Feel­ing lib­er­ated

The Star Malaysia - Star2 - - MUSIC - By SH­ERYL GAR­RATT

Two years af­ter the bit­ter end of Brit­pop out­fit Oa­sis, Noel Gal­lagher makes the jump to front­man with his solo de­but.

We’re talk­ing about this sum­mer’s Bri­tish ri­ots, and Noel Gal­lagher is in full grumpy-old-man mode, de­scrib­ing some youths he saw in­ter­viewed on tele­vi­sion when the dis­tur­bances hit Manch­ester.

“They’ve all got masks on, and sun­glasses. And one of them has got a bot­tle of whisky in his hand. The news reporter says, ‘ Can you tell us why you’re out here tonight?’ And one of them says, ‘ Be­cause the po­lice, they ar­rest you for stupid things, in­nit.’

“And I was sit­ting there think­ing, they ar­rest you for stupid things? What, like try­ing to buy a ham­burger with a fish? Or, ‘ Come here, sonny Jim. Where did you get that third leg from? Jail!’

“It wasn’t about poverty, it was just op­por­tunist kids. They all had mo­bile phones and Twit­ter, so they’ve got some form of in­come. They were ask­ing me about it in Amer­ica, and what’s to say? These fledg­ling democ­ra­cies in the Mid­dle east, they’re ac­tu­ally fight­ing for their free­dom. And what are they ri­ot­ing for in eng­land? Leisurewear.”

Had he not been so suc­cess­ful as a mu­si­cian, Gal­lagher could have made a stand-up co­me­dian, or a national news­pa­per colum­nist. Whether it’s telling sto­ries about his three chil­dren or talk­ing about his own lack of prow­ess on a com­puter, he makes me laugh out loud sev­eral times dur­ing our meet­ing.

He’d looked a lit­tle ner­vous in July, at the Lon­don press con­fer­ence at which he an­nounced his solo ca­reer, but tonight he’s re­laxed, ar­tic­u­late and good com­pany, de­spite be­ing jet-lagged.

He’s been on a 10-day trip to New York and Los An­ge­les to make a video, do some promo work, and meet his new US record com­pany. It’s not some­thing he’s ever done be­fore, this kind of cor­po­rate mee­tand-greet, but in Amer­ica es­pe­cially it is part of the cul­ture, so he’s giv­ing it a go.

“When I was with Oa­sis, we were far too up our own ars** to do any of that non­sense. But what harm can it do? The best thing to do, I’ve re­alised, is to get a lit­tle bit drunk. Not too much so you just talk sh**, just enough to be a bit merry and laugh your way through it, re­ally.”

When I sug­gest it might be eas­ier if he had band­mates to sup­port him, he shrugs. “It would, but it’s just the way it is from now on, I’m afraid.”

Oa­sis split up in Au­gust 2009, min­utes be­fore they were due on stage in Paris, near the end of a world tour. Noel had a row with his younger brother, Liam. Fruit was thrown. In­sults were screamed. A gui­tar was trashed. None of this was par­tic­u­larly un­usual, of course, but for Noel it was one time too many.

“There’s al­ways a power strug­gle in a band, and when you’re young and daft and hopped up on drugs and al­co­hol, it can get vi­o­lent. But when you’re all grown men with kids, it just doesn’t feel right. I found it quite undig­ni­fied. We’re sup­posed to be the el­der states­men now! All this eff­ing and blind­ing be­fore gigs, and then go­ing up and singing Live For­ever. It was all a bit of a sham, re­ally.”

Not that he’s com­plain­ing, he adds quickly.

“It’s not as if we never re­ally ful­filled our po­ten­tial. For a lad from a coun­cil es­tate with a gui­tar and his younger brother, we did pretty well!”

Liam and the re­main­ing mem­bers – the gui­tarist Gem Archer, the bassist Andy Bell, and the new drum­mer Chris Sharrock – dis­banded Oa­sis, and started afresh un­der the name Beady eye, play­ing mu­sic sim­i­lar to that of Oa­sis but re­fus­ing to play any of the Oa­sis back cat­a­logue. Noel, mean­while, will be per­form­ing some old favourites live – he wrote them, af­ter all. But he didn’t want an­other band.

“The only no­ble thing to do was to go solo.”

If he were pro­mot­ing the eighth Oa­sis al­bum now in­stead of his new project, he says, there wouldn’t be any­where near the same level of in­ter­est.

