Perhaps fittingly, given that he is currently sitting in the UK’s foremost mecca for quality journalism – no, not there; I’m talking about the ShortList offices – Noel Gallagher is bemoaning the state of modern journalism. We had been talking about what he misses most about the Nineties and, having rattled off his stamina for the party (it’s Wednesday; he’s still suffering from the weekend), his waistline, the staggeringly fast rise of his now-very-much-former band and the diversity of the charts, we’ve arrived at the quality of writing about music.
“Having been back in the game for about four months now,” he says, “I can tell you that new-age journalism is f*cking sadly lacking. I do interviews every f*cking day of my life and they all start off like, ‘So you’ve got a new album coming out, great, Riverman – that one’s a bit weird innit, what about the saxophone? So anyway… My editor’s told me to ask you: is there any truth in the rumours that you and Liam are getting back together?’ That’s after 10 minutes, and you’re just like, ‘Well, f*cking hell…’ There’s a lot of fluff. That all comes from the internet. In the Nineties, it was pre-internet, and it was so much more f*cking magical.”
On the one hand, you can feel his pain. With his debut solo album having sold 780,000 copies in the UK alone – a huge figure by modern standards – Noel Gallagher solo artist is very much a going concern, rather than a just-the-oldies-please relic. Therefore, the release of a new set of songs, Chasing Yesterday – out on Monday – should be enough cause for excitement. On the other, it has to be said, in the terminally dull, media-trained sea of tedium that is modern music interviews, he remains a lone beacon of entertaining opinions, and therefore a gift to clickbait-heavy websites.
Either way, today it’s out of our hands: the questions for this interview having been provided by you, the ShortList readers. As it turns out, an encouraging amount of them are about Noel’s new music. And gossip-centric people needn’t worry: there are a couple about Liam/Kate Moss, too. But let’s begin with one about that new album.
You said in the past “Find a comfort zone and stay in it”. Have you come out of that zone with this new album?
George Dawson, via Facebook
Not really. There’s different things on it, but they sound quite natural to me. When I’m at my least comfortable is when I get onstage and try to do the Ballad Of The Mighty I, because there’s barely any guitar on it, and what guitar there is, someone else is playing. With songs like The Right Stuff and Riverman, if somebody was to ask me to write songs like those… Let’s say those songs don’t exist and somebody says, “Could you knock out a f*cking jazz-pop song with a sh*tload of abstract stuff?”, I’d find that difficult. But as it happens naturally, I’m quite comfortable with that. I know what people mean: it does sound like it’s out of my comfort zone, but it’s not really.
With your first solo album being so successful, do you feel pressure to make sure this one does at least the same thing?
Jackson Shalli, via email
With the record business shrinking, it’s not gonna sell as many records as last time, because not as many people are buying records as last time. Somebody said to me that if that record was released in the Nineties – the last album – it would have been as big as Morning Glory. I didn’t feel any pressure in the studio – I just take each album as it comes. I’ve been in it long enough to know that it doesn’t help you if you go in the studio with an agenda. “This has to be different” or “I did that last time so I’m gonna do this”… That doesn’t get you anywhere.
I’m writing songs all the time, so when I go in [the studio] it’s just a case of how they end up. So I guess I don’t really feel the pressure. And in any case, once the record’s done it’s not up to me how many it sells. I can’t put it on the A-list at Radio 2. That’s not up to me. It’s not up to me whether people buy it. And if people don’t buy it because they don’t like it as much as the last one, that’s fine. I hope they do, but I’m not sure they will.
What do you make of Jake Bugg, James Bay and the like using professional co-writers? Do they have the right to call themselves singer/songwriters?
Darren Croft, via email
I’ve heard it said, in interviews, by these characters who use songwriters that, “Well, you need help to write songs.” And what I would say to people like that is, “Well, if you need help to write songs, join a f*cking band.” Right? That’s why music is f*cking dying, because of people like that.
You’re talking to a lad who has been writing his own songs for the past 25 years. All that mob who use co-writers: is it any wonder I treat them with a little bit of disdain? They’re singers, they’re performers; they’re not singer-songwriters. There should be a new term, because if they’re singer-songwriters, what am I, then? What’s Paul Weller? What’s Paul McCartney? What’s Neil Young or Bob Dylan?
