Noel Gallagher - Sydney Morning Herald - 14th December 2006
Noel Gallagher is his own worst critic and biggest fan, he tells Bernard Zuel.
There is not a lot of Noel Gallagher under that mop of Beatles-gone-shaggy hair which, since Gallagher and his brother, Liam, arrived in the early 1990s with their band Oasis, has been the do of choice for a generation of British rockers.
Slimly built, of barely average height and no fan of the gym, he is not made for any kind of fighting, though he is famous for rucking with his brother and inciting all kinds of passion and aggression in friends and foe alike.
You could say Noel Gallagher is all mouth and trousers - faded black ones tonight in Melbourne, worn with a dark brown pinstriped jacket. You could add he's a walking opinion who shovelled too much Colombian up his nose for a few years, a mouthy git and an egomaniac whose best years were a decade ago. He'd almost certainly agree.
"All the bad things that have been written about me, I've thought worse of myself; all the great things that have been written about me, I've thought better than them," Gallagher says equably, rocking back and forth on his tilted chair with the relaxed air of the lord of the manor. "I'm my own worst critic and my own biggest fan."
He laughs, his eyes lighting up with amusement under the shag. "I seriously am a big fan of myself."
And there you have the conundrum of Noel Gallagher. He is a man who is verging on the insufferable but simultaneously charming and amusing. A man whose band has been bombastic and dull very often but whose best moments have always been the small and personal. A man whose Australian tours with that band have been patchy at best but who later on the day of our interview plays a wholly captivating solo set, at the renovated church home to the Live at the Chapel series, backed only by a guitarist and a drummer playing snare and bells.
"On the one hand, I don't actually think as a person, if you were to take away my songwriting, I am anything special. But luckily for me, I'm a f---ing awesome songwriter. And," Gallagher smiles broadly, daring you to take offence, "that makes me more f---ing special than [other modern songwriters], all right?"
Well, you are mouthier than the rest, I can't help but add.
"I guess, I guess. I certainly don't censor myself but I know for a fact that most of my peers, before you get to interview them, you are handed a list of what you can and can't ask. Ask me anything, anything, I've got an opinion on most things.
"However ill-informed my opinion is," he chuckles, "at least I've got one."
You couldn't ask for a better example of this truth than the recent brouhaha over Gallagher's comments to a London tabloid about Iraq, which incensed all the usual suspects. Essentially he said the war was messier for the Iraqis than the soldiers who had signed up for battle and that's where his sympathies lay.
"If you've got a problem with flying bullets, here's the thing - and call me old-fashioned - don't join the f---ing army. The way I see it, if f---ing idiots didn't join the army, there would be no war because there would be no soldiers, hence the world being a better place."
He pauses and says, his thick Mancunian accent adding an extra layer of self-mockery and self-amusement: "There, my Nobel Peace Prize is on its f---ing way, I think."
Gallagher's comments echo one he made a few years ago, originally directed at Radiohead (the more intellectual, esoteric flipside of British rock in the '90s to Gallagher's Oasis) but applicable to many others who say they hate the attention their careers give them. It boiled down to this for Gallagher: if you don't want to be famous, if you don't want the attention, don't join a rock band and sell records.
He tells a story about being in the supermarket once "when I was doing the shopping with the missus" and he knocked back a request to have a photo taken but the fan persisted, sneaking shots from the next aisle. There were raised voices among the juice bottles and cleaning products and, when Gallagher left, the store's security staff insisted on accompanying him out - not to punish him but to protect the by now seriously embarrassed musician from the stalker fan and his angry mates. It's a small price to pay, he reckons.
The most salient point in that tale, though, is that he does the shopping. Recently he suggested the likes of Elton John and Robbie Williams had lost touch with reality precisely because they never did things like buying groceries.
"He [Elton John] got really upset when I said that but I'm just assuming that a man who wears Versace underpants, spends a hundred grand a year on flowers, doesn't do his own shopping," Gallagher says. "I could be wrong. But I bet he couldn't tell you how much a pint of milk is."
"Well they don't do pints any more, they do litres, but it's 79 pence a litre."
He goes on: "I think doing your own shopping is pretty good therapy. I know all the ladies who work the checkout in the supermarket on my high street and it kind of reminds you that life is pretty shit for some people. It kind of brings you back down to earth a little bit, if one was ever getting ideas above your station."
Did he ever get ideas above his station? Get a bit carried away for a while when the money and adulation rolled in? "Yeah, but you are supposed to get ideas above your station, you are a f---ing rock star, for crying out loud. Of course I did."
Noel Gallagher, rock star, laughs and shakes his shaggy hair. We are amused.
Noel Gallagher plays at the Enmore Theatre tonight.