The Oasis Archive interview: Nick Amies talks about his new Oasis book Where Did It All Go Wrong?

In a departure from the usual features written by myself, I would like to reproduce the interview I did with the Oasis Archive website recently on my book Where Did It All Go Wrong? Oasis and the Millennium Meltdown 1995 – 2000.

Tell me a little about your professional background and what made you become an author.

authorI’ve been a journalist for over 20 years now and in that time I have worked in jobs that have required me to write about pretty much everything; business, football, politics, you name it… It’s the diversity of the job which has kept me interested and motivated. One day I could be writing a piece on architecture for the New York Times, the next interviewing a Hollywood director like Terry Gilliam for the Economist. But music has always been my main passion and I’ve been able to keep that side of journalism going even when I’ve had a full time job on a news desk. It keeps you sane when you’ve been writing about war and suffering all day to be able to get to a gig, spend some time with one of your heroes backstage and then cover their concert. I’ve been lucky enough to interview many of my idols and then to write about their lives and their music…it doesn’t get much better than that for me.

As for the books, I’ve always written stories, ever since I was a little kid and it was always a dream of mine to write a novel. After a friend of mine read a screenplay I was working on, he suggested I expand on the story and write it as a novel instead. That turned out to be my first book, the Madchester road trip novel “Mersey Paradise”. It was a good experience but I felt I could do better. So I started a second book shortly after, the Britpop love story “She’s Electric”, which I’m very proud of. Writing books is now one of the many side projects I have, on top of holding down a full-time job as an editor, maintaining a relationship and being a father.

Do you remember where and when you first heard of the name Oasis? Was it their music, or did their reputation and press precede this?

It was 1994. I was living in Norwich in the East of England and I was at a friend’s place getting high. We were watching the Channel 4 late night programme The Word and Oasis came on – their first TV appearance – playing Supersonic. I was blown away. Later I found out that they had played the intimate Arts Centre venue in the city the week before that, and I’ve been gutted about that ever since. It would have been amazing to catch them at that time, before it all blew up. Supersonic was like nothing I’d ever heard before. I was a massive Stone Roses fan at the time and waiting for them to get their arses into gear had left me looking for something new. I dug Suede and I was a big fan of Ride but Oasis just felt tailor-made for me at that time. It all made sense. And Liam was just spectacular. When you watch that clip again, just remember that he was barely 21 and on national TV for the first time. He fills the screen. He invades your home. After that I was hooked.

The artwork for the book is obviously inspired by the artwork for the “Standing On The Shoulder of Giants” release, and it fits very well with the title and theme of the book! Was that a stock-photo, and how did you go about finding this?

6144jy0t0elI wanted to design my own cover but using any of the official Oasis logos would have been problematic, what with the copyright issues and such. And you can forget about using photos of the band if you’re a self-published author on a shoestring production budget. So it’s a Shutterstock image which I found in their database and it’s the closest I could find to the shot of New York used on the cover of SOTSOG. I know the fans get where I’m coming from with it but a few people have asked why I have the Big Apple on the cover when the band come from Manchester. I hope reading the book will lead these people to the music if they’re not familiar with SOTSOG, which in my opinion is a sorely underrated album.

There is obviously a very strong British identity in the visual artwork for the first three albums and related singles (designed by Microdot). Later albums seem to deliberately move away from this, sporting a new logo and images locations far from Burnage. Do you have a favourite record sleeve, and what was your feeling on the shift in design?

I have to say that the final album, Dig Out Your Soul, is my favourite in terms of artwork. It’s as much of a departure from the traditional Oasis style as the music inside the sleeve is from their original sound. It’s psychedelic and mature – just as the recording itself is.

As for the shift in design from the Microdot sleeves of the 90s, I just accepted it as part of Oasis progressing. Those Brian Cannon designs are iconic and part and parcel of the Britpop legacy Oasis left behind when they moved into the new millennium. The single cover of ‘Don’t Look Back in Anger’ is perhaps my favourite from that time. Moving away from Microdot, I loved the SOTSOG cover, the first one Simon Halfon did for the band, and the other covers and portraits he did after that really captured the band in that decade out of time, an older version of Oasis removed from the craziness of the years they dominated. Halfon’s style perfectly caught the band as they matured into serious artists and national treasures from the wild upstarts and party animals they were during their heyday.

R-817735-1293478865.jpegHalfon was a good choice to document these years. He’d been a long-time collaborator of Paul Weller’s and started working with the Modfather on art direction as far back as his days in The Jam. As such, through Weller’s friendship with Noel Gallagher, Halfon got to know the Chief, who appreciated his work with Weller and shared his love of The Beatles. But it was through a friend who was hired to shoot the video for ‘Supersonic’ that Halfon and Noel became friends. When it came to choosing an art director for SOTSOG, Noel called Halfon and asked him to do it. He then went on to photograph and design for Oasis throughout the rest of the band’s career.

Why did you decide to focus on Oasis’ career from 1995 till 2000, and not 1994-2000, or up until their very last meltdown (2009)?

The rise of Oasis with their slash-and-burn approach to touring and the momentum which started to grow around the band in the lead up to the release of their debut Definitely Maybe is of course one of the great rock and roll stories – streetwise lads from the wrong side of the tracks making it mega big; it’s one of those classic origin stories. But a lot has been written about that phase, and rightly so. But for me, if you break down the career of the band into narrative sections, the most interesting is the one featured in the book. It starts with the release of Morning Glory, the second album, through the band’s imperial phase which followed when they were untouchable, playing to a quarter of a million people over the Knebworth weekend, and then – when the fame and fortune were at unprecedented levels – they dived headfirst into their third album, Be Here Now, and into a Himalayan-sized mountain of coke. The excess during this period is legendary but there are so many threads running through this story, behind the music and the madness, and that’s what I wanted to write about as much as anything; the press intrusion, the pressures the band were experiencing professionally and personally, the dynamic within the band, the changing musical and social landscape in the UK at the time. These are the things which contributed – along with the massive intake of drugs – to what I call the millennium meltdown. By the end of the 90s, all of this had taken its toll and it was unsurprising that Oasis Mark 1 fell apart before the 21st century began.

Do you ever see yourself writing a sequel to this book focusing on the next chapter of the Oasis history?