If you’re co-writing with somebody, you should be in a band with them. I remember when Jake came on tour with me, it was great, and he was like ‘The Great White Hope’, to coin a phrase. He gave me his album backstage, middle of Europe. I was flicking through it, and was like, “Who’s this other f*cking guy in the credits?” I was heartbroken in a way, I was f*cking heartbroken. I like Jake, and I like Jake Bugg’s music, but it’s not in any way related to what I do.
Was announcing the album five months ahead of release a reaction to people dropping ‘surprise’ albums?
Alan Michaelson, via email
No. I don’t react to current trends. I don’t know why that was: it was kind of annoying, really. I’d got to a point with the last tour where I’d effectively had a full year off, which I don’t think I’ll ever do again. It was all right when I was in Oasis, because getting away from the circus was necessary. So when it got to the year, I thought, “Well, I’ve gotta go in the studio.” And before that, all the Oasis reissues had been set up, and I thought I’ll take my time, and try to spread it out. But I finished it really early.
I think the reason it was announced that far upfront was in case someone else announced it. But I sit in meetings now about f*ckin pre-orders and sh*t like that, and it’s f*cking soul destroying. I remember sitting in a meeting one day – this is after the U2 thing happened – and after about 40 minutes of talking about something that was f*cking completely and utterly irrelevant to art and music, I was thinking, “I can now see the point in just giving it away.” It’s like, “How is it gonna be released?” “How are people gonna perceive it?” “When do we announce this?” “What are we gonna do about that?” And I was thinking, I kind of envy Bono and that for just going, “There it is, you f*cking deal with it.”
Now, obviously, I’m not a big enough f*cking noise in the music business to say to Apple, “Can you put that in everybody’s playlists?” That kind of thing will work for certain artists. But I’m old-school. I play, you pay. That’s it, you know what I mean?
You’ve said the new album title Chasing Yesterday is “f*cking sh*t”. Have you since come up with any alternative titles we can all use unofficially?
Jim Proudhart-Jones, via email
Not really. I really did struggle with that this time, I’ve got to say. I’ve struggled with album titles since Don’t Believe The Truth. Dig Out Your Soul was pretty f*cking sh*t and all. Gem came up with that. The thing about the title is, it’s part of a line from a song, which – and it’s not like me not to f*cking realise this – I didn’t realise that, taken out of context in this line, would sound very nostalgic. And by the time I’d realised that, it was too late. But you’d struggle to find a worse title for an album than (What’s The Story) Morning Glory?, so…
What is the coolest thing you’ve ever done for a die-hard fan?
Steve F Millard, via Facebook
One of my fans? I played in someone’s front room once, but that was a competition for Radio 1, so I’m not sure whether that counts. I do answer the odd letter. I get loads at the office, but on the odd one or two that come through my letterbox, I answer them from time to time. I get people on the guestlist, but I don’t really go out of my way to interact with my fans.
I make a point of, in between soundcheck and the gig, going outside and signing everybody’s things and all that, but I just think with the fan thing, as long as they don’t expect too much from you, I’m cool with it. But I guess the coolest thing I’ve ever done was… [thinks] Oh, you remember that Oasis tribute band, No Way Sis? The guy that did me in that band, I gave him one of my guitars that I played on [Nineties TV show] The White Room – a Les Paul. That’s pretty f*cking cool.
Who is more fun on a night out: Kate Moss or Marilyn Manson?
Robert Reader, via Twitter
Oh, Kate Moss. Good lord. Manson’s all right, but he tries too hard. He’ll be getting out, like, weird drugs and sh*t, being deliberately mad to try to weird you out. It’s like, “F*cking hell mate, I’ve been to Moss Side at four o’clock in the morning trying to get a bit of weed. You’re not gonna freak me out… Brian.” But Kate is a force of nature. I’ve never seen somebody smoke so many cigarettes. It’s f*cking truly staggering.
Would you ever duet with a female singer?
