Noel Gallagher on feuds and the future
Expect psychedelia at Noel Gallagher’s 0lympia gig but no dance moves, as he talks about Liam, learning to be a frontman and why he might still sing Oasis songs
It's no secret or coincidence that all the great songs in the world from the dawn of popular music up to now all deal with an emotion, whether it be loss, love, sadness, longing or happiness," says songwriter, guitarist, one-time member of the biggest band in the world and seasoned raconteur Noel Gallagher.
Once upon a time, you'd expect him to say something more along the lines of "we're not arrogant, we just believe we're the best band in the world."
If the tombstone reads 'Oasis 1991-2009', then 2011 is the year that the respective Gallagher brothers attempt to prove that there's life after being in one of the last of the gigantic super bands.
Taking time out from rehearsals in Bermondsey in Southwark, London, Noel is in typically sparkling and chatty form on a sunny patio outside the studio.
"I've never really sung about my life apart from the Definitely Maybe and Morning Glory era, when I had a life that was somewhat recognisable to the people who bought the records," Gallagher says.
"Then we went crazy and what have you got left to sing about? How great it is to pre-board and how good is first-class? I was in the wilderness for a while on what to write about, so I just wrote esoteric gibberish until about eight years ago when I came out of it. Even though I was successful and had money and all that shit, I still know what it is like to be sad or frustrated or want to run away. You write from a place of truth."
Noel Gallagher's High Flying Birds (basically, whoever is around to play with him rather than a new band) is an album about a couple's love, hope, companionship and yearning to escape. "It could be a boyfriend and girlfriend, man and wife, father and son, mother and daughter, best friends, it doesn't matter," Noel elaborates. "I only realised it had a narrative when I typed the lyrics out for my publisher."
It's also the first of two albums, as Noel has collaborated with The Amorphous Androgynous, another alias for The Future Sound of London.
"I can't blow the kids' minds too early," he says laughing. "They'll think I've gone completely mad. It's jazz, space reggae. If my songs on the High Flying Birds album are slightly psychedelic in places, The Amorphous Androgynous project takes that and stretches it to its limit. I won't go any further out than this. There's nowhere further to go."
While Noel has made an accomplished debut, there's a little elephant on the patio in the shape of Noel's notorious younger brother with a more pronounced Mancunian accent and prone to singing "shiiiiiine".
A tabloid newspaper this morning is emblazoned with the front-page headline "Liam sues Noel". Of course, a bit of bickering between the brothers is absolutely nothing new. Liam has since reportedly dropped his action concerning a row over his clothing line Pretty Green and cancelling a concert due to laryngitis, but what's a little surprising was Ride, Oasis and Beady Eye guitarist Andy Bell wading in and accusing Noel of "spinning the press" and lying "about a lot of things".
"Andy is entitled to Liam's opinion," Noel says. "I know how things come out in the press and they look bad in print. I've done enough interviews where I've been misquoted, so I don't take things like that seriously. When they see them in black and white, they're up in arms about it. I've better things to worry about than what people say to me in the press. There's more to life. I've three kids. Rastamouse is on [an animated, reggae-singing mouse in case you didn't know] see you later! Life's too short. I've got no problem with anyone in that band or anything they've ever said."
What? Even Liam? "Yes, everyone's entitled to their opinion," Noel answers. "One situation will go down and 50 people might witness it and they'll have 50 different stories about what happened. That's life. It isn't right or wrong. It's just an opinion. The end. At the end of the day, no one gives a shit."
Oasis had millions of fans, surely they care?" They don't fucking care!" Noel laughs. "It's been two years. It's done. It's over."
Is it a relief or a hindrance that it's all over? "It was shit at the end and it wasn't a nice atmosphere, but if you're asking me if I'd rather be playing Wembley next year or the Olympia, I'd rather be playing the likes of Wembley or Slane," he answers. "It's a shame that Supersonic and all those great anthems will never be heard again. I have to learn to be a frontman and that's a pain in the bollocks."