I’ve been asked by a few people if I’ll do a follow up and it certainly appeals to the fan side of me to dive back into Oasis history and start digging again but I chose to focus on a particular time period in the band’s career because that had not been done before. Besides, for me – as I’ve said before – the era I cover in the book is the most interesting part of the whole story: Oasis ascending to the summit of British rock before descending to the depths, where – ironically – they were probably at their highest, if you know what I mean. The years between 2000 and the split in 2009 are filled with great music but in terms of incident and precedent, there wasn’t that much to compare to the events that I’ve documented. What would we have? Noel storming off the tour in 2000 after Liam allegedly questioned the legitimacy of his daughter; Liam getting his teeth smashed out in a Munich bar fight in 2002, the divorces, the Spinal Tap procession of drummer’s after Whitey was sacked in 2004? The truth is, up until the split in Paris six years ago, the stories behind the music kinda fizzled out. They made some great tunes during that time but the sensationalism was over.

Did you get to see the band live during the timeframe of the book (1995-2000)?

BHNI saw them headline Glastonbury in 1995 and then on the Be Here Now tour at Wembley Arena in 1997. Both shows were splendidly shambolic for different reasons. At Glastonbury, Liam was more interested in intimidating the crowd, which failed to respond to many of the songs from Morning Glory that no one had ever heard before. At Wembley, they were just back in the UK after the first leg of the BHN world tour and they looked and sounded a bit frazzled. Plus the popularity the band was enjoying by then meant it was like a variety show with all the families and young kids in the stands, especially as it was around Christmas. It wasn’t very Oasis. The danger and menace was absent. But don’t get me wrong – I loved both gigs purely because it was Oasis. I went on to see them another five times in the years leading up to the split and Noel Gallagher nailed it when he said recently that the band got better as the songs got shitter! Late-period Oasis were still a fearsome live act, even if the youthful mayhem had long been left behind by then.

The book is very well researched with a lot of good quotes and references. Did you spend long researching it, and what were your primary sources?

It took about two years in total, although I did nothing on the book during the nine months my partner was pregnant with our daughter. The research itself probably took six months in all. I planned the book out in the themes I wanted to cover and went trawling through the Internet, reading all the interviews I could find, looking for relevant quotes and information which fitted. I contacted a number of people who were close to band but received the same response: there seemed to be an unwritten rule that no-one would speak about their time with Oasis. And the band members themselves rarely talk to authors because they just get too many requests. But there are some exclusive quotes from Noel and Liam in there as I’ve interviewed them both in the past. And former Oasis press officer Johnny Hopkins was especially helpful and actually helped a great deal to fill in a lot of the black holes I had in some of the chapters.

Have you ever met any of the band members, and if you were given the opportunity to ask only one question to Noel, Liam and Bonehead respectively; what would it be?

beadyI’ve interviewed Noel and Liam before; Noel when Oasis were still going and Liam when he was with Beady Eye. I’ve also talked to Gem Archer and Andy Bell a couple of times, both as members of Oasis and of Beady Eye. I never met any of the other original Oasis members.

I guess if I had to ask one question, I’d ask Bonehead if he had ever considered getting a hair transplant during the band’s heyday. I always respected the fact that Oasis didn’t give a fuck about having a bald guy, or a fat bloke, in the band. It wasn’t about that to start with. But I also always wondered if he’d thought about getting his thatch thickened when the fame and fortune flooded in!

Here is a question from a forum member on SupernovaHeights, named joladella: In your acknowledgements, you thank Noel’s manager Ray McCarville for explaining, why he and the other former band members usually decline requests by authors. I’d love to know what that explanation was. I guess you might not be at liberty to say, but “… situation which prevents [them] …” (p. 236) sounds intriguing, what situation? Legal reasons? Or just a complicated way of saying they simply don’t want to?

There’s nothing sinister about that, as far as I know. The former band members get so many requests for their involvement in books that they simply wouldn’t have enough time to contribute to them all. As a result, they politely decline all requests. That’s the message I got from Ray.

It seems that very few (if any) of the members who left Oasis over the years – from Tony McCaroll in 1995, up until the final split in 2009 – actually ended on good terms with Noel Gallagher. Who do you reckon is the most difficult being in a band with; Liam or Noel?

tony-mccarrollHmm…If you were kicked out of Oasis or forced to leave, it’s very unlikely that you’d have an objective view of those who were responsible for that, right? And that person, more often than not, is going to be Noel because he’s the boss. If you leave under a cloud, you’re more than likely gonna hold grudges… So I think you have to look at who’s saying what and why in those situations.

I’ve spent time with both brothers and both were absolute gents during the time I spent talking to them; eloquent, intelligent, thoughtful and above all very funny – not quite the surly thugs which many journalists portray them as. But I’ve never worked with, or for, either one of them. I would say that both of the Gallaghers are very driven people – yes, even Liam – and that they can be very demanding of those working with them in the pursuit of what they want to achieve. Neither suffers fools gladly. If I had to give my unqualified opinion, based only on the reports and anecdotes I have read during my research, I would say that the young Liam circa 1994/95 would have been a nightmare at times due to his erratic and explosive nature. I would also say that Noel circa 1997 would probably have been quite hard to be around too as he struggled with his substance abuse and the pressure of being the driving force behind the massive band Oasis had become. But this has to be put into context. Liam was struggling with fame and all the attention he was getting at the tender age of 21 and Noel was being crushed by the expectation of millions of fans and the media which had built him up into a Godlike genius. It’s likely any one of us would be an arsehole to some people in the same situation!

What Oasis songs mean the most to you?

That’s like being asked to choose which of your children you love the most. It’s a very tough question as I love pretty much everything Oasis ever did. But if I’m to attach meaning and memory to songs as a way of narrowing things down, I’d say – in no particular order – Supersonic, Listen Up, Let’s All Make Believe, and Who Feels Love. And that’s only from the period in the book. I’d be here all day if I did it for the band’s entire career.

Oasis_supersonic_sleeveSupersonic because it’s such a statement of intent and it was the song that brought me to Oasis. When that drum intro starts and that woozy guitar line starts jangling, it’s goosebumps all over, even today. “I wanna be myself, I can’t be no-one else” – as Bonehead says in the book, that’s Oasis barging to the front and saying ‘right, we’ll take charge here…This is how it’s going to be from now on.’ And they were right. After that, all bets were off.

Listen Up contains some of the best lines Noel has ever written and Liam’s delivery of the whole song is pure magic. I came to this song when I was questioning a lot of things and it helped me get my world view sorted out. The lyric “day by day there’s a man in a suit who’s gonna make you pay, for the thoughts that you think and the words they won’t let you say” – that just fired me up.

