'I thought I'd been stabbed'
Three weeks ago, Noel Gallagher was assaulted onstage in Toronto, resulting in broken ribs for him and cancelled gigs for the band. Still recovering from the attack, the brains of Oasis tells Brian Boydabout his Irish attacker, his own Irishness, "that climate change bollocks", Pete Doherty's fingernails, Thom Yorke's singing, Silvermints and more
'IF I GO A bit silly and start talking rubbish during this interview, will you let me know?" asks Noel Gallagher as he awkwardly sits down in the offices of his central London record company.
"How will I know?" I reply. There's an ominous pause before a smile slowly spreads around Gallagher's lips.
"It's just these painkillers I'm on. They're the strongest painkillers known to man apparently, and people have been telling me I'm jibbering while on them. In my experience, the only fun time to take strong painkillers like these is when there's absolutely nothing wrong with you. Ha ha."
The Oasis guitarist is on painkillers because of three cracked ribs, sustained when he was pushed to the ground at a gig in Toronto last month. It's only when the words "Mark Chapman" crop up in the conversation that you realise how much of an effect the onstage attack had on Gallagher.
ON BEING ATTACKED ONSTAGE:"I WAS ABSOLUTELY SHITTING MYSELF"
"I'm a YouTube superstar," he grimaces. "I hear it's been the most-watched clip for years. People are talking about how well Liam reacted - you can see him on the clip going to clatter the guy who attacked me. But if you look carefully, you'll see he only starts to shape up when I'm surrounded by security guards. I've never told anyone this before, but the incident was worse than it looked; I actually thought I had been stabbed.
"The guy had been backstage where it had been raining. He than hit me from behind and I fell onto the monitor. I immediately felt a really sharp pain in my back, where the ribs had cracked. Then I looked down at my leg and he had left wet footprints on me. I though it was blood. I was absolutely shitting myself.
"Up until that point, everything had been going great. Paul Weller had just been on before us, and we had a monumental piss-up planned with him for later that night. Next thing I know, I'm in hospital. Where were security? The two of them were sidestage playing air guitar, that's where security were! This was a festival show, so we didn't have our own security. Obviously, now we have to rethink our security situation, but we don't want to get like Madonna and travel around with 400 people.
"And guess what I found out later? The guy who attacked me is Irish! He's 47 and I think he had just got Canadian citizenship. I haven't said this to anyone before because I don't want to be dragging the name of the Irish nation down all around the world."
ON IRISHNESS:"THERE'S NOT A DROP OF ENGLISH BLOOD IN ME"
"I clearly remember my mam saying to me and my two brothers when we were growing up: 'You're only English because you were born here.' And with a mother from Mayo and a father from Co Meath, there's not a drop of English blood in me. I recently had a child with my Scottish girlfriend, and there's no English blood in him at all.
"I feel as Irish as the next person. The first music I was ever exposed to was the rebel songs the bands used to sing in the Irish club in Manchester. Do you know, I think that's where Oasis songs get their punch-the-air quality - from me being exposed to those rousing rebel songs. It was all rebel songs and that godawful Irish country and western music.
"I grew up an Irish Catholic. I remember my mam would only buy Irish butter and milk. But then, during the 1970s with all the bombings, our local co-op wouldn't stock Irish produce, so my mam went elsewhere. I clearly remember my parents coming back from the Carousel Club in Manchester, the Irish club, and telling me about how all the cars in the car park had been vandalised by an anti-Irish crowd. It was scary."
ON SONGWRITING:"SOMETIMES I CAN ONLY MANAGE THREE SONGS A YEAR"
"I hit a real purple patch when writing this album. Sometimes I can only manage three songs a year, but this time I wrote the album super-quick. And even when we were mixing, I wrote another three songs at the mixing desk. I've about 30 songs going spare. I was talking to my manager last week about hiring a lyric writer to come in and finish them off. Three of the songs I hear girls singing - but no, Amy Winehouse isn't getting them.
"I can be a prolific songwriter when I put my mind to it. I had all of Definitely Maybewritten even before there was an Oasis. I used to be a roadie with the Inspiral Carpets and I got to live the rock'n'roll lifestyle: I was touring the world and taking loads of drugs and setting up equipment in my spare time. I had all the rock'n'roll stuff without the hassle of doing photo-shoots or making videos.
"I never thought these songs would see the light of day. I wrote them to sing to myself when I was stoned. I used to play them when I was doing the soundcheck for The Inspirals. Then I was on the phone to mam one day from abroad and she said 'Liam's just joined a band'. I fell about the place laughing and when I got back to Manchester I went down to see them rehearse just to take the piss.
"Liam was one of the few people who knew I wrote songs, so he said, 'Play one of those shit songs you've written'. I played Colombia. They asked me to join the band . . . We signed for the now-paltry sum of $48,000 to Creation Records in 1993, but at the last minute Bono's label [Mother Records] offered to triple that amount. Now, that was a lot of money for unemployed Manchester kids. We stayed with Creation because Alan McGee had the contracts done up and had always said how much he believed in us."
ON EXCESS:"WE HAD ALL THE COCAINE IN THE WORLD"
"When you have all the time in the world and all the money in the world - which we did when we went to record our third album after two phenomenally successful albums - it's probably not a good thing. I should mention, of course, that we also had all the cocaine in the world. I still tell people that the Be Here Nowalbum is the best advertisement against taking cocaine. It goes on too long, it's smothered by its self of self-importance - the same as coke users are. When I was writing these 11-minute epics, I kept waiting for someone in the studio to turn to me and say 'I think that's a bit long,' but no one ever did. We were the biggest band in the world at the time and no one would speak up.
