Noel Gallagher - Total Guitar - December 1998
On the evening of our Paul Weller interview, there's a rather special guest preparing to play a short acoustic warm-up for his musical soulmate to a largely unsuspecting crowd. That man is Noel Gallagher, guitarist and main songwriter for Oasis, the biggest guitar band in British pop music history.
One thing that immediately strikes you about the nature of the Weller/Gallagher relationship is the mutual respect between these two giants of British pop music. While Weller's band sizzles into an impromptu jam during the soundcheck for tonight's gig, Noel Gallagher settles down in the front row seats and clocks every minute of it. When it's Gallagher's turn to run through a few songs on his acoustic to check his onstage sound, Weller parks himself at the front of the stage and nods away intently throughout the performance. Even when we rudely interrupt him for the photograph session, he spends his time working out the chords to Gallagher's songs, and strumming along th them through the rest of the soundcheck.
Noel Gallagher's love of Weller's music stretches right back to his days as a fan of The Jam, a band he places second only to the Beatles in the history of British pop music (he was outspokenly proud of the fact that only three bands have ever played two songs on the same edition of Top Of The Pops - The Beatles, The Jam and Oasis). [NB. Not strictly true - the Ramones also have the honour - A] While the two have guested on each other's albums, and made a number of onstage appearances together over the last few years, this relationship has now blossomed into mutual high regard, and culminated in the sort of support that Noel Gallagher is supplying to his friend's tour.
So, how did you get involved with the Weller tour?
I went round to give him his birthday present, that I'd bought for him for his...[mimes shock] 40th birthday, and he asked me what I was doing next week, and I said I'm not doing f*** all, so he said do you want to come out and do some gigs. There was only supposed to be three, but this is the eight one now.
You're obviously enjoying it...
Ah yeah. I've been doing a lot of writing at home and stuff. I'm not the sort who goes round, you know, if I'm not in the papers for two weeks I start getting nervous or anything like that, but if he hadn't have asked...I only did it because he was in a bit of a fix for an opening actm before Toploader turned up. But I've enjoyed doing it and it's been good for the fans more than anything else. It's been unannounced, so you should see their faces when I walk out, they all go 'F***ing hell, that looks like Liam Gallagher! F*** no, it's Noel.'
Is it good to get away from the showbiz and paparazzi, and back to music?
Yeah. It's something I do anyway, with radio stations, TV shows, I just get up and play guitar, and I'll play anywhere, so I'm quite used to doing it. I've done acoustic things in front of 20,000, so it's no big deal to me, but it's good to get back out and doing something again really.
What do you make of the NME's talk of British guitar music going up in smoke?
They've been saying it for 30 years, ever since The Beatles split up, you know, that rock'n'roll's dead. When ever there's a boom there's always a bit of a lull afterwards. I suppose that avant garde punk rock will come back for a while, and it will all be shit again, and then guitar music will come back. It's always going to be there. F***, it's been around since the 1920s, it's not going to go away now. I ain't goimng anywhere yet anyway.
You've played with Goldie and done other things...
Yeah, I've always played guitar with Goldie though. A lot of people think I'm some f***ing boffin or something. I mean I play on dance tracks if I'm singing or playing guitar. I can't play keyboards, I can play a little bit of piano. I did that thing for the 'X-Files', and people were calling it techno, but there's actually no electronic equipment on it, it's all live drums and live piano and bass guitar, and that's it really. I'm open to anything, but if I can't play guitar on my own records, what the f*** am I going to do, stand there and look good? Not really. I think our kid's the one for standing around and looking good. I've got to be doing something.
Is Oasis still going to be the outlet for your music, or are you gojng solo?
Nah, am I f***. I probably will do an album one day. I've got so many songs you see. I think every songwriter in a band wants to do a solo record, just to see if you can do it on your own, and I know I can do it on my own. And it would be nice to do it in a stress-free environment, without f***ing Liam running around the studio with ten cans of Guinness and a bottle of Jack Daniels, f***ing knocking things over. It's be nice to have abit of peace and quiet. But the next album will be an Oasis album, definitely.
You've been playing on stage with Paul Weller's band on this tour. Does that benefit you as a guitarist and a musician, to be working with other bands?
Well definitley as a guitarist, because I don't need to do backing vocals as well, you see, which is what's suffered over the years for me. We out so many harmonies on the records that we thought somebody better sing back up. So seeing as Bonehead's got a voice like Arthur Mullard, Guigs never speaks, and drummers can't sing fullstop, it was down to me really. So I feel like my guitar playing suffered a bit. Playing lead guitar and trying to do a backing vocal is f***ing hard, do you know what I mean? I really want to pack singing in live, 'cos I can't be arsed any more, it's too much like hard work. You break a sweat.
Do you feel you're still developing as a guitarist?
I've got a long way to go yet, man. I'm a songwriter, I'm more of a strummer than a lead guitarist. But again it's becuase when I joined the band Bonehead was already playing rhythm guitar, so I was the lead guitarist.
So, do you like playing lead guitar?
No, I hate it. It's f***ing rubbish. If you look at all the records, it's usually the same guitar solo but with a different melody behind it, so I just about get away with it every time. I'm more of a songwriter than a lead guitarist. Then again look at Jimmy Page. But he didn't sing backing vocals either...
Are you writing at the moment?
Yeah, I've demoed songs. I've got five on tape. I just write at leisure now. The last album was such a big f***ing deal, so I'd rather do thing on the quiet. There's no agenda for the next album, I don't even know what it's going to be like. The songs I've done are just me - I've played drums on them as well. I'm actually a better drummer than I am guitarist, to be honest with you. So if we kick the drummer ot and hire a lead guitarist, man...
So is it a case that when you've got enough songs and the band's ready, you'll do an album?
It will probably be next year now before we go in a studio.
Perhaps it will all simmer down a bit by then as well?
We're gutted that The Verve might split up, we were thinking they might take a bit of the heat off us. But it looks like they're going to screw up on themselves, doesn't it? I hope not. It's hard to say with a band like that, there's so many rumours going round. But they're still playinf, so they've not split yet. The fuss will die down because the rest of the bands that are coming through behind us are f***ing shit. And when we put a new record out it will go all f***ing haywire again. It would be nice if we could put a new record out on the quiet, but if you stick Oasis on the front, it goes f***ing apeshit dunnit?
Is following that kind of success difficult?
Nah. I could be a wanker and moan about success, but go and tell the chick out of Sleeper, go and tell the bands who've not had success, and they'll say 'that's what we want'. You've just got to take it as it comes, and just enjoy it.