Let’s All Make Believe is again a song which came to me when I was at a low point. There were a lot of false people around me at the time and I needed to make a change to get out of that situation. Then a true friend did something amazing for me and through his sacrifice, I made a life-changing decision which I have never regretted. I’m here doing what I do, living the life I have because of that and because of that friend. The song really resonates with that period but beyond its meaning to me, it’s just a beautiful song and, in my opinion, one of Liam’s best ever vocals.

Who Feels Love is probably derided by many because it’s a bit cod-psychedelic and it comes from the period of the millennium meltdown I write about where Noel had to start again from scratch in many ways. But for me, it’s a really uplifting piece of music and has such a light atmosphere to it that I love to kinda float along with it – which is something you don’t expect from an Oasis track. And it reminds me of the love of my life, so there’s that too!

What is your take on the ‘Be Here Now’ album? From its initially raving reviews, to its backlash of people returning it to second hand shops; did you opinion on the album also change?

oasis_be_here_now-ad_11078I remember that I bought a knock-off cassette from a night market in Thailand shortly after it was released and the quality was unsurprisingly a bit dodgy so I didn’t really get the full experience until later but I loved the ambition and the sheer weight of the tracks at first. Once I got a CD copy, I really got into it. It really was a soundtrack for that summer for me and my friends. I’ll admit though that I had a period where I skipped a lot of the tracks on Be Here Now. I also admit that I may have been swayed by the criticism it’s got over the years. But I’ve rehabilitated it and I play it quite regularly, although my opinions of certain songs are forever coloured by the negative associations. I love D’You Know What I Mean?, My Big Mouth, It’s Getting’ Better (Man!!) but tend to tolerate rather than celebrate songs like Magic Pie, Fade In-Out, and even All Around the World. There’s a great song in there somewhere but it’s just too long!

If Oasis were set to release a new retrospective release of any format; what would be on top of your wish-list? A Noel Gallagher penned autobiography? A coffee table book of pictures? Noel’s demos from Mustique, or a concert film from the pompous Be Here Now tour? You decide!

There’s a long-mooted Knebworth documentary and concert film floating about somewhere which would be a great historical as well as musical document of those times. I’d love to see that. An autobiography from Noel would also be an essential read, especially if he really went warts-and-all on the dynamic within the band and his relationship with Liam. But this idea which has been talked about, to do a feature film on the band’s story? No way. Who could play the Gallaghers better than themselves? No actor I can think of. It would be like fucking Stars in Their Eyes. “Tonight Matthew, I’m gonna be Liam Gallagher…” However, if someone wanted to pay me to write the screenplay, I’d be on it like a shot.

What’s next for you? Any new projects you’re working on?

I have a whole graphic novel series sitting around in various computer files and parts of my brain which is so massive in its depth and scope that it kinda scares me! There’s so much there. I’m afraid it’ll never see the light of day because it’s really fucking good, to be honest! It would take a really committed artist to bring it all to life and I haven’t found that person yet. I’m still looking. So that project’s just sitting in the shadows, watching me, whispering my name every day…

Other than that, I already have plans to do another non-fiction book, this time on Happy Mondays. I want to work with an old and very good friend of mine on this but we have to wait until his current projects are completed before we can start. Plus I need a bit of a break after Where Did It All Go Wrong? Once the promotion of that has slowed down, I’ll start the research on the Mondays book and we’ll take it from there.

Related content:

I also gave an interview on WHERE DID IT ALL GO WRONG? to Phonic FM’s Britpop Revival show as part of their great Manchester special in September. It’s worth listening to it all but I come on at the 52′ 30″ mark if that’s all you’re interested in. Click on the image below to go to the show on their Mixcloud page.

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WHERE DID IT ALL GO WRONG? Available to buy on Amazon and Lulu.com NOW

coverimage_lulu 2After exploding onto the British music scene only two years previously, Oasis played the biggest free-standing gigs the UK had ever seen over two nights at Knebworth Park in the summer of 1996. Playing to a combined crowd of 250,000 people on what would become the defining weekend of the Britpop era, Oasis made good on their many claims that they were destined to be the biggest band on the planet. What happened next is a rollercoaster ride through the wildest excesses of rock ‘n’ roll; from the highs of mega-stardom, mass adoration and tabloid ubiquity, to the lows of drug psychosis, mindless mayhem and a media backlash. WHERE DID IT ALL GO WRONG? charts Oasis’s journey from the mid-90s euphoria of (What’s the Story) Morning Glory? to the turn-of-the-century comedown of Standing on the Shoulder of Giants; from the all-conquering Knebworth shows through the cocaine blizzard of Be Here Now, the madness and chaos of their 1997 world tour and out the other side.

Buy WHERE DID IT ALL GO WRONG? on Amazon

She’s Electric interview on Puluche.com

In a departure from the usual Tales From Down the Front articles, I am posting an interview I gave to the US music site Puluche.com about the release of my second novel She’s Electric.

Nick Amies is a journalist and author based in Brussels who writes for publications such as The New York Times, The Economist and Red Bulletin magazine and is also a senior contributing writer for Puluche. While his freelance work ranges from international politics to architecture, his main passion is music. As well as his magazine work, Nick has written two novels, each set in an important period of British pop culture. Here he talks to Puluche about She’s Electric, his Britpop-era love story and ode to excess.

electricPuluche: Firstly, congratulations on She’s Electric. I found it to be an extremely interesting read. It certainly is a multi-faceted love story with a sex, drugs and rock and roll backdrop, but within a “Cool Britannia” culture which many might not know about. How does your book relate to international audiences when it’s such a Brit-focused topic?

Nick Amies: I think the emotional themes running through the book – love, loss, desperation, insecurity – are universal. When we first meet Danny, the narrator of the story, he’s a young man coming out of a long-term relationship into a world he doesn’t really understand. He’s been one half of a high school love affair as long as he can remember and now he’s on his own. He’s hurt, lonely and angry due to the break-up but also confused and lost because he doesn’t know who or what he’s supposed to be. I think that wherever you’re from, you can relate to feelings like that and it’s part of the human condition to question the reasons for our existence and what it’s all supposed to mean. As for the cultural setting, again I feel that while it’s specifically British, anyone who has ever had their life changed by music or have bought into a particular scene wholesale will identify with the characters. The music is not just a soundtrack to their lives but a way of life in itself. It comes with an identity, a fashion and a sense of belonging. Anyone who has ever been a fan of a band will know what that means. Plus being a music fan, I believe, is essentially being part of a global community. We may have different tastes but the emotions that music elicits are built into our DNA. She’s Electric is set in the Britpop era but it could have been set anywhere at any time where a musical phenomenon has moved a generation of young people.

In that case, why set the book specifically in the Britpop era?

