Noel Gallagher - Q - January 1998
A week prior to this exchange, Noel Gallagher turns up at his management's office at the crack of lunchtime. His objective: to make sense of Oasis's last 12 months, a period punctuated by despair, disappointment and dishonor yet sprinkled with the fairy dust of fame, fortune and farting in the general direction of doubters.
Kitted out in casual-but-costly clobber and glugging a mug of tea, Noel immediately makes it plain that he isn't here to deliver an air-brushed version of events. "To be honest with you," he says, "it's losing it's magic. Every tour we used to do would be five times as big as the last one, but once you get to Knebworth, what do you do? You can't go touring places that size all the time so you've got to step down. It's like, We're playing Earl's Court for three nights. Again. Great. It's a shitty thing to say, but there you go. It's a situation forced on you by becoming as big as you do." He exhales hard. "I don't know what you do about it. You fucking tell me."
But it isn't long before the Noel of old returns, cracking his scrunch-eyed crocodile smile, rambling like a chat show regular, springing up to act out another daft scene, slipping into characters and accents with Davro-like deftness. And, all the time, attempting to understand the madness he has created and the little monster who is his lead singer and baby brother.
What has this year taught you?
Don't get drunk before you go on the radio. God, we were fuck-faced for that interview. Good though, wasn't it? I've also learnt not to take advice from anyone else. Just stick to what you think you know best. It's not for me to say if my instincts are good or bad but it's my instincts that run it all, so fuck everybody else. It's my instincts that count. I'm in charge.
Do you feel it was a mistake going to meet Tony Blair at Downing Street?
I didn't. It's just that everyone gave me a hard time about it. People seemed to have this very sinister image of it but I went there because my wife said, Come on, lets go for a laugh. I thought, Fuck it, why not. I've never considered myself to be a rock 'no' roll rebel. I wasn't there representing guitar music, I wasn't there representing the indie community or some twat in a bedsit. I wasn't even representing the band. I was there because the Prime Minster invited me to his house for a beer. You've got to go, haven't you?
What did you make of Blair as a bloke?
Hard to say, isn't it? I'd like to say that he'd be a great leader for this country but something tells me that the Labour Party will probably contrive a way to fuck it up for themselves. If things don't change then they don't, but at least it's not the Torie's lying to you.
You're worth £40 million. True?
So they say. But it's not true. Every time this is in the press, Noel Gallagher's got forty million quid, we get a phone call off the inland revenue going, Can we see your books again. I don't reckon I've got twenty million quid. I've not got ten million quid, to be honest with you. I got a shit load of money from my last publishing deal but everyone seems to think I take all the money in this band, which is another perception that's grown over the years. Everything is split five ways apart from my publishing advances. And I get that because I write the songs. I'm the cunt sitting in a flat in the pissing rain with a pen and a piece of paper trying to make sense of the ideas I've got.
Has you're perspective of money changed?
You lose the value of things. I have no value for money any more. I don't know what it means. It's nice because you go out there and buy a Rolls Royce on the credit cards you're carrying with you, and that in itself might be a laugh, but it doesn't mean anything. The worst thing about having money is getting pissed and having a load of credit cards on you. You're off your tits going, Have it. Just have it. On me. You want it? Have it. And you wake up the next day thinking, Mmm, what was I up to last night? Oh no. I've given me car away. Again. Then it's, Hello, it's Noel here. You know what I was saying last night about the house? Well I've just seen these suitcases on the door step and...look, I was pissed.
Are you a big spender?
I've always believed if you make a bit of money you should spend it and go and earn some more. I'm just having trouble spending it at the moment because there's a lot of it. But I'm thirty, I left school when I was fifteen, so it's taken me fifteen years to get to this position. And that was fifteen years' hard graft.There were a few years when it wasn't hard work because there wasn't any work to be had and we were on the dole. So I'm not going to apologise for it. But people treat you differently now. The people who sell the Big Issue follow you down the street going, Come on mate, give us forty quid for the lot and I'll be off home. I'm like, What am I going to do with sixty Big Issue's?
For all your mouthing off, you don't seem like a particularly arrogant bloke. Are you?
Not really, no. Sometimes I look at Liam and I really don't know what his problem is.
But isn't it an age thing? You can't imagine Liam behaving in the same way when he's 35.
You said it mate. I hope someone tells him that. Actually, Liam's worn a lot of the fight out of me. Some of the things he says and does now I can't be bothered about. Two or three years ago, he might have got a mic stand across his head for some of the stuff he's done in the studio.But I just can't be fucking arsed with it anymore. I just look at him and go, Whatever, just get on with it. I'll be down the pub when you're finished.
Does he embarrass you?
Never, no. I'm proud of him. He's my kid brother. He gave me a job [laughs]
Does he ever interpret you're lyrics and bring something to it that you didn't know was there?
