Noel Gallagher - Q - July 1995
Oasis have been keeping up a Dylanesque, seemingly endless, touring schedule for well over a year now. From their first appearances in the dank venues of the provinces in Spring '93, through months of ever-bigger sell-outs, culminating in a triumphant Sheffield Arena show, it seems Oasis have always been on a UK tour. Yet they've still managed extensive invasions of Europe and America.
Now they're giving it a rest, holed up in a residential studio, the location of which they're keen to hide after tabloid snooping in the wake of their becoming a "proper group" with Some Might Say's in-with-a-bullet stint at Number 1. They're recording the second album, working title Morning Glory, in through-the-night chunks. They're also breaking in new drummer Alan White (brother of Steve, long-serving larruper of the Ludwigs for Paul Weller), after a Paris bust-up with Tony McCarroll.
Unsurprisingly then, guitarist and songwriter Noel Gallagher is his confident Mancunian self. The sessions for the record, he says, have been alarmingly productive. In three nights, they've 4 recorded three new songs: one a "typical up and at 'em rock'n'roll tune", another he likens to Gary Glitter ("beyond glam'') and one that's like Portishead or Tortoisehead, as the band have rechristened the Bristol trip-hoppers.
Gallagher seems relaxed about his group's remarkably smooth and swift passage to the world of success ("But it is a phenomenon, yeah") as he settles in to talk about life on the road, both with Oasis and in his previous incarnation as a roadie for Inspiral Carpets.
In just over a year, you've gone from playing the Splash Club in King's Cross in front of 300 people to Sheffield Arena and 12,000 adoring souls. A bit dizzying?
Um. Well, no, because you've got to remember there was all the stuff in between. But I suppose if we'd have gone from the Splash Club and then released a single and then played to 12,000 people a month later, we'd have been shitting it a bit. But I mean we did have a lot of hit records along the way and a fucking enormous album, so it was just a progression. It did make me feel a bit dizzy. About midway through the third song at Sheffield, I thought, What the fucking hell am I doing here? I started getting pretty emotional and all.
When we were doing the album tour, the day we played in Sheffield, at the Octagon, the promoter took us over to see the Arena with the idea of maybe playing it. We walked into this massive room, and we said, Are we playing the little room or something? He said, No, this is it. It was like, You'll never sell this out, mate! And he said he'd sell it out in two weeks, and he did.
Is it a don't-look-down situation?
Yeah. (Laughs) As long as we're not back at the Splash Club in front of 300 people next year, then we'll be all right.
Unlike almost every other band, you've never had to suffer the three-men-and-a- dog syndrome. People have always kicked down doors to see you.
Well, that's not quite true. There was the famous gig at the Duchess of York in Leeds where no-one turned up at all. Not even one person. So we've actually played to less than three men and a dog, and there's not many bands who can say that. But it was great. We did an encore and everything.
What was the first live music you saw?
Probably down the youth club or something, I would imagine. You know, when the local football team wins the local newspaper's fucking challenge cup or something, and they've got a band on at the on at the do. Probably something like that. The first time I saw a real band was The Damned at Manchester, l Apollo in 1980. All I can remember was how fucking loud it was, how high the stage was and these weird people who were there. I was only 13 at the time. I wasn't down the front, I've never been able to get to the front of a gig in my life. Too much going and all that. I'm a lazy cunt.
I used to go out every single night to gigs. I still do actually, if there's a gig on when I'm sitting round London. Any gig will do me. I just love going to see bands.
Even the rotten ones?
Oh yeah. I can't just sit in a pub because I get bored after two minutes I'd rather pay two or three quid to see a band I've never heard before than just go and sit in a pub and have to make conversation with someone. I'm not great at making conversation. I just sit there and go, Hmmm.
Classic gigs you've attended?
The Smiths at the Free Trade Hall in about 1984 that was a top gig. I was a big fan and I had the records, but I didn't know much about them really. When we got there, the whole place was covered in flowers, and I thought, Fucking hell, that's pretty weird. Plus it was the first gig I'd been to where there was loads of girls and straight away I thought, I like this band. I said to all my mates, you've got to see this band The Smiths - even if you think they're shit, there's loads of fanny.
I have to say Paul Weller at Glastonbury was really good. That was the best time I've ever seen him play. I've seen him at smaller gigs and he's not really managed to keep my interest over the two and a half hours. But at Glastonbury, he played an hour, and it was a lot more dynamic.
