HIGH FLYING BIRDS DOWN UNDER
Noel Gallagher spent much of the 90s proving that ‘Rock Stars' still exist.
His early days in Oasis are as memorable for their expletive-fuelled speeches, drug binges and public stoushes with brother Liam as they are for the band's seminal album's Definitely Maybe and What's The Story Morning Glory.
These days Noel is all grown up, and you'd more likely find him spending time with his wife and children then having a public hissy fit. Since ending Oasis in 2009 - minutes before the band was due on stage in Paris - Gallagher has gone about doing what he has always done: writing songs.
And the result was his debut solo album Noel Gallagher And The High Flying Birds.
While in Australia for the Big Day Out and a run of sold-out solo shows, we sat down for a chat with the elder Gallagher brother, to find a surprisingly funny, self-deprecating musician who, while no longer caught up in the excesses of rock n roll, still enjoys a bit of a blag and the occasional swear.
How's the tour gone so far?
Great. As well as I could have hoped for. I like Australia. I knew it was gonna be good.
It's probably the longest tour you've done here as well, in terms of time span?
I dunno. We did the Livid festival a few years ago and that was quite long. It's great and the gigs have been very well received. They've been my first festivals ever as a solo artist and I've enjoyed them a lot.
I was at your Sydney show and the thing that struck me was the crowd reaction. People were going beserk, singing along to not only Oasis songs but to the new songs as well. Has that type of reaction surprised you?
Part of me is thinking ‘Well it's not a surprise because my new songs are fucking brilliant' but another part of me, in equal measure, is surprised because those new songs are up against songs that are very, very, very famous and they're very important to people. I understand that.
But have I been surprised? Yes and no. It's great. I knew that Everybody's On The Run and If I Had A Gun and What A Life and The Death Of You And Me are as good a songs as I've written. I knew that when I was putting them out there, but you can't predict what other people are going to feel. They may have fallen on deaf ears. Many a song I've written, played it live and thought ‘this is as good as I've ever written' and people have fucking all gone to the bar. So, you know, I am surprised a little bit.
You mentioned in your tour diary about the bra that got thrown on stage at the Enmore [show in Sydney].
It's a wonderful thing.
Then, at the Big Day Out there was a bra and knickers...
And top hat! [Laughs]
Do you think you've started something?
I do hope so. I keep them all as trophies like a little serial killer. You know, ladies underwear is always welcome on stage in any capacity.
From where I was standing, the knickers came from behind and you saw them and had a slightly puzzled look on your face.
Well I was thinking ‘do the top hat and the knickers belong to the same person because I want to meet that girl and get a monocle off her'.
Noel pops out for a curry with Kasabian, Manchester 2009
Are you enjoying being on this tour along with Kasabian?
Yeah, I was out with them the other night. Good lads. We're not just showbiz mates, we socialise outside of showbiz, baby.
I'm surprised you've not played a song or two with them at some point.
I've not been asked. You've gotta be asked. You can't just say ‘Right, I'm playing on Club Foot'. I'm available if asked.
You've just released a new single, Dream On.
This album is turning into Thriller.
You mentioned a while back in your diary about shooting a video for it. Is it a continuation of the last three videos or is it something different?
No, no, it's different now, we've stopped that. We were gonna carry it on but I think it was time for something different. The other three songs are slightly psychedelic and I do mean slightly. This one is a straight-up pop song. But it was the most fun, I have to say, I've ever had on a video shoot. I was fucking absolutely amazing.
Can you give us a bit of an idea of what it entails? Is there more acting from you?
[Laughs] Don't refer to what I do as acting. All I'm doing is being in it. I'm in this one more. It's a song that involves a man and a woman but I'm neither the man nor the woman.
An outside observer?
If you like. It's good. I like it. It was a fucking great doing it I've gotta say. Such a good time.
The b-side is one of the Amorphous Androgynous tracks. Is it that one that's being played at the shows?
Before we come on, yeah.
Is that one of the songs from the High Flying Birds album that'll be on this next one?
That album is sadly been put on the backburner now because this album has become so successful, that the release date keeps getting put back. But yeah, that's one of the three singles that's on it. They're not remixes, they've been completely re-recorded.
In the same way that they did the version of Falling Down?
The What A Life one is a bit like Falling Down. The If I Had A Gun one called Shoot A Hole Into The Sun, really if I'm not singing ‘Shoot a hole into the sun' over it, if you take the vocal out of it, you wouldn't know that it was the same song. It's been completely re-worked. The Death Of You And Me sounds like something from Jack The Ripper times, it's very vaudeville.
I can't talk too much about that record because it's yet to be mixed and the mixes that I have done of it or have been done of it, I've not been happy with and I'm all about the mixing. But that one is finished.
As you were saying, this album's kind of barrelled along and in the next UK tour you're going to have horns and strings added to the band - are you looking forward to have more musical augmentation?
I've got a 50-piece choir on stage with me as well for all the gigs. I always try not to do so much of that cause I always feel it's a shame for people round the rest of the world when they see it on YouTube and they think, ‘Oh, fucking hell!' But it's just too expensive to bring 75 people all over the world. So unfortunately they're only the kind of things you can do close to home.