Stephen Hall, via Facebook
I have duetted with one, on this album: Joy Rose is the girl who sings on The Right Stuff. But she didn’t write anything, we didn’t end up getting round the mic together, but we do sing it in unison. I’ve been asked by a couple of girls to write songs for them, and initially I thought, “Oh that might be a nice diversion” but… I can’t be f*cking arsed. I don’t really like many girl singers, I’ve got to say, if I’m being honest. Who do I like? They’re all probably dead, Janis Joplin and all that. Any of the modern ones, no, not really. Michelle McManus: that’d be a f*cking laugh.
What do you think when you see people wandering around sporting the Oasis look, 20 years on?
Sean Lindsay, via email
The parka and all that? If they’re 19, that’s all right. If they’re in their forties, you just think, “F*cking hell mate, come on, give it up.” I’m around Carnaby Street every now and again and you see ’em outside Pretty Green, behaving like Liam… If they’re young kids, we’ve all been there: we’ve all thought we were Paul Weller at some point. Even Paul Weller thought he was Paul Weller at some point.
But when you meet geezers at your gigs, and they’re clearly the wrong side of 40, and they’ve got an Adidas tracksuit on and a can of Stella, and are saying to me – me! – “F*cking mad for it, mate”, you’re just like, “You f*cking dick. You’re in the wrong gig, mate: No Way Sis are playing next week somewhere, go see them.”
What’s the best film you’ve seen recently?
Joel, via Facebook
The Wolf Of Wall Street. Amazing. Unbelievable. I’ve seen it three times. We went to the cinema to see it, me and my missus, and at the bit where he’s blowing coke up her arse, quite graphically, we kind of looked at each other and went, “This is gonna be f*cking great!” People were saying it was half an hour too long and all that – I’ve gotta tell you, when the end credits rolled up I was like, “Ahhh!” I could have watched it all night. I thought it was mega. It immediately went in the Top 5 of all time for me.
ShortList: Who would you say was more debauched at that time: stockbrokers or rock stars? The stockbrokers were animals…
So were rock stars! Particularly Americans: one thing Americans know how to do is the obnoxious rock star. But all tied up in that is my theory about this is how music is gonna f*cking die, right? Because with free music and streaming and f*cking people like Thom Yorke saying, “Oh, pay what you want, it’s up to you…” rockstardom will eventually f*cking die. By rights I should have my own aeroplane by now, and a chimp in a top hat, with a cane. But I can’t afford that, because my f*cking music is worthless!
Eventually, there will be no more Marc Bolans, these flamboyant guys, or David Bowies creating their own worlds. D’you know why? Because you will know everything about them from the internet. There’ll be no magic. There’ll never be another Bowie, or people driving round in gold Rolls-Royces, because c*nts like Sleaford Mods’ll f*cking sneer at them. And rockstardom will die. And what were we all brought up on? Looking at Bowie and going, “I want to f*cking be that guy!”
If Liam asked you to write a song for his solo album, would you do it?
Philip Kerrigan, via email
I’d write it all for him if he asked! I’ve got more tunes coming out of my earholes than I know what to do with. I could get him back in the charts, I reckon: wouldn’t be too difficult. Yeah. Easy. Easy-peasy.
If you could write with one no-longer-alive musician, who would it be?
Phil H, via Twitter
Write a song with a dead guy… maybe Jim Morrison. Because you could just get a groove going, imagine what he’d come up with over the Riverman or The Right Stuff, it’d be f*cking amazing. And you could make it 15-minutes long.
You said at the press conference that launched your solo career that you couldn’t ever see yourself “Stood in a stadium, like a jobbing f*cking minstrel with an acoustic guitar, and pull it off for an hour and a half”. Would you play Wembley Stadium now?
Laurie Acosta, via email
If it was put in front of me, if somebody said we could do it, I would have to do it, you know what I mean?
ShortList: So you feel confident as a frontman now?
The frontman thing is not something I can afford to think about, because – and this is another thing I get asked a lot about, being a frontman – a frontman is Mick Jagger, and Richard Ashcroft, and Liam and Bobby Gillespie. Iggy Pop’s a frontman, Jim Morrison… all those guys. So if you’ve got a guitar, and you’re playing guitar and singing, you’re not a frontman, you’re a f*cking singer.
