Noel Gallagher and Oasis: Still angry
Reflecting on almost 15 years of success with Oasis, Noel Gallagher, despite a £14m fortune, insists he is still working class. But, he tells John Meagher, the 'baggage' of kids and ex-wives has made him grow up.
"The boredom is driving me f***ing mad." Right now, Noel Gallagher is supposed to be in the middle of a world tour. Instead -- thanks to an on-stage attack by a fan in Toronto on September 7 - he is recuperating at his London home. And he's not happy about it.
"There's always some f***ing calamity that happens to us on the road, and I'm just glad we got it out of the way quickly. I just didn't see this one coming." Quite literally, as it turns out. YouTube footage shows the intruder running up behind the guitarist, pushing him to the ground. He sustained broken ribs. His attacker was subsequently arrested.
Today, in his management company's office near Paddington, London, he looks pale and drawn - something he puts down to being the father of an 18-month-old son, Donovan.
The last thing he expected to be doing a week before the release of Oasis's seventh album was babysitting.
"I just can't get my head around the fact that we still aren't on the road," he says. "I'm waiting for the doctor to give me the all-clear for the UK dates, but it should be fine. I'll go out of my f***ing mind if I can't play them."
The British arena tour kicks off in Liverpool on Tuesday and includes two sold-out dates at Belfast's Odyssey Arena at the end of this month, will give fans an opportunity to hear the new songs for the first time.
The album, Dig Out Your Soul, could only have been made by Oasis and there are plenty of moments on it that are likely to sound incendiary live. But after something of a creative upswing with their last offering, 2005's Don't Believe The Truth, this collection is considerably less inspired.
Tellingly, Noel - once Oasis's sole songwriter has penned roughly half the tracks - with the remainder contributed by brother Liam, guitarist Gem Archer and bassist Andy Bell.
"People ask my why I don't write all the songs any more and I say, 'What's the point of being in a band if I write all the songs?' I might as well go solo if that's the case."
Noel wrote everything on the band's milestone 1994 debut Definitely Maybe - as well as fantastic b-sides like The Masterplan and Acquiesce. It was a prolific time - and a far cry from today's relatively spartan output.
"When I was writing those songs, I was 26 or 27. Everything I had was in an adidas holdall - that was my life. The older you get, the more baggage you get - kids, ex-wives. I've started to write quite frequently again, but not as much as back then. Who knows? Why hasn't Paul McCartney written a good song in a hundred f***ing years?"
What does he say to those who suggest that he writes the best songs and Liam should stick to his frontman duties? "I'd congratulate them on their taste. I like Gem and Andy's songs. I genuinely like what they do - and Liam as well. If I didn't, they wouldn't be on the album."
Yet, there were a pair of his own compositions that got squeezed out. "They were left off because of Liam ... " he trails off. "F*** knows what happened, but he got a bit emotional one day and stormed off and the songs got shelved. They'll be on the next one.
"It wouldn't be an Oasis album if there wasn't a point where Liam decided he didn't want to be in the band any more. Oh, and there was an incident when some f***ing lunatic turned up at the studio saying he'd written all the songs that we hadn't yet recorded. The police had to be called -- he threatened to kill us, although not Liam funnily enough."
The lyrics feature a myriad of references to The Beatles -- no surprises there, then -- and snatches of a John Lennon interview conducted by the BBC shortly before his death. The album was recorded in Abbey Road, the first time the band have used the fabled studio since their bloated 1997 album Be Here Now.
"It wasn't like we went to Abbey Road to rekindle our f***ing mojo," he says. "The ghost of John Lennon -- Liam and Gem feel it, but I f***ing don't. I don't believe in ghosts. Sometimes, the pair of them act like f***ing cats producing their own LSD -- and I'm a bigger Beatles fan than either of them."
There's a psychedelic, druggy feel to some of the songs but Noel says the days of "snorting my own body weight in cocaine" are over. "Haven't touched any class A drugs since 1998. I did it all, I enjoyed some of it and I decided I didn't need it any more. But if somebody invented a new drug ... yeah, I'd be having some of that. I'm a 41-year-old father-of-two - those days of a three-day bender are over for me."
