Noel and Liam Gallagher discuss fame, drugs and their third album, in this 1997 NME feature
Originally published in the 12/7/97 issue of NME, and reprinted in Uncut’s Oasis Ultimate Music Guide – buy a copy now while stocks last…
They need to be themselves, they can’t be no-one else. Well, maybe. Right now, bustling through the photo studio’s huge steel doors in a flurry of green and blue, Noel and Liam Gallagher are each other. Same hair, same scowl, same swagger, same security guards: brothers. In matching Kangol parkas.
“I swear I didn’t know he was going to wear his,” says Noel, fingering his designer logo. “Do you think I’d have turned up wearing the same clobber as that cunt on purpose?”
“Yeah, right,” smirks Liam, “you were on the phone to Pats going, ‘What’s he wearing, what’s he wearing? I’ve got to make sure it matches.’”
Noel rolls his eyes. “Er, right. We should make sure we get some money off Kangol for this.”
“Too right! Can’t wear anything these days.”
“Yeah,” agrees Noel. “Can’t wear anything these days without someone trying to give us money for it. Bloody terrible, that is. Do you want a sarnie?”
“No, but I’m mad for a beer.” Liam swivels around looking for his security guard. “Get
us a couple of beers, mate. I’m going to hit fucking Paris tonight! I’ve been in for three days and nights doing fuck all, just watching Neighbours twice a day. I’m getting a thing for Helen fucking Daniels and it’s not healthy! I am gasping for a proper night out. It’s going to be top!”
Noel momentarily brightens. It’s not been a great morning, but the future smells sweeter.
“Yeah,” he says, nudging his brother, “just you and me in Paris! We’re going to have a right party! Patsy and Meg will be panicking, ringing the hotel rooms, wondering where we are and we won’t be there. We’ll be out!”
“Yeah,” agrees Liam decisively, “we’ll be right out!”
But first, perhaps, a little more time in. We only have a few hours before the train pulls out of Waterloo, but these will be hours well spent, on the last day in June in a North London studio, staring out a photographer with glacial cool, before taking turns to impart wild nonsense and steely sense into a microphone. It will be time spent reflecting upon what it means and how it feels to be the two figureheads in the biggest and best rock’n’roll band of our generation as they prepare to unleash another epic record.
It will be time, too, for Oasis to step back into the ring and casually take a huge bite out of their opponents’ ears.
“I see Hurricane #1 went in at No 35,” notes Noel, chomping into his BLT and nodding at his press officer. This is not a congratulation, but an opening jab at labelmates who recently and foolishly lashed out at Liam in NME. “That’s 35 places too high in my book.”
“Hurricane #1?” queries Liam, sauntering over. “He copies my haircut and then slags me off! What’s that about? But I ain’t into this bickering between bands now. I’m a married man. I’ll just blank the cunt.”
“No you won’t, you’ll batter the cunt!”
“Who’ll I batter? Hurricane #1? Never heard of them. Isn’t that some indie band with the guy from Erasure in them?”
They’re back, then. Two years, millions of sales, a thousand tabloid column inches of wild speculation, a few fights and two Knebworth shows since their last album, (What’s The Story) Morning Glory?, and the most famous British brothers since the Charltons finally have a new single out. If you own a radio you’ll have already heard “D’You Know What I Mean?”’s seven sprawling minutes of anthemic psychedelia. You’ll also know that it’s Oasis’ most ambitious work to date, and amongst their most satisfying.
“Yeah,” agrees its author, Noel, as he watches his brother, the singer and rock’n’roll star, being snapped, “I just wish the rest of the album sounded like that. It’s good, but the next one will be better.”
Well, the guitarist is a bit grumpy right now. He’ll cheer up later with the assistance of a couple of orange Hoochs, though, and talk proudly of how Oasis’ forthcoming album, Be Here Now, is a mixture of the best aspects of their previous two albums. He’ll explain about how it’s the third and final chapter in the first part of the Oasis story and how he plans to radically overhaul the band’s sound for the next album. He’ll confidently outline his future strategy, talk honestly about how close Oasis came to splitting last year, and about all the rest of their recent history too – confirming or denying all relevant gossip – and offer his opinion on everything from press intrusion and drugs to God and Goldie. Right now, though, he’s just going to finish his sandwich.
Liam, meanwhile, is in fine fettle. A constant whirl of movement and jabber, he’s a bit like The Fast Show character who reckons everything’s brilliant. Only he’s not so sure that everything is brilliant.
“Do you like sleeping?” he asks out of the blue. Er, yeah. “I fucking hate sleeping, me. Boring! I wish I didn’t have to sleep, it’s such a waste of time. I’d rather be up, living.”
“But,” says one of his entourage, “what about when you’re in bed with your woman and holding her tight, that’s all right, isn’t it?”
“Yeah,” argues Liam, “but then you fall asleep and it makes no difference. You’re off to the land of fucking nod, dreaming of fucking dinosaurs and Manchester. I’d rather be out, except I can’t even do that at the moment. I get agoraphobia sometimes when I’m out.
“Like, I went to Oxford Street the other day to buy a suit and I got the fear. I was surrounded by people asking me for things so I sacked the suit and jumped in a cab and nailed the doors down. It’s bad, man. If I’m pissed, though, it’s OK. I can monkey about with them and get on with business. That’s the trick. Always be a little bit pissed.”
He shrugs and wanders over to join his brother having his photo taken. As they stand together, Liam starts singing “I Can’t Stand The Rain”. By Tina Turner.
“You what?” says Noel.
“Tina Turner is top!”
“What, even ‘Private Dancer’?”
“It’s shit! What about ‘We Don’t Need Another Hero’?”
“Top fucking tune!”
“‘River Deep Mountain High’! Top tune!”
“Ah,” grimaces Noel, “you’re right. That is a top tune.”
A few minutes later Liam wanders back.
“Right,” he says, “are we going to have this interview? I’m mad for a bit of chat.”