Firstly, I followed the old advice of writing about what you know. I lived through this period and experienced a lot of things I wanted to document. Secondly, the Britpop era is extremely well suited as a setting for a coming-of-age story with all the insecurities which come with that. It was a uniquely superficial period and as such it was the best and worst time to suffer from an identity crisis, which is essentially what each of the main characters in my book are going through. On the one hand, the movement itself and its association with a new permissiveness which openly tolerated bad behavior, casual sex and substance abuse came with a blueprint. If you weren’t sure who you wanted to be, you just did what everybody else did. There was an attitude, a way of dressing, a way of behaving that was connected with the whole idea of what it meant to be young and British at the time. But on the other hand, if you were really searching for something, buying into this could really drag you further away from yourself. This is the situation facing the guys in the book. They have whole-heartedly embraced Britpop and Lad culture but, as time moves on, they realize that there is little substance behind it and that the void they have in their lives is still there behind the sex, drugs and rock’n’roll.

Is it a very personal story then? Perhaps a thinly-veiled autobiography?

I would never admit that even if it were true! What I will say is that the characters are fictitious but the experiences are very loosely based on those I and my friends were part of but everything is exaggerated for narrative purposes. Of course the cultural reference points detailed in the book such as the massive Oasis gigs at Knebworth in 1996, the 1995 Glastonbury festival and the 1997 General Election in the UK are all documented historical events. The emotional turmoil and search for identity are all written from a personal viewpoint but don’t get the idea that we were all suffering some kind of existential angst! It was the best time to be young and the most concentrated period of partying that I’ve ever lived through so we were hardly crying into our beers every night, wailing about how hard our lives were. It was a lot of fun. I think that comes across in the book. Danny and his friends live it large and enjoy every excessive minute but at some point they realize that there’s more to life than picking up a different girl every night and waking up with self-induced memory loss and that’s when the internal struggles begin.

What are the subtexts and messages in the book? What did you set out to say with it beyond reminiscing about a great time in music?

The book moves from the present to the past and back again with flashbacks from the Britpop era used to illustrate certain themes or show contrasts to the lives the main characters are leading in the present day. All of them are struggling with different aspects of their lives as adults with responsibilities and their reunion back on their old stomping ground emphasises how much things have changed. Danny is the last one to really give up on the old life and is using the reunion to see if returning to his old ways is a viable option, despite having a partner and child at home. His identity crisis has gone on the longest. I suppose there’s a message here about the risks of trying to recapture former glories or trying to relive the past at the risk of your future. I also wanted to point out that even though we get older, things don’t always get easier if you’re not prepared to leave history behind. We can only grow by letting go, which doesn’t mean we have to forget or deny the past. The sections dealing with Britpop are clearly a celebration of that time with their depictions of all the fun that was had but as that timeline moves on to 1997 it shows that the façade was beginning to slip and the party was clearly coming to an end, something the guys address with hindsight in the present day sections of the book. In short, I wanted to show that youth cultures are not built to last, much like youth itself, but you should live them to the full while they’re there just as you should embrace your youth and not pine for it when it’s gone.

electric-bmpWhy was Britpop so important to British culture?

Youth and popular culture movements tend to rise as a reaction to the socio-political climate of the time. Before Britpop, we’d had a reaction to the years of oppressive conservatism which had become entrenched in the UK under Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. This reaction gave birth to acid house and the Madchester music scene. Driven by the ecstasy explosion, these movements provided an escape route from the poverty and hopelessness that many parts of Britain were suffering from at the end of the 1980s. When that phase passed, British music retreated and US grunge flooded in. Britpop was a reaction to that as much as anything else. People like Blur’s Damon Albarn and Noel Gallagher of Oasis said that their bands’ early Britpop output was a direct riposte to the nihilism of grunge and an attempt to reverse the flood of US culture swamping the UK. So, Britpop was important in the way that it gave the country something to be proud of again and made it okay to be patriotic. Britpop got an extra boost when Tony Blair and the Labour Party finally ended 18 years of conservative rule in 1997. Suddenly it was like the heavy curtains were drawn back to reveal a new land of hope and opportunity stretching into the distance. When things like that happen in my country, we Brits tend to go a bit mad and make the most of it without really thinking about the consequences. But before it was all revealed to be a false dawn and that we’d actually been manipulated into thinking things would be truly different, Blair’s labeling of all things cultural with the “Cool Britannia” tag revitalized everything: music, art, literature and film. Even though it turned out to be a cynical marketing plan of the government’s making, the idea to tie it all together and brand it was an inspired one. It was an identity we could all get behind and one which could be sold abroad. Britain was the centre of attention during that time and I think the music, fashion and attitude which came out of that time began to influence a lot of other cultures.

And what about the music which was at the heart of it all?

The success of the big bands such as Oasis, Blur and Pulp for example inspired many others to make music with varying degrees of success and quality so to be a fan of the genre at that time was to be spoilt for choice. It was a great and productive time for British music and it also exported well. The Europeans instantly understood it and quickly grew to love it, the Japanese went crazy for it immediately and even the US succumbed to a certain degree. Its popularity in the countries which embraced it can still be seen today in the way audiences welcome back the legends and react to British bands in general as a result of that Britpop Invasion.

It’s also worth remembering that Britpop happened at a time before the internet exploded. Oasis sold over eight million copies of their debut album and followed that up by selling over 22 million copies of (What’s the Story) Morning Glory? without the help of Twitter, YouTube or online marketing campaigns. This was an age before the digital revolution so all those sales were actual CDs, records and cassette tapes. There wasn’t any downloading going on – legal or otherwise. So in that respect, Britpop still represents the zenith of the British music industry before it imploded. It is a high watermark that will never be reached again.

glory-bmpIs this era still relevant today?

It’s relevant in the way that punk is still relevant or the Sixties are still relevant. We are where we are musically in the UK because of Britpop. And Britpop couldn’t have happened if bands hadn’t heard the Sex Pistols or had never listened to their parents’ Beatles records. It’s a signpost on the road of Britain’s musical progress, whether people like that or not. If there had been no Stone Roses, there would have been no Oasis. No Oasis, no Arctic Monkeys and so on. So as a legacy with a continuing influence, yes it’s relevant. As a reference point on the quest of knowledge about Britain’s musical heritage, it’s relevant. But most importantly, it’s relevant in the lives of all those who love the music that came out of that era. For us, it’s as relevant now as it was then because it is such a huge part of our lives. That’s why in She’s Electric, Danny and his friends continue to celebrate those days even as middle age creeps up on them. Their lives have gone separate, very different ways but they will always have those crazy days when their friendships were formed. For the Britpop generation, it will always be relevant.