"I still think there's some tunes on Be Here Now. You just have to uncover them under the 18 layers of guitars. I played an acoustic version of Don't Go Awayrecently on tour and, seriously, there were grown men in tears. I often think of going back to that album, using ProTools and re-editing the whole thing. The same as Paul McCartney did when he took Phil Spector's strings off The Long and Winding Road. Then I think, hold on, that album is part of the rollercoaster ride of being in a band. There's going to be all these ups and downs and ins and outs. Otherwise, you might as well be in Keane."
ON BROTHERHOOD:"I STILL BLAME LIAM FOR THE FACT THAT WE NEVER CRACKED THE US"
"The three songs I'm really proud of on the new album are Waiting for the Rapture, Falling Downand I'm Outta Time. I sing the first two. It's only on this album that I think I've really found my voice. Before, I've only sung lead vocals when Liam hasn't bothered to turn up for a tour - and I still blame him for the fact that we've never cracked the US. When we had one of the biggest selling albums in the world, and were about to begin a crucial US tour, he arrived at the airport, gave some ludicrous excuse when he couldn't get on the plane, and left us completely stranded.
"That aside, it can be difficult to be the second singer in a band where the first singer is such a great rock'n'roll frontman, as Liam is when he bothers to show up. But then look at the Edge in U2. He's got a great voice but you never really hear it because Bono is the main man there. One of my favourite tracks off Rattle and Humis Van Diemen's Land, which Edge sings. So I regard myself as the Edge of Oasis. I will sing more in the future, though, mainly because I'm particularly proud of how I sing on Waiting for the Rapture. I really nailed that falsetto.
"On I'm Outta Time, Liam wrote a tribute to John Lennon. It could have turned out awful but I honestly believe it could be this album's Wonderwall. When Liam writes for himself, he sings better because he writes for his own vocal range. We even got a sample of Lennon's voice, which is the very last thing you hear on the song. We had to go to Yoko to get permission to use it. But that was easy; she loves us. Probably because she knows how much we all love John.
"Lyrics aren't my forte. For me, the words have always got to fit the tune. Whereas someone such as Morrissey, he gets the tune to fits the lyrics.
"Lyrically though, I'm proud of Falling Downon this album. You mentioned earlier that you thought it was about a comedown from drugs. That song started when I was sitting in my back garden this time last year and there was this beautiful early autumn sunset. I was thinking about all that climate-change bollocks and came to the conclusion that man really is incapable of destroying all this.
"But you wouldn't necessarily get that from the song. I don't do really do biography or 'issues'. I hate it when there's a song you really love and you think it's about a certain thing and then, years later, the songwriter says 'that song is about X or Y', and it's totally different to what you imagined."
ON OTHER MUSICIANS:"I LIKE RADIOHEAD . . . UNTIL THOM YORKE STARTS SINGING"
"I've never ever felt the need to do anything outside Oasis. The band is enough for me. This is not meant as an insult, but you look at Damon Albarn and if he's not writing an opera, he's doing this or that. I don't need all that. I have a life. I'm not a careerist. I really hate these bands who always seem to be saying, 'now, on the new album we've worked really hard to get out of our comfort zone'. Fuck that. I spent 18 years building my comfort zone and I'm not going to leave it. And then bands such as Radiohead and their 'artistic progression' . . . Christ. I like Radiohead - until Thom Yorke starts singing.
ON CLASS:"I COULD NEVER BE LIKE PETE DOHERTY AND GO OUT WITH DIRT UNDER MY FINGERNAILS"
"The happiest time of my life will always be when I was eating at a Brunch bar - do you remember those? - in Charlestown in Co Mayo. Brunch bars and Silvermints will always have a special place in my heart because you could only get them in Ireland. We used to spend six weeks every year in Charlestown. It was magnificent. We were coming from a council estate in Manchester - and we lived at the end of cul-de-sac - to these 360-degree panoramic views. We loved it as kids. We could go fishing in the river or help with bringing in the hay.
"One of my earliest-ever memories is of going to the well by the house in Charlestown to get the water, because we had no running water there when I was a child. I still go back at least once a year, and even just the smell of the place immediately brings me back to those happy, happy childhood days.
"I still have a very strong sense of identity, a sense of being a working-class son of Irish parents. That's why I could never be like Pete Doherty and go out with dirt under my fingernails, a top hat on and my shirt hanging out. Working-class people take pride in their appearance. They'd never go out looking like that.
"One of the worst things that ever happened to me was when I said that thing about Blur [in an interview in 1995, Gallagher said he hoped Damon Albarn and Alex James would "get Aids", which he later retracted and apologised for]. My mam rang me up when she saw that and she was really angry and she said to me 'I didn't bring you up to talk like that,' and that stung me so much.
"Despite all that has happened - those massive selling albums, those huge gigs at Knebworth, being called 'the saviours of British music' - I've retained my identity. Even at the very height of our success, I never thought I was any better than the next person.
"In fact, the opposite is probably the case. I'm still sitting here waiting for my luck to run out."
• Dig Out Your Soulis out today. For more, see www.oasisinet.com
Attack of the 47-year-old man
Noel Gallagher was thrown to the ground onstage while Oasis performed at a festival in Toronto on September 7th. Grainy footage of the attack is available on YouTube and one version of it has received 1.5 million hits.
A 47-year-old man made his way onstage and shoved Gallagher from behind, knocking him to the floor. Security staff quickly led the man offstage, and Oasis finished the show. However, Gallagher was later revealed to have suffered three broken ribs.
The band cancelled September gigs in London, Ontario, New York, Cornwall, Koln and Paris. Their UK arena tour, starting next Tuesday, is scheduled to go ahead as planned.