Noel Gallagher: ‘What we’re left with now is the Arctic Monkeys, tax-dodgers’
The charts are a load of boll*cks. Bono goes on a bit. And he would be ‘f**king very, very, very interested’ in collaborating with Damon Albarn
“People say to me, ‘Do you ever get nervous?’ and I say, ‘If an album bombs, I’ll make another one.’ I’ve made enough sh*t records – and great records – to know that you ride it out”
It’s towards the end of the interview that it happens. We’ve been discussing the rumours of a mooted collaboration between Noel Gallagher and Blur frontman Damon Albarn when the former casually drops what might once have been perceived as a bombshell.
“I was around at his place and he was playing me his album before it came out,” he says with a nonchalant shrug. “It was literally like saying, ‘Let’s go for a drink’. He said, ‘We should do it one day.’ I would be f**king very, very, very interested, but I’m going on tour now for a couple of years, and by the time I get back, he’ll be on tour – so if it ever happens, I don’t know.”
“But turns out he’s a bit of a dude. I thought [Albarn’s solo album Everyday Robots] was great, then I went to see him at the Albert Hall. I thought it was going to be this real intimate kind of thing, and I was amazed at how joyous it all was. It was f**king great, one of the best gigs I’d seen last year. Maybe the best. Funny lad.”
Britpop feud? What Britpop feud? We’re at Gallagher’s management’s office in central London to discuss his second solo album Chasing Yesterday – but while we’re clearing up a few things, let’s get the Oasis stuff out of the way. Things are alright with Liam at the moment, then?
“They’re always alright,” he protests. “It’s only because we’re never pictured coming out of the f**king Groucho – and even if we were, imagine. Say someone takes a picture of us coming out of the pub together – what do you think happens the minute that picture hits the internet? The world goes into meltdown at an Oasis reunion, that’s what. ISIS stop what they’re doing, the f**king space programme shuts down. When we were in the band, we saw each other on tour and in the studio. Outside of that, we have our own completely separate lives. I’ve got my circle of friends, he’s got his. We exchanged pleasantries on Christmas Day, and he’s alright. I hope he gets his sh*t together. There’s nothing more to say about it than that, really.”
As if you couldn’t already guess, the ever-witty Gallagher – trim, fresh-faced, wearing a buttoned-up denim jacket – is not one for nostalgia. He moved on from Oasis the day he left the band, he says. “Because Oasis was such a big part of people’s lives, they want you to somehow feel it like they felt it; they won’t accept that I have a different take on it. People say, ‘But they changed my life!’ and I say, ‘Well, they changed mine – but what d’you want me to f**king do, kill myself?’ If it changed yours, good. Great. Go and listen to the f**king records.”
Besides, why return to the past when Gallagher’s solo career is doing so well? Chasing Yesterday follows 2011’s Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds, but instead of enlisting the same production team, this time Gallagher self-produced the album. David Holmes nudged him in that direction.
“I had a meeting with him in this very office. He sat there listening to it, and said, ‘Well, what do you want me to do?’ and I said, ‘Produce it.’ He said, ‘It’s already finished. Look, I can come and press play and record if you want, but I’d feel a bit of a fraud.’ I thought, ‘F**king hell, you’re the first producer I’ve ever heard say that.”
After shelving the album he recorded (and initially planned to release) with Amorphous Androgynous – it “just wasn’t good enough”, he says – work began on Chasing Yesterday. The album’s themes draw from several threads, from love songs to a documentary about an astronaut – but don’t ask him to go into too much detail.
“I don’t like reading interviews with people and they explain their songs to you line by line,” he says, shaking his head. “For instance, I was hanging out with our dear friend Bono in the summer, and he was playing me the U2 album before it came out. With him being a lyricist and a singer, he will explain to you what every f**king sentence is about. I said to him, ‘Don’t tell me what it’s about. I’ll tell you what it’s about when it’s finished.’ He was like, ‘Ohhh yeah, man.’ It’s like when I first heard Martha, My Dear on the White album, and then I found out he had a dog called Martha. It f**king ruined it, d’ya know what I mean? It’s about a dog? F**k off! I don’t wanna hear that.”
Other tracks were inspired by more unlikely sources, such as Riverman, which came to pass after a night out listening to music in Los Angeles with Morrissey and Russell Brand.
“I swear to god, I don’t think I’ve ever laughed as much in my life,” he says, chuckling. “And of course, [Morrissey’s] not telling jokes. He’s looking at me like I’m a f**king idiot and I’m wiping tears away from my eyes. He will f**king cut you down, whoever you are, in a sentence and it’s devastating. I know for a fact the minute he got up the next day, he was saying the same about me as he was about everyone else, but I love him for that. I f**king love him.”
Chasing Yesterday features a cameo with former Smiths guitar man Johnny Marr. Other tracks incorporate female vocalists (“It’s nice having girls in the studio. Better than sweaty old men in glasses”) and there’s even – brace yourselves – a sax solo on album standout The Right Stuff.
“Supersonic was the first thing I ever recorded and The Right Stuff is the last thing I recorded, and I like that. The journey in between has been f**king amazing as well. My songwriting is hopefully still going somewhere.”
Secure in the knowledge that his creative spring is still in plentiful supply – he has 25 to 30 songs on the go at any given time, he says – he is a little less sure of his place in the music business today. “Nobody has anything to say – have you noticed that? What we’re left with now is the Arctic Monkeys, tax-dodgers. It freaks me out. The charts used to be a great battleground, and when I first started in Oasis, I couldn’t f**king wait to get in amongst it. Now, I don’t even know where my first single got to in the charts, because I’m not interested anymore. Boll**ks, is what it is. Britpop will never happen again – too many drug addicts, maniacs and people in jeans with long hair, not washing and sh*t like that.”
Otherwise, Gallagher is pretty content. The solo career has panned out better than anticipated and life is pretty sweet. Whatever happens with this album, he has settled nicely into being the master of his own destiny.
“It’s all on me, and I like that,” he says, shrugging. “People say to me, ‘Do you ever get nervous?’ and I say, ‘Not really, because if a f**king album bombs, know what I’ll do? I’ll make another one, and that one might be great.’ I’ve made enough sh*t records – and great records – to know that you just ride it out. Just keep going.”
THE WIT AND THE WISDOM: NOEL GALLAGHER ON . . .
Chasing Yesterday is released via Sour Mash Records on February 27th 2014. Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds play the 3Arena on March 4th