Liam Gallagher: the man with the child in his eyes. Funny, unpredictable, hyperactive, bewitching and electric. The pitch-perfect but raw and emotional voice of his generation. The man of a thousand moods, mad for many different things.
Here are just some of the things about which he is mad this morning: the Wimbledon Lawn Tennis Association’s finals, of which he has been watching much between Neighbours. It’s top, and he’s going to the final. Patsy Kensit, his wife. She’s lovely and he loves her. Marriage: it’s top. Patsy’s young son, James, his stepson. They do everything together, they’re mates. It’s top. What else? Hooch, he has just discovered, is a pretty nifty drink. It tastes of orange squash, but it gets you pissed. Got to be a good thing. The island of Capri, where he recently vacationed, is a place of much beauty, tranquillity and mystery. And the word cunt. One of his favourites.
“Cunt is a great word. I’m a cunt, you’re a cunt, he’s a cunt. Top swear word. Cunt!”
So, yeah, Liam is mad for many things, but chat?
“No, I’m mad for that.”
And he is, he’s mad for chat. Mad for it right up until he sits down in the brightly lit make-up room and gets himself involved in the whole question-and-answer thing. He’s polite and accommodating, he’ll answer any question asked. But if he can answer it in one word, then he will. See, he’s also pretty mad for getting out of here and going to Paris. Contrivance isn’t really his bag.
Last time NME interviewed you, you said you loved being a pop star. Is that still the case?
“No, I’m not a pop star. I’m a rock’n’roll star. And I’m mad for it.”
Even with all the tabloid press and TV intrusion you suffered?
“I like that. I need them, need them to give me a kick up the arse. Otherwise I’d just be sat in getting fat, counting all me money. It’s good people living on your doorstep and looking through your bins. Gives you energy.”
What happened, then, when you left that last American tour at Heathrow, claiming that you had to go look for a house?
“I went to get a house.”
Why did you wait until then?
“Because we’d just sold the house that day, right, and we had to get out in the next 10 days. I thought, ‘FUCK it, I’m not going to America if I’ve got nowhere to live, spending two weeks in a hotel in America and then coming back and going to a hotel in England.’ It’s not on. No chance. Loads of people staring at you onstage all the time and you’ve got nowhere to live? You need a fucking home. Everybody does. It’s the most important thing in life.”
Were you surprised about all the fuss it caused in the papers and on television?
“Yeah! Saying I don’t give a shit about America! ’Cos I do! But we should’ve sacked that tour anyway. Should have stayed at home and had some time off. Stayed at home and made the album.”
Are you pleased with Noel’s new songs?
“Top! The album is great, just great. Once we’re all together as a band then that is normality. The rest of it is bollocks. Loads of fucking knobs who don’t know how to shag chasing you around with cameras. Should be home with their wives, taking the dog for a walk.”
What do you think the single is about?
“Dunno. It’s personal. I can’t tell you what it’s about. If I say it’s about people putting shooters to your head and he [Noel] comes and says something else, then it’s whatever. You gotta decide yourself. But it’s top. It’s Oasis.”
What’s a typical Liam Gallagher day like, what do you get up to?
“Get up at six o’clock in the morning. Jog around the park. Shit and fart all day. No. Just sit in, really. Do a bit of shopping and try and keep it as normal as possible. I am normal, I’m just a normal lad, but life’s fast. You’ve just got to take it easy, calm it down. Watch Neighbours. I’m sick of Neighbours, though. We did those gigs in America. Came home. Chilled out. Didn’t play golf. Just being a good husband, really.”
How is marriage?
Your marriage was a pretty tricky manoeuvre.
“All that tabloid stuff is a pain in the arse, isn’t it? Gotta be done, I suppose, got fuck all else to write about. I’d rather they wrote about me than some other dick. I’m interesting.”
Do you want to have kids?
“Yeah! I want 20! Sell 16 and keep four! Take the eyebrows off, though, they don’t come with the eyebrows!”
If you had three wishes, what would they be?
“To live forever. No, I don’t want to live forever. I will live forever. Love and peace, I’m a hippy, me. And I want to get a few quid in the back pocket and chill, know what I mean? I’m happy now, got everything I want, done everything I want to do. I’m 24 years old, from Burnage, Manchester, it’s more than I could ever imagine. But the aliens might land in 1999. You never know, do you?”
Do you believe in aliens?
“Mmmm. Course I do. I’m not frightened by them, though. I’m as smart as them. Probably thick as fuck, aren’t they? Big goggly-eyed big heads, man, they haven’t got a fucking clue, if they did they would come out and sort us out because we’re as thick as fuck. I’m not frightened of them.”
Do you fancy space travel?
“I’m well up for it. Only if I could get back, though, I wouldn’t want to get lost in space. Fancy just nipping in and nipping out, just check it out. I’d do their fuckin’ heads in, them aliens, man. Freak ’em right out. They’d be like [puts on Mash Means Smash alien voice], ‘Farking hell, farking hell! Let’s get back to Planet Knob!’ I’d do their heads in, me, frighten the life out of them! That’s why they haven’t landed yet. They’re going [for some reason these now are Cockney aliens] ‘FUCK that, can’t land while he’s about!’ I’d take ’em out and get them fucking slaughtered. I would make ’em turn green then!”
How are you and Noel getting on?
“Smashing. Still have the odd fight… actually I want to smack him now! Right in the kipper! No, great. Everything’s fine. We’ll never split up, we’re brothers. And if Oasis ends, then it’ll end on a high. Who knows? We might still be together in 50 years, still playing music, which’ll be nice.”
Have you learnt to play guitar yet?
“No, I’m getting there, though. I wrote something the other day, on me [Gibson] Hummingbird. It’s called ‘The Lost Chord’. I’ve not really wrote it, I’ve wrote the tune, I’ll start on the lyrics next. Do you know Scarface? It’s like that, moody as fuck. I don’t know whether to have a skiffly beat, or a slow one, keep changing it.
