Noel Gallagher & Gem Archer - VH1 - 2000
The war they're fighting has high stakes: the existence of rock itself. Like wildly touted releases by guitar messiahs Nine Inch Nails and Smashing Pumpkins, Oasis' fourth album Standing on the Shoulder of Giants, featuring the song "Go Let It Out," hasn't made much of a dent on a public smitten with 'N Sync. With a Behind the Music to their name, and two new members in the band, can Oasis remind the world what it means to be rock'n'roll stars? C. Bottomley went on a suicide mission to find out.
VH1.com:Noel, are you a big fan of Behind the Music?
Noel: Yeah. I only tend to watch it every time I come to the States, to be honest. The Glen Campbell one was f*ckin' amazing.
The Milli Vanilli story is very popular.
Noel: Pity there wasn't any music to get behind. [Laughter]
There is something about Behind the Music that tends to cast people in the past tense. I mean, there's bands like Poison, Milli Vanilli, Quiet Riot ...
Noel: I wonder what they were trying to say. When we were doing it, I thought bands that usually do that were either dead or splitting up.
Maybe it is a closed chapter since your guitarist Paul "Bonehead" Arthurs and the bassist Paul "Guigsy" McGuigan have left and now Gem and Andy Bell are on board. On Giants it sounds like there's a new Oasis.
Noel: The people that are in the band now never actually made it onto the record. There's only me, Liam, and [drummer] Alan [White] that were on the record. But the next time we go in the studio and make a record it will be the new Oasis. This is a weird situation that we're in at the moment, that we'll have been around as this lineup for two years before we make a record. It'll all probably have less of an impact. But it's going to be very interesting to see what transpires in the studio. I, for one, am looking forward to it very much.
You now have four songwriters in the band. Gem's led Heavy Stereo, and Andy Bell was the creative force behind Ride. Liam's written "Little James" on the new album. In the past it's only been you, Noel ...
Noel: Well, that's because there was no other songwriters in the band then. Nobody expressed any particular desire to get involved in the songwriting process. Now everybody's expressing a desire. As long as the drummer doesn't start writing songs, we'll be all right.
You've also said you've been working on solo material.
Noel: I've got four [songs] finished for a solo record. But that's not a project that - you know, it's not like I'm writing it, and I've got a date to put it out. If I ever get to record them - well, I will get to record them - but whether it ever comes out is another thing altogether. I might just record it and listen to it for my personal pleasure - just to annoy everyone.
You have a new daughter, Anais. Have you written any songs about her yet?
Noel: I've not written any songs about her, as such. I've written maybe a couple of sentences in a song that could be attributed to a very young person. But I never mention her name in a song. Because I think it just makes it so personal to that person that nobody else can relate to it. Well, I suppose that every song I write from now on will have - I mean, I don't know...But I won't be writing one, you know, with her name in the title. Mostly 'cause it's impossible to find anything to rhyme with Anais. "Little Anais" just doesn't have that same ring to it, does it?
One of the things that seems overlooked when your songwriting is considered is the sampling aesthetic. You approach melodies and hooks much like a hip-hop artist would.
Noel: I'm glad you mentioned that. Because "D'You Know What I Mean?" actually started off as a hip-hop type of thing. Until we all went to the pub one night and came back, and it turned into a rock song.
It's difficult when you're in a band with four other people who've got no concept of black music, who just can't see anything further than the Beatles. When we're working with that particular producer, he was into the Beatles as well. It can get a bit soul-destroying in the studio, you know, trying to play somebody a drum beat from an N.W.A record. And everyone's just looking at you like you're f*ckin' speaking French or something.
Hopefully the element of that in the band is gone, and the two people that have joined have got more of an understanding of that kind of music; it'll be translated better on the record, hopefully.
Do you have a favorite rap song?
Noel: "Straight Outta Compton" is one of my favorites, and "Don't Believe the Hype," I suppose, by Public Enemy. But I don't know — I like 'em all. Well, I must say, I don't like 'em all. Not the Beastie Boys.
Noel, in concert and on record you always seem to be thinking about Oasis' songs and your own place in rock's tapestry. It's as if you mean it, man. Do you mean it, man?
Noel: I really could not give a flying f*ck about anything. [Laughter]
That's my headline.
Noel: Put me on the plane, show me where the stage is - I'll go and do it. But don't ask me to care about any of it. All I'm arsed about is looking good. And as long as my guitar's louder than everybody else's, I don't give a f*ck. It's every man for himself once they get on there. And I'm a loud bastard, and that's all there is to it.
Are you a bit worried that guys like Gem move around on the stage a bit more than Bonehead and Guigsy did?
Noel: No, 'cause I've got a double-necked guitar if he starts getting too flash. And then I'll get a triple-necked guitar. And then I'll start wearing platforms, so at least I'll still be the biggest member of Oasis. Then I'll get platforms with fishtanks in the bottom.
Gem, are you gonna intend to upstage that display in any way?
Noel: I did see him packing his cape on the way in.
Gem: Whenever he bends down, you'd better duck.
Noel: No, 'cause I don't shoot flames out of me ass ... or anything like that.
Gem: I was meaning when you go for your knobs. (Laughter)
So I take it, asking you if you ever find new meanings in your songs over time is not a really good question.
Noel: Well, sometimes. You know what? The other night I was playing "Live Forever," and I've been playing that song since I wrote it in 1994. It was the last gig we'd done in Cologne, and while I was playing the guitar solo, it suddenly clicked. I actually got that song. I just said to myself: "I f*ckin' get it now." There weren't dancers in the front - 'cause we do that song last in the set, and everyone was knackered. And you could just see the look on the people's faces. And this is seven years after I [first] played it. And I just went: "F*ck, I just get it now ... and that's it." But I better not mention that over here. Because Liam will say, "Well, why didn't you get it the first time I sung it?"