NOEL GALLAGHER OF OASIS INTERVIEWED (1998): Just being here, now

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Oasis: My Big Mouth (from Be Here Now)
NOEL GALLAGHER OF OASIS INTERVIEWED (1998): Just being here, now

The trademark cockiness and dismissive directness is still there, but at times this also sounds like a very different Noel Gallagher, a man more circumspect and, although still expletive-heavy, sounding less prone to shooting from the lip.

A little over two years ago we met before an Oasis gig in Leicester and he was garrulous, quick-witted, supremely confident and media-savvy. World domination was but a hit single away.

He spoke about Oasis becoming "a proper band, like U2” and doing the big American tours. Between cigarettes backstage at the drearily named Gramby Halls, Gallagher spoke of how their then-rivals Blur - and less so Pulp - were too English for American audiences. Cigarettes and alcohol, he said referring to one of his songs, any kid anywhere can understand that, mate.

And he was right.

An hour later they played a blinder of a show which seemed to confirm all the claims --most of them by him – made for Oasis.

Back then Oasis were on a roll: they’d conquered Earls Court the week before and pulled 20,000 to each of their two nights, their consistently strong second album (What's the Story) Morning Glory had assured them their place as the Great Hope of British Rock and the British rock press - and increasingly mainstream papers - were hailing Noel and Liam Gallagher as laddish cultural icons. They were poised to conquer America on the back of the Wonderwall single. There were even two Oasis tribute bands.

It was all going to plan. But then it unravelled: eight months later and a mere 15 minutes before they embarked on a month-long American tour, Liam stormed off the plane, their Australia/New Zealand tour was cancelled and headlines were reading “Oasis Split."

The relationship between the two brothers, charitably described as "volatile”, would seem to have finally been their undoing. Liam was later arrested in possession of suspicious white powder (he was cautioned and discharged without conviction), Noel’s pronouncements on his drug-taking (as normal as “a cup of tea in the morning”) hit headlines . . . and the media fed off them daily.

61_yWRSezvL._SL500_AA300_But rumours of their demise were premature, although last years Be Here Now album - big, brawling and stadium-sized though it was was hardly set cash registers on fire in the way most-expected. Even Noel, usually evangelical in advancing their cause, has admitted the album wasn't quite as good as it could have been.

However they are still capable of commanding headlines for their archetypal rock`n’roll behaviour as this weeks flight from Hong Kong to Perth proved - no flight attendant left uninsulted, no obscenity so dull it isn’t worth repeating. Cigarettes and alcohol, mate.

But on this night two weeks ago, the last of their American tour, Noel is in his hotel in Atlanta playing pinball. It’s 5.30, there's noticeably less braggadocio, and in an hour he's “off to meet some kids and ’ave me tea, then just go out and do it”.

“This is our third week here, usually we don’t last more than a couple or three days,” he laughs. “But a lot's changed, I think we have realised how close it came to us throwing it all in. We are more leaving each other to their own devices -- and trying not to drink as much, because usually it comes down to drunkenness more than anything. But this is the last gig. Done it, mate. Actually finished an American tour, I think there’ll be a few drinks tonight."

But a tour of only three weeks hardly makes for a conquered America and he concedes now Oasis simply don't have it in them to stay on the road for two years. And he admits “we’re not playing the big stadiums because we're not as popular as we were last year.”

The band have been downsized for their March 9 concert here too.

Scheduled to play the Supertop in '95 before the tour was cancelled (capacity 13,000) they are now booked for the Carter Holt Pavilion which holds 5000, although that's up 1000 on the North Shore Events Centre where they were originally scheduled this time.

With Be Here Now taking a critical pasting in some magazines, some shows in Britain panned and Britbands such as the Verve and Radiohead hailed in their stead, do Oasis look to be suffering from the long expected backlash back home?

“Yeah, and it happens too often to be just a coincidence. When you are the top, the press like to believe they had something to do with it.

“People in England don’t like people in England being successful. We are a nation of shopkeepers and one shopkeeper doesn’t like another doing well.

“I was glad to get away. I was sick of sticking round to justify my existence to a bunch of students. You just got to escape the hysteria of the album only selling 7 million copies so it’s deemed a failure. Get a life, man," he sniffs derisively. (Or words to that effect.)

But after criticism of Be Here New he does admit to some pressure on him as a songwriter.

“I didn’t feel it last time because I was like God`s gift to the world. I’ll probably feel it this time because I've got to go and prove myself - but again here I'm falling into that hack thing saying I’ve got to prove myself. I don’t have to prove myself to anyone. But I don’t like being criticised.

noel_716705“But this is probably the most successful tour we’ve done ever because I think a lot of people were writing us off over here before we came.”

That opinion is confirmed by enthusiastic American reviews and a second show added in Los Angeles. And the anthemic, lighters-aloft sound of Be Here New seems just made for American college kids in baseball stadiums.

“Well, we never go into studio and say, ‘This is the one we’re going to do America with’ because if you set yourself targets you’re just going to fail, aren't you?

“We just went in there to record the best album we could do at that time and possibly the songs are a bit overproduced, but it's just what it is, Oasis’ third album. The songs could have been shorter, but apart from that it’s as good as the other two [previous albums].

“The record company started hyping it in England against our wishes. When you’ve got the head of your record company saying two weeks before it comes out it's going to shift 20 million copies you think, ‘What’s going on here?' “

He talks about the show they'll bring here; four songs each from the first two albums, half a dozen from the new one, his acoustic set and maybe they’ll dust off their furious version of I Am The Walrus for us because we haven't heard it.

But no Street Fighting Man, the Rolling Stones cover they do very badly on their new single?

“Nah, we never do it live. I think at the time Keith Richards was having a go at us in the papers so we thought we`d like to record one of his songs just to piss him off. He’s going on how bad Oasis are, but when he gets the cheque for about $50,000 from royalties . . .”

He is amused that a recent Melody Maker in Britain has a Radiohead versus Verve cover in the manner of the now notorious Oasis versus Blur wars of the mid Nineties.

“They’re my two favourite bands at the moment, I’m just surprised they didn’t throw us in the middle,” he laughs then, as a media veteran, says wearily, “I suppose they’ll learn from the mistakes were made with the papers. They don’t do you any favours.

“It’s a good laugh and we took it with a pinch of salt, we were playing up to it in a way. But that's just the English papers. If it's not Blur and Oasis or Radiohead and the Verve it’ll be somebody else, and next year somebody else. Then they accuse the bands of creating the climate of competition.

“It’s not like that. We always want to be the best we can be but I don`t have to prove anything to anyone. I said when we put out our first record in 94 that within three years we were going to be the biggest band in England. And we were. That’s it, that's what we done. So it's game over for us.

“But I don’t have to make silly predictions anymore. People know who I am, I'm Noel Gallagher from Oasis, that's all I need to say about myself.”

Now that’s the Noel of old. And it’s good to know he’s still there.

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