An Audience with The Chief: Noel Gallagher (2003)

Getting an interview with THE CHIEF isn’t as easy as it sounds. Missed flights, cancelled gigs and ‘the’ incident involving an ashtray and Liam’s teeth, have all contrived to cancellation upon postponement of this interview. NICK AMIES finally catches up with a talkative and seemingly chipper Noel in Munich.

It was turning into the journalistic quest for the musical Holy Grail. What does a mag have to do to pin NOEL GALLAGHER down for an interview these days? Granted the first time he stood Disorderly up, it wasn’t really his fault. Brother Liam’s penchant for boozy brawls had once again led to cancelled dates and, consequently, promotional duties. Then they get it together to come back to Germany and we’re back on for Düsseldorf. Three hours before Disorderly was due to chew the fat with The Chief, the beleaguered Sony rep calls with news that the band entourage had arrived safely – minus Noel. Liam was refusing to take on the press in place of his brother and so all interviews were off. Hell hath no fury like an editor scorned, so after chewing up many a record company lackey, NICK AMIES grabbed his rail pass and headed for the scene of the crime – Munich – in a last ditch attempt to get the answers before OASIS left the country.

Noel GallagherLive on stage, Noel Gallagher appears a mighty giant, the chief hod carrier in the Oasis wall of sound. At one with his axe, he effortlessly brings the focus away from the intimidating force of nature that is Liam and towers above the captivated audience on wave upon wave of major stadium-honed riffage. From the heaving pit of the crowd, the man is a guitar-playing Goliath, an idol of modern rock’n’roll, carved from the very granite of Britain‘s musical heritage…

On level ground, the man is what can be best described as wee. Not short as such but compact and slight and…dare I say it…more than a little unassuming. But what is gigantic is his presence. Gallagher Senior ambles into the room, dressed modestly for a millionaire in army parka and Lacoste polo shirt and turns the place into the court of a king. His handshake is warm and genuine, despite the fact that I’m the last on the list of interviews that have kept him away from other things for the best part of the day. Surprisingly relaxed, he opens with the sharpness of mind that the world has come to expect from this intelligent and misunderstood man: “There’s a bunch of geezers outside with violin cases. We did pay the promoter, right?”

<!–[if gte vml 1]> <![endif]–><!–[if !vml]–><!–[endif]–>This has turned into a bit of a quest for me. Cancelled gigs, missed flights and rapidly reorganised schedules to get to Munich – I was beginning to think it was something personal.

Noel Gallagher: You were meant to do this on Sunday? Yeah, I missed me flight. Heheheh…

I was at the gig in Düsseldorf on Sunday and the crowd were totally into it. How do audiences in Germany compare to others around the world?

NG: Well, I never compare them because they’re all different…the Australians, the Swiss, the fucking miserable Dutch…but that was a particularly lively German crowd, I must say. These aren’t small gigs we’re playing here. There’s this idea that we’re big in Britain and nowhere else. We’re fucking insanely huge in Britain but we’re big all over the world.

One of the strangest experiences I’ve had since living in Germany was the time I was overheard speaking English in a train by this guy who came over and started singing “Some Might Say” at me, doing the full Liam impression but with a thick German accent. That’s a pretty good indication of the fans commitment here…

NG: That’s what I mean. It’s like that all over. This is where the America question usually comes up. I don’t need to sell my records there to be a big band. If they don’t want to buy Oasis records then that’s their loss. I’m not going to waste my time.

So you won’t be doing a Robbie Williams and aiming the next Oasis album specifically at an American audience.

NG: I haven’t actually heard the record you’re referring to but I know enough to know where you’re coming from. If that’s what he’s doing with his record then that’s up to him. I wouldn’t know why anyone would want to do that.

I think the huge amounts of cash paid to him requires some return and breaking America would be a good way of doing that.

NG: For a start, there’s no way he got paid that much. Maybe half…There’s not even 80 million in the record industry to give to one person, I can tell you. I heard a rumour that someone was offering me 35 million.

Any truth in that?

NG: I sincerely fucking hope there is!

This is not the first time a band has had to reschedule a concert but in your own experience, when it happens, do you feel you owe the fans more when you come back?

NG: Nah. This is rock’n’roll not a fucking charity handout. I don’t care who you are, why you’re here, what drugs you’re taking, who you’re sleeping with, what you expect…If you buy the ticket then you’re going to get the show we put on. And if you don’t like it, you know what you can do.

So, back in Munich, the last time you were here the international press had a field day over the incident at the hotel. Why do you think the press continue to lose the plot over everything that happens around the band?

NG: You mean the stuff that happens around Liam? It’s all about alcohol and stupid little boys in bars…and it sells papers. The press say they love to hate us but that’s bollocks. In reality they love to love us. The sad thing is that when they look back over 2002, what they will remember Oasis for is not the fact that we sold over 3 million records last year or that I nearly fucking died in a car crash, they’ll remember Liam getting his teeth smashed in.