“Whatever happens in the future is good, though. I’m an optimistic bastard, me. There’s a lyric on the record that goes, ‘They’re trying hard to put me in my place… but the future’s mine, it’s your disgrace…’ That’s us, man.”
And that’s Liam Gallagher, off to the pub with his minders to get pissed before catching a train to Paris to get pissed. A normal millionaire heartthrob from Burnage, Manchester, a regular lad who’s so far ahead of the opposition now that he’s had to start a slanging match with bands from outer space.
Time, then, for the maestro. Noel Gallagher has a wholly different interview technique to his younger brother.
“You’ll need to get your pillow out when that cunt starts talking,” advises Liam on his way out. “You’ll be here all night before you get to your second question.”
It’s true, Noel does think it’s good to talk. When he’s had enough of being the songwriter and mastermind behind Britain’s most popular band since The Beatles, he could probably make a healthy living on the after-dinner speech circuit. In the meantime, though, pull up a chair, crack open another Hooch, and listen to the little fella go.
How does it feel to be back with a new record at last?
“Pretty fucking good, considering it wasn’t going to happen at all in the first place. There was a lot of hype and speculation because, well, when you’re not touring and not doing much, the stuff that gets written about you is usually bullshit.
“I bet there’s some kid somewhere who just started getting into music about six months ago who doesn’t realise we’re a band, who just thinks we live in the papers for some reason. So we had to make a record. We were getting sick of hearing ‘Wonderwall’ every two minutes on the radio. It’s good to get back in the ring, man.”
What was the atmosphere like when you made the record?
“Er, didn’t start off too well, to be honest. I had this idea that we’d do it around the corner from our house in Abbey Road and everybody would turn up when they turned up, do their bits and fuck off, but it didn’t turn out that way. There was too many tabloid journalists knocking about in corridors and shit like that. So we did three tracks in Abbey Road and then once we’d done that we moved down to Ridge Farm and that was top. It was like being the band again. Just sitting up all night talking bullshit and making music.”
Did you write “D’You Know What I Mean?” last?
“I had the chords for about a year, I kept doing it at soundchecks on the acoustic guitar, although the melody was totally different. I officially wrote it last May when I went away to nail all the songs, but I actually had it long before then. We deliberately left it until last to record because we tend to do all the B-sides first just to get all our heads around being back in the studio. We left that one until last because we knew it would be the single. So it’s got a sound that’s a bit more advanced than the rest of the album. The songwriting is going to change for the next one, though, and that’s a hint of what’s to come. Gonna get into a bit of Welsh rap, get MC Dafydd in the band and rock the valleys!”
Speaking of which, is there really a sample of NWA on the single?
“Yeah. It runs right through the song and Alan sort of drums on top and you can’t really tell what it is, there’s a bit before the guitar solo and, anyway, like a knobhead I did this interview for Rolling Stone and said, ‘There’s an NWA sample on the new single’ and my manager goes, ‘Doh! Why did you say that, you daft cunt, gotta pay ’em now!’ But I bought that album, Straight Outta Compton, when it came out, what, must be at least seven years ago. It’s the first track on the album, and I don’t know where they sampled those drums from but… I remember when me and the original engineer, Mark Coyle, used to do dance stuff years ago, we put those drums on a track for about half an hour because we thought it was so amazing. Just the pace and the sound of it suits that song.”
What’s the backwards stuff on the single?
“Funny thing is, we did this interview in America a few weeks ago and this American fella thought that that bit goes, ‘The walrus was Bonehead’! I said, ‘You are definitely smoking too much pot if you even think that I might think that Bonehead is even a walrus, never mind the fucking walrus!’ Me and Owen produced it, but Mark Coyle was there because he’s our lucky mascot and he was talking into a sampler and sampling us talking. Just bits and bobs, really. Just random stuff to fill the seven-and-a-half minutes. It doesn’t say ‘kill Crispian Mills’ or anything. Although, you know, not a bad idea as such…”
Who are “your people”?
“The fans, really. Not so much mates. It’s just a call to arms, you know? When I was writing it I was going to put something really profound after ‘all my people right here, right now’, but I couldn’t think of anything that didn’t sound corny, so I went for ‘d’you know what I mean?’. Those people will know, which is why it’s called ‘D’You Know What I Mean?’. Very tidy.”
When Liam sings, “I met my maker and I made him cry”, are you talking about God?
“God. Yeah. On Judgement Day, if there ever is one, I’ll have a few things to say to that fucking cunt. I’m usually pissed when I’m writing, or stoned, so it could be about fuck all, really. Who knows? But I do think that and a song on the album called ‘Fade In-Out’ are the best two lyrics I’ve ever written. Saying that, they wouldn’t have to be much cop to beat some of my fucking lyrics, would they? It’s all about cultural images, more than anything. I know what it’s about, and the rest of the band know what it’s about, even though you couldn’t easily define it. It’s not a song about religion, it’s not a song about shagging birds, it’s not a song about taking drugs, it’s about all them things.”
The song seems to be pitting your people against God’s. Do you think Oasis are more important to the youth of today than God?
“Now that’s a loaded question! I would have to say, without a shadow of a doubt, that is true. Yeah. Football is more important to me than religion. Some of the pop stars I like are more important to me than God, so yeah. I would hope we mean more to people than putting money in a church basket and saying 10 Hail Marys on a Sunday. Has God played Knebworth recently?”
Another lyric on the new single sounds very pointed – on the B-side ‘Angel Child’ you sing “I gave all my money to people and things/And the price I’m still paying for the shit that it brings, doesn’t fill me with hope for the songs that you sing”. Who’s that aimed at?
“I suppose it’s about the way that whenever I put my foot in my mouth I always get a letter off some cunt telling me how much it’s going to cost me. It’s like when we were leading up to Earls Court and there was all the stuff that I’d said about Damon and AIDS. The Terrence Higgins Trust wanted all the profits from those Earls Court gigs. Which profits? Those profits never existed. We never made any money out of those gigs. We said, ‘You can put a stall up inside the place if you want’, but there’s no profits because all the money goes into putting the show on. The song’s about that sort of situation.
