Oasis, if you hadn't noticed, have just resurfaced. But will they sink or swim? After the druggy excesses of 'Be Here Now'. Following the departure of two members, and with British rock in a sorry state, the Biggest Band Since The Beatles have a lot to prove. Which is why, on the eve of the release of 'Standing On The Shoulder Of Giants' - their darkest collection of songs to date - Noel Gallagher has chosen this moment to give the frankest, not to mention longest, interview of his career.
This must be the worst time in history to be a celebrity. Stalkers, kidnap plots, and now the near-fatal wounding, by a former heroin-addicted, knife-wielding maniac, of ex-Beatle George Harrison. It is early December, 1999, and Oasis' record company - or rather, their erstwhile record company, as would become evident within 24 hours of Uncut's meeting with Noel Gallagher - are taking no chances: until our cab's arrival at its destination, the precise location of the interview will remain a secret.
Turns out it's Wheeler End, a farmhouse-cum-studio about a half-hour's ride west of London where much of the recording of the band's long-awaited fourth album, 'Standing On The Shoulder Of Giants', took place. Arriving late-morning, we - the journalist and Creation press officer Johnny Hopkins - make our way through the kitchen to the studio at the back of the house where no less than 20 electric guitars lean against the wall in a row. Here, we await the most widely celebrated British rock songwriter of the last two decades.
We don't have to wait long. You can hear Noel loud and clear from several rooms away. Any minute now, you think, he's going to launch into a chant of "Manchest-uh! In the are-uh!"
Instead, minus fanfare or fuss, he enters the studio, clocks yours truly, puts a CD of new Swedish MC5-alikes Hellacopter on the urban commando-style ghetto blaster sitting by the window, then cranks up the volume, throwing Uncut a glance that says, 'Good, eh?'
The first thing you notice about Noel Gallagher is how much he looks like Noel Gallagher. As though he's just stepped out of an oasis photo, only with moving parts. The mod-ish threads jeans, light green T-shirt, Crombie-style dark blue overcoat, plus gold chain - that he's wearing today are very Noel G, as are those TV marionette eyebrows, way up there now in rock's pantheon of iconic physiognomy with Iggy's pecs and Jagger's lips. Shorter than you might imagine, the purposeful i stride, unwavering eye contact and firm handshake more than compensate. Besides, who needs height when you've got a track record like his?
Before the interview proper begins, and as Hopkins sets his own tape machine in motion (for recording Uncut's conversation with Gallagher, Creation really aren't taking any chances), Noel talks enthusiastically about an album by an American "power pop" band he discovered through the pages of Uncut last year - 'Kontiki' by Cotton Mather - which, in his estimation, is the best LP since 'Definitely Maybe', and this despite brother Liam's initial reservations ("They're a Yank band!" "Yeah, but the singer sounds like John Lennon." "Oh, all right, then"). just weeks away from first-time parenthood and a possible shift of domicile from Supernova Heights to Ibiza, and following a period of upheaval in Camp Oasis rumours of drug overload; the break with Creation following label boss Alan McGee's departure for cyberspace; the replacement of Paul "Bonehead" Arthurs (guitar) and Paul "Guigs" McGuigan (bass) with Andy Bell (ex-Ride and Hurricane #1) and Gem Archer (ex-Heavy Stereo) - Noel is no less forthright than anticipated, answering each question with the sort of candour that must give his management sleepless nights. What is surprising is how upbeat he is; surprising because 'Standing On The Shoulder Of Giants' - successor to, respectively, the fastest-selling debut of recent times, the best-selling UK rock LP of the Nineties (14 million and counting) and a controversial third album ("we blew it down the coke dealers") that "merely" went multi-platinum - has the vague air of defeat about it; as though Oasis no longer want to compete. And this at a time when homegrown guitar bands have never had it so bad. More than ever - for British music, for themselves - oasis need to do the business. Trouble is, they've chosen to do so with the least easily digestible material of their career.
And yet, no matter how troubled or depressed some of the new songs may sound, there would appear to be no downer corrosion on this gobshite's muse: he's emerged from a particularly dark night of the soul relatively unscathed. In fact, he's already looking forward to recording the fifth oasis album.
A positive Noel Gallagher? What did you expect? This is, after all, the man who, more than any other contemporary songwriter, although he may not have galvanised consumers into forming a committed rock community, did at least show that we can be more than just a nation of atomised individuals, that we do share hopes and fears; the man who, time and again, has proved Nabokov's dictum that nothing is more exhilarating than Philistine vulgarity. He may not be a generational leader as such, but as soon as his songs hit the airwaves, sung by brother Liam - according to Alan McGee, the Elvis Presley of his era - they give you a thrill all too rare these days: the feeling of ecstatic commonality. Perhaps the new ones will do the same.
Noel is the consummate interviewee, all own-ups and anecdotes. He's also a considerate host: coffee is made as soon as he's through the door. He makes sure his chair is near Uncut's microphone; he will even, unusually for a musician, stop mid-flight at the end of each side while the writer flips over the tape.
So here it is: the longest interview The Chief has ever done, or is ever likely to do. From Burnage to the Balearics, via Downing Street and Knebworth, and all points in between. For the liberties with syntax and liberal use of slang, the sensitivity and sly northern wit, the self-aggrandisement and self-effacement, for the facility with a wide range of subjects, the following 20,000 words recall nothing so much as Lennon Remembers - a series of conversations between the late Beatle and America's Rolling Stone, from 1970. He may be more artisan than artist, his constituency smaller and his influence less pervasive than St John's; nevertheless, 30 years down the line, Noel Gallagher is tuned into the mindset of his all-time hero.
Which is as much of an achievement as it sounds.Good to be back?
Er, yeah. Mm, I means, s'pose so.Was it too long a lay-off?
In the sense that we've not had any records out for a while, it probably is a bit of a stretch. But in the year that we had off, I was writing anyway. We just had a year not hanging out as a band. But it is a long time since we had a record out - it's going to be three years by the time it comes out.Are the songs still coming thick and fast?
F***ing, I tell you what, man, at the end of the last record ['Be Here Now'], I had no songs left and the tour was a f***ing nightmare - I wasn't really into how big it had all got. And coming out the other side at Knebworth, it was a bit disheartening, really. It was like, 'If this is going to go on forever, then I might pack it in.' I had no songs left and it was, 'Right, let's have a year off.' And then I wrote twenty songs for the album and that was cool. Lately, ever since about, I don't know, about two months ago, I just can't stop f***ing writing.Is this a different way of working?
Yeah, because I'm straight now. It's f***ing brilliant, man. I'll be farting about with something before I go to bed and when I wake up in the morning I can actually remember it.Would the first three albums have been different if you had adopted that technique from the off?
The first one I was too broke to take drugs. This album was written more in the spirit of the first one. The middle two are a bit of a haze - I can't remember much about them. The first one I had a lot of time to write it and a lot of time to throw stuff away, where the middle two were like, 'We need a record out because this thing is happening and we might as well capitalise.'
In hindsight, we should have probably taken a year off before the last record. We came back off that American tour and went straight in the studio, which we shouldn't have done. But it helped me get a lot of shit out of the way. All the songs I was writing at the time I thought were OK; then as the record progressed it was like, 'Oh, f***ing hell.' And then when it came out 'Be Here Now' got some pretty good reviews…It got some amazing reviews!
I thought that the praise that was heaped on it at first was a bit over the top and then I thought the criticism afterwards was a bit over the top as well. It didn't deserve 8 out of 10 in any of the papers and it certainly didn't deserve the slagging it got since. I don't think it was a good record but I certainly don't think it was as bad as people made out.Are people reluctant to criticise Oasis: a) because you're so massive, and b) because you've got a kind of aura of menace about you?
I don't know what it is, because I remember when 'Morning Glory' came out people were f***ing…That one did get slagged!
They panned it, then people changed their minds when the public went out an bought skip loads. And then this one ['Be Here Now'] was praised to the heavens, but when people didn't buy it, people changed their minds. People were trying to second guess what the public were going to feel about it.Do people criticise you to your face, or are you surrounded by sycophants?
If you've just sold 20 million albums and you go and write a bunch of songs, people aren't going to go, 'I don't like that, it isn't good enough.' I mean, they probably did. When we invited people down to the studio everyone was going, 'It's brilliant.' But I would imagine in the taxi home, they were going, 'F***ing hell.'Whose opinion do you trust?
Mine, really. We used to tend to get carried away with everything in the studio, we never had an objective view on anything. We never sat back and went, 'Is it any good or could it do with some more work?' It was just bollocks: 'It's brilliant because it's us,' you know? And when you are at the level we were at it's like, 'F***ing hell, man, we must be doing something right.'
'Be Here Now' took basically two or three weeks to write, whereas this one took a year. I'd come here [Wheeler End] and do the demos. Before, I'd write a song on the guitar and before I'd record it I'd play it to people and sing it, so everyone would form their opinion on it straight away. Whereas this time I wouldn't play it to anyone for about six months; it was like, 'I'm not going to play it to anyone until I'm happy with it.'
I was determined to make the songs a lot shorter. Last time it was like there was f***ing two months of f***ing feedback before the song started, which is great when you're off your tits in the studio, but when you're listening to it in the back of the car on the way to work it must be f***ing excruciating.Is this the first Noel Gallagher solo album, then?
No, not really. This is the first one…I'm happy…well, you know, it's not perfect because there's a couple of songs where the lyrics could have been…I could have worked on the lyrics a bit more.Which ones?
"Put Yer Money Where Yer Mouth Is" and "I Can See A Liar" - I was just messing about with riffs in the studio. But they sort of stuck. "I Can See A Liar" I personally wouldn't have put on the album. But Liam was, like, 'It's the f***ing Sex Pistols; we've got to have some fast ones on there because it's a bit medium-paced,' and it was, like, 'fair enough.'
There's a couple of songs that got shunted off onto B-sides of singles which should have gone on the album, but it's either the singer sulking or, you know, have some semblance of f***ing normality in the studio - you've got to weigh up which one's better than the other and it's better not to have a singer sulking.So there is compromise involved in the recording process, even for a band as big as Oasis?
I think all records are like that. We were working with a different producer this time as well [Mark 'Spike' Stent], who was brilliant for us, because Owen [Morris, erstwhile producer] would never say to anyone in the studio, like to Bonehead or Guigs, 'It's not really working what you're playing, so let Noel play it.' And we'd never say that to each other because we might get the f***ing needle, whereas Spike would just say, 'It's just not happening, man; it's obvious you can't do it so why don't you do it?' and I'd be like, 'Oh, right, well, I'll do it.
