Whether he was the voice of your generation or the crabby old man that slagged off your favourite band, Noel Gallagher has always found ways to keep himself afloat in public conscience. Twenty years removed from Oasis‘ heyday, he has found latter-day success as the head of a new collective, Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds. The project has released two albums – an eponymous debut in 2011 and this year’s Chasing Yesterday; both of which have found a connection with both those that were Oasis faithful right up to their implosion in 2009 as well as a younger generation discovering Gallagher’s songwriting for the first time.
Next April, Gallagher and co. will arrive in Australia to perform as a part of Byron Bay’s packed Bluesfest alongside fellow in-demand headliners like The National, Brian Wilson, City and Colour, Kendrick Lamar and Jackson Browne. Ahead of that, we got the call from Gallagher’s London office to talk Britpop wars, being a father and missing shoes among many, many other things.
WARNING: This is an uncensored interview, so you can probably imagine what the main word Mr. Gallagher will be using throughout his answers. If you have a small child or you happen to be a small child, please put either it or yourself away. Reader discretion is advised.
Music Feeds: There was an interview conducted with Damon Albarn in Rolling Stone this past October which opened with a question about the Britpop war. It’s fascinating, in a way, that Blur are very much a current band now – touring, making new music – and yet the first words out of the interviewer’s mouth were asking about a time that is so well documented and has been discussed time and time again. Do you feel it’s something that everything has already been said about?
Noel Gallagher: Of course, but it was probably the last seismic moment in music. Think about it: Two bands putting out a single on the same day was national news. It’s never happened since; and music has nosedived into fucking blandness – a sea of cheese.
People want to know whether it was real. People want to know whether it was staged. People always want to relive those days, I suppose. I still get asked about it quite a bit. What did Damon say, out of interest?
MF: He referred to it as “a strange morphing, an interesting prototype time.” He mentioned the tabloid side of things and the celebrity side of things. He also mentions you, actually – he mentions that you still hang out occasionally, and that he “always enjoys” your company…
NG: I was talking to him today, as a matter of fact. We were talking about some such nonsense, which you will probably find out about sooner or later. We still talk when the need arises.
MF: Just to take it back to something you mentioned earlier – the “sea of cheese” and the state of modern music. Practically as long as you’ve been a public figure, it’s been essentially a journalistic trope to try and coax a controversial opinion on some of-the-moment popular band or singer out of you. Do you feel as though you became the go-to guy for that sort of quick story? “You won’t believe what Noel Gallagher has to say about [insert name here]”?
NG: I don’t overthink anything that I do. If I get asked a question on anything, I give a straight answer. It is interesting that no-one ever talks about my love of U2 and Coldplay, but there you go. Lately, the one I’ve been asked about is Adele. If someone wants to know what I think of Adele, I’ll fucking tell them. Not because I have any sort of agenda or because I’m trying to whip up any kind of hysteria. I just don’t see what all the fuss is about. I don’t like her music. I think it’s music for fucking grannies.
The way I was brought up, you’re obliged to give an honest answer if someone asks you an honest question. If you trot out the same bullshit all the time, then you’re one of them. And I’m not one of them. I’m one of us.
MF: Last year, a YouTube user put together a super-cut of your commentary on each of Oasis’ music videos that you did for the Time Flies DVD back in 2010. One can safely assume that your stance on making clips for your songs hasn’t changed in the wake of your solo albums?
NG: On the day that I wake up and get an email telling me I have to get a taxi at 4:45am to a video shoot, I truly wish I was doing anything else with my life. I mean, don’t get the violins out just yet – I am loaded, so it’s probably the least of my troubles. With that said, standing in front of a fucking green screen all fucking day is not what I got into the fucking music business for.
It’s a necessary evil, though, so I try and be as clear with the directors as humanly possible. “Look,” I tell ’em. “You don’t wanna be here. I don’t wanna fucking be here. Let’s make this as fucking easy as possible. Play the track.”
As for the YouTube thing, I didn’t even know that had gone viral on the internet until people kept going on about it to me. I had no idea what they were talking about. I got around to watching the video and I did have a good laugh at it, if I do say so myself. I fucking hate all of Oasis’ videos. I fucking hate them all.
MF: At least the ones that you guys weren’t the central focus were a little better – there was one with Rhys Ifans that was in black and white, from about ten years ago…
NG: …oh yeah! The Importance of Being Idle! I was actually watching that just the other day, actually. I wanted to rehearse that song to play on the next tour, because I haven’t played it in awhile and I couldn’t remember the fucking words. That is a pretty good one, actually. I should get in touch with that director [Dawn Shadforth] and see if she’ll make another one for me.
MF: You might even be able to strike up a deal where you don’t have to be in your next video at all…
NG: If I don’t have to be in a video at all, that’s fucking brilliant. If I absolutely must be in a video, though, I don’t really want to be playing along to the song. That’s just boring. The videos I did for my first album [2011’s Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds] were all directed by this American guy, Mike Bruce. They were shot in the desert, and it was nice and hot, so you were getting a tan while you were working. That’s just great. The ones I’ve been doing for this record [Chasing Yesterday], though, have been fucking awful. Just shit. But there you go.
MF: What do your kids make of all of it? The music and the fame, specifically. They’d be getting to an age where they have a better comprehension of what it is that you do now…
NG: Yeah, I’ve got a 15-year-old girl, an 8-year-old boy and a 5-year-old boy. My daughter’s very much aware of it all. She’s never really asked any questions about it, though. The boys don’t ask questions yet because they’re not allowed on the internet.
