francis, Five Decades Below isn’t a vehicle for him to become rich and famous. The Welch singer just wants the music, and not his fists, to strike listeners. “It touches people on a real level, and that’s what I want everybody to take away from it. It’s for real,” he says. “I mean exactly what I say, and this album is the truth. This is an album that comes from love and experience, and really, it’s not about anything other than the music.”
Then again, music is just one of the many activities that defines Francis’ character. Armed with a decorated background in boxing, and having spent the past 10 years learning an assortment of martial arts, including aikido, jiu-jitsu, karate, and kung fu, his next step might be inside the cage. “There is a chance of that,” he admits. “But first, I’m gonna do this thing with the music because this is something that has been a massive part of my life. Once that’s done, I can look at other options and go on to the next. There are a couple of things I wanna do before I get put in the box.”