What is the true current status of the Britpop genre? The remaining bands that consider themselves a part of this movement, do they still represent the genre well compared to the originals like Blur, Suede and eventually others such as Oasis?

When the party ended, there were a lot of casualties. No-one escaped unharmed and I think that can be heard in the material that the original bands put out after Britpop came to a close. If you listen to Blur or 13 they are polar opposites of The Great Escape and you can’t compare the cocaine bluster of Be Here Now-era Oasis to the washed-out comedown of Standing on the Shoulder of Giants. So whatever Britpop was musically, it stopped existing soon afterwards. But even at the height of the movement it was a very contentious thing to say that one band or another sounded “Britpop”. There was never really one style. It was more of an attitude than a sound. When that attitude became more introspective, Britpop ceased to exist. There may be bands around now which get labeled Britpop but that’s just lazy. They can’t be Britpop because there is no such thing. That particular zeitgeist – every strand of cultural DNA from which Britpop was constructed – is history. It can never be repeated or cloned.

Knowing you as a music reviewer as well, one that can be quite critical, you recently rated Arctic Monkeys latest album AM as a perfect release. Such new releases are sadly few and far between in modern music compared to previous decades. What are many of today’s bands missing compared to a release like AM where they just get it?

am5

It’s easy to point the finger at The Man but that doesn’t change the fact that The Man has a lot to answer for in this respect. There are just too few risk takers in the music business these days and not enough labels who are confident and savvy enough to let their acts experiment. I have a lot of respect for Domino for letting Arctic Monkeys go their own way. They could have forced them to stick to the tried and tested formula of the early days but they gave them space to evolve. They could have panicked after Humbug saw the band suffer what was essentially the first bit of backlash but they let them work it out themselves and move on to great effect. I wrote in my AM review that freedom and confidence bring their own reward and for great music to be made there has to be less emphasis on the bottom line and shifting units. Bands have to be shown love and trust, not balance sheets. Reducing the number of accountants and employing more people with a passion for music would be a start.

In your opinion, is rock music in a continuing period decline?

I wouldn’t say it’s in a continuing period of decline but I would say that it is in one of the longest periodical downswings for some time. We haven’t really seen a movement crash into the collective consciousness and change the musical landscape for a few years now. We seem to be relying on individual bands to innovate and excite rather than expecting a wave to sweep in with all the added extras like the fashion, the attitude and the message to compliment the music. Usually these things grow from a scene in a particular city. I’ve been pinning my hopes on the Perth underground for a while now, with Tame Impala, Pond and others coming from this alternative community on the Australian west coast but I think there should have been more of a collective impact made by now. Perhaps growing a local scene from Down Under into an international phenomenon is harder than if you are in New York. I don’t know. Perhaps the general problem is that the opportunities previously enjoyed by those being nurtured in the traditional breeding grounds are shrinking. The question then arises about funding and support for small venues and you’re then into a political debate. But who can say for sure? Maybe it is all crap and we’ve already been condemned to an eternity of rubbish but we haven’t yet realized it. I sincerely hope not.

She’s Electric is available in paperback and Kindle versions on all Amazon’s international sites.

This interview first appeared on Puluche.com

Definitely Maybe – Oasis (review)

British guitar music had taken a backseat to United States grunge in the early 90’s as it sought to regroup after the failure of shoegazing bands to capitalize on the phenomenal but brief success of the Manchester-led dance rock genre in the late 80s. Bands like Blur had taken the first steps back into the consciousness but when Oasis released Definitely Maybe, they kicked the door in, dragged the plaid shirted usurpers out by the scruff of their necks and packed them off to the airport.

This was a record with guts, anger, humour, and social commentary (albeit hidden in obtuse, druggy lyrics). Few opening tracks by a debut band can rate with the swagger and belief of “Rock ‘n’ Roll Star,” while the first three singles – “Supersonic,” “Shakermaker” and “Live Forever” – encapsulated the band’s range, a perfect showcasing triptych. Laconic, comedic and emotional guitar-driven pop was back and when fourth single “Cigarettes and Alcohol” was released, all bets were off. Oasis were already the biggest band in the world in their heads. Now everyone else would start to believe it too.

Commendations

From the opening track to the throwaway epilogue of “Married with Children” – with perhaps the greatest comment on the music they were replacing: ‘your music’s shite, it keeps me up all night’ – Definitely Maybe is a chin-out strut down the alleyways of Britain’s rock heritage. Much was made of the band’s love of the Beatles but Definitely Maybe is much more than a Fab Four rip-off and it’s lazy to suggest so.

Liam Gallagher’s fondness for the Sex Pistols is clear on his vocal delivery on “Bring it on Down,” while, at the other end of the scale, “Digsy’s Dinner” in almost musical hall in its jauntiness.  Re-recorded on the behest of Creation label boss Alan McGee who said the first version lacked the ‘attack and immediacy’ of Oasis concerts, the band decided the only way to replicate their live sound was to record together without soundproofing between individual instruments. With Noel Gallagher overdubbing the guitars in post-production, a powerful yet cohesive and proficient onslaught was created. This can be heard best on the rumbling, ominous “Columbia” and the balls-out yet beautiful “Slide Away” – one the band’s best and most underrated tunes, described by Liam Gallagher as ‘a rocking love song.’

Oasis were the antitheses of Nirvana’s ‘I hate myself and want to die’ philosophy and this positivity in the face of hardship that the band espoused is most keenly felt on the luminous “Live Forever” and the nihilistic soundtrack to the party at the end of the world which is “Cigarettes and Alcohol.” Whatever mood you’re in, however your day is going, there is a track on Definitely Maybe which will not only match it but will speak to you, counsel you and assure you that everything will be alright. This is a debut album which convincingly and authentically covers every emotion and many of life’s common stories in about an hour of music. It was a remarkable achievement and a high point that Oasis tried and failed to reach again during the following 15 years of their career.

Next Steps

Unless the Gallagher brothers put their differences aside or run out of money (or both), it’s unlikely that we’ll ever hear these songs played live with Liam on vocals and Noel on guitar beside him or be blessed with any new material from Oasis again. Those who lost faith in the band towards the end may say this is no bad thing. But putting Definitely Maybe on and turning it up loud not only reminds me what we’ve lost but also makes me thank God that they managed to get out of a council estate in Manchester in the first place.