I'm not one for the razzle dazzle and the razzamatazz and I think, in arenas, people now come to expect something a little more. So I decided to fill the stage with people and instead of looking at screens, look at people. What's more interesting than looking at people? Nothing. Maybe animals. But until animals can sing, that ain't gonna happen.
In terms of the tracks that are on this first album, is that it for your backlog of songs?
No, fuck no. I've got a backlog of songs which would blow your mind. I can go into a studio on any given day - and I've been able to do this for the past 15 years - and do two albums. Any given day. But I don't sit and write in a rush when I've got to write an album. I just write all the time for fun. I was writing this morning. I just sat in a room - and I really haven't been that excited about anything I've written for a while - and three songs started today out of nowhere. Like I said before, they might be for next one, it depends how they turn out, it depends how I feel on the day. I might start them in the studio and give up on them because I don't think they're any good.
Have you found that the death of the CD single has meant that you don't necessarily pursue some songs as hard as you once did?
Well I still do b-sides. There's still b-sides as such, they're still out there. The CD single has become less important but you've always got to have a b-side. I'll never stop doing it unless someone tells me that the singles market is dead and it's going to cost you five grand to put a single out. I'll still do it because somebody's got to fucking do it. You can't just let it die, d'ya know what I mean? It's nice to have. When you put a single out, if I ever buy singles, which I fucking don't, there should be another song on the other side which should be equally as good as the one on the first. They're kind of the rules.
You recorded quite a lot of the instruments on this album yourself. Were you tempted to do a McCartney or Prince and do everything?
Well, I can play drums but only to the standard of getting a demo done. I'm not great. What I am good at is rhythm guitar. That's what I'm brilliant at. That's my fucking game is rhythm guitar. I can play everything else to a standard of ‘I can get the idea across'. I have played drums on a record to get released in England as a matter of fact. [Tailgunner, for anyone interested].
Didn't you also play drums on Better Man?
Yeah, I played drums on Better Man, but like I say I get professionals in to do all that shit and as I can't play drums live, what's the point? The drummer is that guy that played on the record. He is a great drummer.
You're playing on the new Paul Weller album. Are you on just the one track?
Well I played on six. I don't know how many will make it. Weller does that a lot. He'll get you down and on fuckin' half a dozen tracks and then he might use it, he might not use it.
Any songwriting with him this time [The pair co-wrote Echoes Round The Sun from Weller's_22 Dreams_ album]?
No, there's no song writing. It's just guitar, a bit of bass and I think [laughs] a bit of drums as well.
I've seen an interview with John Lennon when The Beatles had split where he talks about how the band ending was an opportunity for the four of them to work with other musicians as opposed to how the public saw them as "The Beatles". Do you feel a similar way?
Well I wasn't in a song writing partnership like he was, d' you know what I mean? I've always written songs myself. I've tried to collaborate with other people in the past but it doesn't work for me. I've written songs with Paul Weller and the Chemical Brothers and other stuff but one-offs. I guess I've worked with the Amorphous Androgynous and that kind of thing. It's not my natural instinct. My natural instinct is to pick up an acoustic guitar and just get it done. But having said that, if I get a phone call tomorrow from somebody who says, ‘Come down the studio and help us write', I'd be there like a shot - but it's not something I ever chase. I wouldn't be calling anybody up.
When you guest edited Mojo, you mentioned that you have 115 Beatles tracks on your ipod. I was wondering what some of the ones were that you don't have?
Piggies, She's So Heavy, Honey Pie, Mr Moonlight, Here There and Everywhere, all the shit ones. Within You, Without You...
Which is surprising because Oasis covered Within You, Without You?
Well yeah, I was in a band and the rest of them wanted to do it so I had to do it. It's not our finest moment it has to be said. I wouldn't have gone near it, to be honest.
Are you peeved that the Inspiral Carpets have decided to get back with their original singer and overlooked you again?
[Laughs] Yeah, gutted. Gutted. They're supporting the Happy Mondays on their reunion tour so maybe they'll get me back as a roadie, eh?
Any chance of you appearing onstage with The Stone Roses for a song the same way John Squire did for you at Knebworth?
I'm gonna be in American when it goes on so I'm busy but yeah, good luck to them.
Also, congratulations on the NME ‘Godlike Genius' award. Do you think it's been a long time coming?
No, I don't really think about things like that. It's nice. They've devoted a full issue of the magazine to me back home in England, which I've not seen yet. But it doesn't make me feel more godlike or like a genius than I felt the day before it happened but it's nice. It's nice to be recognised. It's nice to get standing ovations and people tell you how fucking great you are. That's all good. You know, the thing about all this selling out arenas and doing the Brits and the NME Awards is that it's all happened on my first album. I was hoping to get a few. I don't know how I'm going to follow this year up. It's going to be very, very difficult.
Can we expect any sort of archival Oasis releases; BBC Sessions, etc?
Oh yeah, I had a meeting about that the other day. Some shit they wanna put out. Can't tell you any more than that, though. There's nothing in the vaults that you wouldn't have heard already. There's no unreleased stuff. Or there might be one song, in fact I know there's one song, but Liam's not singing it so it doesn't really count.
2012 TOUR DATES:
Edinburgh, Edinburgh Castle (17)
Bournemouth, BIC (4)
Liverpool, Echo Arena (6)
Cardiff, Motorpoint Arena (9)
Nottingham Capital FM Arena (12)