Interview with Durban Musician Noel Johnson

Noel Johnson

Noel Johnson plays cover music in and around Durban. He is a DJ and used to be a Radio host as well. This multi-talented artist runs Quiz nights at some local Pubs in Durban such as Woodcutters in Westville and Pintos in Hillcrest bringing a bit of fun to the middle of the week. I have collaborated with Noel on a couple of things. We have been invited to the same events and launches and I have enjoyed getting to know him. We asked him a few questions to see what he is all about. I love that he is who he is. He is real and honest.

1. How did you get into music and radio?

I always had a passion for radio and that was what I wanted to do. I didn’t pursue radio immediately after school as I went and studied hospitality.  Having the feeling that there was something missing in my life, I realized that it was because I wasn’t following my passion.

Taking the plunge

One morning at about 2 am, I decided to take the plunge. I called the 94.7 studio and there was absolutely no reason why Kenny Maistry should answer the phone, but He did. I told Him that I was passionate about radio and asked him what I should do to get into it. He told me to record a demo and send it to a community station. In true Noel style. I pulled out my portable cassette radio, hit record and put together a demo whilst having no idea what I was doing. The next morning, I took it to 92.9 Horizon Stereo, walked into the reception, which was empty, left it on the desk and left.

Given a chance

A little later that afternoon, the station manager called me and went on to tell me that it was the worst demo that He had ever heard, but that He was willing to meet me and start me on a training schedule. I arrived for the training session on Saturday morning and the Presenter that I was supposed to shadow had not come to work for some reason. The station manager pointed me to the studio and said, “You are on air, have fun”, so I did my 1st show on the radio without a second of training. After that, they apparently saw something in me and the rest was history. I was a radio presenter living my dream.

Living the dream

Music was a different story. I never had ambitions to perform, but I loved writing and writing some songs. I quickly realized that nobody was going to sing my songs and that I would have to perform them myself if I wanted to get my music heard. That is how that all began. Since then, I have released a few songs on my own and collaborated with other writers on other songs. Now, I can’t imagine not performing.

2. When did you start RTLSA and what type of content will listeners discover?

RTL started by accident. At the beginning of the lockdown, someone posted on social media looking for someone who could do a radio-style show online to entertain people at home during the heavy lockdown. I jumped all over that because I wanted to keep myself relevant so that when we got out of lockdown, I wouldn’t be forgotten. Little did we know that it would be 18 months before we musicians could get back to work, so RTL became more and more established as time went on.

I created RTL to have a familiar feel, similar to any adult contemporary station that we listen to on an FM platform, but without corporate restrictions on music and content. I also wanted it to be a visual platform, so aside from the music, all the current affairs and features would be driven visually.

4. What is the biggest challenge you have had in your life and how did your deal with it?

There have been many challenges in my life from growing up in a small town wanting a big career to lack of support and infrastructure whilst pursuing this dream of mine. But I think that the biggest challenge that I have had to deal with was my divorce and getting my life back on track whilst picking up the pieces It was a process that took years and in some ways still has an impact on my life.

5. What is your next project?

Following on from the previous question, I started writing a book about a year after my divorce that focuses on how men reintegrate into society after a divorce. The book is called “A Guide To Becoming A Bachelor…Again”

The idea was born one day after buying cheap dishwashing liquid and realizing that it was not the best decision that I had ever made. I started thinking that there should be some literature that helps men through this process. After doing tedious research online, I realized that there was not much guidance for men who are going through this, so I set out to solve that problem.

The book has grown from just a “how-to” book to more of a biographical take on this process with a lot of input from psychologists, life coaches and counsellors who have selflessly given me tons of their time and insights.

6. Three of your favourite people who have inspired you

From a radio perspective, the likes of Gareth Cliff. I had the opportunity to watch Him work when we were both at the SABC. His work ethic was incredible and the way He disseminated and presented content was what taught me to work and spin content the way I do. Another radio person that had a massive impact on me was O’Neil Nair who taught me most of what I know about radio presentation.

Musically, I was inspired by great songwriters like Jim Steinman, Chad Kroeger, Jon Bon Jovi, Bono, Pink and many others, additionally from a life perspective, so many, but one man who stands out for me is Louie Carrillo who was a speaker who through his life story tells of how bad decisions led to adversity and how through taking responsibility, humility and hard work, this adversity was transcended.

7. This or that

Beach or Berg?

Berg. A nice wooden cabin with a fireplace and a good red wine shared with some excellent company is the dream.

All Male band or all-female band?

Don’t mind as long as the music is good. Of course, all females will be way more visually appealing to me.

Pizza or burger?

Pizza. No pineapple

Stay in SA or leave SA?

Stay in SA… Definitely

IPhone or Android?

What is an I-phone?

Read a book or Netflix and chill?

There is a time and place for both, but I would say Netflix and chill are winning the race in recent times.

Vodka or tequila?

Tequila, the attitude adjustment and problem solver

8. What advice would you give someone wanting to go into the entertainment industry?

Don’t do it… lol.

No, my advice would be;

1Know yourself

2. Understand your product

3. Respect your piers

4. Hustle

5. Negotiate

6. But most importantly, enjoy it

9. What has been your favourite interview since doing radio?

There have been many. Claire Johnstone, Ard Mathews, Kahn Morbee (Parlotones), Jacob Zuma, Bekhi Cele, Ross Learmoth (Prime Circle), RABBITT, Eddie Kramer and Cindy Alter are some highlights. I think that one of the best though was the international band Bowling For Soup. It was supposed to be a 10-minute interview that turned out to be 2 and a half hours. Vulnerability and honesty that went beyond the music and got into the characters of international superstars. At the end of the interview and on camera, Jaret Reddick, the lead singer,  said that this was the best interview ever. That was a special moment.

Noel Johnson

10. Where can we find Noel Johnson online?



So look out for Noel Johnson at a local pub near you or book him for your corporate event.

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