“And, I suppose, it’s about like when I said that thing at the Brats about drugs being like a cup of tea. Right, well, I had Leah Betts’ parents on the telephone giving me a hard time. Like, fucking hell, I don’t know your daughter, I don’t know your circumstances. You don’t know me, so why don’t you fuck off and leave me alone? It starts off with this big compassion and guilt thing and then at the end of the line it all boils down to how much money are you going to give us?”
Most of ‘your people’ agreed with you on that one, though.
“The best thing about that whole scenario was I’ve got a cover of the Daily Mirror that says ‘98 per cent back Noel on drugs’. Which is a great headline, one for the grandkids, innit? What I was saying to the geezer was – and they only used a soundbite – ‘Look, you know I do drugs, I know you do drugs, everyone in this fucking room does drugs, there’s probably some doing drugs in here right now. What’s the big deal? For most people it’s like a cup of blah blah blah.’ I suppose I may’ve gone a bit far saying all the Members of Parliament were fucking heroin addicts, but, I mean, the rest of it was just stating a fact. I hate the way that people in this country just brush it under the carpet.
“The funny thing is, I went up to Birmingham after the awards to do this Ronnie Lane EP with Ocean Colour Scene. It was about five in the morning, and I was with Cradock and that, flicking through the pages on Ceefax trying to get the football scores, and this page flashed up that said, ‘Noel accuses Cabinet of drug addiction’! I was walking past to the fridge or summat and I was like, wind that one back! That lot were all stoned out of their minds going [puts on Dylan Rabbit voice], ‘Hey? What, man?’ Next thing the phone rings and it’s Marcus [Russell, Oasis’ manager] saying, ‘I think you better come back to London now!’ Ooooops! I was on the phone to him in the car and he was saying, ‘You can’t go home because you can’t get in the fucking street.’ So I said to the geezer driving, ‘Go past our house because I’ve got to get a picture of that.’
“So I stopped off at a garage and got one of those little disposable cameras and turned the corner and it was like I’d won the election! Big aerials everywhere, man, and TV crews combing my garden! Fucking Range Rovers with satellite dishes on the top, the lot! Meg was in but she didn’t know anything about it. She gets up the next morning and starts farting about in the kitchen, opens them roller blade curtains and it’s ‘Cckkkkkkkkklicckkkkk!’ So she phones me up and says, ‘What the fuck did you say last night?!’ I was like [mumbles], ‘Oh don’t ask’! All she was arsed about was not being able to find her fucking sunglasses, though. ‘I can’t wear my shades to work.’ I was like, ‘Yeah! Proper rock star’s wife!’
“I had to go and stay in a hotel and I was watching London Tonight and Michael Howard was on it talking about me. I’m sitting there chopping one out and Michael Howard is halfway through this speech going, ‘He should be kicked out of the country’. I’m going [acts chopping a line of cocaine out], ‘He can’t say that! [sotto voce] Do you want one of these, mate? That’s bang out of order!’ But he came out with a classic. He said, ‘I hope he goes the same way as Brian Harvey, I hope he gets sacked by the band as well’! I thought, ‘Yeah, imagine that! Imagine Bonehead coming up to me and going [adopts Home Counties Dave Rock voice], “Now listen, man, we’ve had enough of your mouth, man, you’ve just got to go! Me and Guigsy, man, we’ve had it up to here!”’
“The next day, we had a meeting and I was looking at them thinking, ‘Maybe they did see it after all.’ I could just imagine Whitey piping up [perfect apples’n’pears Cockney accent], ‘It’s not the group I joined, mate. Sorry, you’ll have to go, innit’… What was the question?”
Something about ‘Angel Child’.
“Oh, yeah. Sorry. The other song, ‘Stay Young’, I’m not so sure about that one. As soon as we’d finished it, I just kept seeing the word ‘Britpop’ everywhere. It’s a bit too jolly, y’know. Nice sentiments, though: ‘stay young and invincible’…”
Beautiful singing from Liam, too.
“Oh yeah. His singing is top drawer throughout the album. I went on holiday for three weeks in January and I left him there in the studio to do the singing. I got back and they hadn’t done a thing. They’d all been sat there going [conspiratorially], ‘He’s on holiday for three weeks!’ They sat there, getting pissed, didn’t do a stroke for the whole three weeks. I came back expecting the album to be finished and went, ‘Right then, lads, what have you got to play us?’ They were like [pulls hangdog face and adopts ultra-scally voice], ‘We were waiting for you to come back and that, you know.’ But despite being lazy cunts, the singing on the album is fucking brilliant. On ‘Fade In-Out’ the singing is so good it’s quite scary. One take as well, which isn’t like him.”
Owen Morris said that all the press intrusion gave Liam’s singing an edge. Would you agree?
“Yeah, the thing about him is that he’s still not cottoned onto how we make him sing an angry song as well as he does. The more you wind him up, the better his singing is. The more you wind him up, the more you call him a cunt, the more you bring the papers in and say, ‘Look what they’re saying about you, you soft bastard!’, he’ll just go in there and deliver straight away. But he’s got the hardest life to deal with, being the singer and being with Patsy. And to be honest, I would’ve thought he’d have gone under by now. I was saying to my mam a few months ago, ‘It doesn’t look good, he’s only 24 and it’s not very healthy’, but he’s hung in there. He loves moaning about it, but he does fucking love it as well. He’s always going around saying, ‘Why are they picking on me?’ and I’m going, ‘Because you go around punching photographers in the face, man. That photographer’s going to be waiting now until he sees you picking your nose and then he’s going to get you.’ He goes, ‘Why’s that?’ ‘BECAUSE YOU FUCKING PUNCHED HIM IN THE MOUTH!’”
How bad has the press intrusion been for you?
