NOEL GALLAGHER | INTERVIEW
Noel Gallagher’s post-Oasis outfit the High Flying Birds have a new Best Of out, and as a result Carl Marsh was granted a natter with the bossman. Not that they discussed it much (and Oasis even less), but read on to find Noel holding court on the issues of the day in time-honoured fashion…
Timing is everything, so being in conversation with Noel Gallagher on the same day the European Super League was announced made for the perfect icebreaker – and had me counting the seconds. With only 20 minutes to chat, at precisely 6:35, Noel says, “But let’s talk about music.” The saving grace: I used my remaining time, and then we ran over by 13 minutes. I think Noel realised we’d spent too long on the football beforehand.
This new High Flying Birds release, Back The Way We Came: Vol. 1, has two new original songs on it, with the remainder derived from the band’s three studio albums. Are you feeling any pressure to get it to number one, as the previous three releases did, in the UK album charts?
Noel Gallagher: It won’t go to number one. I can fucking guarantee that! Best Ofs don’t tend to unless you’re like The Beatles or Queen. Oasis’ Best Of never got to number one, so this one definitely won’t.
This whole thing was born out of lockdown, as I’ve got a record label with a load of staff sitting around doing fuck all, and I was like, “Well, look, it’s 10 years [of High Flying Birds] coming up. We could do something as I’ve got some unfinished songs – I could record them and see how they come out.” They came out great. And I thought putting out a Best Of would keep us all busy and give us something to focus on. The two new tracks will be great for fans because who doesn’t like new music? So it’s a win-win, but if it doesn’t get to number one, trust me, I won’t fucking cry at all.
It’s going to be released around Father’s Day, isn’t it?
I do believe so, as I’ve just found out. Somebody just told me, actually about 20 minutes ago, and I was like, “Who knows when Father’s Day is?”
I always feel shortchanged. When it’s Mother’s Day, I spend an absolute fortune because my daughter isn’t old enough to go out shopping. You know what it’s like, you’ve got to treat the wife and all the rest…
When my wife says, “it’s Mother’s Day today,” I always say, “yeah, but you’re not my fucking mother! So go and have a word with the kids.”
Surely not, you must get her something?
No, what, hang on a minute, there are enough days in the fucking year for buying flowers. Valentine’s Day, fucking anniversaries. Pancake Tuesday. Fucking Madonna’s birthday, you know, whatever. I say to her, “I will buy my mum a bunch of flowers, and if the kids are too young to buy you flowers, then you’ll just have to fucking wait a bit, won’t you”. I don’t get anything for Father’s Day! I get fuck all. My kids will probably get me a copy of this album.
So how has being a father changed you personally? For me, it changed my life entirely.
Well, the same as you, it changes your life profoundly forever. You’re not the centre of your own universe anymore: you’ve got other people to think about and look after. Parenthood, for me – from my experience – starts with you mourning the loss of your old life and then gradually, year on year, it gets a bit better. I’m getting to the point now where my lads are 10 and 13; my daughter’s 21. I couldn’t live without them. I guess it would just be the same as it was for our parents. But you do spend the first year going, “what the fuck have I done? What… I can’t go out? Why can’t I go out again?” [in wife’s voice] “Because I’m going out.”
So there’s all that, you know, and you’re not allowed to play your guitar loud at home for a while. But the pros far outweigh the cons. I had a strange experience where I went on tour a couple of years ago, and I had two small kids when I went – then when I came back, they fucking both had moustaches! [laughter] One of them was wearing jewellery and calling me ‘bruv’. I said to my missus, “how fucking long have I been gone?” and she said I’d been gone for two years. I said, “is that a moustache? What the fucking hell is going on here?”
Or your shit starts going missing when you are sure you weren’t out of deodorant yesterday, then when you go in your kids’ bathroom, he’s fucking got a ton of it in there. And you have to tell him “that’s mine. That’s mine!”
Do you ever find yourself saying to your kids, “when I was your age, I had nothing”?
Not really. I mean, they’re fascinated about our past life anyway when you tell them that, you know, there were three channels on the television. You didn’t have a [mobile] phone. They’d ask me, “what did you use to do?” and I’d say, “I used to sit around and fucking just think of ways of getting high, and I was just immersed in football, music, girls, and drugs. Now all you’re interested in is fucking TikTok! You’re welcome to it, crack on!”
How are you with all that stuff like social media, and have you ever read your own Wikipedia page?
I’m not into it at all. I don’t do social media. Who writes Wikipedia anyway?
It’s Joe Bloggs. It’s anybody. I think you have to be a registered user of the website to update information.
The internet, for me, used to be a pet hate. Now it’s my mortal enemy, and we’re in a fight to the death.
As we are talking about modern times, what is your take on all the music released these days?
It’s like most of the things that we grew up loving, right. How old are you? 40?