First published on: Puluche.com

Rocking with The Roller: Eye to Beady Eye with Liam Gallagher

The side door of the monolithic ebony tour bus hisses open like a space age air lock and Liam Gallagher steps out into the light but constant Brussels rain. He throws a heavy hold-all over one shoulder, lowers his sunglasses from his mop of Brian Jones hair, fixes them in the default position over his eyes and swaggers his way past gawping shoppers in the direction of the hotel lobby. It’s the exit of a seasoned pro; a man who has spent much of the last two decades alighting from heavily tinted vehicles in cities all over the world. As the singer of Oasis, Gallagher has stayed in some of the finest hotels on the planet. But he’s not in Oasis any more and while this particular Sofitel has a certain amount of glitter, it is still a gold star or two below the norm. You see, things have changed for Liam over the past two years but as he explains later over espresso and cigarettes, in his opinion they’ve changed for the better.

After eighteen years of ecstatic highs and violent lows, combustible and controversial British rock band Oasis – perhaps the last to truly deserve the battered crown of king anarchists handed down by the hell-raising likes of Led Zeppelin, The Who and the Sex Pistols – finally imploded. Only those who were there really know what went on backstage at the Rock en Seine festival near Paris on August 28, 2009 and despite vague allusions to the reasons behind the split and the conflicting accounts of the two main protagonists, the true nature of events remains a mystery. What is known beyond a shadow of a doubt is that the fight between Liam and older brother Noel, just minutes before the band were about to go on stage, was serious enough to finally rip the band apart for good.

Oasis had been close to ending on numerous occasions in the past as the Gallaghers’ often abrasive relationship – one which not only constantly threatened its existence but also powered it – regularly stretched the band to breaking point. On every occasion before Paris, the warring siblings had somehow managed to see beyond the black eyes and foul abuse to reach a rapprochement. However, this time would be different. A statement from Noel, just two hours after at least one guitar was turned into kindling, confirmed that he had quit the band as he “could not go on working with Liam a day longer”. It didn’t take much reading between the lines to see that there would be no reconciliation this time. The fears of those Oasis fans who continued to hope for a reunion were finally realised when Liam announced on November 19 of that year that the remaining members of Oasis – guitarists Gem Archer and Andy Bell, drummer Chris Sharrock and himself – would continue to record without Gallagher Senior, saying: “Oasis are done, this is something new.” Six months later, on May 25, 2010, the final nail in the Oasis coffin was hammered home when Liam and Co. announced that this something new would be called Beady Eye.

Resplendent in a camouflage wind-breaker from his own Pretty Green clothing range and with his piercing blue eyes now unshaded, Liam Gallagher sits back and wearily blows a plume of smoke into the darkening sky above the hotel’s roof garden as he once again contemplates that fateful day in Paris. “I think I wasn’t in the band for about one beer,” he says. “That’s how long it took for us to think about what we wanted to do. After that it was like, let’s keep going. What else am I going to do? Work in McDonald’s?” Liam maintains that his brother “had had enough of Oasis” and just wanted an excuse to leave. At a press conference to launch his solo project The High Flying Birds and his two forthcoming albums, Noel Gallagher rejects that idea, saying simply that he’d “just had enough of Liam.”

After the tabloid-christened Wonderbrawl in Paris, Chris Sharrock returned to his home in Liverpool while Liam, Gem and Andy headed back to London to begin work on the songs which would ultimately come together to form Beady Eye’s début album Different Gear, Still Speeding with producer Steve Lillywhite. The atmosphere, by all accounts, bordered on euphoric. “There was something in the air,” Beady Eye’s somewhat cosmic guitarist Gem Archer says, his eyes lighting up at the memory. “I don’t know if it was the universe just doing it’s thing but there was something magical going on when we got down to working.”

“We always felt like we wanted to do something fantastic and new whether it was with or without Oasis,” Liam adds, brightening up as talk now moves away from the past and turns to the new musical love of his life. “We were always gearing up to do something great. That’s what you live for. There was never a doubt in any of our minds that we weren’t going to knock it on the head. We’ve got to be in there. People need us. We need it.”

With the four ex-Oasis men forming the core of Beady Eye – on tour the band is augmented by ex-Gorillaz bassist Jeff Wooton and keyboardist Matt Jones, formerly of Britpop band Ultrasound – the writing duties are shared between Gallagher, Archer and Bell. The credits also extend to include drummer Sharrock in a show of unity. Both Liam and Gem are quick to point out that Beady Eye is a collective, with everyone sharing responsibility for the direction and every aspect of the band.

“We all do our thing to make Beady Eye happen,” Liam says. “There are no chiefs here. It’s not like as soon as someone has a top idea and thinks we should do it it’s suddenly like ‘oh here we go, he’s getting too big for his boots’. We’ve been there before with someone taking responsibility for everything. It’s a bit late in the game to be fucking around with power struggles and insecurities with your mates. That’s just rubbish. Whoever’s closest to the kettle puts the fucking kettle on.”

“We’re into it to the level of thinking about what lights to take with us on tour, what to have on stage with us other than the amps,” adds Gem. “We’re deep into it all. The photos, the clothes, the artwork – we’re doing it all.”

“With the new song, Andy [Bell] took the photo for the cover,” adds Liam. “We took one look at it, said it looked the bollocks, so we slapped our name on it, stuck the banging tune inside it and away you go.” Suddenly he’s out of his seat, comically mincing around the table. “There’s no need to ponce about with design teams full of geezers called Quentin when we know what we want and can do it ourselves.”

“It’s a top vibe, man,” he continues, sitting down and switching his face back to stony conviction. “Everyone is loving being involved in the creative side of it. It’s not like when Noel would do the lot and we’d be sitting about, twiddling our thumbs. People think I was a lazy bastard and always in the pub. I just never got the call, man. But now everyone’s getting a share of the drug. We’re all getting high from being a band and what makes being in a band great.”

To emphasise their break from the past, Beady Eye took the very un-Oasis-like step of releasing a couple of songs as digital teasers before début single The Roller was unveiled in January. Rather than it being a clever marketing ploy, the band floated Bring the Light and Four Letter Word on the Internet in a surprisingly humble attempt to gauge where they may possibly stand in the post-Oasis musical landscape. “We released the digital tracks and posted videos ahead of the first release because we didn’t even take it for granted that people would know who we were,” admits Gem. “We needed to let them know what was coming.”

“The average Joe didn’t know what was going on,” adds Liam. “People were coming up to me in the shop asking when the next Oasis record was coming out and I was all like, ‘you fucking what?’ I wasn’t getting into it because they were obviously on drugs or living in a can of beans or something. A lot of people thought Oasis was still going so we had to get the new stuff out to them.”

