Noel Gallagher: The complete interview

The year 2012 was a pretty good one for Noel Gallagher. After walking out of Oasis in 2009 after one too many fights with frontman/brother Liam, in late 2011 he launched solo album Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds. Going in straight at UK number one, 45-year-old Noel spent the bulk of last year on a 150-date tour which was swiftly upgraded from theatres to arenas, embraced with open arms by the press and public as British national treasure. But Noel’s taking 2013 off (and 2014 too if he can ‘get away with it’) aside from a few dates – including one at Atlantis on Friday March 15. When we spoke to Noel ahead of the gig he was on sparkling form. Told we only had ten minutes with the legend, he spent over an hour sharing his trademark blend of quick-fire wit, stark self-depreciation, eyebrow-raising arrogance and raconteur rants. And there was nothing we couldn’t ask – Liam, Damon Albarn, reunions, illegal substances, personal fortune – so we asked it all.


Originally published in Time Out Dubai


[Noel is playing the guitar when we call]
Hi Noel. Working on some new songs?
I’m always writing. I’ve got lots of songs, more songs than I know what to do with. If somebody put a gun to my head tomorrow and said ‘I need four albums by the end of the week’, I could probably do it.

Would they be any good?
Two of them would. Two of them would be just really good – the other two would be [very] brilliant.

As a songwriter you’re one of your harshest critics. Why do you think nothing you’ve written has captured the public imagination as much as those first two albums? [Definitely, Maybe and (What’s the Story) Morning Glory?].
The third album didn’t really have any hit singles on it, and neither did the fourth one, and then by the end of that people had moved on. But we kind of turned it around after that. The last two albums we did were pretty good, the last three maybe, I can’t remember what order they went in now. I don’t really sit and think about it a great deal. I lost interest in writing, I couldn’t be bothered. After Morning Glory I’d done enough, I wanted to live a little and spend some money, and become an [addict]. The rest of the band really wanted to be working the whole time because they didn’t have a life outside of the band. Poor them.

Are you surprised how well the world has embraced your solo record?
Well yeah, because you can never really account for those things. I knew that the record was good, but the pages of iTunes are filled with great records that never sold a single copy. I’m surprised I got to where I am in such a short space of time. It’s kind of spoilt it a little bit: I was expecting a little bit of a trip from small clubs to theatres, to maybe one day in the far off distant future getting to play arenas. And it happened overnight and I was kind of thinking: oh right, I’m just back to where I was with Oasis really.

It must be a harder gig having to carry the whole thing on your own.
I don’t think about it. I don’t look in the mirror before I go onstage and think ‘I’m going to give these people a show’. What I’ve got is the songs, and that’s all I’ve got. And I think people understand that. People aren’t coming to see me. I don’t do [anything], I haven’t got any moves, I’ve got nothing to say, I’ve got no manifesto, I’m not remotely interesting, what I do is [play] songs that people like to sing. That’s it.

You were recently voted one of the wittiest men in Britain [in a survey by the Leicester Comedy Festival]. Is there an element of persona there, a Noel Gallagher act you feel you have to put on?
I wouldn’t like to think so. I hope not. What you see is what you get: I don’t dress like a rock star, I don’t have a rock star’s haircut, I’ve never worn a leather anything other than a leather jacket. Okay I can be a bit funny interviews and [stuff] like that, but really that’s meaningless. When I go home at night I’m not practising black magic – you know what I’m doing? I’m putting the kids to bed and doing baths and fights and tickles and taking them to school and going to the supermarket and buying fish.

We’ve been told you’re going to play a lot of Oasis stuff in Dubai.
No, no, no, no – it’s not true. I’ve got to do some big charity thing in London, and I haven’t played for a while and I didn’t want to just go onstage and play because it would be a bit [rubbish]. So it’s like ‘let’s do a warm-up gig somewhere’, and there’s nowhere warmer than Dubai, I’m told. But I’m not playing any more Oasis songs – in fact I’m playing less than on the last tour.

So six or seven Oasis tunes?
I think there’s… [counts] six – or seven – yes, six or seven, that’s correct. But it’s not the ones you would imagine, if you’re not an Oasis connoisseur, oh dear. I’ll do ‘Don’t Look Back in Anger’, I mean who wouldn’t? But it’s mainly my High Flying Birds stuff, a couple of new songs, and some obscure Oasis B-sides.