I read an interview you gave last September where you made several references to shrugging off the bad boy image, does it frustrate you when Liam or the others get themselves into situations like that?

NG: Yeah, it does. You can’t keep that up at 35. I see myself having another five years in the band and then I’ll do something else. I think it’s sad when you’re forty and you’re still pretending to be a gang. I’m not going to be doing this when I’m 41. Only the Rolling Stones are doing it and they haven’t done anything good since 1971. I can’t see myself doing that. As for Liam in spandex, leaping around like Mick Jagger, I think he really is sad enough to still be doing that when he’s middle-aged. It’s like REM…kick it in the fucking head, man.

<!–[if gte vml 1]> <![endif]–><!–[if !vml]–><!–[endif]–>Ever thought about going solo?

NG: Man, if I say anything about that it’ll all be like, ‘Oasis Split’ drama. What I’m saying is that I don’t want to be some sad old git, giving it large when I’m forty. I’d prefer something a little more dignified…more along the lines of Neil Young.

Okay, I’m falling into that same tabloid trap now…let’s get onto the music. What’s next for Oasis?

NG: Don’t expect too much. There’ll be another album but I don’t know when. After this tour, I’m going to go home and have a normal life. These shows we’re doing now should have been done in the summer. We’ve rescheduled these dates twice now and to tell you the truth, I need a break from the band and a break from music. We should have finished in Melbourne at the end of the summer but what with one thing or another we had to come back here. So I’m up for a rest. The others will probably go back in the studio, they don’t need me around anymore to do that.

The thing that impressed me most about the gig on Sunday night was the fact that the whole band were so tight and the sound was amazing despite the fact the Philipshalle resembles a tarted up abattoir. Things appear to be going from strength to strength with the latest line-up…

NG: Someone just told me that we’ve been together since 1999, two more years and it’ll be longer than the original line-up. The thing is that we’re all very talented musicians. We all know we can do it and that makes a difference. With Gem and Andy on board, especially Andy…we’re all very good at what we do. I’m no Jimi Hendrix but I know that I could play guitar in any band in the world. And that comes across when we play live. So, you could say we’re quite…adept.

Do you still have the enthusiasm for touring now there’s children and family at home?

NG: I fucking…I was about to tell you a lie there…I absolutely love touring but the people who you have to tour with do my head in after a while. But it would be weird to put out a record and not tour it. If we didn’t tour, that would mean that I’d have to give up music and I’m not going to be doing that. The ideal situation would be to tour once every three years.

I heard that Andy recently played a gig with his old Ride mates…will you be advertising for a new bass player anytime soon?

NG: No, I spoke to him about it and he said it was fucking awful.

Did you go to the gig?

NG: In Oxford? I would’ve done if I’d known about it. It was quite near my house. I remember Ride supported us once…

Isn’t that the time you said that you were glad they were just the support?

NG: What I think I said was…I was standing next to someone and said “It’s a good job we’re better than them”. Ride were a top band though.

I haven’t seen the film yet but did ‘Live Forever’ make you feel nostalgic or uncomfortable? You seem a lot more sorted personally these days.

NG: I’ve seen it. I had to approve it. Fair play to the lads that made it, they’re great lads and I have the utmost respect for them but they didn’t mention that it was a film about Britpop when they came to see me. They told me that it was a documentary about Britain in the 90’s. I wouldn’t have got involved if I had known. Suddenly it was about Britpop with a Union Jack on the cover with all these people saying how important it was for Britain. Albarn and the like…What it really was all about was people saving their careers. We were the only band that never were Britpop. We were just playing the music we always had and have done for the past ten years. And we still get grief for it. We are the only band in Britain that never went trip hop, we’re the only band that don’t have a producer because we do it ourselves…

<!–[if gte vml 1]> <![endif]–><!–[if !vml]–><!–[endif]–>The review I read said that Noel and Liam were the only entertaining things in the movie.

NG: That’s why we were so different then and so different now. It’s all a laugh to us…It’s pure comedy. It’s like playing to 125,000 people when you haven’t been to bed the night before and everyone going “wow” when really you’re just a fat alcoholic having a laugh.

And one last question: Kevin Keegan – saint or sinner?

NG: The fucking Messiah! Last time I went to Maine Road, there was Robbie Fowler and Nicolas Anelka on the pitch. What more can you say?

Ever fancied doing an Elton John and getting involved in City?

NG: There was some talk about it back in the 90’s when everything was going fucking mad. I had dinner with the chairman but I didn’t get involved, no.

And with that, the long and winding road was over. A rather cringy self initiated photo opportunity and a mad flurry of signed CD sleeves and then he was gone, leaving me craving a cigarette like some recently laid groupie. Four months, two cancelled appointments and 8 hours on a train for twenty minutes of chat – I can truly say it was worth it.

Noel Gallagher – a true gent.

 

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2 thoughts on “An Audience with The Chief: Noel Gallagher (2003)

  1. Pingback: The Oasis Archive interview: Nick Amies talks about his new Oasis book Where Did It All Go Wrong? | Tales from Down the Front

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