Noel Gallagher - Big Issue - 4th January 1999
After "Wonderwall" and Knebworth, last year's third album from Oasis, "Be Here Now", could only be a letdown. It was certainly an "event", but all the hype and arrogance that surrounded the band only set them up for a fall. It was a less than brilliant album overstuffed with lengthy guitar solos and overdubs, and began a slow shift in the public's perception of the band.
Noel was forced to take stock as Oasis started to look all to fallible. Brother Liam seems stuck in the classic rock star auto-destruct mode with marital splits, a drink problem and a drunken incident on a plane commandeering tabloid front pages. But Noel says he's given up drugs and despite the champagne receptions with Tony Blair at Number 10, has fallen out with the government. So are we seeing the emergence of a maturer elder statesman of rock, or is Noel just having a pop star's mid-life crisis?
When the history of youth culture is wsritten, what will be said about the Nineties, and what place will Oasis have in it?
In the Nineties it won't just be one defining thing really. Music's always at the forefront of culture, but I don't think that it has as big an impact now, because we've got computer games and drugs and that. You'd like to think that you'd come at the top of the list of youth culture icons of the decade and I suppose we have shaped some of the defining moments of youth culture: Knebworth, Maine Road, some of the gigs in Scotland, but Oasis shouldn't be everybody's life.
Youth culture's not dead. It's just more fragmented. There's not one defining musical movement anymore. You know in the fifties it was Presley, in the sixties you had marijuana and The Beatles, in the seventies it was cocaine and Led Zeppelin, the Eighties was Duran Duran and synthesisers. In the Nineties it's the Stone Roses, Ecstasy...lots of different things.
Is dance music the new rock'n'roll?
Is brown the new architecture? Music's just music. People think that dance music's the most modern, forward-looking music but look at the Prodigy, they haven't changed the way that they make music in the last ten years. At the end of 1989 we heard about the end of rock'n'roll but all those people are going out and playing live. Then you've got the people in the middle who use bits of it and then people like us who are straightforward rock'n'roll...
But you've dabbled...
I've dabbled on my own, but Oasis haven't as a group.
Would you? Can we look forward to a new jungle direction on the new album?
Unless I visit a jungle I don't think so. I think it'd be hard to get Liam to sing like a Rastafarian. I like electronic music. I'm not against it and I'm not a disciple. I'm very proud of some of the stuff I've done with the Chemical Brothers.
What do you make of the Oasis copy bands?
Well, it keeps the old back catalogue going.
No, I meant Ocean Colour Scene and Cast.
Oh...[laughs], I'd better not slag them off because some of them are me mates. It's nice to think that you've inspired somebody. Critics like to criticise 'Noel-rock' but I'd like to think that the ones that come after you can only do better once loads of people get off on it.
Have you seen any of the Oasis cover groups? What did you think? Amused? Flattered?
Both. The only one I saw was No Way Sis. It was at The Forum. It was sold out. It's just kids trying to make a f*****g living. At least they're not burgling houses. They're not stuck in a gutter, they're travelling the country and playing universities. They'll look back in twenty years and will have made a lot of money. Some people say Oasis is a Beatles copy band but that's another story...
A year ago New Labour was elected and there was a massive tide of optimism; people were saying Blair was the first rock'n'roll Prime Minister. Since then, a lot of people have become quite critical of him. Are you one of them?
I'd rather Blair any day than the Tories. But then you see how he's giving money to the NHS and schools with one hand, and taking it away from single parents with the other and you think: 'Hang on, what's going on here?' Know what I mean? Going to Number 10 was part of my 'education, education, education' I suppose. As for Alan McGee banging on about the music industry dying, nobody's seliing albums or whatever...Nobody's ever sold albums, except Oasis maybe. Expectations are so high. People want some form of success to justify their record company boss's coke habit. A&R men are overpaid and bands are overshadowed. To a lot of people it looked like we happened overnight, but we put a lot of hard work into it to get to that second album. A lot of young bands now are shafted, they're not given time to develop.
The music business is a weird thing. Record companies are like a big bank - they have shit-loads of money, you give them a record. The little bits in between, I'm not interested in anymore. I just make records. People say that kids aren't buying records ot going to gigs, but there's nothing en masse that kids are getting into. I don't buy that. Maybe there's not so many young people around.
Do you think that it's harder to be young in the late Nineties because of pressures like AIDS, no more full employment, etc?
There never has been full employment, but when I was 16 it wasn't as bad as it is now. It's very easy to slip into drug culture when drugs are so readily available. There's not much money invested in sport, music, education. Kids on estates see their bigger brother driving around in a big flash car with women hanging off his arm, looking cool through dealing. Kids have hardly got any role models.
People who were young in the Sixties say that Nineties youth are squares.
I think that people from the Sixties are f*****g square. They're horrible people.
How do you feel about being a spokesperson for a generation?
I'm not comfortable with it. I speak for myself but it's my fault. I don't know what happens any time someone puts a mic against me. I've got a lot of stick for some of the things that I've said. I've just got a big gob on me.
Like when you said you'd 'done a few houses in Manchester' and it was subsequently investigated by the police burglary squad...
I was trying to be honest and responsible. We done a few houses, but you come over like a drama queen and the reporters say that you're 'bragging about your past', where you come from. I'm not proud of it, I don't want to justify it but there's this pressure to be an authentic working-class person. You back yourself into a corner, then you've got some other reporter coming round saying, 'Do you want us to put your side of the story?' No, I f*****g don't. And then you have to leave the country for six weeks. I'll tell you, I've done more travelling as a result of that. Every time I come back from a nightclub after a night on the beer...
The there's the comments you made about taking drugs being like having a cup of tea...
Everybody who knows anything about society knows it's right. OK, to say that taking drugs is the same as having a cup of tea is a bit exaggerated but it's pretty f*****g close. I'm not saying that I do. Well I don't, but people keep brushing it under the carpet. It;' not just about building clinics and community centres.
Aren't you off drugs now?
I've not touched any drugs in nine weeks now. I don't wanna be some has-been that spends all their money on rehab - not that I'm condemning people who do that. I've been doing it for so long that me and the wife, we'd just had enough. It got boring. We made a conscious decision. It's only when you come out the other side that you realise...erm, I mean, I didn't have a breakdown or anything. I still keep the same circle of friends and you go for a meal with people. When they're all nipping to the toilet every minute and you know [makes sniffing noise]. I find that a bit seedy. I don't wanna be a sanctimonious twat who's given up smoking and goes round coughing all the time, but I feel a lot better.
What are you up to then?
You know, bits and pieces...I'm just taking it easy, spending time at home. If this was a year ago I would have been thinking 'thou shallt act like a rock star', but now I like getting bored.
Are you turning respectable now you've hit your 30s?
I'll always be 16 and want to be in a band. You might get old but you don't grow old, if you know what I mean.