There'd be a bit of that going on, but it was all for the record at the end of the day, because it's a pretty crucial time for us now.Do you feel less unassailable than you did, say, between Knebworth and 'Be Here Now'? Like you've got something to prove again?
Yeah, I think so. If only musically.Does the fate of British rock rest on your shoulders?
I don't feel that we should be this big symbolic British rock band that has to go and conquer the world. Even though that's the way it's always portrayed. 'Oh, if the Oasis album doesn't do well in America then that's British music finished,' that sort of thing. I always sit there and think, 'F***ing thanks for that, because that's what I really need. The British music industry's finished if our album doesn't do well.' You don't really need that when you're eating your f***ing Cornflakes.It does feel like that, though, especially after 12 months of terrible under-performance on the part of Britpop's finest.
Yeah, it does. I understand it in a way, because we are the biggest British band there is. There isn't anyone else who has even got a chance of making headway around the world. I can't think of another rock'n'roll band that sells records in America, on the level that we do.Is "bigness" your essence?
That's what we set out to do. There was a six month period leading up to Knebworth where we were the biggest band on the planet because we were selling the most records and playing to the most people and writing the best songs, I feel.
I think if anyone had the bottle we would have come offstage at Knebworth and said, 'Do you know what, it's been a f***ing top scream, let's just kick it in the head now.' But, of course, it was, you know; 'Let's have one last f***ing trawl around America; let's bleed the life out of the album.' And that almost broke us in a way. But when you're on a roll, nobody wants to say, 'Let's just pack it in and be like The Jam and go out and be cool,' Everyone's like, 'F*** it, man, the bar's still open,' you know what I mean? It's not last orders yet.You could do what The Beatles did after '66 and just be a studio band.
Yeah. I'm only now thinking, 'Do I really want to go on the road for nine months again?' Nine months is a big enough stretch as it is, but then when you've got a kid on the way…it's not a wrench to go away, because you've got a responsibility to the people who buy the records as well, but I think there'll come a point in the very near future where…I'm not looking forward to going on the road for the simple reason that the gigs we're going to play, we've played them a thousand times over, and you've been to the same cities and you've stayed in the same hotels, and there's only so many tour bus moments that you can have in your life until it becomes an absolute nightmare. The rest of the guys, they love doing it.
The ideal situation for me would be like Brian Wilson [after his 1964 nervous breakdown], to just make the records and send the boys off: 'I'm not into it any more, so have the best time you can, go and promote the record, come back and I'll have finished another one for us to work on.' But they'd be like, 'If you're not going, I'm not going.' Then, if I don't go, the band don't go, and then if the band don't go, the record company are going to go, 'You can forget us trying to promote your records, you cheeky c***s.' So you end up in a vicious circle.Does it annoy you that, no matter how big you get, you still have to do certain things?
Yeah, because it's a major, major operation. It would be nice if we could get into the back of a transit van and turn up at The Borderline and say, 'Can we play a gig tonight?' But you almost feel like got the f***ing people from The X Files' following you with a million monitor things. I suppose they've got to protect the band, you know what I mean?Would you like to scale it down so you had more control?
Well, that's why we're playing Wembley, because we don't like playing big places [laughs]Somewhere discreet, like Wembley Stadium.
That's come about because it was offered to us. We were going to be the last band to play there: it was a symbolic thing. But we're going to do major outdoor shows and then, after that, 'round about Christmas 2000, we're going to do some really, really small venues, sort of like two or three thousand, after we've got all the fans in that could possibly see us. Then they can't moan and say, 'Oh, I couldn't get a ticket.' But, yeah, I'd like to break it down and start again.With the departure of Guigs and Bonehead, has the band lost some of its Last Gang In Town invincibility because you've brought in two new members "artificially"?
Yeah, but all the time it's real. It wasn't brought around by our decision, it was something that was forced upon us, and I wouldn't like to give anyone the satisfaction of saying, 'They couldn't so without me.' You know what I mean? So we were like, 'F*** that -we've all got kids on the way and stuff.' But you've got a responsibility to the people who buy the records because that's what Oasis has always been about: buying the records then going to see the band to sing along to the songs with your mates in the audience.Would it have been a different album had it been recorded with Gem and Andy instead of Guigs and Bonehead?
Well, it would have been a different album, because with all the greatest respect in the world to the two guys that have left, Gem and Andy are better musicians, so the musicianship would have been of a higher level. But the songs would have still been there. I don't think Liam would have sung it any differently. It might - it would - have been a little bit different, because they would have brought their own feel to it, I suppose, but not in a creative sense."You seem very up at the moment. And yet the new LP sounds quite down.
There's only so many up things you can write, you know what I mean?Have you got all the euphoria out of your system?
Well, I think it's just a case of growing up. It's like, I'm not mad for it anymore - can I officially state that?"Mad For It, R.I.P.
Yeah, well, I'm just not mad for it. on the other hand, Liam's mad for it. He's madder than mad for it. But you can only write so many "Some Might Say"'s. I mean, when I listen to some of the lyrics of "Stand By Me", for instance, they're just f***ing stupid. They're just rhyming; it's just mucking around; it just doesn't mean anything to me. When I listen to it on the radio I think,' What was i f***ing thinking?'Does the same go for "Slowly walking down the hall, Faster than a cannonball'?
Every time we sing I just think, 'What the f*** was all that about?' It's just using the vocal as a musical instrument more than anything."Now has your approach to lyric-writing changed for this album?
I think the words are going hand in hand with the songs now But it's not the finished article yet. I'm only getting a third of the way to where I want to be with the sounds and the style of the writing. Over the next couple of albums, there's a lot to be explored. I'm not experimenting [spits out word], going in the studio and shaking f***ing crisp packets with six-inch nails in them for the sake of art - we leave that to all the other no-marks in this country. I'm into making big f***ing f***-off rock'n'roll pop records, you know? But there's a side of it that still needs working on - the words are not amazing enough yet for me. But I'll get there. Slowly but surely my head's coming out of a blizzard of drug abuse, from the past 14 years almost. I'm slowly getting my shit together."Oasis are not a heroin band," Alan McGee told me recently. On the other hand, he said of the group's wild years: "No snow, no show." Have you ever tallied up how much you've actually blown on drugs?
Oh, yeah. I reckon it would have been…it would have been a few grand a month. It would have been quite a lot; you could have run a small record label off it, I would imagine."Do you, a keen fan of rock history, ever compare and contrast your drug intake with the all-time giants of narcotic excess, such as Keef or Iggy?
I'm an absolute f***ing ultimate lightweight compared to them. I mean, f***ing Keith Richards, man, he's like, he does his share and everybody else's, don't he? And he's still doing it to this day. Allegedly.Any close scrapes over the years?
Yeah. I mean, the reason why I packed it in was I was starting to get panic attacks and all that stuff - you know, waking up in the middle of the night with cold sweats and thinking that the world was going to f***ing end.'What period would that have been?
It would have been, umm, we finished the tour last March - or was it the March before? - whenever it was, we finished it in March and then, you know, we had been pretty much flat-out for five years so during March and April the house where I live in the country was just f***ing chaos. The boys were back in town and f***ing, 'Aren't you going to know about it?' lt got to about June, when the World Cup started, and it was just f***ing horrible. I felt like I was going to die. Not psychologically, it just got too much. I don't know what it was; it was all to do with no sleep, not eating enough or eating too much at some points. Just general lack of looking after yourself.
There came a point where I had a doctor out one night. He didn't who he was coming to see. I was lying in bed, looking like death warmed up, and as he walked in, he's got these little half-rimmed glasses, and someone's going, 'He's upstairs, he's having a bit of a hard time.' So he walks in and says, 'Ah, good evening, Mr...' And he looks at his thing [clipboard] Gallagher.' And he looked up at me and this big grin come across his face, and he shuts his book and says, 'I don't have to even diagnose what's wrong with you, sir.' He says, 'You do take drugs, I take it?' And I was like, 'Well, yeah,' and he says, 'So does all this come about when you're taking drugs?' and I say, 'Yes, well, you know.' And he says, just stop it.' And I went, 'So you're not going to give me anything?' And he went, 'No, there's nothing to give you, sir, just stop.' And I went, 'Right.' And that was it. He just got into his car and f***ed off. And I was going, 'F***ing waste of £250 that was. I could have told myself that.' And then the next day it was like, 'Do I want to go on like this for the rest of my life? -
I couldn't remember the last time I hadn't taken drugs. So I thought, 'Well, if it's only for six months it will be a f***ing laugh anyway.' You know, laughing at everybody else. And there's a time when, actually, I started feeling pretty good. And I started eating properly, and then I started looking five years younger, and it was like, 'F***ing hell, this isn't too bad.' And then, after about eight months, it was like, 'I'm not going to do anymore.' And I officially gave up. And I've done it for two, nearly two, it will be two years next June I haven't done anything - it's f***ing brilliant. I still drink and smoke fags, though.Dope?
No, the last time I smoked dope I made a right twat of myself, I went to see The Black Crowes at Shepherd's Bush Empire and I'd been on the Guinness all day. We were upstairs in the bar afterwards and someone says, 'Hey, do ya wanna come and meet the band?' So it was like, 'F***ing right.' And as we got there with my engineer who was working on the album, we went in the dressing room and I was pissed as a c**t. And we was talking to the singer [Chris Robinson] who has this f***ing huge spliff like a baseball bat, and he's smoking away and we're going on about rock'n'roll and that, and he passed us this joint. And so not to be seen to be a lightweight, I had a couple of drags on it, passed it him back, grabbed hold of the wall, then f***ing abseiled down the wall into the toilet, going green, puke every f***ing where. So I locked myself in the toilet and my mate was - it felt like about five minutes later - banging on the door, going, 'Are you in there?' And I was like, 'Yeah,' and he says, 'Come on, we've got to go, man, the building's empty, it's two in the morning, they've got to lock up.' And I couldn't find the door in the cubicle. So he's got to climb over, open the door, and carry me down the stairs. And as we get outside the Shepherd's Bush Empire, we open the door and there's a load of horrible kids with cameras. And as the flashes went off I just puked up every f***ing where. Of course, everyone thought it was marvellous rock'n'roll behaviour. But it was f***ing horrible."This new record sounds like a real stoners album.
When I first started playing the demos to people round at the house - people would come up on a Sunday to visit us - they'd go, 'Are you sure you're not on drugs?' And I'm like, 'I'm telling you,' and they're going, 'Because it's proper psychedelic, man.'
Even at the early stages it was quite psychedelic. I wouldn't call it a psychedelic record but some of the songs are. Even McGee was going, 'You wouldn't have thought you'd given up f***ing powder, man.' But when I'm in the studio I'm better off when I'm clear-headed and not drunk and I can concentrate more on what I want to do.
