Noel Gallagher - Daily Telegraph - 19th June 2001
He was one of the wildest men in rock - now he's more interested in being a good dad. Noel Gallagher talks to Jan Moir about life after Meg.
Noel Gallagher is smaller than you might imagine, with a shockingly white complexion and a pelt of eyebrow hair that cleaves his forehead and gives his face a permanently aggrieved look. When he peels off his bulky parka to reveal a wiry little body in a T-shirt and bootcut Lee jeans, he shrinks in size even more, like a tortoise casting off its shell. He is dressed top to toe in his favourite navy blue, his only adornments being a gold chain bracelet that he bought himself for Christmas and a gaudy ring purchased in a Japanese porn shop.
Soul brothers: Noel and Liam have a much better relationship since they split from their wives
"What? No. I said Japanese pawn shop," he cries, when I mishear his low-pitched, Mancunian rumble. He continues: "I f-ing lie to everyone about this ring. I say, yeah, this is a ruby, man. But look. It's pink glass."
His neo-moptop hairstyle and liberal use of the f-word are pure rock and roll, yet his punctuality - he turns up bang on time for our appointment - and his firm handshake are not. It is exactly three years since he stopped taking drugs and his life, unsurprisingly, is calmer and more organised than the torrid mayhem of yesteryear. Yet Gallagher insists there is no moral dimension here: he stopped taking drugs simply because they stopped being fun and he has no wish to preach or to moralise to those close to him or to anyone else.
"I liked drugs, I was good at them. But I'd had panic attacks for about a year and I stopped because I wanted to," he says. "After you make the decision, it is quite easy. And I am quite proud of the fact that I didn't have to check into one of those dodgy clinics and have someone tell me I was a bad person. Because I am not.
"I am all right, you know. A bit lippy and sarcastic and cheeky. And my girlfriend tells me I'm exhausting because I talk so much. But I like the new me. I like being clear-headed and eating at regular times. I feel happier than I ever have."
He is certainly happy with his new girlfriend, music PR Sara MacDonald - "I sit and laugh, just thinking about how she makes me laugh" - and, after many turbulent years, he has even made his peace with his younger brother, Liam.
"Liam used to really annoy me, but now I think he is a comic genius, the funniest guy I have known in my entire life," says Gallagher. "I believe that in the old days he was difficult and drinking so heavily because of his ex-wife [Patsy Kensit]. She made him unhappy and he used to take it out on the rest of the band."
Liam is now in a relationship with Nicole Appleton, a member of All Saints, who will give birth to his child in about two weeks' time. "Nicky loves him, she actually adores him and he adores her. He is justa joy to be around at the moment," says Gallagher, unexpectedly. "So now that Liam's with Nicky and I'm with Sara, we go out in a foursome for Sunday lunch and stuff like that. And we have the funniest, funniest times, which we never did before. I don't know if it is a cliche or not, but behind these two very happy brothers are two very good ladies."
Once famously surly and belligerent, Noel now appears cordial and relaxed, although a pulse of prickly Gallagher attitude still throbs somewhere just below the surface. The day before, he and Sara had visited the expensive mews house he has just bought in Marylebone, central London. A neighbour walked past, snobbishly ignoring Gallagher's cheerful greeting and giving him an icy stare. "Right. Justyou wait until I get my stereo in here, you miserable cow," he thought to himself.
Now divorced from Meg Mathews, the mother of his one-year-old daughter, Anais, Gallagher is reluctantly embroiled in court proceedings as both sides strive to hammer out a mutually agreeable financial settlement. It has been reported in some newspapers that Mathews was offered a sum of £3 million but is pushing for at least twice that amount.
Cordial Noel claims he is not bitter about how his marriage has ended - "Life is too short," he coos reasonably - yet Surly Noel cannot let the matter pass without comment. "I just walked straight past Meg when I saw her in court. That woman has taken me to court and I abhor it. It is all so unnecessary. But if somebody wants their pound of flesh that badly, there is nothing you can do to stop it. If it means that much to her that she is going to drag me through the courts and have our lives splashed all over the newspapers again because she can't keep her mouth shut, then fine. F- it."
And that's the last Gallagher oath I'm going to report - otherwise this page will be a blizzard of dashes. He tosses them around with the same merciless abandon with which he once used to sprinkle cocaine on his breakfast cereal. Yet, in moments when he is being serious and thoughtful, the profanity disappears and he can sound more like Noel Edmonds than Noel Gallagher.
"There are not that many things that I haven't done in my 34 years," he says, at one point. "There are not many places I haven't been. I have cried a lot of tears and laughed a lot of laughs. I've had to make some tough decisions and I have become pretty worldly in the process. But I am infuriatingly rational and for the child that I have and the children that I hope to have, I want to be a good and approachable father."
Of course, most of the tears and triumphs came after he joined Oasis, the rock group formed by Liam in Manchester in 1991. The brothers were not particularly fond of each other but once Liam's onstage charisma and Noel's superior musical and songwriting talents were put together, Oasis became one of the biggest selling British bands, defining popular music throughout the Nineties.
