NOEL GALLAGER OF OASIS INTERVIEWED (1995): The view from the top

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Oasis: Some Might Say
NOEL GALLAGER OF OASIS INTERVIEWED (1995): The view from the top

It's the week after Oasis’ Earl’s Court triumphs where they’ve pulled 20,000 for each of their two night stands and now Noel Gallagher is slouched backstage in the unpromisingly named Gramby Halls, Leicester.

In two hours the band will play a blinder of a gig to 3000 in this basketball stadium. Their set tonight is the same as at Earl’s Court; a sharp 80 minutes with a three-song acoustic bracket from Noel mid-set. He also fronts the band immediately afterwards for the chest-gripping Don't Look Back in Anger (all of which render frontman-singer-brother Liam redundant) and the night goes out with a devastating I am the Walrus pitched partway between T. Rex and speed metal which ends in a firestorm of feedback.

noel2Cynicism about the Oasis hype goes out the window into a cold Leicester night where hawkers are selling posters and T-shirts, all eagerly snapped up by the predominantly young audience which has packed the hall, swilled the cheap beer and punched the air to Some Might Say, Shaker Maker and Champagne Supernova.

But backstage beforehand Noel’s eaten (“ 'ad me fish’n'chips,” he says with a double thumbs-up) and spent a generous 10 minutes talking to some very young teens whose friend was a big fan but has just died of cancer.

Liam strolls aimlessly around looking for cigarettes then goes off to shoot some hoops. Needless to say, he proves it`s a skill best left to young black Americans not gangly white guys from Manchester.

These are good days for Oasis who fell on to the front pages of the British rock press two years ago as if it was their natural home. Lately they've started to prove worthy of the adulation. This year their (What's the Story) Morning Glory album has sold a whopping 1,155,000 in Britain (and still rising) and even cracked the middle of the American top 200 charts.

This backstage room has been decorated by a roadie`s daughter with fan letters and Oasis posters – and one of Damon from Blur with devil’s horns and a speech bubble “I am an anti-Christ." Noel is relaxed and, typically for a man whose day cannot end without him saying those two magic words “the” and “Beatles” (as the Observer noted), the conversation – liberally sprinkled with vigorous unpublishable epithets and “know worrimean” – begins with a joke about Free As A Bird and the Anthology series.

“I’ve done more promotion for them than for me own album,” he laughs, then notes they aren’t doing much UK press at all any more.

Why not?

We’re concentrating more on international now. We only need to feed ’em here to keep a foothold – and to try to become a proper group, as they say. Like U2. Proper world tour'n that instead of just doing six tours a year. We got a gold album in America out o the last one in America and reckon we'll get platinum out of this. Wonderwall (the new single) has just gone to radio so we’ll go back there in a couple of weeks.

Radio stations have one-day festivals with about eight bands and we decided instead of schlepping round the country we’d do six of those, shoot a video then come back here over Christmas. It’ll work, we`ll just blow the others off the stage and look excellent.

We don’t like doing these things like that Lollapalooza which we get offered. If you’re not headlining, people are eating hamburgers and looking the other way. There's more impact if you’ve got your own crowd - and you get to do a longer set.

noel_and_liam_gallagher1There’s been some cynicism out our way (New Zealand) about you.

Yeah, fair enough -- because until people see us we’re going to be a figment of the press’ imagination. We’ll kick it in and show people it's just no-frills rock music. All these things written in the press here about us being arrogant, unapproachable or whatever . . . we’re not that bad, no worse than anyone else.

But hasn’t that meant attention you wouldn’t otherwise have had?

Well, we haven’t made up any stories - all the things they said we’d done, we did. The press tends to exaggerate and you live and die by the press in this game. But we’ve done that much work in England the fan base is unshakeable. People are always going to be cynical of a band with one album out, but I think, with Morning Glory being a better album, people are coming round.

Better?

More depth in the songwriting. Definitely Maybe was just a gung-ho up’n at ’em garage album. We’re not sprinting now but settled in for the marathon. We’re out in front and just taking it easy.

The songs are easier to listen to but not as immediate.

After the Whatever single with strings last year some people thought, 'Yep, Noel’s on his way somewhere' but felt Morning Glory’s straight-ahead approach was a bit of a retrenchment. That assumes rock music has to go somewhere, of course.

51astj2rrhL._SL500_AA300_The so-called greatest rock`n’roll band in the world, the Rolling Stones, haven’t progressed that much, have they? People say we’re not innovative but is rock’n’roll supposed to be? It’s supposed to be about guitars and melody and a connection with your fans. I mean,who wants to sound like Kraftwerk and be avant-garde anyway? Leave that to the like of Blur and Pulp. Pulp are just Roxy Music and Blur do the Kinks -- we’re just playing rock’n’roll and we admit that. You can’t tart up a song that much. If it's a good song you can play it on acoustic guitar.