Spike was brilliant, because he doesn't take drugs and he rarely drinks; doesn't join in when the party's going off, he's proper on the f***ing case. Whereas Owen, if we were getting pissed, would be getting pissed as well and it would end up this loud f***ing din in the studio and you couldn't really make head nor tail of anything because the guitars would be double loud. Spike was brilliant because he'd just say, 'You just all go off to the pub and I'll sort this out.'Standing On The Shoulder Of Giants' sounds as though it was actually recorded on downers - it's heavy in both senses of the word. Even the lighter tracks - "Go Let Out", "Who Feels Love?" - seem listless and dispirited in comparison with previous hi-energy Oasis anthems. In fact, the whole mood - music and lyrics - of "I Can See A Liar" and "Put Yer Money Where Yer Mouth Is' is bitter and vengeful...
I know what you're saying, but it's really because I'm generally not an angry person. I suppose it comes across in "Sunday Morning Call" and to "Where Did It All Go Wrong?" - they're the most factually correct on the record, because they're about certain real people who I know, but who, obviously, remain nameless. People who used to always turn up on my f***ing doorstep, but at ungodly hours of the morning - and these are proper, well-off, rich, famous people, quite young. And they'd be running you through their drug and booze hell, and they ultimately think that to sort all this out they just write a cheque made payable to The Priory clinic, and six weeks later everyone's going to come up smelling of roses. 'Course, six weeks later they'll be back in your kitchen going, 'I can t handle it any more.' And you'll be going, 'At least you're not washing car windscreens for a living on f***ing Baker Street. Get a grip of yourself, man.'
It's like, if you don't want to do it no more, then don't do it. But for f***'s sake don t spend 20 grand trying to kick the habit that you can just kick by looking in the mirror and saying to yourself, 'Where did all this go wrong, man?' That's basically what them songs are about.'They're not about you, then?
I suppose they're subconsciously directed at myself in some ways.The pressures of your lifestyle, fame and stuff?
"Roll It Over", the last track, is a bit like that. It's just about the inane people you tend to meet when you're out, who talk to you like they've known you for 15 years, whereas they've known you for 10 minutes, they've just heard a couple of your records on the radio. it's like, 'F*** off!'Does it not concern you that those songs are going to mean less to people than a song like "Rock'n'Roll Star" - about escaping a provincial town to make something of yourself - whereas these sorts of crises will only connect with the few in your positions.
Yeah, but I still think that when you get to around - what am I now? 32? - when you get to sort of 30 to 35, anyway, it's a time in your life when you do start questioning. I think a lot of people in their mid-thirties do that. I know I certainly did after my 30th birthday - it was like, 'it's about time I was getting married and having kids; it's about time 1 was leaving something behind, not just being the old scally rock star that lives in the big house at the top, you know, the token rake with a pint of Guinness.' I got to a point where I went, 'F*** it, I've had my time as a young mad-for-it man. It's time to move on.'So you've exorcised all the madness?
Yeah, I think so. I like being back at work. Before, I would create something to justify staying up for three days doing drugs; now it's like I create something purely because I like being creative. Whereas before we'd make records to go on the road and have a good time - so you could justify blowing 25 grand a month on drugs and lavish parties: 'It's all right because I'm a pop star! And I'll buy a stupid f***ing outfit, because I'm a rock star!' Now it's like you're creating something because that's what you do; you're a creative person.
Is a night like the one that produced "Talk Tonight" (from the "Some Might Say" CD single), where you had to he coaxed off a hotel window ledge in Las Vegas, unlikely to happen again?
If I ever got like that again, if I ever got that bad, where I disappeared for a couple of weeks and nobody could find me…I was a young man then; I was 26 or 27. And it was all exploding, all over the world, in our faces, and we probably didn't know how to deal with it. All right, I knew how to deal with it, but I didn't know how to deal with the rest of the band, who didn't know how to deal with it. Whereas now I've made enough money to just go, 'Do you know what? I'm just going to knock it on the head for a while.'
If we get on the next tour and there's all the madness going on again, it would be good to get back and say, 'I don't have to record another album if I don't want to.' I could gladly take two years off and watch the young 'un grow up. So, no, probably nights like that wouldn't happen again.The new album isn't just "down", it's also quite dark. Is there more of a Smiths or Joy Division element to your music than has been noted? Sometimes your comical songs overshadow your serious ones.
'Well, you won t ever see any more f***ing 'She's Electric's, let's put it that way. Or any more "Digsy's Dinner"'s, because you do that when you're young, don't ya? "Go Let It Out" is probably the last of that kind of...it's just a funky rock'n'roll pop song and I'd like to, without sounding like Radiohead, do something a bit more, not overtly dark and make people feel miserable, but just sort of tell it like it is. But life is good; it's not as bad as Thom Yorke would have you believe.Was the phrase "Pre-Millennium Tension" knocking around in your head when you Wore writing this record?
Oh, no, no. It's like, my life is pretty f***ing damn good at the moment. There are things that piss me off, but not in the sense that I would contemplate ending it all, sticking my head in a f***ing oven or anything.Have you ever felt that way?
No, never. No. I mean, at some points I've thought that. I've probably thought I would f***ing kick the bucket, only through health reasons. But I would never...f*** that. I'm too much of a coward to take my own life.There's the romantic myth of the Manchester musician, "a weight on their shoulders". Ian Curtis springs to mind.
Yeah. I can understand that, because I had a pretty shit upbringing, but I wouldn't ever write about that; that's private. I've got over it and I don t need to write about it as a course of therapy. I got over that a long, long time ago. Now I tend to write about things that get on my tits. Like, getting old gets on my tits, but it's something that's got to be embraced. I don't know, we'll see in the future...You once said that your first three LPs were a set and after that you were going to draw a line and move on to Phase 2. Is 'Standing On The Shoulder Of Giants' the start of Phase 2?
Yeah, totally. It's a third of the way where I'd like to be when my contract's up with Creation or Sony or whoever the f***ing hell we're signed to these days [soon after this interview, Oasis and Creation parted company, and the band set up their own Big Brother imprint. This is album four. Five and six will take us to another level; then, after that, well, I don t know where we're going to go after that. We'll either be shifting record labels or there'll he a big re-fit; there might even be different people in the band, or there might be no one in the band. I can see the next two albums being a sort of...I'd like to do it in threes.
But I don't ever see us making a radical f***ing sweep to the left, or underground music, or anything like that. Because I always think that bands that do that have run out of ideas. It's like a subconscious thing where they say to themselves, 'F*** it, we've got no ideas left, so let's make an experimental record, and when it doesn't sell, we'll just say we were doing it for art's sake.' Whereas we tend to go in - well, I do anyway both feet first and at least f***ing try and shake the world, d'you know what I mean? I'm not trying to shake the art world. I would never want a South Bank Show special just because it's arty and it's cool.
I don't make art-punk records like Primal Scream, or art-pop records like Blur. I just make rock'n'roll records and hopefully they sell 50 million. When you hear bands who make these records and then people accuse them of being under-achievers, they say, 'Oh, yeah, but I still hope it sells 50 million albums.' You read that and you go, 'But it doesn't stand a chance of selling a million, let alone 50 million; at least mine stand a f***ing chance., it's difficult to make cool commercial music. Most big commercial records are naff. Nicky Wire [of the Manics] seems to think that because he sells a load of records, that's automatically good. If that's the case, then Phil Collins is the f***ing don of all dons, isn't he? Just because you sell loads of records doesn't actually make it good.'John Lennon was cool and commercial. He also had a (fairly) coherent philosophy and a quite specific political agenda. What do you and your songs stand for?
Well, for the first two albums, it was about...they were a lot of drinking songs, for your mates to raise a glass to in the venue. They were all very difficult to listen to and if you sat down and tried to analyse what they were about, there wouldn't be no point because none of them mean anything. But now I suppose it's marrying the feeling of a drinking song with, behind it, something - when you actually read the words - that's a little bit deeper, point a few things out so that people go, 'Well, I never knew that.Would you rather have the South Bank special or the 10 million sales? To define the times or be merely popular?
It would be nice to have both, wouldn't it? In an ideal world. I'd rather be like The Velvet Underground, who didn't sell anything, ever. I'm sure Lou Reed's pretty proud of what he's done, as he should be, because he's done some f***ing good stuff. When you meet these people, the likes of Mercury Rev, and you go, 'F***ing great album,' they always go, 'F***ing wish it would sell a few more.' That's always their opening line. To make great records and to sell 50 million would be brilliant.Do you think there's just the one band that's done both?
Absolutely.Doesn't that crush you when people suggest that no matter how big Oasis get they'll never have the cultural impact of The Beatles?
No, because it's true. We'll never even have the cultural impact of The Sex Pistols. Even though they only made one album. They changed fashion. A lot of writers like yourself were inspired, you know? When you affect things like music number one, politics number two, and art number three, and then journalism and writers like Irvine Welsh, and film directors, that takes some doing. And to say they only done one f***ing album is incredible. I'm aware of all that.
But there's nobody to inspire in this country any more, because everyone's too busy taking E's and playing video games or whatever. So you've just got to try and change your own world, inspire yourself and your family and your kids and all your friends. And hopefully other people will get on with it and form bands and do something a bit special.Will history prove that you had more a of a long-term affect than fellow Manchester bands The Smiths and The Stone Roses?
In Britain I would say, 'No.' But 'round the world I would say probably, 'Yeah.' Because if right now, today, you asked some kids about British music, ours would be the first name they came up with. And outside of England I dare say no one's heard of The Stone Roses or The Smiths, or The Jam, and the people in tem bands would probably tell you that as well. We've never affected culture or clothes, really, but we certainly gave the nineties a kick up the arse.Do you think that if it hadn't been you it would have been another band, or did it have to be you?
I don't know. Because the bands that were around when we were starting was…if you look at The Verve, they probably inspired us at the beginning - not musically, but because they seemed to be of the same age group and they came from the same part of England that we came from. And then they disappeared for a while and we went on and then in turn we sort of kick started them again, and then they went on to greater things with 'Bitter Sweet Symphony' and 'The Drugs Don't Work'. So probably in that way we inspired a few musicians.
But if it wasn't us…I can't remember any band that was around at that time who I think would have gone on to have the impact that we had, to be honest with you.Do you feel guilty about Nineties retro-activity? Staying with Manchester, that was a city synonymous with electronic invention. Then, after The Smiths, who ironically, even though Morrissey was quite experimental in terms of his sexuality, signalled a return to Byrds/Beatles-type songwriting - that rock solid/solid rock approach became the "new" Manc sound.