Two new songs? Is there a new record in the pipeline?
No. I write all the time. I never sit down and think ‘today I’m going to write a new album’, I just write as a hobby, whenever I get ten minutes I’m always [messing] about on this guitar here and if a line for a song pops into my head I might write it down. And then there’ll come a point where somebody will say ‘you’ve not made a record for four years’ and I’ll cobble together all the songs that I’ve got. [Now] there’s nothing, there’s no plans. I am really, really enjoying resting on my laurels at the minute. My laurels are [very] comfy.

So what will you be doing?
I’ll be watching football, I’ll be going on holiday, and I’ll be making the most mundane of tasks last a full day. I can make going to the dry-cleaners last an entire day, and the dry cleaners might be 150 yards from my front door. You might find it hard to believe, but I am bone-idle lazy. I might have to be wheeled to the studio in a wheelbarrow kicking and screaming. When I’m doing music and I’m on the road I love it. But once I’m home it’s very difficult to go back out on the road. But the money will run out eventually, I’ll have to.

Run out? You once said you had £87 million [Dhs480 million] in the bank.
Maybe in pence. I’ve never had 87 million of anything, I’ve not got that much money. When you read figures about how much money people have got, it seems like the papers just times it by three. But I’ve got enough money, I’m not greedy.

You’ve said before there could be an Oasis reunion if someone offered you enough money. How much would it take?
For a full tour?

Say, three nights at Knebworth?
I don’t live that far, I could probably get there and back in 40 minutes… For the sake of headlines all over the press, I’m not going to answer that because it would just be nonsense. Look, it’s not going to happen in 2015 [the 20th anniversary of (What’s the Story) Morning Glory?] because the boys in the other band [Beady Eye] are all flat out busy, they’re making a record at the minute so they’re going to be on the road until 2015 you’d imagine. And I probably will have been coerced into doing something by then. I wish people would give it up – it’s not going to happen, for no other reason than we’ve moved on. That’s not to say it won’t happen in 25 years time, or 20 years. And where did this mythical date come from anyway? Why not 2017? Why not 2014? Why not celebrate the release of Definitely, Maybe – never mind Morning Glory. I understand people are interested, and The Stone Roses have done it, and Led Zeppelin have done it, and blah, blah, blah.

Speaking of which – we had The Stone Roses out recently. It seemed like Liam stole the headlines, did you know he was out here?
I did know he was out there, yeah – he has to ask my permission to leave the country.

Are you guys talking?
No. How exactly did he steal the show? Run off with a guitar amp or something?

He was just stood in the VIP area, but it wasn’t all that subtle.
It’s the kind of thing he does, he needs the reassurance.

Right, we’ve got some readers’ questions here. @GaryWorkid wants to know: Is it true you moved out of Ibiza because of James Blunt?

What did he do to wind you up?
He didn’t. He just moved there. I can’t have that.

Okay. @southend4ever asks: are you bringing the family out for a free holiday at Atlantis?
No, I’m sad to say the boys are at school so I can’t take them out. But seeing what they’ve got – they’ve got underwater suites, right, where you look out the bathroom window and you’re looking under the sea? – they’re going there eventually.

Will you be spending much time here?
In and out I’m afraid, I’ve got things to be getting on with back here. Not music or anything exciting, just mundane [rubbish]. I’ve got to pick something up from the dry cleaners, and I’m having a fan heater fixed, so I’ve got to be back here [laughs].

Your mate Richard Ashcroft is warming up for you.
I can’t believe that, I genuinely nearly fell over when I heard that.

Any chance of a tune together?
You never know, you never know. But I’m very, very interested to hear what he’s doing, because he’s made a new album, and I really liked his last. It’ll be great to see him and give him [abuse] about Man United, because he’s one of those Man United fans that doesn’t live in Manchester. The last time I saw him he was on sparkling form, so I’m looking forward to it.

So you’ll be having a few [hops] backstage?
Oh, no question about it.

Time for another reader question from @YaraaYounis: Looking back, what’s been the most meaningful moment of your career?
There’s been quite a few, but I guess when we finished ‘Supersonic’, the first single being released, because then I knew we were on the way. I knew after that it would only be a matter of time before we were the biggest band in the world. I actually believed that – I know a lot of people around me said the words, but I actually really believed it. That first single being played on the radio, I remember thinking ‘wow, I’m going to be rich’.