One of the best gigs I've seen was the anti-Sellafield gig at the G-Mex with U2, Kraftwerk and Public Enemy. I'd never seen U2 before, but that night convinced me that they were probably the greatest band in the world. People slag them off, but if all these so-called cool and credible indie bands had the chance to play seven nights in a row at Wembley, then they fucking would. Bono might be a bit of a knob, but I can name 3) knobs in those bands alone. They slag them off because they're big, but surely you start a band off to be big. If you're going to slag U2 off for being big, then shouldn't everybody hate The Beatles? Bono lost the plot a bit when he though he was The Pope, though.
You roadied for Inspiral Carpets for four years. Do you look back on those days fondly?
It's funny, yesterday we were in the studio and everybody was really busy and someone said, oh, can you move your amp out of this room into a corridor, and I said I'd do it. Everyone started laughing and saying, oh the roadie in you isn't left yet. But I picked my amp up and I couldn't even lift the cunt off the floor. It was like, I used to do this for a living? But looking back on my roadie days, I think there was more pressure on me then at a gig than there is now because it used to be down to me to fix everything if it went wrong. Now if anything goes wrong, it's me looking at someone else going, Come on! I saw a lot of the world during that time. I went to America countless times; Japan, Europe, and South America. Even Russia. I was bored by the lifestyle before I even started this.
It's always down to the roadie to stash the drugs when you cross borders. Were you skillful at that?
Here's a secret. The band never knew this, right, but we used to stash the drugs on them. We're going across borders and someone official would. Come on to check the bus, then afterwards one of the band would say, Where did you hide the drugs? We'd just put our hands underneath his pillow and say, Just there. I think that's why we got the sack in the end. But most of my roadie mates from that time are working for us now. So they're stashing drugs under your pillow now. Yeah. Probably sticking them in my bunk.
Have you suffered at all from the cold, rubbery, fingers of Her Majesty's Customs?
Me and my partner in crime, Mark Coyle, who was The Inspirals' monitor engineer, got nicked in Manchester Airport. We got a later flight back from Amsterdam and unbeknown to us, some of the people who got the first plane had been nicked because they had some draw. So they went through the list of all the people in the party and found out there was two left. Next day we're waltzing into the airport, stoned as a pair of runts and they said, Can you just come over here, please? We didn't have anything, but they strip-searched us and all that shit, which was pretty horrible. Not quite finger- up-the-arse, just a quick look.
What do you remember about the very first Oasis gig?
At the Boardwalk in Manchester, October 19, 1991. I can remember the date, I'm a sad bastard. We've been going for years, us. I can remember we asked loads of our mates to come who didn't want to pay when they got there, so there was a big scene at the door with people saying, I'm not fucking paying three quid to see you lot. Of course, these are all the people now who say they supported us in the beginning. There was about 20 people there and we did four songs - Columbia, a song called Take Me that Liam and Bonehead had wrote that I still wish to this day they would record and they won't, an acoustic song that was imaginatively titled Acoustic Song, and a cover of a house tune that I can't remember the name of and went on for about 20 minutes. That was it.
The story about your early Glasgow gig where you first threatened to burn down the club if the promoter didn't let you play, and then Alan McGee of Creation Records jumped onstage offering you a record deal -- a smidgen of fabrication perchance?
He didn't actually jump up on the stage because he'd have got a fucking boot in the face. If anyone jumps on one of our stages, that's how it goes. He was waiting by the side of the stage and he grabbed us as we came off. He didn't jump on the stage and we didn't threaten to burn the club down. We just pointed out to the owner of the club that if he didn't let us play there were 15 of us and three of them. So he did a quick mathematical assumption that it was probably in his best interests to let us play.
Your tours haven't been without incident. You nearly caused a riot at a Newcastle show last year.
Usually, if there 's going to be any trouble, you can sort of see it coming. The previous tour there'd been minor scuffles in the audience or there'd be people throwing things onstage or getting onstage and it would all go off. But this was the first night of the second tour, in Newcastle, and the atmosphere was really good and we thought maybe all that shit was over. By the fourth song, in the guitar break of Bring It on Down. I looked up and there was this guy stood right in front of me and he fucking smacked me right in the eye. I just took me guitar off and belted him across the head with it, and then he got dragged into crowd. Me and our kid, like a pair of idiots, jumped straight in and it all went off, fucking proper. Later in the dressing room, I noticed I was covered in blood. He nearly took my eye out with a sovereign ring he was wearing. Afterwards we had to drive the van up this alley round the back of the place, and so we all lay on the floor and the crowd waiting for us bricked the van and smashed it to bits.