Yeah, well, The Stone Roses were pretty retro, weren't they, until 'Fools Gold'? But that's just what I was into. I was into dance music when I was living in Manchester, and I was out every night The Hacienda and various other places, but to me it was always…after clubs we would go to people's houses and they would put on the same stuff they'd been listening to in the nightclub, and it would be like, 'F***ing give it a rest! F***ing drugs are wearing off now, man, can you put some Neil Young on?' Everyone would be going, 'Who's Neil Young?' and you'd go, 'You know what, I think I'll get off.'
When you write songs at an early age, you're just copying your record collection. My record collection never contained Kraftwerk as probably Bernard Sumner's did, and Joy Division's did. So "Slide Away" and "Rock'n'Roll Star" - that was a lot of T Rex and Neil Young, do you know what I mean? "Live Forever" was sort of vaguely Beatlesesque in it's melody, I suppose. So that's just the way it is.Neil Young fans listen to his records, and like to trace a journey in his life and his career, all the ups and downs. Do you think the same will be true when you get to your seventh album? That you'll be able to plot a graph of emotional highs and lows.
Yeah. I can see it now: 'Definitely Maybe' was the young, eager, wanting to get out there and f***ing blow the world away album. The second one was stopping in the lay-by where you catch your breath before you head off down the, er, superstardom highway. And the third one was just f***ing fat and drunk [laughs]. And this one is clean, healthy, focused.
This is the first album where there's certain songs that actually put into words what I was feeling at the time of writing. Whereas the others were just, we were writing them more for other people really.On one level, the first album was quite rock-literate - a rock album about rock albums, full of references and stuff (Noel, quite taken with this idea, smiles). Is 'Standing On The Shoulder of Giants' more directly emotional?
Yeah. I'm not saying we'll never write another out and out rock'n'roll album, because they are exciting when you get them right. But by the same rule, I'm 32 and I don't want to write songs like a 25-year old, because people would just go, 'He's not a kid anymore,' do you know what I mean?
But I wouldn't go into a studio with any set agenda. In fact, this time we've got to knock half an hour of the record, because the last one was 75 minutes long - too f***ing long. But we never go in there with, like, 'Right, this year we will be mostly making samba music.' There'll be none of that going on. Unless, of course, samba becomes extremely popular and we're skint.Is it strange that having escaped small-town hell, you now have a different set of problems?
It's the same old shit in a different way. But I mean, if you lived the perfect life, in the perfect band, writing the perfect music, how boring would that be? You'd be like, 'What's the f***ing point?'
There's a lot of things in life that I'd like to change. I'd like to be the ultimate controller of my own destiny. I would like no to work for The Man. But that's all to come in the future when we finish off our contract and we decide where we want to go. Do we start our own record label? What do we do? There's probably some things we'd fight to change: like demand our own record label, like get out of our contract, and we don't want to go on tour. But that would take a lot of f***ing about in court rooms.
We've only got two more albums after this, so that day's approaching quite quick. I'm sure we can change that when the time comes to it. It's like, I've got a little baby coming and all that, so there's a lot of balls to be juggled at the moment. I've got toi be a dad, I've got to be a husband, and I've got to be a f***ing rock'n'roll star. It's going to be interesting.Will it be hard balancing rock'n'roll and fatherhood?
Yeah, yeah. It's like you do have to sort of say, 'Right, today is husband day, today, let's take the wife out shopping.' It sounds naff, but that's the only way to look at it. You have your set time for being a rock'n'roll star, which is when you're on tour, when you're on Top Of The Pops, or in the studio. And then there's going to have to be times set aside for being, you know, daddy, and having f***ing chocolate rubbed in my face.And that's just Meg!
[laughs] That's just LiamIs it weird living out your relationship with Meg in public?
Yeah. It's weird because it's like, Meg does a lot of stuff that I generally wouldn't agree with - she'd do a lot of stuff in the past where she'd come home and say, 'Oh, I've been offered all this money to do a photo shoot for something: what do you think?' and I'd go, 'No, don't man' - because she's going to kick off a f***ing shit storm - 'don't.' She'll always ask my opinion, then she's always told me to go f*** myself. Which is fine.
I suppose I could be the archetypal husband and say, 'F***ing hell, love, your place is in't kitchen and my place is on't telly.' It's not worth getting a divorce over. So if she asks my opinion and I say I really don't think it's a good ideas, she'll say, 'Well, I want to do it' and other than that you can't go round grabbing her by the ear. She's her own woman. I'll give her my opinion and we'll agree to disagree, and that's it.Is she hard on you?
Er…not a lot. No, not really. We don't really tend to bring work home.Another good day at the office, dear?
Yeah, I wouldn't. If I was playing some stuff at home that I was writing, and Meg came in and said, 'I don't like that,' it would be like, 'I don't give a f*** whether you like it or not, you're not going to buy it anyway, are ya?' I never ask her opinion on the music side of things, because - not that I don't value it - it would be irrelevant. If she said, 'I don't think it's very good,' I'd get upset and think, 'What the f***ing hell do you know about it?' Whereas if she said it was good, it would be like, 'Well, of course she's going to say that because she's my wife.'Is it difficult when you're writing lyrics? As though your thoughts will eventually be scrutinised for revealing references?
Oh, yeah, every f***ing day of the week, mate. This is f***ing incredible. She'll be like, 'Can I listen to some of the new stuff?' And I'll be like, 'Yeah, all right, but I want to go out while you do this,' because it's all, 'What's all that about? What does that mean?' 'Well, it doesn't mean anything.' 'They're not arguments, but it's like doing the press conference two years before your record comes out.Is that a barrier to clarity of communication - you can't really say what you want to say?
No, I can, I can say what I want to say. It was worse before, actually, with the previous three albums, because the songs were quite vague, they weren't really about anything. People would say, 'Is that about me?' and you'd go, 'No, it's not really about anything.' And when you're trying to explain to your wife about a song that you cant remember writing, and it doesn't mean anything, you always end up talking complete and utter bullshit. She'll go, 'You're lying' and you go, 'It doesn't mean anything.' So we tend not to talk about it.
I've written a few songs about Meg, but you wouldn't know they're about her. just about feelings that I have. You don't want to get into a mutual f***ing lovefest on a record. All that stuff about Damon [Albarn, Blur] and his girlfriend Justine [Frischmann, Elastica] is just - how can anyone possibly listen to that record [Blur's 13]? Because it doesn't mean anything, does it, to anyone other than him and his missus? I just don't get it."What about John and Yoko?
I don't get that, either.Really?
No, I'm not having that. No.What about catharsis and regression therapy?
What, sitting in a room, screaming?Baring your soul.
I mean, whatever gets you through the night, you know? It's not really my bag. I find, when Lennon's singing 'Mother', it's all well and good and he probably felt good after he'd done it, but after you've listened to it twice you just go: 'Mother'. It just sounds like f***ing what's his name, the banjo player?George Formby.
George Formby. [Does passable Formby] 'Mother!'So it's more fun for the musician than it is for the listeners?
I think there's always something they've got to get out of their system. It's interesting to listen to, say, Joy Division's lyrics and to Morrissey's lyrics. It's interesting, but it's not particularly f***ing entertaining.But don't they provide helpful insights into the human conditions?
Yeah, I suppose. If you were of the same mental state as Ian Curtis and you understood what he was going on about, that could help you. And if you were, you know, of the same gender as Morrissey, then I suppose, yeah, it did help a lot of young men and women at that point, especially up North, I would imagine. But not when someone is singing about something that is so personal to them yet so alien to you it just doesn't f***ing compute. You just blank out.Now do you make that transition from writing a very personal song to writing a song that is personal in the first instance but that then becomes universal?
It's difficult, for me anyway. The thing is to try and convey a feeling more than an actual fact. To write down, 'I am feeling pissed off today because I am famous' - you just go, 'F***ing big deal.' The point is to try and convey a feeling - an emotion - in the sound of the record and the sound of the phrasing of the words. And to be a bit vague about it. But it's a fine line. I'm sure that Liam must sing 'Wonderwall' some nights and think, 'It's about his missus.I suppose what I'm asking is: does your brother's "Little James" have that magical "Hey Jude" X-factor?
That particular song, even though it's about someone specific the first line mentions his [Patsy Kensit's son by Jim Kerr, James] name - after that it's all about plasticine and trampolines and you're sailing out to sea in a boat with the two people that you love most in the world. I think every f***er can relate to that, man.
In that song, he is doing the same as I would do. He's stating the fact in the first couple of lines and then it's all about childlike attitudes. Because Liam's still a child and the child that he's writing the song about is most probably more mature than Liam, if the truth be told. I think a lot of people are going to relate to that.You and Liam are quite conventional: both married with children. Do you need that securfty? You went almost directly from (long-term girlfriend) Louise Jones (as immortalised in "Married With Children" from 'Definitely Maybe') to Meg (Matthews)...
Well, I don't generally spend that much time as a single man. I really haven't, since I left school. I'm generally a loner anyway, but I always like to have a mate. I don't tend to hang around with geezers that much, because I'm in a band with four of them, and I've got two brothers.
I've been in steady relationships ever since I was quite young. I've always been quite conventional. I mean, the bad boy image of, like, the sex, the drugs, and the rock'n'roll was only true around the time of the first album, because I was single then and so was Liam, so that was perfect. But when you find the right person, there's nothing you can do about it, you know what I mean?'Do you over feel as though people are willing you to behave outrageously, for their own vicarious enjoyment?
Of course. The people in the f***ing tabloids want the two obnoxious twats from up North because it makes for good copy.Was there one single vivid moment, over the last six or seven years, where you almost caught yourself watching yourself as it was happening and thought, "This is a bit near the knuckle?"
When we were at The Brits for the first time . We had a big table with about 10 seats 'round it and in between the awards being dished out, because it had a big thing over the top, we ended up sitting underneath most of the night, just f***ing messing about. And we had lots of Jack Daniels, and it was like, 'And the best newcomer is Oasis' and we were climbing out from under the table!
We were blatantly flaunting it in front of the whole establishment of the music industry. I remember the tables round us were pretty major league pop stars who were all f***ing disgusted at our behaviour. But at the end of the night, right, there must have been about 500 people round our table! Everyone else was,' That's where the party is.'
At the end of the night, we'd done loads of pills and that, and I was just sat around the table chatting away to Meg, just talking nonsense. Suddenly, we looked 'round and the whole f***ing building was empty. The disco had finished and everyone had gone home. We were the last two people in the middle of Earls Court! And I had this flashback of what it must have looked like. We were like two little tiny dots going, 'Blah blah, blah, blah.' We must have just been totally oblivious to the whole world. We were like, 'Oops, sorry about that.' Then we stood up casually and fell over a table full of drinks.Is it easy to wind up, of all people, the British music industry?
