'Supernova Heights was great for the time but there came a point when I knew I needed to get out of all that...then I met Sara and that was the catalyst for everything'
Noel Gallagher tells Barry Egan about quitting cocaine, selling his party house Supernova Heights, the break-up of his marriage to Meg Mathews - plus 'running away' with second wife Sara MacDonald - and why he's a fan of MasterChef
Noel Gallagher is smaller in person than he appears on stage in front of thousands upon thousands of people. The smiling Mancunian once quipped: "I said we were bigger than God, but what I meant to say was taller. I believe Jesus was 5ft 7in and I'm 5ft 8 and a half." Over the next 60 minutes, Noel will be a giant of ragged wit and uncensored repartee.
There was a headline a few years ago which read, 'Noel Gallagher got so drunk with Bono on tour that he tried to escape'.
What was Noel escaping from?
"Being f****** drunk!" he laughs.
The charismatic U2 star is probably not the easiest person to say goodnight to. Did Noel have to do a runner on Bono?
"I did do a runner! I was staying at his house. But he knows how to throw a party. I'll say that."
So does Noel Gallagher. His one-time mansion, Supernova Heights in north London, has long-since passed into Bacchanalian legend. "You know what? I only had that house for two and a half years."
Did Noel sell the house when he gave up drugs?
"Yes, is the short answer to that. I had the house for two and a half years and it felt like I lived in there for a lifetime, for a decade."
Could anyone just call up to the house?
"Not anyone. But to be honest, though, on more than one occasion, you'd look around the room and I'd say to somebody; 'Who the f**k is that guy there?' 'Oh, he delivered the pizzas here about four or five hours ago'. It was great. Steve Coogan was my answering machine message."
And Kate Moss was a regular guest. On one occasion, when the supermodel had been staying at Supernova Heights for a couple of weeks, Noel was going in through the gates when four young girls pressed books into his hands and asked him for Kate's autograph.
"You're coming round 'ere, to my house, asking for supermodel autographs? Do you not want mine? Well, I'll tell you what, you're not going until you have mine. You're having my autograph now!" the Oasis superstar told them.
"Supernova Heights was great for the time but then there came a point when I thought, 'I need to get out of this'."
Where did he go?
"I went out to the country. Unfortunately, the party followed out to the country. And what happened then is, they would just stay forever. It was at that point where I was, 'I need to get rid of all these people'."
And how do you that, I ask?
"Well, I had to. It was coming to the end of my marriage (to Meg Mathews, his wife from 1997 to 2001, and mother of daughter Anais) and all that. 'They've all got to go'. At that point (clicks fingers), which is incredible... when I think of it now... within two months of that thought, I'm thinking 'How do I do it? What do I do?'. I met Sara, and that was the catalyst for everything. And I was just like 'Well, I'll run away with her, then. That's what I'll do'. And that's what I did," he says of Sara MacDonald whom he met in Ibiza. They married in June 2011 - Russell Brand was the best man - and have two sons, Donovan, born in 2007, and Sonny, born October 2010.
Is the lyric from 2000's Where Did It All Go Wrong? ('Do you keep the receipts, For the friends that you buy?') about the discarded friends from Supernova Heights?
"Yeah," he nods. "I didn't see those people for a good five or six years. We've since all re-acquainted and become friends again. We were all too up in each other's faces 24 hours a day."
What did his mother think of Noel with all that gang?
"I didn't ask her. It goes back, once you leave home, mums don't have an opinion any more. If she is complaining about s*** now, I'll say, 'You are aware that I'm 52, Okay? I'm sorry. Those days are over. Over'. But you know, parents are parents. I'll be the same with my kids. I'll be giving out to them when I'm Peggy's age."
Will Noel ever make up with his father Tommy?
"I wouldn't have thought so, no."
Will Noel be on his deathbed and wish he had reconciled his differences with his father?
"No. No. He doesn't mean anything to me."
There were good times like when he used to bring Noel to the football as a kid, I begin and then stop.
"Right," says Noel with a quizzical look that says 'Your point is?'
"The bad stuff completely outweighs the good stuff. Okay, he got me into supporting Man City. Thanks a lot. That's the least you could do for me."
I return to his beloved mother Peggy who famously rang him up to remind him that she didn't bring him up to say things like that when he told The Observer in 1995 that he hoped Damon Albarn from Blur would get "Aids and die".
Did he get many other irate calls from Peggy about things he has said in the media?
"Only the usual, you know, about Liam (about whom I have been forbidden from asking questions). That's about it. But it's like, once you get to a certain age it's - 'Mam, I'm not 19 any more!'"
What about his comment in January 1997 that "taking drugs is like having a cup of tea"?
"Well, I've been taking drugs since I've been 14. But she wasn't too blown away by that comment."
Nor was then Home Secretary Michael Howard, who was quoted as saying in the House Of Commons that Noel should be kicked out of the country.
"That was one of the best days of my life! Michael Howard!" Noel laughs all these years on.
Further merriment was enjoyed on July 30, 1997, when Noel arrived at Number 10 Downing Street as a guest of new Prime Minister Tony Blair.
"There were things surrounding my visit to Number 10 that I had never seen on TV," Noel says looking back. "There was something on Newsnight where Jeremy Paxman said, 'These are the kind of people that they are letting into the corridors of power now' - meaning me! I don't know what to make of all that episode. It was just a crazy time."
You rocked up to 10 Downing Street in a Rolls-Royce, I say.
"Me and Alan (McGee, head of his record company Creation, and the man who signed Oasis in 1993). Alan had bought me the Rolls-Royce the previous Christmas."
And you couldn't drive, I say.
"I still can't! I never had a driving licence. Yeah, we turned up at 10 Downing Street. It was 1997. I had only signed off the dole four years previously. Do you know what I mean? So, I was like, 'This is insane!' Alan used to work in British Rail and all that. We were two working class guys who conquered the music business.