What possibly isn't such a pain in the proverbials is Noel's newly found creative freedom. "It's a hard sell in a band to sell trumpets to people who are only into rock'n'roll," Noel says. "We were very set in our ways as a group and I was cool with that. Stadium rock is a great medium and I loved it. When I sat down to write songs I thought about playing them in stadiums and blowing the back walls off."
Noel is brutally honest when he admits to being a bit apprehensive on reassuming live duties without the Oasis circus. "It's already freaking me out doing rehearsals," he confesses. "My brain rules my entire being; my heart doesn't rule my head, my head rules my heart. Not a lot of people know this, but my monitor has never been switched on in 20 years. The first night in Dublin ain't going to be fucking easy for anyone, including the audience. I'm quite liable to go three songs in, 'this is shit isn't it? This is shit. How about I'll buy everyone a drink if no one mentions it ever again?'"
Noel has a little bit of previous in carrying the can. In December 1997 during a run of three shows at the Point Depot, he was forced to assume frontman duties. "A regular occurrence," he recalls. "Where's he [Liam] gone? Dunno. No reason. Just gone. What I have to my advantage is people recognise my voice. Johnny Marr and John Squire went solo. I can't think of many more guitarists who've gone solo. I'm a songwriter. I'm not a tunesmith and I write the whole song. People recognise my voice from Don't Look Back in Anger and The Importance of Being Idle, which were both number ones. They won't be going, 'Fucking hell! Is that what he sounds like? He sounds like a Rasta'."
Liam and Beady Eye have so far stayed true to their word that they won't play any Oasis songs, but Noel has different ideas in tackling the songs he's know for singing himself. "They're a band and they wouldn't want to turn into an Oasis covers band, that's for sure, but the songs that I play are not Oasis songs anymore, they're my songs," he says.
"I'm not like Morrissey, who co-wrote everything, or Ian Brown. I don't remember anyone being around when I wrote Don't Look Back in Anger or Wonderwall. Gradually, over the 10 years that Gem, Andy and Liam were writing songs, songs started piling up in the corner."
The Dame Street soiree will be a low-key live debut for a man who played to a quarter of a million people at Knebworth. "I could fill it with family alone," Noel agrees. "I've had bigger after-show parties than what I'm about to do in the Olympia."
Speaking of family, it's fitting that Peggy Sweeney's son is launching his tour on Irish soil. "I always find that the old traditional songs that I like particularly, like Dirty Old Town, there is a sense of strength in the sadness," he says.
"Every knows about a dirty old town, it's Dublin, it's Manchester, it's Leeds, it's Salford. Everybody knows it, even though you've never worked in the gasworks. There's strength in the sadness and only the Celts can do it. The Scottish, the Irish and the Welsh. It's no surprise that U2 are as big as they are and maybe Echo & the Bunnymen weren't. Some Might Say is probably the most Irish thing I've ever written. It's like, 'This is shit, but tomorrow might be great so let's just fucking have a drink and worry about it in the morning'."
Gallagher is slightly worried about the imminent live dates right now, whatever about the morning. "If the rehearsals that we've been doing here the night before the gig aren't right, I'll fake my own disappearance," he jokes.
"I'll vanish into a puff of smoke and never be seen again. It's going to be good, but my point is that I've got to learn to be a frontman in front of an audience, not in front of a mirror with a tennis racket. I'm too old for that now. In between songs, you'll get the inevitable, 'Where's Liam?' I'm liable to say something contentious and it'll become a headline and overshadow the gig."
Perhaps he shouldn't fret, as his solo debut is a suite of exceedingly fine tunes, notably AKA ... What a Life and Stranded On the Wrong Beach.
"I'm hoping the songs will carry me through," Noel maintains. "But tell your readers there's nothing to see. I haven't got any moves. I haven't got any jokes. I won't be doing amateur king fu like Ian Brown, and I won't be doing any David Brent dancing. It'll just be me strumming a guitar playing a song."
Noel Gallagher's High Flying Birds is out next Friday. He plays the Olympia on Sunday, October 23. The album is reviewed on page 10
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