Yeah, well, if you get up on a f***ing TV show and do a bit of swearing it's like, 'oh, gosh,' you know? I don't understand that at all. Everybody swears, don't they? The thing is, when certain things would happen, whenever stories would break in the press, now whether it be connected to Oasis or not, they would always send somebody round to my house - a film crew, or somebody with a f***ing tape recorder and microphone - knowing I would have to say something, because I'm f***ing Noel Gallagher.
[To invisible TV crew] 'Do you want my opinion on it? You wait there a minute while I get dressed and I'll be out in a minute.' And they go [hands rubbing together], 'Brilliant,' and I'll be thinking, 'F***ing brilliant.' They'll be going, 'What about such and such a person?' and you'll be like, 'He's a f***ing c**t and his f***ing wife is, and if I ever get my way…' And they'd be down the phone to the editor, going, 'Brilliant.' And I'd phone me manager [Marcus Russell] and say, 'Call the lawyer because it could get heavy, I think I probably accused the whole of the cabinet of being heroin addicts last night.'
And he'll be like, 'Fair enough, OK.' [Russell to lawyer] 'John? Yes, it's Marcus. Can you get round the house straight away?'So after the HIV furore (Noel hopes Damon and Alex of Blur get AIDS), the drugs furore (Noel tells press that taking drugs is OK, because, let's face it, we all do it, even especially - the government), and the delinquency furore (Noel admits he used to go on the rob), is there anything you wish you hadn't said?
No, no. I was being a...no, no. I did do burglaries, I did rob a couple of shops and nick a few car stereos and glue-sniff and all that. There's no point in me lying about it because the people in Manchester would be going, 'You f***ing wanker.' We were only being honest. And the night of the thing about Brian Harvey [of East 17], what I actually said, apart from the whole of the House of Commons being on heroin, which is a bit over the top [trails off]...
The funny thing is, I get on MTV and they follow me to the toilet, which is a bit f***ing sinister in itself, and I go for a piss in the bog and there's this TV crew right there. And it's like, 'All right, if that's the way you want to play it, f***ing get on with it.' And I was going on about Brian Harvey, going [to reporters and crew], 'Yeah, but you take drugs and you do and you do, and so does everybody else in these f***ing toilets because, if you just lower your voice a bit, you can probably hear the sniffing right now.' And there's all these geezers stood round nodding their heads, going,' F***ing right, mate.' -of course, the next thing is, it's a front page banner headline: 'Drugs Is Like Having A Cup Of Tea.' And you get the obligatory f***ing someone's mum and dad - whose kids have died on drugs - on the telly, and then it's blown out of all proportion. But I'm certainly not going to lie about it.Did Leah Betts' parents call you at home?
They didn't ring me at home but there was letters being sent to the management office and all that shit. And it was just, 'I didn't sell your kid drugs. I take them. Your daughter did as well, while we're on the f***ing subject, never forget that. And she died, and it's a f***ing shame, it's a terrible thing, but it ain't my f***ing problem."'Do you scan the papers and see a burning issue coming a mile off, a golden opportunity for Noel Gallagher to have his say, and you immediately start rehearsing your lines for the press?
I have to say, I have done that, yes; I'll put my hand up and say, 'Yeah.' There was a thing in the paper about chart-rigging, and I knew there'd been a film crew sniffing about my house in London - you can always tell they're there because they're in cars with blacked-out windows. And, lo and behold, I got a call off someone to say they think they're going to pull me in the street. I was going, 'What? Chart-rigging? Yeah, that's a good one.' And they were saying, 'What do you think about people who buy records in? Do you think your record company's doing that?' And I'm going, 'I f***ing hope so, I'd be glad if they bought all my records in.
That's one of the reasons I moved out of London in the end - sometimes my mouth can get the better of me. And I can't help taking the piss. But when it's in print it doesn't look like you're taking the piss, it looks like you actually mean it.'Do you practise your lines in front of the mirror?
No, no, I would never get in front of the mirror, but I would sit down and think, 'What would be the most outrageously controversial comment I could give about that right now?' And then I would just come up with the most banal f***ing stupid thing, then times it by 10, add a couple of swear words, mention somebody's name in particular, accuse them of something and then [laughs] throw in the word 'allegedly' on the end. Then go back in and ring my manager. Immediately.Does it surprise you how effortlessly you can grab the attention of the whole nation?
Yeah, well, you must remember that, after the big Drugs Is Like Having A Cup Of Tea storm, they were asking questions in the Houses of Parliament and Michael Howard was on the six o'clock news. I remember being in one of my mate's offices, and Michael Howard was on saying that, you know, 'East 17 have kicked Brian Harvey out of the band,' and he was saying that he hoped Liam and the boys would do the same to me. And I was f***ing rolling about on the floor, racking 'em [lines of coke] out, going, 'If only.' For f***s sake.
Anyway, six months later he [Howard] got the sack and a year later his f***ing party got booted out and I was walking through Number 10, through the same door that he was walking out of not six months earlier, going, 'Ha, ha, ha, ha!Go you think that, on the day of the Number 10 bash, Tony Blair was dying to tell you to, you know, tone it down a bit, chaps?
Listen, right. When we was in that drinks party thing, he [Blair] come into this room and we were chatting away and I said, 'Oh, it was brilliant, man, because we stayed up till seven o'clock in the morning to watch you arrive at the headquarters. How did you manage to stay up all night?' And this is his exact words: he leant over and said, 'Probably not by the same means as you did.' And at that point I knew he was a geezer! I turned to McGee and went, 'Did he just say that?' I thought that showed the guy's got a sense of humour.
But that night, I did get followed to the toilets quite a lot. I think they were quite concerned that I was going to ... there were a few phone calls going in to McGee: 'He's not going to misbehave, is he?' And he was going, 'No, no, he's not going to misbehave.' And in the car, on the way there, he was going, 'You're not going to misbehave, are ya?' I was going, 'Well, no, I'm not going to go in and f***ing trash the joint; I'm not going to start spraying 'The Sex Pistols' and 'God Save The Queen' everywhere.'
But I didn't want to go in there and act like a yobbo and give the Press what they wanted. Because I think everyone was expecting me to turn up in jeans and trainers, with a bottle of Stella and a cig, standing on the doorstep, like, 'F*** them all.' I wanted to go there and carry myself as...An intelligent young man?
...as an intelligent young man, yeah. I did ask him [Blair] about the Liverpool Dockers, which probably went in f***ing one ear and out the same ear - probably didn't even go in the ear. His words were, 'We'll look into it.' And I said, 'Yes, you probably will, won't you?' And that was the end of that.You did what Jagger did on Granada TVs 'World In Action' in 1967: unexpectedly gave a good account of yourself and the generation you represent.
Yeah, well, I've been so vocal about voting Labour anyway that it would have been hypocritical of me to send back the invitation and go, 'No, I'm not into it now, because it's not cool.' F*** that. In my lifetime there'd always been a Conservative government - Margaret Thatcher pinched my milk at school, you know what I mean? She was f***ing owed one by me.
And I suppose, yeah, it was a symbolic thing on my behalf - from Burnage to 10 Downing Street. I don't sit back and go, 'What a marvellous evening, Meg and me went to see the PM.' It was just one of those things. it heightened my infamy. it was a buzz just to go there and think, 'This is going to get so many people's backs up. it's gonna be great, a bit of self publicity. Shame we haven't got a f***ing record out, but never mind.Talking of the influence of rock musicians on politics, John Lennon had the FBI on his trail. Have you over feared serious surveillance, having your every move monitored (someone, the FBI perhaps, allegedly planted coke wraps on Liam during one US tour)?
Yeah. One night, Meg threw a 30th birthday party for us, over at the house in London [Supernova Heights] - and I f***ing hate birthday parties. Anybody else's birthday parties as well, but I particularly despise mine because it's just embarrassing; it's like: 'Happy birthday!' 'Piss off.' Anyway, she threw this surprise party and everybody turned up - even Gwyneth Paltrow was there. it was like, 'Who's in town, f***ing come round.'
So I get home and it's like, 'Since when did my house become a f***ing night club?' Anyway, it got to about 11, 12 o'clock and I was thinking, 'F***, man, if we were going to get raided, this would be the night.' I was pretty open about what we used to get up to, and I was thinking, when I had a moment of clarity, 'F***.' And then, of course, the mischievous side of me's going, 'Brilliant, puts another 900 grand on the house.' You know, where all the f***ing rock establishment got nicked. And then I was thinking, 'F***, no, man, this is getting really serious.'
As it happens, the doorbell went and it was the police - someone had double-parked their car outside. I just shouted, 'It's the police!' to what can only be described as a symphony of toilet flushes. Of course, he [Old Bill] just said, 'Do you know who owns the red Mercedes?' 'Yeah, I'll be out in a minute.' And someone moved it and that was it. And everyone's like [does a face of drug-free reveller], 'Bugger.' Good old times, though.Lennon likened the early Beatles to Fellini's 'Satyricon' - The Last Days Of Rome and all that. Have then been nights so wild YOU could sense myths being created - where a night out with your mates could, if you pushed it a bit, go down in the history book?
Yeah. The second night of The Brits . We didn't know Michael Hutchence was going to present us with an award. It was the first award of the night and there'd been words said before the ceremony in the papers. So when he come out to present the award, we went, 'Right, these c***s [Brits organisers] have stitched us up here, because they know what's going on.' So we decided that, every time we hit that stage, we were just going to give it to everyone, and we f***ing duly did. And, you know, I still haven't seen that night, but Alan McGee says it's the best - what did he say? He said it was 'Ecstasy abuse gone mad."'That's your job, isn't it - the abuse of power?
Well, yeah. I'd hate to be in a ... rock'n'roll is about doing what you want, when you want to do it, and f*** the consequences. I mean, we've done some stupid things, but at least we were always true to ourselves. None of it was that contrived. It was like, 'Next time we go up there let's insult a few people, because we might not get invited back again,' because you never know, do you?
It wasn't scripted or anything like that. We probably wouldn't have done anything if Michael Hutchence hadn't come out and said his little bit: 'I heard Liam wants to fight me.' We were like, 'Don't f***ing try and pick a fight with us, man, because we're the best at giving verbal abuse,' and off we went.Do awards organisers expect all pop stars to get on famously and love each other?
I tell you what, you put a load of rock stars in a room with a big bag of cocaine and they'll love each other for the rest of their f***ing lives. I've had conversations with people who I f***ing hate and I know they hate me and they know I hate them. I just sit there going, 'Your record's good, man; I'm not buying them, but I like them, you know, I do, I do, I love them,' and they'll be going, 'Yeah, man.' 'And that thing I said about you didn't really mean anything.'Anyone you can name?