“When you meet people from other bands they’re always shocked by it. Richard from The Verve came around one night and as he got out of the car a few photographers jumped out of a car, looked at him, said, ‘Don’t know him,’ and got back in again. He was like, ‘Does that always happen outside your house?’, and I’m like, ‘Yeah, it happens every day.’ Freaked him out. But it’s been going on for so long that you tend not to notice it now.
“We haven’t changed over the last three or four years. We’ve always been the so-called bad boys of English rock. If doing that [flicks a V-sign] and saying ‘cunt’ in interviews constitutes being bad, it’s pretty sad, really. I’m not bothered about me, though. When I say something ridiculous and somebody takes it the wrong way, I can take them all standing outside my house. It’s when they go knocking on my mam’s door, because she’s, like, 56. She doesn’t know what’s going on. She’ll be like, ‘He said what?!’ They go, ‘He said taking drugs is like having a cup of tea.’ ‘What?! He doesn’t take drugs, does he?’ She’ll be on the phone going, ‘What did you say last night?’ And I’m like, ‘Er, I don’t know. Remind me.’ ‘Well, there’s a load of people here saying you’re going to bomb the American Embassy.’ ‘Oh, must have been taken out of context, Mam’!”
Do you feel part of someone else’s soap opera?
“Yeah. I don’t mind that when we’re on tour or we’ve got a record out, but when we’re sat around doing nothing it’s stupid. We weren’t even in the studio, we were just sat around doing nowt and because of that they just start making it up. As long as we’re kept busy we’re all right. It’s like, this weekend there were people who’d come back from Glastonbury who said that the paparazzi were going, ‘You know where they are!’ And they’re going, ‘No, no, he’s at home. I just spoke to him.’ They wouldn’t believe them. I was down to play with about 15 bands, I think. Even Radio 1 were going, ‘Oasis are scheduled to play.’ I’m, like, ‘I’M NOT FUCKING PLAYING! ALL RIGHT?’ But, we’ve grown up with it now, we’re used to it.”
Does it put a strain on your relationship with your wife, Meg?
“No. If anything it brings you closer together. There was a thing in the Daily Star a few months ago where I was supposed to have been with a stripper in New York. There’s this big fucking fat stripper on the cover of the Star saying she’d been with me. It was about seven in the morning and Goldie was around and we’d been up all night with Meg having a party, and Marcus calls up and says, ‘Have you seen the Daily Star?’ and I say, ‘It’s funny you should say that because it’s just been put through the door.’ I’m on the phone and I go to pick it up and it says, ‘Noel rubbed strawberries and cream all over me’, or something. The funny thing was I was actually doing an interview when I was supposed to have been in New York, so I went to my solicitor and showed that my passport hadn’t even been stamped. So I had ’em bang to fucking rights, the evil bastards.
“But, still, there’s lingering doubts in your missus’ mind. Your missus is always, ‘Were you really doing an interview?’ I’m like, ‘I was only gone two hours, Concorde takes three to get there!’ Then your mates start coming up to you going [pats NME’s knee], ‘Yeah! Good work, my son’. It’s funny, all your mates think you’re dead cool for two weeks and all your missus’ mates think you’re a right cunt for two weeks. They’re going to Meg, ‘You want to fuck him off, the dirty sod!’”
How is married life otherwise?
“I don’t know, it’s the same as being single, really. It just means that she is going to get more flak in the papers, but I told her that in the first place. She’s a drama queen, the missus. ‘Look what they’re saying about me in the papers! Boo-hoo!’ I’m like, ‘Do I look like I give a fuck?… Did they mention me?’ It’s hard for her and Patsy, but that’s the price you pay, you know.
“I can’t get that angry about it, though, because when I was on the dole there was nothing I liked more than seeing a celebrity being put through the fucking mill, you know. We get paid enough money to do what we do and if that’s the price, a little snidey story here and there, then so be it. Usually they only write stories that have a semblance of truth anyway, because when they start writing lies we just sue ’em. And how can you damage my character?! In court you can see me going, ‘It was a slur on my character!’ The judge is like [strokes chin], ‘Are you the same person who accused all MPs of being heroin addicts and swore on children’s television and admitted to taking drugs? Get out of it!’”
All the stories have a semblance of truth? Hmm. There was one chapter in the band’s recent history that remains murky. The American saga which started on August 26, 1996, with Liam walking out of Heathrow Airport 15 minutes before his band were due to take off for a long and important tour of the States, and ended with Noel leaving Liam and the rest of the band in North Carolina on September 11. It was the cover story for days in all the tabloids and one of the main items on all the evening television news programmes. To many, it was apparent that Oasis were splitting up.
What really happened in North Carolina and, first, at Heathrow Airport, when Liam left to buy a house?
“I’ll tell you the exact story, right. He looked me in the eyes in the British Airways departure lounge and says, ‘I’ve got nowhere to live, I’ve got to get somewhere to live.’ And I was that gobsmacked that I said, ‘Do one then.’ I didn’t actually think he would! He went, ‘Right, see you in a bit’, I said, ‘Right, see you in a bit’, fully expecting him to come back in five minutes’ time. And he didn’t. The cunt. He fucked off! When we got to America everyone was asking me where Liam was and I said, ‘You’re not going to believe this, he didn’t come. Right, we’ve just had three months off for the sole purpose of buying somewhere to live and he’s just decided right now, NOW, that he needs to find somewhere to live.’ We all laughed about it in the end because only he could do something like that, but it was out of order for the kids and that.”
And what happened when you left that tour?
“Well, I don’t know where those stories came from that said it was an insult to play to 9,000 people in the middle of Texas or somewhere. Most bands don’t play to 9,000 in London, let alone Texas. It was a lot of things. We were sick of playing that set, we were due to come straight off that tour, go straight into the studio, record a new album and go straight back out again. It’s all right working to a point where you know you’re going to have two or three weeks off, but there didn’t seem to be any light at the end of the tunnel. And because we’re always on the verge of imploding anyway, we toured …Morning Glory? in just over 12 months all around the world, while bands like U2 take two years to do the same thing. But everything was squashed into a year so people could get their money’s worth before we split up. It was ludicrous. Everybody was complaining, and not just the band but the crew as well, and I just said, ‘Why don’t we go home?’
