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Tonight, I’m a rock’n’roll... philanthropist

Noel Gallagher’s Teenage Cancer Trust gigs start next week. He tells Hamish MacBain about booking Blur, Kasabian and Rizzle Kicks

For a man who sang No1 single The Importance Of Being Idle, Noel Gallagher hasn’t half been busy recently. As a two-year tour to promote his solo album was finishing up, he got a call from Roger Daltrey. The Who icon realised he’d be on tour during the 2013 Teenage Cancer Trust shows, which he usually curates, and unable to be “on the bloody cellphone for eight hours a day” sorting stuff out.

Fortunately Gallagher, who had guested with The Who at the first TCT show 12 years ago, returned with Oasis in 2002 and played some of his first ever solo shows in 2007, was the perfect replacement.

And so the 45-year-old has spent his time gathering old friends, enemies-turned-friends and bands his daughter likes for a special run of shows, starting on Tuesday. And it sounds as though he’s had fun doing it…

How has booking a week’s worth of gigs been for you? Stressful?

Well, I did most of the work last year, because I was out at festivals, so I tapped most of the bands up then. But to go and knock on dressing room doors of some of the biggest bands in the world and ask if could they possibly [do it], would they be noble enough – it brought out a side I don’t like.

What acts are we talking about?

I’d talk to Ed Sheeran and Mumford & Sons thinking, “I’ll just f*cking do the seven nights myself; what the f*ck am I asking these people for?” And I got let down a lot. Everybody says yes to your face. Everybody. And then the agent will call, and their management will call and then their PR will call and say, “Ah, they’re going to be in Australia at the time.” Really? Well they never said that to me. What’s interesting is all the working-class bands said yes straight off the bat, no f*cking inkling of when it was. The middle-class bands said yes and wriggled out of it. I dunno what that means, but it must mean something. It was an interesting summer. But I will say, if the people that blew me off but said they’ll do it next year actually do it, it might be the greatest event since Woodstock.

Who did you ask who isn’t doing it?

Symbolically we wanted to get Jake Bugg, because he’s a teenager. And for a teenager to be helping teenagers would have been a massively symbolic moment, I think. But he can’t do it because he’s on tour. Metallica: they’re another band who have promised to do it next year for the last couple of years, but we’ll get them eventually.

I know Lars: I call him from time to time and he texts me. He’s a f*cking dude. He’s a nutcase. I love him in Some Kind Of Monster and he’s just exactly like that, but he’s great. Of course, people always go “You and Lars? What the f*ck is all that about?” But I’m like, “Look man, he’s my f*cking mate, leave him alone.”

Speaking of mates, you’ve got Paul Weller and Kasabian on. That must have been straightforward.

I just called Serge and said “Look, I’m f*cking doing it, so you’re doing it.” They were first to confirm, actually. Paul had done it last year, but I thought it’s a bit rude not to ask him seeing as he’s my f*cking neighbour. And I thought to myself, a man who’s got twins, he needs to be out doing sh*t soon. So he’s got Palma Violets on, and I think he’s going to be coercing a few people [to get] up on stage with him. So it should be good.

Do you like the much-hyped Palma Violets?

Yeah, I do like them. I don’t dislike them, let’s put it that way. It’s all right listening to bands on iTunes or watching them on YouTube, but I can only make a decision when I see them live. But for next year, there’s a whole raft of new bands such as Temples or Tame Impala, who [won’t be able] to sell out the Albert Hall. So what we are going to try, in the week leading up to the Albert Hall [gigs], is take over a smaller venue, such as the 100 Club and let young bands do a week. Because I think if we bring it to a younger audience, it will be better for the charity in the long run.

This year, though, you have, er, Rizzle Kicks and Labrinth on.

Yes, and Rita Ora that night as well.

Is that your daughter’s influence?

Well, Damon [Albarn] had taken Rizzle Kicks on the African Express tour and he said, “They’re surprisingly good.” I don’t know anything about them or anything by them. But the promoters, because pop’s not my thing, they come in and say, “These bands are available.” And then I go to my daughter, “Out of these lot, who’s the best?” She’ll say “Rizzle Kicks” and then I’ll pick up the phone and say, “Rizzle Kicks.” That’s it, really.

Were there any nights that were particularly difficult to arrange?

The opening slot for Primal Scream was difficult, because the people that were available Primal Scream hate. Well, they pretty much f*cking hate everyone, and the people they like are either dead or unavailable. Someone came up with the bright idea of asking Echo And The Bunnymen and I was like, “No way are they going to do it.” But we asked Ian McCulloch and he said yes. And now, for me, that is the best night. Never mind me, Damon and Graham [Coxon].

You sharing the bill with half of Blur is what people are talking about most, though. You must have known that would be the case when you booked it?

The idea was to get tickets on sale before Christmas, when people aren’t skint. So we thought, “We need something that’s a proper jaw-dropping bill.” And then I thought, “Well, Blur have never done it, so I’ll ask them.” As luck would have it, I was on tour with Graham, so I asked him then. He said Blur had been put to bed for the time being, but he’d ask Damon. So I have Graham to thank for this. It was quite a moment when I got the call saying, “They’re definitely going to do it.” I wanted them to headline, with me going on [before them]. But I don’t think they were comfortable with that, so the night before the announcement we switched the billing. I don’t know what they’re going to do, actually. I was speaking to Damon at the Brits and he was a bit coy, but he said it’s going to be something “unique and special”. I just think it will be one of those nights where people can say they were there.