No, I wouldn't, no. It wouldn't be fair, because they still think I like them! No, I've had the odd night down at Browns and down at the Met Bar and all that, and it's f***ing horrible, man. I caught my missus talking to The Lighthouse Family one night, and I made a point of going over, but I couldn't bring myself to go, 'oy, piss off. Take your f***ing record down to Ocean Drive and get the f*** out of talking to my missus.' So you go over and Meg goes, 'This is Noel' and her opening line is, 'He's a really big fan' and I go, 'Ho, ho,' thinking, 'You f***ing bitch.' And they go, 'That's really great,' and then they say, 'I really like your band' and you go, 'oh.'Has anyone actually told you to your face that they don't like your music?
No. The last person was Mick Hucknall, saying our last album was average. And, you know, when someone like that says some things like that you have to take them on board, because if anyone knows the sound of average music it's f***ing Mick Hucknall.
And then I seen him at The Blair Witch Project and he was down the end of the bar with the geezer from The Corrs - they looked like a really nice couple, as it happens - so I just went to the bar and bought a drink and he sort of looked the other way, and I thought, 'What a wanker.' I wouldn't ever say anything to him because I don't particularly like Simply Red but I don't mind him. But if he goes spouting off then you would hope he'd have the f***ing gumption to come and say something to you.
Whereas the bass player from Blur [Alex James], he don't give a f***, man. He's a pretty cool dude. Because when all that thing was going on about the AIDS comment, I bumped into him two nights after it had been out in the press and there was a f***ing shit-storm going off. We were in Browns - it was packed-out, some party going on - and I was stood chatting away and somebody pinched me arse. I thought, 'What the f*** was that?' And I turned round, and it was Alex from Blur. He went, 'All right, mate?' I thought he was going to headbutt me or something: 'oh, here we go, go on.' And he just went, 'Can I buy you a drink?' So we went upstairs and had a drink and he went, 'lt's all f***ing bollocks, man.
We sat down and got pissed and he's been round our house a couple of times since, with Keith Allen and that. The thing about Alex is you can go out with him and have a good old drink-up and not mention music once. Because I get the vibe that he hates music, he just does it so he can bolster his f***ing champagne habit. Which is great. He's a proper toff as well, man, he's [Lord Of The Manor accent], 'F***ing marvellous.' I sort of like that about him. Whereas all other pop stars go out and feel like they have to talk shop all night, I go out and the last thing I want to talk about is somebody's record. It's just like, 'Did you watch The Royle Family last night? F***ing funny or what?'Do most of your peers just want to prove their working-class, had-boy credentials in front of you?
I think that sometimes, if I was to be really cynical about it, if they pick a fight verbally in the press, they know that sooner or later you're going to bump into them, and if there's a scene there's going to be a lot of publicity about it. And while it doesn't do me any favours and it doesn't do Liam any favours, it does do the other person a lot of favours.
But I don't give a f*** about that. if you know people don't like the music, brilliant. I'm glad Mick Hucknall doesn't like the music, because if he did we'd be doing something f***ing wrong.Would you be upset if the forthcoming album wasn't that well received, or would it be the kick up the arse you need?
I don't really know what my expectations are yet of this album. I'm just glad it's finished. with all the things that have gone on since - the two members leaving and one thing and another - at least the record's done and I'm happy about it.
The last record I wasn't happy about. During the first couple of weeks of recording [Be Here Now] somebody said, 'What's it like?' and I said, 'It's pub rock bollocks.' And I meant that at the time, but people were going, 'He's a wanker, eh?' And I went, 'No, no, it is, though.' People were going, 'Yeah, right' and you'd be going, 'No, no, it is pub rock bollocks.' Whereas this one I'm really proud of.
The last album done, what, seven million, right? And that's considered a failure. For the f***ing life of me I can t see any logic in that.
Problem is, with Morning Glory you raised the bar for yourselves and everyone else.
I mean, yeah, when Morning Glory had done 14 million, then the other one does half as much, people will look at the negative side of that.It's like Michael Jackson after 47 million copies of 'Thriller', 'Bad'- which "only" sold 25 million - was considered a "failure".
Yeah, and when the album [Morning Glory] went to Number Two in America, right, people were going 'F***ing hell, the album's only got to Number Two.' And we were going, 'Yeah, but we got to Number Two, though, eh?' You can look at it in either of two ways: you can either go, 'F***ing hell, it only sold seven million,' or you can go, 'Our third album sold seven million f***ing copies and it wasn't even that good.' 'See, my glass is always half-full as opposed to half-empty. Some people always look at the negative side, at the falling sales figures, but the reason why that was as there wasn't a "Wonderwall" on that album [Be Here Now]. And that song got in the chart in America, man. And Morning Glory was in the Top Five in America for a f*** of a long time, and that was actually the only single released in America - by popular demand - and it got in the Top 10 or something. That's f***ing amazing. But until you write another song like that again that's contained on an album ...
But even then, I don't think we're ever going to be as big as that again. There was a point where, in America, that geezer from Nirvana died. There was nothing, no American bands, so they were looking to England. Usually what happens is, when people in America look towards England for something America's not particularly good at, an English band will get shunted over and just stand there, spotty f***ers, going, 'I miss brown sauce and my beans, man; I only want to do three gigs: LA, Toronto and New York, then I'm going home.' Whereas we arrived with a bunch of guitars going, 'We'll stay here for as long as it takes.' You know, 'We are' - to coin a phrase -'Mad For It.'
We vaguely looked a bit like The Beatles, we were a bit funny in interviews, it was a bit of a cartoon relationship with me and Liam; "Wonderwall" was the song everybody related to. We'd done the f***ing work, we'd done the gigs. Then we went back to England, then back to America even bigger, and it was a phenomenon.
That's never going to happen [again]. That was our time for shining and we f***ing done it; we put the work in and we done it and it's over. Now it's just like, 'Let's go and make some records, man.' You can't burn that brightly for that long, it's impossible.Would this record have been different had you stayed on in America, or the US thing had taken off even more, and you'd become a global, as opposed to mainly a UK phenomenon?
I tell you what, if the last record had sold twice as many as Morning Glory, then I dread to think of the position that the band would be in now. Because the lack of effort I was putting into songwriting would have been vindicated by the record sales. I would have gone, 'F*** it, if it ain't broke I ain't gonna fix it.
The good thing was, it was not so much the record sales, it was the combination of the record sales and what people were saying in the press. People wouldn't say it to my face but you would get the vibe of what the people were going - they were really disappointed. And that personally made me go, 'OK, then, if you think that's the best I can do, let's see where it goes next.' I dread to think if Be Here Now had sold 20 million copies. F*** knows what would have happened.Do you really believe you only get one opportunity to "burn brightly", to tap into the popular consciousness and write songs that meet the national mood, or can you do that again and again?
It depends how much of a slave to trends you want to be. See, for this record, part of me thinks I've sold out my rock'n'roll roots, because it's not as rock, you know what I mean? I like T-Rex and The Rolling Stones and The Beatles, but some of this [new album] is not very rock'n'roll. A part of me thinks, well, it is in a way, because I never got into trip hop when it was big, I'm not into f***ing lo-fi punk music now and I'm not into f***ing punk disco, or whatever it is. I'm into rock'n'roll music.
That's why working with Spike was crucial, because he'd worked with Massive Attack and U2 - who 1 consider to be contemporary musicians. We said to him, 'Here's the f***ing demos, can you make this sound contemporary? Because otherwise we'll turn it up and it'll be just a rock'n'roll record.' And because the rest of the guys don't go out or go to gigs, 1 would go, 'You know that sound that's on that record by that band?' And he'd pull it straight out of the f***ing sky.There are a couple of songs on the new album - "Gas Panic!" and "Roll It Over" - that threaten to turn into trip hop.
Yeah. "Gas Panic!" is more Led Zeppelin, I think, than trip hop. To be honest, we could have put more breakbeats on that song and made it a lot more trip hop. [But] Liam and Alan are just f***ing, you know, music doesn't exist after 1969. 'The Chemical Brothers? Who the f*** are they? The Prodigy? Who? Oh, that geezer with the two pieces of lettuce stuck on the side of his head?' 'Yeah, that geezer.' There'd be no point in me making a record like that, if the other members of the band are just going to go, 'I don't get it.'Could you make a Chemical Brothers record if you wanted to?
To be honest with you, I think I'd like to make a solo record sooner rather than later, man, before I get too old and so far detached from what's to going on in night clubs and in gigs, and I've still got my car to the ground to a certain extent. I'd like to do it really quickly, because then I would have that out of my system. Not so much a Chemical Brothers record because they are the f***ing dons at what is going on in dance music. And The Prodigy to a lesser extent because they're trying to marry rock music with dance music, and they're the best at what they do. Fatboy Slim is just something else altogether: it's brilliant and I do like it but he's creating something else. Something instrumental, less vocal; melodies and that.You were talking about The Smiths before. I understand the attraction for you of Johnny Marr, but I was surprised you were a Morrissey fan, because he was sexually, er, ambivalent. In what way did you identify with Morrissey?
The first thing 1 ever heard by The Smiths was [1983 debut single] 'Hand In Glove' on seven-inch - not the version on the album, the original version. And that blew me away because it reminded me of Joy Division. I just liked the sound of it. They weren't on Top Of The Pops, and I don't think The Chart Show was going or anything like that, and there was no picture of the band on the sleeve, so for all I knew Morrissey could have looked like me. So I was all for that. And then the lyrics - 'the sun shines out of our behinds'- when you listen to that it's obvious the geezer is mega, mega, intelligent, but he's also very funny. And then I would read reviews with pictures of the band in Sounds and stuff, and I came from an Irish background and so did this geezer Johnny Marr and it would be like, 'There's another thing I can relate to.
Then, when I read his [Morrissey's] first interview, I just fell about the f***ing place laughing; it was just the funniest thing I'd ever read in my life. Him, Mark E Smith and Shaun Ryder should go on the road, man. Like Hinge, Bracket and the other one: f***ing hilarious.
So anyway you'd have Johnny this figure with the sunglasses and big bold haircut and big red semi-acoustic guitar and white polo neck. 'Well, I'll be you, I definitely want to be you. But I'd love to be a little bit of you [Morrissey] as well. 'He's just funny isn't he? He cracks me up.There's a quite famous photo of you snogging Clint [Boon] from The lnspiral Carpets.
Oh no, that was Graham [Lambert, Inspirals guitarist]. Yeah. We weren't actually kissing, though.It looked like you were.
Yeah, yeah, it did look like it. But I can assure you.Does that sexual ambiguity appeal? Jogger, Bowie, lggy, even Lou Reed flirted with all that. Then there was Lennon and Brian Epstein...
If you ever mention that in a conversation Liam gets very, very upset.Does he?