“They were like, ‘We can’t go home because of this and because of that’, and I said, ‘There’s nothing stopping anyone from getting on a plane and going home.’ Our Kid suddenly gets an attack of the morals and says we can’t go home, it ain’t right. I said, ‘You can shut up, you never came in the first place, you cunt.’ Then they said they couldn’t go home because of the press, and I said, ‘I’ll show you how easy it is to go home.’ I went to my room, phoned for a taxi and went to the airport and came home. That was it. There was no argument – well, there might have been a bit of one, but not as bad as all that, it wasn’t…”
“Well, I said if nobody wants to do it then I don’t give a shit. It’s hard work and that, well, playing the guitar isn’t, but the constant touring is. I said, ‘If nobody wants to do it then just say so. We’ll pack it in. It’s no big deal.’ Everybody was moaning, but because I’m in charge I just said, ‘I’m off.’ Then we came back to London and I said, ‘Do we want to carry on? Because if we want to carry on it means going into the studio for six months, doing a record and going out on the road again for two years.’ Then somebody came up with the bright idea of not touring, and I said, ‘I’m up for that but there isn’t much point in doing a record again if we aren’t going to tour it. We were playing live three years before we got a record deal so that’s what the band is about. It’s all or nothing. We either pack it in or we go for it full-on.’ I think that as soon as we started making the record we just said, ‘What are we moaning about, it’s a fucking top laugh.’”
Do things ever feel out of control, like you’re the head of Nike or Coca-Cola or something?
“Yeah, yeah. In the early days, even up until Glastonbury, the first one, until then I’d always made the decisions. But we came back from being out of the country and it’s, like, who booked all these gigs? Who organised this other stuff? So instead of looking after the band, your mates, I started going on this rollercoaster. And on top of that I had to go and write a fucking album, too. Everything goes out of your hands, but it has to be done. But, in the end, on that last American tour we only pulled four dates. So what?”
There’s a cough and shuffle at the dressing room door. It’s one of Noel’s massive security guards with his fags and a fresh Hooch. For today’s interview, photos and promotional trip to Paris, Noel and Liam have three security guards each.
Is your personal safety that much at risk, and do you worry about it?
“No. Someone tried to break into my house the other night, actually. They’d tried to force the back door open. But if you worry about that then you start living in a great big fortress in the country.”
The Sun says you’ve just bought one!
“Well, yeah, I have. I’ve got fuck all else to spend my money on! But I don’t worry about my safety. I go to more gigs than all the A&R men in Creation put together. It doesn’t stop me going out, otherwise I’d just become a hermit sitting in me house all day wondering who’s at the door. You can’t live like that. If Mark Chapman is walking up the street, he’s walking up the street. There’s fuck all you can do about it.”
Are those heavies with you all the time?
“They are when we’re doing stuff for Oasis. We’re going to Paris this afternoon so they’ve got to come there, just to make sure nobody goes missing. Like I’ve been prone to do, like the time I was in Paris with NME! That was a good night that! Throwing buckets of iced water and champagne at each other in that club, how bizarre was that? I remember waking up that morning on a cold floor and opening one eye and not knowing where I was! I didn’t know where I was, what hotel I was meant to be staying in. I had no money, no passport, nothing. I thought, ‘Fuck it. I’m lost. This is top, this, I could do a Reginald Perrin and disappear. Get some onions and start selling them. Top mystery!’
“I reckon that’s what Richey’s done. He’s just lost his passport around some bird’s house, man, in Scotland somewhere. Lost his phone book. But those geezers are there to make sure we’re no more than an hour-and-a-half late ever, and to stop us really knocking the shit out of each other. But when I’m going out I don’t phone them up and say, ‘Do you want to come and see a band with us?’
“We’ve sacked loads of security guards just for being cunts to the fans. For every nine that come and shake your hand, there’s always an idiot who’s drunk, but he doesn’t mean any harm, he’s not going to chin you. I can deal with that, anyway, I come from Manchester. But before you know it some cunt has got him in a headlock and has thrown him out of the door. You just end up looking like a cunt. It’s more for the management’s peace of mind because Marcus knows we’ll get home in one piece. Or maybe two, but there’s someone to carry the other half. I can still go shopping without them.”
But you’re in The Sun when you do.
“But it’s usually about my wife’s shopping habits. There’s no way to deal with it. I still don’t know how big pop stars are supposed to act. I can only be me.”
Do you get insecure that, with all this other stuff going on around you, your muse might desert you?
“I’ll probably be all right for the next couple of years. I’ve got about another 25, 30 ideas for songs recorded. But there was a point just after …Morning Glory? when I didn’t have anything. I’d lost the will to write. There was too much else to think about, like the touring and all that shit. I didn’t write one song for six to eight months. I was thinking, ‘Maybe that’s it.’ But it didn’t really bother me that much. I’d written ‘Champagne Supernova’, ‘Wonderwall’, ‘Don’t Look Back In Anger’ and ‘Live Forever’, so if I never write another song, then that’ll do. The trick is when songs aren’t coming then don’t do anything. I imagine people write for the sake of it and that’s why groups make shit albums, and we’re lucky in that if we don’t want to work, we don’t have to.
“There isn’t one day that goes by when we don’t feel lucky because there are bands that have to work, because if they don’t then the record company’ll drop ’em. We do deserve the success because of the songs we’ve written and the gigs that we’ve done. But when I write I’m doing it for the right reasons, I can release all that baggage. I’m not doing it for money or to be the best and biggest band in the world or bravado or to do the biggest gigs, we’ve done all that. We’re doing it because we want to.”
In the past you’ve said that “All Around The World” is the best song ever written. Now it’s finally going to be released on Be Here Now, do you still think it is?