How was your night together at the Brits? You shared a table, didn’t you?

Yeah, we were both guests of War Child. We both got f*cking roaring drunk and told One Direction to f*ck off in unison, which was funny. It turns out that after 20 years of slagging each other off, we’re quite genial fellows. It’s incredible what age and fatherhood does to your head.

You were first photographed together at the Brits last year. But pictures of the two of you together still cause a bit of a stir, don’t they?

People go on about it, but when somebody comes over and says, “Can I take a picture?” I don’t particularly think of the consequences of it; I don’t really give a f*ck. We had people coming over to the table and going, “Ooh, fancy seeing you two together,” but I’m too old for all that now. We’ve gone through that; we’re out the other end of it. And you look round at the room of all the ‘bright lights’ of the British music industry and all the flavours of the month and the hot new sh*t of the moment, and you think, “We had something different.”

There was use of the word ‘boring’ in the context of the Brits this year.

I think the Brits has now reached a tipping point. Something needs to be done. It’s a sh*t thing for a middle-aged man to say – “Well, it’s not as good as it was in my day” – but, you know, I’m still switched on enough to think, “It was better.” The best album category in 1996 was The Verve, Oasis, Blur and Radiohead or something [it was actually Blur, Pulp, Radiohead and Paul Weller]. And you look at the best now. Paloma Faith? Do me a favour. Who’s f*cking decided she’s a star? Emeli Sande? That is f*cking music for grannies. I don’t get it. And then you have the other side of the coin: One Direction. Prancing up and down singing a Blondie song and getting an award for it. Nice lads though they might be, f*ck off. Which is exactly what we told them. It’s turning into the grand finale of The X Factor, which is exactly what Simon Cowell wants.

And here’s another thing: I must have been asked to write songs for people about 20 times. “Hey man, we should write some songs together.” F*cking write your own songs. I spent 46 years busting my arse to get here, slaving over a line in a song for a month. So no, I won’t f*cking write a song with you, you little prick. F*ck off! It just annoys me.

What about you, Damon and Graham, though? Might you do something together on the night you’re playing together?

We talked about it. I spoke with Graham about it. I talked with Damon about it at the Brits, but to be frank we were plastered and I forgot what was said. I think it was a case of, “We’ll just work it out on the night.” I’m easy. I can see us all on stage at some point, but if it doesn’t happen, it doesn’t happen. There’s plenty of sh*t for people get their teeth into.

You’ve played with most of the other acts at some stage. Will you be joining in on any of the other nights?

Weller’s asked me to get up. Actually, I’ll rephrase that: Weller’s told me I’m getting up. To be honest, nearly everybody’s asked me to go on with them. Ryan Adams is mithering for me to get up. I’ve got to introduce every band, every night. And no doubt there’ll be a guitar knocking around, so you never know. And on

my night, as well as Damon and Graham, there’s Gruff Rhys from the Super Furry Animals, so hopefully there might be a bit of We Are The World at the end

What about the comedy night with Russell Brand? What’s this about him playing an answerphone message you left him at his shows?

That was after he brought the Olympics to a shocking close with his rendition of I Am The Walrus. “A junkie in a top hat, on a bus, murdering the Beatles – hmm.” The message went along those lines. But he’s been [playing it to the audience] on his world tour. His night is an improvised thing with Noel Fielding called ‘The Goth Detectives’. And me, Russell and Matt [Morgan, Brand’s writing partner] are doing a three-hour radio show on Xfm the Friday before it starts, which is just going to be music with me and Matt destroying Russell’s Hollywood persona in between.

How is Russell? We had him on our cover recently, posing as Jesus…

Yeah, all that’s becoming tedious now, isn’t it? Hare Krishna this, f*cking Jesus malarkey that. And all the yoga. He’s mithering me for all sorts of sh*t. I’m doing a TV show with him on Thursday night. He’s got an American TV show called Brand X – the ratings must be going through the floor, so they’ve asked me to do it live from London. But last time I saw him, he was looking good. He’s behaving like an Englishman in LA: in other words like a ludicrous buffoon.

Finally, there’s your own set. Will you be doing any new songs?

I might do one brand new one, and then I’m doing one or two solo ones I’ve never done before live. And a couple of Oasis tunes I’ve never done before. These nights at the Albert are special, so you’ve got to do something different. I did 11 gigs in London last year, all told, so I can’t do the same set again.

And then are you done for this year?

Yeah, I’m not doing anything for a while. It’s been nice rehearsing knowing there’s just one gig, rather than another year on the road. I’m not ready for that yet. It’ll probably be next year when I start doing sh*t again, I guess. To be perfectly honest, I’ve just ordered some beautiful garden furniture and I intend on sitting in it all summer.

Visit teenagecancertrust.org for more information on gigs and tickets or to make a donation

Image: PA

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