"I remember him saying to me; 'They (Tony Blair, etc) really want to meet you'. I was like, 'What do they want to meet me for?' 'Well, you pretty much helped get them (New Labour and Tony Blair) elected'. I was like, 'Yeah, but, I'm not...' Alan was like, 'Come and meet them...'"
Who would he vote for now?
"I wouldn't vote for anyone," says Noel. "I was New Labour all the way. I believed in that. I believed in that dance he (Tony Blair) did along the middle of the two parties. How he did it was genius. You know, how to get The Sun onside and get their readers to vote for Labour is one of the greatest magic tricks that has ever been pulled off by a politician. And that to me was when I was really passionate about what was going on in the country. Now the extreme or the right wing and the left, they're all the same. There's liberal fascists. There's right-wing fascists. It's on the rise in England."
Noel, after he came out of Number 10 Downing Street in 1997, said he thought he was going to get a knighthood. Would he have accepted it?
"No, no. I was hoping I'd get a backhander on the tax bill!"
The man sitting opposite me wrote some of the greatest songs of the 1990s. Songs that are played at funerals and weddings. Songs that have the power to halt time.
Oasis were formed in Manchester in 1991 when Noel joined his younger brother Liam's band, then called The Rain. They released their zeitgeist-defining debut album Definitely Maybe in 1994 and the following year (What's The Story) Morning Glory?, which became one of the biggest selling UK albums of all time, and one of the best.
In 1996, Oasis played two nights at Knebworth to an audience of 125,000 a night. The writing was soon on the wall for the group with their 1997 album Be Here Now, a creative low which was matched in 2000 by Standing on the Shoulder of Giants.
In August 2009, Noel left the band after a row backstage in Paris with Liam. He would go on to form Noel Gallagher's High Flying Birds. Warm and witty in person, a storyteller as fine as Noel Gallagher is engaging company to while away an afternoon with.
Does he still have the two cats, Benson & Hedges?
"No, Benson & Hedges went back to the cattery. My cat is called Boots."
I heard a rumour that Noel was a massive fan of MasterChef. Is this true? "I wouldn't say I'm a massive fan. But every time there's a new series of MasterChef, there's always this thing where I always seem to have 12 weeks off where I can sit and watch it. So, I missed The Wire and Breaking Bad and all that because I was away on tour, but, for some reason, I'm always around for MasterChef. We do like it as a family. The four of us will sit down. The kids love it."
Does Noel cook?
"No! That's what I got married for! (Laughing). I don't cook. Sara could run a restaurant, she is that good a cook. I mean, when she goes away I won't starve. I mean, I can cook."
Noel tells the story of when he and Sara were looking at a house in London a few years ago, whereupon the estate agent mentions that there was a flat at the end of the garden that could be converted.
"I'll have that as a creative space. And Sara said, 'For what? What do you want a creative space for?' 'To write songs'. And she said, 'I've never seen you write any songs'. I was like, 'Are you being serious?' 'Well, I've never seen you write any'. 'But you do accept that I do write them?' 'I've just never seen you write any!' I still to this day don't have a studio."
I ask does U2's Adam Clayton still live on their street in London's Little Venice district.
"Yeah, he's on my street. He's my neighbour. He lives about five doors down," he says. "We're just about to move out to Hampshire," he adds. "We didn't want the kids growing up in London."
"No. We've had two stabbings outside our house in the last while. I live as you can quite imagine in quite an affluent area. At one end of the street is one housing estate and the other end is another housing estate, and they are currently at war.
"One guy was multiple stabbed in the middle of the day and an air ambulance had to come and land in the middle of the street and all the streets were taped off. Anyway, our lad is 11 and is now coming to go to secondary school and we were just saying it would be too stressful if he is on the Tube and he is coming home and he is being mugged for his phone. So we decided that we are going to go out to the country and put them to school in the country. We'll just commute into London."
The famous monobrow still wobbles when he laughs. Which is a lot. He is a mystic Manc giving glimpses into how he arrived at the happy place he occupies now. Compare the sublime new single This Is The Place ("it's about the journey of life, and finding a place", he explains) to the warp-speed drug-paranoia of Gas Panic from 2000: 'My eyes are dead and my throat's like a black hole/ And if there's a God would he give another chancer/ An hour to sing for his soul'.
How does Noel look back on the man who wrote that?
"Well, I'm not a drug addict any more. So, that's the main difference."
Was Noel too working class and too cool to go to the Priory, the celeb-tastic private mental health hospital in London?
"I don't think I was too working class. I don't think I was too cool. I didn't need to. I didn't need to do it," he says, of going to the Priory.
"I woke up one morning and said, 'That's it'. I gave up smoking by accident. I just didn't have another cigarette. It wasn't," says Noel, adopting a cringe-inducing Alan Partridge-style voice, "'Today I am going to attempt to give up smoking'. (Similarly) I'd had enough of drugs. I think at the time I was thinking that I'm going to give up drugs for six months and see what happens.
"I wasn't planning on such a major lifestyle change. But after about two weeks, I was like, I much prefer this! Much prefer it. And then... I haven't looked back. It doesn't bother me. I can sit in a room full of people doing mountains of cocaine - it doesn't bother me in the slightest."
You haven't turned into a just-say-no bore?
"No. Not at all. I could sit with people smoking and all that. You just know that when the coke comes out, the night is going to take a s*** turn. It's always like fun and games and once someone gets the coke out, then all of a sudden it's, 'Well, it's time for me to go anyway, because this is now boring'."
Noel Gallagher's High Flying Birds will release This Is The Place, a new EP, on
September 27. The title track from the EP and accompanying video are available now at www.noelgallagher.com