From being no-hopers on the dole in Manchester, the Gallaghers became rich, famous and famously badly behaved - collectively known as the sweaty epitome of foul-mouthed, drug-soaked, alcohol-fuelled, aeroplane-wrecking, street-fighting rock stars.
Both made interesting marriages, Liam to the actress Patsy Kensit and Noel to rock chick Meg, who became noted for her acquisitive shopaholic tendencies and the party planning company she launched with her friend, Fran Cutler. "The party girls and all that shite. Grow up and get a proper job," growls Gallagher. "After I had split up with Meg, some people said: 'How did you end up with that lot? Everybody hates them in London.' Well, I don't particularly like them, but I don't hate anyone."
However, there was a time when he was madly in love, even writing a song called Wonderwall in his wife's honour, although it has now been dropped from the band's set. Oasis, who have just returned from a five-month tour of America, have stopped performing it live. "It doesn't seem right any more. So we are not going to bother doing it," says Gallagher.
Back in the Nineties, it was just one of many Oasis hits and as the Gallagher bank accounts got bigger, the merry-go-round whirled ever faster. Patsy kicked Liam in the street. Meg didn't like Patsy. Liam didn't like Meg. "Meg hated Liam and I was always trying to please her but I didn't get on with him myself, anyway. Meg and Patsy didn't get on. Ach. It was a vicious nightmare," he says.
Famously, the Noel Gallaghers presided over druggy parties at Supernova Heights, their home in Primrose Hill. Night after night, the house was filled with strangers. Celebrities came and went. More and more often, Noel began to wonder who the people were, talking until dawn about pyramids and moon landings and fashion. "I could count my real friends on the fingers of one hand. Jude Law is a great guy, brilliant. I do like him. Kate Moss is a lovely girl but lost, completely lost, in all that shit. Which is a shame. But the rest of them were all Meg's acquaintances; liggers and hangers on."
So the brothers moved in giddy but separate social circles and drank too much. Their wives hated each other. They hated each other's wives. They drifted further and further apart. At some point, both men became fathers and, Noel at least, became a full-blown drug addict. "By 1997," Noel tells me, "it had just gone berserk. I was doing tons of drugs and me and Liam were just out of control. We were stinking rich and the more outrageous our behaviour got, the more everyone was saying: 'Aren't they fantastic?' And the more money we spent on stupid fur jackets, the more money came in."
But I make no bones about it whatsoever. I can look back on it and say it was a good time, but I made some fundamental mistakes in my life. Getting so involved in that circle of people. Letting my house turn into a nightclub."
There is, however, a bright side. "From 1993 to when I stopped taking drugs on June 5, 1998, I can hardly remember a thing," he says, cheerfully. On the fateful day, he got up at 11am to watch Germany play Greece in the World Cup. As usual, lots of people were in his house, "skinning up and chopping out lines". He had a Pot Noodle instead and never looked back.
Even now, he can barely get the momentous events in any kind of hazy perspective. Being invited by Tony Blair to Downing Street, getting married to Mathews in Las Vegas, headlining at Knebworth in 1996 - he has only the foggiest recall. "I can remember signing our first record deal. I don't remember recording our album, (What's The Story) Morning Glory. I was deranged. I don't particularly remember getting married. Not at all. Not that I would want to remember it."
How much did he spend on drugs? "Well, not millions. I'm not Elton John, you know. A million pounds isa lot of money, but it has got to be a few hundred grand at least, I suppose."
His girlfriend is right. Gallagher is exhausting. He talks so quickly that a little plug of spittle constantly collects in the right-hand corner of his mouth and he flits from topic to topic with dizzying speed. It is terrifying to imagine what he was like when he was an addict. This interview is supposed to be about his new record label, Sour Mash, but Gallagher is having none of that. "I'm sick to death of it already. I have signed a band called Proud Mary and they have been too closely associated with me. They have got to learn to stand on their own two feet," he says.
He seems tough but has his soft patches: his affection for his more glamorous younger brother, his adoration of his mother. He credits her with giving him the strength to cope with the difficulties in his lifewhen he saw how she dealt with her divorce from the father he says was 'always out drinking and shagging'. She told her boys that it was over, they were moving house and starting again.
"I took a lot of strength from that," he says. "We had no carpets on the floor, but mam wasn't bitter. 'We have nothing, but look at us, we're happy,' she would say. I have corrected all the mistakes that I have made in my life, getting married to the wrong person and doing too many drugs. But I am still young. I can start again," he says.
He is keen to be a good father but seems rather nervous of his small daughter, wishing that he had brother Liam's easy way with babies. " He is a fantastic dad. He and his little boy are like best mates. I wish I could be like that but I think I will come into my own when my kids are teenagers. I'll be able to give them good advice about what to do and stuff."
Indeed. He tells me that Anais is a "top comedian" who already looks like her father. "She is the spitting image of me, which is not a good thing for a little girl," he concedes. "Obviously, I am not going to be with her day to day for the rest of her life, so let's hope that Meg can raise a pretty decent human being."
Does he think she can? The beetle brows knit furiously together for a second. "I think well, I don't know. I hope she can," he says, and looks out of the window.