Noel Gallagher - MOJO - March 2000
How do you feel about this new album?
"I'm really excited about it. My favourites? All of them. Roll It Over, Go Let It Out!...it started out as this slow Beta Band thing, then it speeded up and became a psychedelic pop song. It was something out of nothing. I tend to write songs in threes, and when I played the first two new songs - they're B-sides now - to my manager and Liam they said, 'Hmm, they're all right, I suppose.' But when that one came on, Liam sat up on the sofa, held up his bottle of Jack Daniel's and said, 'Yes! It's good to be back!'"
What did you make of the events of last year?
"In hindsight I think it was the best thing that ever happened to us. If someone had said to me that two founder members would leave (Bonehead and Guigsy) and the record company (Creation) would to under, I would have thought, I'm not too sure about this...But the guys leaving was a problem for the night it happened. I woke up the next day and I thought, I know Gem (Archer) isn't doing anything, and then we found out that Andy (Bell) was available. The others we auditioned were OK but not quite right."
"They were good players, but they either didn't look right, they wouldn't have fit in, or else they were in awe of being in the same room as us lot. They were getting into the Stars In Their Eyes mode. I went out with Andy in my local in Belsize Park and said, Just play it as you see it. The next day he came in played all the songs and he was fucking great. We were doing a version of 'My Generation', and Andy did that bass break not for note. It was brilliant. And all of a sudden we acquired this new drummer - Alan's turned into Keith Moon! As much as I loved Guigs, he was pretty naff on the bass, and that frustrated Alan because he had to sit on the beat all the time. Now there's this whirling dervish in the corner banging everything that moves. It's like being in a new band. I can't wait for the next record 'cos we can do that pretty much live. A year ago there was only one songwriter in the band; now there are four."
What really happened when Bonehead left?
"We went to France to record because we were trying to get Liam off the drink. It makes recording a really difficult thing to do when he's pissed. So I said, No one can drink while we're there, because it won't be fair on Liam. I said I would kick it in the head for three months. We needed to give him all the support we could; everyone agreed to lay off it. But Bonehead would go off on the piss. I said, You're just rubbing it in his face; if I'm not drinking them no cunt is. Sowe'd all be there drinking water and Bonehead would be knocking back the red wine. So I politely asked him to give it a rest and he told me to fuck off. Then there was an argument. So he said, 'That's it, I'm off!' and went back to England. I think he thought we'd say, 'Don't leave.' But we thought...hang on a minute! So we said if you wanna leave you'd better make an announcement, and he did. I think he didn't want to go on tour - but I didn't wanna go on tour either, nor did Liam. Apparently he'd been doing stuff his self."
What about the lyrics on this album? There are a couple of them that seem intensely felt and, for you, unusually personal.
"I was writing about what I'd experienced. Where Did It All Go Wrong? and Gas Panic!, were about trying get to a different level in my life, trying to get off the drugs. Before, more often than not I'd just get off me head, get a few good phrases then fill in the gaps. Now I've had two years off to get me shit together, and I think 80 per cent of the album is quite good in that respect. Next time we'll take it to another level."
Do you think that was the problem with Be Here Now? That you weren't saying anything with it? The first was like "I'm a rock'n'roll star!", then the next was already getting nostalgic: Where were you when we were getting high?"...then...
"Yeah, the first one I had a direction and purpose. I was 21 when I wrote it, a roadie travelling the world and getting paid, having a great time and dreaming of being a star. That euphoria was real: Live Forever. What's The Story was written on the road and a bit more reflective: Champagne Supernova and Cast No Shadow, the third was... if you take away the words the music is all right, but the words are rubbish. I was entirely off me 'ed. Expectations were so high after Morning Glory - which I never understood, it's only got four or five good songs on it."
Where Did It All Go Wrong? - one of the best things on the album?
"Don't tell Liam, he fucking hates that song."
That line about keeping "the receipts for the friends you bought": can you remember writing that song?
"I'd come off the gear and still had all those temptations round me. People coming round the house, I was still living in London. I was getting frustrated. I'd made this big decision in my life to kick the drugs and there were all these people saying, 'Come on! Have a line, it's rock'n'roll!' The wouldn't know rock'n'roll if it bit them in the arse! I thought, How did I end up in a room with all these twats? When McGee first heard it, he said, 'Fucking hell, that's the first time I've ever heard you pissed off in a song.' I wanted to change my life. I had become the reason for all these people to justify their lifestyle. 'Wow, I'm hanging our with Oasis!' Sad, man. I wanted to get my head straight."
Do you think you're laying yourself open with the Strawberry Fields lift in Go Let It Out! and, on Who Feels Love?, the Dear Prudence steal?
"What happens with that is, I wrote the song and the Dear Prudence bit fitted in perfectly. So, there was this thing, everyone goes, 'That's Dear Prudence', you say, Yeah, I'll change that bit. And then you think, Well shall I? Just leave it in - the less it annoys me and the more it annoys other people you think, Well I'll leave it in to wind 'em up. The Mellotron I bought, I got it three or four years ago. It was one of only six of this model that were made. It was like the one used on Abbey Road. Then the company went busy; I've got one, McCartney's got two and the others are missing in action. Mine was renovated; I found the song of the bloke who invented it, he had all the bits. It's got the Strawberry Fields flutes in it. And you know the Spanish guitar bit before Bungalow Bill? It's a button on the Mellotron! I thought it was George Harrison! The blagging bastards."