Does hearing those tunes on every pub jukebox, and having your songs chanted by football stadiums, ever get old?
If I go to a pub then people will automatically put on ‘Don’t Look Back in Anger’ or ‘Wonderwall’, I could do without that. That leads to photographs and sing-a-longs and all that [rubbish]. When I hear my songs being sung on football terraces and played at football matches – that’s amazing. Does it get old? No it doesn’t. One day when I’ve retired and I’m looking back, Oasis will be forgotten eventually.

Do you really think Oasis will be forgotten?
Well, [the songs have] been around for 20 years, so who’s to say. I don’t see anybody that came after us, or who’s on the horizon, that’s got what we had. So maybe it will last the time, maybe we’ll have to have our pictures taken with fat skinheads for the rest of lives.

One last reader question from @askewdxb: What did you make of the travesty that was this year’s Brit Awards?
There are no characters left in the music business. When we first started going there was a healthy percentage of people, and we were all [dirt]-kickers from council estates, and we all couldn’t believe our luck that we were at the Brits. You go in now and everybody is a careerist. It’s very corporate, and you know what I’ve actually seen people doing at the Brits? Eating. I saw the drummer from Muse smoking an electronic cigarette. A cigarette with a battery in. I had to say to him: ‘Really? Really? Is that where you are at? Do me a favour mate, either have a proper one outside, or don’t have one.’ It lit up green when he had a drag of it. Nonsense.

What did he say to that?
He said that immortal line – ‘oh you know how it is mate’. And I said ‘I’m sorry mate, I actually don’t.’

Did you pick any other fights that night?
No not really. Everybody’s really nice. It was an instantly forgettable night. There was nothing going on at the Brits, there was nothing going on at the after-show parties. There seemed to be a lot of young people in hats, with iPhones. They’re either all involved in some massive video game that they’re all hooked up to, or they’re just texting each other saying ‘where are you, what are you doing?’ And they’ve all got hats. Where did the hat come from? We’re going back to some Dickensian nightmare. I don’t understand it. People with hats and Blackberrys under the age of 30 should be shot. Or stoned to death.

Speaking of being nice at the Brits, you very publically made up with Damon Albarn.
We’re both grown up dads now. I met him at last year’s Brits and we had a great laugh, and then we were both invited by War Child [this year] so we were sat on the same table. And it turns out, after all these years, that we’re both actually really genial fellas. We got absolutely [intoxicated] and told One Direction to [go away] in unison, that was the highlight of the night.

How did that go down?
I don’t know, you better ask One Direction.

You’ve said you’d be up for playing with Damon at next year’s Brits.
No. That quote from that old [woman] at the [UK’s] Daily Mail – I read that, and that party [she claims] the quote was given – I wasn’t even at that party. So it was either a lookalike or – now you might find this hard to believe – she made it up. Nobody will be performing with anybody at next year’s Brits under any circumstances. That will be the last time I attend that show unless I get some award for… ‘and the award this year for the only person in England writing his own songs – oh that’s right, there’s only one nominee’. Unless I get that award, I won’t be going again.

How did Beady Eye end up playing the Olympics closing ceremony?
I got asked to do it [solo]. They asked me to do ‘Wonderwall’ and I said: yeah, I’ll do it, because if it’s a celebration of British music, obviously that’s one of the biggest songs ever to come out of Britain, I’ll do it. Then they wanted me to mime and I said: no way. So then they said ‘we’ll ask Liam,’ and I said: fine, ask him.

How do you feel about [former Oasis members] Andy Bell and Gem Archer being in Liam’s band not yours?
I don’t feel anything. I left [Oasis] and that was it. As far as I was aware Oasis were going to carry on with the name. And I was more than prepared to give the name up. Then somebody convinced them it would be a bit of a sham and they changed their name, and that was it. I’ve got no problem with it.

Legally they would have been allowed to carry on the Oasis name without you?
Not now – but then, if Liam had called and asked me, he could have had it.

Going back to that fateful day in Paris [when Noel walked out of Oasis], clear it up for us – was it a fruit bowl or a guitar Liam threw at you?
It was a fruit bowl and a guitar – well not a bowl but a plum.

