Noel Gallagher - Hotpress - November 2006
Renewing acquaintances with Hotpress, a chipper Noel Gallagher reveals how he helped Italy bag the World Cup, explains why Oasis are better than U2-sort of- and, oh yes, tells us about the band's new best of collection. WORDS Stuart Clark
"Fucking hell, where's the rest of you? The last time I saw you, you were a fat cunt and now you're skinnier than Pete Doherty. You on drugs or summat"
Ah, no one delivers a backhanded compliment quite like Noel Gallagher! It's been a while since our paths last crossed, and I must say I've missed the old rascal. While I'm diplomatically ignoring the final part of his inquiry, I have indeed shed 26lbs. of blubber, whish is just as well because the rest of me is in rag order.
Noel, on the other hand, actually looks better than he did in 1994 when we first met backstage at Slane Castle. Oasis had just comprehensively blown REM off stage and he was, well, dilated to see me.
"If it was 1994 I probably didn't know what continent I was on, but now I'm the most boring man on the planet and loving every minute of it," he laughs.
Noel knocking hedonism on the head coincided with him meeting his girlfriend of the past six years, Sara MacDonald. Among the P.R. woman's many admirable qualities is a willingness to let her chap spend the summer in Germany watching the World Cup.
"I can honestly say it's one of the most magnificent summers I've ever fucking had,R" the Mancunian beams. "The story is a couple of years ago I was on Italian radio and personally offered Alessandro Del Piero (top Italian footie player) a hundred grand a week to join Man City (not so top English footie team). Everyone took it as a joke bar his agent who was on the phone wanting to talk contracts. Luckily, he was okay when I told him I wasn't going to give his client £5.6 million a year and Alessandro came to a couple of Oasis gigs in Europe and hung out with us afterwards"
In a manner that was entirely in keeping with his status as a professional footballer, of course.
"Of course!" Noel deadpans. "We actually sent him back to Juventus in better condition that when he'd arrived. Anyway, come the World Cup he invites me to be his guest at the Italy games, which I say I will be once our lot gets knocked out. England being shit, I fly in for the semi finals against Germany and get picked up by a mate of his who takes me to the Italian team hotel to get the tickets. We arrive and, of course, there's this huge scrum of media and fans who start cheering. Even more surreally, when I walk into where the players are having their lunch they start clapping. Talk about the wrong way round! Alessandro's pissed off because he's just heard he's on the bench so I flippantly say, 'Don't worry man, I've a feeling you're going to come on and score in extra-time,' which is precisely what happens. Afterwards, amazed by my psychic briliance, he goes, 'You have to come to the final, and in the same clothes' A week later I walk into the stadium and Mrs. Del Piero -who's as fit as in, fuck by the way- immediately unzips my jacket and goes 'We will win, we will win' because down to my pants I've the same clobber on. The Italian press has heard about me being his lucky mascot, so when they went one down I was sweating on the top line. Eventually it goes to penalties, Italy win and I feel this mixture of relief and exhileration. If England ever get their hands on the World Cup, I think my heart will explode!"
According to the tale that made it back to Blighty, Noel was guest of honour at the victory party and serenaded the players with Oasis and Beatles songs.
"Alessandro phoned and said it was mental at the hotel, so I ended up going on the piss instead with Adrian Chiles, Martin O'Neill, Alan Hansen, Mark Lawrenson, Ray Stubbs, Gary Lineker and -very weirdly- Spike Lee who was with Marcell Desailly. Ray Stubbs was doing this party trick where he got two pints of German beer and necked 'em before everyone else finished the them tune to Match of the Day. He did four or five of them and was as pissed as a cunt. Every time I see him now on Grandstand I'm like, 'See Ray Stubbs? He's a fucking legend!' Hansen's going to me, 'You picked the wrong fucking team supporting City', while Lineker was tearing into Sven Goran Erikkson. It was the best night I've had in years"
For the benefit of Hotpress' non-football obsessive readers, we'll turn our attentions to the upcoming Oasis 'Best Of', Stop the Clocks, which they're cheekily releasing on the same day as U2's.