He has little time for the much-publicised benders of Pete Doherty et al. "They're attention seekers. Doherty and Amy Winehouse romanticise about being dirty little f***ing street urchins carrying guitars around with them and living some kind of poetic f***ing torture.
"We're different, Oasis - we're working class. I would never be seen out with dirty fingernails or the same clothes for three days because the working class have pride. And you'll find those two are middle class who are rebelling against their mam and dad."
Suggestions that he has left his middle-class days long ago for the cosseted life of the London multimillionaire are given short thrift. "My credentials are impeccable. I came from f*** all. I didn't get a head start in life. When I was growing up in Manchester there was nothing - no jobs of any description. You couldn't even be a f***ing drug dealer because there were no drugs.
"In monetary terms, I'm not working class. It's a state of mind. It's in here" - he points to his heart - "the fact that we're still doing it and still take pride in it is working class. We haven't forgotten where we've come from."
He retains a fascination with the U2 machine, its size and longevity. "For about eight months, we were as big as them," he says. "But we didn't do the sort of things that keep you that big. For instance, we never played the game in America and we would have been really huge if we had. But I don't regret it - it's too f***ing corporate over there.
"Right at the height of it all, the record company booked us on David Letterman the night after we did a gig and we're going, 'Why do we have to do it the night after - why can't we do it the night before?' They said it couldn't be moved and we said we wouldn't do it - because we would still be out on the piss. They couldn't believe it. That's the way that we are as people."
He says he has no regrets. "If we were to do it all again, I don't think we would do anything differently.
"We wanted to enjoy it - it's hard work being in the biggest band on the world."
And, he adds, with a wicked grin on his face: "I'm not greedy - £14m in the bank will do me just nicely."
- Arctic Monkeys: "[Frontman Alex Turner] is a scruffy little bollocks, but I thought their first album was good. The real test for it will be how many bands in the future will say they formed after being inspired by that album. Think of all the bands that started because of hearing us for the first time."
- Oasis's 1994 debut, Definitely Maybe: "It's a milestone up there with the Sex Pistols' album. I don't sit down and listen to it now, but when I hear something from it on the radio, I think it's f***ing brilliant. But you know, it almost feels that I didn't write it. People love it to the point now where it's seen as the best f***ing thing since the resurrection."
- His Irish roots: "It's like that Morrissey song, Irish Blood, English Heart. I have no English blood in me at all. I go over as much as I can - I take my daughter [Anais] over and when my son is old enough, I'll take him too. I love the smell of the place -- brings me back to my youth. Bought my mam a house in Mayo - it's somewhere they can all get together."
- His admiration for Coldplay: "I listen to Violet Hill and it's like The Beatles. I just think Chris Martin is a great songwriter. Liam f***ing hates them -- thinks their stuff sounds like Annie Lennox, but Liam can be a f***ing idiot sometimes."
- U2: "I f***king love U2 and I always have done -- I love the size of that band. Whether you like them or not, you cannot deny that U2 have written some great f***ing songs. People will not accept that Bono is sincere -- in this cynical age, they think he's really just a c***. But he's not."
- Tom Chaplin of Keane: "He's going on and on about being taken out of his comfort zone when making his new album. What the f*** does that mean? Why would you want to be uncomfortable when making an album? No matter what direction Keane take, it doesn't matter - they'll still be shit."
- The art of songwriting: "When I pick up a guitar and I sit down to write a song I don't sit there and think, 'What do I really want to say?' I don't have anything to say to the world. I don't give a f*** about the world or anybody in it. I just write songs and they come from a place of truth to me and that's it."
- Critics: "They always say we're writing the same stuff. What does that mean? That I'm writing Live Forever again with different lyrics? They can't understand that a band like Oasis are so successful and can sell out Wembley Stadium ... I don't consider myself to be an artist. I don't make music for the people at the Guardian."
- His epitaph: "Here lies Noel Gallagher - who should have f***ing done that solo record."