Absolutely. But at the end of the day, each to their f***ing own. I don't give a f*** who's gay or who's straight or what. I suppose in the Seventies and Eighties it was a big deal to some parents. But now, it's the most unshocking thing in the world to be gay.It would be pretty f***ing shocking if you announced to the world that you were gay.
[laughs] Yeah. The thing that annoys me about those people, like that bloke from Boyzone and George Michael, suddenly they're very proud to be gay; when they've been cured, they'll be on the telly: 'Thanks for all your support.' And I always think, 'I wonder what the gay community think of that? 'They must think, 'You f***ing bastards.'
It's like George Michael, for instance, from 1981 onwards, or from whenever he was making music, he could have made it a lot easier for gay people in England, because he was the biggest pop star there was for six or seven years. But he chose to put the shuttlecock down his trousers and play up to that and deny who he actually is. I've got a lot of friends who are gay and they just think he's a f***ing disgrace. They're not proud of him, or the geezer from Boyzone, they just think they're pathetic because you should be proud of what you are.
I understand, right, that it must be difficult at first, but at the end of the day, it's f***ing 1999, man, do you know what I mean? It's not like 1842, you don't get flogged in public any more for this, it's not against the law it's a common thing, man. it's no big deal any more.Is Liam bemused by all the references to his physical beauty, especially from male journalists?
No, he f***ing fancies himself something rotten, man! He won't go anywhere without his wig on! There's always one sure way of winding Liam up if he's doing your head in: when you're onstage, you just go to him: 'Bend down. You know you're going bald?' Because my dad was bald. But he doesn't know that it skips a generation, so our kids will probably be bald. I hope mine's a girl.Not that she goes bald, I hope she's a girl so she won't go bald.
Our Liam's always paranoid about his hair: 'Are you going bald?' And he'll be straining his eyeballs trying to look up. I would say Liam quite fancies himself. 'Sex symbol' is the wrong word, but he thinks he's a geezer. Which he tends to remind you of, four or five times a week.Do you wish you could get out of that geezer straightjacket and play around with your image a bit more?
I think your first impressions always stick anyway, no matter what. To all intents and purposes, we will always be the bad boys of British rock'n'roll. Same as they still call The Rolling Stones the bad boys of rock'n'roll. I mean, Keith Richards looks like my granny! Whereas Aerosmith will always be this bunch of f***ing cocaine casualties from the late Seventies. And John Lydon will always be a punk rocker, even though the last time I met him he wasn't very punk rock at all.What happened?
He tries to act like, well, he was trying to act like Johnny Rotten that particular night. We met him the last time we were out in LA. We sat up [in a hotel bar] and had a beer with him and he was trying his hardest to antagonise everybody. He kept saying stuff to me like, 'Are you wearing make-up?' And he'd go, 'You are, you're wearing make-up.' I'd be thinking, 'All right, I know where this is going,' and I'd be like, 'Whatever, fat boy' And then he'd get into [Cockney accent]: 'Oh, I f***ing hate Manchester.' And I was like, 'Funnily enough, so do I, that's why I f***ing live in London, not far from where you were born, actually.
We had a good old row. Nah, it was good f***ing banter. He was like, 'You're mates with that Paul Weller, aren't ya? He's a f***ing c***.' And I'd go, 'Tell me about it.'The new album seems less designed to please your audience than your previous records.
No, this is the one that...you see, the first three albums were for the public - like I say, they were drinking songs and they were designed for, basically, coming across during live shows and having a sing-song to. But this one was more to express the musicianship of the band. Not how good we are, just how good we can be. And how good we will be in the future, I think.
I've never understood when you go and see a band at a festival and they openly refuse to play their big hit. That's like having f***ing whoever starring in a film and always being in silhouette. What's the point of that, man?
You go to these festivals and it's four in the afternoon - I don't care what anybody says, you don't want to hear the new album. Perhaps a couple of tracks off the new album, but you don't want to hear the new album. You certainly don't want to hear it in chronological order. You want to hear the singles that are in the Top bastard 10, that's why you paid ｣80 a f***ing ticket, for crying out loud.Would you ever do what Blur did and play a show consisting of all of your singles in chronological order?
We won't do it now, because they've done it. I don't know. Probably not. Actually, saying that, on the next tour it's basically five tracks off this album and all the rest of them are singles apart from 'All Around The World' and 'Whatever', and the ones we're not playing because they're too f***ing long. Apart from those, it's basically a Greatest Hits thing.Is it frustrating that people don't want to be challenged by new materials?
I just want them to listen to it. And like it. just be proud of being an Oasis fan. We're not preaching to people. it's a form of entertainment, it's not getting any particular message across.
I don't particular want to make records for kids who are 14, either, but if they get into it, then fine. in an ideal world, you'd want to make records for people who were about your own age group, who had been through the same things you had. Obviously not hanging out with f***ing supermodels and all that, but becoming dads and being 30-odd and going through drinking and drugs, and growing up and football - you would hope to relate to them more than a 14-year-old.Are you a completely different person to the one who wrote these early songs? Is it going to be uncomfortable performing them now?
It will be uncomfortable playing "Stand By Me", because I don't like the words. "D'You Know What I Mean?" will be about six minutes too long. "Rock'n'Roll Star" is going to be f***ing great; all the first album will be rear, because I meant them songs. "Don't Look Back In Anger", "Wonderwall", "Roll With It". "Some Might Say" will be good, but I do have to listen to Liam singing it, because I like to have my monitors so I can just concentrate on the music. You'll have to ask Liam whether it will be difficult singing them. He'll probably say, 'No, it won't, because they're mega and because I'm singing them.Do you and Liam ever have conversations so different to your cartoonish public image that you wish you could record them and play them to people? Or are you really the way you're portrayed in the press?
I'd love to be able to sit here and say,'0h, no, we do get on as normal human beings and we do sit down and talk about childhood and fatherhood,' but I'm afraid it's just not true. I mean, we have a relationship in the band, but once we go out that door we all go home, because I think if we hung around too much it would be awful.
You've got to spend some time with your missus, because it wouldn't be fair on her. When we're all together, there's usually about six, seven, eight of us and it's just piss-taking and wise-cracking - that's just the way it is. I'm afraid. We don t argue as much as we used to, though.Why do you think that is?
Because we've had a year off, for one, and because we've been in the studio for six months, so I suppose I'm more tolerant.
You see, I always wanted him [Liam] to grow up and be like me, to be all nice and normal and not to be so much of a f***ing headcase. And he always wanted me to be like him. He's going, 'You're a boring old man,' and I'm like, 'You're a f***ing psycho nutcase.' Whereas now it's like, 'All right, well, you do that if you want, but I'll be in a different room to you, watching telly or something.' Because I'm not into chaos. I used to be, but not any more.People want you to be into chaos, though, don't they?
I don't like not knowing what's going to happen next. oh, I have my moments, don't get me wrong, where I stay up until 11 o'clock at night [laughs] and watch some dodgy European film on Channel 4. No, I do have the occasional night in, or night out, but generally I'm f***ed by 12 o'clock.The singer from The Flaming Lips, Wayne Coyne, said it's important for him to have a stable domestic set-up as that gives him the confidence to go right out there in the studio.
That's f***ing spot-on, to be honest with you. I think if your life is just a psychedelic rock'n'roll rollercoaster, when you get in the studio there's got to be something giving you a lift; you've got to be reacting against something.
Nothing against Meg or anything, but when you walk through the door, you've got to be almost going into a different world. You don't want to be living in the same world all the time, because it would be really difficult, for me anyway. I like having a normal life outside of the group, walking through the door, and as soon as you do your friends come and see you and it's all, 'All right, wanker?!' I like all that. Because you don't get that round [some of] your mates, it's all very polite, cos a lot of them have got kids now, and it's all very ham and cheese and glass of wine; it's all very [imaginary conversation with parents about baby], 'oh, did she really? Marvellous. Did she?You'll be getting that soon? (Noel and Meg's baby was due at the end of January).
Well, it comes to us all, I'm afraid. Gem's got two kids: a girl and a boy. The girl is a real little ballerina and the boy's just ... say we've gone to the pub after rehearsing and he'll be knackered: his son will jump out from behind the door like Kato [Inspector Clouseau's valet from Peter Sellers' Pink Panther films] with a f***ing plastic sword and he'll be up for a fight. He'll be coming home off the road after nine months and something attacks you on the side of your head: 'Yay!' And he's like, 'F***ing get off.'To what extent are you going to steer your kids?
I'm not. I'm not going to push them in any direction, I'm just going to follow them 'round, and when they get to a dead-end in wherever it is they want to go, I'll say, 'Do you want my advice? Because I remember being like this when I was younger, and if I was you, which I'm not, I'd do this, or I wouldn't do that.
I wouldn't say, like my dad used to, 'Thou shalt do this and if you don't you'll get a damn good f***ing hiding. 'Because I want my kids to be my mates. I also want them to respect my opinion on things. it will be interesting to see how we both react when our 16-year-old kid comes in, you know, obviously Charlie'd off their f***ing nut. I'll be going, 'Right, you're either really f***ing cold or you've been doing loads of drugs, because your jaw's chattering like a fake skull on a f***ing jackhammer.'What would you say in that sort of situations?
I'm not too sure. Hopefully l wouldn't over-react, and hopefully, I wouldn't under-react; I would take an overview of it all and say, 'Look, I done it myself and I'm sure you're having a great time and all that, but if that's what you're spending your money on then you ain't getting any more. And I don't want any of your drunken mates coming round here, because you got to respect my views as your dad.' 'The trick is not to over-react, because my parents used to over-react at everything: 'he's taken drugs, he's going to die; he's obviously doing heroine. I found this under his pillow' - a little f***ing spliff or something - 'it's obviously crack.'Did that drug-pillow incident really happen?
I come up with the greatest excuse one day. It was actually my crowning moment as a liar. I used to spend a lot of time in my bedroom, playing guitar. I went to the shops for my mum, and I come back and she's found a bag of hash in my sock drawer, a big block of draw. So she says, 'l've just found this upstairs.' And right off the top of my head I went, 'Ah, well, you see, what that's for is wiping the strings on my guitar.' I said, 'Violin players use them.' And she said,'0h, really?' And I went, 'Yeah, look,' and I got my guitar and rubbed all my strings with pot: 'It makes them sound better.' And she says, 'It does sound right an' all; it does sound better.' And I went upstairs and thought, 'You're a f***ing genius.'So if your kids try that one on you, you'll know?
Absolutely.Ironically, it could be argued that your success is the result of what has been portrayed as a miserable upbringing, and yet, if your kids have a happy childhood, maybe they'll lack your grim determination and burning ambition.?
