IF YOU PAID close attention to "Don't Believe the Truth" — last year's subtly scathing effort from Mancunian supergroup Oasis — the truth itself was obvious: Bandleader Noel Gallagher had had enough of his adopted hometown of London.
If one more obsessive fan approached him with a camera phone begging for a quick snapshot, he grumbled at the time, he would gladly dropkick said cellular straight up the street. So it's no surprise that the star has finally made his disdain official. "I've just moved out of London and back into the English countryside," Gallagher reveals. "I just moved into my new Buckinghamshire mansion."
The guitarist's bratty kid brother, Oasis frontman Liam, has just ditched his old digs, as well. "So he's living in a flat full of cardboard boxes at the moment," Noel chuckles, phoning from home. "Right now, he's in the pub'round the corner from my house, just drinking on his own. How sad is that?"
In reality, the Gallaghers were merely enjoying their post-world-tour down time, with no plans whatsoever of entering a recording studio in the near future.
But Oasis is still maintaining a high profile this fall. There's the long-overdue single release of its early B-side "Acquiesce" (which ships to radio this week), a new best-of anthology "Stop the Clocks" on Columbia and a full-length concert documentary hitting theaters, the aptly-titled "Lord Don't Slow Me Down."
Not to mention, of course, the current heavy TV/radio rotation of early chestnut "All Around the World," as heard in that steady stream of AT&T ads.
So how, exactly, does an artist of Noel Gallagher's stature suddenly change residence? Yard sales are simply out of the question when you want to jettison your belongings, he sighs.
But he hit on a unique solution. Over a laborious three-day period, he says, "I actually put all my junk and clothes and stuff I didn't need into black bin bags, we call'em, or refuse sacks. And then I called the local Oxfam, a charity shop, and I got someone else to be here when they arrived. Because if the guys had seen it was me, it would've all ended up in Sotheby's. So I gave it all to charity and nobody knows," he laughs.
"It's all out there somewhere — people are walking around in my old clothes, eating off my old plates, enjoying all the old bits that I don't need."
As he cleaned house, Gallagher stumbled on a few items he just couldn't part with. "Like loads of unmarked cassettes and CDs that didn't have any writing on'em. I'd stick them in, and a couple of'em were just me, sitting in my front room, playing acoustic guitar, just working out songs. And some of'em were songs that I've yet to record which I'd forgotten about, and that was quite special, just listening to all of those one night."
Gallagher wasn't finished rummaging. Carefully, he and his sibling combed the Oasis catalog to select the 18 classics for "Stop the Clocks."
They arrived at an interesting mix of U.S. hits ("Wonderwall," "Live Forever"), U.K. smashes ("Lyla," "Some Might Say," "Don't Look Back in Anger") and pet B-sides ("Talk Tonight," "The Masterplan," alongside the crowd-pleasing show staple "Acquiesce").
"All the choices for the album are quite obvious, so it's put together for the fans," says Gallagher. As a composer, he's most proud of his vintage "Slide Away" and "Truth's" recent "The Importance Being Idle," he says. "Simply because nobody writes songs like that anymore. I mean, 'Idle' is a song about being lazy, but it's very Kinks, very swinging'60s. And I love 'Slide Away,' because it should've been a single and never was, so it's the one song that hasn't been overplayed to death. I find big hit singles these days are all incredibly commercial. Even bands who claim to be punk like Green Day are anything but."
As Gallagher tells it, there was a three-year period shortly after the band's "Definitely Maybe" 1994 debut "where everything I wrote was fantastic."
"Acquiesce" and "The Masterplan" hail from that productive period. But if Oasis had saved those precious B-sides to release instead of its third coolly received "Be Here Now" album, he reckons, "We would've gone on to be possibly one of the biggest bands of all time. Uhhh, not that we're not anyway. But I think we would've been as big as U2."