OK, so I’m 53, so yeah, around about the same era. Music has gone a little bit shit. Television has gone a little bit shit. Trainers are not as good as they were. Football now is starting to go a little bit shit. Politics is a little bit shit. Music is the same; it’s just a little bit fucking shit. Because it’s all about money, it’s all about the numbers. It’s all about streams and what it sells. Nobody’s interested in developing artists anymore. They want it now, they want the hit now, and if they fucking don’t get the hit now, you’re out the door.
Here’s a case in point. Last year, somebody sent me these demos of this Geordie kid playing in his bedroom, Andrew Cushin. I listened to him and thought to myself, “you know what, this kid has actually got something”. And because I know quite a few people in the music business, I ended up getting him a tentative record deal. The guy that signed him was a mate of mine, and I told him I’d produce his first stuff – we’ll try and get it off the ground.
So I produced his first single, and they dropped him the day it came out! Actually, they dropped him the day before it came out, because now, you know, they do things like – fucking little weasels – “let’s put our toe in the water, put something on the internet,” to see if it gets a load of likes or views or whatever before they throw a bit more money at it. They were setting up this thing, but nobody was biting, so they fucking dropped him. The fucking wankers!
Do you pay much attention to the UK singles charts?
No, it’s dreadful. It’s dreadful. It’s all about what sells. It’s not about furthering an artform or the culture, it’s about record sales – now! They need them fucking now. Queen were going for four years before they got their break. The Beatles were going for two years before they caught a break. You don’t just roll out of bed at 16 and you’re great. I wasn’t great until I was 27. I was writing songs since I was fucking 14, so way over 10 years. I mean, admittedly, we weren’t given the chance to be rejected because nobody was interested in the first place, but the way the business is now, it’s fucked.
I’d say social media has been the biggest killer to a lot of musicians’ development.
Absolutely. Social media has killed everything. The internet drives the neurosis of the world. The only thing real on the internet is the hate. That’s it. Everything else is fake. The only thing that’s real is division and hate. And I’m embarrassed to tell my children that my generation invented that: Steve Jobs and Bill Gates, and all those other fucking cunts, that’s what my generation did. And sadly, it can’t be undone now because it’s so embedded in society.
My daughter and two lads have grown up, and if it’s not on their phone, it doesn’t exist, mate. I came in from a meeting once, with the artwork for a record under my arm. One of my kids said to me, “what’s in the big envelope?” and I told him it was the artwork for my album. And he said, “artwork, what’s that?” I told him, the artwork for my album cover. “Cover, what’s that?” I replied, “the cover of a fucking record!” – and then I had to explain to them all in their terms. “Oh right, I get it. OK, so when you go into iTunes, and you see that little picture, the little fucking picture? Well, that’s the artwork!”
And do you know what one of them said to me? “You have meetings for that little picture?” I said, “Meetings? It cost a hundred fucking grand!” But to them it’s just a picture on their phone.
I read years ago that you could not drive or swim. Is that still the case?
No, I’m not into it, mate. I’d end up – in the case of driving – I think I’d commit road rage in under an hour. I’d probably ramraid someone because if some other motorist gave me the middle finger, I’d fucking smash his car up.
And with swimming… no mate, if we were meant to be in the water, we’d have webbed feet; we’re not meant to be in there.
Maybe I could teach you to swim? I’m a qualified swimming teacher.
I’m a bloody rock star, so fuck you! [laughter]
I can’t argue with that. So do you still get pissed off when people keep asking you the meanings behind certain songs that you’ve written?
No, I don’t get pissed off. I just don’t answer it because I don’t like talking about it. It’s because I don’t like my favourite songwriters explaining to you exactly what a song means, because it just takes all the magic out of it. We live in a world now of constant information, and people want to know everything: “oh, what’s going on?” And I’m like, “fuck off! Make your own mind up!”
[Pleading voice] “But what does it mean? What’s a wonderwall?” I don’t fucking know! I genuinely don’t know.
I know my 13-year-old daughter is a fan of you and your music, as I asked if she knew who you were. “Of course I do!” was the reply. I said I was speaking to you today; she just shrugged her shoulders and said “OK, and?” I just thought, you cheeky little shit!
[Laughing] The worst now is I’ll get some young girl walking towards me who’s quite fit, you know, and she’ll be like, “oh, no way…” and I’ll be like, “fucking hell, I’ve still got it!” She then says, “no way, you’re Noel Gallagher?” I say, “the very same, how are you, what’s your name blah blah” and I’ll be feeling good about myself until she says, “can I get a quick picture for my grandad?” Not even my dad, my fucking grandad! [I laugh so much I nearly drop my phone]
Fucking hell. And I’m like, “what! How old’s your grandad?” “Oh, he’s about 50”. I say, “Fuck, I’m 53! Fuck off!” My bloody grandad. Jesus Christ, this is what it’s come to now.
Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds’ Back The Way We Came: Vol. 1 (2011-2021) is released on Fri 11 June via Sour Mash Records. Info: here
words CARL MARSH photos MATT CROCKETT