Hopefully, they'll have other ambitions. Hopefully, they'll have an education that will steer them. I wanted to be a rock'n'roll star because I didn't want to be a drug dealer, that's basically where that drive came from. Now hopefully they'll want to be a doctor, because that's what they're into, or they'll want to be a vet because their mam's f***ing obsessed with animals.
I was just trying to get out of where I was [Burnage] because there was no future there for me. Hopefully, they will have a pretty stable background and they'll be interested in different things; they'll want to be a lawyer and make their dad loads of f***ing money.
I went to a pretty basic, run of the mill school: we were taught to read and write and then 'f***ing get your gear and f*** off'. But what about painting? 'You won' t get an Art "O" Level. What you going to do, be a sign writer for the rest of your life?' it was always like, 'I'm shit at football and I dot t want to be a drug dealer. I can play guitar, so let me do that.' 'Hopefully, the kids will go to pretty decent schools and they'll want to be I just want them to do anything they want, to feel that if they want to follow in their dad's footsteps, f***ing great, you know? But, hopefully, they do realise they're going to get charged for music lessons.Would you be disappointed if your kids formed a band and it was in hock to The Beatles?
I'd be disappointed if they formed a band that was shit. That would be terrible, wouldn't it? 'Dad, can you put my record out on your label?' Did I not tell you, you've just been dropped?'What was it like reading about your childhood in your brother Paul's book (Brothers. From Childhood TO Oasis. The Real Story)?
I didn't read it, to be honest with you. I had it out with him before he was putting the book out; I said, 'For the life of me I can't understand why you're doing this, because that's private family business.' I mean, the other two [Liam and Paul] never really got beat up off me dad at all; it was mainly me, because I was a bit of a lippy twat. So I said, 'If you're doing it for the money, hang on, I'll give you the money not to do it.' And then I thought, 'What the f*** am I doing that for? If he wants to do it, let him f***ing do it.' I don't really think our private lives should be put on the bookshelves in Waterstones. You get a lot of people coming up to you and sort of patronising you about it - you know, 'Oh, it must have been terrible. 'And it's like, yes, it was, but it was no more terrible than any other person's upbringing. I mean, other people from 'round where I come from are still going through that now. It's irrelevant to what's happening to me now. It just gave me a bit more of a drive. But it wasn't the family situation that gave me a hunger, it was the fact that there was f***-all going on in Manchester.
I didn't want to be a musical pioneer, I just wanted to make a living doing something that I enjoyed.You've done so well, do you ever, in a perverse way, feel like ringing up your dad and saying, "Cheers. I'm on top of the world because you were such a bastard?"
No, not at all. No, he made his bed and he's got to lie in it. Me mam's always saying, 'Do you not want to go and see your dad?' But it never crosses my mind. It only crosses my mind when people bring it up. People always skate round the subject for a bit, then say, 'Can we talk about it?' And 1 say, 'Look, you can talk about whatever you want. There's nothing of what went on that I can't talk about, because I f***ing lived it and I remember all of it.'You don't want to block it out?
Nah, I don't want to block it out, because it happened. But it bears no relevance to what I do now. I don't write about it in my lyrics or anything like that. I don't write 'Mother' or anything like that.Do you ever feel rootless?
Nah, not really. Me mam comes to visit us a lot. We would go back to Manchester and visit her more if every time we went we didn't get any f***ing hassle. But by the time you've got on the plane at Heathrow, they've already phoned Manchester airport, so by the time you get there, there's a film crew and they know what you're there for, you're there to see yer mam. So by the time you get to the house, the f***ing street's full of the Manchester Evening News and it's always A Symbolic Visit Back To The City To See Their Mother. 'Me mam doesn't need it and I don t f***ing need it. It's easier for her to come down here. But, I mean, my roots is going to be me kid and Meg, you know what I mean? And Liam and the band. I don't feel rootless at all.'When you look back over the last six years, what do you think you've achieved?
I hope we don t just turn up on these retrospective programmes of the Nineties and we're just known as a band of the Nineties. Because I think, from what I see and hear around at the moment, the next five years is up for grabs. By any band. You usually know when the next big thing is coming along; it's almost like a f***ing storm, you can feel it six months before it's going to happen; it's like, 'Get out the f***ing way.'
You could hear Oasis on the f***ing horizon six months before the first single ["Supersonic"] come out. We spoke to a lot of people around at that time, people who were in bands or in the music business, and they were going, 'Everybody better just make way, man, because there's a big f***ing train coming through here.'
I don't see anything on the horizon that's going to really kick it up. I don't see any new music evolving and I don't see the next big thing. So I think the next five years is up for grabs.
Hopefully [answering the question], it won't be: 'Oasis were the biggest band of the Nineties, and then they disappeared.'Does the last 30 years of rock'n'roll go: Beatles, Stones, Who, Pistols, Smiths, Roses, Oasis?
Yeah. I'd put The Jam in between the Pistols and The Smiths. And you'd have to stick The Prodigy and The Chemical Brothers as one thing in there as well.Are Oasis a culmination or just a continuation?
Hopefully, we'll be in the middle, then there'll be a lot of great bands coming after us. But at the moment I just don't see it, to be honest with you.An Indian Summer for rock'n'roll, or some kind of apotheosis?
Like I say, I don't think we're ever gonna clear the decks and start a new musical genre for ourselves. it's like, I f***ing love rock'n'roll music and I can't deny that. For me, [anything else] is just embellishing the spirit and the magic of bass, drums, guitar, vocals. You'd be foolish to stick your head in the sand and not use any other stuff that maybe The Beta Band and The Chemical Brothers and The Prodigy and all these other contemporary bands are using. But by the same rule, we're still a rock'n'roll band. There's nothing better than a black Les Paul and a Marshall stack. I don t give a f*** what anybody says, as long as it's in the right hands then it's good, man.
All I can say is, I'm really excited about making the next record.
I've got three or four songs left over that I've finished, written and demo'd. Again, it's not a radical shift, but they could end up sounding quite different.
It's just about being true to yourself. I don't really think we've got to please the fanbase anymore, and I don't think we've got to start sitting on stools and be a f***ing chin stroking adult orientated rock band. I'd still like to keep the youthful exuberance and be cocky. I mean, you'll always have that with Liam standing round the microphone.
Even if I'm still writing songs when I'm 43, he'll still be singing them like he's 21.Is this the LP you could have envisaged making in 1993 - your ideal fourth album?
This would have been the ideal third album [laughs]. The last record was just stilted by a lack of・ wasn't prepared to work enough to make things any better. I'd get to a certain point and go, 'F*** it, that'll do.' Because, like I say, we made the record to justify the drug habit.
To put it in brutal, honest f***ing terms. Although, saying that, the rest of the band are not, well, weren't - very drug oriented. Alan [White] doesn't even smoke f***ing cigarettes, let alone take drugs. He's, 'I've got me lager and me cigar, that'll f***ing do me.' Bonehead was constantly pissed. Guigs is a bit of a pothead. And Liam's basically the same as me.
My personal opinion was that I was making records to justify spending f***Ing thousands on drugs. That's all gone out the window. Now I want to make records to justify that I'm pretty f***ing good at what I do.Do you ever watch Oasis on video, freeze-frame it and think, 'I was there, that was me, making history'?
I watched something the other night on UK Play called Oasis' 'Dream Performances', and it was bits of Later and Top Of The Pops. It was f***ing excruciatingly difficult to watch.Why?
Some bad hair cuts, some f***ing bad clothes, and gradually getting fatter as the programme went on. It was horrible. Liam with a beard was like・***ing hell. I look like Charles Manson.Have you not caught yourself on TV or in a magazine and thought, 'I'm up there with the all-time greats now'?
I think, ummm... no, I'd have to say.And yet you have made such grandiose claims for yourself, your music and your band in the past.
Some of the gigs were brilliant, but I'm a finicky, nit picking twat. I can see a video of a gig, and go, 'Brilliant, but the sound's shit.' Just from a purely muso type thing.
There's a video of us doing "Wonderwall" for the first time at Earl's Court where the crowd just sing the whole song. I suppose I could still watch that even though I play it f***ing double fast. Bits of interviews can be amusing at times. But I'm not one for dwelling in the past, really.
I would have loved to have been at the Earl's Court gig, to have been in the crowd and seen how it was perceived from out the front. Because the people that I know that used to stand around the mixing desk 'round the time of "Live Forever", when we played The Forum and places like that, just said the building would just f***ing shake. I often think, 'Wouldn't it have been f***ing brilliant to have been there?'
But not as bad as not seeing The Beatles. Imagine being The Beatles and never seeing The Beatles. Although, by all accounts, they weren't the best live band in the world.There's a book, Rock Dreams, where rock icons are caricatured, beautified, preserved forever in neon Technicolor. How do you think you and Liam would be stylised/immortalised in ink?
With a great big head and this vivid imagination of how we thought we were perceived. And there'd be half of my face and half of Liam's, and in my half of the heads would be a big loaf of sliced bread and in Liam's would probably be, who f***ing knows, a big lump of plasticine, or a furry skateboard or something.Has anybody really got to grips with The Meaning of Oasis, with the significance of the band and its success?
Only the members of the band. And I suppose out of the five members of the band, no matter what line up you take, it would be me, really, because I was there when I was writing the songs.
But writing the first album, with any band, is what it's all about. Doing them gigs when we hadn't got signed with Creation but we were writing "Live Forever" and "Some Might Say" was coming, one after the other. It was quite breathtaking - one f***ing hit after another.You seized the moment, as they say.
We should have had our own video camera and video'd it all, but we never did. We've just started to get a couple of video cameras on the go now, and, of course, it's all sitting around drinking tea going, [refined, civilised rocker] 'Marvellous guitar solos, fantastic.'
I would have liked to have filmed some of the chaos: flying on the helicopter to Knebworth from Battersea was a bit of a journey, flying over and seeing the crowd - it was like, 'F*** me, that's a proper rock'n'roll gig.' Even though stood four and half miles away from the stage watching five ants blasting away to something you can't hear must have been pretty f***ing boring.
The thing would be to ask the fans of the band. The first time people heard "Sxupersonic", from what I can gather, people just looked at each other and went [knowing look], 'Mmmm.'Could you feel those songs capturing the spirit of the time as they poured out of your pen?
Yeah. The summer of '94, our debut album come out, and it went all through to the next summer, that's how the long the buzz lasted. And that was fabulous because we were either on the road or in the studio or doing interviews, and we were being courted by this person and that person and everyone wanted to meet us. We were just living it, man.
I'm glad we've got a chequered past in a way, with members coming and going, f***ing dodgy moments here and there. I mean, it would be shit to be in Suede, wouldn't it?
No, I wouldn't change a thing