We do an acoustic interlude of just me and that’s probably more powerful than the full on band. Stripped down, they are still great songs. I’d love to see Pulp do an acoustic set!

Has rock’n’roll been too clever for its audience?

Yeah, for me it was never supposed to be about art, it`s like 'fuck art, let’s rock'. It’s supposed to be a primal thing like loud and distorted. Arty farty music is nice to listen to and you go, “Oh that’s a nice tiddly bit there” but at the end of the day if it doesn’t do something to your soul you're wasting your time.

Who’s making good rock’n’roll these days?

Us, Paul Weller, Primal Scream, Cast.

And who’s writing good songs?

Cast, Paul Weller obviously and meself. Ocean Colour Scene who are about to relaunch their career. Pulp have written a few good songs. Actually, music's a good deal healthier than it has been for 10 years. We’re only missing Nirvana. If they were about we’d have all bases covered. Poor old Kurt, but there you go.

You were on the road before this (as a guitar tech with Inspiral Carpets) and have seen what it can do.

Yeah, you've got to realise you're not this invincible superhuman being that can stay up for five days drinking and taking drugs. For the first year, which is where we got our reputation, we went absolutely stupid, never went to bed, launched things out of hotel windows. I didn’t personally but it was new to everyone else and so it was like a chimps’ tea party. But we’ve done that and now we’re seasoned pros and know what we’ve got to do. There’s a lot of work if you want to be a big group. You can’t just do an English tour and a couple of gigs in America and one in France. You gotta go places like Norway.

You have a gameplan?

Yeah, plug me guitar in, turn it up, go play where you sell records then go play where you don’t sell records. Most bands go where they sell, we ask where we sell the least and so we go there and try to kick it in because they're not gettin’ it somehow. And that’s to do width seeing you in the flesh. I'm like everyone, I get bored with videos and hearing songs on the radio. I want to see the people who buy our records sweat a bit. People like to hear the voices between the songs. You can make up anything in the studio.

You didn’t spend long there for Morning Glory.

I get bored very easy. If it still sounds fresh when you come out it’s going to sound fresh and exciting for people. I couldn't do a Stone Roses' and do five years. Ours sounds like it took 15 days.

We don’t like to overcomplicate things.

What about the saying you’ve got 10 years to write your first album and 10 months to write your second?

True. You're only as good as your last song. I write all the time. I just get a few chord changes and get some lyrics then get on to the next one as soon as possible. Time is running out, the end of the world is nigh!

One of the comments people make about your lyrics is if they’re not terrible they’re pretty hard to follow.

Yeah, I’m pretty hit and miss -- but I don’t consider myself to be a. lyricist. I’d be deluding myself if I thought that. Morrissey’s a great lyricist, but can’t write music. Johnny Marr’s a great musician but can't write lyrics. I fall somewhere between. I must be doing something right, lots of people are buying it.

noel20gIs that it? People buy it, so your work’s vindicated?

Doesn’t matter to me what critics think, it’s what them people who’ve bought the album think. Without them you’re nothing. It’s not to do with sales figures but as long as you get the feeling people are getting it then you think you might as well go make another album.

One of the things we observe from a distance is how English you are, but not too English.

Bands like Pulp and Blur sing about these overtly English characters and big country houses and people get it in England and all the in-jokes in the videos. Kids in the Bronx or Auckland aren’t going to get it. People always level this Britpop thing at us, but kids in China or New Zealand know what Cigarettes and Alcohol is about. It’s about rock’n’roll, getting pissed and ’aving a good time.

Clever music means you got to think about it. Our music means you jump up and down and scream at the top of your voice. You don’t sit there and say, “What an absolutely marvellous middle eight that was, Ray Davies would have been proud'. Fuck that. Britpop? I don’t put a lot on that.

American pop never enters into it?

Nah, Neil Young and the Stooges, that's it. American music’s always talking about how bad their lives are. So you’re life’s bad? See you in the pub, mate. Some 15-year-old kid from a council estate doesn’t want to hear Eddie Vedder going on about how he was abused as a child if you’ve been abused yourself. You think, 'I know all that, I want something to make me feel happy'. It’s all about escaping for three and a half minutes.

What transports you, or don’t you listen as much?

Yeah, still a fan. Always down Strawberry Fields, mate!

I asked you about a gameplan. I see a lot of Oasis T-shirts.

Yeah, we own our own merchandising and it doesn’t cost that much and we keep door prices to a minimum. Kids can’t afford 20 quid and any other band that’s been in the top 10 as often as we have would be 15 quid to see. Tonight it`s seven. That’s not a lot, like two drinks and a packet of fags.

Cigarettes and Alcohol in fact.

Exactly - and it’ll thump you in the chest, mate.

For a later interview with a less cocky Noel Gallagher see here.

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