"I only found out yesterday," Noel reveals. "Neither of us would probably want to release original albums on the same day, but I imagine that people of a certain age will be going to HMV on the Saturday and buying both."
Very nice and concilatory, but who's going to grind fucking who into the ground on November 20?
"U2 will beat us 1-0 in Ireland, but we'll stick two past 'em in the return leg in England to win 2-1 on aggregate," he says slipping back into footiespeak. "U2 are the best band of the past thirty years, but we're the best of the past 15. I think Bono himself would admit that. And by the way it's them being cheeky releasing on the same day as us!"
Talking of Bono, what type of third world campaigning does Noel engage in when he's not on Oasis duty.
"I'm not just saying this to reinforce the stereotype but, apart from watching telly, I don't really have that many interests," he confesses. "Unlike Liam who picks up the phone and freaks if room service isn't on the other end, I love getting back to the humdrum of life 'cause where I write my songs is in the queue of Waitrose. If I spend too much time in the tour/celebrity bubble, I turn into this perpetually hungover character who's not always fun to be around."
Forgive the amateur psychoanalysis, but I get the impression Noel Gallagher's in a good place at the moment.
"Personally, my life is better than it's ever, ever, ever been," he enthuses. "So much so in fact that I'm waiting for it all to go wrong! Professionally, I'm still searching for the next fucking great tune. Putting together this 'Best Of' -which we did ourselves rather than leave it to the record company- reminded me that I've written some belters in my time, but I can and will do better."
Is there also an element of wanting to remind young pretenders like The Killers and Arctic Monkeys who's King still?
"I'm loathe to say the words 'cause I'm more Machiavellian than that but, yes, and if we can't show 'em we'll fucking sabotage what they do! Bono's like Liam in that way -always aggressively pursuing his muse and bigging up U2. The Edge and me, on the other hand, are the Yoda figures at the back going, 'Alright it will be.' If Oasis have been out of the limelight for two years I never panic 'cause I know what's coming next."
While still a mere child of 39 -his fortieth is on May 29th 2007 if you want to send him a card- does Noel have an age in mind for eventually hanging up his plectrum.
"I used to think that 30 as over the hill, but I saw Paul McCartney recently and he's still fucking got it. His last album's no Sgt. Pepper's, but it's still ten times better than fucking Hard-Fi. Getting Nigel Godrich in was a good move, and I imagine it'll be Rick Rubin next. The Rolling Stones are still worth paying into as well but Mick, mate, ditch the leggings!" he continues. "Everyone loves Keith -and for good reason- but the real heart n' soul of that band is Ronnie Wood. What a fucking amazing bloke."
Having spent a very pleasant night guzzling wine in the Shelbourne with Ronnie, Jimmy White and a poker player who declined to give me his name because he wasn't meant to be in Ireland, I'd have to concur. Talking as we are of rock's OAPs, has Noel run into New Order recently?
"No, but ony the other day I was telling somebody how Peter Hook barred me from the Hacienda live on radio," he chuckles. "Before getting a record deal even, we did a session for some tinpot Manchester Radio station in their usual in Studio A. The presenter says, 'Hi Oasis, we've got Peter Hook here', and I'm like, 'That's exciting, innit? Still wearing your fucking leather trousers Pete?' He shouts, 'Don't bother coming down the Hacienda 'cause you won't get in!' and I go, 'Good, it's been shit for two years anyway!' No matter what he or anyone else tells you, the Hacienda ceased being the centre of the universe on New Year's Eve 1989 when the clock struck twelve and everybody stopped taking E and started taking coke and crack instead. There was a fight between two blokes over a bird, which would have been unthinkable when everybody was loved up. Some other facts about the Hacienda -the sound was shit, the layout terrible and the beer lousy. They did sell skins behind the bar though, and have fantastic music courtesy of Mike Pickering who deserves a knighthood for services to clubbing,"
Hooky got ten out of ten for honesty a few years back when, introducing 'Blue Monday' at Lansdowne Road, he said, "Here's one you all love and we all hate." Are there any songs that Noel's fed up with, and felt obliged to put on Stop the Clocks?