“It’s funny. ‘All Around The World’ is about five years old and it’s the cheesiest, corniest lyrics in the world. Worse than ‘Whatever’! I was listening to it the other day and it’s like me being super, ninja optimistic. The Prozac must have been really kicking in when I was writing that! But we’d just signed a record deal when I wrote it, so I was feeling pretty good about the world then. I wouldn’t say it’s the best song ever written any more, although it’s certainly the longest. It’s a good song, could be the best, but it’s not for me to say. I don’t have to big-up my records any more. I can’t understand how bands can put into words what their album sounds like anyway. People know what they’re going to get when they put an Oasis album on now.”
Um, what’s the new album like, Noel?
“Ha! It’s a lot louder than …Morning Glory?, a lot more dense. It hasn’t got a fucking ‘Digsy’s Dinner’ or a fucking ‘She’s Electric’ or a ‘Roll With It’. Or has it? No. Actually, I still stand by ‘Roll With It’ because it was what it was: a no-nonsense rock’n’roll song. I still stand by it because we still play it to this day, and Blur don’t play ‘Country House’ – work that one out. But it’s a cross between the two albums. The first album was a party album and the second was a staying at home album. And it’s between the two, but a lot louder. I’m always going to write in a certain… well, no…
“Do you remember when I was saying years ago that it was going to be three albums, that’s it? Well, I’d like to make a box just to put these three albums in. This is the end of the first stage. After this there has got to be a complete and utter overhaul of the sound. I’m definitely going to approach the next album in a completely different frame of mind. This record ain’t going to surprise many people, although I would have liked to have heard the thud of people’s jaws when they heard ‘D’You Know What I Mean?’. But that’s how I want to take the band.
“The more you work with other musicians and people, the more that you learn. Maybe it’d be a case of giving the songs to someone else to mix, someone who isn’t remotely connected with the band. I’ve got a studio in the house and I’m working more on loops and samples and that, and that’s one way I definitely want to take it. But you know, once you’ve had a few lagers it’s a case of, ‘Oh that’ll do’!”
Did doing stuff with Goldie change your way of thinking?
“Have you ever met him?”
“He’s off his tits, that cunt. Lunatic. People think I talk fast – you can have an hour’s conversation with him in 15 minutes. Which is funny because you can have 15 minutes’ conversation with John Squire over about five hours. ‘How you doing, John?’ ‘Yeah, I’m…’ ‘I’ll just put the kettle on while you think that one over, eh John?’ But Goldie… the reason I put some guitars on that track with him was, well, he lives on the same street as us for a start, so I can’t avoid the bastard.
“He was going, ‘Put some guitars on this track.’ And I don’t fucking get jungle music, it goes right over my head. So we get down the studio and there’s me, knobhead, in the studio, ‘What key is it in?’ ‘What what?!’ ‘What key is it in?’ ‘What’s a key?’ ‘Well, is it in G flat?’ ‘You fucking what, mate?!’ I’m there with my little guitar going [back to Dave Rock], ‘Well, I’m a musician, man, all these machines are just crass, I can’t work in an environment like this! I need a key!’ Well, it’s in G minor if anybody wants to know, so I had to work around that.
“I wanted to do it because it would either fail miserably or be great, and it falls somewhere between the two. It’s called ‘Temper, Temper’ and it’s the most disgustingly dirty jungle track I’ve ever heard. When people in bands bandy about the word ‘genius’, they mean a genius is someone who sits there with an acoustic guitar strumming songs. I’ll tell you what, man, Goldie is a genius. Whatever’s going on in his head is some fucked-up shit, but he’s really good at what he does. The Chemical Brothers, Liam from The Prodigy, the Beastie Boys – to me, that’s genius. Beck isn’t, because Beck is just country and western with breakbeats, but you don’t have to be like Bob Dylan to be a genius.
“Working with The Chemical Brothers and meeting people in the dance field has opened my eyes to loads of different ways of working. We limit ourselves because of… rock’n’roll. If you can’t produce it live then it isn’t worth doing it? Fuck that shit! If you can’t produce it live then find a way of doing it. Push yourself. That’s the way it’s going to go with us, with a bit of luck.”
Wow. That’s killed Noelrock and severed the dadrock alliance, then. What’s Uncle Weller going to think of all this machines-good, real-rock-boring talk?
“People have this concept that me and Paul Weller sit in smoke-filled rooms in the back of a pub going on about Small Faces albums. When we’re together we’re that incoherently pissed we just go, ‘Hhhhernnmmghmmph! Facking carnts!’ We hardly ever talk to each other, it’s just drunken babble nonsense. When we’ve been up for about two days together he always goes [slips casually into excellent Weller impersonation], ‘Fucking don’t know how you do it.’ So I have to go, ‘But you’re still here. That’s how you do it, you mad cunt.’
“I’ll tell you a story about him. We went up to Bath where he was doing his last album and he was trying to convince me how mad for it he was, even though he’s getting on a bit. He was going, ‘I’m fucking mad for it, me.’ I said, ‘I know you are, now chill.’ He’s going, ‘I know you’re mad for it,
but I’m fucking mad for it, me.’ ‘I understand what you’re saying Paul, chill.’ ‘I’m fucking mad for it,’ he says, takes his shirt off and throws his shirt into this big open fire! He’s jumping around topless shouting ‘I’m fucking mad for it, me!’ I’m, like [mimes putting his arms around a frail old man]. ‘C’mon, Paul, bed now. I’m just taking Paul to bed now.’ I left him in the garden with no top on and a big bottle of wine in his hand shouting, ‘Wellah! Wellah! Wellah!’ at the top of his voice. I had to lean out of my bedroom at eight in the morning and shout, ‘SHUT UP! GO TO BED, OLD MAN!’ Sad, man.