He can get an extra attitude out of some of the lyrics. I don't think he'd sing it with any more feeling than I would. We're two completely different singers. He's got a fucking loud, loud, loud voice and he sings the loud songs better than I do. Then I sing the soft ones better than he does. But I'm happy singing the Magic Pies and Don't Look Back In Angers. That'll do me.
"Tomorrow never knows what it doesn't know too soon." What's that all about?
"Tomorrow never knows what it doesn't know too soon..." Well, Hmm, I haven't got a fucking clue to be honest. I'm sure at the time I probably jumped up and went. Yes! And I probably explained exactly what it meant to someone, but sitting here today...no, not the faintest fucking idea.
"Damn my education/I can't find the words to say." Do you ever feel thick?
If I could turn the clock back I would have studied English a bit more at school because I've since become a writer. But saying that, if I was highly educated I wouldn't be where I am. But I'd like to be able to communicate more, in a way more people could understand. A lot of the time I know what I mean but I couldn't explain it to you and that can be frustrating.
Is Be Here Now as good as the first two albums?
I think so, yeah. Every album has it's stand-out tracks. On the first, it was Supersonic, Live Forever, Slide Away, Rock 'no' Roll Star. On the album after that, there was Some Might Say, Don't Look Back In Anger, Cast No Shadow, Wonderwall, Champagne Supernova. And on this album there's Stand By Me, Do You Know What I Mean, Fade In/Out, All Around The World, It's Getting Better Man.
But are those songs better? Do You sense that people are disappointed by Be Here Now?
I'm sensing now that people might be. I had my manager come in earlier with a big long face because the album's been out two months and it's only sold two million. Fucking hell, what a bitch, he? We might as well pack it in. I just said, Go and tell that to Echobelly. I don't know what everyone's moaning about.
But the songs are too long.
So fucking what? I like an intro and an outro and a middle eight. Morning Glory was a moment in popular music because that was the album that everyone in the world was going to go out and buy. It was like, Who are these ruffians from the North of England? And, Ooh, what's this beautiful ballad Wonderwall on here when it's made by these fucking thugs from Manchester. Allegedly. It was a moment in pop that the world latched onto. When it comes to pass, this album will have sold as many copies as Definitely Maybe so we'll be back to the hardcore fanbase.
Are you personally happy with Be Here Now?
I'm always happy finishing an album with the band intact, to tell the truth. I've listened to this album more than the other two but I listened to Definitely Maybe the other day and I'd forgotten how good that was.There aren't many great albums knocking about. I don't actually think anyone's made a great album since Definitely Maybe. That was the sound of a garage band having it large and that was great, but you can't go on doing that. Every album has reflected the mental state of the band at the time.
So what now?
I can't record another big rock 'no' roll album. It's bore the tits of you and it would bore the tits of me. I want to write something that is Oasis and somehow isn't. And if I can ditch a few of these little kids that stand outside my house twenty-four hours a day then that'd be nice too.
There's something about you're songwriting that makes it almost subliminally familiar. You know what's going to happen.
Yeah, they're very Trad. Arr. It's traditional rock 'no' roll and I've not snapped out of that frame of mind because I've been in a rock 'no' roll band. With the lyrics, they probably sound familiar because I go for the most obvious thing.
Are you going to put your hands up and admit culpability for nicking the All The Young Dudes riff in Stand By Me?
Absolutely. Course. I 've had two songs out of that now - Don't Look Back In Anger and Stand By Me. I'll see if I can get another one out of it. If I can get another one out of it, I'll be fucking laughing. And he's still not sued me yet.
If you were trying to write a hit song now, which song would you plunder?
There's a very good riff in Nobody Told Me by John Lennon. But if you want to write a good rock song, go back to those old 60's Nuggets albums. And the geezers are all bound to be dead or mad or sold their publishing for two bob to some bloke with a piece of straw in his mouth. I've got a load of them records at my house and I'm sampling them all up. Let's do it, you and me. A fucking triple album. Call it something bizarre and we'll be away.
You're as romantic as a big girl's blouse. Discuss.
You don't write a song like Wonderwall if you're not romantic. I am. I'm a dreamer and a romantic. Liam is too.
Do you understand Liam's appeal?
If I was a teenage girl, I'd think, Fuck me, he's really good looking.If I was a teenage boy, I'd think, If that cunt can do it, then there's hope for us all. But I don't understand why he appeals to me. Because he pisses me off.
Do you think he's sexy?
I do, yeah. It's the swagger, isn't it? It's that, I don't give a fuck mate. Which he doesn't. He appeals to young people. He's a child himself. His whole psyche is built out of being a child, which is cool, it keeps everything exciting. I'm five years older than him, but I've been thirty for five years. I've always been quite grown up which is a pisser but I do have my moments, believe me.