Oasis — thanks to its media-fueled rivalry with fellow English outfit Blur — went on to launch, then practically define, the Britpop movement. Unlike Blur's chameleonesque Damon Albarn, though, Noel Gallagher never altered his trademark sound — pealing cathedral guitars propped by huge flying-buttress riffs and Liam's snippy, Lennon-inspired sneer. And persistence paid off.
The group would suffer several lineup changes, but go on to sell over 50 million records.
"All Around the World" was one of the few career coups that failed to make the "Clocks" cut. "Only because it was just too damned long and we couldn't find a place for it anywhere," Gallagher says. But thanks to AT&T, the track now receives more airplay than any other Oasis standard.
When he first heard of the offer, Gallagher quickly nixed the idea. "But Liam, bless him, said, 'Look — that song's 10 years old, we never play it, so why don't you just cash in on it?' And I said, 'How much is it again?' and the figure came back, and it wasn't a very difficult decision after that. But the advert has no presence in England at all. It's not shown anywhere. But you go to the States, and you're bombarded with our song, or the 10 seconds of it that comes on."
Oasis might be resting on its laurels this holiday season, but Gallagher himself is far from idle.
He just joined his pals Kasabian (also featured in Baillie Walsh's "Lord" flick, which follows the groups, plus Aussie upstarts Jet, on a nine-month tour) onstage at an NME-sponsored bash.
He also taped two Beatles covers for an upcoming BBC tribute to John Lennon, one with Stereophonics, another with Cornershop and Johnny Marr; as well as tracked a few new home demos, with 6-year-old daughter Anais singing along on a few. "She's got a fantastic voice — seriously!" dad enthuses. "But unfortunately, she does like Kylie Minogue, which is something that I'm not too pleased about."
Rich is the examined life, as they say. And reflecting on his illustrious career, Gallagher says, has been a quite pleasant experience indeed.
With, of course, a few minor glitches in the memory circuit.
For example, one time in Thailand in 1998. Gallagher laughs, "When we were out at some bar, and there was this incessant HI-NRG dance music playing in a bar across the street. And I was thinking 'Wait a minute! I'm sure that's a version of "Some Might Say"! So we went across the street and up to the DJ, and it was a HI-NRG disco version of our song, completely illegal, recorded by some Thai person.
"The DJ had no idea who I was. But I said 'Gimme that CD!' even though there were lots of British people in the bar going mad when he played it. And Liam and I were like, that doesn't sound like Oasis, that sounds atrocious! And that — not AT & T — is easily the weirdest place I've ever heard one of our songs."
On the surface, all might seem quiet on the usually blustery Oasis front. The multi-platinum English outfit hasn’t recorded any new material since last year’s Don’t Believe The Truth, and has no plans to re-enter the studio any time soon. Dig deeper, however, and you’ll find their hive is actually buzzing with activity. Band Svengali Noel Gallagher just left London for rustic Buckinghamshire; joined his pals Kasabian onstage for a couple of numbers at an NME-sponsored bash; tracked two Beatles covers for an upcoming John Lennon tribute program (one with the Stereophonics, another with Johnny Marr and Cornershop); and just viewed the final cut of Lord Don’t Slow Me Down, an Oasis tour documentary hitting overseas theaters this fall. Somehow, he and his frontman/kid brother, Liam, also found the time to hand-pick 18 Oasis classics for upcoming Stop The Clocks anthology for Columbia, which kicks off with the long overdue release of early B-side single “Acquiesce,” one of the band’s best-loved standards. It also includes the recent Noel-sung smash, “The Importance of Being Idle,” although its composer is anything but these days.
Sipping afternoon tea in his new countryside mansion, Gallagher paused long enough to chat.The Wave: So what’s the film’s story?