There was also a hairy scene in Glasgow Barrowlands when Liam walked off the stage in the middle of the gig.
That was scary. We'd been up all night, like you tend to do, and midway through the third song, his voice was going. To be honest, he couldn't be arsed singing because he was a knackered. He walked off and I finished the song and grabbed him and he said, Fuck it, I'm getting off. So I said, Listen man, if there's one fucking gig in the whole of the world you've got to do once you've started, it's Barrowlands. There's 200 screaming Jocks out there who'll fucking kill us. So I went back out and did an hour with an acoustic guitar. There were reports in the paper saying that people were booing and walking out, but they weren't. Apparently, there was some bloke at the gig tripping and he thought that the band had split up, and so he set himself on fire with lighter fluid. There was all sorts of shit going on that night. It was going off outside the gig afterwards and the riot police turned up. It was mad.
Are mid-gig scuffles between Liam and yourself common?
(Defiant) Yeah, sort of. He just starts to ask me questions during the gig. Like in Sheffield, the floor was split into two by this barrier, all these people squashed towards the front, and a big gap, and then all these people behind the barrier at the back. So in the middle of a song, he's going, How come there's a big empty space there? It's like, What the fuck are asking me for? I'm in the middle of this song in front of 12,000 people, you dick. Why don't you just get on with it? You should be doing your gig, you fucker.
You've spent much of your time recently pummelling the American live circuit.
Yeah. It's going as well as we expected. The album's in the Top 50 and we've done two nation-wide tours of 30, 40 gigs, all sold out. We played the David Letterman show, and the label told us it was the biggest chat show in the world. We'd never fucking heard of it. But we're on the way to pretty big things out there. I hate the Midwest though, I can't stand it. We sell a lot of records there and the people come to the gigs, but they don't seem to understand the band, they do all this moshing stuff to Live Forever and stuff. We're one of the only bands who plays with a barrier because - especially after what happened at Newcastle -we don't want people getting onstage. But there they expect to be able to get up there and run around like idiots and they slag us off for that. But it's like, y'know, they stay down there and we stay up there. The day that I put my guitar down and start legging it over the top of the crowd's heads, then they've got the right to come on the stage.
Who threatens to leave the band more on tour, you or Liam?
Liam's leaving the band at this very minute. Liam's always leaving the band. It's raining today so he's leaving the band 'cos it's raining. (Imitating mithering brother) Why's it raining? Fucking hell! That's it! I've had enough of this this, I'm going! I'm sitting there saying, (cheerfully) See you then, bye. He threatened to leave in Minneapolis because I wouldn't go the pub with him.
I left the band in California, and I did actually leave the band for two weeks. It was our second American tour and everything was going great and you know, we're on the verge of becoming the new U2 out there, it's shaping up that way. But we had three gigs in a row where nobody bothered going to bed, everybody just sat up taking drugs all night, and the gigs were shit. We did one gig in LA where we were just all over the place, and I said to them, We can either be the new U2 out here or this is our Sex Pistols tour. If you want to be The Sex Pistols, that's fine, but I'm calling it quits here. Everyone was going, Shut up, ya dick! I nicked the tour float, about $8,000, and went on a road trip for two weeks. I ended up going to San Francisco, Las Vegas, down to Texas, I had a right old time. Your show is pretty straightforward, no fancy backdrops or effects.
Do you plan to elaborate the stage set now you're enjoying a flush of success?
I suppose we'll have to now that we've got to the stage where we're as big as we are. It's something I don't really think about because I'm standing with my back to the stage facing the audience, I couldn't give a fuck about it really. I ain't going to see it anyway. I dunno, we could try some onstage ritual slaughtering of animals and stuff. Naked dancing or something.
Your supposed rivals Blur have upped the ante by announcing a stadium show in East London.
Yeah, but we've had a Number 1 record, haven't we? Our Liam and Damon don't get on at all, they tend to really wind each other up. But I like Damon, he's alright. The thing with those sort of shows is we get off on the vibe of the audience more than anything, and with an outdoor gig, if it pisses it down, it's the longest, most disgusting gig. I can't see us playing a football stadium. Unless it's in America, because I think I'd quite enjoy watching a load of Americans getting pneumonia or struck by lightning.
Do you plan to shake a leg more onstage as a band or will you remain as strictly static as you've always been?
This new drummer of ours really gets into it and when we've been rehearsing, we've found ourselves actually nodding our heads a bit. If I get a better class of drugs before I go onstage, I might fucking play guitar standing on my head.