"If Sony had done it, you'd have 'Roll With It' and 'Stand by Me' on there, but they didn't and they're not," he states triumphantly. "Bar seven tunes that should be on it but aren't 'cause we still want people to check out the back catalogue, this is genuinely the Best of Oasis. Archaeologists will dig it up in five thousand years and go, 'Fuck me, that civilisation was advanced!"
So what was cynically left off?
"'Cast No Shadow', 'Married With Children' and 'Do You Know What I Mean' are three that immediately spring to mind. Bands ought by law be made to stick some of their best stuff on B-sides."
He's already expressed his disdain for Hard-Fi, but what does Noel make of the other bands young people are listening to nowadays?
"My mate Mr. Weller has an eldest son who's a goth," he confides. "You'd think being the ultimate mod he'd be against this, but no, his attitude is, 'Kids have got to be what kids have got to be.' What's great about this scene is it's almost a surrogate family. They all look after each other and share make-up bags, which is better than smoking crack."
How's his own daughter Anais?
"Six and very well, thank you," he beams. She came out with a classic the other morning, We were going to her school in a cab and she said, 'Dad can I read you some stuff from my book Its eight o clockish and im absoulety fucked so I went just read the billboards to me as we go along, the first set of traffic lights its 'na na nation wide. second its Gol gol golden wonder, Still Okay. Third set of lights, I have a heart attack as she reads out fluently this time 'Spearmints Rhinos Gentelmans club. Whats a gentlemans club Daddy? 'You'll find out soon enough!!!"
Is she ready for a full-blown birds and the bees conversation?
"She's be having that with her mother, not me! I'm not one of those people who have plans for their daughter. She'l make her own mistakes and learn from them like I did. If she asks me what i think of the blokes shes going out with, i'll have him round and tell her whether I think he's either a nice guy or a fuckin toe rag. Women like to think they can sum up men in one nifty sentence, but as complicated as they are, fuck me we're worse! It's not all about beer and the pizza and the football -especially not to us intelligentsia."
Stop the Clocks is the last record Oasis will release through Sony BMG, the label they've been with since 1998 and don't seem unduly upset to be leaving. Sony BMG could be down two major acts soon if rumours of them sacking George Michael prove to be true.
"At their peril will they get rid of George Michael," he ventures. "He's the last major act they've got in the UK since we walked. That said, I don't feel in the least bit sorry for him. If he'd fallen asleep at the wheel once, with a spliff in the ashtray once, fair enough, there for the grace of God go I, and all that stuff. But twic... I respect George Michael, I really fucking do, but that's just inviting trouble. As for Sony invoking some sort of 'morality clause', our behaviour was a hundred times worse than his and they never said a dickie-bird."
What about that other hard-living, drug hoovering son of Satan, Tom Chaplin?
"The rest of us if we ever have to go to rehab deny it to the hilt, but he issues a statement going, 'No, no, no, I'm doing drugs, really I am.' He takes drugs and his music's shit -that's some sort of fucking achievement in itself. Keane have squeezed into that tiny, tiny gap there was between Coldplay and Travis."
Two groups, whom to quote Noel's little brother, are "Dido's with willies"
"(laughs) He does come up with some good lines, I have to admit."
George Michael, Keane, Travis and Coldplay insulted, let's return to Oasis and the fact they've co-opted Sgt. Popper's man Sir Peter Blake into designing the Stop the Clocks sleeve.
