Noel Gallagher - Daily Telegraph - 8th February 2007
In his only pre-Brits interview, Noel Gallagher of Oasis is as acerbic as ever about his pop rivals. He talks to Neil McCormick about fame, money, changing the face of pop – and his troublesome little brother
Noel Gallagher has four Brit awards, although he doesn't know where any of them are. "I'm usually in such a euphoric state after picking up an award that I give them to the most random people – the waiter coming up with a quail egg, 'Here y'are, you have that.' "
At the 2007 Brits next Wednesday, Oasis will pick up the Outstanding Achievement award. In his only interview ahead of the ceremony, however, the outspoken band leader does not prove a great ambassador for the cause.
"It's a TV show, innit? It's the big carve-up for the major record companies. I love ceremonies. It can be a colossal night out, but the awards themselves don't really mean anything.
"It's not like you win an Oscar, and you can charge 40 million dollars for your next film. The ticket price won't suddenly be going up at Oasis gigs. Although that's not a bad idea!"
Gallagher's reasons for accepting the award are reliably pragmatic. "They're gonna keep asking every year. So do we get it now, when we're in our thirties or are we gonna wait til we look like one of Pink Floyd?
"With the greatest respect to Duran Duran, Eurythmics, Bob Geldof and the Bee Gees, when they got it, their star had waned considerably. We had two number-one singles last year, we're punching our weight with the young kids, we still look good."
It is amusing to hear Gallagher preface statements with "with the greatest respect" when he shows absolutely none. He remains reliably scathing about old sparring partners such as Radiohead frontman Thom Yorke, whose bleak electro solo album has seen him nominated for Best British Male.
"Thom Yorke sat at a piano singing, 'This is f***ed up' for half an hour. We all know that, Mr Yorke. Who wants to sing the news? No matter how much you sit there twiddling, going, 'We're all doomed', at the end of the day people will always want to hear you play Creep. Get over it."
Even friends and allies come in for the patented Gallagher brand of scorn: "It's the same with U2. Play One, shut the f*** up about Africa."
And as for family matters: "Liam's got really long hair at the moment. Looks like a lunatic, which is about right. He's still a very silly young man. Talks out of his arse 23 hours of the day. It's like a sketch in The Fast Show. You say, 'Hey, Liam, what about putting a choir on that song?' 'Brilliant, yeah, f***ing choir, man. Top.' Then someone will go, 'Choir? That's a bit poncey isn't it?' 'Yeah, no, choirs are s***, mate, f***ing rubbish.' So you can have good fun with Liam in the studio."
With his crinkly-eyed, genial smile and bluff Northern-comic delivery, Noel seems to have the talent for dispensing insults without really causing offence.
Shaped in a boisterous, working-class environment, he is opinionated the way a man might be among friends in the pub. Innately approachable, and not inclined to take himself too seriously, for a rock star of his magnitude, he is almost entirely without airs and graces.
"I like to think I keep it real. Liam keeps it surreal, and somewhere between the two we get on all right."
With their swaggering attitude and monumentally catchy songs, Oasis were a phenomenon in the '90s, dragging British rock music out of the doldrums.
Perhaps unexpectedly, it is the group's cultural impact that Noel cites as his outstanding achievement. "We inspired a lot of kids to buy guitars and get into bands in the first place.
Look at all the bands up for awards at the Brits: Arctic Monkeys, Kooks, Kasabian, I dare say every new band that matters over the past few years has cited Oasis as an influence.
"Before we came along, success was a dirty word. We kind of reinvigorated ambition. As dumb-arse a message as it was, looking back now, it was 'Things are s***, so we might as well celebrate something – let's celebrate being young.'
"There was a euphoria in the music and the way it was delivered, and, as the crowds started to get bigger, it fed off itself until it became less about the band and more about being with all those people, jumping up and down, drunk to the music."
As supportive as he is of young bands (who are rarely subjected to the tongue-lashings reserved for his contemporaries), he is not entirely convinced by the new Britpop dawn.
"I wouldn't say it's a golden period for British music. It's a slightly brown period. There's a lot of good tunes on the radio, but there doesn't seem to be one all-encompassing thing that holds it together.
"The youth have got themselves looking smart, skinny jeans, big hairdos, ties and jackets, which is half the battle. It's let down by the fact that everybody's too eclectic. It's kind of, 'Yeah man, I love Bloc Party and I really do like Jay Z's new album as well, and that Devendra Banhart – genius.' That's the death of cool right there. You can't be a mod and a rocker. You have to choose sides."
For such an intelligent, belligerent rock-and-roller, Gallagher's values are oddly conservative. "I've never been interested in pushing music forward.
"Life is so chaotic in Oasis anyway, I never know who's in the band this week. I don't want to be experimenting as well – 'Let's try this in an urban cybersonic punk style.' No, give us that Marshall stack and that guitar. I know where I am with that, thank you very much."
Which is why Oasis, for all their line-up changes, for all their early promise as the most exciting musical phenomenon since the Beatles, have essentially remained unchanged over the years, adhering to a simple philosophy that boils down to "You can't argue with a good tune."
Instinctively opposed to self-analysis, Gallagher describes songwriting as "a calling" and says: "As I get older, I don't aggressively pursue songs. All the great ones just appear."
He claims not to think much about lyrical meaning, yet recognises recurrent themes – "escape, love and hope". It is only the sheer quality of Gallagher's writing that prevents Oasis sliding into irrelevance, or creatively atrophying in the fashion of Status Quo. Although they have certainly come close.
Despite his acerbic criticisms of all and sundry, Gallagher cheerfully admits to having misplaced his own much-cherished coolness, credibility and creativity "a couple of times".
"The first sign is when the clothes start to go bad. At the end of the '90s – fur coats and f***ing sunglasses. I had a Rolls Royce I couldn't drive. I remember thinking, 'I only signed off four years ago – how have I ended up with one of them?'
"But I'm glad it got like that. We went for it, and pushed it to the point that it could not get any bigger, it couldn't get any more mad, you couldn't get any more fur in this coat if you tried, the shades couldn't be any more mirrored, they're mirrored on the insides.
"Then there was a kind of stepping back and going, 'This is all bull****, I've become a laughing stock' – if only in my own bedroom."
Despite the tensions of his relationship with Liam, he insists Oasis will never break up. "If we weren't related, Oasis would have ended after a couple of records.
But I have always got to put up with Liam. There's always Christmas and kids' birthday parties. And, as bad as it sometimes is being in the band together, I think it would be worse for each of us not working with each other. And I don't know why I say that, because in theory it would be bliss, but I kind of know, deep down, it wouldn't work."
Which is why his long-mooted solo album is is no closer to appearing.
"Somehow I don't really see me at the Borderline playing a mouth organ to 150 people on a Wednesday. Every time I write a song, I envisage them in football stadiums with loads of people going f***ing mental. And that's Oasis."