The reaction to the Internet teasers was underwhelming as were those accompanying the release of first single proper The Roller. Beady Eye’s début peaked at number 31 in the UK charts – the exact same position as Oasis’ début Supersonic reached back in April 1994. When the next single, Millionaire, floundered at number 71 it was open season in the British press. For Liam’s adversaries in the media, it was like shooting fish in a barrel. Well-worn comparisons of the Gallaghers were once more dragged across the pages of the tabloids, with Beady Eye already condemned to failure for having what many people considered to be the less talented brother in its line-up. Liam admits the poor performances of the singles was a reality check but the media reaction was less of a surprise.

“I expected to get shit from the press before we started out because I dish it out and I thrive on that so I expect it back,” he says. “They’re always going to be gunning for me but I’m always like, ‘bring it on’ because I’ll always be gunning for them. That will always be there because we need the love-hate thing but deep down they’ve probably all got posters of us on their walls. We’ve got to be on top of our game because we’re there to be criticised. But we’re ready for it. We’re big boys.”

While certain critics ratcheted up their dismissals of Beady Eye once Different Gear, Still Speeding was released in February, the majority of the world’s music press was much more generous. The album, which debuted at number 3 in the UK album charts, was widely praised with many commentators welcoming the band’s efforts to move away from the Oasis legacy. The public’s response was equally positive with the album going gold in the UK within a month of its release.

“Of course, it was nice to get good reviews for the album but it wasn’t like we were then saying ‘we showed you’ to those who’d slagged us off without even hearing it,” Liam says. “It’s nice but we don’t care really. When the reviews are good, you know the writer got it and understood it. They say what we already know and they think exactly what we think about it. We wouldn’t have released the record if we didn’t think it was having it. Bad reviews which say ‘well, he’s no Noel Gallagher’ – I’ve got no time for them. Go back to journalism school. They’re just idiots who just want to take a pop at me because I slagged off Blur in 1992 or whatever. There’s a lot of that what goes on and always will.”

After all this time, Liam Gallagher remains a divisive figure – a situation he admits to contributing to but one he feels is rooted in the behaviour of his younger self: the Liam of smashed hotel rooms, cocaine busts and numerous punch-ups with the public and family alike. He appears to accept that whatever level of success he may reach now or in the future is unlikely to make a lot of difference to how people perceive him.

“Beady Eye’s probably not gonna change the way people see me,” he says. “Nothing I do probably will. They’ll still see me as that 20-year old who made the most of life by going a bit fucking mental. But answer me this: who wouldn’t have done the same in the circumstances? I don’t give a fuck what they think of me to be honest. I am who I am. I was Liam in Oasis and I’m Liam in Beady Eye. If I’m Liam in another band, it’ll still be me and they’ll still have to deal with it.”

“People have the wrong idea about Liam,” Gem responds. “It’s just laziness to keep up this perception of him. He’s full on in this band; from production to mixing to arranging. In addition to Beady Eye, he’s running a clothing line and making films [with production company In 1 Productions] at the same time. He’s not sat on his arse waiting to sing his bits just so he can get off again and go on the piss. He’s as fully committed and invested in this collective as the rest of us.”

Few would have expected Liam Gallagher to have the initiative to diversify but the singer has shown an entrepreneurial bent in his latter years. His Pretty Green clothing label is now in its second, award-laden year and work is continuing on his first film, an adaptation of Richard DiLello’s The Last Cocktail Party which details the rise and fall of the Beatles’ Apple Records empire. “Pretty Green and the film production thing was always probably going to happen, it was always in me I reckon,” he says. “Maybe there were fewer opportunities to explore that side of me when I was younger or maybe I just couldn’t be arsed back then. But I’m nearing 40, man. Things change. Priorities change. You’ve got to keep the brain ticking over, man, or you’ll end up a cabbage.”

As the sky above again opens with yet another deluge, sending everyone ducking for cover, talk turns to the evening’s coming show; a late – but not headlining – slot in the Pyramid Marquee at the Rock Werchter festival. This is the latest open air show of Beady Eye’s début festival season. For any new band, an evening show at any festival would be considered a mighty step up given that debutants are usually awarded the early afternoon slots. But Beady Eye are no ordinary ‘new’ band. Surely the fact that they are four-fifths of Oasis, a band used to playing to tens if not hundreds of thousands of their own fans, would be enough to secure top billing.

“We are where we are, you know what I mean? We’re getting what we deserve right now,” says Liam. “It’s like paying your dues, man. We’re a new band. It doesn’t matter what went before. Half the people at the festival shows probably haven’t heard the record and you have to keep reminding yourself that. This isn’t Oasis, so we haven’t got a big back catalogue of songs which people have already heard over the past 18 years.”

“That’s the good thing though at festivals,” adds Gem. “You’re playing to people who may not normally come to see you. We just go out there and just try and play the best gig we’ve ever done to date and if they like it, all well and good but if not then we’re probably just not the right band for them.”

“It’s all new with Beady Eye, man,” Liam chips in. “It’s all fresh. We’re getting off on it. And we can see that the crowds are getting off on it too. They’re getting it and they’re coming out to see you which is great. We were never so far up our own arses to think that we could guarantee that either. Nothing was taken for granted.”

The festival season comes in the middle of Beady Eye’s first tour, one on which the band have returned to their roots by playing smaller venues that would never have been able to cope with the demands of housing an Oasis gig. Liam explains that this was a band decision based on the current reality and that at no time did they think that Beady Eye possessed the pulling power to continue where Oasis left off by playing colossal concerts.

“We never had this idea that just because we were Oasis we could go out there and start off in arenas,” he admits. “We always had the idea to start again, to start small. We don’t have the songs right now either. When you’re playing arenas and stadiums you’re on for an hour and a half. What we basically have is the album and that’s an hour so we’re happy with that. It’s not like we’re sitting there going ‘I can’t wait to start playing stadiums again’ and moaning about where we are. Someone was looking at us playing a venue of 8000 when we were planning the first gigs and we said no, it’s too early for that. You’ve got to have something to aim for and build up to.”

Despite fronting numerous concerts including the mighty Knebworth shows of 1996 where Oasis played to over a quarter of a million people over two days, Liam admits to a bout of nerves before taking Beady Eye out onto the road for the first time on March 4 this year. “There were a few nerves but we just wanted to get out of the rehearsal rooms and get playing in the end,” he says. “We had these tunes we believed in and wanted to get them out there but because it’s new, you never really know what’s going to happen. We didn’t know if everyone was going to start shouting for Oasis songs. We could have played it safe and took off to some tiny little foreign hole to début but we chose Glasgow Barrowlands and they were fucking immense. The jocks will call you on it if you’re shit – Glasgow’s a hard school – but they were top notch. The nerves soon went after that.”