Liam's song, Little James: the lyrics aren't exactly inspired, are they?
"If you know Liam and the weird little bubble he lives in, it's totally him. It isn't exactly Strawberry Fields Forever, granted...but people just see Liam as this yobbo in the paper getting on and out of police vans, but everyone who knows him thinks, Yeah, that song's just him. But you have to remember it's the first song he's ever written. The first song I wrote wasn't half as good as that. The fact that he got it out of three chords is just staggering, really. But that's just a platform for him to go on: I said to him, Someone's gonna rip that song apart, line by line, you'll have to take the criticism. But if people say it's great, it's the greatest thing in the world."
With Alan McGee, did you feel he'd let you down when he left Creation?
"To be honest with you, when he phoned up and said he was leaving, I knew exactly what he meant. Part of me went, Yeah! Me own record label, which was part of the plan anyway. Nice one! Part of me thought, It's quite sad that it's got like that. It had changed so much since we signed - all the people who were there at the beginning had gone. I don't even know where they are now, whether they were working or not. When we signed, leather couches started appearing in the office, coffee tables, and everyone had to be in work on time. Our management had something to do with that: they didn't want to work with a bunch of cowboys, and Creation fell in line, and with that something went. Then it was a downhill slide to signing Nick Heyward and Kevin Rowland. What was that all about?"
Was Knebworth the highlight of Oasis Mk1?
"No, I think it was Maine Road. Knebworth was just a money-spinner. It was like you've got two nights at this place, 125,000 people; I said, It will never sell out. They said, 'You're the biggest band in the world, you have to do it now.' The promoters were saying, 'You'll do six nights.' Three million applied for tickets. It wasn't necessarily an enjoyable experience because all these people had come from all over and we weren't that hot live, there."
Was Maine Road the great homecoming, then, local boys do good?
"Well, it was where it all mad sense to me. After that it was all downhill. That was the beginning of the end. After that we were so big we had no control of the vehicle any more. You couldn't say you were going away for six weeks to write some music; it was, 'You're going back to America because the album's just gone Top 5.' The people around you convince you you're doing it for your benefit, whole you've got a pint of Guinness in one hand and a cigarette in the other and you're going, Fucking brilliant, show me the aeroplane, I'm there! You don't think, Is my writing going to suffer? You think, I'm the bollocks, man! I'm Noel Gallagher, I'll write it in a week! Piece of piss! And everyone's going 'yeah, you're Noel Gallagher you can write it in a week!' But the reality is different."
Are there two Noel Gallaghers now - the real one and the Oasis persona?
"Yeah. Now there has to be, because I'm going to be a dad. I used to walk off tour, land at Heathrow Airport and carry the part on in the car and onto the house. The missus would say, 'Hello, Darling!' And I'd say, Look, all these other cunts are here, and she'd say, 'Marvellous darling!' Now I want to leave the party in the city I've left. You don't want to come home greeting your kid smelling of booze. Now, I'm thinking, I don't want to come off a plane in five years' time and my kid's saying, 'Who the fuck are you? You've aged 50 years.' There are a lot of balls to keep in the air. You've got to be the person the fans admire on one hand, the geezer who does the interviews and keeps it all ticking over, the guy who runs the record label. I've got a kid, a wife - there's no room in my life for drugs any more."
So how will having kids change Oasis?
"Well, part of me thinks I'm gonna be the best dad there is, part of me thinks, Am I gonna be a good role model? I had a big chin-stroking session. But you have to be true to yourself; you still have to be the kid in the council house from Manchester, that's what makes the music fucking exciting. I don't want to turn into Cliff Richard, d'y'know what I mean?"
I heard you saw The Who's shows in December. What did you think?
"It was fantastic, best gig of last year. The thing about The Who, you think, Fuck The Beatles and the Stones! The Stones were a blues covers band, The Beatles were a piano-pop band. The Who were something for British people to be proud of, them and the Sex Pistols. The Beatles were such gods, but Townshends's songs were so easy to play - D-G-A - so if I was 16 in 1966 I would have been a massive Who fan. Especially the clothes and all that. Townshend was always agitated, Moon was a headcase and the singer was always a bit tasty."
What are you listening to these days?
"Cotton Mather, Kontiki. It was through you boys at MOJO; the review said they sounded like The Beatles on a 4-track. One Sunday I stuck it on...track 5, I thought, Bastards! It was like the Beatles. I thought if that isn't the best record I've heard in 10 years, then I don't know what is. It's one of my favourites of all time. Also The Who BBC sessions. The Beta Band. And Richard Ashcroft's new album. It's happening. I never had him down as a great singer but he sounds brilliant."
Are you thinking of signing anyone to your new label, Big Brother?
"I've got a stack of demos sent through for the new label. There's one, Black Leather Motorcycle Club from LA. They sound like the Jesus And Mary Chain. It blew me away. I said, For that name alone I will sign this band! I played it to the rest of the group and they said, 'It's fucking horrible!' So I thought it must be good if those cunts don't like it. There's also a band I like in Manchester called Proud Mary. You know Country Honk on Let It Bleed? It sounds like that. Mega, 24-carat Rolling Stones. But now we've got to piss off round the world and do some touring..."
So you're feeling optimistic?
"Yeah, I'm happy. I've got a brand new band and brand new record label. Pity the record we're promoting hasn't got the five of us on it. It won't be 'til the next one that we have a brand new start. It's double exciting."