Once they’ve got their own mobile devices – or whatever the fuck the term is – I’m sure they’ll be Googling their old man and saying to one another, “Geez, he was a fucking wildman, wasn’t he?” I can just imagine them walking into my office with a confused look on their face: “Dad… what’s ”avin’ it’?” I can’t wait for that. “Sit down,” I’ll say. “Strap yourselves in, ’cause this could get gory…”
MF: That would be a birds-and-bees talk for the ages.
NG: It fucking would! We’ll find out soon enough, I suppose. My kids are pretty fucking cool, as it goes.
MF: You’ve been playing music and have been in the public eye for over 20 years now. Do you feel that you have different motivations behind making music and performing now as to when you were first starting out? Or do you feel it’s more or less the same?
NG: I was never an idealistic young man. I didn’t really want to change the world. I just had a knack for songwriting. When I got a record deal, though, something twigged. I wanted to be the best. Once we became the biggest and the best, the motivation kind of went. I felt like we’d proven ourselves.
With all of that behind me, though, I’ve come to approach music like this: I write all the time. When I write something that I think is good, I record it. Once I’ve got 12 together, I’ve got an album. Once I’ve got the album, I go and play it to the people – and, quite frankly, try and sell them some fucking t-shirts.
Then, I shall count the money when I get home, go on holiday for six months and start the process over. I don’t feel like I have to be the best anymore. Everything I ever wanted to achieve from being in a band, I was able to achieve in about six weeks.
MF: Does that mean you feel as though you’ve got nothing to prove anymore? That the record speaks for itself?
NG: Look at bands like U2 and The Rolling Stones. They’ve been around forever. People always ask, “Why do they do it? They don’t need the fucking money!” They do it because they love doing it. A song that wasn’t written yesterday will be written today – and one day it’ll be sung by some fucker somewhere and thousands of people in a stadium will sing along. That, in itself, is a really special thing.
In light of the things that have gone on in Paris recently, it makes it even more special. These fucking animals are trying to take that shit away from us. They hate musicians. They hate women. They hate music. That’s all I love. It’s even more important to put more music out there in the world – to protest that, to counter that. That’s the way I see it.
MF: Next year, you’ll be back in Australia for the first time in just over four years…
NG: [interrupting] Yes, indeed; and it’s very nice to be invited to a blues festival. Y’know, me, one of the great blues musicians of our time… how on earth I got booked for that is anyone’s guess. I was going back and forth with my booking agent – I was like, “A blues festival? Are they sure?”
MF: At this point, Bluesfest is very much a name that’s not to be taken literally. There’s still certainly blues music on it, but there’s also rock bands, rappers, funk artists, singer-songwriters… think of it like Montreaux Jazz Festival.
NG: Yeah, that’s what the booking agent told me and eventually convinced me of.
MF: It’s obviously not your first rodeo when it comes to touring Australia – tell us about coming out here the first time…
NG: It was with Oasis, of course, and we had a really fucking hard time. Liam had headbutted a fucking journalist. Blah, blah, blah… you probably know the story; and if anyone doesn’t, it’s very easy to find.
The gigs weren’t very good, either; so I feel like I got off on the wrong foot with Australia. Every time since then, though, has been fucking brilliant. I genuinely do look forward to going there. The gigs are always great, and there’s an amazing spirit among the crowd which is very familiar if you’re British or Irish – which I happen to be.
The one thing I love about touring down there, though, is the local news. I find it like Monty Python – it’s not even real! It’s like a comedy sketch to me! This one thing happened the last time I was down there… what was the name of the Prime Minister you had? The woman?
MF: Julia Gillard.
NG: Right, right… anyway, she had been hustled into the back of this car by her bodyguards after she’d been mobbed by the press or something… and she’d lost one of her shoes! Someone ran off with it! The next day, they were talking about the search for the Prime Minister’s shoe! This was on the news!
I was like, “Is this fucking real? Are Monty Python writing this shit?” [puts on Australian accent] “We’re now crossing live to where the shoe has been found…” These people take it so seriously! Is this entire nation on acid?
MF: It certainly feels like that a lot of the time.
NG: It’s bonkers, man. I do love coming down there, though. There are those reasons, as I mentioned, as well as one other thing: The confectionery! The sweet shops are amazing! The Violet Crumble, Tim Tams, Cherry Ripe… keep them all in the mini-bar fridge backstage. That’s good gear, that is. We fucking study this shit – it’s all about the chocolate!
Bluesfest goes down at the end of March 2016, get the full lineup and ticket details here. Noel Gallagher has also announced a 2016 Australian headline tour with his band the High Flying Birds. Catch those dates below.
Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds 2016 Australian Tour
Telstra Thanks pre-sale begins 12pm Friday, 4th December, closes 5pm Sunday, 6th December
Tickets on sale to general public 10am Wednesday, 9th December
Saturday, 26th March 2016
Hordern Pavilion, Sydney
Tickets: Live Nation
Tuesday, 29th March 2016
Margaret Court Arena, Melbourne
Tickets: Live Nation
Wednesday, 30th March 2016
AEC Theatre, Adelaide
Tickets: Live Nation
Friday, 1st April 2016
Crown Theatre, Perth
Tickets: Live Nation