Noel Gallagher: I don’t know whether there is a story. I think that the guy who was making the film, Baillie Walsh, thought that his story would unfold across the nine months he filmed us. But I don’t think one ever did. The bulk of it is the American tour with us, Kasabian, and Jet, and then there are bits in England, bits in Japan, so it’s kinda broadly based all around the world. We weren’t in any hurry to let the cameras in to see what actually goes on backstage, and I think a bit of mystery in a band’s life is pretty much a good thing. But everybody was kinda on their best behavior. I think Baillie was expecting the drinking-champagne-out-of-cowboy-boots-at-seven-o’clock-in-the-morning-while-swinging-from-a-chandelier kinda thing. But he got onboard 10 years too late for that. So it’s the story of a band who are... errr... just kinda comfortable with where they are. I’ve seen the film once, and I thought it was great, beautifully shot. But, as for what it all means? Who the f--k knows? I don’t.TW: Oddly enough, “All Around The World” is not on the collection. And thanks to those endless AT&T commercials, it’s probably now your most famous song – at least, in the States, where you hear it every five minutes.
NG: The reason it’s not on the anthology is that it’s just too f--king long – we couldn’t really find a place for it anywhere. But the reason that that came about for the advert was, we got an offer, and blah, blah, blah, my manager’s going on about it, and it was something that I’ve never kinda considered before, and there was a lot of cash involved. But I was like, “Nah, it’s not really my bag.” But Liam, bless him, said, “Look – that song’s 10 years old, right? We never f--king play it. It’s not one of the big famous songs, so why don’t you just f--king cash in on it?” And I was like, “Well, fine. Fair enough.”
And I said, “How much is it again?” [when] the figure came back, it wasn’t a very difficult decision after that. And, of course, living here, we don’t get to see the advert ’cause it wasn’t shown in England. But I was in Mexico and I’ve been in New York quite recently, and I hear it twice a day, every day, when I’m in the States.TW: It’s great that “Acquiesce” is finally getting a shot at the charts. It never really got a fair shake.
NG: It was the same as “The Masterplan.” I was kinda sent into the studio to write a B-side, and that’s what I wrote. And when I wrote ’em, people were going, “Oooh – they’re a bit too good for B-sides!” And I was like, “Look – you f--king put me in the studio; that’s what I’ve written. And if you don’t f--king like it, don’t put me in the studio.” There was a two- or three-year period where everything I wrote was just fantastic. And, of course, if all the B-sides for the singles off Morning Glory would’ve been what became the Be Here Now album, I think we would’ve gone on to be possibly one of the biggest bands of all time. Not that we’re not anyway. But I think we would’ve been as big as U2, because I had an idea in my head for Be Here Now – it was to be the most bombastic, f--king hugest-sounding record of all time. And I didn’t worry too much about the words or the arrangements. But the really interesting stuff from around that period is the B-sides – there’s a lot more inspired music on the B-sides than there is on Be Here Now itself, I think.TW: You and your ex, Meg Matthews, were just in the news, denying custody-battle rumors about your daughter, Anais. How is Anais holding up under all this press scrutiny?
NG: Ah, she’s alright. She’s like any normal six-year-old – she’s a little too cheeky for her own good, but she’s alright. I see her on a regular basis. And she’s only six, but unfortunately she already likes Kylie Minogue, which is something that I’m not too pleased about. And actually, my girlfriend took her to see Kylie Minogue last year, before Kylie got ill. But Anais is into animals now – she’s obsessed with dogs, cats, sheep, horses, spiders, and all sorts.TW: It seems like you got into being a dad much more than you ever imagined you would.
NG: Well, I never had any dreams to be. I mean, I love kids, but I don’t really dig being a parent, so I’m kinda learning as I go along about parenthood. Especially for a guy. It’s different for women, because they carry the child for nine months and all that. So they have nine months to prepare for a child being born, whereas guys get about 10 minutes. For the eight months, 20-some days, you’re thinking, “This is all gonna be some horrible mistake, and I’m gonna wake up in a minute, and I’m still gonna be a single guy, and there’s gonna be no kids involved!” So you get about 10 minutes to prepare for it. But I think it’s a challenge to be a cool parent. But I don’t know – my parents split when I was young and all that, so Anais is following in my footsteps in that respect. But I have good days and bad days, being a dad. But it’s one of those things – you’ve just gotta get on with it and take it day by day, week by week. And I do my best.