"He's seventy-something and mad keen for drink still," Noel says approvingly. "I met him out one night and he told me he's working on a set of prints -'Elvis is in there, The Beatles, The Stones, all the greats' 'Aren't we forgetting somebody?' 'Oh my dear boy, we'll work together one day!' So it comes to doing our cover and I think, 'Right, let's take him up on that.' We went down to his studio, which is a real throwback to the sixties, and he starts talking about the Foo Fighters. He's a really clued up old fella who'd done us fucking proud."
Which of Noel's covers does Noel rate?
"I think Morning-Glory is truly appalling. Be Here Now is a mish mash of cocaine ideas, but Heathen Chemistry is pretty good. We're on the front, but in an abstract way, and it just generally represents the music really, really well. In general, I'd have to say our single sleeves are better than the albums. From memory, I'd go with 'Shakermaker' and 'Who Feels Love' as the best."
It's a question I'm almost frightened to ask, but how's the brother?
"Still fucking moaning! I'll give you an example. Last December we headlined the Cardiff Millennium Stadium. There were 60,000 people there, all of them with their lighters out singing along. We come off stage and he's like, 'They weren't really into it, were they?' Why does he have to be the one person in 60,005 not having it?"
The 30,000 Irish people who've purchased The Killers' Sam's Town mightn't be aware that it was Noel whom Brandon Flowers turned when he got a bad attack of second album jitters.
"Him deciding what kind of music he wanted to make after being at an Oasis gig is the same as me seeing the Stone Roses and going, 'Right, I'm off home to get me fucking guitar out.' The 'elder statesemen' tag is something I seem to have inherited from Weller who helped every waif and stray out in the '90s, yours truly included. It's not so much Oasis as Definitely Maybe that your Kasabians and Razorlights and Kings of Leons cite as an inspiration, which is cool 'cause afterwards they all went off and did their own things. What that makes me feel old isn't old, but fucking proud."
Any other young whippersnappers who's caught his eye recently
"I was in New York for a photo-shoot, and they had this bloke on in the studio called M. Ward. He's an album out, Post-War, which is along the same lines as Elliot Smith and fucking brilliant. You've three records to buy on Saturday now when you go into HMV!"
As is traditional when interviewing Noel Gallagher let's finish with a game of 'Confirm or Deny that Tabloid Rumour.' Okay, your starter for ten 'Him and Liam are planning to set up a chaing of Supernova Heights Hotels.
"(Cackles) Bollocks of a variety that has never been so utter.
The Arctic Monkeys beat him in a tequila-slamming contest.
"That one's true. I went drinking with the bass player who was fired/left, which was all very civilised at first 'cause we were on pints of Guinness. It stopped being civilised when he came back from the bar with a tray of shots that I shouldn't have gone near but, well, you try and keep up with the youngsters. I nearly hit the fucking deck on the way out."
Noel's gotten so thin his mum's started sending him food parcels
"Has she fuck! I met the guy responsible for that gem on holiday in Ibiza and he said, 'We have a source.'
'Is she an Irish lady, name of Mary?'
'She's winding you up, you fucking idiot!'"
Noel was in Charlestown, County Mayo last week.
"I wasn't, but Liam was and spent most of the time in bed with the 'flu. Our mam's as happy as a pig in shit 'cause we've just bought her a magnificent new place there. Talking of Ireland, I hear your Mr. Ahearn's been a very naughty boy. I'm sure he'll wriggle out of it though, same as our lot."
The recording of Oasis' next studio album will be put on hold while they tour Stop the Clocks.
"I've got a gig at Camden Palace on November 2 for the charity that got my good mate Russell Brand off crack -he's doing an hour of stand-up and I'm doing an hour of skiffle- and then I plan to sit on my arse for the rest of the year. There'll probably be an EP out in mid to late 2007, and a new studio album in 2008, which we can't postpone 'cause we havn't started it yet. We do have some rather excellent songs written though, so I think it'll be a good 'un."