Graham Reid | | 10 min read
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
Cynicism 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
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.
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
There’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
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.
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
Has rock’n’roll been too clever for
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
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 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
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
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
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.
Is that it? People buy it, so your
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.