“Peo­ple would have al­ready judged it, and it prob­a­bly would have sounded like all the rest, be­cause when you’ve got five peo­ple try­ing to paint a pic­ture, the pic­ture tends to look the same (ev­ery time). So the up­side is, peo­ple are get­ting ex­cited about this record, they want to see what I’ve got.”

What he’s got is Noel Gal­lagher’s High Fly­ing Birds. It’s not a band as such, he says, more a loose col­lec­tion of mu­si­cian friends that will vary de­pend­ing on what he’s do­ing. He has al­ready recorded the first two al­bums, which came out on his own la­bel, Sour Mash.

The first is recog­nis­ably Noel Gal­lagher: strong songs per­formed with real emo­tion, with in­flu­ences such as Neil Young, en­nio Mor­ri­cone and – most clearly – ray Davies, plus a gen­er­ous help­ing of melan­choly that he at­tributes to his Ir­ish roots. It is more in­ti­mate, less bom­bas­tic than his pre­vi­ous work, and although Oa­sis fans will find a lot to like in it, so will fans of el­bow.

The lyrics are more di­rect than on many of the songs he wrote for Oa­sis, more nar­ra­tive.

“It is dif­fer­ent if you know you’re go­ing to sing them your­self. You have no in­hi­bi­tions. With Oa­sis, I would con­sciously make them as uni­ver­sal and as vague as pos­si­ble: if I was writ­ing a song about how much I loved my wife, there’s no way Liam could know that’s what it was about, or he wouldn’t sing it.”

The sec­ond al­bum, which will prob­a­bly come out next sum­mer, is far stranger, made with Amor­phous An­drog­y­nous, the psy­che­delic col­lec­tive who did the most rad­i­cal remix of the fi­nal Oa­sis sin­gle, Fall­ing Down. He started mak­ing this one first, he says, but when he went into the stu­dio to hear what they’d done with the song he’d sent them, “They’d de­mol­ished it and turned it into some­thing else. They were tak­ing what I’d done, throw­ing all the pieces up in the air, and mak­ing these psy­che­delic pop songs. Whereas I like things struc­tured.”

He took back his songs to record them his own way, but he also con­tin­ued work­ing with the Amor­phous crew, giv­ing them ma­te­rial that lent it­self bet­ter to their ex­per­i­men­tal ap­proach. It was, he says, in­ter­est­ing to be work­ing on dif­fer­ent projects af­ter the con­straints of Oa­sis. He loves the big sound of bands such as U2, Cold­play and the Foo Fight­ers.

“And if I had never left Oa­sis, I would have car­ried on writ­ing sta­dium rock for ever. But I never stopped writ­ing other kinds of songs. So be­ing able to go be­tween two projects was very lib­er­at­ing. It was a great way of work­ing.”

When we meet, he is five weeks into re­hearsals for the tour, and ad­mits he’s not a nat­u­ral front­man.

Be­fore, he was al­ways to the side of the stage, able to ob­serve with­out be­ing the cen­tre of at­ten­tion. Now, he jokes, he needs wing mir­rors, be­cause ev­ery­one is be­hind him. He won­ders if the au­di­ence will ex­pect him to talk, make jokes or, worst of all dance, es­pe­cially when he per­forms the cur­rent sin­gle, AKA ... What a Life, which was in­spired by his ex­pe­ri­ences rav­ing at the Ha­cienda night­club in Manch­ester in the late 1980s.

“I’ve got no moves!” he laughs. “I know I’m go­ing to look like a 44-year-old dad of three kids, play­ing a gui­tar.”

He is aware of his age now, and glad that he doesn’t have a ma­jor la­bel pres­sur­ing him to get an ear­ring or dress younger.

“It dawned on me to­day that I’m get­ting old. I had an hour to kill, and I went round Sel­fridges’ men’s depart­ment. I didn’t see a sin­gle item of cloth­ing that I thought would suit me. I’ve moved on. I’m go­ing to have to stop wear­ing ca­sual shoes and wear proper shoes.”

Still, he thinks he has avoided the kind of midlife cri­sis he’s seen some of his friends go through.

“I’ve never had cause for it, be­cause my life isn’t miss­ing any­thing. I found Sara at the right time. I love my kids, I love my wife, I’ve got a great job, so I’m not sit­ting think­ing, ‘I’ve got to get a mo­tor­bike.’ ” – © The Daily Tele­graph UK 2011 n Noel Gal­lagher’s High­fly­ing Birds is re­leased by Uni­ver­sal Mu­sic Malaysia.

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