“People have this concept of when pop stars are hanging out together they’re touching some deep base, but it’s just overpaid idiots getting pissed telling each other stupid stories, some of which are excruciatingly boring and some of which are funny. It freaks me mam out because she’s a bit of an old hippy and she’s going, ‘Oh, I used to watch you watching Bono on Top Of The Pops.’ And now she can say, ‘I was watching you, watching Bono, watching you, watching the camera, watching me, watching you’! Fucking hell! It’s, like, ‘Don’t ever get into smoking pot, Mam.’”
Do you still plan to have a sabbatical from Oasis after this album?
“Yeah, it’s going to take two years to tour this record. After that I want to sit in my studio for a year and take a year to demo the next one. It’s going to take longer because I’ve still got a bit to prove to everybody, ’cos I don’t think I get the respect I deserve. People think I just sit there and listen to a load of Mott The Hoople B-sides and then write a song. It ain’t like that. I’d like to do something mindblowing, which I think I’m getting near to on ‘…Know What I Mean?’, I want to take that further. It’ll take a year to write it and a year to record, if it all goes to plan. We are, however, past masters at kiboshing the best-laid plans.”
What about cracking America, though, is that still on your agenda?
“It’s not going to go away. I’ll play anywhere if I’m wanted. We’ve sold four million records there but that isn’t cracking America. I’m not really sure I want to. I was looking at U2’s tour dates of America – they’re doing 60 gigs! 60! If that’s what it takes, then they can keep it. People in this band complain about Americans, but you don’t have to talk to them. Just play the gig and fuck off. We’ll go there and play to the people who want to see us, but I wouldn’t want to spend eight months of a year there. I miss England too much. I miss London too much.”
“Oh it’s home now, I’m afraid. Everyone that I know is down here now, even some of my old mates have moved down now. We’ve got a little Mancunian corner of North London. You’ll have noticed it, it’s the area with no hubcaps on the cars!”
What other music excites you at the moment? Have you heard any new groups that you like? “Travis. The Verve are like a new band to me now. I loved A Northern Soul and now they’re back they’re like a new Verve. That single is amazing, I must have played it about 20 times in a row when I first heard it. Wait until you hear the next one, ‘Drugs Don’t Work’! Mind-blowing! I’ve seen Travis four times, and usually I only go see bands once, but they’re very good.”
Have you heard Embrace, the outside bet to challenge your ascendancy?
“I have heard Embrace, yes. The cunt wants to take singing lessons. I like the new tune, ‘One Big Family’, that’s good, but the first one was shit. He was going on in the papers about how ‘When Noel Gallagher hears this single he’ll be in the studio until Christmas.’ Well, I heard it and it’s shit.”
And thereby hangs a tale. He actually meant, “All You Good Good People”, which was originally a limited-edition single on Fierce Panda and which is due for general release later this year.
Some have alleged that its design and chorus bears a resemblance to “D’You Know What I Mean?”.
“Oh really? Well, maybe he’ll have to go back into the studio to sort that one out now. I look forward to meeting them. There’s two brothers in the band, isn’t there? Well, we invented that, mate. It ain’t fair on the other bands, though, because when you read a review of Embrace, Hurricane #1 and Cast you just look for how many times the name Oasis appears somewhere in there.
“I can see why Embrace or whoever feel like having a pop because it’s pushed in their face all the time. When we started, everyone was going on about Blur. We were like, ‘Fuck them cunts! They’re shit!’ I suppose it’s the same for Embrace. I’d like to see them and see what they’re about. ‘Last Gas’, the singing wasn’t much cop and the guitar was a bit heavy metal, but I like ‘One Big Family’, [starts singing] ‘We got family’, it’s good, yeah. We’ll see, eh?”
And with the new pretenders to the throne dealt with, a shadowy courtier appears at the door, points at his watch and raises two fingers ominously. Gulp.
Don’t you ever wish you were anonymous and could leave all this baggage behind for a while?
“No. Imagine if I went to the supermarket wearing a big hat, a wig, a false moustache and I was looking through the Pot Noodles and someone went, ‘Excuse me, aren’t you that bloke from Oasis?’ And you’re in disguise going, ‘Shhrrrupp!’ ‘It is you, isn’t it, what are you doing wearing that moustache?’ How embarrassing would that be? To be like Michael Jackson and have to wear a teddy bear’s outfit and people would still be going, ‘Mike! Oi! Oright?’ I can walk straight down Oxford Street on a Saturday afternoon and have to sign no more than 10 autographs. Who wants to be anonymous anyway? I was anonymous for 24 fucking years anyway.”
How are the other three in the band?
“Anonymous. Lucky bastards. Guigsy’s married, I think he’s having a kid. Shotgun wedding, if you ask me. Er, Bonehead’s having another kid. If it’s a boy they’re going to call him King, so that way he’ll be King Arthurs. Imagine that at school!
“Bonehead is a bit gutted now because he’s the only one who lives in Manchester still, but we’re trying to coax him down here. Everyone’s in very good spirits, still the biggest fans of our band.
“Those American gigs were good and reminded us just how much we love playing our songs. Our Kid was great. He phoned me up all nervous and I said to him, ‘If you’re having trouble singing just have some black coffee and it’ll open the muscles in your throat.’
“He phones me up in my room later and goes, ‘I’m really nervous, man, I feel really worried.’ I’m like, ‘It’s good to be nervous before a gig.’ He goes, ‘No, man, not bothered about that, I think I’ve drunk too much coffee, man.’ He thought he’d OD’d on it! Stupid cunt had six espressos one after
Another cough from outside and Noel winks.
“That’s my signal. I’ll have to get off or I’ll miss me train to Paris, and I don’t want to do that, I’m looking forward to our night out too much.”
And with a firm handshake and a final gulp of Hooch, he and his minders are away. Who knows what shape he and his band will be in next time they pass this way? Will they have conquered the world, or will they have imploded? Either way Noel Gallagher will remain a mover, a charmer and a genius. Tiny feet, though.
“Yeah, and you know what they say about small feet.”
Oh yeah. Small feet, big tunes.
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