“Big gigs are a piece of piss, you know what I mean? The crowd are miles away. With these shows we’re doing they’re right on you and you’ve got to be on it. You’re all in it together in these smaller venues, in the trenches, and it’s instant. You kick off and suddenly the whole place is rocking and you’ve got to keep that going.”

Later that evening, under the cover of canvas, Beady Eye certainly gets Werchter’s Pyramid Marquee rocking…and rolling, swaying, seething, ebbing and flowing with their Different Gear set-list. Welcoming the crowd with a chipper “Good evening brothers and sisters” it’s clear the surly, bating Gallagher of old is tucked away for the night. Throughout the evening, Liam’s banter with the audience is jovial and there are even smiles from the stage to match those beaming back from the steaming mass. Reconnecting with the fans has been key to the response the band have been getting on tour and from the opening fusillade of Four Letter Word, Millionaire and Beatles and Stones to the crescendo finale of World of Twist’s Sons of the Stage, both band and audience seem to feed off the energy generated under the sweaty canopy. The performance is as tight as you would expect from a group of seasoned campaigners the majority of whom have been playing together for the best part of a decade but there is a new lightness of spirit and atmosphere which helps these songs of hope and belief soar. It’s clear throughout the show that the shackles of the past have been cast aside.

“I don’t feel any pressure,” says Liam. “If being in a band is pressure then you’re in the wrong game, mate. We’ve been at the top and we want to be at the top again but we’re not young lads chasing the dream. We’ve all been round the block in this industry a lot of times and we know it’s hard but we’re dead relaxed, man. We’re doing our thing. We’ve got nothing to prove.”

With new material already written, Beady Eye are eager to keep the juggernaut rolling with another album pencilled in for 2012. “The thing with Oasis was that we could have made more records and it’s a shame we didn’t but with this we’re not going to sit around for five years before putting new stuff out,” the front man says. “Hopefully by the time we get the next record out, there’ll be more people digging us and knowing what we’re about.”

And what will the future hold for Beady Eye? Can it get as big as Oasis?

“We don’t go about saying we’re going to be as big as Oasis, despite some of the quotes people have me saying. I’m talking about the music. I believe in the music and the quality of it and I’m talking about that not that we’re bigger or better than Oasis. People on the whole get that. They see where we’re coming from and give us respect for that.”

“Beady Eye will evolve. It already is. We’re listening to stuff we’re putting together for the next record and it’s already changing. It’s Beady Eye and it’s our sound because that’s what we do but these tunes are blowing our minds and we just hope they’ll do the same for other people. We’ll do what needs to be done, man. If it needs to rock, it’ll rock. If it needs to swagger, it’ll swagger.” A wicked glint flashes across those heavy-lidded blue eyes again. “And it’ll be the bollocks.”

BeadyEye_RedBull_CoverFirst published in: The Red Bulletin (September 2011)

Related content: Andy & Gem: In the Belly of the Oasis Beast (2005)

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.

 

Britpop’s Friendly Invasion Lives on in Germany

oasssi2From the post-war years to the present day, British music has enjoyed huge popularity in Germany despite the differences in history, cultural identity and mentality.

The bar’s atmosphere throbs with Britpop hits at top volume and accompanying voices raised in song. Only the menu and the slight accent to the singing suggest that this is not a pub somewhere in the heart of England. This is Düsseldorf, the crowd is predominantly German and everyone is pumped by the fact that Oasis is in town.

Shouting over another refrain, a number of the assembled choir of would-be vocalists try and explain what it is about the band that the Germans love.

“Liam Gallagher. All anyone could want in life,” said one girl.

“Shoes, haircuts and guitars,” said her male companion.

But what is it really about Oasis, a band brimming with traditional working class machismo and the potential for violence and mayhem made famous by the likes of The Who and Led Zeppelin, which appeals to the Germans?

Thomas Venker, editor-in-chief at German music monthly magazine Intro said he thinks it’s just that volatility that attracts German fans.

“Markus Kavka (MTV Germany presenter) once said that, for him, Oasis made him feel like it was okay to be both a man and an indie boy,” Venker said. “It was okay to listen to those student sounds and also drink beer and talk about football. Oasis brought that attitude to Germany and many people tuned into that.”

“Oasis brought us serious music about human emotions,” said one fan queuing for the band’s Phillipshalle gig. “They crashed the Bravo Hits party and trampled on all that commercial and fake rubbish Germans had been fed by music channels for so long.”

Oasis is just one of many British bands that continue to enjoy commercial and critical success in Germany despite the emergence of a strong German music scene over the last two years. But a tradition of well-received musical acts from the UK actually stretches back decades.

“A lot of British bands in the sixties had big followings in Germany,” Andy Bell, bass player with Oasis, told DW-WORLD. “Some were massive in Germany way before they were popular back home. Many even released stuff on German labels that didn’t come out in England.”

“The popularity of British bands in Germany has a lot to do with the Beatles, I think,” said Gem Archer, the band’s rhythm guitarist. “Everyone back in Britain thought they were German.”

The legacy of the Beatles’ time in Germany and the affection the Germans continue to have for the Fab Four can still be seen in the list of records the band still holds in the German charts including most number one singles and most number one albums.

But surely a Merseybeat four-piece with a talent for catchy pop songs cannot be solely credited for breaching cultural barriers and instilling a love of music from a country with such a different mentality and identity from that of the Germans.

“After the war, Germans were looking for a new start,” said cultural theorist Eckhard Schumacher from the University of Munich. “For German youth, music from Britain was foreign and new; something very different from the culture of their parents’ past which everyone wanted to move on from. It was also a way to connect with another country’s youth and undermine the idea of being enemies…and popular music has always been about connecting people.”

Popular culture author Anne Schönberg said the connection formed in the immediate post-war years is still strong. “Much is made of the differences between the British and the Germans but very little is said of their similarities. Culturally, they are both very expressive and creative societies. The Germans have a respect for that.”

However, she said, the exchange is almost a one-way street.

“The Germans have taken on more of Britain’s popular culture than the other way round, ” she said. “German youth see British music as a dominant and exciting force, presented in a language that most have an understanding of. The opposite can be said of British youth.”

This is reflected in the current music charts where five of the top 10 German singles and nine of the top 20 albums are from UK acts. No German artists appear in either chart in Britain. It seems that the Germans continue to welcome the friendly invasion with open arms.

This article first appeared on Deutsche Welle’s DW-World.de English news service