What's your day-to-day intercourse with Liam?
We don't have any. We tried but the more time we spend together, the more the relationship deteriorates. As soon as we get off the road we can't get far enough apart from each other. Having said that, the other day we spent all day in the pub together.We were still up from the night before and we were pissed as arseholes. I rang my wife from the pub and said, Are you coming out for a beer or what? And she said, Who are you with? I said, I'm with our kid. And she's like, I'm having me nails done. And she told me why yesterday. She said, Because when you and your brother have been up for two days and your down the pub, and your getting on, then you know that some monumental fuck up is about to occur and I'm not going to be within 20 miles of the place.
What's your relationship with drugs these days?
Every time I do an interview now the subject comes up and I take a deep breath and try to explain the situation. They might as well hand me a gun so I can go [pretends to blow both feet off]. I use drugs for recreational purposes.
When did you last take drugs?
Oh, I can't get into that. The American Embassy will be reading this. I don't use them as much as I used to. I'm bored of them. I've been bored with drugs since I was 20 years of age. And drinking. But what else is there to do? Drugs stimulate conversation. And absolute bollocks conversation at that. Nobody knows this but...what the fuck, I'll tell you anyway. I've started leaving Dictaphones on around our house when I have people over. I want to release an album of spoken word called Noel And His Mates Talking Bollocks Round At Supernova Heights. I'm going to get all the clearances for it. Imagine that. And we'd tour it, too. The curtain will go up at the Albert Hall and there'll be ten of us going, Did you see that game of football last night? And another thing about Mohammed Ali, right, I heard... Wouldn't you pay fifty pounds to hear Shaun Ryder, Goldie, me, Paul Weller and our kid off our heads drinking beer round at my place talking about wheter there's life on other planets. Weller'd be going (gruff cockney), There's fucking mods on other planets, mate. Too right, I've seen an Unidentified Flying Vespa. UFV's mate.
Why is it so difficult to imagine Paul Weller having a laugh?
I'll tell you, he makes me laugh so much, that man. I reckon, seriously, that he'd make a great stand-up comedian.
Can you paint portraits of the other members of Oasis.
Bonehead - he's bald, he's funny, he's a father, he's dependable except when he's drunk. When he's drunk we call him The Man With The Spinning Head because he loses all control of his neck muscles and he grunts. Pain in the arse when he's drunk. Whitey - top drummer, pretty quiet, keeps himself to himself, Guigs - Jah Rastafari. I think he's spoken to me, and this is no word of a lie, since I was 17 - 13 years - for a total of about an hour. All he says is "sweet as" and "alright". That's all. Typical bass player, isn't he? I say to him, Bass player, sit down, shut it. Top man though, he's just had a baby boy. Called him Pat McGuigan. I said, That's really bad 'cos he sounds like a navy already.
Has travel broadened your mind?
We've got this rule in the band: no matter what trouble your going to get into, never get arrested in a country that doesn't use your own alphabet. Get arrested anywhere that uses your alphabet and your basically alright. But if you get arrested in a country that uses squiggles or a box or a line instead of proper letters, you're fucked, mate, you're never coming home.
Do you understand America yet?
They still think they're pilgrims. (sincere American) Do you believe in God? (bolshy Burnage) Are you taking the piss or what? And they consider themselves to be the discoverers of the New World. Isn't it funny that all these weird cults always spring up there. that's the reason aliens have never shown themselves on this planet because where do they always land first? Fucking desert in America. They land and the first human they see goes (Southern redneck) Got any barbers where you come from, boy? If you were an alien you'd be, Fuck this, back in the old spaceship and off. But if he landed in Burnage, cultural epicentre of the world, it'd be, Alright alien, mate, come and have a spliff and listen to some Jimi Hendrix . It's be cool. You'd have fucking millions of aliens living in Burnage. All the mod aliens, the lot.
Have you, in the past, abused your position as a rock star?
No, but my wife does. Trying to get into restaurants when I'm on tour. She's giving all that, Excuse me, I'm Mrs Gallagher. I wouldn't mind but she hasn't changed her name yet. I think other people abuse your position on your behalf. I went to see a band a little while ago at Brixton Academy and I was on the guest list so I got out of the car and stood at the back of the guest list queue, like you do. You don't want to charge to the front of the queue going, Hello, the rock star's here. So I'm standing here minding me own business having a fag and this security guard recognizes me and goes, What are you doing? Get up the front of the queue! And he drags me to the front shouting double loud, Make way! Band member,! Embarrassing, man. But you've got to see the funny side. You have to enjoy it because if you sat down and dissected everything that's sick about being a rock star, you'd be there forever.
Is this what you thought being a rock star would be like?
In a funny way. But if anyone wants to know what it's really like to be in a rock band, go and watch Spinal Tap. That just about says it fucking all.