What I say to people is: there’s nothing to see. I meet fans all the time who say, “I’m coming to see you at The O2”, and it’s like, “Well, if you’re coming to see anything, don’t bother coming to see, because there’s nothing to see.” But what I have got is songs that people like to sing. And I think that’s more important. So if my promoter was to ring me up tomorrow and say, “I think you could do Wembley Stadium”, then f*cking right! It’s time to reclaim that f*cking stadium. There’s been too much sh*t going on there recently.
Do you subscribe to the theory that great music only flourishes under sh*tty governments?
James Teale, via email
I didn’t subscribe to it anyway, and I think this period has proved it. When the Tories got in this time, or the coalition, and the economic crash, everybody from Billy Bragg to Bobby Gillespie was saying, “This is gonna be great for art.” And it’s been f*cking worse! The years of the Nineties, coming out of Thatcherism leading into the New Labour years – f*cking greatest time for modern music. And it was prosperity. It was f*cking great. And this has been pretty bleak: war and famine and f*cking disease.
Politicians are now… there’s gonna be an election, and the two main protagonists are career politicians, and they’re very populist. You’ve got one guy on one side saying, “We’re going to stick it to the rich people. All those who’ve managed to f*cking work their bollocks off in their life and they’ve managed to get a house that’s worth more than two million quid, it’s gonna cost them 40 grand a year to live in this country.” And you’re just like, “Well thanks for that.” That’s a f*cking thing for Sleaford Mods to get their teeth stuck into.
And then you’ve got the other f*cking tw*t, who’s just a bumbling toff idiot. And they’re just trying to be popular: nobody’s trying to sort the country out. I don’t buy politics any more: I think it’s shocking. I’ll be voting for the most ludicrous thing on the ballot round where I come from. Which used to be the drummer from Blur. He was my local MP, Dave Rowntree. But last time it was a pirate who was standing. And if he got in, he was gonna make everybody dress as a pirate on a Wednesday. I thought, “That’s not gonna make any difference to Russell Brand, who dresses like a pirate anyway.” And what’s not cool about pirates? Johnny Depp, Keith Richards, Russell Brand. And Errol Flynn.
When is the Be Here Now reissue coming out? Would you do a stripped-down version, as McCartney did with Let It Be… Naked?
@steve_gallagher, via Twitter
I tell you what I have done. I was asked by the people at the record label, “What can you do with it?” which reminded me of a quote of mine, saying, “I’d love to edit it, because it was too long.” So I took it to a studio and I thought, “Yeah, the songs are quite long, I could f*cking edit these down.” And d’you know what? I gave up, after about a day and a half. ’Cos I thought, “They have to be that long!”
I did D’you Know What I Mean?, I did My Big Mouth and then I stopped because I was listening to them back, thinking: “Ah, now they’re just ordinary rock songs.” And, really, the great thing about it was it didn’t make any sense and it was f*cking madness. What I have done is a different mix of D’you Know What I Mean?, as I always felt the strings were mixed quite low on the original. So that’s all it is, really. I hadn’t heard it for years, so we put it on in the studio, and we put it on loud, and I liked the fact that it was a minute and a half before anything happened. It’s just an aeroplane going, and a load of feedback. And then at the end there’s another two minutes of just, [makes wah-wah pedal noise] ‘Cccckkooow, ccckkkow!’. Mental.
You said recently that you and Liam “speak” now. Is that just at the football, or more often?
Seamus Heany, via email
No, no, we had a text thing on Christmas Day, then he actually got in touch the other day, to say… how did he put it… Effectively, what he said was: ‘Destroy Sleaford Mods, ’cos they’re just glue-sniffers.’ Summat like that. He’d read the Sleaford Mods thing [they said Noel has “blood on his hands” for encouraging bands to sound retro], and he said, “Put ’em out of business, they’re just glue-sniffers.”
ShortList: Maybe that’ll be their epitaph, getting you two talking again…
Maybe! We do text irregularly, and I see him at the football and… yeah, I hope he’s back in music sooner or later.
Chasing Yesterday (Sour Mash) is out on Monday. Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds will headline Calling Festival on 4 July
All images by Andrew Shaylor