Okay. So the plum or the guitar – which came first?
Well, not even Socrates could work that one out mate.

Do you look back and think you made any bad fashion statements?
Oh absolutely. Right up until I met [wife] Sarah, which was 13 years ago, I didn’t give a [care] about my appearance. I was solely into [illegal substances]. I wasn’t into shoes and handkerchiefs and trendy underpants and scarves and all that [rubbish]. I was into hedonism, and when I met my missus she said ‘you look like [rubbish] by the way’. And when I stopped using [illegal substances] I was like: okay, I like those shoes.

But you don’t regret any of that hedonism?
Not at all. It was the glory years. I was lucky enough to be able to afford to do it. I was in the biggest band in the world and it was great, absolutely great, and I don’t regret one single second of anything.

What about all the cash you spent?
Well, what’s money? Nobody gave it to me, I didn’t get it by chance. I worked [very hard] for it. And I’ll do whatever I want with it.

Presumably you never need to work again.
No. I work because I love it. I couldn’t ever see myself retiring and going on a golf course. That’s nonsense. I’m a songwriter, that’s what I do, and I write songs all the time. But I know that on the day I push the button to start the next cycle, that’s another two and a half years gone, from recording to the last gig. That’s a lot to take in. That’s two and a half years of your kids growing up. You can drink a lot of [Irish hops] in two and a half years, you can eat a lot of club sandwiches – that ain’t good for you.

So do you think you’ll be playing forever?
I don’t know about performing. I’m getting old, I’ve got a bad back, I’ve got tinnitus in both ears, but I think I’ll probably keep on putting out records because I can, and even if nobody wants to put them out for me, I’ll just put them out myself. Because I enjoy it. You can’t keep getting on the treadmill because then it becomes like a job. Neil Young gave me a piece of advice once, he said: ‘just do it when you feel like it, because if you do it when you feel like it you’ll always enjoy it.’ That’s sound advice. I don’t live to work, I work to live. I do those tours because that allows me to sit on my [behind] for two years, and that’s it.
Noel Gallagher plays Live at Atlantis on Friday March 15, 2pm-2am. Dhs295-500.

A perfect supergroup

Now that Mr Gallagher is playing solo, we asked him to put together his musical dream team…
Drums ‘Chris Sharrock from Beady Eye.’

 ‘Paul McCartney.’

 ‘Paul Weller.’

Rhythm guitars and backing vocals
 ‘Noel Gallagher.’

Lead guitar
 ‘Mick Ronson from The Spiders from Mars.’

Lead vocals
 ‘David Bowie.’

Noel’s wisdom

He’s known for forthright opinions on a variety of subjects, but what did he have to say on the following? 
On hats:
 ‘People with hats with Blackberrys under the age of 30 should be shot. Or stoned to death.’

On Keane: ‘Someone can listen to a Keane album and – this actually happens – like it.’

On fashion: ‘I got into clothes because I had nothing better to do. If you’re spending 18 hours a day getting [intoxicated], once you stop that, you’ve got 18 hours a day to fill. You might have a shower once in a while, or go to the barbers.’

On Muse: ‘This is a musical fact: on average 30 seconds of every Muse track sounds incredible. And then there are a thousand kettle drums and some rock opera and Freddie Mercury appears.’

On illegal substances:
 ‘It was the glory years. I was in the biggest band in the world and it was great, absolutely great, and I don’t regret one single second of anything.’

On his worse song:
 ‘The period between Standing on the Shoulder of Giants and Heathen Chemistry – there’s about half a dozen over those two albums that even thinking of it now makes me cringe.’

On David Guetta:
 ‘Surely David Guetta is the biggest con that’s ever been pulled in all of music. I’ve seen him at festivals and there’s 70,000 people stood watching him play his own CD. Idiots.’

On talent: I’m not great lyricist – but I’m better than you. I’m not a great guitarist – but I’m better than you. Whatever individual I’m talking to – unless it’s Johnny Marr or Morrissey or John Squire or Paul Weller or Neil Young – I can safely say I’m better than the person I’m talking to.’

On Oasis’s legacy:
 ‘I don’t see anybody that came after us, or who’s on the horizon, that’s got what we had. So maybe we’ll have to have our pictures taken with fat skinheads for the rest of our lives.’

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