Noel Gallagher - Bangkok Post - December 2005
Noel Gallagher, the Oasis guitarist/singer/songwriter, talks about the new album, what he thinks of new music these days and the upcoming gig in Bangkok
Noel Gallagher was right on the dot. Despite being in the midst of the Oasis Australian tour, the senior Gallagher managed to find time to place a call the minute that his label said he would. To make matters more intriguing, one half of the notoriously thugish pair of siblings did not swear once except at the mention of the new disco punk darlings, Bloc Party.
Why the big fuss over a punctual, polite musician, you may wonder. Isn't it the norm? No, not when it's Noel Gallagher, who, together with his brother Liam and their band Oasis, were swept along with the Brit Pop craze and were introduced to the world with their 1994 now classic debut album, Definitely Maybe.
This is a man whose constant, public feuds with everyone from the press to his own brother earned him more tabloid space and reputation than he cares to remember. This is a man who often litters his speech with ``fooking'' (a bit of Manchester accent there) and ``c***s''.
Maybe the mood has been lifted because Oasis had such a phenomenal gig in Melbourne two nights ago.
``I've got good days and bad days,'' said Gallagher, on the subject of being on the road. ``Some days I love it. Some days I wish I were home, but that's kind of the same for any artist, I think.''
Australia might not be the only place that will elevate Gallagher's spirits _ the band are booked as one of the headliners of an upcoming international rock festival to be held in Bangkok in February next year, which would be the second time that Oasis have played on these shores.
``Be patient. We will be with you next year,'' said Gallagher, in confirmation.
That's where Oasis are these days _ touring the world. They are no longer Brit Pop royalty, trading acidic barbs with Blur on a regular basis or even appearing too often in the tabloids, bruised and hammered. They are indeed one of the few who survived the abysmal end of the Brit Pop era in the mid-'90s, along with Blur. Oasis now play stadiums worldwide and dub themselves as ``the best band in the world''.
This ``best band in the world'' has come a long way. Formed by a group of Mancunian schoolmates Liam Gallagher (vocals), Paul ``Bonehead'' Arthurs (guitar), Paul McGuigan (bass) and Tony McCaroll (drums), brother Noel later joined the group upon his return home after a stint as the Inspiral Carpets' roadie. The band forced themselves and their demo onto the Creation Record head honcho Alan McGee, who, of course, signed them. The first single, Supersonic, released in 1994, paved the way for the rest of the Oasis saga.
They were hailed as one of the most exciting rock acts ever with the original line-up (former guitarist Bonehead now works with Sek Loso) during the height of Definitely Maybe and 1995's (What's the Story) Morning Glory?. They were helped by their true Brit lyrics, swelling guitars, anti-metrosexual poses and Liam's still intact sneer.
Even so, they have suffered since then from less than flattering reviews of their other studio albums, the last being Heathen Chemistry in 2002. Oasis have also suffered at the hands of critics who view the band as stagnant in terms of sonic development, but Gallagher does not seem to be concerned.
``We make Oasis music. We don't make any particular kind of music, you know what I mean? I don't think we've grown much as a band. And in 10 years' time, I think we'll be pretty much the same as we are now really, except we'll be old with grey hair and fatty bottoms.''
Their latest album, Don't Believe the Truth, released earlier this year, seems to be salvaging the band's reputation from being has-beens. It took three years to produce the album, one major overhaul where everything was scraped, and one fired-up pair of electronica wizards, Death in Vegas, to produce.
Gallagher concedes that the line-up is now better than ever with Andy Bell, the former member of Ride and the founder of Hurricane #1, on bass, and Gem Archer, the ex-guitarist of Heavy Stereo, on rhythm guitar. And after the departure of Alan White, Oasis got a bit of help from Zak Starkey (son of the Beatles' drummer Ringo Starr) whom critics said was the best drummer Oasis ever had.
``It makes it a lot easier to record music because everybody has fairly good ideas, not just for songs, but for parts of the songs as well,'' he said.
Don't Believe the Truth also sees the older Gallagher giving up his role as sole composer. Liam wrote three songs, the most he has ever contributed to one album, while Bell and Archer contributed two and one respectively. Surprisingly, Gallagher is not overly concerned that the writing torch is being passed around.
``My input is diminishing slightly, but I don't mind that as long as the record's still great. I can concentrate on the good songs that I've written, instead of trying to write a full album. And I much prefer it this way than the old way, where I was writing everything. It does tend to slow things down a little bit but I think that for the most part, it [turned out to be] for the better, so I'm pretty pleased,'' he said.
Gallagher senior, however, was still the one who selected which songs went onto the album.
``I suppose I'm the oldest, so I get to choose,'' he quipped, adding that he believed fellow band members trusted his ear.
``I just choose the ones that I think are the best and everyone seems to agree with me. I think I know a good song when I hear one, because I've been doing it for long enough.''
There was a rumour that super prolific Oasis wrote over 100 songs for this album _ which is actually not far from the truth.
``We wrote 66 songs for this album and we chose 11, so we got 55 left,'' Gallagher said. ``About 44 are not very good. So I think we got enough material for another record.''
The first single from this album, Lyla, went straight to No. 1 in the UK and many countries in Europe and quickly became a mass chant-along at recent Oasis gigs.
``It's about a girl who's like Cinderella,'' Gallagher said. ``But of course, Cinderella won't be a very good name for a song.''
Their second single, The Importance of Being Idle, is probably the most Oasis-sounding track on the album and won the Best Single of the Year Award from Q magazine. The latest single, Let There Be Love, is being claimed as a defining moment in the band's history. ``It's the oldest song on the album. It was written about seven years ago and it's only just finished off prior to the beginning of the recording of this album. It's a very special song. It's very beautiful.''
Cited as an influence on many new UK bands, and, at the same time, dubbed outdated and irrelevant, Gallagher is not all that enthusiastic about the music scene these days.
``It's nothing more than okay,'' he said. ``I don't think there's been a great album release for a few years now. I don't think bands are very concerned about making it big any more. I don't understand a lot of music these days.''
He does not hold a high opinion of Bloc Party, one of the most hyped new bands this year. Mention of them actually unleashed a few of the swear words for which he is famed.
For him, the last great album was Parachutes, the debut album by Coldplay. So it's probably not a surprise that Chris Martin has said how Coldplay were influenced by Definitely Maybe.
``I feel flattered,'' Gallagher said. ``I've got to say I don't hear it in the music, but that's cool because I like Coldplay a lot.''
So if a lot of new music is terrible, what's been playing on Noel Gallagher's stereo then? ``I listen to Kasabian a lot. I listen to the Coral a lot. I also listen to Bob Dylan, the Velvet Underground and the Beatles a lot,'' he said.
For their next UK tour, Oasis will be supported by Shack, a band that Gallagher believes to be an ``absolute f***ing legend''. He has just signed them to his label and they will be putting out a record by 2007 at the latest.
Gallagher has two record labels, but refuses to call himself a businessman. Rather, he describes himself as `` an ideas man''.
``Somebody else takes care of the business. I just come up with some fantastic ideas for music and bands,'' he said.
Before wrapping up the interview, one question had to be asked: Does Gallagher truly believe that Oasis is the best band in the world?
``I think we are the best band in my world,'' he said.
And for the 2005 Noel Gallagher, that seems to be enough.