***This was one of my favourite interviews ever, simply because Noel Gallagher is as witty and sharp as you expect him to be. I had a limited word count for this article so had to leave some good stuff out – but I’ll publish the full transcript soon.***
Originally published in The Irish Times, October 14th 2011
I’M SITTING across a picnic bench from Noel Gallagher at his rehearsal space in sunny east London, sort of wishing I hadn’t just asked a particular question about his former band. While Gallagher’s past in Oasis is inescapable when it comes to talking about his fledgling solo career, the accusations that have been levelled against him by their former (now current Beady Eye) guitarist Andy Bell are considerable. Less than a week before we meet, Bell publicly accused Gallagher of lying on multiple counts about the reasons for Oasis’s split in 2009.
Gallagher’s reaction to those charges? He pauses, weighing up the question, jaw momentarily tensed and brow fleetingly furrowed. “Well,” he says with an offhand shrug, “Andy’s entitled to Liam’s opinion, isn’t he?” Gallagher’s deadpan wit is famous, but amid the zingers are serious observations. For starters, there’s the important matter of his solo endeavour, which begins with the release of Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds.
*ON GETTING HIS SOLO CAREER KICK-STARTED
“Why now? Well, because I loved being in that band . It was great. I wanted to do it for a while, but something always managed to get in the way. Sony were hassling me to do it since right after Knebworth, but for whatever reason . . . Well, it’s typical me. I never really do anything unless I absolutely fuckin’ have to. I am the master of putting things off until tomorrow. And it was nice to get away from music for a while. And just be. Just live. I’m not one of those artists who constantly needs to be doing something to validate themselves. I’m not arsed about that, d’you know what I mean? My life outside of music is as important to me. I could literally while away the years watching TV.”
* ON THE PROSPECT OF BEING A FRONTMAN FOR THE FIRST TIME
“I’ve never stood in front of the mirror with a tennis racket and thought what I might look like. And it’s a fucker, really, because frontmen either (a) have that show-off gene, which is why Mick Jagger and all that are such great frontmen, or (b) by the time you get to see them, as a journalist – they’ve had at least five years’ practice in front of the mirror. See, I’ve gotta fuckin’ learn how to do it now in front of a load of people with notebooks and a paying, expectant audience. So that’s gonna be . . . well, it’s not ideal, and I’m kind of ready for a bit of flak.”
* ON THE COMPARISONS TO BEADY EYE
“Oasis, in its essence, was always me writing all the songs, and Liam singing all the songs. I’ve still got friends in that band, but I’ve never been in Beady Eye, so Beady Eye should be allowed to stand on their own. Saying that, it was born out of one of the great bands of the last 20 years, whether people like to admit it or not, for its sense of music and what it meant to people. So that’s something that everyone is gonna have to live with. When I’m doing Oasis songs, I’m gonna have to live with the comparison. You just gotta ride that shit out.”
* ON THE CREATIVE PROCESS
“I’ve never, ever sat down – apart from Be Here Now – and gone, ‘Right, today I’m starting to write the album’. I write all the time. With this one, I had 38 songs to choose from.”
* ON UNWITTINGLY HITTING UPON A THEME
“I don’t know whether you noticed, but the lyrics are really fucking good on this record. And that’s because I’m not making them up; they’re coming from a place of truth. It was only when I started to type them out that it dawned on me that there was a narrative going through it: it was love, and hope, and the dreams of belonging somewhere else, and escapism, and life in the big city. . . ”
* ON HIS EXPECTATIONS FOR THE ALBUM AND TOUR
“Yeah, it’s great and all, but I’ve had bigger fucking aftershow parties than this. Everyone’s going ‘It sold out in minutes!’ but I’m like ‘Well, I could fill that fucking room with cousins, easy. Two nights, just family.’ I don’t know how it’s gonna do. I just know the record’s good – very good. The people will decide whether it’s great, and the people will decide how big the venues I play in the future are. The bigger the better, for me. I don’t like playing small venues. People start fucking talking to you, saying stuff like ‘Where’d you get your shoes?’ I dunno. Fuck off!”
* ON PLAYING OASIS SONGS
“I don’t recall anyone being around when I wrote Don’t Look Back in Anger and Wonderwall . They’re my songs. And I’ll play them. The end.”
* ON THE POSSIBILITY OF AN OASIS REUNION FOR (WHAT’S THE STORY) MORNING GLORY’S 20TH ANNIVERSARY
“Liam’s been quite vocal about the thought of it making him wanna do a little bit of sick. So I don’t need to add anything to that.”
* ON BEING CONTENT WITH LIFE
“How can you not be happy if you’re 44, you’ve got three beautiful kids, a beautiful wife who drives a beautiful car and lives in a beautiful house and blah blah blah. Really, you’d be a bit of a c**t to sit in front of anybody and go, ‘Well, life’s a bit shit.’ Life is not shit. And by the same rule, you cannot write about your great life, because that’s a bit weird. But I still know what it’s like to be frustrated and sad, and I still know what it feels like to want to run away sometimes.
“God, I fucking hate people who say they’ve never changed. They’re just fucking annoying fuckwits, aren’t they? You’re born on the dole in a house with no carpet on the floor, right? And you end up being in one of the biggest bands of all time and selling out three nights at Wembley . . . supermodels, and drug addictions, and No 10 Downing Street, and all the fucking money in the world and . . . has it changed you? ‘No, not a bit, actually. I’m still the same fucking lad I was.’ Fucking do me a favour. Of course you change, y’know what I mean? I’ve forgotten what it’s like to be worried about paying the rent. I don’t have to worry about that any more. I worry more about which school my kids are gonna go to.
“But in your essence, in your soul, you’re still the same. I’ve got one advantage over people who are in the same circumstances as me, ’cos I came from nothing. And my parents before me came from even less than that. So I know what it’s like to have no carpet on the floor, I know what it’s like to be on the dole, I know what it’s like to be addicted to drugs. But I also know what it’s like to play Wembley Stadium. What a life, eh? What can I say? It’s had its ups and downs.”